Things to do
Visiting the Room that houses the Holy Burial Chamber or Zarih is the highlight of many pilgrims.
Brief Description: The room that holds the Chamber in its own right is a masterpiece. However, due to the intense spiritual feeling that pilgrims experience when getting this close to the za’ri, it is a room often overlooked. Therefore, its important details will be highlighted here.
The marble floor covers the actual burial vault of the Holy Imam. This vault existed before the Holy Imam was laid to rest there, as the father of Mamon ten years earlier was buried there.
On display on the walls are framed pieces of antique and very valuable jewelry donated to the Holy Shrine. There is also a border of exquisite calligraphy extending around the walls, done by the distinguished calligrapher of the Safavid era, Alireza Abbasi. Above that are magnificent examples of mirror works that dates back to the Qajar era (reign1092–1094 CE).
Gravestones of Imam Reza (pbuh)
Brief Description: The oldest gravestone was placed over the burial place of Imam Reza (pbuh) some 900 years ago. It was made of marmorean stone and measured 40 cm by 30 cm by 6 cm. Now it is on exhibit in the museum of Astan-e-Quds. The present gravestone was made from a beautiful high quality green marble from the mountains of Yazd, in southern Iran. It was installed in 1422 AH/2001 CE and it has some Quranic verses, the dates of the birth and death of the Holy Imam, an elegy, and salutations to the Holy Imam.
Burial Marker or Sandoogh
There is a rectangular-shaped box over the grave of the Holy Imam’s grave. Do not mistake this boxed-object for containing the body of the Holy Imam, its function is as a grave marker. The present marker is the third one and is a beautiful light green marble from a nearby Shandeez mine. It was installed in 1354 AH/1935 CE.
Holy Burial Chamber or Za’ri
To be able to touch the holy burial chamber of Imam Reza (PBUH) is the focal point of every pilgrim. To pay homage, recite supplications, to repent to God of one’s, plea for intercession for the alleviation of the woes and worries of this world, and bestow blessings on him and his holy family (PBUT), and in the end, to have hope and tranquility restored to the believer are all a part of this divine pilgrimage. However, be warned it is a feat to be able to get near let alone touch the Zar'i because of the many people gathered at the site and it is advisable not to do it if you are going to bother other pilgrims or yourself.
Brief Description: The term za’ri or holy burial chamber refers to the four-sided lattice structure over the casket of the Holy Imam (pbuh). The present chamber was installed in 2001, to replace the previous one installed in 1959. Due to great pressure put on the chamber walls by millions of pilgrims every year, a new one was commissioned and the project was overseen and designed by the master artist Mahmoud Farshchiyan. It took eight years to build and it has a wood frame of iron, steel, and walnut wood and is covered with silver and gold and weighs 12 tons.
On all sides of the za’ri, Quranic verses of Ya Seen and Hal Ata are inscribed in gold and silver with Tholth script. There are 14 arched lattice windows for the 14 Holy Imams and the Holy Prophet and his esteemed daughter (pbut); the five and eight petal flowers on the façade symbolize the Holy Prophet Mohammad, Hazrat Fatemeh, and Imam Ali, Hassan and Hossain, and the eighth Imam (pbut). The sunflowers on the façade refer to the Imam’s title Sham al-Shamous or the Sun of Suns. The beautiful names of God decorate the exterior as well, which were done by the master calligrapher Keshti Ara Shirazi.
Date: 1418 CE (Timurid era)
Brief Description: Gowharshad Mosque was commissioned by Lady Gowharshad the wife of the Timurid king, Shahrokh Mirza (reign 1405–1447 CE). The favorite architect of Shahrokh, Ghavameddin Shirazi, was commissioned to design and oversee this magnificent work of art. This mosque is the earliest and grandest surviving testament to 15th century Iranian architecture.
Ghavameddin Shirazi was an Iranian architect or me’mār that gained the attention of Shahrokh. In western literature, it is mistakenly recorded that Ghavameddin Shirazi was a distinguished Samarkand architect because the seat of power of the Timurid dynasty was in Samarkand and many of his great projects were in that region. However, as his name implies, Ghavameddin Shirazi was from the city of Shiraz in the south of Iran and his architectural style was purely Persian.
The architectural style, with striking arcades and porches with muqarnas of arches within arches, and intricately patterned glazed tiles enhanced by the prolific use of color, especially emerald, azure, deep blue and gold are found throughout this courtyard. Typical of mosques of this time, there are four stunning porches on the cardinal points of the mosque, one being the larger Direction of Prayer Porch or Ayvan-e-Ghebleh and grand prayer halls or shabestan.
