Imam Reza shrine

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Imam Reza Shrine
Haram-e Motahare Razavi
Affiliation Islam
Branch/tradition Shia Islam
Ahmad Marvi
Location Mashhad, Iran
Iran location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location in Iran
Administration Astan Quds Razavi
Geographic coordinates 36°17′17″N59°36′57″E / 36.2880°N 59.6157°E / 36.2880; 59.6157 Coordinates: 36°17′17″N59°36′57″E / 36.2880°N 59.6157°E / 36.2880; 59.6157
Date established818
Capacity600,000 worshippers
Minaret height41 m (135 ft)

The Imam Reza shrine (Persian : حرم امام رضا) in Mashhad, Iran is a complex which contains the mausoleum of Imam Reza, the eighth Imam of Twelver Shiites. 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, [1] a cemetery, the Razavi University of Islamic Sciences, a dining hall for pilgrims, vast prayer halls, and other buildings.

Persian language Western Iranian language

Persian, also known by its endonym Farsi, is a Western Iranian language belonging to the Iranian branch of the Indo-Iranian subdivision of the Indo-European languages. It is a pluricentric language predominantly spoken and used officially within Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan in three mutually intelligible standard varieties, namely Iranian Persian, Dari Persian and Tajiki Persian. It is also spoken natively in the Tajik variety by a significant population within Uzbekistan, as well as within other regions with a Persianate history in the cultural sphere of Greater Iran. It is written officially within Iran and Afghanistan in the Persian alphabet, a derivation of the Arabic script, and within Tajikistan in the Tajik alphabet, a derivation of Cyrillic.

Mashhad City in Razavi Khorasan, Iran

Mashhad, also spelled Mashad or Meshad, is the second most populous city in Iran and the capital of Khorasan-e Razavi Province. It is located in the northeast of the country, near the borders with Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. It has a population of 3,001,184, which includes the areas of Mashhad Taman and Torqabeh. It was a major oasis along the ancient Silk Road connecting with Merv to the east.

Iran Islamic Republic in Western Asia

Iran, also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. With 82 million inhabitants, Iran is the world's 18th most populous country. Its territory spans 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), making it the second largest country in the Middle East and the 17th largest in the world. Iran is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. Its central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, give it geostrategic importance. Tehran is the political and economic center of Iran, and the largest and most populous city in Western Asia with more than 8.8 million residents in the city and 15 million in the larger metropolitan area.


The complex is one of the tourism centers in Iran [2] [3] and has been described as "the heart of the Shia Iran" [4] with 12 million Iranian and non-Iranian Shias visiting the shrine each year, according to a 2007 estimate. [5] The complex is managed by Astan Quds Razavi Foundation currently headed by a prominent Iranian cleric, Ahmad Marvi

Astan Quds Razavi

Astan Quds Razavi is a bonyad based at Mashhad, Iran. It is the administrative organization which manages the Imam Reza shrine and various institutions which belong to the organization.

The shrine itself covers an area of 267,079m2 while the seven courtyards which surround it cover an area of 331,578m2 - totaling 598,657 m2 (6,443,890 sq ft). [6]

Every year the ceremony of Dust Clearing is celebrated in the Imam Reza shrine.

Dust Clearing is a religious ceremony done in Muslims territories. This is a ritual for cleansing, brooming, washing, and perfume-spraying in special places like holy tombs, mosques, martyrs graves, Kaaba, Imam Reza shrine, libraries, Masjid al-Haram, etc.

Religious significance

Shia sources quote several hadiths from the Shia Imams and Prophet Muhammad that highlight the importance of pilgrimage to the shrine. A hadith from the Islamic Prophet reads:

One of my own flesh and blood will be buried in the land of Khorasan. God the Highest will surely remove the sorrows of any sorrowful person who goes on pilgrimage to his shrine. God will surely forgive the sins of any sinful person who goes on pilgrimage to his shrine. [7]


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. In fact, this fortress has 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 has been in fact a temple used by the Zoroastrians to worship. 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. [8]

Humayd ibn Qahtaba ibn Shabib al-Ta'i was a senior military leader in the early Abbasid Caliphate.

Sanabad village in Isfahan, Iran

Sanabad is a village in Barzavand Rural District, in the Central District of Ardestan County, Isfahan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 15, in 9 families.

