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History and Facts: Where is the Burial Site of Imam Al-Hussain’s Head?

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The final resting place of Imam Hussain’s (peace be upon him) head remains one of the most poignant and debated topics in Islamic history. With multiple locations across the Islamic world claiming this honor, each backed by its own set of historical accounts and narratives, the quest to ascertain the truth has engaged scholars, believers, and history enthusiasts alike. This article delves deep into this discourse, exploring the various perspectives and the evidence behind them, as we seek to shed light on a matter deeply enshrined in the heart of Islamic tradition and reverence.

Place of burial

Shia scholars have two opinions regarding the place of burial:

  1. The belief that the head was returned to Karbala.
  2. The belief that it was buried in Najaf al-Ashraf.

Let’s detail the arguments for these two views:

 The First Opinion: Return of the Head to Sacred Karbala.

The opinion asserting that the noble head was rejoined with its honorable body has been mentioned by: Sheikh Al-Saduq, Sayyid Al-Murtada, Sayyid Ibn Tawus, and others, quoting sources other than the infallible Imam. It’s inferred from the words of Ibn Nama al-Hilli, as will be mentioned later, that this belief is widespread among the Imami Shia. Here’s what has been narrated on this topic:

1. Sheikh al-Saduq d. 381 AH:

 Al-Saduq said: “Muhammad bin Ali Maajilwayh told me, from his uncle Muhammad bin Abi al-Qasim, from Muhammad bin Ali al-Kufi, from Nasr bin Mazahim, from Lut bin Yahya, from al-Harith bin Ka’b, from Fatimah bint Ali, she said: ‘Then, indeed, Yazid, may Allah curse him, ordered (the holding of) the women of Hussain (peace be upon him), and they were imprisoned with Ali bin al-Hussain, peace be upon them both, in a place that protected them neither from the heat nor cold; until their faces peeled, and in Bayt al-Maqdis not a stone was lifted from the ground but blood was found underneath it. People saw the sun on the walls red as if it were the yellowish locusts until Ali bin al-Hussain came out with the women, and the head of Hussain was returned to Karbala.”[2].

2. Al-Sayyid al-Murtada d. 436 AH:

 Al-Sayyid al-Murtada was asked: “Is what was narrated about the head of our martyr master Abi Abdullah (peace be upon him) being taken to Sham true? And what is the reason behind it?” He answered: “This is a matter that has been narrated by all narrators and authors on the day of Taff, and they agreed upon it. They also narrated that the head was returned after being taken there and buried with the body in Taff.”[3].

This is a declaration from Al-Sayyid al-Murtada, that the return of the honorable head to Karbala was narrated by the narrators and authors in their books, perhaps alluding to what will be referred to in the narration of Ibn al-Jawzi, from Hisham and others.

3. Ibn Nama al-Hilli d. 645 AH:

Ibn Nama al-Hilli mentioned: “And what is relied upon from the sayings is that [i.e., the honorable head] was returned to the body after it was paraded in the countries and buried with it.”[4].

4. Al-Sayyid Ibn Tawus d. 692 AH:

 Al-Sayyid Ibn Tawus mentioned that the sect’s practice on this matter is the return of the noble head to the pure body in Karbala[5]. Moreover, he considered the question about how the noble head was attached to the body to be a kind of ignorance and bad manners, similar to the question of how he was revived after his martyrdom.

It’s worth noting that the assertion of the noble head’s return to Karbala does not contradict what is intended to be proven in this research regarding the special symbolism of the Mosque of Imam Hussain’s head (peace be upon him) in Najaf Al-Ashraf, as will be discussed later.

The Second Opinion: The Head was Buried in Najaf Al-Ashraf

The narrations from the Imams (peace be upon them) mention only one location as the place and tomb of the head of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him), which is Najaf Al-Ashraf. In our narrative heritage, there’s no narration from the Imams (peace be upon them) regarding any other place. The narrations mention two locations for the head in Najaf:

The First Place: Al-Hanana

This place is mentioned in most narrations as the “location of the head”, in addition to other narrations indicating the burial of the head in that location. Given the extensive attention, construction, and appropriate celebration of this place today, we didn’t mention the specific narrations related to it in this article. Mainly because they aren’t directly related to our purpose here, noting that most of these narrations describe it as the “place of Imam Hussain’s head (peace be upon him)”, not that the head was buried there. Moreover, the existence of this shrine and location does not negate the presence of another location for the noble head that also received attention from the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them).

