Accessibility links

UNESCO To Help Rebuild Iraqi Shi'ite Shrine


http://gdb.rferl.org/C403FCEE-8517-4D99-AB7D-A6B22B4441FF_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/C403FCEE-8517-4D99-AB7D-A6B22B4441FF_mw800_mh600.jpg The Al-Askari mosque is said to hold the remains of two Shi'ite imams (AFP) June 26, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- UNESCO has pledged to help rebuild a revered Shi'ite shrine in the Iraqi city of Samarra, which was badly damaged in two separate attacks, one in February 2006 and the other earlier this month.


The UN cultural organization and the Iraqi government signed a memorandum in Jordan for the reconstruction of the Al-Askari Mosque.


The UN Development Group Iraq Trust Fund is to provide $5.4 million and the Iraqi government will contribute $3 million to the project.


UNESCO said the reconstruction would start "as soon as security conditions are guaranteed" and would last ten months.


The Al-Askari, or Golden, Mosque shrine is one of the most revered sites of Shi'ite Islam.


Its minarets were blown up by suspected Sunni insurgents on June 13. In February 2006, a bomb attack destroyed its huge golden dome, sparking a wave of deadly sectarian violence.

Shi'ite Shrines In Samarra

The Golden Mosque before the 22 February bombing (courtesy photo)

UNDER THE GOLDEN DOME: The Iraqi city of SAMARRA is the site of two major Shi'ite shrines. Consecrated in 852, the Golden Mosque is said to hold the remains of two Shi'ite imams: Ali al-Naqi and his son, Hasan al-Askari. A second shrine marks the place where the hidden -- or 12th -- imam, al-Mahdi, son of Hasan, went into hiding.
Imam Ali and Hasan were imprisoned in Samarra, the capital of the Abbasid Dynasty, by Al-Mutawakkil Ala Allah Jafar bin al-Mu'tasim (821-861), who is considered the last great Abassid caliph.
According to historical accounts, al-Mutawakkil felt threatened by the growing influence of Shi'ite Islam and Imam al-Naqi, who was based in Medina. Al-Mutawakkil thus brought Imam Ali and Hasan to Samarra in 848 and imprisoned them inside a military fort. Henceforth they became known as al-Askari (military) because of the location of their imprisonment.
Following al-Mutawakkil's death in 861, his successor had Imam Ali poisoned in 868. Hasan died in 874.
Imam Ali al-Naqi -- the 10th Shi'ite imam, commonly referred to as Imam Ali al-Hadi -- and his son, Hasan al-Askari, the 11th imam, are buried under the Golden Dome, which was a gift from Persian ruler Nasr al-Din Shah (1848-96). The dome's construction was completed in 1905. Also buried in the shrine are Hakimah Khatun, the sister of Imam Ali, and Nargis Kahtun, Imam al-Mahdi's mother.
The second shrine in the complex marks the place where Shi'a believe Imam al-Mahdi (b. 868), the 12th and final imam, went into hiding. According to Shi'ite tradition, Imam al-Mahdi, the son of Hasan al-Askari descended into a cellar under the present-day shrine and disappeared. Shi'a believe that he never died, and he will return on Judgment Day.

MORE: For more information on Shi'ite and Sunni sectarianism in Iraq, see:

Sunni-Shi'ite Tensions High On Eve Of Arab Conference

A Nation Finds Itself At A Crossroads

The Growing Sunni-Shi'a Divide

Ayatollah Al-Sistani Moves From Religious To Political Role

XS
SM
MD
LG