A brief history of Imam Reza's holy shrine
By: Khatar Nourizadeh
Hamza ibne Qahtabah, the Abbasid army commander who had
led the war against the Ommayids was appointed by Mansur and Al-Mahdi,
the Abbasid caliphs as the Governor of Khorasan. He made a big
garden between Noughan and Sanadan and erected a palace which stood
up to the beginning of the 4th century AH. Haroon, who had come to
Tus to suppress the Khorasan rebellion, became ill and resided in
the garden during his ailment. But he died in 193 H. And was buried
inside the palace. Upon his tomb a shrine was built.
In 203 AH, Imam Al-Ridha, peace be upon him, was poisoned by Mamoun,
the son of Haroon and Imam was buried alongside with Haroon. Since
the martyrdom of Imam, his holy shrine became a place of pilgrimage
for the world's Shias and the city spread so far as Noughan and
Sanabad were annexed to it to become Mashhad Al-Ridha, shortened
over time to Mashhad.
The holy shrine was ruined by Saboktakin, a Ghaznavid king. But his
son, Sultan Mahmoud ordered the shrine to be repaired and expanded
in 428 AH. During the invasion of Changis and his son, Tooly, the
holy shrine was ruined again. Sultan Mohamed Khoda-Banda, a king of
Moghol dynasty, who reigned from 703 to 716 AH, had the holy shrine
rebuilt. Since the time of Safavids, Afshars and Qajars to date many
of the Astane-Qods buildings have been expanded.
BASTS (Places of Refuge)
Basts were places of refuge from the tyranny of dictators and
provided the best refuge for the people under persecution. In
Astane-Qods-Razavi there exist two large yards on each side of Sahne
Enqelab (Revolution Court) namely Baste Payeen Khiaban (Lower Bast)
and Baste Bala Khiaban (Upper Bast). Today Basts are used as two
entrances to Imam Al-Ridha's Holy Shrine. In recent years two new
Basts have been built namely Baste Sheikh Bahai (between Gowharshad
Mosque and Sahne Jamburi Islami) and Baste Tabarsi (between the
Islamic University and the new building of Astane-Qods Library).
This is one of the most beautiful and glorious buildings of Astane
Qods Razavi. The four balconies in this court are Abbasi (North) ,
Tala (South), Naqqareh Khaneh (East) upon which lies Naqqareh Khaneh,
Sa'at (Clock) (West) upon which is a big clock. These balconies
which attest to the best of architecture are more than three
centuries old. There is a big rectangular window in this court made
of bronze and steel. Tala, the golden balcony was built by Amir
Alishir Navaiee, Sultan Bighara's wise vizier in 872 H. The northern
Abbasi balcony was constructed during Shah Abbas's reign in 1021 AH.
The two golden minarets of Imam Ridha's shrine have been specially
built. The minarets are usually made on the two sides of the dome
and near the dome. But these two minarets have been built far from
each other. One, close to the Dome, upon Naderi balcony in the
southern section of Sahne Enqelab and the other far in the northern
section of Sahne Enqelab on Abbasi balcony. Although lack of
symmetry can be clearly felt, it has been done on purpose so that
when pilgrims enter Haram from Imam Ridha Avenue they can see the
minarets and the Dome in the middle. The minaret which is close to
the Dome was built by Shah Tahmasb Safavi and has a height of 40.5
meters and a circumference of 13 meters. The other minaret on Abbasi
balcony was built at the time of Nader Shah.
Nqqareh Khaneh (Place of Kettle Drums)
In 860 H. When Baisonqor Shahrokh's son came to Mashhad from Herat
to Haram to seek remedy from Imam Ridha kettledrums were beaten to
announce his presence. Since then this practice has been performed
every day before sunrise and sunset except mourning period. The
place where kettledrums are performed is on the eastern balcony of
Saqqa Khaneh (Public Drinking Place)
There is a public drinking place called hawze Ismail Talai in the
middle of Sahne Enqelab with a gilded inscription belonging to the
time of Nader Shah Afshar's reign. That is why it is called Naderi
drinking place. The marble pool was brought from Her on Nader Shah's
orders. The golden bricks with which the inscription has been
written was made by Ismail, an artist whose name the drinking place
bears. It was rebuilt in 1347 H.
Sa'at (the Clock)
There is a big clock on the western balcony of Sahne Enqelab. It
dates back to the period of Mozaffar-al-Din Shah's period.
Sahne Jamhuri Islami (Islamic Republic Court)
This Sahn which is 10,000 square meters in size was built in recent
years. It has two minarets at the back of the northern and Southern
gates. Each minaret is 30 meters high. This Sahn provides one
approach from Ravaq of Dar-al-Valayeh to the holy Shrine of Imam.
