Essential Architecture-  Iraq

Reconstruction of Great Mosque


Client Ziyad ibn Abihi




670 (as rebuilt by Ziyad ibn Abihi)






  1.Kufa, Reconstruction of Great Mosque, late 7th c.
Kufa, Iraq

Kufa is a city in Iraq, about 170 kilometres (110 mi) south of Baghdad, and 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) northeast of Najaf. It is located on the banks of the Euphrates River. The estimated population in 2003 was 110,000.

The city was the final capital of Imam Ali (a.s), and was founded within the first century of Hijra. The city would be the capital of imam al-Mahdi (a.s.), in the future.

Great mosque of Kufa

The Great Mosque of Kufa or "Masjid-al-Azam" located here ,is one of the earliest mosques in Islam. The mosque contains the remains of Muslim ibn ‘Aqil (a.s.) - first cousin of Imam Hassan (a.s) and Imam hussain (a.s), his companion Hani ibn Urwa, and the revolutionary Mukhtar al-Thaqafi.

The Mosque is revered for many reasons:

It was the place where Imam Ali (a.s) was fatally struck on the head while in Sujood.
Contains the tombs of Muslim ibn Aqil (a.s), Hani ibn Urwa, and Mukhtar al-Thaqafi
There are markers within the mosque indicating the locations for where the court of Imam Ali (a.s) used to preside, where he was claimed to perform miracles, and where Imam Zain-ul-Abideen (a.s) and Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (a.s) used to perform Salah.
Islamic traditions relate that Prophet Adam (a.s) established the mosque, that it was later the dwelling place of Prophet Noah (a.s) and that this was the place where he built the Ark.
Traditions say that 12,000 Prophets had performed Salah within this mosque, including Prophet Ibraheem (a.s), Prophet Noah (a.s), and Prophet Muhammad (a.s) on the Night of Ascension - all are marked within the mosque.
It was from this mosque that the diluvium of the prophet Noah (a.s) started submerging earth, as well as being the place from where the water was re-absorbed - also marked within the Mosque
Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (a.s) said that up to twelve miles of land in all directions from the mosque are blessed by its holiness.
Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (a.s) was also recorded as remarking that the "mosque in Kufa is superior to that of Jerusalem" and that "performing two prostrations of prayer here would be better for me than ten others at any mosque."
There are also traditions which state that performing one prayer in this mosque is the same as having performed one thousand prayers elsewhere, and performing one obligatory prayer here is equal to having performed an accepted Hajj.
The Secretariat of Al-Kufa Mosque and it Shrines describes the mosque as being one of the sole four dignified mosques to which Muslims must travel, and that it comes in third place after the Kaaba and the mosque of the Prophet Muhammad (a.s).

The house of Imam Ali (a.s.)

When Imam Ali (a.s.) gained the caliphate, the geopolitical circumstances of the Islamic state made him move the capital from Medina to Kufa.

When Imam (a.s.) to the city of Kufa, a palace was already built adjacent to the great mosque; but he (a.s.), chose not to reside at that place, and preferred to live in a property, which he bought by his own money.

Historians say, when Imam Ali (a.s.) came to Kufa, one of his nephews owned a plot adjacent to the great mosque, where Imam Ali (a.s.) purchased that plot from his nephew and built a house for him and his family.

The house is remaining to our time, where one can visit, and see the simple life, which Imam (a.s.) had, even though a big palace was already built adjacent to his house; but Imam Ali (a.s.) wanted to be living at a normal citizen's standard.

Inside the house there is a well, which Imam (a.s.) and his household used for their daily needs; the well is still functioning, where visitors drink from its water.
The palace

The ruins of the Kufa palace exist today, and are adjacent to the great mosque of Kufa. The ruins are of the same palace, which Imam Ali (a.s.) refused to reside in.