The Second Place: Near the Shrine of Amir al-Mu’minin

Under this heading, we will review the narrations pointing to this noble site, followed by the views of scholars and some historical landmarks built for it:

The First Matter: Narrations Indicating that the Location or Burial Place

Narrations Indicate that the Location or Burial Place of the Head is Beside the Shrine of Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him). The most significant mentions concerning the location or burial place of the noble head near Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him) consist of a collection of narrations from the respected books, which are as follows:

1. Al-Kafi Book: It has two narrations mentioned. One of them explicitly states the burial of the noble head beside Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him), which Ibn Qulawayh also cited in Kamil al-Ziyarat.

2. Kamil al-Ziyarat Book: It mentions a set of narrations explicitly stating that the head was buried beside Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him). However, one of these narrations faces the issue of being traced back to the infallible (peace be upon him)[6].

3. Tahdhib al-Ahkam Book: Two narrations are mentioned in it, one of which explicitly states the burial of the head beside Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him) as well.

Firstly: Narrations found in the books Al-Kafi and Kamil al-Ziyarat

The First Narration: Al-Kafi:

Narrated by Ali bin Ibrahim bin Hashim, from his father, (he says) “Abu Abdullah (peace be upon him) said to me while he was in Hira: ‘Don’t you want what I promised you?’ I replied: ‘Yes,’ meaning going to the grave of Amir al-Mu’minin. He said: ‘Ride,’ and his son Isma’il rode with him. I rode with them until we reached a place between Hira and Najaf, near some white rocks. He, Isma’il, and I dismounted and prayed. Then he said to Isma’il: ‘Greet your grandfather, Hussain bin Ali.’ I said: ‘May I be sacrificed for you, isn’t Hussain in Karbala?’ He replied: ‘Yes, but when his head was taken to Sham, a loyalist of ours stole it and buried it beside Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him).’” [7] This narration was also relayed by Ibn Qulawayh from his father, and also from al-Kulayni.

The Second Narration: Al-Kafi:

Narrated from several of our companions, from Sahl bin Ziyad, from Ibrahim bin Uqbah, from Hassan al-Khazzaz, from al-Washaa Abu al-Faraj, from Aban bin Taghlib, who said: “I was with Abu Abdullah (peace be upon him). He passed by the back of Kufa, stopped, and prayed two units. He moved forward a bit, prayed two units, and then moved a bit more and prayed two units. Then he said: ‘This is the burial place of Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him).‘ I asked: ‘May I be sacrificed for you, and the two places where you prayed?’ He replied: ‘The place of Hussain’s head (peace be upon him) and the residence of Al-Qa’im.’” [8]

This narration is also mentioned in the book Kamil al-Ziyarat, but instead of “residence of Al-Qa’im,” it mentions “pulpit of Al-Qa’im.” This narration was related in this way: My father told me, as well as Muhammad bin Hassan, both from Hassan bin Muteel, from Sahl bin Ziyad to the end of the previously mentioned chain of narrators [9]. However, this second narration indicates the place of Hussain’s head, but it does not explicitly mention burial like the first narration.

Secondly: Narrations specific to the book “Kamil al-Ziyarat”

The First Narration:

Kamil al-Ziyarat: Muhammad bin Hassan and Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Al-Hussein both narrated to me, from Hassan bin Ali bin Mahzyar, from his father Ali bin Mahzyar, who said: Ali bin Ahmad bin Ashim told me, from Yunus bin Zabyan, who said [10]: ((I was with Abi Abdullah (peace be upon him) in Al-Hira during his introduction days to Abi Ja’far on a clear moonlit night. He looked at the sky and said, “Oh Yunus, do you see these stars, how beautiful they are? They are the protectors of the sky’s inhabitants, and we are the protectors of the earth’s inhabitants.” Then he said, “Oh Yunus, order the lantern for the mule and donkey” … and when we left Al-Hira, he said, ‘Go ahead, Yunus.’ As we progressed, he instructed, ‘Go right, go left,’ until we reached the red landmarks, and he said, ‘This is the place.’ When I agreed, he approached a place with water and a spring, performed ablution, and then he approached a sand dune and prayed there. He leaned against it and cried. Then, he leaned against another dune nearby and did the same, saying, ‘Oh Yunus, do as I did.’ So, I did. When I finished, he asked, ‘Do you recognize this place?’ I replied ‘No.’ He said, ‘The place where you prayed first is the grave of Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him). The other mound is where the head of Hussein bin Ali bin Abi Talib (peace be upon both of them) lies. The cursed Ubaidullah bin Ziyad, may Allah curse him, when he sent the head of Hussein (peace be upon him) to Sham, it was returned to Kufa, with orders to remove it so its people would not be tempted by it. Allah then placed it beside Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him), so the head is with the body, and the body with the head))[11].

