Shrines of Imam Ali

Imam Ali shrine Afghanistan
Imam Ali’s shrine in Afghanistan. (Image:Stephen Shucart/Archnet)
Imam Ali shrine Najaf
Imam Ali’s shrine in Najaf

‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib (d. 661) the cousin of Prophet Muhammad, the first Imam of the Shi’a Muslims and the fourth Rightly Guided Caliph, was buried in Najaf, Iraq. A shrine was erected over the tomb in 977. It is also a mosque named after the Imam and caliph and an important pilgrimage site for Shi’a Muslims.

The Afghan Shi’a consider the Mazar-e Sharif (lit. Tomb of the Exalted) in northern Afghanistan to be the final resting place of Imam Ali. “Legend contends that the caliph’s body was moved from Najaf to a secret tomb near Balkh, which was “re-discovered” by a mullah in the village of Khwaja Khayran in early twelfth century. Seljuk sultan Sanjar erected a shrine on this site in 1136, which was probably destroyed in Mongol invasion of 1220. Timurid sultan Husain Baiqara (1469-1506) built the present shrine in 1480-81/885 A.H. furthering to the town’s development into a large urban center. The shrine was restored extensively in the mid-twentieth century and draws Shi’a pilgrims throughout the year, and especially during the celebration of New Year (Neuroz).”*

* Rowze-i Sharif, Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan, Archnet

Research by Nimira Dewji

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