Imam Reza shrine

Coordinates: 36°17′17″N 59°36′57″E / 36.2880°N 59.6157°E / 36.2880; 59.6157
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Imam Reza shrine
حرم‌ امام رضا
AffiliationShia Islam
Ahmad Marvi
LocationMashhad, Iran
Imam Reza shrine is located in Iran
Imam Reza shrine
Location in Iran
AdministrationAstan Quds Razavi
Geographic coordinates36°17′17″N 59°36′57″E / 36.2880°N 59.6157°E / 36.2880; 59.6157
StyleAbbasid Islamic
Date established818
Minaret height70 m (230 ft)
Site area1,000,000 square metres (250 acres)

The Imam Reza shrine (Persian: حرم امام رضا, romanizedHaram-e Emâm Rezâ, lit.'Sanctuary of Imam Reza'), located in Mashhad, Iran, is an Islamic shrine containing the remains of Ali al-Rida, the eighth Imam of Shia Islam. It is the largest mosque in the world by area. Also contained within the complex are the Goharshad Mosque, a museum, a library, four seminaries,[1] a cemetery, the Razavi University of Islamic Sciences, and other buildings.

The complex is a tourism center in Iran[2][3] and has been described as "the heart of the Shia Iran"[4] with 25 million Iranian and non-Iranian Shias visiting the shrine each year, according to a 2007 estimate.[5]

The shrine itself covers an area of 267,079 square metres (2,874,810 sq ft) while the seven courtyards which surround it cover an area of 331,578 square metres (3,569,080 sq ft), totaling 598,657 m2 (6,443,890 sq ft).[6]

Religious significance[edit]

Shia sources quote several hadiths from the Shia Imams and Muhammad that highlight the importance of pilgrimage to the shrine. A hadith from Muhammad says:

One of my own flesh and blood will be buried in the land of Khorasan. God the Highest will surely remove the sorrows of any sorrowful person who goes on pilgrimage to his shrine. God will surely forgive the sins of any sinful person who goes on pilgrimage to his shrine.[7]


Early years[edit]

Dar-ul-Imarah (Royal Residence) or the garden of Humayd ibn Qahtaba al-Ta'i was a fortress in the village of Sanabad. It dates back to the era before the Islam religion. It had been placed at the fork road of Sanabad, Neishabour, Sarakhs, Toos and Radkan. This fortress had been a place for the frontier guards to take position and establish the security of these roads and regions. After the demise of Harun al-Rashid, he was buried in this place. Due to this historical event, the Dar-ul-Imarah was known as the Mausoleum of Haruniyyeh. The original inner building of Dar-ul-Imarah had been a Zoroastrian temple. This building was demolished by the order of al-Ma'mun, and then it was reconstructed according to the special architecture of Khorasan. Four plain and short walls, covered with a low-slope dome, were constructed around the building. Afterwards, the name of the mausoleum (Haruniyyeh) was changed and known as the Mashhad-ur-Reza. Mashhad literally means a place where a martyr has been buried.[8]

Martyrdom of Ali al-Ridha[edit]

Imam Reza shrine before development

In 818, Imam Ali al-Ridha was murdered by the Abbasid caliph al-Ma'mun (ruled 813–833) and was buried beside the grave of al-Ma'mun's father, Harun al-Rashid (r. 786–809).[9] After this event, the location was called Mashhad al-Ridha ("the place of martyrdom of al-Ridha"). Shias and Sunnis (for example, Ibn Hibban wrote in his Kitab al Siqqat that whenever troubled and in Mashad he would always visit the shrine to ask for relief from problems that bothered him) began visiting his grave on pilgrimage. By the end of the 9th century, a dome was built on the grave and many buildings and bazaars sprang up around it. For the next thousand years, it has been devastated and reconstructed several times.[10]

The celebrated Muslim traveler Ibn Battuta visited Mashhad in 1333 and reported that it was a large town with abundant fruit trees, streams and mills. A great dome of elegant construction surmounts the noble mausoleum, the walls being decorated with colored tiles. Opposite the tomb of the Imam is the tomb of Caliph Harun al-Rashid, which is surmounted by a platform bearing chandeliers.[2]