Islam is an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God (Allah), and that Muhammad is the messenger of God. It is the world's second-largest religion with over 1.8 billion followers or 24% of the world's population, most commonly known as Muslims. Muslims make up a majority of the population in 50 countries. Islam teaches that God is merciful, all-powerful, and unique, and has guided mankind through prophets, revealed scriptures and natural signs. The primary scriptures of Islam are the Quran, claimed to be the verbatim word of God, and the teachings and normative examples of Muhammad.

Martyrdom of Ali al-Ridha

Imam Reza shrine before development Imam Reza shrine before development.jpg
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). [9] After this event, the location was called as Mashhad al-Ridha ("the place of martyrdom of al-Ridha"). Shias and Sunnis 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. [10]

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. [2] However, the tomb of Harun al-Rashid is not considered sacred, as he was responsible for the murders of the 6th and 7th Shia Imams. [ citation needed ]

Ghaznevid 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 Ghaznevid 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. [11]

Saljug era

A picture from second sanctuary ImamReza06.jpg
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. [12] In 612 A.H./ 1215 A.D., as borne out by inscriptions on certain tiles, Allaudin Khwarezm Shah carried out renovations on the shrine. [12]

Mongol invasion

During Khwarazm-Shahs period, Razavi Shrine was paid much attention and some repairment and decoration were made in it. [12] In this era(612/1215), 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 AD (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. [13] 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. [11]

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 Safavid kings who ruled Iran from 1501-1786 A.D. 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, Masshad 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. [14]

Safavid era

Main Gate of Imam Riza, Mashhad, Iran-1850s. Photo possibly by Luigi Pesce (Italian, 1818-1891) Main Gate of Imam Riza, Mashhad, Iran-1850s.jpg
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 Shi'ite school 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 consequently 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 time of Shah Abbas I, who finally drove out the Uzbeks from Khourasan.

Sahn Atiq was extended in the time of Shah Abbas I, and still, during the Safavids era, great efforts were made for its 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 Uzbeg 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'.

Afsharid and Qajar era

Complex's main garden in 1910 ImamReza10.jpg
Complex's main garden in 1910
Shrine's view from Tehran street, 1956 Teh st - Mashhad - 1956.jpg
Shrine's view from Tehran street, 1956

Nadir Shah Afshar (b. 1688, r. 1736-1747 A.D.) and the Qajar kings who ruled Iran from 1779-1923 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 Nadir Shah Afshar's monarchy.

There have also been some improvements in Holy Shrine complex during Qajar period, including new courtyard establishment and gilding its porch, both of them started in the time of Fath Ali Shah Qajar and ended in Nasir al-Din Shah's era. The porch and northern façade of Sahn Atiq, as written in the inscription of its top, were also repaired during Muhammad Shah'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. Nasir al-Din Shah, too, had the gold-coated bricks put up on the walls, from dado up to the top of western proch of the new courtyard and its stalactite-shaped ceiling. So it was called "Nasiri Porch". There was also some repairment in both courtyards, the old and the new one during Muzaffar al-Din Shah's monarchy.

Following the coup in December 1911, Russian artillery shelled revolutionaries that had taken refuge in the holy shrine. [15] 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

Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran in Shrine of Imam Reza, 3 May 2016. Ali Khamenei in shrine of Ali al-Ridha (2016) 03.jpg
Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran in Shrine of Imam Reza, 3 May 2016.
Imam Reza shrine at night, 2012 Imam Reza shrine.jpg
Imam Reza shrine at night, 2012
A view of the existing sanctuary DryH Hrm mm rD.jpg
A view of the existing sanctuary

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, the armed forces of Reza Shah (b. 1878, r. 1925-1941 A.D.), the founder of Pahlavi dynasty in Iran, invaded the holy shrine and massacred people gathered in the Goharshad Mosque. The people there were protesting against the anti-Islamic rule of Reza Shah for banning Hijab (headscarf) for women in Iran. During the days of Iranian Revolution, on 21 November 1978 Mohammad Reza Shah's (b. 1919, r. 1941-1978 A.D.) troops of the Shah killed a large number of people within the holy shrine of Imam Reza.

