SHAFAQNA – The Al Hussein Mosque is one of the most sacred Islamic sites in Egypt and famously known for it’s housing the oldest complete manuscript of the Holy Qu’ran. It’s location is also in an immensely popular street of Cairo next to Khan Khalili Bazaar attracting many tourists from overseas and Muslim pilgrimages.
This mosque is the reputed burial place of the head of Imam Hussein (P), the grandson of Prophet Mohammed. Most of the building dates from about 1870, except for the beautiful 14th-century stucco panels on the minaret. The modern metal sculptures in front are elegant Teflon canopies that expand to cover worshippers during Friday prayers. This is one of the few mosques where non-Muslims can’t enter.
It has to be said that the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus also claims Imam Hussein’s head, a Shiite relic, even though both mosques were established by Sunnis.
As the Al Hussein Mosque has an ancient heritage which includes an original manuscript of the Holy Qu’ran, the Mosque is often frequented by dignitaries praying there on special occasions. It’s cool marble, green and silver interior guards the head of Hussien (P).
Another very interesting visual addition in front of the Mosque, are the huge ornate giant umbrellas which are placed there for different reasons. Firstly to protect Muslims praying outside the Mosque on intensely hot summer days and also act as a shelter when the seasons occasionally produce heavy rainfall. These umbrellas are operated electronically and are said to be the design from many Mosques in Saudi Arabia.
The closure of Al-Hussein Mosque shrine on Ashoura
In the past few years, Egyptian authorities have closed Al-Hussein Mosque for two days during religious Ashoura celebrations on Muharram for fear of tensions and it was also a precautionary measure taken by the mosque’s Imam to avoid overcrowding during prayers.
Ashoura, the 10th day of the Islamic calendar, is celebrated by Muslims around the world as it marks the Prophet Moses’ exodus from Egypt. Shia Muslims commemorate on Ashoura the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Imam Al-Hussein (P).
The mosque, one of the oldest and most prominent in Cairo, holds religious significance for both Shia and Sunni Egyptians. The vast majority of Egypt’s Muslims identify as Sunni, although there are no official figures on the number of Shia in the country.
The ministry of religious endowments, which administers mosque affairs, bans construction of Shia mosques and all Shia religious rituals. Meanwhile, ultraconservative Sunni Salafist groups have consistently opposed the administering of any Shia commemoration at Al-Hussein Mosque.
Here are some photos of this Mosque:
The zarih (tomb) of burial of Imam Hussain’s head is located next to Khan el-Khalili Bazaar inside a mosque
A small park is also in front of the mosque and the square is called Medain Imam Hussain (Imam Hussain Square)
A hadith is written on the facade of the mosque which translates ‘ Hussain is from me and I am from Hussain’
Details of the minaret of the Imam Hussain Mosque – this mosque is in Cairo and it was built in 1154
Entrance door of the mosque from the street – the current building is from the 19th century
Details of the exterior of the mosque (above entry door)
Main prayer hall of the Imam Hussain Mosque
This mosque was one of the best preserved and richly decorated in Cairo
Prayer hall of the mosque was laiden with beautiful chandeliers and white marble columns
Details of a wooden door of the mosque with hand made decorations on it
This small door inside the mosque gives access to the zarih where head of Imam Hussain is buried
These golden grilled windows are inside the mosque but one can look into the zarih without going inside
The zarih is encased with a beautiful steel case which has many grills for viewing
It is said that Dawoodi Bohra Imam, Abu Mansoor Nizar al-Aziz Billah (d.386 AH/996), traced the site of the head of Imam Hussain
One should know that the body of Imam Hussain is buried in Karbala (Iraq) but the burial of the head is open to debate
A Koran inside the zarih of head of Imam Hussain – It is believed that the head of Imam Hussain was buried in Ashkelon (part of Palestine today) for 250 years
On Sunday 8 Jumada al-Saani, 548Hijri (31 August 1153), this head was brought from Ashkelon to Cairo for re-burial
Ceiling above the zarih – Syedi Hasan bin Asad gives details of this event as follows : “When the Raas (head) al Imam al Husain was taken out of the casket, in Ashkelon, drops of the fresh blood were visible on the Raas al Imam al Husain and the fragrance of Musk spread all over”
A small mehrab is beside the zarih in order to guide pilgrimage to the direction of Qibla (Mecca)
Arabic calligraphy and art on one of the walls of the zarih
Pilgrims praying beside the zarih – the Head of Imam Hussain reached Cairo on Tuesday 10 Jumada al-Saani (2 September 1153)
This steel ornament was in one corner of the wooden railing and people were showing great affection to it
Here, a pilgrim is seen kissing the steel ornament for blessing
This photo was taken inside the prayer hall of the mosque – in the distance gold coloured windows and door of the zarih can be seen
A beautiful mehrab of the Imam Hussain Mosque – the famous Muslim traveler Ibne Batuta wrote that the head of Imam Hussain was buried in the Umayyad Mosque of Damascus but later it was brought to Palestine for re-burial
Lower part of the mehrab – Ibne Batuta went on to say that the head was brought to Cairo to save it from the Crusaders
Famous historian Maqrizy added that, Prince Saif of the Tamim tribe presented the noble head of Imam Hussein
Wooden minbar in the Mosque of Imam Hussain – In Cairo, the head of Imam Hussain was cleaned on a wooden panel and it was buried here
A chandelier inside the mosque – the former grand imam of Al-Azhar- had written a book called Al-Ithaf (the Present), which is dedicated to affirm the existence of the head of Imam Hussein in its well-regarded location in Cairo
After studying few notes of the historians, it confirms that the head of Imam Hussain could be buried here