The Imam Reza shrine (Persian: حرم امام رضا, romanized: Haram-e Emâm Rezâ, lit. 'Sanctuary of Imam Reza') in Mashhad, Iran, is a complex which contains the mausoleum of Imam Reza, the eighth Imam of Twelver Shias. It is the largest mosque in the world by area. Also contained within the complex are the Goharshad Mosque, a museum, a library, four seminaries, a cemetery, the Razavi University of Islamic Sciences, a dining hall for pilgrims, vast prayer halls, and other buildings.

The complex is a tourism center in Iran and has been described as "the heart of the Shia Iran" with 25 million Iranian and non-Iranian Shias visiting the shrine each year, according to a 2007 estimate. The complex is managed by Astan Quds Razavi Foundation and currently headed by Ahmad Marvi, a prominent Iranian cleric.

The shrine itself covers an area of ...Read more

The Imam Reza shrine (Persian: حرم امام رضا, romanized: Haram-e Emâm Rezâ, lit. 'Sanctuary of Imam Reza') in Mashhad, Iran, is a complex which contains the mausoleum of Imam Reza, the eighth Imam of Twelver Shias. It is the largest mosque in the world by area. Also contained within the complex are the Goharshad Mosque, a museum, a library, four seminaries, a cemetery, the Razavi University of Islamic Sciences, a dining hall for pilgrims, vast prayer halls, and other buildings.

The complex is a tourism center in Iran and has been described as "the heart of the Shia Iran" with 25 million Iranian and non-Iranian Shias visiting the shrine each year, according to a 2007 estimate. The complex is managed by Astan Quds Razavi Foundation and currently headed by Ahmad Marvi, a prominent Iranian cleric.

The shrine itself covers an area of 267,079 square metres (2,874,810 sq ft) while the seven courtyards which surround it cover an area of 331,578 square metres (3,569,080 sq ft), totaling 598,657 m2 (6,443,890 sq ft). Every year the ceremony of Dust Clearing is celebrated in the Imam Reza shrine.

Early years

Dar-ul-Imarah (Royal Residence) or the garden of Humayd ibn Qahtaba al-Ta'i was a fortress in the village of Sanabad. It dates back to the era before the Islam religion. It had been placed at the fork road of Sanabad, Neishabour, Sarakhs, Toos and Radkan. This fortress had been a place for the frontier guards to take position and establish the security of these roads and regions. After the demise of Harun al-Rashid, he was buried in this place. Due to this historical event, the Dar-ul-Imarah was known as the Mausoleum of Haruniyyeh. The original inner building of Dar-ul-Imarah had been a Zoroastrian temple. This building was demolished by the order of al-Ma'mun, and then it was reconstructed according to the special architecture of Khorasan. Four plain and short walls, covered with a low-slope dome, were constructed around the building. Afterwards, the name of the mausoleum (Haruniyyeh) was changed and known as the Mashhad-ur-Reza, due to the Holy Imam. Mashhad literally means a place where a martyr has been buried.[1]

Martyrdom of Ali al-Ridha
 
Imam Reza shrine before development

In 818, Imam Ali al-Ridha was murdered by the Abbasid caliph al-Ma'mun (ruled 813–833) and was buried beside the grave of al-Ma'mun's father, Harun al-Rashid (r. 786–809).[2] After this event, the location was called as Mashhad al-Ridha ("the place of martyrdom of al-Ridha"). Shias and Sunnis (for example, Ibn Hibban wrote in his Kitab al Siqqat that whenever troubled and in Mashad he would always visit the shrine to ask for relief from problems that bothered him) began visiting his grave on pilgrimage. By the end of the 9th century a dome was built on the grave and many buildings and bazaars sprang up around it. For the next thousand years, it has been devastated and reconstructed several times.[3]

The celebrated Muslim traveler Ibn Battuta visited Mashhad in 1333 and reported that it was a large town with abundant fruit trees, streams and mills. A great dome of elegant construction surmounts the noble mausoleum, the walls being decorated with colored tiles. Opposite the tomb of the Imam is the tomb of Caliph Harun al-Rashid, which is surmounted by a platform bearing chandeliers.[4]

Ghaznavid era

By the end of the third Hijri century, a dome was built on the grave of Imam Reza and many buildings and bazaars sprang around the holy shrine. In 383 A.H. / 993 A.D., Sebuktigin, the Ghaznavid sultan devastated Mashhad and stopped the pilgrims from visiting the holy shrine of Imam Reza. But in 400 A.H./ 1009 A.D., Mahmud of Ghazni (born 971, ruled, 998-1030 A.D.,) started the expansion and renovation of the holy shrine and built many fortifications around the city.[5]

