|Shrine of Imam Ali|
|Ecclesiastical or organizational status||Mosque and Shrine|
|Architect(s)||Baha' al-din al-'Amili|
|Dome height (inner)||42 metres (138 ft)|
|Minaret height||38 metres (125 ft)|
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The Sanctuary of Imām 'Alī (Arabic: حَرَم ٱلْإِمَام عَلِيّ, romanized: Ḥaram al-ʾImām ʿAlī), also known as the Mosque of 'Alī (Arabic: مَسْجِد عَلِيّ, romanized: Masjid ʿAlī), located in Najaf, Iraq, is a mausoleum which many Shia Muslims believe contains the tomb of 'Alī ibn Abī Tālib, a cousin, son-in-law and companion of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The Shī'as consider 'Alī as their first Imām, and the Sunnis regard him as the fourth Sunni Rashid Caliph. According to Shī'ite belief, buried next to 'Alī within this mosque are the remains of Adam and Nuh (Noah). Each year, millions of pilgrims visit the Shrine and pay tribute to Imām 'Alī.
The shrine monument has been built and rebuilt numerous times throughout history the current shrine dates back to the mid Safavid period. Its construction began in 1621 under the orders of Shah Abbas the Great and was completed in 1631 after his death. Baha' al-din al-'Amili was appointed as the architect and the structure was designed in the classical Safavid Persian style. Overtime the shrine has undergone various notable renovations aimed to enhance its beauty and grandeur, most notably the gilding of the dome and minarets of the shrine in 1743 by Nader Shah Afshar.
In 979–980, the Shi'ite Buyid emir 'Adud al-Dawla expanded the shrine, which included a cenotaph over the burial site and a new dome. This included hanging textiles and carpets. He also protected Najaf with a wall and citadel, while providing water from the Euphrates via a qanat.
Ibn Battuta visited the shrine in 1326, noting that it was "carpeted with various sorts of carpets of silk and other materials, and contains candelabra of gold and silver, large and small." Between the three tombs, "are dishes of gold and silver, containing rose-water, musk and various kinds of perfumes. The visitor dips his hand in this and anoints his face with it for a blessing." A fire destroyed the shrine in 1354, but it was rebuilt around 1358 by the Jalairid sultan Shaikh Awais Jalayir. He also interred his father's remains, Hasan Buzurg in the courtyard. Timur ordered the restoration of the shrine after a visit to Najaf. Suleiman the Magnificent also offered gifts, which probably helped restore the shrine, after a visit in 1534. The Safavid Shah Ismail I visited in 1508, but it was Abbas I who visited Najaf twice and commissioned 500 men to rebuild the shrine in 1623. The restoration was completed by his grandson Shah Safi al-Din in 1632. This restoration included a new dome, expanded courtyard, a hospital, kitchen, and hospice, so as to accommodate the numerous pilgrims. The cenotaph was restored in 1713 and the dome stabilized in 1716.
In 1742, Nader Shah gilded the dome and minaret, and this was chronicled by Nasrallah al-Haeri in his famous poem, iḏhā ḍhāmak al-dahra yawman wa jārā (Arabic: إذا ضامك الدهر يوماً وجارا). Nader Shah's wife paid for the walls and courtyard to be rebuilt and the retiling of the iwan faience. In 1745, the iwan was rebuilt as a gilt muqarnas of nine tiers. In 1791, a raised stone floor covered the tombs in the courtyard, creating a cellar space for them.
The first European visitors included Carsten Niebuhr in 1765, William Loftus in 1853, and Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1864.: 79 The Ottoman emperor Abdülaziz rebuilt the Clock Portal (Bab al-Sa'a) and the Portal of Muslim Ibn 'Aqil in 1863 and the former gilded in 1888 by the Qajar sultan Naser al-Din Shah Qajar. In 1886, Sultan Naser al-Din, also repaired the dome because there were breaks in it due to the weather.
During the uprising of March 1991, following the Persian Gulf War, Saddam Hussein's Republican Guards damaged the shrine, where members of the Shia opposition were cornered, in storming the shrine and massacring virtually all its occupants. Afterwards, the shrine was closed for two years, officially for repairs. Saddam Hussein also deported to Iran a large number of the residents of the area who were of Iranian descent.
- April 10, 2003: former Saddam Hussein era custodian Haydar Al-Killidar Al-Rufaye and anti-Saddam Shia leader Sayed Abdul Majid al-Khoei, the son of Grand Ayatollah Abu al Qasim al-Khoei, were killed by a mob near the mosque. Al-Khoei had returned from exile in Britain to encourage cooperation with the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.
- August 29, 2003: a car bomb exploded outside the mosque just as the main Friday prayers were ending. Somewhere between 85 and 125 people were killed, including the influential Ayatollah Sayed Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, the Shia leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The blast is thought to be the work of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
- May 24, 2004: unidentified mortar fire hit the shrine, damaging gates which lead to the tomb of Imam Ali.