The building situated on the eastern part of this Sahn is called
This Sahn is recently built and 2500 Sq. Meters in size is situated
between Sahne Imam Khomeini and Baste Shaykh Bahai. On the ground
floor there are 28 chambers each six meters high and one veranda
called Qebleh which is 50 Sq Meters in size. At the centre of this
Sahn is a newly built public drinking place.
Sahne Imam Khomeini
This Sahn is located at the left side of the Holy Shrine of Imam
Ridha [a] and faces Imam Ridha Avenue. Its area is more than 8300 sq
Meters. Shaykh Bahai's tomb is located between this Sahn and Sahne
This Sahn is located east of the Holy Shrine and dates back to the
time of Fath-Ali Shah Qajar. It is about 85 meters long and 54
meters wide. It has four verandas, the most famous of which is
called Eivan Tala (golden Veranda) that is adjacent to the am. This
veranda was gilded at the time of Nasir-al-Din Shah Qajar.
This mosque is one of the most reputed in Iran and is situated
adjecent to the Holy Shrine of Imam Ridha. It was built in 821 AH.
under the orders of Gowharshad Khatun, Shahrokh Mirza's wife. Its
area is 9410 Sq Meters and includes a courtyard, four porches and
seven large prayer halls. Two beautiful 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 libray with 34,650 volumes.
Imam Ridha [a]'s Tomb
It is located beneath the Golden Dome (The Golden Dome is the most
prominent symbol of the city of Mashhad 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 Ahlul Bait [a] 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
Dar-al Hoffaz (the place of the Reciters)
This porch is located south of the Holy Shrine and northeast of the
Gowharshad mosque. It was built under the orders of Gowharshad
khatoon. Yhe pilgrims pray here seeking permission to enter the Holy
Shrine. Dar-al-Hoffaz is connected to Haram through a doorway. It
has been built for the Quran reciters. Abbas Mirza, Fath-Ali Shah's
vicegerent is buried in this porch.
Towhid Khaneh (place of Divine Unity)
It is located north of the Holy Shrine and south of Sahne Enqelab.
This porch is used for ladies prayers.
Located in the western part of the Haram, this porch was built under
the prders of Gowharshad Khatoon. There is a silver window in its
northeastern part from where Imam Ridha [a]'s Tomb can be seen.
There is a small mosque attached to the west part of the Haram. It
is called Bala Sar (above the head) because pilgrims enter this
mosque from the west side of Imam Ridha [a]' s burial chamber which
is Bala-Sar of Imam. It is one of the oldest mosques in Mashhad and
dates back to the time of Sultan Mahmood Ghaznavi.
Dar-al Rahmah Porch
This porch has an area of 365 sq. meters and is situated in the
eastern part of Sahne Jamhuri e Islami. It has been decorated with
gilding, plastor works, mirrors and fret work and was inaugurated in
The other porches are Dar-al-Ekhlas, Dar-al-Shukr, Dar-al-Salaam and
It is an octagonal dome built on Allahverdikhan's tomb. He was one
of Shah Abbas's generals. It is located in northeast of Haram and
decorated with colored tiles and beautiful drawings. It is one of
the most valuable artistic works inside Haram.
Hatam Khani Dome
This dome is located east of Haram. One of Shah Abbas's ministers
called Hatam Beik Ordoobadi built it in 1010 AH.
The Golden Dome
The Golden Dome on top of Imam Ridha [a]'s tomb is the most
prominent symbol of Mashhad and has a height of 31.20 meters. A
large inscription has been written round the Dome by Ali Ridha
Museum of Astaane Quds
The Astaane 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 Ridha 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. There are also
samples of relief tilework known as Sanjari glazed tile belonging to
the 6th century H. and a big stone water pool made of a piece of
blackstone decorated with the most beautiful arabesques.
Museum of The Quran
This museum is located in the vicinity of the Astaane 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.
Museum of Stamps
The biggest stamp museum in Iran and was opened by Astaane Quds in
1368 AH. Some 50000 stamps from Iran and 18 foreign countries from
Qajar period to the present time are on display in this museum.
Astaane Quds Library: This library is located in the eastern part of
Sahne Imam Khomeini and was established in 681 H. It has a unique
treasure of manuscripts. It contains, according to last count done
in 1368 AH., 257078 volumes of which 28218 are manuscripts and 724
photographic copies and the materials are in 36 different languages.
The archives of this library are considered a treasure of documents.
Astane Quds Mehmansara
This inn is located in Baste-e Sofla and every overseas pilgrim
(zair) of Imam Ridha [a] has a right to one free meal as guest of
Imam. Meals are served everyday.
The Tomb of Baha-o-din Mohamed Ameli, known as Sheikh Bahaiee, is
located between Sahn-e-Imam and Sahn-e-Azadi in the Haram Astane
Quds. Sheikh Bahaiee was born in Baalbak in 953 H. and came to Iran
with his father when he was 7 years old. His genealogy dates back to
Hareth Hamadani, the famous disciple of Imam Ali [a]. He had a great
influence on Shah Abbas King of Iran and Iranian politics and
culture and has left behind many scientific works.