Ghaznavid era[edit]

By the end of the third Hijri century, a dome was built on the grave of Imam Reza and many buildings and bazaars sprang around the shrine. In 383 A.H. / 993 A.D., Sebuktigin, the Ghaznavid sultan devastated Mashhad and stopped the pilgrims from visiting the shrine. But in 400 A.H./ 1009 A.D., Mahmud of Ghazni (born 971, ruled, 998-1030 A.D.) started the expansion and renovation of the shrine and built many fortifications around the city.[11]

Saljug era[edit]

A picture from second sanctuary

Sultan Sanjar (b. 1086 A.D., r. 1097–1157 A.D.), after the healing of his son in the shrine, renovated the sanctuary and added new buildings within its precincts. At the time of Sultan Sanjar Saljuqi, after Sharaf al-Din Abu Tahir b. Sa'd b. Ali Qummi repaired the shrine, he began to construct a dome over it.[12] In 612 A.H./ 1215 A.D., as borne out by inscriptions on certain tiles, Allaudin Khwarezm Shah carried out renovations on the shrine.[12]

Mongol invasion[edit]

During the Khwarazmian dynasty, some repair and decoration was made inside the shrine.[12] In this era (612 A.H./1215 A.D.), two very glorious embossed Thuluth (a large Naskh handwriting) inscriptions in form of square tile work were fixed on both sides of the shrine entrance-by the side of Dar al-Huffaz porch—in which the names and descent of Imam Reza back to Imam Ali were written. Some other inscriptions and three mihrabs (a special place for prayer-leader in mosques) belonging to this age exist in this holy complex. During the Mongol invasion in 1220 A.D. (617 A.H.), Khorasan was plundered by the invading hordes and the survivors of this massacre took refuge in Mashhad and settled around the shrine.[13] Sultan Muhammad Khudabandeh Iljaitu (b. 1282 AD), the Mongol ruler of Iran, converted to Shi'ism and ruled Iran in 703–716 A.H (1304–1316 AD), once again renovated the shrine on a grand scale.[11]

Timurid era[edit]

The glorious phase of Mashhad started during the reign of Shahrukh Mirza (b. 1377 A.D., r, 1405–1447), son of Tamerlane, and reached its zenith during the reign of the Safavid Shahs who ruled Iran from 1501 to 1736. Shahrukh Mirza, whose capital was Herat, regularly visited Mashhad for the pilgrimage of the shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.). In the 15th century, during the reign of the Timurid Shahrukh Mirza, Mashhad became one of the main cities of the realm. In 1418, his wife Empress Goharshad funded the construction of an outstanding mosque beside the shrine, which is known as the Goharshad Mosque.[14]

Safavid era[edit]

Main Gate of Imam Riza, Mashhad, 1850s. Photo possibly by Luigi Pesce (Italian, 1818–1891)

With the emergence of the Safavid dynasty in 1501 A.D. and their declaration of the Twelver Shi'ite sect as the state religion, Mashhad reached the peak of its development. However, since Khorasan was a border province of the Safavid Empire, Mashhad suffered repeated invasions and periods of occupation by the Uzbek Khans – Muhammad Khan, Abdullah Khan Shaibani, Muhammad Sultan and especially Abdul-Momen Khan. These invasions continued up to 996 A.H./ 1586 A.D., the reign of Shah Abbas I, who finally drove out the Uzbeks from Khorasan. Sahn Atiq was extended in the time of Shah Abbas I, and during the Safavid era, efforts were made for its further improvement.

During the Safavid era, the shrine also received patronage from rulers of the Indian subcontinent, namely Quli Qutb-ul-Mulk (founder of the Qutb Shahi dynasty) and Mughal Emperor Akbar. The latter was notably a Sunni.[15]

Afsharid and Qajar era[edit]

Complex's main garden in 1910
Shrine's view from Tehran Street, 1956

Nader Shah Afshar (b. 1688, r. 1736–1747 A.D.) and the Qajar Shahs who ruled Iran from 1789 to 1925 expanded the various places in the shrine. There were also some improvements in the shrine complex during the Qajar Dynasty. There was also some repair in both courtyards during Mozaffar ad-Din Shah's monarchy.

