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  • 4/11/2005

The history of Holy Shrine of Imam Reza

Almighty God had said in Qur'an: "in Houses which Allah had permitted I be exalted and that His name may be remembered in them…" (Nour/ the light: 36)

The Shrine of Infallible Imams' are epitomes of such houses.

Shrine had been defined in dictionaries as follows: "a building out of wood or sometimes of silver or gold which is netted and built over Imam's grave."

It seems that two factors led men to make such shrines:

respecting the Imam's nobility

the increasing number of pilgrims

Ibn Batouteh, the famous Moslem tourist, visited Tous and Razavi Shrine in 734 lunar, described the Shrine in his book "Tohfat-on-Nozzar" as follows:

Imam Reza's grave has large domes. It's located in a corner with a school and a mosque in its adjacency. They are built artistically and walls are decorated with colored tiles. A wooden box is upon the grave that its surface has been covered by silver."

There's a common belief that until before Safavid Monarchy family no shrine was installed on the grave, but since then five shrines have been located upon.

The first shrine:

It was a wooden shrine with metallic straps that was covered with silver and gold. About 957 lunar, during Shah Tahmasb Safavid era, it was placed on the previous wooden box (described by Ibn Batouteh).

The second shrine:

It is a steel bejeweled shrine that according to historical documents, Shahrokh the grandson of Nadir Shah gave it to Holy Shrine in 1160 lunar.

This shrine that is under the now shrine has domes decorated with ruby and emerald.

The third shrine:

Fath-Ali Shah Qajar made a steel simple shrine and installed upon the bejeweled shrine. Its top was out of gold-covered wood. A bejeweled chain in the middle and two stoned flowers were in the corners.

The forth shine:

This shrine named silver-gold shrine is known as "Sugar and Milk" and was made in 1338 solar. After sending to third shrine to Razavi Museum, this one was supplanted upon the bejeweled (second) shrine.

The fifth shrine:

One of the outstanding achievements after the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran accomplished along with grand scale development and expansion of the holy shrine is the planning, making and installing the new Shrine on the holy grave of Imam Reza(A.S.).
After a lapse of forty years after the installation of the last Shrine the structure of that Shrine got weakened and its golden and silver frame was worn out, thus raising the necessity for the preparation of a new Shrine to be placed on the holy grave.
In 1993, Ayatollah Wa'iz Tabasi, the Reverend Chief Custodian of the Astan Quds Razavi ordered to carry out the feasibility study for the construction of the new Shrine. Many plans for the new Shrine were furnished by the master craftsmen inIran and finally the world renowned artist Master Mahmoud Farshchian achieved the great privilege of planning and constructing this new Shrine.

With the selection of the plan of Master


, the construction of the new Shrine commenced under the supervision of an executive board implemented by “The Organization for the Development and Expansion of the Premises of the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza (PBUH)”.
First based on the existing plan the bases and frame of the Shrine which is a component of carpentry and blacksmithing were made by the concerned workshops of the Astan Quds Razavi with full stability and strength. The frame of the Shrine is made up of iron, steel and walnut wood to be covered with silver and gold.

After the completion of this phase, the basic work of inlaying and goldsmithing the framework of Shrine based on the approved plan of Master Farshchian commenced on1-2-1997 under the artistic supervision of himself. Among the famous inlaying artisans Master Khudadadzadeh Isfahani got the privilege of accomplishing the task of inlaying the frame of the Shrine.

In the beginning, the inlaying work on the frame was carried out in Isfahan. But due to the reason of the long distance between Isfahan and Meshed, it was difficult for the craftsmen to shuttle regularly between Isfahan and Meshed. Thus, a special workshop for this purpose was established in Meshed by “the Organization for the Development and Expansion of the Premises of the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza (PBUH)”. The task of inlaying the frame of the Shrine was accomplished in four years by the incessant endeavors of six master inlaying craftsmen who inlayed the frame with beautiful intricacy and extraordinary firmness. In this way the Shrine was ready for the installation on the grave. One of the special features of this Shrine is its thickness and at some places the silver covering’s thickness exceeds three millimeters.
This point has to be noted that fundamentally in the inlaying art any plan cannot be fully implemented. But in making the frame of the new Shrine all the fundamentals of inlaying process were taken into full consideration and special patterns and designs were inlayed which were especially selected for the ornamentation of the exterior of the Shrine.

The previous Shrine was dismantled on 11-1-2001 after the performance of the customarythe dust–sweeping ceremony in the sacred burial chamber of the holy shrine. About seventy expert technicians and artisans under the supervision of Chief Engineer Mr. Mahdi Aziziyan, the Managing Director of “the Organization for the Development and Expansion of the Premises of the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza (PBUH)” after working incessantly for fifty days completed the planned installation of grand new magnificent Shrine on the holy grave of Imam Reza (A.S.) which can be considered as a great achievement.

