Al-Hussein Mosque

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Al-Hussein Mosque
Al-Hussain Mosque, Old Cairo al-Qāhirah, CG, EGY (47911531081).jpg
Outside courtyard
Year consecratedOriginal:1154 Reconstructed:1874
LocationCairo, Egypt
Al-Hussein Mosque is located in Egypt
Al-Hussein Mosque
Shown within Egypt
Geographic coordinates30°2′52″N 31°15′47″E / 30.04778°N 31.26306°E / 30.04778; 31.26306Coordinates: 30°2′52″N 31°15′47″E / 30.04778°N 31.26306°E / 30.04778; 31.26306
StyleGothic Revival, Ottoman, Islamic eclecticism
FounderIsma'il Pasha

The (Sayyidna)-Hussein Mosque (Arabic: مسجد الإمام الحسين‎; Egyptian Arabic: جامع سيدنا الحسين‎) is a mosque and mausoleum originally built in 1154, then later reconstructed in 1874.[1] The mosque is located in Cairo, Egypt, near the Khan El-Khalili bazaar in the area known as Al-Hussain.[1]

It is considered to be one of the holiest Islamic sites in Egypt and named after Prophet Muhammad's grandson, Hussain ibn Ali.[2] Some Shia Muslims believe that Hussain's head is buried on the grounds of the mosque where the mausoleum is located today and considered to be what is left of the Fatimid architecture in the building.[2]

Al-Hussein Mosque
Gothic styles windows and Ottoman minaret


Following the beheading of Hussain ibn Ali in Iraq during the Battle of Karbala, in 1153 his head was sent to Cairo, Egypt to be protected by building a mausoleum for it completed in 1154.[2] Of this original Fatimid architectural structure, only the lower part of the south side gate called Bab Al-Akhdar remains original in the mosque today.[1] A couple years later, a minaret was added to the original Fatimid gateway by Ayyubid Salih Nagm al-Din in 1237.[1] The minaret has panel carvings of overlapping lines that create patterns called arabesque popular in Islamic Architecture.[1] The different minarets among this mosque play a role in portraying the various powers that ruled Cairo and the way they laminated their power through architecture.[3] Finally in 1874, Isma'il Pasha (Khedive Isma'il) reconstructed Al-Hussein mosque inspired by the Gothic Revival Architecture.[4] Wanting to modernize Cairo, Isma'il Pasha created a mosque with Italian Gothic style and Ottoman style minarets.[1] This mixture of various architectural styles famous is Islamic architecture during the khedival time period is called Islamic eclecticism.[1]

Today, the latest addition to Al-Hussein Mosque are three large canopy umbrellas.[5] It was added to protect those praying outdoors from the sun during the summer days and from the rain during the winter.[5] They are mechanically operated and follow the designs of many Saudi Arabian mosques made from steal and teflon.[5] Many people still come to this mosque to pray and visit the mausoleum on a normal basis.[1] Although non-Muslims are not allowed into the building, the structure is still viewed from the outside by tourists.[1]

One of three canopy umbrellas placed in the courtyard of the mosque.

Fatimid beliefs regarding Husayn's head[edit]

According to Fatimid beliefs, in the year 985, the 15th Fatimid Caliph, Abu Mansoor Nizar al-Aziz Billah, traced the site of his great-grandfather's head through the office of a contemporary in Baghdad. It remained buried in the town of Ashkelon at "Baab al Faradis" for about 250 years, until 1153.[6]

After the 21st Fatimid Imam At-Tayyib Abi l-Qasim went into seclusion, his uncle, Abd al Majid, occupied the Fatimid Empire's throne. Fearing disrespect and possible traitorous activity, the Majidi-monarch, Al-Zafir, ordered the transfer of the head to Cairo. Husayn's casket was unearthed and moved from Ashkelon to Cairo on Sunday 8 Jumada al-Thani, 548 (31 August 1153). Yemeni writer Syedi Hasan bin Asad described the transfer of the head thus in his Risalah manuscript: "When the Raas [head of] al Imam al Husain was taken out of the casket, in Ashkelon, drops of the fresh blood were visible on the Raas al Imam al Husain and the fragrance of Musk spread all over."

Imam Hussein Hadith inscription, Al-Hussein Mosque, Cairo. Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim (In the name of God the most merciful).
Blessings of God and peace be on our Master Muhammad and his kin.
The messenger of God, peace be upon him, said:
Husayn is of me, and I'm from him
He who loves Husayn shall be loved by God. Husayn is one of my branches.
"The messenger of God surely spoke the truth"
This Hadith is hasan sahīh. Related by Imam Bukhari in his work "Al-Adab Al-Mufrad,” Imam Tirmidhi in his Sunan and Imam Ahmad in his Musnad. From the Hadith of Ya’lā bin Murra, may God be pleased with him.

