Imam Reza Shrine in this area has led to the development and prosperity of the city. The tourism industry is of great importance and validity in Mashhad. In addition to Muslim tourists, many tourists and non-Muslims wish to visit the monuments and pilgrimage ritual of Muslims in such places.
The word Mashhad means witnessing, presence and the place of witness and in this sense its plural is “Mashahid”. The words "Mashhad" and "Mashahid" in the 3rd century A.H. were attributed to the graves of the Imams (A.S.) and grand scholars. After being martyred by Ma’mun Abbasi in 202 A.H., Imam Reza (A.S.) was buried in the tomb of Harun in Sanabad. Since then, the name "Sanabad Noughan" changed to "Mashhad", and the area was extended over the years, especially during the Safavid Shah Tahmasb, and people of Tus were moved to Mashhad.
Tus was conquered completely by the Arabs during the caliphate of Uthman. In the Islamic era, this area was a part of Tus territory with the city of Taberan as its capital that encompassed the villages of Sanabad and Noughan which are currently integrated into the present Mashhad city. And Mashhad that primarily was a tomb in the village of Sanabad Noughan, gradually expanded. The name “Noughan” was forgotten from about 730 A.H. The city of Tus and in fact Tabran was demolished and replaced by Mashhad in 791 A.H. until finally during the Safavid period, it became the center of the former Tus region and the whole Khurasan.
"Astan Quds Razavi" is the official title of an enterprise which manages and supervises Razavi Holy Shrine, its endowments, and belongings and aims at restoring the endowments properly. Relying on the endowments and offerings of the pilgrims of Razavi Holy Shrine, this enterprise has utilized all its power in order to provide all the required services for the pilgrims and the people at the vicinity of Imam Reza (A.S.).
Emphasis of Astan Quds Razavi is on spiritual and cultural affairs as its main duty and it conducts all these by means of a central organization and its developed specialized subparts including six assistances, one general office, economic organization, fourteen cultural, scientific, educational, and social institutes at national and international levels. Some activities of Astan Quds Razavi to develop and expand cultural and Islamic teachings will be offered here.
Imam Reza (A.S), the Eighth Imam of the Shiite Muslims, was born there in Medina historians are not sure about. His birth day, month and year or they may know it completely but they don’t acknowledge-History has never been a good trustee-and His birth was declared in the years 148,151,153 and the days; on Friday in Ramadan 19th (the ninth month of Arabic lunar year), in the half of Ramadan month, on Friday in Rajab 10 th (the seventh month of Arabic lunar year) and Zilgha’deh 11th (twelfth month of Arabic lunar year).But the very year 148 namely Imam Ja’far-e- Sadegh’s (AS) Martyrdom year is more certain than the above-mentioned years. This is certainly the year that the distinguished scholars such as Mofid, Kalimi, Kafa’mi, Shahid Sani-e-Tabarsi, Sadough, Ebn-e-Zohreh, Mas’oudi, Abo’l-Fada, Ebn-e-Athir, Ebn-e-Hojar, Ebn-e-Jouzi and the other scholars have approved as the Imam Reza’s (AS) birth year. But His Holy titles and nicknames have been remained in history’s mind-maze such shining words. His nickname is Abo’l-Hasan and His titles are Saber, Zakki, Vali, Fazel, Vafi, Seddigh, Razi, Serajo’llah, Nouro’l-Hoda, Ghorrato’l-Eino’l-Mo’menin, Kelidato’l-Mohedin, Kafo’l-Malek, Kafia’l-Khalgh, Rabbo’ssarir, and Ra’abo’l-Tadbir.
The prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) said: "Soon, a piece of my body will be buried is Khurasan. If a sad person visit Imam Reza's tomb, God will remove his pain. If a sinful person visit Imam Reza's tomb, God will forgive his sins. (Certainly, your visiting should be accompanied by knowing Imam Reza (A.S) completely.) Visiting Imams' tombs is the same as the repentance of sins, which can be represented in the following verse of Qur'an:"Certainly, good deeds will remove sins."
The prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) said it while Imam's parents were not born.
Imam Javad (A.S), Imam Reza's son, said to DavudSarmi:"Whoever visits my father's tomb, he will be in paradise."
