‘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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