Holiest sites in Shia Islam
In addition to the three mosques accepted by all Muslims as holy sites, Shia Muslims consider sites associated with Muhammad, his family members (Ahl al-Bayt) and descendants (including the Shia Imams), their companions, and the Prophets as holy places. After Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem, Najaf and Karbala are the most revered by Shias.
- 1 Holy sites accepted by all Muslims
- 2 Holy sites accepted by all Shia Muslims
- 2.1 Imam Ali Mosque
- 2.2 Imam Husayn Shrine
- 2.3 Al-Baqi'
- 2.4 Jannatul Mualla Cemetery
- 2.5 Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque
- 2.6 Al Abbas Mosque
- 2.7 Sayyidah Ruqayya Mosque
- 2.8 Bab al-Saghir Cemetery
- 2.9 Other tombs for the family of imams
- 2.10 Places associated with imams and Karbala
- 2.11 Mosques associated with companions of Muhammad and the imams
- 3 Holy sites specific to Twelver Shia Muslims
- 4 Holy sites specific to Other Shia Muslims (non-Twelvers)
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
Holy sites accepted by all Muslims
Masjid al-Haram ("The Sacred Mosque"), is a large mosque in the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia and the second largest in Islam. It surrounds the Kaaba, the place which all Muslims turn towards each day in prayer, considered by Muslims to be the holiest place on Earth.
The current structure covers an area of 356,800 m2 (3,841,000 sq ft) including the outdoor and indoor praying spaces and can accommodate up to 820,000 worshippers during the Hajj period. During the Hajj period, the mosque is unable to contain the multitude of pilgrims, who pray on the outlining streets. More than 2 million worshippers gather to pray during Eid prayers.
According to the teachings of Islam, God in the Quran used the word mosque when referring to the sites established by Ibrahim (Abraham) and his progeny as houses of worship to God centuries before the revelation of the Quran. The first of these spots is Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and the second is Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Before Mecca and Jerusalem came under Muslim control between 630 AD and 638 AD, the site of the Kaaba, which was established by Abraham and Ishmael, was used by non-Muslim Arabs who worshipped multiple gods.
And when We assigned to Ibrahim the place of the House, saying: Do not associate with Me aught, and purify My House for those who make the circuit and stand to pray and bow and prostrate themselves.
And when Ibrahim and Ismail raised the foundations of the House: Our Lord! accept from us; surely Thou art the Hearing, the Knowing:
Al-Masjid an-Nabawi ("Mosque of the Prophet"), located in Medina, Saudi Arabia is the second holiest site in Islam.
The edifice was originally Muhammad's house; he settled there after his Hijra (emigration) to Medina, and later built a mosque on the grounds. He himself shared in the heavy work of construction. The original mosque was an open-air building, with no gender separation. The mosque also served as a community center, a court, and a religious school. There was a raised platform for the people who taught the Quran. The basic plan of the building has been adopted in the building of other mosques throughout the world.
The original mosque was built by the Muhammad and subsequent Islamic rulers greatly expanded and decorated the mosque. The most important feature of the site is the Green Dome over the center of the mosque, where the tomb of Muhammad is located. Constructed in 1817 CE and painted green in 1839, it is known as the Dome of the Prophet.
Other places associated with Muhammad
- Quba Mosque found just outside Medina, Saudi Arabia, was the first Islamic mosque ever built. Its first stones were positioned by Muhammad on his emigration from the city of Mecca to Medina and was subsequently completed by his companions. Muhammad then waited for Ali to arrive before he entered the city of Medina.
- Masjid al-Qiblatain in Medina, Saudi Arabia - the mosque where the direction of prayer (qibla) was changed from Jerusalem to Mecca
- Hira located on the mountain Jabal al-Nour in Saudi Arabia - the place where the first verses of the Quran were revealed to Muhammad
The al Aqsa Mosque ("the Farthest Mosque") is a mosque which sits on the al-Ḥaram al-Šarīf ("the Noble Sanctuary") in the Old City of Jerusalem, and is a holy site in both Shia and Sunni Islam. The silver domed al Aqsa Mosque sits, along with the Dome of the Rock, on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, the place where the Temple is generally accepted to have stood.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is sacred because it was the first of the two Qiblas. Islamic tradition holds that Muhammad led prayers towards this site until the seventeenth month after the emigration, when God directed him to turn towards the Kaaba.
Muslims believe that Muhammad was transported by the Buraq from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to al-Aqsa during the Night Journey. The mosque is also believed by many to be the area from where Muhammad is said to have ascended to heaven. According to some narrations, a single prayer performed at this mosque is the same as having performed 500 prayers elsewhere.
