Background and activities of Astan Quds Razavi since its establishment up to now
Astan Quds Razavi in the course of time
Here is a report that clarifies many delicate points and issues about Astan Quds Razavi:
Astan Quds Razavi that owes its existential philosophy to the presence of the holy shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.) and attempts for spreading the Razavi culture and knowledge as well as preserving the endowments devoted to the holy shrine has maintained its independence over different periods.
Although it is little known exactly about the administration of this organization ahead of the Safavid period, the history proves a thriving trend for Astan Quds Razavi after the Safavid period with some small ups and downs. It is clearly evident, however, that after the victory of the Islamic revolution, the holy shrine structure and its operation have undergone tremendous changes in different domains.
The city of Heaven, the home of lovers of Imam Reza (A.S.)
Thanks to presence of the holy shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.), Mashhad has been the focus of attention by the Shi’as of the world since long ago.
Shi’ite love from the very beginning years has caused endowing a lot of exquisite books and later many estates to Astan Quds Razavi. Although these endowments and their applications were small in quantity but there were several people appointed to their custodianship called chief (Naqib). Later, the chief transformed to the custodian (Mutevalli) and the increased financial power and employees resulted in a well-organized administrative system called Astan Quds Razavi that was created to administer the holy shrine and its affiliated bodies. (1)
An independent organization
Astan Quds Razavi in its critical mission as running the affairs of the holy shrine and its endowments has acted always independently with no interference from governments. The administrative and disciplinary affairs are carried out by the agents themselves and the custodians are accountable only to the leader of the country while no state authority is entitled to interfere with the affairs of Astan Quds Razavi. This tradition persists after the Islamic revolution under the guidance of Imam Khomeini (R.A.) and then the Supreme Leader, leaving Astan Quds Razavi with its independence.
Situation of Astan Quds Razavi up to the ninth century of Hijrah
The holy shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.) has had servant and custodian since its establishment.
In the late 3rd century of Hijrah a group of people were residing near the holy grave of Imam Reza (A.S.) and the first residents have been the same servants of the holy burial chamber.
But according to the historical evidences, the first custodian has been Hussein ibn-i-Ali ibn-i-Saed Barbari whose father, Ali ibn-i-Saed, was one of narrators of Imam Reza (A.S.). (2)
It is notable that until the ninth century of Hijrah, the custodians were selected from the Alawids and the chiefs of the Tus region. (3)
What was flowing in Astan Quds Razavi before the Safavid period?
Astan Quds Razavi organization and its offices have undergone changes in different periods. The customs of different periods have been penetrated into it while also affected by tact of deputies and ideas of rulers and agents for better administration. (4)
There is no clear evidence of the arrangements and administration of Astan Quds Razavi ahead of the Safavid period, when it possessed little financial power.
Formal foundation of Astan Quds Razavi
During the Safavid period, when the country found relative peace and tranquility and Astan Quds Razavi gained more endowments and budget, an institutional organization was founded having servants, supervisors, vindicator, superintendent, and other agents. (5)
At the age of Shah Abbas ɪ, arranging the endowment affairs, keeping security across Khurasan, and administrative-official arrangements were established in Astan Quds Razavi.
Also due to the raise in financial power and number of employees an organized system formed in the country to manage the holy shrine and its affiliated bodies.
The first custodian was officially appointed by Shah Tahmasb (907-963 A.H.). (6)
With this appointment, Shah gains official and lawful authority and supervision right over Astan Quds Razavi and this continues over coming centuries reaching the Pahlavi period.
In general, the administrative system of Astan Quds Razavi in the Safavid period is divided into holy shrine administration body and sacred premises administration body including estates, farms, and orchards belonging to Astan Quds Razavi existing in Mashhad and other cities. (7)
Functions of Astan Quds Razavi during the Safavid period
The Safavids left valuable memories from themselves in development and completion of Astan Quds Razavi including gold-work of the sacred dome by Sultan Muhammad Khudabandeh and renovation and gold-work of the minaret remaining from the Ghaznavids accomplished at the reign of Shah Tahmasb ɪ (930-984 A.H/1523-1576 A.D.) while also the last fortification of the city was built at that age.
