The city of Mashhad serves as the spiritual capital of Iran. This city owes its significance to Imam Reza’s shrine which is the burial site of Ali Ibn Musa al-Ridha, the seventh descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the eighth imam in the Twelver Shi’i tradition. Imam Reza’s Shrine complex, which is the largest mosque in the world by dimension and the second largest by capacity, is located at the heart of the city. The shrine attracts almost 30 million pilgrims from around the world every year. And to facilitate the visitors and run the complex there are countless devoted volunteers from all walks of life. In this exclusive Press TV documentary, we will visit the holy shrine in Mashhad and meet some of the people who have dedicated their lives to serve there.
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I’ve been here continuously every morning and afternoon for 68 years. Isn’t it a miracle? I come here to ask Imam Reza for his intercession in the hereafter.
This melody has been heard for hundreds of years…It’s played from here, looking down on the second biggest shrine on the planet…It’s calling on people to come to pray…More than 27 million people travel here every year….It’s run by the most powerful non-government organization in Iran….There are thousands of servants here….they volunteer to provide calm and comfort to the pilgrims….They are doctors, scientists, lawyers and ministers who come to support the pilgrims on their journey to the heart of the shrine.
When I go there, I prefer to prepare the situation for all of them, serve them
The Twelve Imams are paragons of divine morality. They are all impeccable. They are all approved of by God and they have the right to approve of others.
And they all talk about their contribution to the shrine with utmost pride.
Not only I but also all Shiah Muslims who live in Mashhad and other parts of Iran must cherish the Imam.
This is the story of how the eighth imam of Shia, turned the small city of Nooghan, into one of the most important religious places on earth. This is the story of Imam Reza and his Kingdom.
In 633 AD, one of the greatest civilizations on earth, the Persian Empire witnessed the rise and spread of Islam in the region.
Within a short span of time, Islam expanded to the four corners of the planet; the key to its success was the capture of Persia.
The Islamic conquest of Persia led to the end of the Sassanid Empire and the eventual decline of the Zoroastrian religion. However, the achievements of the previous Persian civilizations were not lost but were to a great extent embraced by the new Islamic state.
Iran and Islam owe one another a debt of gratitude. In other words, Islam has had a critical role in constructing Iranian civilization. And on the other hand, Iranian scientists have played an important role in developing Islamic teachings.
To tell you the truth, I’ve frequently thought about killing him.
Although the combination of Islamic values and Persian wealth and culture resulted in the Islamic Golden age, unprecedented wealth and power as well as Shia - Sunni disagreements divided the decedents of Prophet Mohammad and the ruling parties.
The way forward for the greedy heads of states was to discredit the top religious figures. They knew if this family was around their popularity would thwart their evil plans.
Dr. Khoee :
Mamoun definitely thought of Imam Reza as his sworn enemy. On the other hand, Imam Reza thought of Mamoun as a ruthless caliph who had illegally assumed the caliphate, which was the right of Banu Hashim and the Prophet’s successors, whom we call Imams. However, Mamoun, as a cunning Abbasid Caliph, tried to adopt a policy different from his ancestors’. It must be noted that he did not so of his own accord. In fact, the pull of history forced him to make his peace with Imam Reza.
TIME CODE: 05:00 _10:00
Imam Reza’s entrance and his influence
Mamun’s political gesture was to pretend to offer the leadership to Imam Reza,
The Imam’s response was short and clear that, “if leadership was your right, and Allah chose this for you, you do not have the right to offer this to another, and if this wasn’t your right, then you do not have the authority to offer me that which is not yours.”
Eventually Mamun the caliph of Marw, forcefully exiled Imam Reza from Medina to Khurasan, an area in the north east of Iran.
The Imam was beyond the reach of Mamoun and the Caliph knew well that it would cause problems for the government. So, with a clever trick, he invited the Imam to Marw. After all, the Imam knew Mamoun’s hidden agenda. So, he rejected his invitation. Once more, Mamoun invited the Imam. This time, Mamoun’s envoys forced the Imam to embark on a journey to Marw, all against his will. The Imam certainly knew that it was his last journey and he wouldn’t come back to his homeland.