The Second Narration:

 Kamil al-Ziyarat: My father narrated to me, from Saad bin Abdullah, from Hassan bin Musa Al-Khashab, from Ali bin Asbat, who elevated it, Abu Abdullah (peace be upon him) said: “When you come to the desert, you’ll see two graves: a large grave and a small one. The large one is the grave of Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him), and the smaller one is the head of Hussein bin Ali (peace be upon him” [12].

Thirdly: Narrations from the book Tahdhib al-Ahkam

First narration from Tahdhib al-Ahkam:

 Narrated by Abu Al-Qasim Ali bin Muhammad, said: Ubaidullah bin Khaled al-Tamimi told me that Al-Hassan bin Ali Al-Khazzaz told him from his uncle Yaqub bin Ilyas, from Mubarak Al-Khabbaz, who said: “Abu Abdullah (peace be upon him) said to me: ‘Prepare the mule and the donkey’ when he arrived in Al-Hira.’ He then rode, and I rode with him until we reached Al-Jarf, where he descended and performed two Rak’ahs (units of prayer). He then moved forward a little and prayed two more Rak’ahs. He moved forward slightly again and prayed two more Rak’ahs. Then he rode back. So I asked him, ‘What was the significance of the first, second, and third two Rak’ahs?’ He said: ‘The first two Rak’ahs were at the grave of Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him). The second two were at the site of the head of Al-Hussain (peace be upon him), and the third two were where Al-Qa’im’s (peace be upon him) pulpit will be located.’” [13]

This narration clearly indicates that the Imam (peace be upon him) visited the place of the head after visiting the grave of Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him). It suggests that there’s another location for the honorable head other than Al-Hannanah. If the location was Al-Hannanah, the Imam (peace be upon him) would have visited it on his way from Al-Hira to Al-Ghari, before reaching the grave of Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him), and not after, as the narrations indicate. Furthermore, the narration mentioning that he “rode back” implies he did not go in the opposite direction. What reinforces the proximity of this head’s location to the noble grave is the fact that Imam Al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) didn’t ride between the two sites; the narration says he “moved forward a little”.

Second narration:

This is also narrated in Tahdhib al-Ahkam and is similar in implication to the earlier narration by Yunus. Its chain of transmission is different, but it clearly implies that the venerable head is buried near the grave of Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him).

Third narration:

 Narrated by Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Dawood, Muhammad bin Ali, his uncle, said: “Ahmad bin Hammad bin Zuhair al-Qurashi told me, from Yazid bin Ishaq Sha’r, from Abi Al-Sakhaif Al-Arjani, who said: ‘Omar bin Abdullah Al-Nahdi, from his father, told me: ‘I entered the presence of Abu Abdullah (peace be upon him) and he mentioned a Hadith to us. We then followed him, meaning Abu Abdullah (peace be upon him), until we reached Al-Ghari. He came to a place and prayed. He then said to Isma’il: ‘Stand up and pray at the head of your father, Al-Hussain (peace be upon him).’ I said: ‘Wasn’t his head taken to Sham (Damascus)?’ He said: ‘Yes, but a certain person from our followers stole it and brought it here, so it was buried here.’

The Second Matter: Scholars’ Opinions on the Location or Burial Place of the Noble Head

Given the diversity of transmitted reports, scholars’ opinions have varied. At the very least, these opinions affirm that this location is one of reverence and attention by the Imams (peace be upon them) and the scholars and that it is a place where Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) is visited. Here we review the statements of our scholars mentioned in this context:

1. Sheikh Al-Kulayni (d. 329 AH):

Al-Kulayni dedicated a chapter in his book, Al-Kafi, titled: “The Location of Hussain’s Head (peace be upon him)”. He only mentioned two narrations indicating its place in Najaf Al-Ashraf, near Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him) as previously stated. He did not mention any other narration pointing to any other location, which might suggest his inclination toward this particular viewpoint.

2. Sheikh Al-Tusi (d. 460 AH):

It is reported by Sheikh Al-Tusi that he believed in the return of the head to the noble body. This is based on what Ibn Shahrashub has narrated, where he says: “Al-Murtada mentioned in some of his issues that Hussain’s head was returned to his body. Al-Tusi said: ‘From it [comes] the Arba’een visitation'[15].”