Later on the palace was occupied by different governors, from amongst several Obaid Ullah ibn Ziyad, the governor of Kufa, which mobilized the Umayyad army against Imam Husain (a.s.). At the time when Imam Husain (a.s.) was martyred his and his companions heads where brought to this palace, together with the remaining of their households.
Masjid al-Sahla

Masjid al-Sahla is one of the oldest mosques in the world, built at the time of Omar. The mosque is also in Kufa, 2 Km away from Kufa mosque.

Masjid al-Sahla is one of Kufa's biggest mosques, built briefly after the great mosque of Kufa; the mosque was built on this spot because many prophets had prayed and worshiped at that spot.

There are several marked spots in the mosque, which are:

The place Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.) has prayed.
A spot where Imam al-Sajjad (a.s.) has prayed.
Prayer spot of Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.).
The place where Khidhir (a.s.) has prayed.
The prayer place of the prophet Idris (a.s.).
The prayer spots of the prophets Hud (a.s.) and Salih (a.s.).

It is also believed that on the plot of this mosque, the house of the prophet Ibrahim (a.s.), was built.

Imams (a.s.) has told that when Imam al-Mahdi would appear, his government´s headquarter would be in this mosque.

One of the earliest mosques in Islam, the original Great Mosque at Kufa was built on a square site determined by lances thrown outwards in the four cardinal directions. It was constructed in the middle of the 7th century after the Caliph Omar established the city. Surrounded by a trench, it possessed an arcade of marble columns that extended 20 meters in length. It measured approximately 100 square meters with the side of the qibla organized into five aisles and the others arranged into two. According to early literary sources, the aisles were demarcated by masonry block columns that rose to the height of the mosque's flat roof, which is described as being rather high. Creswell posits that the design was reminiscent of an apadana, an architectural structure referring to a "Hall of Columns" for Persian kings.

The mosque has been redeveloped in various phases over the years and today it features an elegant gold dome and Saffavid tile work from the 17th and 18th centuries. Twenty-eight semi-circular towers support the exterior wall; it is speculated that they date to the early Islamic period. During excavation, the Iraqi Department of Antiquities learned that although these towers stretched two meters into the ground, they were being stabilized by another set of differently sized towers beneath them, that at one point belonged to an earlier mosque on the site. Furthermore, these excavations provided evidence that the qibla side of the mosque is structurally connected to the west wall of the Dar al-Imara. Please see the Dar al-Imara site for more information.


Creswell, K. A. C.1989. A Short Account of Early Muslim Architecture. Rev. ed. Allan, James W. Aldershot: Scolar Press, 9-10.

Ettinghausen, Richard and Grabar, Oleg. 1987. The Art and Architecture of Islam 650-1250. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 35-36.

Hillenbrand, Robert. 1994. Islamic Architecture. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 38.
Special thanks to the Islamic architecture website
In the news-

Many militias agree to disband, but not al-Sadr's

Associated Press

Published on: 06/07/04


KUFA, Iraq -- Explosions rocked the compound surrounding the Kufa mosque on Monday after ammunition used by fighters loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr apparently caught fire, witnesses and Shiite militia members said. At least one person was killed and eight others were wounded.

In Baghdad, nine major political parties agreed Monday to disband their militias, the interim prime minister said, although radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's fighters did not join the agreement.

Flames and smoke rose above the mosque in Kufa. Firefighters and ambulances raced to the site, where fighters in al-Sadr's al-Madhi army had been holed up.

Riyadh Moussa, a militiaman who had been sleeping in compound, said he heard a "whoosh of a missile in the air" and a strong thud when a projectile hit the storage area.

"I'm sure it was the Americans who did it," he said. "We have no other enemies."

A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition said no forces were near the mosque at the time of the blast. Iraqi police took small arms fire when they tried to approach to see what was going on, the U.S. military said.

In the Baghdad announcement, Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said about 100,000 armed individuals will enter civilian life or take jobs in the state police force or security services. The militias have been credited with an active role in the U.S.-led ouster of Saddam Hussein.