Like his honorable ancestors, Imam Reza enjoyed a high level scientific position.
The Abbasid caliph called in scholars from different religions to debate with the Imam, hoping that he would at least once fail to answer the questions.
PART OF THE FILM
Say it, ask the questions, we are waiting,
How can I debate with a person whose argument is based on a book which I don’t believe in and a prophet whom I don’t follow?
O great Christian! How about if I provide an argument from the Bible?
Can I deny the Bible?
So, do me a favor and be patient to talk to each other in the right time and listen to each other’s argument.
Who shall ask first? You or I?
I ask you.
How do you validate that Mohammad was a prophet sent by God?
Despite Ma’mun’s machinations, the outcome of the debates only added to the greatness of Imam Reza and elevated Shia Islam to a whole new level scientifically.
More than 20,000 questions were asked from Imam Reza in those debates. It goes without saying that all those debates were conducted under the watchful eyes of Abbasid agents. There was not even one question that the Imam couldn’t answer. It must be noted that the questions were asked in different languages and Imam Reza answered them in the language they were asked. This is a reason that the Imam - as one of the Prophet’s successors - was appointed by God. There is not one single session reported in which the Imam’s argument was not convincing. All those people who participated in the debates found the Imam’s argument cogent, from those who asked the Imam to Mamoun himself, who was the arbiter of the debates to his men who were mainly the Imam’s enemies
Martyrdom of Imam Reza in Mashhad Imam Reza’s trip to Khurasan was the last one of his life. It was in Khurasan where Mamun, the Abbasid caliph murdered him.
His tomb drew hundreds of thousands of Shia pilgrims to Khurasan, and very soon the area was transformed into a flourishing city called Mashhad or “ the place of martyrdom”. The city is now the most sacred site attracting millions of Iranians and others from around the world who go there every year to pay their respects……And that has changed Iran forever.
More than twenty seven million pilgrims every year visit the holly shrine of Imam Reza, out of this, more than two million are foreigners and out of this about four thousands are non Muslims they are from EU, America and even South Asia
From all over the world almost we have pilgrims, who come for visiting the shrine.
TIME CODE : 10:00 _15:00
This sacred site has been the center of attention for many centuries and that hasn’t been without problems.In 993 AD, the holy shrine was ruined by Saboktakin, a Ghaznavid king…..
The Mongol invasion led by Genghis Khan, wreaked have with the holy shrine once again. Since that time the shrine has been rebuilt and all its surrounding buildings expanded.
Mr Amir Abadi Zadeh:
The greatest expansion of the shrine happened during the Timurid era. Maybe that’s because Mashhad was the center of the Timurid dynasty, which resulted in the expansion of the city and consequently the shrine. During the Safavid era, again for special circumstance of the time, the shrine was rebuilt and decorated, even better than before. Many art branches manifested themselves here in the shrine. The same was true in the Qajar dynasty. To put in a nutshell, the expansion has been done over time to accommodate the growing number of the pilgrims.
Millions of pilgrims have visited this site for hundreds of years…. And their generous donations has helped turn the small shrine into a magnificent structure that now spans about one million square meters…. The shrine that entombs Imam Reza’s grave, is the largest mosque in the world by dimension and the second largest in capacity.
The complex also includes the Goharshad Mosque, a museum, a library, the Razavi University of Islamic Sciences, dining halls, vast prayer halls and many other buildings.
It is a tourist hub in Iran.
The works of Persian art have their roots joined with Imam Reza’s devoztion to peace and harmony….And that relationship has prompted the artists who designed the place to make it most beautiful as well as religious.
Talk of need for beauty
The architecture of our religious buildings follows the principle of “unity in diversity”. It’s a principle in architecture according to which everything must be at the service of one single being. The aim is to create a sense of oneness. Even early architects of this construction were fully aware of this principle. They wanted the pilgrims feel themselves in front of a superior Being, despite of all the complexities in design, form and color and then invoke Imam Reza to help them get connected to Him. So, all these complex designs have been made to create an atmosphere in which we feel ourselves in front of the Creator. And I think that the architects have been successful in this regard. Our religious architecture has managed to create such a unique atmosphere in this place through adjusting the heights, proportions, sizes, dimensions and forms.
