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  Updated: December 03, 2006

Imam Reza (A.S.) holy shrine - The Glory of Islamic World

By: Adel Nurizadeh

The grand spiritual, magnificent religious complex of the holy shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.) situated in the holy city of Mashhad, Iran, has been called by visitors and historians as "The Glory of the Islamic World". The marvelous buildings and structures in the holy shrine comprise one of the oldest and most beautiful religious and historical monuments in the world.

The grand complex of the holy shrine is round in structure which includes six courtyards (Sahn), twenty - three porches (Riwaq), the Gohar shad Mosque, Razavi University of Islamic Sciences, Islamic Research Foundation, Museums, the Central Library Complex, Offices, Hospital, Inn and the buildings for performing ablutions. The present surface area of the holy shrine is 267079 sq. meters.

The holy burial chamber is connected to a network of twenty three Riwaqs (porches) covering an area of 5638 square meters. Riwaqs are the roofed buildings with different heights and designs built around the holy burial chamber during various phases of one thousand and two hundred years long history of the holy shrine.

After the twenty one Riwaqs there are ten Sahn (Courtyards) and four Bast (the Sanctuary) around the holy shrine which occupies a total area of 331578 square meters.

Sahn (courtyard) are the magnificent buildings within the holy shrine where the pilgrims perform religious services like congregational prayers, anniversary ceremonies of martyrdoms and birthdays of the Infallible Imams (A.S.). The courtyards are very magnificent and distinguished and known as the alive history of the crafts of their architects. Spectators, observing these historical art-works would dream of them done by expert the architects.

The ten Sahn (Courtyards) are as follows:

1.Sahn Inqilab (Revolution Courtyard)

2.Sahn Azadi (Freedom Courtyard)

3.Sahn Imam Khomeini (R.A.)

4.Sahn Gohar shad Mosque

5.Sahn Quds

6.Sahn Jumhuri Islami (Islamic Republic Courtyard)

7.Sahn Jameh Razavi (The Razavi Grand Courtyard)

8.Sahn Hidayat

9.Sahn Rizwan

10.Sahn Kawsar

The four Bast (the Sanctuary) are as follows:

1.Bast Shaykh Toosi (Upper Bast)

2.Bast Shaykh Tabarsi

3.Bast Shaykh Hur Ameli (Lower Bast)

4.Bast Shaykh Baha'i

Naqqar Khanah

Beating kettle-drums (Naqqarah) was customary in olden times upon the occurrence of an important event or the attendance of people in royal courts.

In 860 A.H./ 1455 A.D., when Baisonqor, Shahrukh Mirza's son, the Timurid Sultan, came to Mashhad from Herat, kettle-drums were beaten to announce his presence in the holy shrine. He was visiting the holy shrine in order to find a cure for his illness which the physicians were unable to cure. Baisonqor was miraculously healed in the holy shrine and the kettle-drums were beaten once again, and since then, this practice is performed everyday before sunrise and sunset (except the mourning periods). The kettle-drums are also beaten when any sick pilgrim gets miraculously healed at the holy shrine.

Saqqa Khaneh

In the middle of the Sahn-i Inqilab the famous Saqqa Khaneh the public place for drinking water) known as Saqqa Khaneh-i Ismail Talaie is situated. It was constructed during the reign of Nader Shah Afshar. The upper parts of its arches are covered with golden inscriptions, the work of an craftsman called Ismail. For this reason the Saqqa-Khaneh is also referred to as Saqqa Khaneh Ismail Talaie.

The Saqqa-Khaneh is hexagonal in shape and carved from a single-piece of marble. On the order of Nader Shah Afshar the marble was brought from Herat and was installed on the floor of the fountain.

There is a Saqqa Khaneh in the middle of the Sahn Quds,which was inaugurated in 1990. This Saqqa Khaneh is built in the shape of Masjid-i Aqsa, the first Qeblah (direction faced in the prayers) of the Muslims, situated in Jerusalem. This beautiful drinking water repository occupies 1/8 of the area of the original Masjid-i Aqsa in Jerusalem. The exterior of it features the architecture and mosaic tile work of Aqsa Mosque and its dome is completely made up of gold.