However, after further investigation and research, we could not find this opinion in Sheikh’s books. “[On the twentieth of the month, was the return of the sanctuary (family) of our master Hussain (peace be upon him) from Sham to Medina. This is the day when Jabir… from Medina to Karbala to visit the grave of Abi Abdillah (peace be upon him), becoming the first person to visit him. It is recommended to visit him (peace be upon him), and this is the Arba’een visitation][16].” He did not mention the return of the heads, nor the visitation of Hussain’s family to Karbala, but only mentioned Jabir’s visitation.

Then, the Sheikh only mentioned the two aforementioned narrations about this subject, without mentioning the narration from “Al-Amali” by Al-Murtada or referring to the return of the noble head to the pure body. However, he mentioned an important narration in his book “Misbah al-Mutahajjid” that is relevant to our discussion, and it is as follows:

Muhammad bin Khalid al-Tayalisi narrated from Sayf bin Umayra who said: ‘I went out with Safwan bin Mihran al-Jammal and a group of our companions to Al-Ghari after Abu Abdillah (peace be upon him) left Al-Hira for Medina. After we finished our visitation, Safwan turned his face towards the direction of Abu Abdillah Al-Hussein (peace be upon him) and said to us: ‘You visit Hussein (peace be upon him) from this place, from near the head of Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him) from here.’ Abu Abdillah Al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) gestured to him, and I was with him. Safwan then recited the visitation narrated by Al-Qama bin Muhammad Al-Hadhrami from Abu Ja’far (peace be upon him) on the Day of Ashura. After that, he prayed two units of prayer near the head of Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him) and bid farewell thereafter. In this visitation, he (peace be upon him) said: ‘I come to you both as a visitor and seeking closeness to Allah, my Lord, and your Lord…’ and he (peace be upon him) also said: ‘I now turn away (leaving) from you both…’)[17].

This narration clearly indicates that this place has a special status from which Hussain (peace be upon him) is visited. In addition to the two preceding narrations, one of them indicates, as mentioned before, that it is the location of Hussain’s head, and the other suggests that he was buried there. From all this, we might deduce Sheikh Al-Tusi’s inclination towards the second opinion.

3. Sheikh Al-Tabarsi (d. 548 AH):

 Sheikh Al-Tabarsi followed Al-Kulayni and Al-Tusi in what he mentioned from narrations in his book “Taj al-Mawalid” [18]. Although he lived after Sayyid Ibn Tawus, he expressed the first opinion with this phrasing: “As for the head of Hussain (peace be upon him), some of our companions said: it was returned to his body in Karbala from Sham and it was attached to it.” He did not mention its popularity or consensus among the Imamites.

4. Ibn Shahrashub (d. 588 AH):

 Ibn Shahrashub also mentioned some of the previous narrations. However, he did not mention its popularity, did not express his stance or opinion on the matter, and did not mention the consensus. Instead, he narrated the matter of returning the noble head to the body based on a letter from Sayyid Al-Murtada.[19]

5. Mohammed bin Al-Mashhadi (d. 610 AH):

 Ibn Al-Mashhadi narrated in his book “Al-Mazar” a visitation (Ziyarat) for Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) at the shrine of Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him), based on what was mentioned in the traditions that Hussain’s (peace be upon him) head is there. Interestingly, he mentioned the same narration narrated by Sheikh Al-Tusi, in which it states: “O my master, O Amir al-Mu’minin and my lord, and you, O Abu Abdillah, and my continuous salutations upon you both as long as night and day are connected…”[20]

6. Sayyid Ibn Tawus (d. 692 AH):

 Sayyid Ibn Tawus, although he adopted the opinion of the return of the head as mentioned earlier, he said: “Stand and visit Hussain from near Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon them)”,[21] which confirms the special place of the head near Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him).