"By doing this, we reward their heroism and sacrifices, while making Iraq stronger and eliminating armed forces outside of government control," Allawi said in a statement.

None of the nine militias has been fighting the government and most are controlled by mainstream political movements represented in the government.

The U.S.-led coalition tried to persuade the militias to disband last year but failed because leaders were unwilling to give up their armed fighters at a time of deteriorating security.

Al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army did not join the agreement. It has been fighting coalition forces since an uprising in early April, although an agreement with Shiite leaders to stop the violence appears to be taking hold in Kufa, and its twin city, Najaf.

Under the agreement, most of the militias are to be phased out by 2005, in a countrywide program worth about $200 million.

The militias who signed up would be treated as army veterans -- eligible for government benefits, including pensions and job placement programs, depending on their service, according to coalition officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Participating militias would hand in their weapons to the Ministry of Interior and join the program as individuals, not as units or groups, coalition officials said.

All the rest, including al-Sadr's militia, will be declared "illegal armed forces" that could be arrested when the Coalition Provisional Authority order is signed later Monday, the officials said.

According to the order, which coalition officials said will be part of Iraq's transitional administrative law, nonparticipating militias will also be barred from political office for three years.

The deal includes militia members who fought for the Kurdish parties -- the Kurdish Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. They battled Saddam's forces in the northern part of the county.

Allawi said the Badr Brigade of the Supreme Counsel of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq also agreed to disband, although representatives of the party claimed negotiations had not even begun.

"The completion of these negotiations and the issuance of this order mark a watershed in establishing the rule of law, placing all armed forces under state control, and strengthening the security of Iraq," Allawi said.

Other militias affected by the agreement include those of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the Iraqi National Accord, the Iraqi National Congress (INC), Iraqi Hezbollah, the Iraqi Communist Party, and Dawa, a Shiite party.

About 75,000 of the 100,000 militiamen expected to take part are northern Kurds who will either be integrated into the new 35,000-man national army or serve as police, border guards, mountain rangers or counterterrorism agents in Kurdish zones, coalition officials said.

In Kufa, firefighters and ambulances went to the site of the explosions near the mosque, where fighters in al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army had been holed up.

One militiaman blamed an American missile attack, but the U.S. military said it had no troops in the area.

Tensions remained high in Iraq after a car bomb outside an American base killed nine people Sunday and injured 30 others -- including three U.S. soldiers. Insurgents also blasted police stations in a Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad and in a town south of the capital, and a U.S. soldier was killed in a mortar attack.

The mosque had been the site of near-daily clashes between American troops and al-Sadr's forces. However, the site had been peaceful since Thursday under a deal meant to end the fighting.

Under the plan, al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army is supposed to pull back from the Islamic shrines in Kufa and Najaf, and hand over security to Iraqi police.

The U.S. Army agreed to a request from the local governor to keep U.S. troops away from the Kufa mosque, where al-Sadr preaches, to give Iraqi security forces a chance to ease tensions.

Al-Mahdi Army members were gathering outside the mosques Monday, some armed with rifles, and stopped reporters from approaching the mosque.

Nine people, including civilians and militiamen, were hospitalized in Kufa with injuries from the explosions, mostly burns, and one died, said Mohammed Abdul-Kadhim, a nurse.

However, the number of the injured may be higher since the al-Mahdi militia doesn't always take their injured to hospitals.

Also Monday, Marine officers said assailants fired two 122mm rockets at a Marine base outside Fallujah but caused no damage or casualties.

The attack came hours after the Marines of the battalion suspended assistance and reconstruction projects in Fallujah's eastern suburb of Karma following the kidnapping of an Iraqi interpreter.

Sunday's car bombing occurred at the gate of the Taji air base, which is used by the U.S. Army, about 12 miles north of Baghdad. It was unclear if it was a suicide attack.

The U.S. command also reported an American soldier was killed Sunday and another wounded in a mortar attack on a base near Balad, north of Baghdad.

