Kadhimiya Holy Shrine was and is still a place surrounded by the holy angels, and a good neighbor; loved by scholars and pious people. It is the glorious venue where kings and sultans stand before in reverence; where the sublime honor yields in submission; where wishes are fulfilled by Allah. It is a spot where the Divine Mercy and Blessings descend, by which all hearts are enchanted. Hence, it is worthy of being the heart of Kadhimiya and crown of Baghdad. It welcomes the visitors, from far and near, who are longing for it, hailing them with its domes that are brighter than the sun and its golden minarets extending high in the sky. It is as if they are calling visitors to the place where wishes are fulfilled and prayers are answered with the will of Allah. It is verily the place where the distressed get relief and where the oppressed resort and then go back to their people in joy… It is the paradise of Musa Al-Kadhim [AS] and Mohammed Al-Jawad [AS].
Quraish Cemetery, located at the west bank of Baghdad, has, over history, acquired a special honor and unique grandeur, after the burial of the Imam Musa bin Jaafar Al-Kadhim [AS], and later his grandson Imam Mohammed bin Ali Al-Jawad [AS]. The two holy graves attracted so many hearts for visits, and loyal souls were stimulated to construct a magnificent building for the two holy graves.
The groups of visitors who bear loyalty to Imamate never ceased to flow; hence, it was necessary to have volunteers to serve the Holy Haram and ensure the quality of services offered to visitors.
Construction continued progressing, in spite of the catastrophes experienced, till it turned to be a great city encompassing a purified Haram appearing as its pole. Later, the city was known as Kadhimi Holy Shrine, Al-Kadhim City, Kadhimiya, and Kadhimain city, all names after the Imam. Though decades passed, this city is still being visited and inhabited by people.
The construction of the Holy Shrine of the two Imams [AS] passed through many stages. At the hands of successive generations, the Holy Shrine has witnessed successive improvements ever since. All the people who wrote on this Holy City, in general, and the Holy Shrine, in particular, reviewed the renovations of the building.
Among those who wrote on this subject was the prominent scholar Sheikh Mohammed Aal-Yaseen in his book (History of the Kadhimi Shrine) which was deemed to be the most valuable legacy that reviewed the history of this holy city and, therefore, was selected as a reference to write these lines.
The building of the Kadhimain Holy Shrine is a magnificent one in which the art of the Islamic architecture and the Muslim genius of creativity and craftsmanship are embodied. Heaps of gold, silver and enamel glisten in every side of it. On the walls and ceilings glitter the tiny mirrors skillfully fitted together to match the other surrounding decorations, speaking for themselves, representing a masterpiece, entirely unequalled in the world of architecture.
These represent the essence of the minds of hundreds of artists and architects over different times and from different places, who exerted their utmost, driven by their faith in their Imams. These minds were supported by riches of thousands of wealthy people including kings, sultans and merchants in order to have this House of Allah constructed, especially when this place contains two tombs for two members of Ahlul-Bait [AS]. The results of these minds and finances ended with this most blessed building.
Kadhimiya At a Glance:
In 145 H. (approx. 762 AD), Al-Mansoor, the Abbasside caliph, started the foundation of the circular city "Baghdad". Construction completed, as narrated by Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdadi, in 146 H, whereas the great wall, the moat that surrounded the city, and other requirements were finished in 149 H.
Finishing the construction of the city, Al-Mansoor assigned the area adjacent to his city from the north as a cemetery. Perhaps, he assigned it to be private for his own family, and later, it was called "Quraish Cemetery", and sometimes referred to as "Hashim Clan Cemetery". In his book Al-Irshad, Sheikh Al-Mufeed stated that it was a cemetery owned by Hashim Clan and the notables in general.
The first man buried in that cemetery was Jaafar s/o Al-Mansoor, the Caliph, in 150 H. (approx. 767 AD). Then burials continued in the cemetery.
On 25th Rajab, 183 H. (approx. 31st Aug., 799 AD), Imam Musa Al-Kadhim [AS] was poisoned to death by Al-Sindi bin Shahik, under orders from Haroon Al-Rashid, the Abbasside caliph. His pure corpse was taken to Quraish Cemetery for burial, and his holy tomb is located at the same place, known afterwards as Kadhimiya.
Some historians mentioned that he was buried in a place that he purchased before, within the said cemetery.
Al-Kadhim's tomb was then famous for the name "Babul-Tibn Tomb", referring to Babul-Tibn district which was located to the east, in the vicinity of the River Tigris. Moreover, the mosque neighboring the tomb was also called "Babul-Tibn Mosque".