Sheikh Hurr Ameli
His tomb is in Sahn-e-Enqelab in the Haram-Astaane Quds. He is one
of the famous Shiite theologians and author of Wasa'el al-Shia.
His tomb is in northern square next to Bagh-e-Rezvan and the avenue
next to it has been named after him. Fazl-ibne-Hasan Tabarasi died
548 H. is the writer of the commentary Majma'-al-Bayan.
His tomb is 14 kilometers away in south east Mashhad on the
outskirts of Binalood mountains (opposite Bahesht-e-Ridha cemetery).
Herthameh bin Ayn, known as khwajeh Morad was a disciple of Imam
Ridha [a] and he died in 210 H.
Rabiee ben Haytham known as Khwajeh Rabiee was famous for his piety.
His tomb is in the middle of a garden bearing a high dome. Its
construction dates back to 11th century H. and is considered as a
Safavid monument. It is one of the important buildings of Shah Abbas
period in Khorasan.
There are two inscriptions written by Ali Ridha Abbasi inside the
shrine. The shrine is located at the end of Khwajeh Rabiee avenue
and one of the great public cemeteries of Mashhad lies next to
Khwajeh Rabiee tomb. His death is recorded as in 63 H.
Abasalt-e-Heravi's tomb: Abasalt, Imam Ridha [a]'s servant died in
236 H and was buried beside the road to Fariman 10 kilometers from
Gonbad (Dome) Kheshti
This dome, located in Tabarasi avenue, houses the grave of Imamzadeh
Mohamed whose genealogy can be traced to Imam Sajjad [a]. The
monument belongs to the Safavid period in architectural style.
Peer-e Palandooz (the old pack saddler)
Sheikh Mohammad Aref (died 985 H.) known as Peer-e-Palandooz was one
of the most pious of his time. He was called so since he made pack
saddles to earn his living. His tomb is in front of Baste-Payeen
which was originally built by Sultan Mohammad Khoda Bandeh and has
recently been reconstructed by Astan-e-Qods.
Gonbade Sabz (Green Dome)
This shrine is located in Khaki avenue and its dome has a colour
close to turquoise. Sheikh Mohammed Mo'men Aref Astrabadi, died 90
H. is buried here. He wrote the medical work Tohfeh Hakim Mo'men.
The dome was built by Shah Abbas in 1011 H.
This monument is located in Payeen Khiaban and has a high porch and
two porticos on both sides. According to extant inscription it was
built in 1087 H. during Shah Sulayman period.Its facade is made of
bricks and it was previously used for prayers of the two Eids. The
date of construction 1086 H. has been carved inside the Mehrab. The
building is decorated with inscription and glazed tiles.
This tower is located 22 kilometers away from Mashhad and it is
believed that the tomb of Gowhartaj, the sister of Gowharshad Agha
Taimuri is here.The facade of the tower is covered with octagon
bricks and it has a conic dome.
Miami (Imamzadeh Yahya)
Imamzadeh Yahya was Zaid's son and grandson of our fourth Imam
Sajjad [a] His mother Raiteh was the daughter of Abi Hashem Abdullah
ibne Mohamed Hanifah. He was born in 107 H. and as his life was
threatened by Umayyads, he migrated from Kerbala to Madaen and from
there to Khorasan. He was martyred at the age of 18 in Jowzjan in
125 H. His tomb is on the Sarakhs road 50 kilometers from Mashhad
and one kilometer from Miami village. The construction of the shrine
dates back to the 10th century H.
It is located in a beautiful garden and built by National Monuments
Association in 1958 A.D. Nadir's statute riding horse holding an axe
is on the top of the monument. The height is 5 meters weighing 14000
kilograms. There is a museum of weapons, helmets and armours inside
the monument which was inaugurated in 1342 H. Nadir Shah ruled from
1148 to 1160 AH.The Allama Tabatabaie public library is in this
monument run by Islamic Guidance Organisation.
Abul quasem Ferdowsi (died 411 H.) is the greatest epic poet who
composed Shahnameh in 30 years.His shrine is located 22 kilometers
northwest of Mashhad alongside Quchan road. The monument is
surounded by a beautiful garden and was completed in 1968 A.D.There
are still some old walls in the end side of the garden and there is
a museum in the west part of the monument. Among the items in the
museum is a manuscript of Shahnameh weighing 73 kilogrames.
May Allah bless us all with the Ziyarat of Imam Ridha [a] more and
more often. I trust the above narrative will be of benefit to the
pilgrims (zawwar) of Imam Ridha [a].
better than wealth because it protects you while you have to
guard wealth. it decreases if you keep on spending it but the
more you make use of knowledge ,the more it increases . what you
get through wealth disappears as soon as wealth disappears but
what you achieve through knowledge will remain even after you."MORE