The New Zarih on the holy grave of Imam Reza (A.S.)
One of the outstanding achievements after the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran accomplished along with grand scale development and expansion of the holy shrine is the planning, making and installing the new Zarih on the holy grave of Imam Reza(A.S.).
After a lapse of forty years after the installation of the last Zarih the structure of that Zarih got weakened and its golden and silver frame was worn out, thus raising the necessity for the preparation of a new Zarih to be placed on the holy grave.
In 1993, Ayatullah Waiz Tabasi, the Reverend Chief Custodian of the Astan Quds Razavi ordered to carry out the feasibility study for the construction of the new Zarih. Many plans for the new Zarih were furnished by the master artisans in Iran and finally the world renowned artist Ustad Mahmud Farshchiyan achieved the great privilege of planning and constructing this new Zarih.
With the selection of the plan of Ustad Farshchiyan, the construction of the new Zarih commenced under the supervision of an executive board implemented by “The Organization for the Development and Expansion of the Premises of the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza(A.S.)”.
First based on the existing plan the bases and frame of the Zarih which is a component of carpentry and blacksmithing were made by the concerned workshops of the Astan Quds Razavi with full stability and strength. The frame of the Zarih is made up of iron, steel and walnut wood to be covered with silver and gold.
After the completion of this phase, the basic work of inlaying and goldsmithing the framework of Zarih based on the approved plan of Ustad Farshchiyan commenced on 1-2-1997 under the artistic supervision of Ustad Farshchiyan himself. Among the famous inlaying artisans Ustad Khudadadzadeh Isfahani got the privilege of accomplishing the task of inlaying the frame of the Zarih .
In the beginning , the inlaying work on the frame was carried out in Isfahan. But due to the reason of the long distance between Isfahan and Mashhad, it was difficult for the craftsmen to shuttle regularly between Isfahan and Mashhad. Thus, a special workshop for this purpose was established in Mashhad by “the Organization for the Development and Expansion of the Premises of the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza(A.S.)”.The task of inlaying the frame of the Zarih was accomplished in four years by the incessant endeavours of six master inlaying craftsmen who inlayed the frame with beautiful intricacy and extraordinary firmness. In this way the Zarih was ready for the installation on the grave. One of the special features of this Zarih is its thickness and at some places the silver covering’s thickness exceeds three millimetres.
This point has to be noted that fundamentally in the inlaying art any plan cannot be fully implemented. But in making the frame of the new Zarih all the fundamentals of inlaying process were taken into full consideration and special patterns and designs were inlayed which were especially selected for the ornamentation of the exterior of the Zarih.
The previous Zarih was dismantled on 11-1-2001 after the performance of the customary Ghobar Robi (the dust–sweeping) ceremony in the sacred burial chamber of the holy shrine. About seventy expert technicians and artisans under the supervision of Chief Engineer Mr Mahdi Aziziyan, the Managing Director of “the Organization for the Development and Expansion of the Premises of the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza(A.S.)” after working incessantly for fifty days completed the planned installtion of grand new magnificent Zarih on the holy grave of Imam Reza (A.S.) which can be considered as a great achievement .
The Workshop Never Seen Before and Which Will Not Be Witnessed in Future
This workshop was situated in the very sacred burial chamber place. In reality it is a part of heaven as stated by the Holy Prophet of Islam(S.A.W.).
Every part of this holy piece of land on account of its proximity with holy body of Imam Reza(A.S.) has become sacred. The artisans’ and technicians’ expressions and zeal in installing the new Zarih on the holy grave of Imam Reza(A.S.) by their incessant day and night endeavours cannot be explained in words.
During the operation of installing this new Zarih all the technicians and artisans wore green uniform. Working for this sacred operation was very sublime and auspicious and they carried their work by continuously reciting salutations on their Holy Imam(A.S.).
The Reverend Chief Custodian of the holy shrine Ayatullah Waiz Tabasi was present regularly on the site personally supervising the installation operation. During this work he used to regularly sweep the dust on the holy grave and wash it with rose water. He used to issue the necessary instructions at the site to the technicians involved in this sublime project.
The installation process commenced by removing the engraved frames and inscribed sheets of the previous Zarih made up of gold and silver. After that the pillars and other structures of the previous Zarih which were almost worn out were taken away.
The third installed Zarih which was fixed inside the previous Zarih was also transferred to the lower part of the holy grave. The third Zarih called as “Nagin” was installed on the holy grave with the endowment deed that it should be present for ever on the holy grave. Thus, in order to fulfil the vow in the endowment deed of the third Zarih it was transferred to the lower part of the holy grave according to previously planned special arrangements for its transfer.
Brief Description of the New Zarih
The third Zarih which was installed before could not be transferred from its site according to the rules of Shariah because its endowment deed ascertained that it should be fixed on the grave for ever. But the presence of the third Zarih would have created a lot of problem in the installation of the present new Zarih. Thus, it was decided by previous feasibility studies to transfer it to the lower part of the holy grave so that the new Zarih can be installed.
Two years before the installation of the new Zarih i-e in 1999 from a point underneath the Dar al-Vilayah porch a passage was dug towards the vicinity of the holy grave and on all the four sides opposite to the holy grave the ground was dug for 2.90 metres in length. After the digging opereation the new space created was covered and decorated with stones. During the installation operation the third Zarih was placed in the space created and transferred to the lower part of the holy grave. Thus, in this way the endowment deed of the third Zarih was respected and it also paved the way for the firm installation of the new Zarih, which is the fifth Zarih to be installed on the grave of Imam Reza(A.S.).