In 1009 A.H. when Shah Abbas Safavi walked from Isfahan to Mashhad on foot, he decided to stay in Mashhad for a while and there he ordered that the dome of the holy shrine would be covered with copper bricks overlaid by a golden layer and this was performed by Kamal al-Din Mahmud Yazdi. According to what is written on the inscription of the dome, it has started in 1010 A.H. completed in 1116 A.H.
The inscription made by the Iranian calligrapher, Alireza Abbasi, is written against a turquoise background in Thulth script reads:
“بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم من عظائم توفیقات الله سبحانه ان وفق السلطان الاعظم مولی ملوک العرب و العجم صاحب النسب الطاهر النبوی و الحسب الباهر العلوی تراب اقدام خدام هذه الروضة المنورة الملکوتیة مروّج آثار اجداده المعصومین السلطان ابن السلطان ابوالمظفر شاه عباس الموسوی الصفوی بهادرخان. فاستسعد بالمجیء ماشیاّ علی قدمیه من دارالسلطنة اصفهان الی زیارة هذا الحرم الاشرف و قد تشرّف بزینة هذه القبة من خلّص ماله فی سنة الف و عشر و تمّ فی سنة الف و ستةعشر."
Abbasi also has scribed a copy of holy Qur’an and some poetic excerpts.
The Qur’an manuscript scribed in Zar font is kept in the library of the holy shrine. (8)
By order of Shah Abbas some other changes were also made in the sacred premises such as expansion of the Atiq courtyard, construction of the northern balcony and rooms, pavilions, portals, and the eastern and western balconies, and construction of Towhid Khaneh portico and Allah Verdi Khan dome.
‘Mashhadi’ title was devised in this age
Since Shah Abbas paid a special attention to the holy shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.), he ordered that anyone who goes on a pilgrimage of his holiness could add the title “Mashhadi” just as “Haji” and “Karbalaei” to his name and this title prevailed since then. (9)
He also presented several copies of handwritten Qur’an manuscripts ascribed to the Infallible Imams (A.S.) to Astan Quds Razavi. Besides, by the religious order of the scholars he sold a big pearl once stolen by the Uzbeks from Astan Quds Razavi and later taken back and bought many estates by the earned fee and endowed the estates.
During his stay in Mashhad, Shah Abbas made a table according to the incomes based on which those people who hoped to be buried in the vicinity of Imam Reza (A.S.) paid some money in proportion to the place of their would be-tomb (the nearness and farness to the holy grave). The members of the Safavid family were exempted from payment of course. The revenue taken from this plan was used for reconstruction of the structure and meeting the cost of holy shrine illumination. He also ordered for a Saqqa Khaneh (drinking depository) at the courtyard closest to the holy tomb of Imam Reza (A.S.) that is still existent.(10)
Shah Abbas п repaired and tile-worked the Atiq courtyard and Shah Suleiman-according to the inscription mounted over the sacred dome-repaired the dome broken by an earthquake in 1084 A.H./1673 A.D. and constructed several schools.
Two main buildings of Astan Quds Razavi called Allah Verdi Khan and Hatam Khani porticos are constructed by Allah Verdi Khan and Hatam Beik Urdubadi, a distinguished ruler in the Safavid government, respectively. A balcony erected at the western side of “Dar al-Ziafah” is also made by Allah Verdi Khan.
A memory of Sheikh Bahaei
It seems essential to remind Sheikh Bahaei, the pious scholar in the Safavid age, who personally helped to renovation and repair of the holy shrine.
Presently, there are some 94 titles of handwritten books on different subjects such as Hadith, commentary, Fiqh, prayers, wisdom, math, and poem compiled by Sheikh Bahaei preserved in the handwritten treasury of the central library of Atan Quds Razavi including Arbaein-i-Hadith, translation of Qutb Shahi, Tashrih al-Aflak, Khulasat al-Hisab, and his poetical work.
Also there are more than 1100 singular handwritten works by this scholar preserved in the manuscripts treasury of Astan Quds Razavi including some stone printed works such as Sharh-i Tashrih al-Aflak, Sharh-i Sahifeh, translation of Miftah al-Falah, Sharh-i Athna Asharieh and Sharh-i Khulasat al-Hisab, Jame’ Abbasi book series, Miftah al-Falah, Arbaein, Kenz al-Hisab, bread and sweet paste (Nan va Halva), explanation on Al-Maqased, and Jame’ al-Muqaddamat.