Brief Description of the New Shrine
The third Shrine which was installed before could not be transferred from its site according to the rules of Shari'a (religion) because its endowment deed ascertained that it should be fixed on the grave for ever. But the presence of the third Shrine would have created a lot of problem in the installation of the present new Shrine. Thus, it was decided by previous feasibility studies to transfer it to the lower part of the holy grave so that the new Shrine can be installed.
Two years before the installation of the new Shrine i.e. in 1999 from a point underneath the Dar al-Vilayah porch a passage was dug towards the vicinity of the holy grave and on all the four sides opposite to the holy grave the ground was dug for 2.90 metres in length. After the digging operation the new space created was covered and decorated with stones. During the installation operation the third Shrine was placed in the space created and transferred to the lower part of the holy grave. Thus, in this way the endowment deed of the third Shrine was respected and it also paved the way for the firm installation of the new Shrine, which is the fifth Shrine to be installed on the grave of Imam Reza (PBUH).
Other primary measures implemented during the operation of the installation of the new Shrine are that the floor of the holy burial chamber was cemented and covered with most exquisite marble stones. Special canals were created in the floor and walls of the burial chamber for the purpose of ventilation and air-conditioning.
The decorative mirrors, exquisite tiles and the inscriptions in the holy burial chamber were fully renovated during the installation operation of the new Shrine.
After the preparation of the floor and completion of all the measures for the firmness and stability of the grave the grave stone which was made up of 12 pieces was removed from the holy grave of Imam Reza (PBUH) and transferred to the Central Museum of Astan Quds Razavi. In its place a fully engraved single monolith precious and exquisite marble stone measuring 2.20 metres in length, 1.10 metres in breadth and 90 centimeters in height was placed on the holy grave.
The verse 33 from Surah al-Ahzab, verse 59 from Surah al-Nisa, verse 27 from Surah al-Fajr and the couplets of Jami in the praise of Imam Reza (PBUH) inscribed on the grave stone has magnified its beauty.
The new grave stone was installed on the holy grave of Imam Reza (PBUH) in a special ceremony attended by the Paramount Leader of Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khamena'ee and the Reverend Chief Custodian of Astan Quds Razavi.
After the completion of the engraving work on the frame of the new Shrine and the making of its four corners and roof in the workshop, the frames of the four corners and the roof of the new Shrine were carried by a large gathering of pilgrims and devotees from the workshop to the holy burial chamber.
According to the plan the columns and frames were fixed on all its four corners and the roof which was in two parts was placed on it. After this the attachment of the engraved frames made up of gold and silver sheets to the Shrine commenced.
The new Shrine is the clear manifestation of the traditional Islamic Iranian art as well as the epitome of different styles and patterns of art and architecture applied in the buildings located in the grand complex of the holy shrine. In the circumference at the top of the new Shrine there are fourteen arched openings in remembrance of the Fourteen Infallibles (PBUH). The bow-shapes of these arched openings are inter-connected to each other uniting them into a single cohesive strip. It recalls to the viewers the fact that the essence of the Allah Almighty is ever-lasting and omniscient and everything in the universe has to finally return to Him.
The beautiful names and the high attributes of Allah Almighty are inscribed on the top of the Shrine. The other beautiful names and titles of Allah Almighty are inscribed on all the columns around the Shrine. These beautiful inscriptions have provided the Shrine with innovative elegance and attractiveness and also direct the attention of the pilgrims to the sublime essence of Allah Almighty.
On the four corners of the Shrine the shape of eight triangular fichu type forms of sunflowers are engraved. The sunflower represents Shams al-Shumus (the Radiant Sun among all the Suns) one of the titles of the eighth Holy Imam (PBUH). Around the Shrine, flowers with five and eight scallops are engraved representing the Holy Five First Infallibles (PBUT) and the eighth Holy Imam (PBUH).
The framework of the new Shrine with its arched openings, triangular fichu type and honey comb designs and patterns symbolize the different styles and patterns of art and architecture of the buildings of the holy shrine of Imam Reza (PBUH). The new Shrine is in reality an innovative picture gallery, a beautiful garden made of gold and silver depicting the exquisite Islamic Iranian arts and manifesting the ever-lasting, omnipotent, omnipresent essence of Allah Almighty.
The designs and patterns are connected to each other in such a way that in spite of its diversity and variegation they tend to move towards a single focal point reflecting this reality that ultimately every thing has to return back to the creator of this universe.
The two chapters (Surah) of the Holy Qur’an like "Yasin" and "Ad-Dahr" are inscribed on a golden sheet completely covering the upper part of the Shrine. The length of Surah Yasin’s inscription is 16.77 metres with the breadth measuring 18 centimeters. The Surah Ad Dahr’s, inscription measures 16.76 metres in length and 14 centimeters in breadth. These two inscriptions of the chapters of the Holy Qur’an and other inscriptions of the beautiful names and great titles of the Allah Almighty on this Shrine were accomplished by the famous calligraphist Agha Muwahhed.
For the first time the interior covering of the Shrine and its walls and roof were inlaid with beautiful and innovative designs depicting the beautiful names of Allah Almighty. The designs for the interior of the Shrine were prepared by master artist Master Farshchian and the inlaying work was executed by the famous artist Master Kashti Ara Shirazi and his associates.
The new Shrine weighs 12 tons. The good thickness of the gold and silver covering of Shrine and absence of any bolts in the framework of the Shrine are its peculiarities. It measures 4.78 metres in length, 3.37 metres in breadth and its height including the plinth measures 3.96 metres.
It took 56 days of incessant hard work of the technicians and artisans to install this Shrine. Finally, on 6th March 2001 coinciding with 10th Zi-Hajjah 1421 A.H, this magnificent Shrine on the sacred grave of Imam Reza (PBUH) was consecrated in a special solemn ceremony for the pilgrims.

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