The Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad, Iran is a complex which contains the mausoleum of Imam Reza, the eighth Imam of Twelver Shiites. It is the largest mosque in the world by dimension and the second largest by capacity. Also contained within the complex are the Goharshad Mosque, a museum, a library, four seminaries, a cemetery, the Razavi University of Islamic Sciences, a dining hall for pilgrims, vast prayer halls, and other buildings.
The complex is one of the tourism centers in Iran. The shrine itself covers an area of 267,079m2 while the seven courtyards which surround it cover an area of 331,578m2 – totaling 598,657 m2 (6,443,890 sq ft).
Every year the ceremony of Dust Clearing is celebrated in the Imam Reza shrine.
The complex contains a total of Seven courtyards, which cover an area of over 331,578 m2 (3,569,080 sq ft):
- Sahn Inqilab – Revolution Courtyard
- Sahn Azadi – Freedom Courtyard
- Sahn Imam Khomeini
- Sahn Goharshad Mosque
- Sahn Quds
- Sahn Jumhuri Islami – Islamic Republic Courtyard
- Sahn Jameh Razavi – The Razavi Grand Courtyard
- Sahn Gadeer
The courtyards also contain a total of 14 minarets, and 3 fountains.
This is one of the most beautiful and glorious buildings of Astan Quds 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.
Sahn Jumhuri Islami
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 Dar-al-Rahmeh.
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.
Sahn Imam Khomeini
This Sahn is located at the left side of the complex and faces Imam Reza Avenue. Its area is more than 8300 sq Meters. Shaykh Bahai’s tomb is located between this Sahn and Sahne Azadi.
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 Naser al-Din Shah Qajar.
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 Inqelab and the other far in the northern section of Sahne Inqelab 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 Reza Avenue they can see the minarets and the Dome in the middle. The minaret which is close to the Dome was built by Shah Tahmasp I 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 Sahne Inqelab.
Saqqa Khaneh (Public Drinking Place)
There is a public drinking place called hawze Ismail Talai in the middle of Sahne Inqelab 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 Herat 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 Inqelab. It dates back to the period of Mozaffar ad-Din Shah Qajar’s period.
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:
- Bast Shaykh Toosi – leads to the Central Library
- Bast Shaykh Tabarsi
- Bast Shaykh Hur Ameli
- Bast Shaykh Baha’i
The Bast hallways lead towards a total of 21 internal halls (Riwaq) which surround the burial chamber of Ali al-Ridha. Adjacent to the burial chamber is also a mosque dating back to the 10th century known as, Bala-e-Sar Mosque.
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. The 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 Inqelab. This porch is used for ladies prayers.
Located in the western part of the Haram, this porch was built under the orders of Gowharshad Khatoon. There is a silver window in its northeastern part from where Imam Ridha’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’ 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 Mahmud of Ghazni.
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, plaster works, mirrors and fret work and was inaugurated in 1371 AH. The other porches are Dar-al-Ekhlas, Dar-al-Shukr, Dar-al-Salaam and Dar-al-Zekr.
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’s tomb is the most prominent symbol of Mashad and has a height of 31.20 meters. A large inscription has been written round the Dome by Ali Reza Abbasi.
Astan Quds Museum
The Astan 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 Reza 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 tile work 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 Astan 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 Astan Quds in 1989. 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.
Astan Quds Mehmansara
This hotel is located in Baste-e Sofla and every overseas pilgrim (zair) of Imam Ridha has a right to one free meal as guest of Imam. Meals are served everyday.