According to historians Al-Maqrizi, Ahmad al-Qalqashandi, and Ibn Muyassar, the casket reached Cairo on Tuesday 10 Jumada al-Thani (2 September 1153). Taken by boat to the Kafuri (Garden), the casket was buried there in a place called "Qubbat al Daylam" or "Turbat al Zafr’an" (currently known as "al-Mashhad al-Hussaini" or "B’ab Mukhallaf’at al-Rasul"). Thirteen Fatimid Imams, from the 9th, Muhammad at-Taqi, to the 20th, Al-Amir bi-Ahkami l-Lah, are buried there as well.[6]

Regarding one of the "custodians" who brought Husayn's casket to Cairo, the famous Mamluk historian of Egypt, Mohiyuddin Abd al Zahir, wrote:

"When Salahuddin came to power he seized all the Palaces of the Aimmat Fatemiyeen and looted their properties and treasures. He destroyed the valuable and rare collection of hundreds of thousands of books available in libraries, along the river Nile. When he learned through his intelligence agents that one of the custodians of Raas al Imam al Husain was highly respected by the people of the city of Qahera, he surmised that perhaps he would be aware of the treasures of the Aimmat Fatemiyeen. Salahuddin issued orders to present him in his court. He inquired of him the whereabouts of the Fatemi treasures. The nobleman flatly denied any knowledge of the treasures. Salahuddin was angered, and ordered his intelligence agents to ask him through 'third-degree-torture', but the nobleman bore the torture and repeated his previous statement that he knew nothing of any treasures. Salahuddin ordered his soldiers to put a cap containing centipedes on the head of the nobleman, such a type of punishment was so severe and unbearable that none could survive even for a few minutes.

"Prior to putting the Cap of Centipedes on the head, his hair was shaved, to make it easy for the centipedes to suck blood, which in turn made holes in [his] skull. In spite of that punishment the noble custodian of Husain's Head felt no pain at all. Salahuddin ordered more centipedes to be put on the nobleman's head, but it could not kill or pain him. Finally, Salahuddin Ayyubi ordered for a tight cap full of centipedes to accomplish the result. Even this method could not torture or kill him. The Ayyubid brutes were greatly astounded further when they saw, on removing the cap, the centipedes were dead. Salahuddin asked the nobleman to reveal the secret of this miracle. The nobleman revealed as follow[s]: When Raas al Imam al Husain was brought to Qasar, Al Moizziyat al Qahera, he had carried the casket on his head. 'O Salahuddin! This is the secret of my safety.'"[citation needed]

Today, the burial place of Husayn's head is also known literally as Raous (head)-us-Husain. A silver Zarih (Maqsurah) was created to honor the burial place by Dawoodi Bohra Dai. The location is visited regularly by many Shia Muslims.

According to believers, the story of the Maqsurah is also unique. The Maqsurah was originally constructed for the mosque of Al-Abbas ibn Ali, the Al Abbas Mosque, in Karbala, Iraq. When this Maqsurah reached that mosque, it would not fit into its planned location. The location and the Maqsurah had previously been measured precisely, and fit well at that time. Believers say that Al-Abbas received divine guidance by way of intuition, telling him that out of loyalty, he could not allow Husayn's head to be buried without a Maqsurah. Consequently, Al-Abbas's Maqsurah was brought from Karbala, Iraq to Cairo. According to the story, the Maqsurah fitted upon the original position of the grave known as Mashhad of Raas al Imam al Husain as if it had been made for Raas al Imam al Husain itself.

The Zarih of Husayn's Head, in the mausoleum.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Williams, Caroline (2004). "Islamic Monuments in Cairo : The Practical Guide". American University in Cairo Press – via ProQuest Ebook Central.
  2. ^ a b c "Masjid al-Husayn". Archnet. Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  3. ^ Behrens-Abouseif, Doris., Warner, Nicholas., O’Kane, Bernard (2010). The Minarets of Cairo : Islamic Architecture from the Arab Conquest to the End of the Ottoman Empire.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Rabbat, Nasser (2008). "Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians". Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. 61 – via JSTOR.
  5. ^ a b c "Al-Husayn Mosque Canopies | Presentation panel with structural details of umbrellas". Archnet. Retrieved 2019-12-09.
  6. ^ a b Brief History of Transfer of the Sacred Head of Hussain ibn Ali, From Damascus to Ashkelon to Qahera By: Qazi Dr. Shaikh Abbas Borhany PhD (USA), NDI, Shahadat al A’alamiyyah (Najaf, Iraq), M.A., LLM (Shariah) Member, Ulama Council of Pakistan , Published in Daily News, Karachi, Pakistan on 3 January 2009.