Tombs of Biblical prophets
- Nabi Habeel Mosque in Syria - contains the grave of Abel (Arabic: Habeel ), son of Adam and Eve as believed by many Muslims
- Tomb of Daniel Daniel (Daniyal) who is considered to have been an Islamic prophet.
- Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, West Bank, Palestinian territories - contains the graves of the Prophet Abraham and some of his family
- Al-Nabi Yusha' in Upper Galilee, Israel - Tomb of prophet Joshua
- Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria - entombs the head of John the Baptist, as well as having sites relating to the Battle of Karbala
- Great Mosque of Aleppo in Aleppo, Syria - entombs the remains of Zechariah, father of John the Baptist.
- Several tombs of prophets all over Iraq, Iran, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia
Holy sites accepted by all Shia Muslims
Imam Ali Mosque
Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, Iraq contains the tomb of:
- First Shia Imam, Ali
Also buried within this mosque according to Shia Islam:
Ali was the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad. He is considered by Shia tradition to be the first legitimate caliph and the first Imam due to the proclamation given by Muhammad. The site is visited annually by at least 8 million pilgrims on average, which is estimated to increase to 20 million in years to come.
Many Shia believe that Ali did not want his grave to be desecrated by his enemies and consequently asked his friends and family to bury him secretly. This secret gravesite is supposed to have been revealed later during the Abbasid Caliphate by Ja'far al-Sadiq, the sixth Shia Imam. Most Shias accept that Ali is buried in the Imam Ali Mosque, in what is now the city of Najaf (which grew around the shrine).
It has also been narrated from Ja'far al-Sadiq, the 6th Imam, that the Imam Ali Mosque is the third of five holy places: Mecca, Medina, Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, Imam Husayn Shrine in Karbala, and the shrine of Fatima Masumeh in Qom.
God chose that land [Najaf] as the abode of the Prophets. I swear to God that no one more honourable than the Commander of the Believers [Ali] has ever lived there after (the time of) his purified fathers, Ādam and Nūh.— Ja'far al-Sadiq
Imam Husayn Shrine
Imam Husayn Shrine in Karbala, Iraq contains the tombs of:
- Hussein ibn Ali, grandson of Muhammad and third Shia Imam
- Ali al-Akbar ibn Husayn, son of Husayn
- Ali al-Asghar ibn Husayn, son of Husayn
- Habib ibn Muzahir
- All the martyrs of Karbalā
- Ibrāhīm, son of Musa al-Kadhim - seventh - Twelver Shia Imām
The mosque stands on the site of the grave of Hussein ibn Ali, where he was martyred during the Battle of Karbala in 680. Up to a million pilgrims visit the city to observe the Day of Ashura, which marks the anniversary of Hussein ibn Ali's death. There are many Shia traditions which narrate the status of Karbala:
Karbalā, where your grandson and his family will be killed, is the most blessed and the most sacred land on Earth and it is one of the valleys of Paradise.— The archangel Gabriel
God chose the land of Karbalā as a safe and blessed sanctuary twenty-four thousand years before He created the land of the Ka‘bah and chose it as a sanctuary. Verily it [Karbalā] will shine among the gardens of Paradise, like a shining star shines among the stars for the people of Earth.
Al-Baqi' (Jannatul Baqee) is a cemetery located across from Al-Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Holy figures of interest to the Shia include:
- Shia Imams:
- Fatimah bint Asad - the mother of Ali
- Umm ul-Banin - the mother of Al-Abbas ibn Ali
- Bibi Shahrbānū - the mother of Ali ibn al-Husayn Zayn al-'Abidin
- Halimah bint Abi Dhuayb - wet nurse of Muhammad
It is also thought that the real grave of Fatimah, daughter of Muhammad, lies here as well.
Jannatul Mualla Cemetery
The Jannatul Mualla cemetery in Mecca, Saudi Arabia contains the graves of many relatives of Muhammad, held in high esteem by the Shia, including:
- Abd Manaf ibn Qusai - great, great-grandfather of Muhammad
- Hashim ibn 'Abd Manaf - great-grandfather of Muhammad
- Abdul Muttalib - grandfather of Muhammad
- Abu Talib ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib - uncle of Muhammad and father of the first Shia Imam, Ali
- Khadija bint Khuwaylid - first wife of Muhammad and mother of Fatimah
- Qasim ibn Muhammad - son of Muhammad who died in his infancy
- Possible grave of Aminah bint Wahb - mother of Muhammad
Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque
The Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque in Damascus, Syria contains the tomb of:
- Zaynab bint Ali, the daughter of Ali and Fatimah, and the granddaughter of Muhammad.