Following the coup in December 1911, Russian artillery shelled revolutionaries who had taken refuge in the shrine.[16] The whole complex was greatly damaged in 1911, but it was repaired after a while.

Modern era[edit]

Imam Reza shrine at night, 2000s

There were significant changes in the complex in 1928 (1347 A.H.). Old Falakah was extended up to a radius of 620 meters before the victory of the Islamic Revolution, and an important part of Holy Buildings' historical structure was demolished without considering its antiquity and elegance.

On 13 July 1935 (11th Rabi al-Thani 1354 A.H.), during the Goharshad Mosque rebellion, armed forces of Reza Shah (b. 1878, r. 1925–1941), the reigning monarch of Iran and founder of Pahlavi dynasty, invaded the shrine and massacred people gathered in the Goharshad Mosque. The people there were protesting against the modernization policies of the Shah which many, especially amongst the Shia clergy, considered to be anti-Islamic, including the banning of hijab (headscarf) for women in Iran. Shortly before the Iranian Revolution, on 21 November 1978, troops under orders from the regime of Mohammad Reza Shah (b. 1919, r. 1941–1979), Reza Shah's son and successor, killed a large number of people within the shrine (approximately 12,000[citation needed]).

The shrine is depicted on the reverse of the Iranian 100 rials coin, issued since 2004.[17]


Commune kitchen[edit]

The harem kitchen dines 10 to 40 thousand visitors a day and sometimes on occasional events cooks for as many as 250,000. It has an Astan quds website page and there is an ID register and ticket lottery for a meal one course per person every three year.[18][19] During Ramadan Commune kitchen feed one million pilgrim and citizens.[20]


Courtyards (Sahn)[edit]

Volunteers placing carpets in the Imam Ridha Mosque for the afternoon prayers

The complex contains a total of seven courtyards, which cover an area of over 331,578 m2 (3,569,080 sq ft):[21] The courtyards also contain a total of 14 minarets,[22] and three fountains.[23]

Name Images Area (m2) appurtenant Year of first building
Islamic Revolution Courtyard four balconies, steel window [[{{{1}}}]]
Freedom Courtyard 4,600 golden Veranda [[{{{1}}}]]
Courtyard of Goharshad Mosque [[{{{1}}}]]
Quds Courtyard 2,500 [[{{{1}}}]]
Islamic Republic Courtyard 10,000 two minarets [[{{{1}}}]]
The Razavi Grand Courtyard [[{{{1}}}]]
Gadeer Courtyard [[{{{1}}}]]
An image of Inqilab-e Islami Courtyard, Imam Reza Shrine


From the courtyards, external hallways named after scholars lead to the inner areas of the mosque. They are referred to as Bast (Sanctuary), since they were meant to be a safeguard for the shrine areas:[24]

The Bast hallways lead towards a total of 21 internal halls (Riwaq) which surround the burial chamber of Ali al-Ridha.[25] Adjacent to the burial chamber is also a mosque dating back to the 10th century known as, Bala-e-Sar Mosque.[26]

Goharshad Mosque[edit]

Goharshad Mosque details

This mosque is situated adjacent to the shrine of Imam Ridha.

Ali al-Ridha's Tomb[edit]

A view of the existing sanctuary

It is located beneath the Golden Dome and surrounded by different porches each bearing a separate name.

Museums and other historical appurtenants[edit]

There are two museums within the shrine limits. Astan Quds Museum and Quran Museum.