Saljug era
 
A picture from second sanctuary

Sultan Sanjar (b. 1086 A.D., r. 1097-1157 A.D.), after the miraculous healing of his son in the holy shrine of Imam Reza, renovated the sanctuary and added new buildings within its precincts. At the time of Sultan Sanjar Saljuqi, after Sharaf al-Din Abu Tahir b. Sa'd b. Ali Qummi repaired the shrine, he began to construct a dome over it.[6] In 612 A.H./ 1215 A.D., as borne out by inscriptions on certain tiles, Allaudin Khwarezm Shah carried out renovations on the shrine.[6]

Mongol invasion

During the Khwarazmian dynasty, Razavi Shrine was paid much attention and some repair and decoration was made inside it.[6] In this era (612 A.H./1215 A.D.), two very glorious embossed Thuluth (a large Naskh handwriting) inscriptions in form of square tile work were fixed on both sides of the shrine entrance-by the side of Dar al-Huffaz porch—in which the names and descent of Imam Reza back to Imam Ali were written. Some other inscriptions and three mihrabs (a special place for prayer-leader in mosques) belonging to this age exist in this holy complex. During the Mongol invasion in 1220 A.D. (617 A.H.), Khorasan was plundered by the invading hordes and the survivors of this massacre took refuge in Mashhad and settled around the holy shrine.[7] Sultan Muhammad Khudabandeh Iljaitu (b. 1282 AD), the Mongol ruler of Iran, converted to Shi'ism and ruled Iran in 703–716 A.H (1304–1316 AD), once again renovated the holy shrine on a grand scale.[5]

Timurid era

The glorious phase of Mashhad started during the reign of Shahrukh Mirza (b. 1377 A.D., r, 1405–1447), son of Tamerlane, and reached its zenith during the reign of the Safavid Shahs who ruled Iran from 1501 to 1736. Shahrukh Mirza, whose capital was Herat, regularly visited Mashhad for the pilgrimage of the holy shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.). In the 15th century, during the reign of the Timurid Shahrukh Mirza, Mashhad became one of the main cities of the realm. In 1418, his wife Empress Goharshad funded the construction of an outstanding mosque beside the shrine, which is known as the Goharshad Mosque.[8]

Safavid era
 
Main Gate of Imam Riza, Mashhad, Iran-1850s. Photo possibly by Luigi Pesce (Italian, 1818–1891)

With the emergence of the Safavid dynasty in 1501 A.D. and their declaration of the Twelver Shi'ite sect as the state religion, Mashhad reached the peak of its development and soon became one of the greatest sites of pilgrimage. However, since Khorasan was a border province of the Safavid Empire, Mashhad suffered repeated invasions and periods of occupation by the Uzbek Khans – Muhammad Khan, Abdullah Khan Shaibani, Muhammad Sultan and especially Abdul-Momen Khan. These invasions continued up to 996 A.H./ 1586 A.D., the reign of Shah Abbas I, who finally drove out the Uzbeks from Khorasan.

Sahn Atiq was extended in the time of Shah Abbas I, and during the Safavid era, great efforts were made for its further improvement. Shah Tahmasp I began to repair and gild the minaret near the dome and in 932/1525, precious tiles covering the dome were changed into gold-coated bricks. After they were plundered during Abd al-Mu'min Khan Uzbek invasion, the gold-coated bricks were rebuilt by Shah 'Abbas in 1010/1601, the details of which was written on an enamelled inscription by Ali Reza Abbasi. Shah Abbas also began to establish northern porch, rooms, chambers, facades, as well eastern and western porches. It is said that Mullah Muhsin Fayd Kashani ordered to establish Tawhid Khanah portico in the north side of the Shrine. Allahverdikhan portico, porch in the north side of Dar al-Ziyafah (reception chamber) and Hatam Khani portico, all were built in the time of great princes of Safavids, Allahverdikhan and Hatam Beq Ordoobadi.

Shah Abbas II commanded to repair and tile Sahn Atiq and Shah Sulaiman also ordered the repair of the Holy Shrine Dome which had been split because of the earthquake; this can be read in an erected inscription. He also commanded to establish several Madrasahs (Islamic seminaries). The northern porch of Goharshad Mosque, the Holy Shrine entrance, along with Musallah (place of prayer) located in Payeen Khiyaban (lower street) were repaired and tiled by a skillful Isfahani mason called Ustad Shuja'.