Other primary measures implemented during the operation of the installation of the new Zarih are that the floor of the holy burial chamber was cemented and covered with most exquisite marble stones. Special canals were created in the floor and walls of the burial chamber for the purpose of ventilation and air-conditioning.
The decorative mirrors, exquisite tiles and the inscriptions in the holy burial chamber were fully renovated during the installation operation of the new Zarih.
After the preparation of the floor and completion of all the measures for the firmness and stability of the grave the grave stone which was made up of 12 pieces was removed from the holy grave of Imam Reza(A.S) and transferred to the Central Museum of Astan Quds Razavi. In its place a fully engraved single monolith precious and exquisite marble stone measuring 2.20 metres in length, 1.10 metres in breadth and 90 centimeters in height was placed on the holy grave.
The verse 33 from Surah al-Ahzab, verse 59 from Surah al-Nisa, verse 27 from Surah al-Fajr and the couplets of Jami in the praise of Imam Reza(A.S.) inscribed on the grave stone has magnified its beauty.
The new grave stone was installed on the holy grave of Imam Reza(A.S.) in a special ceremony attended by the Paramount Leader of Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatullah al-Uzma Khamnaee and the Reverend Chief Custodian of Astan Quds Razavi.
After the completion of the engraving work on the frame of the new Zarih and the making of its four corners and roof in the workshop, the frames of the four corners and the roof of the new Zarih were carried by a large gathering of pilgrims and devotees from the workshop to the holy burial chamber.
According to the plan the columns and frames were fixed on all its four corners and the roof which was in two parts was placed on it. After this the attachment of the engraved frames made up of gold and silver sheets to the Zarih commenced.
The new Zarih is the clear manifestation of the traditional Islamic Iranian art as well as the epitome of different styles and patterns of art and architecture applied in the buildings located in the grand complex of the holy shrine. In the circumference at the top of the new Zarih there are fourteen arched openings in remembrance of the Fourteen Masoomeen(A.S.). The bow-shapes of these arched openings are inter-connected to each other uniting them into a single cohesive strip. It recalls to the viewers the fact that the essence of the Allah Almighty is ever-lasting and omniscient and everything in the universe has to finally return to Him.
The beautiful names and the high attributes of Allah Almighty are inscribed on the top of the Zarih. The other beautiful names and titles of Allah Almighty are inscribed on all the columns around the Zarih. These beautiful inscriptions has provided the Zarih with innovative elegance and attractiveness and also directs the attention of the pilgrims to the sublime essence of Allah Almighty.
On the four corners of the Zarih the shape of eight triangular fichu type form of sunflowers are engraved. The sunflower represents Shams al-Shumus (the Radiant Sun among all the Suns) one of the titles of the eighth Holy Imam (A.S.). Around the Zarih, flowers with five and eight scallops are engraved representing the Holy Panjtan(A.S.) and the eighth Holy Imam(A.S.).
The framework of the new Zarih with its arched openings, triangular fichu type and honey comb designs and patterns symbolize the different styles and patterns of art and architecture of the buildings of the holy shrine of Imam Reza(A.S.). The new Zarih is in reality an innovative picture gallery, a beautiful garden made of gold and silver depicting the exquisite Islamic Iranian arts and manifesting the ever-lasting, omnipotent, omnipresent essence of Allah Almighty.
The designs and patterns are connected to each other in such a way that in spite of its diversity and variegation they tend to move towards a single focal point reflecting this reality that ultimately every thing has to return back to the creator of this universe.
The two chapters (Surah) of the Holy Qur’an like “Yasin” and Ad-Dahr are inscribed on a golden sheet completely covering the upper part of the Zarih. The length of Surah Yasin’s inscription is 16.77 metres with the breadth measuring 18 centimetres. The Surah Ad Dahr’s, inscription measures 16.76 metres in length and 14 centimetres in breadth. These two inscriptions of the chapters of the Holy Qur’an and other inscriptions of the beautiful names and great titles of the Allah Almighty on this Zarih was accomplished by the famous calligraphist Agha Muwahhed.
For the first time the interior covering of the Zarih and its walls and roof were inlaid with beautiful and innovative designs depicting the beautiful names of Allah Almighty. The designs for the interior of the Zarih was prepared by master artist Ustad Farshchiyan and the inlaying work was executed by the famous artist Ustad Kashti Ara Shirazi and his associates.
The new Zarih weighs 12 tons. The good thickness of the gold and silver covering of Zarih and absence of any bolts in the framework of the Zarih are its peculiarities. It measures 4.78 meters in length, 3.37 metres in breadth and its height including the plinth measures 3.96 metres.
It tooks 56 days of incessant handwork of the technicians and artisans to install this Zarih. Finally, on 6th March 2001 coinciding with 10th Zil Hajjah 1421 A.H, the auspicious occasion of Id al-Adha, this magnificent Zarih on the sacred grave of Imam Reza(A.S.) was consecrated in a special solemn ceremony for the Ziyarah of the pilgrims.
This sublime and auspicious consecration ceremony of the new Zarih was attended by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatullah al-Uzma Khamnaee and the Reverend Chief Custodian of Astan Quds Razavi Ayatullah Waiz Tabasi. Most of the leading personalities in Iran also got the great privilege of attending this consecration ceremony. During this sublime ceremony the holy grave, the Zarih and the holy burial chamber of Imam Reza(A.S.) were washed with rose water by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Reverend Chief Custodian of Astan Quds Razavi and other leading Ulama in Iran.