The holy grave is located under an amazing golden dome. The mirror work in the holy burial chamber under the dome is one of the finest in the world.
The holy grave itself is inside a Zarih (a silver grill) which is also one of the finest examples of Iranian Islamic art.
In the year 2,000 engineer Mehdi Azizian was chosen to organize the construction, expansion and replacement of the old Zarih (Silver grille)…
As a servant of Imam Reza he considers that opportunity his greatest honor
TIME CODE : 15:00 _20:00
It was a difficult job to prevent the pilgrims from coming into the shrine. A few minutes ago, I said that the shrine’s gates have never been closed. But actually it happened once and the doors were closed for 55 days to change the Zarih. Though every side of the Zarih was over 1.5 tons in weight, we never used regular transportation vehicles. We had to use things suitable enough to pass through different doors of different heights. It was a taxing job and for me it was marvelous to see that the project was completed on time and within a short period of time.
This wonderful Zarih was made by ten master Iranian craftsmen under the supervision of the internationally celebrated artist master Farshchiyan.
He was never paid for this; in Shia Islam, it’s an honor to serve and invest in religious places of pilgrimage with no expectation of a return.It is called Waqf. Waqf in Arabic means ‘restriction’ because it says that all properties belong to God.
It is one of the greatest economic practices recommended by Islam. It is a long-term investment for the whole community with endless benefits. Endowment or (Waqf) is charitable work widely used throughout Islamic history to build up communities. It usually benefits the community as a whole by offering a service that is useful to society.
Waqf is a religious tradition in which a person donates part of his or her property for religious or charitable purposes. A person may build a school for children to study in or a hospital for the poor to be treated in. These are two examples of Waqf. In fact, one meaning of Waqf is to donate part or all of your property for the public interest. It must be noted that here property is used in its broad meaning. It doesn’t mean just money. It can be knowledge, time and the like. For example, there are some people who devote their time for a few days a month to serve in the holy shrine of Imam Reza.
Waqf in today’s sense has turned into life serving missions.
Most people who made this fascinating structure as magnificent as it is today, worked for free….. doctors, engineers, lawyers, ministers as well as ordinary workers who devote their time and energy on the upkeep of the Imam’s mausoleum and its premises.
Dr.Sarafraz is a doorman; he spends his time guiding the pilgrims trying to find their way around in the building.
I believe from that place by serving imam by staying there by making worship to the imam and asking and introducing imam to Allah and asking him because of Imam give me this and give me that,
Dr Sarafraz leaving the house, I’m going to the shrine, dear. Don’t you need me?
-pray for me,
I’m going to the shrine. See you afternoon.
Shia – Imam Relationship:
In the Shi'a context, imams are community leaders.Here, people believe they were chosen by God to be perfect examples for the faithful and to lead humanity in all aspects of life.
They also believe imams are free from committing any sin.
This is Mr.Shokoohi, He is one of the oldest servants of Imam Reza. In the past 68 years he has played a special traditional drum-like instrument twice a day in Nagharehkhuneh, a rooftop balcony overlooking the whole shrine.
A loud reminder for the people, who may miss the time to pray….
In the name of God. I’m Ahmad Aghvam Shokouhi. I was born in 1926. Now, it is 68 years that I come here to the music room of the shrine every morning and afternoon. I come here week in week out. I don’t come here only during the morning days.
TIME CODE :20:00_25:00
In the past, Mashahd was a small city. Everybody in the city could hear the melody. People used to wake up their children 20 minutes before sunrise to say their prayers before it was too late.
Eight men stand in a row blowing their trumpets. One is in charge of the main trumpet,
Rising his trumpet towards the dome he says,
“The Sultan of this world and the hereafter is Imam Reza.” The rest say, “O Imam Reza”. The man says, “O Imam Reza” and the rest say,
“Lonely is Reza, Mola, Mola, dear Reza, dear Reza,” “O lonely Imam, dear Reza”, “Dear Reza, dear Reza, dear Reza”.
The man says, “O helper of the helpless! O helper of the destitute!
