City in S. Arabia (Syr. Nagran, or Negran; Arab. Najrān), and city in Iraq. In Christian and Muslim sources different legends circulate regarding the introduction of Christianity to the S. Arabian city. According to the ‘Chronicle of Siirt’, Ḥannan, a merchant from Nagran, received baptism in the early 5th cent. in Ḥirta and subsequently brought his new religion, of the E.-Syr. type, to Nagran. In the 5th cent. we also hear of the presence of Jews in Nagran.

Nagran became widely known in the Christian world as the central stage for the persecution of Christians by the king of Ḥimyar in either 518 or 523 (the date is disputed). Accounts of the martyrdom of Christians in Nagran, which also include several female martyrs, are preserved in two Syriac letters and in the ‘Book of the Ḥimyarites’. A few years later, Ḥimyarite supremacy on the Arabian Peninsula ended and S. Arabia became an Ethiopian protectorate. In 572 it was conquered by the Persians; in 628 it came under Muslim rule.

The Syriac sources present the persecuted Christians of Nagran as anti-Chalcedonian, Miaphysite. There is some evidence that Miaphysitism in Nagran was of the Aphthartodocetic type, i.e., in agreement with the doctrine of Julian of Halicarnassus. As the controversy between Severus of Antioch and Julian only broke out in the 520s, this would not yet have been the case in the time of the persecution.

Christianity in Nagran was known in early Muslim sources. Surah 85:4–9 of the Qurʾān is often understood as referring to the persecuted Christians of Nagran, i.e., ‘the men of the furnace’ (al-’ukhdūd). In 630, Christians from Nagran are said to have traveled to Medina, to meet the Prophet Muḥammad, with whom they concluded a pact, allowing them to practice their religion. The existence of this pact, known in both Muslim and Christian sources, gave rise to the creation of apocryphal documents, such as those preserved in the ‘Chronicle of Siirt’ (PO 13, 601–18). A few years later, however, during the caliphate of ʿUmar (634–44), the Christians from Nagran were forced to leave the Peninsula, even though a small number may have remained for some time. They settled near Ḥirta, in Iraq, in a city that they called Nagran after their first home. In the late 8th cent., Patr. Timotheos was able to integrate the descendants of the exiles into the Ch. of E. In one of his letters, datable perhaps to 791/92, he reports that they had given up their adherence to Julianism and asked him to consecrate a bp. For the 9th and 10th cent., however, the names of four Syr. Orth. bishops are preserved in the Chronicle of Michael Rabo, indicating that either the Nagranites had changed allegiance once again, or that two hierarchies co-existed in the Iraqi city.


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How to Cite This Entry

Lucas Van Rompay , “Nagran,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay,

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Lucas Van Rompay , “Nagran,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018),

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Van Rompay, Lucas. “Nagran.” In Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018.

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