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The Imām ‘Alī Holy Shrine ( ), also known as Masjid Ali or the Mosque of ‘Alī, is a mosque located in Najafmarker, Iraqmarker. ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib, the cousin of Muhammad, the fourth caliph is buried here. Buried next to Ali within this mosque are the remains of Adam and Noah according to Shi'a belief.


The shrine was first built by the Iranianmarker ruler the Daylamite Fannakhosraw Azod ad Dowleh in 977 over the tomb of Ali. After being destroyed by fire, it was rebuilt by the Seljuk Malik Shah I in 1086, and rebuilt yet again by the Safavid Shah Ismail I shortly after 1500.

During the uprising of March 1991, following the Persian Gulf War, Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard damaged the shrine, where members of the Shia opposition were cornered, in storming the shrine and massacring virtually all its occupants. Afterwards the shrine was closed for two years, officially for repairs. Saddam also deported to Iran a large number of the residents of the area who were of Iranian descent.

Religious status

The Imām ‘Alī Mosque has been noted as the third holiest site for some of the estimated 200 million followers of the Shī‘ah branch of Islām worldwide – approximately 15 percent of total Muslims. It is estimated that only Karbalāmarker, Makkahmarker and Madīnahmarker receive more Muslim pilgrims.

Asia Times Online reports about Qommarker being the second holiest city in Iran. In an attempt to impress the importance of the Hazrat-e Masumeh shrinemarker located in Qom, the article quotes the following famous hadith:
[O]ur sixth imam, Imām Ja‘far as-Sādiq, says that we have five definitive holy places that we respect very much. The first is Makkahmarker, which belongs to God. The second is Madīnahmarker, which belongs to the Holy Prophet Muhammad, the messenger of God. The third belongs to our first Imām of Shia, ‘Alī, which is in Najafmarker. The fourth belongs to our third Imām, Husayn, in Karbalāmarker. The last one belongs to the daughter of our seventh Imām and sister of our eighth Imām, who is called Fātimah, and will be buried in Qommarker. Pilgrims and those who visit her holy shrine, I promise to these men and women that God will open all the doors of Heaven to them.

The Cultural Heritage Photo Agency based in Iran states: “The world's 120 million Shias regard Najaf - a center of scientific, literary and theological studies - as their third holiest site, behind Mecca and Medina”. Modarresi News calls it: "The place was the burial site of Islam’s second most important figure and third holiest shrine".

Zaman Newspaper, based in Turkeymarker, reports that “Because Najaf is home to the Imam Ali tomb and Mosque, Shia Muslims regard Najaf as the third holiest city after Mecca and Medina”. Referring to Najaf, describes it as “the place is the burial site of Islam’s second most important figure and third holiest shrine

The Guardian described Najaf, as the third holiest place of Shi'ite Muslims The Boston Globe reports “for the world's nearly 120 million Muslim Shias, Najaf is the third holiest city, behind Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabiamarker. The CNN website states: “the Shia the city of Najaf, Islam's third holiest city after Mecca and Medina and home to the Tomb of Imam Ali, cousin of Muhammad and father of Karbalamarker's Husayn ibn Ali”.

On the website of The Virtual Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of the Islamic World, a division of the University of Georgiamarker, under Miscellaneous Relevant Links, it cites a link to a news story “about Iraqi troops using the shrine of Ali in Najaf and about the instructions given to American troops not to damage the shrine, which, after Mecca and Medina, is the holiest city for Shias.” And “American authorities have not taken an active public role in the mosque investigation because of Iraqi sensitivity to any US presence at the Najaf Shrine. The mosque is the most sacred Shia shrine in Iraqmarker and the third holiest in the world after Mecca and Medina

Events in 2003-2006

Since the invasion of Iraq by the U.S. military in 2003, there have been a number of further attacks at the mosque:

  • May 24, 2004, unidentified mortar fire hit the shrine, damaging gates which lead to the tomb of Imam Ali.

  • August 5, 2004, Muqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army seized the mosque and used it as a military base for launching attacks against the Iraqi police, the provincial government and coalition forces. The fighting was eventually ended by a peace agreement. Although the neighboring buildings suffered considerable damage, the mosque itself suffered only superficial damage from stray bullets and shrapnel.

  • August 10, 2006 a suicide bomber wearing an explosive harness blew himself up near the shrine, which killed 40 people and injured more than 50 others.

See also


  1. Iran Diary, Part 2: Knocking on heaven's door Asia Times Online
  2. Muslim Shia's Saint Imam Ali Holy Shrine - 16 Images Cultural Heritage Photo Agency
  3. The tragic martyrdom of Ayatollah Al Hakim calls for a stance Modarresi News, September 4, 2003
  4. Zaman Online, August 13, 2004
  5. Never Again!
  6. Why 2003 is not 1991 The Guardian, April 1, 2003
  7. Iraqi forces in Najaf take cover in important Shia shrine The Boston Globe, April 2, 2003]
  8. Religious rivalries and political overtones in Iraq, April 23, 2003]
  9. "Miscellaneous Relevant Links" Muslims, Islam, and Iraq]

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