Al Abbas Mosque
The Al Abbas Mosque is located directly across from the Imam Husayn Shrine, and contains the tomb of:
- Al-Abbas ibn Ali, son of Ali and brother of Hussein
Millions of pilgrims visit the shrine and pay homage to it every year. The real grave of Abbas is beneath the masoulem, and is present in the shrine. Emperors and kings of various dynasties have offered valuable gifts and gems to the shrine of Abbas. It was designed by Persian and Central Asian architects. The central pear shaped dome is an ornately decorated structure. On its sides stand two tall minarets. The tomb is covered with pure gold and surrounded by a trellis of silver. Iranian carpets are rolled out on the floors.
Sayyidah Ruqayya Mosque
The Sayyidah Ruqayya Mosque in Damascus, Syria contains the tomb of:
- Sukayna bint Husayn, the youngest daughter of Hussein ibn Ali, often referred to by her title: "Ruqayya".
Bab al-Saghir Cemetery
The Bab al-Saghir cemetery in Damascus, Syria contains the graves of many relatives of Muhammad as well as sites related to the Battle of Karbala. Some of the figures laid to rest here include:
- Umm Kulthum bint Ali, daughter of Ali and Fatimah, granddaughter of Muhammad
- Bilal ibn Rabah al-Habashi, the muezzin of Muhammad
- Hamīdah, daughter of Muslim ibn Aqeel
- Maymūnah, daughter of Hasan ibn Ali
- Sakinah (Fatima al-Kubra) bint Husayn, daughter of Hussein ibn Ali (not to be confused with Ruqayya who was the youngest)
- Asma bint Umays, wife of Ja'far ibn Abī Tālib
- Abdullah ibn Zaynul Abidin, son of Ali ibn al-Hussain
Other tombs for the family of imams
There are many tombs of the various descendants of the Imams (often called Imamzadeh). Some of them include:
- Great Mosque of Kufa in Kufa, Iraq - contains the tombs of Muslim ibn Aqeel, Khadijah bint Ali, Hani ibn Urwa, and Al-Mukhtar. The mosque also contains many important sites relating to the prophets and Ali, including the place where he was fatally struck on the head while in Sujud
- Mount Uhud near Medina, Saudi Arabia - bears the grave of Hamza ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib the uncle of Muhammad, along with the graves of all the other Muslims who fell at the Battle of Uhud.
- The tomb of Zayd ibn Ali in Kufa, Iraq
- Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Zayd - a descendant of Ali ibn al-Hussain (grandson of Zayd ibn Ali) in Mashhad, Iran.
- Awlād Muslim Mosque in Musayyib, Iraq - entombs the remains of the sons of Muslim ibn Aqeel.
Places associated with imams and Karbala
- Al-Nuqtah Mosque in Aleppo, Syria - this mosque contains a large stone where the head of Hussein ibn Ali was placed, while on a stop-over along the journey from Karbala to Damascus
- Masjid al-Hannaanah in Kufa, Iraq - contains some of the skin of Hussein ibn Ali which was ripped off of him post-mortem by the aggressors of Battle of Karbala
- The House of Ali in Kufa, Iraq
- Tombs of Ja'far ibn Abi Talib also known as Ja'far al-Tayyar, cousin of Muhammad and brother of Ali ibn Abi Talib, and Zayd ibn Harithah after their martyrdom during the battle of Battle of Mu'tah, located in Mu'tah in Jordan
Blood-stained stone within the Al-Nuqtah Mosque in Aleppo
Mosques associated with companions of Muhammad and the imams
- Tomb of Salman the Persian and Jabir ibn Abd-Allah in al-Mada'in, Iraq
- Uwais al-Qarni Mosque in Raqqa, Syria
- Tomb of Meesam Tammar in Kufa, Iraq
- Tomb of Kumayl ibn Ziyad in Kufa, Iraq
- Hujr ibn Adi Mosque in Adra' (north of Damascus), Syria
Holy sites specific to Twelver Shia Muslims
Imam Reza Mosque
Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad, Iran contains the tomb of:
- Ali ar-Ridha, eighth Shia Imam
Ali al-Rida is believed, by members of the Shia, to have been poisoned there upon the orders of Caliph Al-Ma'mun and the place was subsequently called, Mashhad ar-Ridhā (the place of martyrdom of Ali al-Rida). By the end of the 9th century a dome was built on the grave and many buildings and bazaars sprang up around it. For years totalling more than a millennium, the mosque was destroyed and reconstructed several times.