The shrine is depicted on the reverse of the Iranian 100 rials coin, issued since 2004. [16]


Courtyards (Sahn)

Volunteers placing carpets in the Imam Ridha Mosque for the afternoon prayers Placing Carpets, Imam Ridha Mosque.jpg
Volunteers placing carpets in the Imam Ridha Mosque for the afternoon prayers

The complex contains a total of Seven courtyards, which cover an area of over 331,578 m2 (3,569,080 sq ft): [17] The courtyards also contain a total of 14 minarets, [18] and 3 fountains. [19]

NameImagesArea (m2)appurtenantYear of first building
Revolution Courtyardfour balconies, steel window[[{{{1}}}]]
Freedom Courtyard4,600golden Veranda[[{{{1}}}]]
Courtyard of Goharshad Mosque[[{{{1}}}]]
Quds Courtyard2,500[[{{{1}}}]]
Islamic Republic Courtyard10,000two minarets[[{{{1}}}]]
The Razavi Grand Courtyard[[{{{1}}}]]
Gadeer Courtyard[[{{{1}}}]]


From the courtyards, external hallways named after scholars lead to the inner areas of the mosque. They are referred to as Bast (Sanctuary), since they were meant to be a safeguard for the shrine areas: [20]

The Bast hallways lead towards a total of 21 internal halls (Riwaq) which surround the burial chamber of Ali al-Ridha. [21] Adjacent to the burial chamber is also a mosque dating back to the 10th century known as, Bala-e-Sar Mosque. [22]

Goharshad Mosque

Goharshad Mosque in 1976 Meczet w zespole kultowym wokol mauzoleum Imama Rezy - Meszhed - 000997s.jpg
Goharshad Mosque in 1976

This mosque is one of the most reputed in Iran and is situated adjacent to the Holy Shrine of Imam Ridha. It was built in 821 AH. under the orders of Goharshad Begum, Shahrukh Mirza's wife. Its area is 9410 Sq Meters and includes a courtyard, four porches and seven large prayer halls. Two minarets, each 40 meters high, are located on both sides of Maqsureh Porch. There is an inscription on the left on the margin of the porch written by Baisonqor, one of the best calligraphists of the time. The Sahib-al Zaman Pulpit is in Maqsureh porch. It was built in 1243 H with walnut wood and without using any iron or nail. This mosque has a public library with 34,650 volumes.

Ali al-Ridha's Tomb

It is located beneath the Golden Dome (The Golden Dome is the most prominent symbol of the city of Mashad with an altitude of 31.20 meters) and surrounded by different porches each bearing a separate name. The skilled artists have done their best in the creation of this place. It is square in shape and some 135 sq. meters have been added to its area after extension works. The walls are covered by marble up to twenty centimeters and the next ninety two centimeters are covered by expensive tiles known as Sultan Sanjari tiles. Quranic verses and Ahadiths of the Ahle Bait have been carved on these tiles. The important inscription written round the walls is eighty centimeters wide and written by Ali Ridha Abbasi, the famous calligraphist of the Safavid period and bears Surah Jumah of the Quran.


There are two Museums in the Holy shrine limits. Astan Quds Museum and Quran Museum. The Astan Quds museum is one of the richest and most exquisite museums of Iran. The building is located in the eastern quarter of Sahne Imam Khomeini and close to Haram square. Some of its objects date back to the 6th century AH. The collection of carpets, rugs and golden covers for the Tomb are all unique and date back to the 11 and 13th centuries.Some inscriptions written by Ali Reza Abbasi are among the valuable objects. Among the unique works of art in the museum is Imam's first tombstone, the inscription of which was carved in kufi relief script belonging to 516 H. Also Quran museum is located in the vicinity of the Astan Quds museum. It contains precious manuscripts of the Glorious Quran attributed to the Holy Imams and some gilded manuscripts. It was opened in 1364 H. The oldest manuscript attributed to the Holy Imams is in kufi script on deer skin belonging to the First century AH.

Other historical appurtenants

Because of historical background of Imam Reza shrine, it is collection of historical objects such as; Minarets,Nqqareh Khaneh (Place of Kettle Drums), Saqqa Khaneh (Public Drinking Place), Sa'at (the Clock),Dar-al Hoffaz (the place of the Reciters), Towhid Khaneh (place of Divine Unity),Dar-al-Siyadah, Bala-Sar Mosque, Dar-al Rahmah Porch, Allahverdi Khan Dome, Hatam Khani Dome, Golden Dome, Astan Quds Mehmansara.

Notable burials

See also

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  20. "The Bast (Sanctuaries) Around the Holy Shrine". Imam Reza (A.S.) Network. Archived from the original on 2010-06-12. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
  21. "Riwaq (Porch)". Imam Reza (A.S.) Network. Archived from the original on 2010-06-12. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
  22. "The Bala-Sar Mosque of the Holy Shrine". Imam Reza (A.S.) Network. Archived from the original on 2010-06-12. Retrieved 2009-05-26.


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