of the Holy City of Mashhad
holy city of Mashhad is the
administrative capital of the Khorasan province. Its present
population is nearing two and half millions and occupies an area
of more than 200 square kilometers. It is situated in the
north-east of Iran between Binalood and Hazar mountain ranges.
It is 945 kilometers away from Tehran and its altitude is 980
meters above the sea level. At present Mashhad is the second
largest city in Islamic Republic of Iran after Tehran.
the beginning of the third century Hijrah, Mashhad was asmall
village called Sanabad, situated 24 kilometers away from Toos.
The summer palace of Humaid bin Qahtabah, the governor of
Khorasan, during the end of the second century Hijrah was
situated in that village.
al-Rashid, the Abbasid caliph, in order to put down the
insurrection of Rafeh ibn Laith, went on an expedition to
Transoxania. In 193 A.H./ 808 A.D., when he reached Toos, he
became critically ill and died. He was buried under the hall of
the palace of Humaid bin Qahtabah, in the Sanabad village.
city of Mashhad came into existence when Emam Reza
(A.S.), the eighth Shi'ite Emam, after his martyrdom at the
hands of Mamun, the Abbasid caliph (born. 786 A.D., ruled.
813-833 A.D.); on the last day of the month of Safar 203 A.H. /
5 September 818 A.D., was buried in the palace of Humaid bin
Qahtabah beside the grave of Harun al-Rashid.
this event, the mausoleum of Emam Reza (A.S.) became the
pilgrimage center of the Shi'ites and the lovers of the Holy Ahl
al-Bayt (A.S.) in the world and the small village of Sanabad was
soon transformed into a flourishing city called as Mashhad
ar-Reza (tomb sanctuary of Emam Reza (A.S.) also briefly called
Mashhad. Mashhad literally means a place where a martyr has been
the end of the third century Hijrah, a dome was built on the
grave of Emam Reza (A.S.) and many buildings and bazaars sprang
around the holy shrine. Followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.),
from various parts of the world started visiting Mashhad for
383 A.H. / 993 A.D., Sebuktigin, the Ghaznevid sultan
devastated Mashhad and stopped the pilgrims from visiting the
holy shrine of Emam Reza (A.S.). But in 400 A.H./ 1009 A.D.,
Mahmud of Ghazni (born 971, ruled, 998-1030 A.D.,) started the
expansion and renovation of the holy shrine and built many
fortifications around the city .The holy shrine was decorated
with fine marbles, quality wooden and stucco works. Mahmud of
Ghazni also built the burial chamber on the grave of Emam Reza
(A.S.). After him his son Masud (b. 998 A.D., r. 1030-1040 A.D.)
built a wall around the holy shrine and further beautified the
Sanjar (b. 1086 A.D., r. 1097-1157 A.D.), after the miraculous
healing of his son in the holy shrine of Emam Reza (A.S.),
renovated the sanctuary and added new buildings within its
612 A.H./ 1215 A.D., as borne out by inscriptions on certain
Allaudin Khwarezm Shah carried out renovations on the shrine.
Two of the prayer niches, embellished with elegant porcelain
tiles, as well as those with Kufic inscriptions that adorn the
walls to the upper side of the holy burial chamber, bear the
name of his vazir Ali bin Muhammad Muqri. A couplet in Persian
by Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Abdullah on the wall also carries
the date 612 A.H.
the Mongol invasion in 617 A.H. / 1220 A.D., Khorasan
was plundered by the invading hordes and the survivors of this
massacre took refuge in Mashhad and settled around the holy
shrine. Sultan Muhammad Khudabandeh (b. 1282 A.D), the Mongol
ruler of Iran converted to Shi'ism and ruled Iran from 703-716
A.H/ 1304-1316 A.D., once again renovated the holy shrine on a
791 A.H., Miran Shah the son of Tamerlane( b. 1336 A.D., r.
1370-1404 A.D.) razed Toos to its foundation and massacred its
inhabitants. Toos lost its popularity. and as a result the holy
city of Mashhad rose to prominence contributing to the gradual
emergence of Mashhad as a major city.
glorious phase of Mashhad started during the reign of Shahrukh
Mirza (b. 1377 A.D., r, 1405-1447) son of Tamerlane and reached
its zenith during the reign of Safavid kings who ruled Iran from
1501-1786 A.D. Shahrukh Mirza, whose capital was Herat,
regularly visited Mashhad for the
of the holy shrine of Emam Reza (A.S.). His wife Gowharshad Agha
in 821 A.H./ 1418 A.D., ordered the building of the famous and
historical Gowharshad Mosque, which is one of the biggest and
most beautiful mosques in the world. This historical mosque is
situated beside the holy shrine of Emam Reza (A.S.). During this
period the holy shrine developed into an extensive complex
comprising various grand historical monuments.
the emergence of the Safavid dynasty in 1501 A.D. and
declaration of the Shi'ite school as the state religion, Mashhad
reached the peak of its development and soon became one of the
greatest sites of pilgrimage. However, since Khorasan was a
border province of the Safavid Empire, Mashhad consequently
suffered repeated invasions and periods of occupation by the
Uzbek Khans - Muhammad Khan, Abdullah Khan Shaibani, Muhammad
Sultan and especially Abdul - Momen Khan. These invasions
continued up to 996 A.H./ 1586 A.D., the time of Shah Abbas I,
who finally drove out the Uzbeks from Khorasan.
Safavid Kings illuminated the dome with golden tiles and
built minarets, many courtyards (Sahn), porches (Riwaq) and
seminaries (Madrasa) within the holy shrine's precincts.
Shah Afshar (b. 1688, r. 1736-1747 A.D.) and the Qajar kings who
ruled Iran from 1779-1923 illuminated, beautified and expanded
the various courtyards (Sahn), porches (Riwaq) and places in the
10th Rabi al-Thani 1330 A.H. in the year 1911 A.D., the Tsar
Russian artillery shelled the holy shrine and martyred a large
number of pilgrims and inhabitants of Mashhad.
11th Rabi al-Thani 1354 A.H. /13 July 1935, the armed
of Reza Khan (b. 1878, r. 1925-1941 A.D.), the founder of
Pahlavi dynasty in Iran, invaded the holy shrine and massacred
innocent people gathered in the Gowharshad Mosque.The people
there were protesting against the anti-Islamic rule of Reza Khan
for banning Hijab (modest dress) for women in Iran.
the peak days of Islamic revolution, on 21 st November 1978
Muhammad Reza Shah's (b. 1919, r. 1941-1978 A.D.) troops
committed the sacrilegious act of Killing a large number of
innocent people within the holy shrine of Emam Reza (A.S.).