- August 5, 2004: Muqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army seized the mosque and used it as a military base for launching attacks against the Iraqi police, the provincial government and coalition forces. The fighting was eventually ended by a peace agreement. Neighbouring buildings suffered considerable damage, but the mosque itself suffered only superficial damage from stray bullets and shrapnel.
- August 10, 2006: a suicide bomber blew himself up near the shrine, killing 40 people and injuring more than 50 others.
Architecture and decoration
Numerous structures have existed over the tomb of Imam Ali since its discovery during the rule of Harun al Rashid in the 8th century.  The current structure though dates back to the Safavid period in the 17th century and was designed by the famous Safavid polymath Baha' al-din al-'Amili. The shrine consists of the central tomb chamber topped by a large double shell onion-shaped dome 42 m (138 ft) in height, and flanked by twin 38 m (125 ft) tall minarets.: 88–91 The inner shell of the dome is visible from the inside of the tomb chamber while the monumental outer shell is visible from the courtyard of the shrine and throughout the city.  The inside of the tomb chamber and its surrounding halls are ornamented with an array of mirror mosaics, most of which has been replaced over the years and are not original. The ceramic mosaics that adorn the inner shell of the dome however are original and date back to the original construction of the shrine during the Safavid period. At the front of the shrine stands a large golden iwan flanked by two minarets. The monumental dome, iwan, and minarets are adorned with gold coated copper plates, though they were originally adorned with green and blue ceramic tiles in the typical Safavid fashion. The gilding of the shrines dome and façade elements occurred in 1743 under the orders of the Iranian king Nader Shah Afshar and his wife Razia Begum. The golden iwan, dome, and minarets contains numerous inscriptions in Persian, Arabic, and Azeri Turkish with peoms in praise of Ali ibn Abi Talib inscriptions chronicling the gilding of the shrine by Nader Shah. The left and right side walls of the shrine are ornamented with cuerda seca tile panels most of which date from either the 18th or 19th centuries. Imam Ali's shrine is among the last of the Shi'ite shrines in Iraq to retains its nearly full set of original antique tiles. 
Around the shrine on its North, East, and Southern sides is a large courtyard surrounded by pointed arch arcades, while the shrine is linked on the West to the Al-Ra's Mosque. The courtyard arcades are two floors in height and contain various small chambers historically used as dormitory rooms for seminary students, today most are used as administrative offices. The Al-Ras mosque (literally "The Head Mosque") is oriented in the direction of the head of Ali Ibn Abi Talib's grave. The original Al-Ras mosque is said to have dated from the Ilhanate period in 14th century however it was demolished in 2005 by the shrine's administration and rebuilt in a modern style using contemporary construction materials and methods. Local architectural historians and preservationists have argued the destruction of the original Al-Ras mosque destroyed an important part of the shrine's architectural heritage and the introduction of modern construction methods and materials has damaged the architectural integrity of the shrine.  The original Ilkhanate era mihrab of the Al-Ras mosque underwent restoration in 2023 after having been kept in storage for 18 years and will be put on display in the shrine's museum. 
Entrance to the shrine is through three main monumental portals on the eastern, northern and southern sides, called the Main or Clock Portal, al-Tusi Portal and the Qibla Portal respectively. There are two additional monumental portals, the Portal of Muslim Ibn 'Aqil, north of the Clock Gate, and the al-'Amara, or al-Faraj Portal, at the southwestern corner. The most notable of these entry portals is the Clock Portal (Iwan-i-Sa'at) and is topped by a tall clock tower ornamented with mosaic tiles. The clock mechanism and its bells were produced in Manchester, England and brought to the shrine in 1887, this is visible on iron engravings on the bells.
Religious status and precincts
As the burial site of Shī'a Islam's second most important figure, the shrine of Imām 'Alī is considered by all Shī'a Muslims as the fourth holiest Islamic site. The Boston Globe reports "for the Muslim Shias, Najaf is the fourth holiest city, behind Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia and Al-Aqsa Mosque in Palestine." It is estimated that only Karbala, Mecca, and Medina receive more Muslim pilgrims. A hadith attributed to Ja'far as-Sādiq, the Sixth Imami Shī'ite Imām, mentions the site as one of "five definitive holy places that we respect very much".
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 Shī'ites believe that 'Alī 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 as-Sādiq. Most Shī'ites accept that 'Alī is buried in Imām 'Alī Mosque, in what is now the city of Najaf, which grew around the shrine.
It has also been narrated from as-Sādiq that Imām 'Alī Mosque is the third of five holiest Islamic sites: Mecca, Medina, Imām 'Alī Mosque in Najaf, Imam Husayn Shrine in Karbalā, and the Shrine of his daughter Fāṭimah 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 Nuh."
An aerial view of the mosque
Ḍarīẖ covering the qabr (grave) of Imam Ali
The Golden Iwan
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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 the 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.'
- al-Qummi, Ja'far ibn Qūlawayh (2008). "10". Kāmil al-Ziyārāt. trans. Sayyid Mohsen al-Husaini al-Mīlāni. Shiabooks.ca Press. p. 67.