Although the Holy Shrine has greatly expanded since the 15th century, this mosque has remained a principal feature of the Holy Complex due to its grand beauty. Through the centuries, the mosque has also served as a lecture hall for great Islamic scholars. Also, a exquisite, handmade, wooden pulpit or minbar is located in the mosque, which is to be used for the speeches of Imam Mahdi when he reappears.
Astan-e-Quds Central Library
It is unclear when the library was established. Based on a few documents found in the library archives, its establishment dates back to the Seljuk dynasty (reign 1037–1194 CE).
This modern-equipped library is one of the largest and most ancient Islamic libraries in the world, with hundreds of manuscripts dating to about a thousand years ago. Nowadays, it has 35 affiliated branches around Mashhad and other Iranian cities. The oldest Quranic manuscript dates back to 1030 CE and was endowed to the Haram. Also, a few inscriptions attributed to Imam Ali (PBUH) and his two holy sons Imam Hassan and Hossain and Imam Reza (PBUT) are preserved in this library. Thousands of historical documents from rulers, clergymen, and scientists are also archived in this library. Additionally, ancient artwork and other artifacts are also preserved in this library. Large arrays of books in a variety of fields are offered to library members. Lastly, the artistic work of this building is beautiful, similar to the rest of the Holy Shrine Complex.
Clock Porch or Ayvan-e-Sa’at
Date: Safavid era
Location: on the west cardinal point of the Islamic Revolution Courtyard or Sahn’e-En’ghe’lab-e-Islami
Brief Description: This porch is also referred to as Bob-e-Toosi, since one of its arcades is opposite Shaykh Toosi Sanctuary. This is one of two clock towers in the Haram. In the renovation project of Shah Abbas I, a large magnificent clock tower was built. However, the original clock installed in this tower was so heavy that is caused substantial damage to the tower; thus, to replace the large and heavy clock a newer one was purchased in Hamburg, Germany in 1965 and brought to Mashhad that same year. The old clock was then moved to the other clock tower in Azadi Courtyard.
The distinguished calligraphers Alirezā Abbāsi and Mohammad Hossain Mashhadi adorned the tile work on this porch with inscriptions of Quranic verses of Ayat-ol-Korsi and chapter Hal Ata and a narration quoted from the well known recorder of Islamic narrations Muslim and Bukhari respectively. This porch has a beautiful vault ceiling as well.
The Golden Water Fountain of Ismail or Sa’ghāh Khāneh-ye-Ismail Talā’i
Date: ca. 1144 AH/ca. 1732 CE (Afsharid dynasty)
Location: in Islamic Revolution Courtyard or Sahn’e-En’ghe’lab-e-Islami
Brief Description: The principle of offering water to others, in particular pilgrims, is highly regarded in Shia Islam as an act of compassion and high regard for humanity. In part, because the grandson of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH&F), the third Imam, Hossain (PBUH), and 72 of his companions and family members include his infant son were martyred while thirsty for three days.
The Saghāh Khāneh is a marble hexagonal shaped structure with a golden dome. Golden inscriptions of the 99 beautiful names of God are stretch across its arches. This structure and gilding were done by an artisan named Ismail Khan; thus its name. The basins are made of a single piece of marble. Nader Shah Afshar ordered this high quality piece of marble to be brought from Herat, Afghanistan, which was then part of the Persian Empire.
Kettledrum Bandstand Porch or the Ayvan-e-Naghāreh Khāneh
Date: during the reign of Shah Abbās I (Safavid Era)
Location: on the east cardinal point of the Islamic Revolution Courtyard or Sahn’e-En’ghe’lab-e-Islami
Brief Description: This porch is also referred to as Bob-e-Hurr-e-Ameli since one of its arcades faces Shaykh Hur-e-Ameli Sanctuary. This is one of the most stunning architectural examples of Shah Abbas’ I reign.
Naghāreh Khaneh refers to the bandstand-like tower housing the kettledrums or naghāreh. In ancient times, the kettledrums along with the kornā, a Persian folk wind instrument, were played during important ceremonies and to welcome important people.
According to historical documentation, the grandson of Lady Gowharshad, the wife of Shahrokh Mirza, Mirza Abol Ghaseem Babar, visited the Haram in 860 AH/1439 CE seeking a cure for a chronic illness, so the kettledrums were beaten to welcome his visit. After toubeh or repenting, renouncing alcohol, and constant supplication to God while at the Haram, Mirza Abol Ghaseem Babar was miraculously cured, so the kettledrums were once again beaten. After this incident, it has become a tradition to beat the naghāreh and korna when Astan-e-Quds confirms that a miracle has occurred in the Haram. Also, everyday just before sunrise and sunset, except during mourning periods, the naghāreh and korna are played. It is a wonderful sight and experience for pilgrims.
