The Shrine Complex


This view is of the golden west iwan taken from the Sahn-e-Azadi 

The Courtyards 

Razavi Grand Courtyard

This is the largest courtyard in the complex and covers 57,000 sq metres, for comparison, a large football pitch is 9000 sq m. The courtyard is used for Friday prayers, daily congregational prayers and other religious gatherings. The total capacity is for 100,000 people. The courtyard is surrounded by 6 large minarets and when they are completed they will be the largest in Iran.


On the eastern and western sides of this courtyard are three additional courtyards, called Ghadir, Kausar and Hedayat. Under construction and adjoining these courtyards are buildings that will have ablution facilities. The schematic above shows the different courtyards in relation to each other. The photograph below shows the Great Razavi Courtyard. There is free mechanised transport and assisted wheelchair access for those who need it, in order to cross the Courtyard in order to get to the Shrine buildings.

Sahn Inqalab (or Engelab) also known as the Sahn-e-Atiq (old courtyard)

The Sahn Inqalab is in the northeast of the shrine complex. There are four-iwans. Shah Tahmasp commissioned the first gold-plated minaret, located above the northeast iwan (1059 / 1649), a gift of Shah Abbas II. Decorated with mosaic faience, the northeast iwan is considered one of the finest of Persia.

Opposite Abbas' iwan is the iwan-i tala-yi naderi (nader's golden iwan), which provides access to the buildings clustered around the tomb chamber. Originally constructed by the poet, scholar, and musician Mir Ali Shir Navai in the late fifteenth century (in the reign of Sultan Hossein-e-Bayqara), this iwan was restored by Nader Shah who lined it with gold and pendant mirrors. Nader Shah also commissioned the second gold minaret, located above the golden iwan and dated 1145/1732. 

The east iwan is topped by the Naqqara-khana (place of kettle drums), and the west iwan by a clocktower. ( 

Sahn Azadi

The Qajar ruler Fath-Ali Shah initiated work on the Sahn-e Jadid (the new courtyard), also known as the Sahn-e Azade, in 1818. Like the Sahn-e Engelab it is a four-iwan courtyard. The west iwan leading to the tomb was gilded during the reign of Shah Nasir al-Din.


The Razavi Grand Courtyard

The Porches

The holy burial chamber is connected to a network of 21 porches. The porches are the roofed buildings, of different heights, during the 1,200 year history of the shrine.

Dar al-Siyada & Dar al-Huffaz

The Dar al-Siyada and Dar al-Huffaz were both commissioned by Gawhar Shad. These two chambers provide transition between the tomb chamber and her congregational mosque, situated on the southwest side of the complex. 

Traditionally, a dar al-huffaz is a building adjacent to a mosque used for the reading and study of the Qur'an. A small element of the Imam Riza Shrine, the Dar al-Huffaz is significant due to its location and its architectural articulation. The Dar al-Huffaz is a tall rectangular room embedded in the main shrine compound and measures 18 meters by 8.65 meters. It is aligned with the Mosque of Gawhar Shah to its southwest and the Tomb Chamber to its northeast. 

To its northwest is the Dar al-Siyada (Chamber of Nobility), also built by Gawhar Shad, and to its southeast is the Dar al-Salam (Chamber of Peace).

Along the northwest wall, the northernmost niche opens into the Dar al-Siyada with an ornate golden door. Across the hall from it another golden door leads to the Dar al-Salam. The remaining niches along the southeast wall contain mausolea of Mashad dignitaries, including that of 'Abbas Mirza (1855-1927), the Crown Prince (na'eb al-saltana) to the second Qajar ruler, and Fath 'Ali, Qajar Shah of Persia between 1797 and 1834.

The middle niche of the northwest wall has a door to the Dome of Opak Mirza. Centered on the northeast wall is the "door facing the Imam" (dar-e pish ruy), leading into the Tomb Chamber of Imam Riza, and on the southwest wall, is recessed a door that opens into the arcade of the Gawhar Shad Mosque.