The Holy Gravestone
So far three gravestones, each with high historical value, have been mounted on the holy gave of Imam Reza (A.S.), the oldest of which is a marmorean stone, which is 30×40 cm with a diameter of 6 cm. This stone was mounted on the holy grave of Imam Reza (A.S.) in the sixth century of Hijrah. This sacred gravestone is included among the most precious art works preserved in the museum of Astan Quds Razavi and is in "Kufi" script.
In addition to three inscriptions engraved on the margin of the mentioned gravestone, there exists an inscription on the adytum-shaped surface of this sacred stone.
The second gravestone was apparently a white marble limestone installed on the holy grave of Imam Reza (A.S.). There is little historical information about this gravestone.
The third gravestone is a very beautiful and a high quality marble stone extracted from the Turan Pusht mine in Yazd. This marble gravestone is green, 110×220 cm, and wighs 3600 kilograms. This gravestone has been installed on the holy grave of Imam Reza (A.S.) inside the sacred Zarih in 1379 H.S./2001 A.D., at the time of replacing the old burial chamber with the new one project.
Due to this gravestone’s erosion and damages, with the project of installing and replacing the old burial chamber with the new one, it was also replaced with a new one in the presence of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. The new gravestone contains inspiring artistic contents bearing some divine verses of the Glorious Qur'an inscribed on it.
The holy shrine has a large number of Khuddam, many of which do services voluntarily. About 4493 individuals from different classes of people including Ulama (clergies), university professors, engineers, physicians, and merchants sincerely and voluntarily offer services to the respected pilgrims in the holy shrine.
The Servants (Khadamah) Management is one of the subordinate departments supervised by the Assistance Office of the Sacred Premises and Pilgrims' Affairs. This management consists of servants including Farrashan (sweepers), Huffaz (reciters), Doorkeepers, and Shoe-keepers.
Each office in this management has special duties. The servants commence their work after the religious ceremonies of "Suffah and "Khutbah” (oration) which are held in Dar-al-Huffaz or Dar-al-Salam porticos every morning. Each of the mentioned offices offer services to the respected pilgrims in 8 shifts round-the-clock.
Deposits and Lost Objects Office Activities of Razavi Holy Shrine
After the explosion event in the holy shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.), a variety of security measures were taken to prevent the occurrence of similar events, one of which was catching the unnecessary goods and some prohibited items of pilgrims before entering the inspection gates of the Razavi Holy Shrine.
For this purpose, the Deposits and the Lost Objects Office of the Razavi Holy Shrine is running in order to benefit more pilgrims from the pilgrimage spaces as well as to create more security for pilgrims of Ali ibn Musa al-Reza (A.S.).
Most pilgrims and even Mashhad citizens might summarize the activities of this office only in receiving the deposits at the entrances of the Razavi Holy Shrine, but the office has five especial responsibilities with more than 2,000 honorable and official forces.
Getting the Deposits
Receiving Cash Deposits
Receiving and Refunding of Found Objects and Money
Providing Chādors and Blankets to Pilgrims
Gowharshad mosque is one of the most ancient and glorious monuments of the Timurid era constructed in the ninth century Lunar Hijri. This work of art is the result of Iranian artists and architects’ brilliant artistry. Professor “Opham”, one of the well-known orientalists, referred to the historical mosque of Gowharshad as the eighth most beautiful monument in the world.
This historical monument is located in the southern extreme of the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.). It is attached to Dar al-Siyadah and Dar al-Huffaz porches. This mosque was built by the order of Lady Gowharshad, who was the daughter of Amir Ghiyath al-din Tarkhan(one of the Joghtaee kings) and Shahrokh’s (a Timurid King) wife during the Timurid era in 821 Lunar Hijri. To build this mosque, she hired Qavam al-Din Shirazi, a very well-known Iranian architect at the time. This monument was built by using Timurid architectural style. The construction of this mosque lasted for about twelve years.
According to history, after finishing the construction of the mosque, Lady Gowharshad invited the leaders of the Islamic countries to participate in the inauguration of Gowharshad Mosque. Shahrokh, Gowharshad’s husband, came from Harat to Mashhad to take part in the ceremony and dedicated three thousand ounces of gold to the Holy Burial Chamber.