At the end of Thul-Qi'da, 220 H. (approx. 25th Nov., 835 AD), Imam Mohammed Al-Jawad [AS], the grandson of Imam Musa Al-Kadhim [AS] was murdered and buried next to his grandfather. The area began to be increasingly inhabited, following the burial of the two Imams. Driven by their strong faith in the two Imams, people began to reside around the tombs, for providing protection, administration and lodging for the coming visitors. The agglomeration around the tombs represented the nucleus of Kadhimiya City; besides the fact that the geographical site of Quraish Cemetery neighbored the River Tigris, other villages and rural areas and orchards. Moreover, the soil in that area was fertile.
The historical accounts available on the First Abbasside Era, state that this area witnessed rapid development and became inseparable part of Baghdad, or even a district of it. Hence, it became densely populated with a lot of buildings, as in other districts of Baghdad.
In 334 H. (approx. 835 AD), Mu'izil-Dawla Al-Buwaihi controlled the government of Baghdad. One of his achievements during his reign was the construction of the Kadhimi Shrine in a beautiful way. He assigned some soldiers from Daylam to offer service and maintain security. A consequence of maintaining security and annexing Quraish Cemetery to Baghdad was that people in great numbers started to come on Fridays and on religious occasions such the anniversaries of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein [AS] and Ghadeer Day and the like.
Throughout successive periods of history, the city was exposed to floods, especially in 367 H., 466 H., 554 H., 569 H., 614 H., 646 H., and 654 H. (approx. 977, 1073, 1159, 1173, 1217, 1248 and 1256 AD respectively). The 614 H. flood badly damaged the Kadhimi Shrine building and the city. Al-Nasir Liddenillah started reconstructing the damages caused by the flood. He also built a new wall for the Shrine in 614 H.
The Abbasside Era elapsed and the city continued to be a unique district with good buildings and densely inhabited, having a great wall and other requirements of any other city including houses and population. It had also two chief men supervising the affairs of the Holy Shrine and the city besides the chief man of Allawis (descendents of Prophet Mohammed).
In 656 H. (approx. 1258 AD), the Mongolian army besieged Baghdad and it was occupied on Monday, around the 18th Muharram. The occupation was accompanied by a number of sabotages and disasters.
With the arrival of the 8th century, the city had much stepped forward in progress, booming with population and visitors. Hamdallah Al-Mustawfi, from the beginning of the 8th Hijri Century, described the city saying: "It is a small city of a circumference of about six thousand steps, with a population of six thousand people.
At the beginning of the 10th Century, Kadhimiya entered its new era in terms of internal administrative independence. The city became of a distinguished entity and played its own role in the general affairs. In 914 H. (approx. 1508 AD), Safawis occupied Iraq. Shah Ismael Al-Safawi visited Kadhimiya and gave orders to set up a special administration for the city, and an Islamic court headed by a judge with the title (Sheikh Al-Islam). He also ordered to re-construct the Kadhimi Shrine in a splendid way, and assigned salaries for the officials and servants of the Shrine.
In 1302 H. (approx. 1884 AD), Brag. Hidayat Pasha, commander of the 6th Military Corps of Turkey ordered to install a wooden pontoon bridge across the River Tigris to link Kadhimiya and Aadamiya. In this way, Kadhimiya was linked to the eastern part of Baghdad too. In 1318 H. (approx. 1900 AD), the cornerstone of Kadhimiya Sarai (governmental administration offices) was laid.
Over its long lifetime, Kadhimiya gave birth to a great number of Scholars of Fiqh, writers, poets, intellects, and physicians. The city also had a number of religious schools which offered classes in Islamic sciences. They were full of students and teachers. The most prominent school was Mohsin Al-Aaraji School which was founded at the advent of the 13th Hijri century. The city also had some great libraries, full of references and manuscripts. It was said that the first Iraqi stone press was founded in Kadhimiya in 1237 H. (approx. 1821 AD). This achievement came at the top of the academic activities list of the city in the first part of the thirteenth century.
The most distinguished political attitude of Kadhimiya City was the one taken during the First World War towards the British occupation of Iraq. On 20th Thul-Hijja, 1332 H. (approx. 8th Nov., 1914), the notables of Basra called the religious scholars of Kadhimiya for help. The scholars announced a Fatwa (religious order) that the sacred defence is mandatory on every Muslim.