Help us! Help us!” Then when they blow trumpets they say, “O Fattah! O Fattah!”
Professor Sarafraz has studied chemistry at Birmingham University in Britain ….He is a former MP representing Mashhad constituency in Iran’s Parliament….and is now a leading lecturer and researcher at the University of Mashhad…….He puts-in a 12-hour shift every eight days to serve pilgrims in the shrine.
Sometimes I’m so busy in university and my working and my class but I never left the harem, so I prefer to go there first and then my class, I never left this things because its very important for me to going there and giving this service, Because this has been really in our family my ground father my father, so now me, so every eight days I go there for twelve hour thirteen hour fourteen hour for working there.
Here he is.
All look alike.
This is during the secondary school.
Well, welcome to my humble abode. You’ve come here when my wife and I live by ourselves.
Our children have gone abroad for study. My eldest son has got his PhD’s degree.
and is doing important research as a lecturer at New York University.
My second son got his MA’s degree in physics here and now he’s a PhD student in the US with his wife doing computer.
My daughter has finished her education as a medical student.
Now she has gone to Germany with her husband who won an Azad university scholarship.
My wife is a lecturer at Ferdowsi University and the Islamic Azad University.
She has been cooperating with the shrine as a family consultant for several years.
She goes to the shrine a few days a week. People and the pilgrims consult with her about social and family issues. She works there as an honorary consultant.
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There are over 30 thousand servants like Dr.Sarafraz and his wife.
One of the many highly educated people, who serve in the shrine of Imam Reza, is Dr. Dadmehr.
He’s worked here as a volunteer for about twenty years….He calls it a life-time opportunity…..a small step towards the evolution of man….He works 13-hour shifts, all the while standing up… giving the pilgrims directions and answering other questions….He believes people are mesmerized by the peace and assurance that the late Imam Reza has to offer.
Look how they achieved such a high status, look how they achieved such a high status ,you also can achieve that status with their help.
Try to follow them. That’s why in our culture we like to serve the pilgrims. When we say the pilgrims of Imam Reza it means that they are people in touch with him, so to speak. Serving pilgrims means serving Imam Reza. Serving Imam Reza means to be on the path that pleases God.
Look! When you like someone but are away from them, don’t you smell their clothes? If there is a perfume left from them, don’t you smell it? If you have a picture of them, don’t you look at it? The reason is that since you like your beloved you cherish everything that reminds you of them. So if we touch the Zarih with our hands, we don’t like it in itself; if we kiss a portal of the shrine we don’t like it in itself. These objects have great sentimental value for us just because they are associated with the Imam in one way or another.
I feel that it has not become a habit for me.
Every day I go to the shrine I feel that it’s the first time I visit the shrine.
This is the way I visit the holy shrine. Like the eyes of a pilgrim who visit the shrine for the first time, my eyes fill with tears of joy,Every time I go there I have the same feeling.
I have prayed to God to always have the feeling towards Imam Reza as fresh as I have now. I don’t like it to become mundane.
Serving the people who seem to need it the most. Providing calm and comfort to those who want to open their hearts….to communicate. They ask for God’s support, for His forgiveness…They ask the Imam to wish them well when they make big decisions in life.
That one is, you know we have academy in US, academy of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery and facial surgery I am one of the international fellows from the American academy of otolaryngology head and neck surgery in US.
One spectacle at the Imam’s shrine is when people are invited to eat after the prayers. Eating a full meal prepared with care, and from the finest quality ingredients…It’s not all about the taste, it’s the spirit surrounding the food …..The visitors believe if they eat this food….it’ll make them immune to illnesses and bring them prosperity.
You may have noticed that a huge number of pilgrims come to the shrine’s dining hall with great enthusiasm. To them, the food served here is not an ordinary food. There are pilgrims from abroad who like to take some salt from here though they can find it everywhere else outside the shrine. You can have the best foods in many restaurants outside here. What makes the foods served here different is the spiritual attitude the pilgrims have to them. That’s why the pilgrims eat some of the food here and take out the rest. There are many pilgrims coming from distant countries; those who come from European countries or Iranian pilgrims who live abroad. They come to have the meals served here. They even send them abroad by air for their relatives and friends.
