By Seyedhossein Hosseiniseddiq,Faculty member at Islamic Azad University

Honorary Service in the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza (PBUH)

October 30, 2019

MASHHAD - As we approach the martyrdom of Imam Reza these days, I am eager to write about the success of my honorary service and to introduce various sections of the holy shrine complex.

After applying and filling out many forms and going through various administrative procedures and conducting an in-person interview in English and taking classes in dealing with non-Muslim foreign pilgrims at the Astan Quds Razavi, he was granted honorary or voluntary service by the eighth Imam.

 And for about 4 years volunteering on Sunday, in our opinion Shii, belong to Imam Ali and his wife Fatima from 7:30 am to 1:30 pm I served with great enthusiasm in the non-Iranian English speaking pilgrims section. Of course, as long as my classrooms at the university allowed me as a faculty member.

It may have been around six years since the launch of this section of the holy shrine, with a total of six fluent English speakers under the supervision of a formal employee, both in the morning and evening from 7:30 to 19:30.

During this period, whenever one person or group of tourists - usually from Germany, the Netherlands, France, Britain, Switzerland, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, China, and Japan - intends to enter through one of the multiple doors of the sanctuary on arrival at the shrine, the doorman's servants introduce tourists to the guides to the foreign pilgrims section.

Once welcomed, they are brought to the porch, where they are presented with shrine files and cultural packages, answer their questions, and participate in shrine tours.

It goes without saying that managers of some travel agencies will coordinate in advance and enter the shrine according to the schedule, depending on their interest, number of tourists, and when they have several guides to visit the following areas - with the exception of some forbidden places.

Mashhad is the second largest and most populous city in Iran and the holy shrine of Imam Reza is the most important tourist attraction of Mashhad. Every year millions of people come to this beautiful city to spend a few days on their spiritual rest, as well as to enjoy the historic and natural attractions, beautiful parks and famous foods.

The eighth Shiite Imam Ali ibn Musa al-Reza was born in Medina in 148AH/ 770AD and emigrated to Marv in 200AH/822AD at the behest of the Caliph of Mamoun. Eventually, he was martyred at the command of the Caliph in the year 203AH/ 825AD by eating poison and was buried in the prosperous village of Sanabad. After that, it became known as "Mashhad al-Reza" or Reza's martyrdom place.

The oldest parts of the shrine date back to the year 610AH / 1232AD. Since the Timurid era, with the renovation of many ancient monuments of Khorasan in Tous, Herat and Neyshabour, special attention has been paid to this place.

Many of the buildings of the holy shrine are from the Safavid period. The extent of the shrine during these rehabilitations has risen from twelve thousand square meters in the past to its present area of about one million square meters, making it one of the largest religious sites in the world, both magnificently architectural and artistic:

1. The Carpet Museum has the most exquisite and oldest handmade carpets from 500 years ago. As you enter the Astan Quds Carpet Museum, you will find three floors and one workshop that make it one of the largest specialized carpet museums in the world.

2. Astan Quds Central Museum is one of the most important museums of the Razavi shrine located in the courtyard of Kosar. When you enter the museum building, you will find a large stone object known as the Kharazmshahi Sangab or piscine which is belong to Kharazmshahids period. This Sangab or piscina is actually the primitive generation of today's water dispenser that was built eight hundred years ago.

The right side entrance is toward the museum building. The central museum building has four floors, including a basement, ground floor, first and second floor. In total, in these four floors you can visit the Razavi holy shrine history Museum and other treasures:

 A: The Museum of the History of the Razavi Shrine contains two ancient shrines, tiles, gold plates and unique historical ornaments, and a variety of mirrors, candlesticks, relics and many other precious items.

B: Coin Treasures / C: Stamps & Banknotes Treasures / D: Shell Treasures & Marine Creatures / E: Painting Treasures / F: Containers Treasures / G: Medal Treasures / H: Weapons Treasures / I: Astronomy Treasures / J: Clock Treasures

3. Museum of the Qur'an and the exquisites: You will find one of the most unique Qur’anic treasures in the world at this museum. Among the most special treasures of this museum are the manuscripts of the Quran attributed to Imam Ali, Imam Hassan, Imam Hussein, Imam Sajjad and Imam Reza.

4. Supreme Leader's Gifts Museum: This Museum is one of the levels of the Qur'an and Exquisites Museum that comprises a large collection of gifts received by the Supreme Leader of the Revolution. Indeed, since Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei served as president for many years and then took the lead, naturally he had many private and public meetings with other heads of states. At these meetings, many memorials and valuables are offered to him, and this collection of gifts has been donated by the Supreme Leader to the Astan Quds Museum.

  5. Master Farshchian Hall of artwork:  If you are a lover of art, the Farshchian Hall of artwork is one of the areas you should never miss. In this gallery you can see the masterpieces of Master Farshchian's precious paintings and enjoy the magnificence of this art. It is good to know that Master Farshchian has donated 17 valuable panels to this museum and you can see his most famous works such as Ashoura, the fifth day of creation, the sponsor of deer, Kosar and more in this collection.

6. Central Library: The Astan Quds Razavi Library dates back to 11 centuries ago and the exquisite documents in this library are the only ones that have been globally registered. According to sources, more than 155000 copies of exquisite and rare manuscripts and lithographic prints are kept in the treasury of Astan Quds Razavi, of which 11000 were donated by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei. Today it has about four million volumes of books. It has more than 51 affiliated libraries in this city and other cities in Iran and one in India.