Notable burials[edit]

Name Lifespan Notes
Birth Died
Harun al-Rashid 763 809 Abbasid caliph (786–809)
Imam Ali Reza 765 818 8th Imam (798–818)
Shaykh Ahmad Tabarsi 1073 1153 Scholar
Sevin Beg Khanzada 1360 1412 Timurid dynasty Princess
Abul-Qasim Babur Mirza 1422 1457 Timurid dynasty Prince
Sultanum Begum 1516 1593 Queen consort of Shah Tahmasp I
Allahverdi Khan 1560 1613 Iranian General of Georgian origin
Shaykh Baha'i 1547 1621 Islamic Scholar
Dilaram Khanum ? 1647 Consort of Safavid Prince and mother of Shah Safi
Muhammad al-Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī 1624 1693 Shia cleric
Abbas Mirza 1789 1833 Qajar Crown Prince
Mohammad-Taqi Mirza 1791 1853 Qajar Prince
Mohammad Baqer Sharif Tabatabai 1823 1901 Scholar
Abu Talib Zanjani 1843 1911 Scholar
Princess Ashraf os-Saltaneh 1863 1914 Qajar Princess
Mass'oud Mirza Zell-e Soltan 1850 1918 Qajar prince
Hassan Ali Nokhodaki Isfahani 1862 1942 cleric
Ahmed Aref El-Zein 1884 1960 Scholar
Forough Azarakhshi 1904 1963 scholar
Ali-Akbar Fayyaz 1898 1971 Scholar
Muhammad Taqi Amoli 1887 1971 cleric
Mohammad Hadi al-Milani 1895 1975 Scholar
Manouchehr Eghbal 1909 1977 Prime Minister (1957–60) and CEO of NIOC
Asadollah Alam 1919 1978 Prime minister (1962–64) and minister of the Imperial Court (1967–77)
Gholam Husayn Tabrizi 1881 1980 Scholar
Ali Motamedi [fa] 1896 1980 diplomat and politician
Mahmoud Farrokh Khorasani [fa] 1895 1981 politician
Abdol Karim Hasheminejad 1932 1981 cleric
Abdullah Musawi Shirazi 1892 1984 cleric
Gholamreza Ghodsi 1925 1989 poet
Badri Teymourtash 1908 1995 scholar
Mohammad Taqi Jafari 1925 1998 cleric
Ali Akbar Aboutorabi Fard 1939 2000 cleric
Hasan Ali Morvarid 1911 2004 cleric
Syed Jalaleddin Ashtiani 1925 2005 cleric
Hassan Tabatabaei Qomi 1912 2007 cleric
Mohammad-Sadegh Farman [fa] 1921 2012 politician
Mohammad Ezodin Hosseini Zanjani 1921 2013 cleric
Mohammad Baqer Shirazi 1931 2014 cleric
Abbas Vaez-Tabasi 1935 2016 cleric and chairman of the supervisory board of Astan Quds Razavi (1979–2016)
Hassan Firouzabadi 1951 2021 Military commander and Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces (1989–2016)
Ebrahim Raisi 1960 2024 8th President of Iran (2021–2024)