On Tuesday, 12th Muharram, 1333 H. (approx. 30th Nov., 1914), the scholar Sayyid Mehdi Al-Haydari accompanied by some fighters left for the battlefield. The whole people of the city gathered to see off the procession of Jihad. The coming scholars from Najaf and Kerbalaa heading for the battlefield were well received and seen off to the battle.
The British army occupied Kadhimiya on the 17th Jamada Ola, 1335 H. (approx. 11th March, 1917). Hence, a long Ottoman occupation age ended to start with another occupation. Following the British occupation, Kadhimiya did not stop action against the occupiers with all material and moral powers available; a fact which was clear in Miss Bell's letters when she wrote: "There's a group of these worthies in Kadhimain, the holy city, 8 miles from Bagdad, bitterly pan-Islamic, anti-British". Philip Ireland, on the other hand, stated that the anti-British feeling in Kadhimiya was so strong that the religious scholars threatened that all those who vote in favor of the British occupation would be considered apostate.
History of Kadhimain Shrine Construction during the Abbasside Age:
• First construction, immediately after the martyrdom of Imam Musa Al-Kadhim [AS] in 183 H. (approx. 799 AD).
• Second construction, following the occupation of Baghdad by Mu'izil-Dawla Al-Buwaihi in 336 H. (approx. 947 AD).
• Third construction, in the year 450 H. (approx. 1058 AD), following a fire in 443 H. (approx. 1041 AD), in the wake of a sectarian movement which ended with burning the sacred shrine. This third construction is called Al-Basaseeri Construction.
• Fourth construction: By Majdul-Malik Al-Qummi in 490 H. (approx. 1097). It was not really construction in the broadest sense of the word; In fact, some new utilities were added to the earlier construction.
• Fifth construction: Al-Nasir Liddenillah construction in 575 H. (approx. 1179) and the years that followed. In fact, it was an expansion with a lot of utilities added during and after the long reign of Al-Nasir. This was the final and the most majestic construction ever accomplished during the Abbasside age.
Kadhimain Shrine Construction after the Abbasside Age:
• In 769 H. (approx. 1367 AD), Sultan Uwais Al-Jala'iri reconstructed the Shrine which was full of cracks due to successive waves of floods. He built two domes and two minarets and ordered to have two marble boxes placed on the Holy Graves. He also ordered to decorate the Haram (the interior) with color tiles on which some Suras of the Holy Quran were inscribed.
• In 914 H. (approx. 1508 AD) throughout the following years, Shah Ismael Al-Safawi, after arriving in Baghdad, started the construction and renovation of the Holy Shrine. He ordered to expand the courtyard, pave the galleries with marble, have two wooden boxes placed on the two Holy graves. The whole interior of the Haram and its exterior edges were decorated with color tiles on which verses of the Holy Quran and some dates were inscribed. He ordered to add two minarets, so that minarets would be four instead of two. Another order was issued for the construction Al-Safawi Mosque (currently called Al-Jawadain Mosque), a grand mosque to the north of the Haram, immediately connected to it. Some other requirements were fulfilled such as carpets, lanterns, employment of some servants, Quran reciters and Muazins (Prayer callers). Thus was the construction of the structure of Haram, courtyard and galleries. It is the same structure that we find today.
• In 941 H. (approx. 1534 AD), Sultan Suleiman Al-Qanooni conquered Baghdad after removing the Safawis' reign. He issued an order to complete some of the minor requirements which were not finished by the Safawis.
• In 978 H. (approx. 1570 AD), the minaret at the north-east side of the holy building was constructed. The foundations of the four major minarets had been already laid during the Safawis' reign.
• In 1032 H. (approx. 1622 AD), Shah Abbas the Great, Al-Safawi, occupied Baghdad again. He visited the Kadhimain Shrine and issued an order to renovate what was ruined by wars and disarray and negligence. He also ordered a huge steel structure to be installed to cover the two boxes as protection against lootings that might occur during battles or attacks by the tribes against the city. Due to political tension between Iran and Turkey at that time, the arrival of the steel structure was delayed and it only arrived in 1115 H. (approx. 1307 AD).
• In 1045 H., Shah Safi bin Abbas Al-Safawi, made some renovations in the Shrine's building, especially strengthening the foundations of the major minarets.
• In 1207 H., work was afoot with construction in execution of orders issued by Agha Mohammed Shah Al-Qajari to continue the work interrupted by the Safawis. The construction of the three other major minarets was accomplished. A wide courtyard encompassing the Haram from three sides, the eastern, southern and western, was constructed. The Great Mosque was annexed to the Haram from the north. The area of the courtyard was laid out as it is found today.