Opposite to the Golden Ivan of the Sahn Jumhuri Islami (Islamic Republic Courtyard) there is a beautiful Saqqa Khaneh. This beautiful building is octagonal in shape with a golden dome and its exterior is covered with mosaic tiles. The water supply in this Saqqa Khaneh is through electronic system. The Islamic Republic Courtyard is the second largest courtyard of the holy shrine and was inaugurated in 1990.

The Tomb of Shaykh Hur Ameli

In the north-eastern part of the Inqilab Courtyard is the tomb of the prominent scholar, Shaykh Hur Ameli. Muhammad ibn Hasan ibn Ali ibn Muhammad ibn al-Husain Hur Ameli, the famous Shi'ite theologian and traditionist, whose genealogy traces back to Hur ibn Yazid al-Riyahi was born in 1033 A.H./1623 A.D., and expired in 1104 A.H./1692 A.D. Shaykh Hur Ameli compiled 22 books, the most famous is "Wasa'el ush-Shia", a great collection of Shia Ahadith. His tomb is located in the north-eastern part of the Inqilab Courtyard on the side of Madrasah Mirza Jafar. Shaykh Hur Ameli's tomb was renovated in 1984 A.D. by Astan Quds Razavi.

Goharshad Mosque

The Gowharshad Mosque, situated in the southern part of the holy shrine is one of the beautiful and glorious mosques in the world. This mosque is situated between the Bast Shaykh Baha'i and Sahn Imam Khomeini (R.A.). It was built in 821 A.H./1418 A.D., on the orders of Gowharshad Agha, wife of Shahrukh Mirza, the Timurid Sultan. The Gowharshad Mosque enjoys a particular spiritual reputation among the Islamic mosques in the world.In addition to receiving many pilgrims of Imam Reza(A.S.) during the year, this mosque has been a centre of learning and teaching the Islamic Sciences since last six centuries.The high-ranking Ulama lecture Islamic Sciences in this mosque and in the Shabistans(prayer halls) of the mentioned mosque.

Sahn Quds

This newly constructed courtyard built on the replica Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem lies on the southern side of the Gowharshad Mosque between the Bast Shaykh Baha'i, part of Sahn Imam Khomeini (R.A.) and the Razavi Grand Courtyard (Sahn Jameh Razavi).It is the smallest courtyard of the holy shrine.

Sahn Jameh Razavi

The recently constructed grand courtyard in the holy shrine is called as Sahn Jameh Razavi. It is the largest courtyard of the holy shrine and occupies an area of 57000 square meters which includes its Shabistans and chambers.It is located in the Qeblah direction of the Gowharshad Mosque looking towards Imam Reza(A.S.) avenue. The large open area of this grand courtyard is for the performance of Friday prayers, daily congregational prayers, supplications and other religious gatherings.

Astan Quds Razavi Central Library

It is the most important and the largest library in the Islamic world. This historical library was founded in 363 A.H. /973 A.D., about 1027 years ago. There is a copy of the Holy Quran preserved in the library endowed by Muhammad ibn Kathir, the minister of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni dating back to the year 393 A.H./1002 A.D.

At present this library is furnished with half a million copies of books, and can store about five million copies in its spacious stores. The available books are in 46 currently spoken languages including 32485 rare manuscripts, 1000 albums and 36000 microfilms from the rare manuscripts of home and abroad.

There are 12000 hand written copies of the Holy Quran in the library. This is the largest collection of handwritten copies of the Holy Quran in the world. Some of the handwritten copies of the Holy Quran are attributed to be written by Shi'ite Holy Imams like Imam Ali (A.S.),Imam Hasan(A.S.), Imam Husain(A.S.),Imam Sajjad(A.S.) and Imam Reza (A.S.) on the deer skin. The rare collection of the handwritten copies of the Holy Quran are displayed in the "Quranic Treasure Museum" situated within the precincts of the holy shrine.