Nowadays Imam al-Rida shrine in Mashhad, Iran, is a complex which contains the mausoleum of Ali al-Rida, the eighth of The Twelve Imams. Also found within the complex is a museum, library, cemetery, mosque and seminaries. Today the holy shrine and its museum hold one of the most extensive cultural and artistic treasuries of Iran, in particular manuscript books and paintings. Several important theological schools are associated with the shrine of the eighth Imam. As a city of great religious significance, it is also a place of pilgrimage. It is said that the rich go to Mecca but the poor journey to Mashhad. Thus, even as those who complete the pilgrimage to Mecca receive the title of Haji, those who make the pilgrimage to Mashhad–and especially to the Imam Rida shrine–are known as Mashtee, a term employed also of its inhabitants. It is thought that over 20 million Muslims a year make the pilgrimage to Mashhad. It is generally considered to be the holiest Shia shrine in Iran, and is sometimes ranked as the third holiest Shia shrine in the world.
The Al-Kadhimiya Mosque in Baghdad, Iraq contains the tombs of:
- Musa al-Kadhim, seventh Shia Imam
- Muhammad al-Taqi, ninth Shia Imam
Also buried within this mosque:
The Al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, Iraq contains the tombs of:
Also buried within this mosque:
The cellar from which the twelfth or "Hidden" Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, disappeared from view is also found within this mosque.
Mosques associated with the twelfth Shia Imam
The final Imam, considered to be alive and in occultation, has the following two mosques associated with him:
Fatima Masumeh Shrine
The Fatima Masumeh Shrine in Qom, Iran contains the tomb of:
- Fātimah bint Mūsā, sister of the eighth Shia Imam, Ali al-Rida
Located in Qom, Iran, some consider the Fatima Masumeh Shrine to be the third holiest shrine in Shia Islam. The shrine has attracted to itself dozens of seminaries and religious schools. Shah Abbas I of Persia built the shrine complex in the early 17th century.
Tombs of other family members of Muhammad
- Imamzadeh in Ganja, Azerbaijan - bears the grave of one of the sons of Muhammad al-Baqir.
- Shrine of Muhammad ibn Ali al-Hadi - entombs the remains of Muhammad ibn Ali al-Hadi, son of Ali al-Hadi in Balad, Iraq
- Imam Zadeh Saleh in Tehran, Iran - bears the grave of one of the sons of Musa al-Kadhim
- Shah-Abdol-Azim shrine in Rey, Iran - entombs a descendant of Hasan ibn Ali. The mosque also contains the tombs of a son of Ali ibn al-Hussain and a son of Musa al-Kadhim.
- Shah Cheragh in Shiraz, Iran - entombs the brothers of Ali ar-Ridha
- Imāmzādeh Hamzah in Tabriz, Iran - entombs another son of Musa al-Kadhim
- Shrine of Sultan Ali in Mashhad-e Ardehal, Iran - entombs a son of the fifth Imam Muhammad al-Baqir
- Shrine of Kusam ibn Abbas in Samarkand, Uzbekistan - the cousin of Muhammad Shah-i-Zinda
- Various Imamzadeh scattered throughout Iran and Iraq
Holy sites specific to Other Shia Muslims (non-Twelvers)
- Shrines of the Ismaili Imams, Hujja and Dais - see here List of Ismaili imams, Arwa al-Sulayhi and List of Dai of Dawoodi Bohra
- Ruins of the Ismaili castles - List of Ismaili castles
- Graves of the Zaidi Imams of Yemen and Iran - Imams of Yemen
- Karbala and Najaf: Shia holy cities April, 2003
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To give a measure of its importance, according to a famous hadith (saying) - enunciated with pleasure by the guardians of the shrine - we learn that ‘our sixth imam, Imam Sadeg, says that we have five definitive holy places that we respect very much. The first is Mecca, which belongs to God. The second is Medina, which belongs to the Holy Prophet Muhammad, the messenger of God. The third belongs to our first imam of Shia, Ali, which is in Najaf. The fourth belongs to our third imam, Hussein, in Kerbala. The last one belongs to the daughter of our seventh imam and sister of our eighth imam, who is called Fatemah, and will be buried in Qom. Pilgrims and those who visit her holy shrine, I promise to these men and women that God will open all the doors of Heaven to them.’
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‘After the blast, all you could see was death everywhere you looked,’ said Ahmed Kamil Ibrahim, a guard at the Kazimiya shrine in Baghdad, the third-holiest in Shiite Islam.
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That makes al-Askari one of Shi'ite Islam's holiest sites, exceeded in veneration only by the shrines of Najaf and Karbala. Even Samarra's Sunnis hold al-Askari in high esteem. The expression "to swear by the shrine" is routinely used by both communities.Editor's note: Quote is found on third page of article.
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Shrine of Hazrat Masoumeh, sister of Imam Reza, one of Iran's holiest places, is in Qom.
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