In addition to the finely wrought golden and silver doors, the Dar al-Huffaz is entirely covered with rich decorations. A stone dado incised in relief with inscriptions and floral arabesques covers the walls up to a height of 1.7 meters. Above, in place of the original tile decoration, is elaborate mirrorwork commissioned by the Afsharid ruler Nadir Shah (1736-1747). Chandeliers hang from under each oculus, providing additional light.

Dar al-Ijabah Porch

The Shrine is surrounded by different porches (Riwaq), each of which has a different name. This was inaugurated in 2001 and is one of the largest and nearest porches to the holy grave of Imam Reza (a.s.). The porch is located directly underneath the Dar al-Vilayah porch. This porch is sited to the west of the Shrine. To its north is the Inqalab courtyard. It is decorated with vaulted structures, with stucco work beautifully painted in different colours.


The Southern Porch (Golden Porch)

This is on the north side of Dar-us-Siyada. This was constructed by Amir Ali Shir-e-Navai (a aminister of Sultan Hossein Bayqara in the 9th century (Hijrah). After Nadir Shah (the monarch of the Afsharid dynasty) gilded the surface of the porch in 1146 (A.H.) /1733. It is also known as the Naderi porch.


Plan of the Shrine and surrounding chambers

Chamber of AllahVardi Khan

Scan 13a mini

Arthur Pope (1969) says that the domed chamber of Allahvardi Khan is 'contemporary with the Shaikh Luftallah mosque in Isfahan. It is an octagonal structure, with no facade, the interior walls dissolve into arches, bays and galleries, creating the air of a veritable holy of holies... the dome of the sanctuary of Allahvardi Khan is 70 feet high and 36 feet in diameter, filled with a mass of stalactites, crowns the two stories of sumptuouslu modeled recesses, faced with the finest mosaic faience' (p97-98). 

Allah Vardi Khan died in 1613 and was described as one of the most powerful viziers of the Safavid dynasty. The foundation epigraphy identifies the builder of the structures as the 'amir al-umara' (commander in chief) of the age, Allah Vardi Khan', and states that it was built during the reign of Shah Abbas. Thus the structures built by Shah Abbas' officials, even their own tombs, named the shah as the primary patron and the supreme authority.

There are special oratories in a variety of styles from the faience faced Hall of Hospitality (Dar az-Ziyafeh) with its cascading stalactite vaults, to a nineteenth century mirror encrusted stalactite dome chamber, the Hall of Mirrors.


This is located between the Atiq (Inqilab) and Azadi courtyards and is considered to be one of the main passageways to the shrine. It is used as a reception room by the Astana Quds Razavi during Islamic festivals and mourning rites. It is allocated to women for praying and performing religious services.


Before 1964-1965 this had been the Qu'ran house and prior to that it had been the library of Astana Quds Razavi. It is linked to the Bala Sar mosque from the south. Dar-u-Fayd from the east and Dar-ush-Sharaf from the west. This portico is reserved for men.


This is the smallest of the porticos. There is a mehrab on the south side of this portico, which is a remnant of a small and beautiful mosque known as the Women's Mosque of Bala Sar, that used to be here for a long time.


This was constructed on the tenth anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and is located on the north western side of the Holy Shrine. It was inaugurated at the same time as the Jumhuri-i-Islami (Islamic Republic) courtyard. This portico is used by men and women.


Before 1964-1965 this had been the Qu'ran house and prior to that it had been the library of Astana Quds Razavi. It is linked to the Bala Sar mosque from the south. Dar-u-Fayd from the east and Dar-ush-Sharaf from the west. This portico is reserved for men.