Bala sar Mosque
After the Razavi Tomb, Bala sar Mosque is most historic part of the Razavi Holy Shrine. This small mosque is located in the western part of the grave and over Imam’s (A.S.) holy head. The mosque is located between the shrine and Dar al-Siyadah Portico with 8 meters length, 4.5 meters width and 10 meters height.
Balasar Mosque has got three alcoves of east, west, and north. The eastern alcove is connected to the Holy Shrine and through which pilgrims can enter the mosque, after doing their pilgrimage. With the intention of saying prayer in the vicinity of Imam’s (A.S.) holy head, pilgrims have a two-unit pilgrimage prayer there. Based on a narration, there had been a wall between the shrine and eastern alcove. This wall was removed and the mosque was connected to the shrine in 1227 AH/ 1812 when Muhammad Wali Mirza was the governor general of Khorasan. The northern alcove of the mosque is connected to the Dar al-Shokr Portico.
On the south side of the Bala sar Mosque, there is an altar of beautiful mosaic tiles with a very interesting design. Beside this altar, the date 1363 AH/1943 and on the other side, the name of altar’s tile maker and painter (Muhammad Khan Rezvan) has been written in the form of node tiles. Bala sar Mosque’s decorations and wall designs is the same as those of Holy Shrine and in continuation of them. At the top of these wall designs, stone inscription of the shrine with Persian poems can be seen in Nastaleeq style and in black. The distance between wall designs and mosaics has all been filled with these Persian poems.
The Sacred Dome
The dome is a special symbol in the ancient and religious lands and cities and signifies people's devotion to their religious leaders, Holy Imams (A.S.), and Allah's saints. The glorious and golden sacred dome of the holy shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.), as one of the most beautiful religious monuments of the holy shrine, with its gold bricks shining, has always been respected by observers. Seeing the sacred dome of the holy shrine upon arrival, after paving a long distance to come to the holy city of Mashhad, gives solace and ecstasy to the pilgrims.
In terms of building and height, the illuminated sacred dome of the holy shrine has been beautifully constructed with two covers. The first cover is in fact the ceiling of the holy burial chamber, which is concave and muqarnas (arched), known as "Qubbah"(cupola). The second cover has been placed over the first cover, which is the apparent sacred dome. Between the two covers, there is an empty space with the height of more than 13 meters. The walls of the magnificent hall (auditorium of the holy shrine) with a thickness of 2.90 meters support the whole weight of the sacred dome.
The open buildings around the holy shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.) are known as courtyards (Sahn). The courtyards are large and expansive spaces upon entering into which we bow to Imam Reza (A.S.) in solute. These are gathering places of pilgrims who, in the corner of the balconies around them, perform religious acts and supplicate with their holy Imam (A.S.).
Courts are places for performing religious rites and rituals on special occasions, including the mourning ceremonies of the Infallible Imams (A.S.). Collective prayers are also performed frequently in the courtyards.
There are totally nine courtyards around the porticos of the holy shrine including Inqilab-i-Islami Courtyard, Azadi Courtyard, Jumhuri Islami Courtyard, Quds Courtyard, Razavi Grand Courtyard, Kawsar Courtyard, Ghadir Courtyard, Hidayat Courtyard, and Rizwan Courtyard (the plan of this courtyard is completed and it is under construction).
The holy shrine was formerly restricted only to one courtyard that later during sacred premises expansion operation was known as the old courtyard taking the name of ‘Inqilab’ (revolution) after the Islamic revolution. In 1233, Fath Ali Shah Qajar, then ruler, thought of expanding the courtyards of the holy shrine. Thus, he ordered that a courtyard be constructed at the west of the Inqilab courtyard and down the feet of Imam Reza (A.S.).
An architecture named Haj Aqajan was appointed to start constructing the courtyard by cooperation of Ali Naqi Mirza, son of Fath Ali Ahah Qajar.
But Fath Ali Ahah never saw the end of the project and it was Naser al-Din Shah who as the Iran’s ruler witnessed the completion of the newly constructed courtyard known as ‘new’ courtyard.
