Daniel’s Tomb in Shush, Iran has been a holy site for both Jewish and Muslim pilgrims for centuries. The Tomb of Daniel along with the Tomb of Esther has been one of the most popular memorial shrines in Iran. This sacred place is believed to be a source of blessing and supernatural power. Therefore this place attracts visitors who pray in the shrine and kiss the green catafalque of the prophet Daniel’s remains. It is a huge complex with glittering interior rooms that conveys the importance of this prophet to both Jews and Muslims.
Daniel was a Jewish prophet in the Bible who was held captive in Babylon from Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon around 600 BCE. This occurred after the destruction of the First Temple. During his exile in Babylon, Daniel improved his position in the Babylonian government. It is mentioned in the Book of Daniel that he possessed such wisdom in interpreting dreams and visions that became a favored and trusted person to King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel remained true to his faith despite the pressure to accept the polytheist religion of the royal court and thus was thrown into a lions’ den as punishment. It is also mentioned in the Book of Daniel that he received prophecies concerning the destinies of Israel from God.
History of the Tomb
Despite the fact that it is said in the Bible that Daniel lived in Babylon or present-day Iraq at one point and may have lived in Susa, the accurate burial site of prophet Daniel is unknown. As the Bible does not exactly mention where it is. Different legends and traditions have claimed to know his burial site over the years, however, the tomb in Shush(Susa) city of Iran is accepted as the most probable site. So it is a popular sacred place for pilgrimage to both Jews and Muslims.
An Arab chronicler in the 10th century named Ibn Hawqai wrote about the location of Daniel’s Tomb saying that it contains the bones of Daniel in a coffin. In the 12th century Benjamin of Tudela, a famous Jewish travel writer who came to visit Asia between 1160 and 1163, claims that the actual remains of Daniel do not exist in the mausoleum of the tomb, which was discovered in 640 CE. According to Benjamin, the people who lived on the side of the river where the tomb was located became rich from the growing tourism business pertaining to the tomb. So they invoke the jealousy of their Nestorian Christian neighbors on the other side of the river who wanted a share of their wealth. After the long dispute, the two sides compromised; one side would hold Daniel’s grave and they would switch each year, allowing the communities on both sides to attain wealth and have progress. This story most probably was passed down to Benjamin orally.
Similar to Ibn Hawqai’s claim in which a Muslim leader, Abu Mousa Al Ashoari, buries the remains of Daniel in the river, Benjamin explains about a Muslim figure who mediated between the two sides of the river to end the dispute that he believed to be insulting for handling a prophet’s remains. It is said that a Muslim sultan ordered to make a glass reliquary to contain the wooden coffin; Fastening it by chains to the bridge that connects the two sides of the river. The interesting point is that a Muslim Sultan did this to settle the quarrel between Jews and Christians. By putting Daniel’s coffin on the bridge between the two sides of the river so both communities could equally share the blessings and the power of the relics. By this action, the Muslim sultan created an atmosphere that made interfaith relations possible. So, Daniel’s tomb became a symbol of bridging the gap between Jews and Gentiles.
The Shia scholar Sheikh Jafar Shooshtari ordered the renovation of the structure of the Tomb of Daniel in 1870 CE.
Daniel’s Tomb has a gold conical, faceted dome which is similar to the other Khuzestan tombs and also pre-Islamic buildings. The structure of the tomb is influenced by early Persian and Islamic architecture; for instance, its walls and entrances that have pointed archways; and the blue tilework are very similar to the tilework of Iranian mosques.
Shush, or the city formerly known as Susa, is one of the most ancient cities which is located in southwestern Iran, east of the Tigris River in the lower Zagros Mountains. It is approximately 250 miles southwest of Tehran and in the Khuzestan province of Iran. Shush was also one of the capital cities of the ancient Persian Empire. It was also a refuge and homeland to the Jews who were in Babylonian captivity that were later released by King Cyrus The Great. Shush is mentioned in the Biblical books of Daniel, Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah. Nowruz (Persian New Year)