Madrasa i Bala Sar
Bala-Sar Madrasa is embedded within the Imam Riza Shrine Complex, to the northwest of the main shrine. It is bordered by the Parizad Madrasa to the southwest, the Sahn-i Kuhna (old Court) to the northeast, and the Bala-Sar Masjid to its southeast. Its name, literally translated as 'above the head' refers to the head of Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid's tomb, the first structure built on the site in the early ninth century. 

Although there are no inscriptions or historical records that ascertain the construction date and the patron of the Bala-Sar Madrasa, historians have inferred that it was built by Timurid ruler Shah Rukh Mirza (1405-1447), sometime between 1420 and 1440. It was restored multiple times, including a recorded restoration commissioned by Safavid Shah Sulaiman (1660-1681). 

Similar in organization to the adjoining Parizad Madrasa, the Bala Sar Madrasa is centered on a square four iwan courtyard with beveled corners. Each iwan is flanked by a vaulted room on either side, accessed through smaller vaulted iwans. Larger rooms, also entered through arched recesses, occupy the madrasa corners. An identical plan is repeated on the second floor, where an arcade with arched balconies gives access to the rooms. The four central iwans are covered by semi-domes, of which the northwest and the southeast iwans are elaborated with plaster muqarnas of the safavid period. 

Opposite the entrance iwan, at the center of the back wall of the southeast iwan, is a wooden door carved with a pattern of leaves. Although a wall behind it blocks its passageway, it implies that the madrasa was at some point connected to the shrine complex via an annex of the Dar al-Siyada. The northeast and the southwest iwans are also vaulted with semi-domes, with the latter having a small mihrab niche at the center of its back wall. 

Within the courtyard, the iwan spandrels are decorated with floral tile work while the remaining wall surface is covered with a diamond pattern of plain and glazed brick set within vertical and horizontal bands outlining the frames of the arched openings. (Source:

Parizad Madrasa

An inscription dated 1680 commemorates the Safavid restoration under Shah Sulaiman I (1666-1694) and although there is no record of its construction date, the madrasa's relationship to the Mosque and chambers commissioned by Timurid Queen Gawhar Shad in the complex, suggest that it was built at the same time or later than those structures, in the early fifteenth century.

Similar in its overall composition to the adjacent Bala Sar Madrasa, Parizad Madrasa is centered on a rectangular four iwan courtyard with beveled corners. It is also entered from the bazaar arcade to the northwest which adjoins the madrasa at a slight angle. 

The vault of the northwest entrance iwan was covered with a plaster muqarnas during the Safavid restoration and is believed to have the original tilework underneath. The southeast iwan, facing the entrance, has a diamond brick pattern infilled with floral tiles, most likely the only original tilework now present. The southwest iwan is in the qibla direction and has a small mihrab centered on its rear wall.

The Basts

The Basts are the frontal limits for safeguarding the buildings of the Shrine, they were also shelter houses for pilgrims. They are also the places where pilgrims prepare for visiting the Shrine. The four basts are named after four renowned Shia scholars. Bast Sheikh Toosi lies to the west of Inqalab. Bast Sheikh Tabarsi is to the north of Enqalab. Bast Sheikh Hur Ameli lies to the east of Inqalab. Bast Sheikh  Baha'i, is on the south western side of the Holy Shrine.


Central Museum of Astan Quds Razavi

This is on the eastern side of Imam Khomeini court. The museum contains scripts written by the renowned Safavid calligraphist Ali Reza Abbasi, the oldest tombstone used on the grave of Imam Reza (a.s.), the inscription dates back to 1122 A.D. There are also sanjari tiles dating back to the 6th century A.H.

Quranic treasure and exquisite objects museum

This museum was inaugurated in 1986 and is on the south eastern side of the Shrine. The museum has copies of the Qu'ran attributed to having been written by Imams Ali, Hassan, Husain, Sajjad and Reza (a.s.).

There are also Qu'rans inscribed on wood, inlaid with jewels and a copy written by Babur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty in India.

All information provided in good faith, please check as appropriate before you travel (c) 2009