And some works donated to the library of Imam Reza (A.S.) by Sheikh titled “A’lam al-Din-i-Deilami” bear the calligraphy of Sheikh Bahaei himself. (11)
Astan Quds Razavi in the Afsharid period
With decline of the Safavid dynasty and conquest of Iran by the Afghans, the endowment in the country was thrown into chaotic conditions and Mashhad was constantly handled among different individuals. With Nader reining the power, the condition of endowed estates worsened because of confiscation of the estates.
The evidences from that period indicate the prevalence of a kind of chaos in the administrative affairs and arrangements of Astan Quds Razavi compared with the Safavid age though Nader himself was interested in the holy shrine and has erected some structures such as minarets in the holy shrine and has made repairs inside the holy shrine and also has endowed some estates to the holy shrine. Custodians in this age were appointed from among the Sadat and scholars just like the Safavid period meddling in the affair on behalf of the king though their influence was not as much as that in the Safavid period.
A main achivement in this period is making the Alishahi scroll by Ali Shah, Nader’s nephew, aided by the scholars and authorities of Astan Quds Razavi. This action took the conditions of the endowments back to the good order of the Safavid period.
The remaining documents evidence a particular order in working shifts, payments, and arrangement of endowment affair after preparation of the scroll.
Function of Astan Quds Razavi in the Afsharid period
In this period particularly at the time of Nader, testified by the inscription over the golden balcony of the Atiq balcony and claimed by Muhammad Kazem, Marv minister, he gilded the minaret of the Ghaznavid period as well as the Amir Alishir balcony while also erected a more minaret in the same courtyard and donated some jewelry to Astan Quds Razavi.
The minaret of the northern side of the Atiq courtyard, gold-work of Amir Alishir balcony, and the minaret of the northern balcony was gilded and a Saqqa Khaneh called “Esmaei Talaei” was built in the Atiq courtyard made of a monolith marble stone taken from Herat by his order; Esmaei Khan Talaei later made a ceiling over the marble pillars and decorated it with golden bricks.
Also he ordered that a water stream was stretched to underneath of the pool so that the pool might be always full of water.
The second zarih was also made in this period by the order of Shahrokh, Nader’s grandson in 1160 that was endowed to the holy tomb.
Astan Quds Razavi in the Qajar period
In the Qajar period spanning from Agha Muhammad Khan to the end of Fath Ali Shah’s reign, there was made no new reforms in Astan Quds Razavi because of the government problems.
By the middle of this period each year a total list of yearly expenses and incomes-received and paid by people like cashiers-was drafted by vindicators detailing the names, money or the stuff, and was settled after bearing the signature and seal of the then custodian.
It is notable that since the middle of Naser al-Din Shah’s ruling, the administrative system of Astan Quds Razavi faltered.