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Islamic Seminaries At The Holy Shrine". Imam Reza (A.S.) Network. Archived from the original on 2008-05-30. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
  2. ^ a b "Sacred Sites: Mashhad, Iran". Archived from the original on 2010-11-27. Retrieved 2006-03-13.
  3. ^ "Religious Tourism Potentials Rich". Iran Daily. Archived from the original on June 12, 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-25.
  4. ^ Hafiz, Yasmine (2014-04-24). "Imam Reza Shrine Is The Heart Of Shi'ite Iran And The World's Largest Mosque-- See It Through A Pilgrim's Eyes (PHOTOS)". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 2017-05-08. Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  5. ^ Higgins, Andrew (2007-06-02). "Inside Iran's Holy Money Machine". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Archived from the original on 2016-04-24. Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  6. ^ "The Glory of the Islamic World". Imam Reza (A.S.) Network. Archived from the original on 2010-06-12. Retrieved 2009-05-25.
  7. ^ Uyun Akhbar al-Ridha. Vol. 2. 23 July 2015. Archived from the original on 24 October 2017. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  8. ^ Staff Writer (24 January 2012). "Look at the history of Imam Reza's burial ground (Persian)". mashreghnews. Archived from the original on 11 November 2017. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  9. ^ Dungersi, Mohamed Raza (January 1996). A Brief Biography of Imam Ali bin Musa (a.s.): al-Ridha. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. p. 42. ISBN 978-1502834249. Archived from the original on 2023-08-07. Retrieved 2020-10-18.
  10. ^ Zabeth (1999) pp. 12-16
  11. ^ a b Petrushevski, Ilia Pavlovich (1970). Islam in Iran. p. 271. ISBN 9781595844613. Archived from the original on 2023-08-07. Retrieved 2020-10-18.
  12. ^ a b c Staff Writer. "How the shrine of Imam Reza was built?". Iranian student's news agency. Archived from the original on 15 October 2016. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  13. ^ Lorentz, John H. (2010). The A to Z of Iran. Scarecrow Press. p. 202. ISBN 9781461731917. Archived from the original on 2023-08-07. Retrieved 2020-10-18.
  14. ^ Zabeth, Hyder Reza (1999). Landmarks of Mashhad. Foundation of Astan Quds Razavi. ISBN 9789644442216. Archived from the original on 2023-08-07. Retrieved 2020-10-18.
  15. ^ Edmund., Bosworth, Clifford (2008). Historic cities of the Islamic world. Brill. p. 337. ISBN 978-90-04-15388-2. OCLC 231801473.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ Michael Axworthy, A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind, (Basic Books, 2010), 212.
  17. ^ Central Bank of Iran Archived 2021-02-03 at the Wayback Machine. Banknotes & Coins: 100 Rials Archived 2018-07-28 at the Wayback Machine. – Retrieved on 24 March 2009.
  18. ^ "نحوه ثبت نام در مهمانسرای حرم امام رضا (ع)". 20 February 2020. Archived from the original on 2022-04-06. Retrieved 2023-08-07.
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2023-08-07. Retrieved 2023-08-07.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ "توزیع بیش از یک میلیون بسته‌ افطاری در حرم رضوی - ایسنا".
  21. ^ "Sahn (Courtyards) Around the Holy Shrine". Imam Reza (A.S.) Network. Archived from the original on 2008-05-29. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
  22. ^ "Minarets". Imam Reza (A.S.) Network. Archived from the original on 2008-05-30. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
  23. ^ "Saqqah Khaneh". Imam Reza (A.S.) Network. Archived from the original on 2010-06-12. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
  24. ^ "The Bast (Sanctuaries) Around the Holy Shrine". Imam Reza (A.S.) Network. Archived from the original on 2010-06-12. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
  25. ^ "Riwaq (Porch)". Imam Reza (A.S.) Network. Archived from the original on 2010-06-12. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
  26. ^ "The Bala-Sar Mosque of the Holy Shrine". Imam Reza (A.S.) Network. Archived from the original on 2010-06-12. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
  • Zabeth, Hyder Reza (1999). Landmarks of Mashhad. Alhoda UK. ISBN 9644442210.


  • D. M. Donaldson: 'Significant Miḥrābs in the Ḥaram at Mas̱ẖhad', A. Islam., ii (1935), pp. 118–27
  • A. U. Pope and P. Ackerman, eds: Survey of Persian Art (2/1964–7), pp. 1201–11
  • B. Saadat: The Holy Shrine of Imam Reza, Mashhad, 4 vols (Shiraz, 1976)
  • Nasrine Hakami, Pèlerinage de l'Emâm Rezâ: Étude Socio-économique (Tokyo: Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, 1989)
  • C. P. Melville: 'Shah ‛Abbas and the Pilgrimage to Mashhad', Safavid Persia: The History and Politics of an Islamic Society, ed. C. P. Melville (London, 1996), pp. 191–229
  • ʿA.-Ḥ. Mawlawī, M. T.Moṣṭafawī, and E. Šakūrzāda (2011). "Āstān-e Qods-e Rażawī". Encyclopædia Iranica.{{cite encyclopedia}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

External links[edit]

Media related to Imam Reza Shrine at Wikimedia Commons