TIME CODE: 30:00 _35:00
This huge task of providing services requires a massive force.
People don’t get lost here….If they are old and infirm, there’s always a helping hand….
The team that manages all this is called, Astan e Ghods e Razavi an autonomous charitable foundation, ….with four hundred years of recorded history; the longest lasting organization since the martyrdom of Imam Reza about 1,200 years ago.
The institution’s main resource is endowments; it’s a major economic player in the Middle East.Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, this foundation has turned the Imam Reza Shrine into one of the greatest educational institutions in the region….
The Imam Reza complex, now houses a Library, museums, schools and universities, hospitals and factories all administrated by Astane Quds.
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Astan Quds Razavi is a very big foundation. It has 20,000 personnel in Mashhad. There are also hundreds of thousands of people who work indirectly for the Astan Quds. That’s while there are around 30,000 honorary personnel in the holy shrine of Imam Reza from physicians, engineers, businessmen, students, farmers and so on and so forth. They work here as servants, doormen, guards and the like.
There are nearly 45companies that Astan Quds has got 100% of the shares. The companies the Astan Quds owns invest in farming, constructing, mining and producing food and industrial products.
Many pilgrims who come to Mashahd or those who have heard the name of Astan Quds Razavi may think that the foundation has only to do with the holy shrine but it has a very big library, which is unequalled in the Islamic world. There are many precious manuscripts as great treasures of our cultural heritage in the library. The oldest manuscript is perhaps a copy of the holy Quran by Ebn Simjour dating back to the early ninth century, that is to say, more than one thousand years ago.
The library of Astan e Quds is considered one of the most important treasures of the recorded knowledge of Iran and the Islamic World….
The library holds over 1.1 million books. It is an international center for Islamic research, with numerous manuscripts and rare works of antiquity of Islamic history.
This is the book bank of lithographical section of the books, and in this section we have 46 thousands manuscript and lithographical books and the oldest book available in this section is the Quran which belongs to 190 years ago, it comes exactly on 1250 years of the lunar calendar, so this is the collection of the lithography books with this number but, beside that we have the book bank of the manuscripts which we have more than nearly 90 thousands and exact number may goes to 87000 manuscripts most important section of this manuscripts are they are very unique sometimes the only copy, we keep in the book bank, and most important section of them goes to the Qurans written by the imams starting with imam Ali S.A, then goes to Imam Hasan Mojtaba, the writings of Imam Husein then goes imam Zeynalabedin, then comes up to imam e Reza S.A, which we have the original hand writings and the Quran written by the sacred hands then goes to the line of scientist like avisina, razi, then comes to birooni’s books and great and outstanding scholars’ and religious scholars like sheikh bahaee’s writings
Another distinguish feature of this book bank is, it is not only rich in Islamic written books but we have so many books on many subjects like geometry, mathematics then herbal medicine, for herbal medicine we have the book of Zakhireh kharazmshahi in seven volumes and all kinds of the properties of the herbs and the medicines and the symptoms of the seasons are collected in that book,
TIME CODE: 35:00_40:00
This book is having nearly 190 years of age, and what we see this page is how the just binding sections they have, how they preserved it and this is newly preserved and amended, and the original pages, this book is Quran, of course the name of the author is here, Mohamad Husein al Esfahani, and it is published in Tabriz, and 1254 years lunar calendar, this is the date of publication, the number of the pages is here, the language is Arabic of course, the dimension of the pages of course are here, and the calligraphy as you know of Iranian calligraphy its called Naskh, the name of calligraphy and the type of calligraphy,
Here is the foreign books department in the Astan Quds Central Library. There are over 102, 000 books in 91 languages. There are copies of the holy Quran written in 73 languages in this department. The most ancient book in the library is written in Latin dating back to 1473 AD, that is, when the printing industry had just started. The book is a glossary of biblical terms in two volumes. We have only the second volume. There are also about 2,000 old, precious books in the library dating back to before the 19th century. The library has a very good collection of book written in Latin and languages other than Farsi and Arabic. There are also collections of literary and historical books in different languages, mostly donated by famous book collectors.