Function of Astan Quds Razavi in the Qajar period
In this period some improvements were made including reviving of the estates remained in the hands of people during the Afsharid and early Qajar periods, careful supervision over the affairs, tile-work of the new courtyard, construction of Saqqa Khaneh, training threshold servants and organizing the affairs of Khuddam, sweepers, door keepers, and shoe keeper, construction of Sadat Alavi elementary school in the Quds courtyard for educating the orphan children, endowment of Tabriz estates for useful applications, carpeting the new and Atiq courtyards, repair of Abbas Quli Khan Bazaar, flowing Sanabad stream through Astan Quds Razavi kitchen, carpeting Mashhad up-street and down-street with stone and bricks, repair of the street with brick, construction of a bazaar at the northern side of up-street devoting its revenue for providing candle and light for the new courtyard, construction of inn for jewelers and turquoise cutters, assigning the Aghcheh bazaar to stone cutters and Abbas Quli Khan bazaar to saddlers, repair of the Gowharshad Mosque, construction of custodianship room over the aquarium of the Atiq courtyard, endowing the estates known as Timcheh-ye-Hakkakan and shoe makers bazaar and Vazir Nezam bazaar for illuminating the courtyards and also helping the pilgrims in 1271 A.H., construction of an inn at the western side of the Quds courtyard, repair of the new courtyard and repair of the hallway and Saqqa Khaneh, silver making the minarets of the grand mosque, possession of Salar and Asef al-Duleh garden as an indemnity for riots of Salar, decoration and tile work of Balasar Mosque and the back side portico, repair of destructed aqueducts, repair of Rabi’ ibn-i-Khathim dome and repair of Fazel Khan seminary, gold working in the holy burial chamber and gilding the eastern balcony of the new courtyard attached to the Dar al-Saadah, endowing Gunabad Husseinabad farm for special uses, washing the carpets of the holy shrine in the Toruq farm, construction of ladies bathroom near the men bathroom, endowing Husseinabad aqueduct for mourning on Imam Reza (A.S.) and the Five Infallibles and giving feast tips at the Ghadir Khum Eid in 1274 A.H., assigning a portion of the endowments revenue to the scholars and clergies, assigning some fee for craftsmen for attracting them, sending the door keepers to welcome the pilgrims, focusing on banquet hall and developing it and cooking according to the will of the endowers, relocating the Dar al-Shafa at the up-street and construction of Naseryeh inn at the former location, construction of arches over the boots in up-street and down-street and those belonging to Astan Quds Razavi as well as Naseri inn, establishing turning shifts for Sadat working in Astan Quds Razavi, construction of Alyeh building and an aquarium in the Salar garden for dwelling of the custodians, endowing Sayedabad farm for pilgrims, endowing Kashaf village for the poor, cleaning of the courtyards, publishing a book titled “Athar-i-al-Razavieh” known as Sediq al-Duleh booklet, establishment of a well-equipped hospital, founding Hazrat banquet hall, decoration of Dar al-Huffaz, Dar al-Siyadah, and Towhid Khaneh structures, recording daily reports from Astan Quds Razavi by journalists, mirror work of Dar al-Huffaz, decoration and tile work of Balasar Mosque and the back side portico, mirror work and decoration of towhid Khaneh, and decoration and mirror work of Dar al-Siyadah. The Azadi (new) courtyard at the eastern side of the holy shrine was built by order of Fath Ali Shah and was completed at Naser al-Din Shah. Gold work of the balcony, northern portal and balcony at the Atiq courtyard was renovated by Muhammad Shah, testified by an inscription over it. Dar al-Saadah structure was built by Asef al-Duleh in 1251 A.H. and the Dar al-Ziafah portico was completed in 1320 A.H. Qaem Maqm Nuri also performed mirror work in the burial chamber. And Naser al-Din Shah ordered to overlay the wall plinth up to the top of Naseri balcony and its Muqarnass ceiling with golden bricks and hence it is known as Naseri balcony.
Also during Muzaffar al-Din Shah the first alarm clock was mounted and the electricity factory was established.
Astan Quds Razavi during the Pahlavi period
In Reza Khan age the former arrangements of Astan Quds Razavi was replaced with new administrative systems and modern management methods.
In this age as the Qajar period, the custodian was appointed directly by order of shah selected usually from state men in Tehran. Custodian also selected a person as his deputy to run the affairs as in the former period.