The picture below taken by Aqa Reza the photographer, the special photographer of Naser al-Din Shah’s court, displays a view of inside the courtyard.
The water reservoir seen in the picture was removed long before as it blocked the full observation of the golden balcony by the pilgrims and now it is replaced with water pool, waterscape, and several beautiful water drinking reservoirs.
Although the Azadi courtyard was completed in the Naser al-Din Shah’s reign, tile working of the courtyard was carried out in the reign of Muhammad Shah Qajar.
The architectural and constructional style of this courtyard is much similar to the Atiq or old (Inqilab) courtyard rather imitating it. This structure with an area of 4156 sq.m. was constructed in Islamic architectural style having four magnificent symmetrical balconies.
The Porticos (Ravaghs)
The roofed buildings around the holy shrine are called porticos [Ravaghs]. The porticos are structures with different heights, which have been constructed gradually around the holy shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.) and have undergone changes in the course of time.
At the present time, the holy shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.) consists of 28 porticos and the holy grave looks like a ring surrounded by these porticos.
Each portico enjoys a special location, situation, dimensions, decorations, and inscriptions and some of them may be under reconstruction and renovation. They will be mentioned one by one in the following according to their chronological precedence.
Special Ceremonies in the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.)
Various religious ceremonies are held in the holy shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.) by Khuddam on different occasions. These customary ceremonies are intensively appealing to the pilgrims. In the following, a brief description about certain ceremonies of the holy shrine is presented.
Ghubar-Rubi (Dust Cleaning) Ceremony
Shift Delivery Ceremony
Orations in the Night of Martyrdom Anniversary of the Infallible Imams (A.S.)
The Religious Ceremony of Sham-i-Ghariban
Suffah (Platform) Ceremony
Flower Decorating Ceremony
Playing Naqqarah (drum beating) Ceremony
Parizad School is located in the Razavi Holy Shrine’s south west side. It is across from two-door school and next to Dar al-Wilayah portico. The school was first built near a main bazaar known as Zanjir bazaar. The building is one of the oldest and most famous schools of Mashhad seminary constructed in Shahrukh Mirza government and Timurid era. The school was built by lady Parizad, Goharshad’s maid of honor, in 823/ 1420. Goharshad was Shahrukh Mirza’s wife. Like other schools of that era, Parizad School has got four porches and it is 300 square meters with two floors and 22 small chambers. According to its endowment deed, the center has been built to serve pilgrim seminary students (for maximum of two months) for purposes like rest and debate sessions.
At the present time, Parizad School is run under the supervision of information and answering office to religious questions as one of the subparts of Astan Quds Razavi’s Advertisements Assistance. The school sub-sections include answering to religious questions both in person and via mail and phone calls, religious consultation, responding to questions received from post and email services, wisdom circles, introducing Razavi Shrine, computer and information department.
From Yusufiyah School to Dar Al-Quran Al-Karim
Astan Quds Razavi, by income from endowments related to Maktab Khaneh, founded a school and moved the children there.
By this introduction, we now go over the Two–Door School, a school from Shahrokh era, which is built by Ghiyas al-din Yusuf Khaje Bahadur, one of the important figures of Khorasan province. The building, in terms of beauty and tiling work, and paintings, has been constructed in a stunning manner. The elegant example of architectural brick scratching style in the Timurid era by Ghiyas al-din in 1439, is built at the same time as the construction of Goharshad Mosque for study of seminary students, and for a while in the name of its original founder, was called “Youssef Khaje” or “Yusufiyah”, and then because of the two entrances in the East and West of the school, became known as Two–Door School.
The school has two domes. In the south side and between the domes, there is a gravestone, with the date 846 AH/1442 belonging to Khaje Bahadur
Today, this space has become known as Dar Al-Quran Al-Karim. It is an area of 500 square meters in two floors and includes 32 rooms. The school is now located in the center of the places and houses of Razavi Holy Shrine, which has been repaired by the order of the Grand Custodian of Astan Quds Razavi. Two–Door School space, since 2003, for teaching Quranic Sciences and Traditions is given to the Office of Quranic Sciences and Tradition, and currently, circles of fondness with Holy Quran, and educational programs of the department are being held at this location.