During the Safavid era, the shrine also received patronage from rulers of the Indian subcontinent, namely Quli Qutb-ul-Mulk (founder of the Qutb Shahi dynasty) and Mughal Emperor Akbar. The latter was notably a Sunni.[9]

Afsharid and Qajar era
 
Complex's main garden in 1910
 
Shrine's view from Tehran Street, 1956

Nader Shah Afshar (b. 1688, r. 1736-1747 A.D.) and the Qajar Shahs who ruled Iran from 1789 to 1925 illuminated, beautified and expanded the various courtyards (Sahn), porches (Riwaq) and places in the holy shrine. The golden porch of Sahn Atiq and the minaret on its top were repaired and gilded, the minaret of north porch was erected and illuminated; and Sangab (a vessel or container made of single block of marble) in Ismail Tala'ee Saqqa Khanah (a public place for drinking water) was built in Sahn Atiq. All these happened during Nader Shah Afshar's monarchy.

There were also some improvements in the Holy Shrine complex during the Qajar Dynasty, including new courtyard establishment and gilding its porch, both of them started during the reign of Fath-Ali Shah and finished during Naser al-Din Shah's reign. The porch and northern façade of Sahn Atiq, as written in the inscription of its top, were also repaired during Mohammad Shah Qajar's rule. Tawhid Khanah was repaired in 1276/1859 in the time of Adud al-Mulk's custodianship. He had the fine paintings and tiles of the Shrine decorated with mirrors in 1275/1858. Naser al-Din Shah, too, had the gold-coated bricks put up on the walls, from dado up to the top of western porch of the new courtyard and its stalactite-shaped ceiling. So it was called "Nasiri Porch". There was also some repair in both courtyards, the old and the new one during Mozaffar ad-Din Shah's monarchy.

Following the coup in December 1911, Russian artillery shelled revolutionaries who had taken refuge in the holy shrine.[10] The whole complex was greatly damaged in 1911, but it was repaired again after a while by Hussein Mirza Nayyir al-Dawla, Khorasan's governor.

Modern era
 
Imam Reza shrine at night, 2012

There happened some essential changes round the complex in 1347/1928, when Falakah (round open space with the radius of 180 meters from the top of the Dome was established. Then they began to build the Museum, the library and the Hall for ceremonies. Old Falakah was extended up to a radius of 620 meters before the victory of the Islamic Revolution, and an important part of Holy Buildings' historical structure was demolished without considering its antiquity and elegance.

On 11th Rabi al-Thani 1354 A.H. /13 July 1935, during the Goharshad Mosque rebellion, armed forces of Reza Shah (b. 1878, r. 1925-1941 A.D.), the reigning monarch of Iran and founder of Pahlavi dynasty, invaded the holy shrine and massacred people gathered in the Goharshad Mosque. The people there were protesting against the modernization policies of the Shah which many, especially amongst the Shia clergy, considered to be anti-Islamic, including the banning Hijab (headscarf) for women in Iran. Shortly before the Iranian Revolution, on 21 November 1978, troops under orders from the regime of Mohammad Reza Shah (b. 1919, r. 1941-1979 A.D.), Reza Shah's son and successor, killed a large number of people within the shrine.

The shrine is depicted on the reverse of the Iranian 100 rials coin, issued since 2004.[11] It's also on new Iranian smart national card.

Incidents 1994 Imam Reza shrine bombing 2022 Imam Reza shrine stabbings
^ Staff Writer (24 January 2012). "Look at the history of Imam Reza's burial ground (Persian)". mashreghnews. ^ Dungersi, Mohamed Raza (January 1996). A Brief Biography of Imam Ali bin Musa (a.s.): al-Ridha. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. p. 42. ISBN 978-1502834249. ^ Zabeth (1999) pp. 12-16 ^ Cite error: The named reference Imam Reza was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ a b Petrushevski, Ilia Pavlovich (1970). Islam in Iran. ketab.com. p. 271. ISBN 9781595844613. ^ a b c Staff Writer. "How the shrine of Imam Reza was built?". Iranian student's news agency. Retrieved 4 January 2014. ^ Lorentz, John H. (2010). The A to Z of Iran. Scarecrow Press. p. 202. ISBN 9781461731917. ^ Zabeth, Hyder Reza (1999). Landmarks of Mashhad. Foundation of Astan Quds Razavi. ISBN 9789644442216. ^ Edmund., Bosworth, Clifford (2008). Historic cities of the Islamic world. Brill. p. 337. ISBN 978-90-04-15388-2. OCLC 231801473. ^ Michael Axworthy, A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind, (Basic Books, 2010), 212. ^ Central Bank of Iran Archived 2021-02-03 at the Wayback Machine. Banknotes & Coins: 100 Rials Archived 2018-07-28 at the Wayback Machine. – Retrieved on 24 March 2009.
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Iahsan at English Wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Soroush.javadian - CC BY-SA 4.0
Soroush.javadian - CC BY-SA 4.0
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