Maqam El Nabi Ayyoub
Religious anthropologist, researcher and founder of NEOS Tourism consultancy Nour Farra-haddad takes us on a trip to one of Lebanon’s most known pilgrimage sites, Maqam El Nabi Ayyoub in Niha
Religious tourism in Niha
Niha is a beautiful village in Mount Lebanon’s Shouf area, perched 1,020m above sea level. A Druze majority and Christian minority inhabit the village. The main landmarks of the village are the famous Maqam of Nabi Ayyoub and Niha Fortress, also known as Fakhreddine Fortress. In the old town, you can also visit the Church of Saint Joseph and the Ain al-qat’ah fountain.
The Maqam of Nabi Ayyoub was renovated several times, and buildings, halls and rooms were added in order to accommodate the thousands of worshippers. In 1947, Sheikh Akl Muhammad Abou Chakra began the restoration of the premises and the work has continued ever since.
The main building hosts the tomb of the saint, Darih El Nabi Ayyoub (the prophet Job), under a large cupola topped with the colored Druze star. Believers from various religious communities across the country visit the shrine for its benedictions and graces. A large esplanade in front of the main building offers a fantastic panoramic view. In an annex, there are rooms available for pilgrims who wish to sleep in the maqam. To the rear of the shrine is a tree said to
be miraculous, and, behind the sanctuary, a forest with century-old oak trees where visitors can enjoy a picnic. But the main attraction of this forest is a century-old arbutus tree, known to be miraculous and full of benedictions and graces. Local tradition says that this tree cured Job of skin disease. Amid green oak trees, the massive arbutus stands out thanks to its impressive reddish color. Devotees practice a variety of rituals around the tree, like hanging string and cloth in its branches. They also take fragments of the bark home for good fortune.
At the entrance of the shrine, in front of the parking lot, pilgrims light candles in a small cave. A big fountain situated there is another attraction, with the faithful who believe in its baraka visiting it to collect water.
DEDICATION OF THE SITE
The central figure of the Book of Job in the Holy Bible, Job is a prophet in the Abrahamic monotheist religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He is presented as a good and prosperous family man, who is beset with terrible disasters that take away all he holds dear, including his offspring, his health and his property. He struggles to understand his situation and searches for answers.
Job is an important prophet for Muslims, mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. The narrative frame of Job's story in Islam is similar to that in the Bible, although in Islam the emphasis is on Job remaining faithful to God.
While this is the only shrine dedicated to him in Lebanon, there are other sanctuaries in his honor across the Middle East, including a miraculous cave in Urfa (Turkey) and a famous shrine in Salalah (Oman).