• In 1211 H. (approx. 1796), Shah Fath-Ali-Shah undertook additional works following the death of Al-Qajari, including: engraving the interiors of the two domes with gold, enamel, and colored glass pieces. All the walls were decorated with tiny pieces of mirrors fixed on wood starting from the strips on which Quranic verses were inscribed up to the ceiling.
• In 1229 H. (approx. 1814 AD), the two domes and the four small minarets were gilded. This was the most important achievement of that Shah.
• In 1255 H. (approx. 1839 AD), the small Iwan (gatehouse) of entrance to the gallery of the southern porch was gilded and it was sponsored by Manujahr Khan who was known as Mu'tamad Al-Dawla.
• Also in 1255 H., Sultan Mahmood II, sent the Prophetic Veil to the Holy Shrine as a present. The veil was made of embroidered silk and was laid to cover the graves on Al-Qadr Night, during Holy Ramadhan of the same year.
• In 1270 H., Nasiruddin Shah Al-Qajari, the King of Iran, sent one of the prominent scholars of the time, Sheikh Abdul-Hussein Al-Tahrani, known as Sheikh Al-Iraqain, to Iraq to supervise the execution of comprehensive architectural plans for the Holy shrines including renovations, restorations and beautifications. He granted him full authority to act and spend finances.
• In the year 1281 H. (approx. 1864 AD), construction started at the Kadhimain Shrine including the external walls of the Haram; these were coated with tile bricks and the construction of a ceiling was supported by 22 columns. This was called (Babul-Murad Porch). The great gatehouse of this porch was gilded. Another ceiling was constructed and supported by 14 columns, to the west and was called Babul-Qibla Porch. Works were accomplished in 1285 H. after performing all required renovations. After that the Holy Shrine indeed became unprecedented in art, aesthetics, innovation and perfection.
• In 1296 H. (approx. 1879 AD), Prince Farhad Merza Al-Qajari, the uncle of the King of Iran Nasiruddin Shah donated funds to spend on a massive project including the construction of systematic vaults for burials, coating the four major minarets with gold starting from the spot where the Muazzin (prayer caller) stands up to the peak, and the construction of a high wall for the courtyard consisting of two floors. Along the ground floor of the wall were built 76 rooms surrounding the courtyard. Two huge clock towers were installed above the two main gates (Babul-Qibla and Babul-Murad). All these works were accomplished in 1301 H. (approx. 1883 AD). These two clocks were removed due to their heavy weights that might affect the construction of the two gates. One tower was later constructed for a clock located to the right of Babul-Qibla and it is considered one of the most prominent features of Kadhimiya Holy Shrine. This tower consists of a square base with four walls, all tiled with tile bricks on which verses of Quran were inscribed, decorated with Islamic arabesque. On each side of the four walls of the tower, a clock was mounted.
• In 1332 H. (approx. 1914 AD), the western porch (called Quraish Porch) was constructed. The ceiling was supported by 18 columns and decorated with arabesque. Al-Aala Sura was entirely inscribed on the tile bricks.
Today, following the defunct regime which paid no attention to the holy places, including Kadhimain Shrine which was almost entirely neglected and left to deterioration, the Holy Shrine required renovations and maintenance. With the Will of Allah, the loyal believers started projects of construction and development and work undertaken by the Secretary General of the Holy Shrine is still afoot. The said projects amounted to about 100 projects, including but not limited to:
Maintenance and re-gilding the tombs of the two Imams [AS], replacing the tomb metal structure, expanding the Haram, maintenance of the tomb metal structures of Sheikh Al-Mufeed and Sheikh Al-Toosi, replacing the silver and wooden gates of the porches with golden ones which are nine in number, construction of a new courtyard to the north over an area of 7000 square meters, tiling the ground of the courtyard, tiling gatehouses with twig tiles, maintaining the rooms of the courtyard and upstairs rooms, construction of the gates and entrances of the courtyard, installing new three gates, the project of Sahib-Al-Zaman courtyard to the west, Imam Ali courtyard which is adjacent to the new established courtyard, and the bathrooms project.
These continuous projects aim at the maintenance and development of this Holy Place which is increasingly visited by Muslims from all over the world. So there was a substantial need to make new service and sanitary utilities, in the forefront of which was the expanded courtyard to the north, so that the ever increasing number of visitors would be properly served; since our motto is "To serve visitors is our honor".
Praise be to Allah.