Nader Golden Porch or Ayvan-e-Tala’yeh Naderi
Date: ca. 1470-1480 CE
Location: on the south cardinal point of the Islamic Revolution Courtyard or Sahn’e-En’ghe’lab-e-Islami
Brief Description: This is the oldest porch in the courtyard. During the reign of Shah Tahmasb I, the porch was done in gold and when Nader Shah Afshar renovated the Haram the gild work was redone; thus the name Nader Golden Porch.
The Steel Window or Panjāreh-ye- Foolad
Location: on the southern side of the Islamic Revolution Courtyard or Sahn’e-En’ghe’lab-e-Islami
Brief Description: This large brass lattice window is one of the most well known features of the Haram and very special to pilgrims because it offers a direct view of the holy burial chamber. Thus, many gather at this window asking intercession from Imam Reza (pbuh) and many miracles have been witnessed at this window.
Astan-e-Qods Razavi Central Museum
Date Inaugurated: 1387 AP/2008 CE
Location: the Holy Shrine, the entrance is in Imam Khomeini Courtyard
Brief Description: This museum has been dedicated to the memory of the holy family of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), including Imam Reza (pbuh). This museum is in a four level building with eight collections.
The Lower Floor
On this floor a collection of stamps and treasury bills are kept in an area of 400 m2. The museum holds in its possession 300,050 stamps, while only 50,000 Iranian and foreign stamps are on display. The first world stamp and the first Iranian stamp is a part of this interesting collection. Treasury bills from different eras of Iran are held there, as well as contemporary bills from 50 foreign countries, although 10,000 bills and 6,000 coins are in the museum’s possession.
On the Ground Floor
On the ground floor is the collection of the history of Mashhad in an area of 837 m2. Many historical artifacts that were once used in the Haram are displayed, such as the oldest gravestone belonging to Imam Reza (pbuh), a golden prayer niche or mihrab-e-zareen fām, golden wooden doors, the original wooden case-like grave marker, a burial chamber or za’ri from Fath Ali Shah era (1797–1834 CE), old locks and keys, and light fixtures, etc... This is considered the best collection of the museum. The other collection on this level is of coins and medals. This includes coins from ancient Persia (Alexander the Great 323 BCE, the Parthian dynasty ca. 247 BCE-224 CE, Sassanid dynasty, ca. 224-651 CE, and the start of the Islamic era in Iran) to modern times. Also, displayed are medals of various Iranian champions and athletes, such as the famous Olympian wrestler Gholamreza Takh’ti (1930-1968 CE).
On the First Floor
The first floor is 970 m2 and has a marine collection with 1282 artifacts. This collection was donated to the museum in 1985 by a Syrian citizen named Mohammad Saied Fo’ād. Also a collection of paintings by famous Iranian and European painters, such as the master artists Kamāl ol-Molk (see the section on Nayshaboor for more information) and Mahmud Farshchiyan (see the section on Haram/Farshchiyan), Ali Ashraf Vāli, and William James are on display.
On the Second Floor
This floor is also 970 m2 and a weapons collection with a variety of guns, bow and arrows, swords, daggers, battle-axes and chainmail is held on this floor. An astronomy and clock and watch collection is on this floor as well. Also, on this floor is a porcelain and crystal collection with some objects dating back to 8th to 13th century AH/1398 to 1883 CE.
Location: the Holy Shrine, the entrance is in Imam Khomeini Courtyard, next to the Central Museum
Admission Cost: Free admission
Time and Days Open: opened daily, 8 AM to noon prayer
Brief Description: On ground level is the collection of gifts donated to the museum by the Supreme Leader.
On the first floor is a magnificent collection of antique handwritten Qurans that span over ten centuries. There are five Qurans in Kufi script attributed to the Holy Imams, Ali Abi Talib, his two sons, Hassan and Hossain, Ali ibn Hossain, and Ali ibn Mosa (pbut). The largest Quran on display was inscribed by the grandson of Tamerlame, Baysungur Mirza (see the section on the Haram/Calligraphy for more information). Other Qurans including one inscribed by Yaqut Mostasemi the famous calligrapher of the Abbasid period, and the Baberi Quran that showcases a rare calligraphic style invented by Zahirudin Mohamad Baber (Founder of the Mongul Dynasty in India).
Location: the Holy Shrine, the entrance is in Imam Khomeini Courtyard, next to the Central Museum
Admission Cost: Free admission
Time and Days Open: Open daily, 8 AM until the noon prayer.
A variety of exquisite and precious carpets and needlework with a wide spectrum of designs and techniques are showcased in this gallery. Since carpets and other works of art made of silk, wool, and cotton do not keep very long, the oldest item dates back to 500 years ago. The most fascinating carpet belongs to the Safavid era, the Four Seasons, which is made with 100% silk.