One of the cultural institutions in the holy shrine is open around the clock and every year hundreds of orators and researchers deliver their speeches in the shrine, which has expanded very much in recent year. It’s worth mentioning that the holy shrine of Imam Reza is the only religious place around the world in which different Islamic arts like mirror-work, tile-work, stucco-work, carving and the like have been used.
The Treasuries Office of Astan e Quds comprises of the Central Museum with 12 different specialized museums packed with endowments.
At this place, the best of Islamic art and architecture can be seen in the unique and significant monuments where Islamic art and faith are embedded.
There are also gifts and endowments that are too valuable to be placed on walls or kept in libraries.
TIME CODE: 40:00 _45:00
Woman, expert at museum:
Here is a hall know as the hall of golden-and-silver doors. In fact, this is one of the halls in the museum of the shrine. As you know, every building has a door. As an entry to a building, a door can have symbolic significance as well. We have to get permission whenever we want to enter a place, especially if that place is a sacred one. In the beginning, the shrine has just one door in front of the building. On other sides of the shire, there were only windows and the pilgrims used to see the zarih through them. It was just during the Safavid era that another door was built on the other side of the shrine. This was the first step to expand the shrine. The door was gilded and decorated with jewelry. At the moment, only a few pieces of the jewelry have been left on the door. Most of them got lost during periods of political turbulence. Then during the Qajar era, the door was gilded again and many eulogic poems about Imam Reza were etched on it.
Woman Expert for Books:
This collection has a very interesting story. 28 parts of this ancient manuscript of the holy Quran were preserved in the Astan Quds Library. However, two parts of it were missing. The head of the library in the Astan Quds realized the two missing parts were in a library in Tehran. To cut the long story short, they found that a construction worker had found pages of the two parts within the layers of the dome and sold them to an antique dealer in Mashahd who, in turn, sold them to another antique dealer in Tehran. There, a man bought them and donated them to a library.
Please call American World University Professor Amir Joshan-Poush at (818) 355-9422 to schedule an appointment in North Hollywood, CA Iranian –American, Amir Joshanpoush, is a frequent visitor to the holy shrine...
He runs the American World University in north California.
His connection with the Imam is a unique one.
Look! Imam Reza is a member of our family. We call our children after his name; we believe firmly in him and we swear to his name if we want someone to believe us.
TIME CODE : 45:00_49:21
Despite being a regular visitor, this is his first time to see some of the new buildings. He’s particularly fascinated by the library.
Mr. Joshanpour :
Today I had the opportunity and this chance to see this library and I was amazed believe me I was amazed, how many department they have how they take care of the books, how they transfer the books how the people transfer the books from hand writing to CDs you know you can so hundred hundreds of years later people can use it, I see everything I have to see it looks like a dream coming true, now I have to tell my students all over the world, what I have because I see it with my eyes,
And this is something I don’t think so everybody have this chance and I am thankful for Imam Reza because I am pretty sure he invited me, because I believe him since I was seven years old and always when I wanted help from him, I’m in another country alone I say “ ya imam Reza gharib, help me, and believe me when I put my step into airplane I say I am coming to see you, nobody else, and I’m here and I am always can hold on to his Zarih, never come here and crowd or something scare me, looks like somebody open the door, my family know it, every time I say did you grab it ? I say yes, I did, indeed I did, because nobody in my way I’m not looking at the crowd I am looking for Zarih, and I’m going and I grab it and hold it for a few minutes whatever I want to tell him I tell him, and I’m coming back,
Imam Reza, Peace Be Upon Him once said:
“Everyone's friend is his reason; his enemy is his ignorance, some signs of understanding are clemency, knowledge, and silence. Silence is one of the doors to wisdom. It brings about love and is evidence for all good”
Preparations are being made to celebrate the Imam’s birthday.
Since His martyrdom hundreds of years ago, people have celebrated his birthday every year.
Everyone’s relationship with the Imam is different.
Some imagine him as their father, brother or guardian.
To others, he’s an absolute guide… their pride and joy.
The love of Imam Reza is manifested in every single tile on these walls, bringing a special personal impression full of beauty and affection.