Function of Astan Quds Razavi in the Pahlavi period
Astan Quds Razavi in this period carried out performances such as changing the constitution of Astan Quds Razavi and drafting a new approach, digging Gunabad aqueduct for supplying drinking water of Mashhad, establishing Imam Reza (A.S.) Hospital, library, museum, mausoleum of Sheikh Bahaei, mirror work of Dar al-Huffaz portico, formation of employees corporate, construction of up-street and down-street sanctuaries, founding the general office of the holy shrine museum, muarraq of holy shrine walls, indirect illumination of the holy shrine, establishing Astan Quds Razavi seminary from the absolute endowment revenues, decoration of eastern portal in the new courtyard, establishment of the University or Rational and Traditional Sciences in Mirza Ja’far seminary, making street and flower-work around Kuhsangi pool, founding Reza agricultural company and hiring the estates of Astan Quds Razavi, religiously illegal improvement of Astan Quds Razavi estates in Iran, selling the gold of Astan Quds Razavi and purchase of Dargaz estates for Astan Quds Razavi, changing working shifts in Astan Quds Razavi into six shifts, purchase of Baghbaghu garden and province garden and building for Astan Quds Razavi, covering the stream in up-Street with concrete, digging a well in 330 H.Sh. for pilgrims’ ablution in the museum courtyard, construction of Dar al-Towliyeh building in Malekabad garden and fencing the Malekabad and Ahmadabad gardens, relocating the clock from the Atiq to the new courtyard, tile work of Hatam Khani dome, granting 1 million sq.m of Astan Quds Razavi estates to the university, mirror work of the new portico at the northern side of the Dar al-siyadah, repair of Azed al-Mulk inscription, roofing the Ali Naqi Mirza seminary known as Dar al-Zikr, formation of a commission of people informed about the affairs of Astan Quds Razavi, extensive repairs across the courtyards, construction of a new banquet hall, lofty buildings of Abkuh, and establishment of Quds Razavi Bread Company.
In this period there have been also some manipulations and unlawful possessions in the endowments of Astan Quds Razavi spent with different excuses on parties and pleasure of Pahlavi courtiers.
Another damage incurred by this dynasty was the implementation of land reforms plan dividing the endowed lands irrespective of religious concerns and transferring the whole estates of Astan Quds Razavi and the endowment organization as small pieces with the purpose of ruining the endowments, productivity, and agriculture and driving the country more dependent. This was occurred while according to the dynamic Islamic Fiqh, the endowment is not titled to donation, selling, and definite transference; it cannot be given as mortgage or heritage but it can be only rented.
Astan Quds Razavi organization during the Islamic Republic period
Thanks to the victory of the Islamic revolution and management of a prudent faqih, attempts of expert and committed forces, Astan Quds Razavi has reached the most brilliant stages in its history undergoing deep changes in structural, propagative, cultural, educational, constructional, and economical domains so that it has affected not only Mashhad and Iran, but the whole world.
Short after the victory of the Islamic revolution, Imam Khomeini (R.A.) by a historical decree appointed Ayatollah Waiz Tabasi as the custodian of Astan Quds Razavi; an appointment that originated astonishing changes in this organization.
The passage of the Imam Khomeini’s decree reads as follows:
In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful
Dear Hujjat al-Islam Mr. Abbas Waiz Tabasi,
With respect to your old involvement in administration of Astan Quds Razavi and your trustworthiness approved, I appoint you as the custodian of this holy Astan so that with seriousness you might do your best for perfect preservation of its belongings and especially the library, treasury, and contents of the holy zarih and the endowments of Astan Quds Razavi and prevent from waste of properties; the respected Khuddam and servants will also help, and what seems essential to point out is that no institution of the Islamic republic such as the Construction Jihad and the national Guidance Ministry or regular persons are not titled to interfere with the endowments and other belongings thereof. I beg God the almighty to help you in accomplishing the divine responsibilities.
Wa al-Salam-u-Alaikum wa Rahmatullah-i wa Barajatuh
Jamady al-Awwal 18, 1400
Farvardin 15, 1359
Ruhullah al-Musavi al-Khomeini
After the demise of Imam Khomeini (R.A.), the decree was extended and approved by the Supreme leader.
Institutional chart of Astan Quds Razavi
After the Islamic revolution, a fundamental change occurred to the Astan Quds Razavi organization and a new institutional chart was designed that of course underwent some changes in following years. Currently, according to the last changes made to the institutional chart, the central organization of Astan Quds Razavi as the main management division consists of six assistances (Assistance of Sacred premises and pilgrims’Affairs, Assistance of Endowment Lands and Estates, Assistance of Legal Affairs and Endowments, Assistance of Islamic Propagation and Relations, Assistance of Logistics and Management Development, and Assistance of Endowment Technology and Construction) and two organizations called Construction Organization and Razavi Economical Organization as well as several general managements with their affiliated offices that are governed directly by the Deputy Custodian on behalf of the Grand Custodian of Astan Quds Razavi. The highest rank in this hierarchy is the Grand Custodian of Astan Quds Razavi, Ayatollah Waiz Tabasi.