7. Sheikh Al-Hurr Al-Amili (d. 1104 AH):

 Al-Hurr Al-Amili, in his book “Al-Wasa’il”, dedicated a chapter titled: “The desirability of visiting the head of Hussain (peace be upon him) at the tomb of Amir al-Mu’minin, and the desirability of performing two units of prayer for the visitation of each of them”[22], and mentioned eight narrations in it. After mentioning the narration of Muhammad bin Khalid Al-Tayalisi for the visitation of Safwan with some companions, where it is said: “We visit Imam Hussain from near the head of Amir al-Mu’minin”, and he said: “I visited with my master Abi Abdillah and did like this”, Al-Hurr Al-Amili says: “I say: this implies visiting from a distance, and it implies intending to visit the head of Hussain (peace be upon him)”[23]. All of this confirms the uniqueness we pointed out. Then, after mentioning these narrations, he says: “The Sayyid Radi al-Din Ali bin Tawus in his book Al-Malhuf and others narrated: that the head of Hussain (peace be upon him) was returned and buried with his body in Karbala. And he mentioned that the scholars acted on it, and there’s no contradiction between them.”[24]

8. Allamah Al-Majlisi (d. 1111 AH):

 Al-Majlisi mentioned in Tuhfat al-Zair and in Bihar al-Anwar, the previously mentioned hadith narrated by Yunus, in which Imam Al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) said: “So, Allah placed him near Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him), the head with the body, and the body with the head.” Al-Majlisi commented on this by saying: “Meaning, after the head was buried here, Allah joined it with the body. It is visited and prayed here because it was once the location of the sacred head. It’s possible, though remotely, that what is meant is that the body of Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him) was like a body for this honorable head, so the head never left the body. And Allah knows best.” [25]

Regarding the head of Al-Hussein and its burial place, Al-Majlisi, after reviewing the various opinions of the Sunnis, says: “These are the views of those who disagree on this matter. The famous view among our Imami scholars is that his head was buried with his body, returned by Ali bin Al-Hussein (peace be upon them both). There are many reports that he is buried next to the grave of Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him), some of which will be mentioned later. Allah knows best.” [26] Al-Majlisi dedicated a section in Bihar al-Anwar titled “That the head of Al-Hussein was with Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon them both)” [27]. Regarding the visitation of Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him), he says: “I say: it’s fitting to visit Al-Hussein at the grave of Amir al-Mu’minin due to his head’s proximity, as mentioned by Muhammad bin Al-Mashhadi in Al-Mazar Al-Kabir. He mentioned that Imam Al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) visited the head of Al-Hussein (peace be upon him) near the head of Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him), and prayed four units (rak’ahs) there.” [28]

9. Al-Sayyid Bahr al-Ulum (d. 1212 AH):

Al-Sayyid Bahr al-Ulum told some of his close associates, as narrated about him, that the Mosque of the Head is the location of Al-Hussein’s head, and that the mosque was built over and for it. He ordered its reconstruction [29], which involved renovations and repairs [30].

10.Sheikh Sahib al-Jawaher (d. 1226 AH):

After Sheikh Sahib al-Jawaher mentioned the narration of Yunus and the opinion of Sayyid Ibn Tawus, he said: “Perhaps there is no contradiction; it’s possible that he was buried for a period and then transferred to Karbala. There’s no harm in praying and visiting him at the place where he was placed.” [31] Then, after mentioning those from the Ghari, he says: “It’s possible that this place was where the honorable head was buried after it was severed. They, may Allah curse them, moved it after they severed it. In any case, when visiting Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him), one should pray twelve units (rak’ahs): eight for his visitation, two for the visitation of the honorable head, and two for the pulpit of Al-Qa’im or his place…” [32]

11.Al-Mirza Al-Nuri (d. 1320 AH):

Al-Mirza Al-Nuri mentioned in his Mustadrak, in the section on the desirability of visiting the head of Al-Hussein (peace be upon him) near the grave of Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him), three narrations. He mentions in the third that Ibn Al-Mashhadi narrates in his Mazar that Imam Al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) visited the head of Al-Hussein (peace be upon him) near Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him) and prayed four units (rak’ahs) there. Then he conveys the text of the visitation. [33]

Sayings of Sunni scholars:

In conclusion of this point, there’s no harm in briefly referring to the statements of Sunni scholars in this field. The scholars of Sunni Islam have various and numerous opinions about the location where Imam Hussain’s head (peace be upon him) is buried, including the following:

  • Madinah: It is said that the noble head of Hussain (peace be upon him) was buried near Fatimah in Al-Baqi [34].
  • Sham (Damascus)[35]: It remained in the Umayyad treasures until the reign of Sulaiman bin Abdul Malik, where it was buried in the Muslim cemeteries. After the Abbasids came to power, they took it to an unknown location[36].
  • Cairo: After the Fatimids transferred it from Asqalan[37].
  • Marw: There is a constructed shrine on it[38].
  • Karbala, through two ways: The first is the narration that Umar bin Abdul Aziz took out the head which was buried by Sulaiman bin Abdul Malik. Nobody knows what he did with it, but relying on his religiosity, it’s believed that he sent it to be reunited with the body[39]. The second is what was mentioned by Subt ibn Al-Jawzi in Tadhkirat Al-Khawass: The most famous narration is that Yazid returned it to Madinah with the captives, and then it was returned to the body in Karbala. Hisham and others mentioned this [40].

