A Glance at the past and present of the Balasar Mosque

A one thousand-year old mosque

Thursday , 08/07/2014 - 14:24
A one thousand-year old mosque
To review the memories of the Balasar Mosque, we should go back to the early fifth century of hijrah i.e. when Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi started the renovation, and according to some historians, the extension of the Razavi holy shrine. Those days, the holy shrine was restricted to a place we know today as the holy burial chamber. However, later the extension of worship spaces of the holy shrine started with construction of the first mosque.
Abu al-Hassan Iraqi known as ‘Dabir’, a distinguished man of the Ghaznavid period, constructed the Balasar Mosque in 425 A.H. at the overhead part of Imam Reza (A.S.) thus eternalizing his name in the history.
Now, over one thousand years has passed since those days but the mosque is still receiving many pilgrims each morning and evening who know how valuable is saying a prayer at overhead part…

This photo might have been among the rare photos remained or published from the old days; a photo that exhibits the general façade of the mosque.
Ibn-i Batuteh, the famous globetrotter, has visited Mashhad in 734 A.H. and while observing the holy grave of Imam Reza (A.S.) has referred also to the Balasar Mosque located besides this holy shrine. The reason of establishing the Balasar Mosque has been, essentially, because of the Shi’ite belief of ‘performing prayer near the head of Imam (A.S.)’.

After the holy grave, the Balasar Mosque is the oldest structure in the Razavi holy shrine. This small mosque from the western side of the holy burial chamber has been connected to the Dar al-Siyadah portico through a steel window. Currently, the Balasar Mosque has three eastern, western, and northern platforms (Suffeh) where the eastern platform has way into the holy shrine.
The Balasar Mosque is eight meters long, 4.5 meters wide, and 10 meters high; the floor and the plinths are covered with marble and the walls and the ceiling are decorated with Muarraq tiles. The ceiling was formerly made of wood and brick that due to erosion was replaced with concrete and was decorated with tiles.

The architectural style of the Balasar Mosque is according to that prevailing in the Ghaznavid period where marble and designs have been applied with Iranian traditional technique in which brick was used as decoration in the buildings. Mihrab of the Balasar Mosque located at the southern side from old days was removed in repair actions in 1342 to 1344 H.Sh. and was transferred to the museum of Astan Quds Razavi.

The whole building of the Balasar Mosque is plain made of local materials such as raw brick or clay. In fact, the original mosque was a plain and preliminary building with no cover or decoration. The mosque had also a minaret. The simplicity of the mosque reminds the poorness of human before the great God. This simplicity brings also submission, serenity, and spiritual happiness. Over time, the building was decorated with inscriptions and exquisite tiles.

Among all the inscriptions in this mosque, let’s only refer to an inscription placed over the arch connected to the holy shrine that reads this poem:
‘Two graves are there in Tus beside each other. One is the grave of the best of men and the other of the worst of men and this is a lesson. The wicked man cannot benefit the vicinity of the pure man just as the pure man being in vicinity of the wicked man will not suffer harm whatsoever.’
This is two distiches of a long elegy composed by the poet of the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.), De’bal Khuzaei, who has talked about virtues and calamities of the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) and tyranny of Bani Umayyah and Bani Abbas.
The poet means Imam Reza (A.S.) by the pure man and Harun al-Rashid as the wicked man who is buried in the vicinity of Imam Reza (A.S.).
The inscription on the margin of the Mihrab also reads this hadith: ‘said God the almighty say o, servant who extravagate on yourselves…’.