Kettledrum tower: If you are a pilgrim or adjoining the shrine of Imam Reza, every morning before sunrise and every evening before sunset you will hear the beautiful drumming of the shrine from the tall tower Kettledrum. Of course, kettledrum playing is not limited to sunrise and sunset, and it is customary for musicians to celebrate the birth of Imams and big celebrations such as Fitr, Qorban and Norouz feasts over tower and to blow their trumpets and it was as if the kettledrum tower was playing the role of calendar in people's lives.

Other events that lead to the drumming of the Imam Reza's courtyard are to be added to the Astan of Razavi's healers. So for the public proclamation and the rejoicing of the people, the kettledrums are heard.

Of course, during the Shiite mourning period, there is no mention of mourning rituals to honor the mourning rituals of the innocent. It is worth mentioning that drumming and trumpeting are to honor and commemorate Imam Reza's court and have only a ceremonial aspect.

8. Imam Reza’s Guesthouse: It is mentioned in the documents of the Safavid, Afsharid and Qajar dynasties under different names. From the distant past to the present day, many devotees have dedicated the most important achievements of their lives to the shrine of Imam Ali bin Musa al-Raza to be used in various matters of the shrine and pilgrims, endowments with hearts full of devotion to the eighth Shiite Imam; one of these uses is cooking at the Razavi Guesthouse. Many pilgrims who visit the shrine of Imam Reza would like to be a guest of that blessed table.

Therefore, this guesthouse hosts thousands of cooked meals and regularly by internet scheduled online meals distributed among them, benefiting from and blessing the Imam Reza's food is one of the wishes of all pilgrims.

9. Ten courtyards: The open spaces around the Holy Tomb are called the Court. A total of ten courtyards were built in the shrine of Imam Reza, each of which has its own features and history, including: Enqelab court, Azadi court, Jomhouri court, Quds court, Hedayat court, Kowsar court, Ghadir court, Imam Khomeini court, Jame Razavi court and Goharshad court.

10. Mirror Halls: Another historical art in the shrine of Imam Reza is light play on broken mirrors.

Mirroring is an architectural-related decorative art used to decorate part of a wall and ceiling with cut-out pieces of plain or colored mirror to create geometric patterns and arrays on the interior surfaces.

Foreign tourists can also visit some of the mirrored spaces, such as Dar al-Rahma, Dar al-Hojja and Dar al-Marhama.

11. Rezwan's Garden has built on the old cemetery of the Qatlegah in the northern part of the shrine between Haj Aqajan alley and Tabarsi Street.

12. Goharshad Jame Mosque: This mosque was built by the wife of Shahrokh and is one of the most famous monuments in Iran and is part of the Razavi shrine. The Goharshad Mosque is composed of a courtyard, four porches and a turquoise dome and two beautiful Minaret and seven Halls. It is one of the most important Mashhad historical monuments and architectural Islamic Iran. And as one of the historical, cultural and religious attractions, it has attracted the attention of tourists.

 In general, the Razavi shrine has distinctive and enduring values in various aspects of Iranian and Islamic architecture. One of the hallmarks of the architecture of the shrine is the octagonal tiles, the mosaics, which imply the eighth Imam.

13. Goharshad Library: Located in front of the Goharshad Mosque. There are thousands of Persian, Arabic and Latin books in this library which is operated 24 hours during the week.

14. Parizad Seminary: Mrs. Parizad was a maid for Goharshad, the wife of Shahrokh Timuri, donated a school for religious studies. She built the school at the same time as setting up the Goharshad Mosque and from the surplus of materials. In the past, this school was outside the confines of the Razavi shrine, but with the development of the shrine, it was included. It is currently used as a religious and information center for answering religious questions, including face-to-face and telephone answering services, religious counseling, knowledge circles, haremology.

15. Do Dar Seminary: Its main name was Yousefiyeh School and it is one of the schools of religious science and monuments of the Timurid era in Mashhad. Named after the two entrances to the east and west of the school, the school is renowned for its unique architectural style. The site is currently in the center of the Razavi Shrine complex opposite the Parizad Seminary and is used as Dar al- Quran al-Karim Astan Quds Razavi.

16. Golden Dome: Underneath that is the holy tomb of Imam.

17. Minarets: Minaret is one of the most important architectural monuments that have a special place in Iran architecture culture and social customs. So before the minarets were built next to the mosques for call praying, established as guide towers to guide travelers.

18. Live Museum: The author believes that besides the above-mentioned museums, there is another museum, which is a farewell ceremony for the Shiite dead in Mashhad with Imam Reza and can be considered another attraction of the holy shrine. According to a Mashhad custom, a farewell ceremony with the Imam usually takes place between 9 to 15 o'clock. The deceased survivors carry the coffin from the entrance of Nawab Safavi Street to the holy shrine and perform the dead prayer service and then bury the deceased either in the shrine's underground complex or through ambulances, the deceased carry to the city public cemeteries.

19. Steel Window: The Old or Enqelab Court was built in the Safavid era and was recommended at the same time for those who have a religious excuse or have little opportunity for pilgrimage and are forced to leave the shrine quickly or cannot enter the shrine at all. Design a space where they can stand in the closest distance to the shrine and be able to see the shrine of Imam Reza and read the pilgrimage booklet. Thus, a steel window was installed in the area overlooking the shrine and became known as the "steel window".

Healing the hard sick, disabled people, and resolving poor's needs those who are behind the steel window and the special dignity of Imam Reza made the window look special. And it quickly made it one of the busiest and most popular places in Imam Reza's shrine. As far as tying fabric and chains and locks to steel window grids, it gradually became a tradition for those in need. A tradition that, of course, has no religious roots and derives solely from popular belief.

20. Other buildings of the holy shrine are the seminaries of Khairat Khan and Mirza Jafar, dating back to the Safavid era and nowadays converted to Razavi Islamic sciences University.

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