The Third Matter: Archaeological landmarks

When examining texts regarding the Mosque of the Head, an initial impression is formed that it’s attributed to the head of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him). Evidence supporting this includes what was previously mentioned by the scholar Bahr Al-Uloom, that it was “built for the noble head”[41], and the consensus of scholars that the burial place of the noble head is beside the head of Amir Al-Mumineen (peace be upon him).

We can also point out, for example, that the traveler Abu Talib, during his visit to Najaf Al-Ashraf in 1213 AH/1799 AD, said: “The virtuous visitors, after fulfilling their duty of visiting the grave, go to a corner of the shrine and recite elegies about Hussain and talk about his virtues. And it was said that his son brought the noble head to Najaf Al-Ashraf and buried it next to Amir Al-Mumineen”[42].

However, it was mentioned that the narrations indicate that the one who brought the noble head was one of the loyal followers of Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them).

Furthermore, this historical evidence persisted to a time closer to our era. Sheikh Muhammad Harz Al-Din narrates that Sayyid Dawood Al-Rifa’i conveys from his father, from his ancestors, that: “In the western mosque connected to the Sabat, which means the Mosque of the Head, there is a small square pavilion in the southern wall, between the mosque’s mihrab and the Sabat. Inside it is a grave with a valuable steel window and a small door with a lock. This is the grave of Imam Hussain’s head (peace be upon him), as supported by narrations.”

Furthermore, Sayyid al-Rifai had entrusted Mirza Hadi with it, and there was a green curtain on the tomb. Next to this alcove is a square rock inscribed in Kufic script[43]. The Ismaili Indians used to visit this tomb. As the number of visitors increased, the Ottoman Waqf administration in Najaf opened a door to the mosque from the Bektashi Tekke and closed its first door from the Sabat. The Indian visitors and others then entered the Tekke, and later this door was closed. The mosque remained locked for many years until Iraq was occupied by the British and the Iraqi government was formed[44].

Historians also mention that: “When Ghazan, the king of the Ilkhanid Mongols, came as a visitor to the shrine of Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him) in the year 698 AH, he ordered a mosque to be built on the spot, which was historically known as the place of Imam Hussein’s head”[45]. This is confirmed by the scholar Bahr al-Uloom, as mentioned earlier, that the mosque was built on the spot of the head[46].

It is also evident that this noble spot was not just a mosque near the head of the Amir, as it was not named a “mosque above the head” as in other shrines, but it was called “Mosque of the Head” as the Iranians in Najaf used to call it.

In any case, among these testimonies, some are strong, some are weak, but some reinforce the others. Collectively, they confirm the keen interest of our pious predecessors in embodying the narrative from the Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them) in determining the place of the head and their effort to revive the command issued by them (peace be upon them) to visit Imam Hussein (peace be upon him) at the head of Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him).

In conclusion, it has become clear that the original architecture of the mosque in the shrine of Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him) is based on symbolism and signification. This requires the establishment of an architectural landmark and a specific architectural feature for representation and indication. Perhaps the work of our pious predecessors, the believers, in building an architectural landmark and constructing a mosque for the head, is closer to the truth than what we see today.”

The Alawi Scene Today

After examining these narrations found in reputable Shia books, the opinions of their scholars, and considering historical and architectural evidence, it’s clear to us that there is a special place for the head of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) near the shrine of Amir al-Mu’minin (peace be upon him). The Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them) have emphasized this site on multiple occasions, through acts of visitation, prayer, and reverence. They have even instructed their companions to do the same. The righteous predecessors also endeavored to build and honor this site. As for other statements that affirm the transfer of the revered head to Karbala, even if they don’t rely on a clear narration from the Ahlul Bayt, they don’t contradict what we aim to establish: the necessity of reviving this shrine and celebrating it.