The extraordinary preciousness of the exquisite copies of the Glorious Quran and that of matchless manuscripts as well as printed books preserved in this library have provided universal fame and credit for this cultural centre throughout the world.

A three - storeyed new complex for the library constructed on an area of 11000 sq meters is also considered as the miracle of Islamic architecture has been recently inaugurated and occupies an area of 28000 sq.meters. It is located at the northern side of bast Shaykh Toosi. (known as Bast-i Bala i-e Upper Bast). The architecture of new complex of the library is completely based on beautiful and intrinsic Islamic style.

There are different reading rooms alloted for men, women and children in this library which is also equipped with and audio-visual room, as well as rooms for men and women researchers. It is equipped with all the necessary sophisticated equipments needed for preserving the manuscripts. The library is centrally computerised with well furnished reading rooms, laboratories, treasure for rare manuscripts completely immune to all forms of disasters, conference hall, various specialized sections for newspapers and magazines, archives, calligraphy, traditional book - binding and casing, illuminating (gilding), painting (miniaturing) and designing of books.

Razavi University of Islamic Sciences

It is situated in the north of the Inqilab Courtyard (Sahn Atiq) and east of Bast Shaykh Tabarsi and occupies a total area of 22000 square meters.

After the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 the Mirza Jafar and Khairat Khan Islamic seminaries situated within the precincts of the holy shrine were rebuilt. Its ancient parts built during the Safavid period had been preserved and renovated and some new buildings have been added which altogether comprise the new Islamic university complex known as "Razavi University of Islamic Sciences." The new four floored grand complex is biult in traditional Islamic architeture which includes 22 classrooms, two amphitheatres, 250 bedrooms, library and some other essential facilities. This Islamic university was inaugurated on 11th Zee -al Qa'dah, 1404 A.H./ 8 August, 1984 on the birthday anniversary of Imam Reza (A.S.).

Islamic Reseach Foundation

The Islamic Research Foundation (briefly known as IRF) was established on Nov 12, 1984. On May 9,1985, it was registered under No. 178 in Companies Registration Office in Mashhad, and started its activities right away. At present IRF is operating as a research and scholarly center affiliated to the Astan Quds Razavi Supreme Cultural Council,supervised by IRF's Board of Directors, and with the cooperation of researchers from Hawzah (Islamic Seminary) and universities in different research departments, aiming at the realization of the cultural goals of the Astan Quds Razavi. It has already published more than one thousand titles of books on various Islamic sciences.

Museums of the Astan Quds Razavi

The museums of the Astan Quds Razavi are among the richest museums of Islamic Republic of Iran, and are included among the most important art and cultural centres of the Islamic world.

The Astan Quds Razavi have several active museums which are as follows:

A) Central Museum:

B) Qur'anic Treasure Museum:

C) The Museum of the Gifts Presented by the Paramount Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Astan Quds Razavi:

D) Stamp Museum:

E)The Museum of the History of Mashhad:

F)The Museum of the Finest Carpets:

The Islamic Seminaries At The Holy Shrine

There are four famous historical Islamic seminaries situated within the precincts of the holy shrine.

1. Madrasa Bala Sar

2- Madrasa Do-Dar

3-Madrasa Parizad

4-Madrasa Nawab

Imam Reza (A.S.) Hospital (Dar-al-Shifa)

Imam Reza (A.S.) Hospital known as Dar al-Shifa-e- Imam (A.S.) renders medical services to the pilgrims on non-profit basis. It is located on the southern side of the Bast Shaykh Hur Ameli (Lower Bast) and opposite to the Astan Quds Razavi Inn. This two floored hospital occupies an area of 22000 square meters and was inaugurated in 1981.

Astan Quds Razavi's Inn:

The foreign and local pilgrims are served lunch at the Inn free of charge. To be the guest of Imam Reza (A.S.) at the Inn the "Foreign Pilgrims" should take their passports to the office located beside the tomb of Shaykh Hur Ameli at the Inqilab Courtyard and obtain the necessary coupons.       

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