With the inauguration of the mosque of the head, we urge those serving in the Hayderi Shrine not to overlook the traces of the Ahlul Bayt in this holy city. They should also strive to revive the shrine of Imam Al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) in the western part of the holy sanctuary or the shrine of the head. This can be done by informing visitors of the sanctity of the place and its special connection to Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) or Imam Al-Sadiq (peace be upon him). This includes designating the name “Mosque of Hussain’s Head” and placing specific visitation texts mentioned in credible books, among other methods.

We emphasize once more the importance of seizing this opportunity to highlight landmarks we ought to have elevated and accentuated to avoid being accused of historical obscurantism.

It’s noteworthy that this shrine and the place for the head of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) are among the few revered sites scattered throughout the Islamic world, which have narrations affirming them from the Ahlul Bayt. Being in the cradle of Shiism, we ought to respect and celebrate this. Hence, we shouldn’t disregard a clear symbol, a documented landmark, reinforced by traditions, efforts of our scholars, and the lovers of Ahlul Bayt, letting it vanish either intentionally or inadvertently. If our predecessors hadn’t established an architectural symbol to commemorate the visitation of Hussain’s head near Amir al-Mu’minin, it would be more appropriate for us to do so. Especially if the building already exists, and the symbol stands.


[2] “Al-Saduq, Al-Amali: p.231. Also mentioned by Al-Fattal Al-Nishapuri, Rawdat Al-Wa’izin: p.192.”

[3] “Al-Sharif Al-Murtada, Rasail Al-Murtada: Vol. 3, p.130.”

[4] “Al-Hilli, Ibn Nama, Muthir Al-Ahzan: p.85.”

[5] “See: Al-Sayed Ibn Tawus, Ali bin Musa, Al-Luhuf ‘Ala Qatla Al-Tufuf: p.114.”

[6] “The intended meaning of ‘elevated’ in the knowledge of expertise: The chain of narration of the Hadith is not mentioned sequentially in terms of its narrators but is attributed directly to the infallible without mediation. See: Al-Shahid Al-Thani, Zain Al-Din, Al-Ra’iyah in ‘Ilm Al-Darayah: p.98.”

[7] “See: Al-Sayed Ibn Tawus, Ali bin Musa, Al-Luhuf ‘Ala Qatla Al-Tufuf: p.83. Also, Al-Kulayni, Muhammad bin Ya’qub, Al-Kafi: Vol. 4, p.1157, Hadith 8119. Narrated by Al-Sayed Ibn Tawus in Farhat Al-Ghuray, and Al-Hurr Al-‘Amili in Wasa’il Al-Shi’a: Vol. 14, p.400, and Al-Majlisi in Bihar: Vol. 100, p.249.”

[8] “Al-Kulayni, Muhammad bin Ya’qub, Al-Kafi: Vol. 4, p.572.”

[9] “Ibn Quluwayh, Ja’far bin Muhammad, Kamil Al-Ziyarat: p.83.”

[10] “See Al-Sayed Ibn Tawus, Ali bin Musa, Iqbal Al-A’amal: Vol. 3, p.98-99, mentioning the acts of the month of Safar.”

[11] “Ibn Quluwayh, Ja’far bin Muhammad, Kamil Al-Ziyarat: p.86-87.”

[12] “The same source: p.84.”

[13] “Al-Tusi, Muhammad bin Al-Hasan, Tahdhib Al-Ahkam: Vol. 6, p.777, Hadith 7076.”

[14] “The same source: Vol. 6, p.777, Hadith 7077.”

[15] “Ibn Shahrashub, Manaqib Al Abi Talib: Vol. 3, p.231.”

[16] “Al-Tusi, Muhammad bin Al-Hasan, Misbah Al-Mutahajjid: p.548.”

[17] “The same source: p.539.”

[18] “Al-Tabarsi, Taj Al-Mawalid: p.33.”

[19] “Ibn Shahrashub, Manaqib Al Abi Talib: Vol. 3, p.231.”

[20] “Ibn Al-Mashhadi, Muhammad, Al-Mazar: p.517.”

[21] “Ibn Tawus, Ali bin Musa, Misbah al-Za’ir.”

[22] “Al-Hurr al-‘Amili, Muhammad bin Hasan, Wasa’il al-Shi’a: Vol. 14, p.398.”

[23] “The same source: Vol. 14, p.401.”

[24] “The same source: Vol. 14, p.403.”

[25] “Al-Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir, Bihar al-Anwar: Vol. 97, p.244.”

[26] “The same source: Vol. 45, p.146.”

[27] “The same source: Vol. 97, p.241.”

[28] “The same source: Vol. 97, p.293.”

[29] “See Sheikh Ja’far, Sheikh Baqir, The Past and Present of Najaf: Vol. 1, p.104.”

[30] “See Al-Hakim, Hasan Issa, Al-Mufassal in the History of Najaf al-Ashraf: Vol. 3, p.80. Dr. al-Hakim believed that the revered head was buried in Najaf after comparing different sites. Al-Mufassal: Vol. 3, p.41-53.”

[31] “Al-Jawahiri, Muhammad Hasan, Jawahir al-Kalam: Vol. 20, p.93.”

[32] “The same source.”

[33] “See: Al-Mirza al-Noori, Mustadrak al-Wasa’il: Vol. 10, p.227.”

[34] “Some believe this statement is historically the most accurate, as narrated by Ibn Sa’d.”

[35] “Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidaya wa’l-Nihaya: Vol. 8, p.222.”

[36] “Al-Dhahabi, History of Islam: Vol. 5, p.107: (Rayyan told me that the head remained in weapon storages until the caliphate of Sulaiman. He sent for it… placed it in a casket, wrapped it, and buried it in the Muslim graveyard. When al-Masudah (the rebels) entered, they asked for the location of the head, dug it up, and took it. Allah knows best).”

[37] “Al-Hamawi, Yaqut, Mu’jam al-Buldan: Vol. 5, p.142. Al-Maqrizi mentions the details of the transfer of the revered head.”

[38] “Al-Sam’ani, Al-Ansab: Vol. 3, p.370.”

[39] “Aal ‘Akka, Tahir, Ras al-Hussein: p.174, quoting Al-Nuwayri, Nihayat al-Erb.”

[40] “See Al-Amin, Sayed Muhsin, Luwa’ij al-Ashjan: p.248, quoting Sibt bin al-Jawzi, Tadhkirat al-Khawass: p.275.”

[41] “Sheikh Ja’far, Sheikh Baqir, The Past and Present of Najaf: Vol. 1, p.104.”

[42] “Abu Talib Khan, Al-Rihla: p.397, from which Al-Hakim, Issa, Al-Mufassal in the History of Najaf: Vol. 3, p.38.”

[43] “Moreover, that stone was located in its mentioned place before the recent demolition for the purpose of expansion. This demolition is among the significant criticisms of the project, which caused the shrine to lose many of its distinguished landmarks and features. It has drawn the attention of archaeologists. Sayyed Abdul Mutalib Al-Kharsan, in his book, narrates the story of this rock – as an eyewitness. He said: ‘I say: this rock has a Kufic script inscribed on it. It was located in the place mentioned by Sheikh Harz al-Din. There was another rock shaped like a mihrab fixed in the mosque’s mihrab. These two rocks have archaeological value. In 1965, a delegation from the Antiquities Department came with modern cameras to photograph some artifacts. They asked me about these two rocks, so I showed them. When I inquired, they informed me that the Antiquities Department had photographed these two rocks in 1937. These rocks are made of the stone known as ‘Chinese iron’, and they are of a rare type of it. They are colored, whereas Chinese iron is usually black. When the mosque was demolished, the two rocks were moved to storage to protect them from cracks.” Al-Kharsan, Abdul Mutalib, Mosques and Landmarks in the Sanctified Haydariyah Garden: p.23.

Given this, this stone must be returned to its place, just as the mihrab rock is being currently returned. Both are from the same historical period, the Ilkhanid era. Experts have confirmed that they date back to the 13th century AD, meaning they are more than 700 years old. We emphasize that they are among the oldest structures in the sacred precinct. The Ilkhanid architecture was the oldest building that existed before the demolition, and nothing notable remains other than these two.

[44] “See: Harz al-Din, Muhammad, Ma’arif al-Rijal: Vol. 3, p.241-242. Mentioned by Muhammad Hussein Harz al-Din al-‘Aqili al-Muslimi, History of Najaf al-Ashraf: Vol. 1, p.388-389, and al-Hakim, Al-Mufassal: Vol. 3, p.39.”

[45] “Harz al-Din, Muhammad Hussein, History of Najaf al-Ashraf, Vol. 1, p.386. He cites Muhammad Harz al-Din, Ma’arif al-Rijal: Vol. 3, p.272.”

[46] “Sheikh Ja’far, Sheikh Baqir, The Past and Present of Najaf: Vol. 1, p.104.”

Credited to Sheikh Muwahid Humam Hammoudi

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