A U.S. security company confirmed Sunday that four of its employees -- two Americans and two Poles -- were killed the day before in an ambush on the main road to Baghdad airport. The company, Blackwater USA, lost four employees in an ambush in March in Fallujah that triggered the bloody three-week siege of the restive Sunni Muslim city.

The British Foreign Office reported a British security contractor was killed and three colleagues wounded in a drive-by shooting Saturday in the northern city of Mosul. The four worked for ArmorGroup, which has 1,000 employees in Iraq.

oops June 7, 2004 - 1:42pm
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( categories: News | Iraq )

Explosion rocks Great Mosque in Kufa

At least nine wounded when explosion rocks revered Iraqi mosque where Moqtada Sadr gives sermon.

KUFA, Iraq - An explosion Monday rocked the Great Mosque in Kufa, where Shiite rebel leader Moqtada Sadr gives the sermon at the main weekly Muslim prayers, witnesses and the US military said.

At least nine people were wounded, said a medic from the nearby Furat al-Wasat hospital, adding that more injured were being brought in.

Some of the wounded were inside the mosque at the time of the explosion, while others were outside, the medic said.

"There was an explosion at the Great Mosque at around 11:30 am (0730 GMT). I heard the sound of a rocket land in the ammunition storage inside the mosque," said Abu Ahmed, a member of Sadr's Mehdi Army militia, outside the compound.

A statement by the US military confirmed that an explosion had taken place and that part of the mosque was on fire.

"Subsequent reports also indicate that Iraqi police who tried to render assistance were fired on by unknown attackers within the mosque," it said, stressing that no US troops were in the vicinity of the mosque at the time of the blast.

Ambulances sped to the scene to rescue the wounded from the shrine, built on the hallowed ground where one of the founders of the Shiite faith, Ali, was assassinated in 661 AD.

"It started at around 11:00 am (0700 GMT) and there were several explosions. It took nine fire engines but the fire was under control by 1:30 pm (0930 GMT)," fire commissioner Haidar al-Amily said.

"The Mehdi Army in the mosque would not let us anywhere inside the compound. but it would have been more dangerous anyway because of the explosions," he said.

Police lieutenant Abbas Abdel Mahdi said "two walls of the mosque have been completely blackened."

There were no immediate reports of any dead from the blast and ensuing fire but police said they could not rule out the possibility of bodies still lying undiscovered inside the mosque.

Although the cause of the blast remained unclear, the explosion shook the latest truce efforts aimed at putting an end to two months of deadly fighting between US forces and Sadr's militia around Kufa and the adjacent holy city of Najaf.

On Sunday, calm appeared to have returned to the twin cities, as residents turned in weapons to the US army under a buyback programme and Iraqi police again patrolled the streets.

Although the local police, assisted by coalition forces, had set up a rapid reaction force to secure the holy sites in Kufa and Najaf, many weapons caches were still thought to be scattered around them.

candy June 7, 2004 - 11:55am
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CENTCOM Reports Mosque Explosion
CENTCOM Reports Mosque Explosion

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 7, 2004 -- U.S. Central Command reported a large explosion and fire at the Kufa Mosque today.

Iraqi police tried to render assistance and were fired on by unknown attackers within the mosque, the news release stated. U.S. forces were not operating in the area at the time of the explosion.

News media reported that ammunition stored inside the mosque caught fire caused today's explosion.

Despite today's incident, coalition officials have reported a significantly improved security situation in Kufa and Najaf.

Senior coalition spokesman Dan Senor told reporters June 5 that since the implementation of a new peace agreement between Muqtada al-Sadr and the Shiia Caucus had begun, militia fighters loyal to the radical cleric had "virtually disappeared" from the streets, including Najaf.

"We expect that Muqtada al-Sadr will live up to the commitments he made to the Shiia Caucus regarding the withdrawal of his militia fighters from Najaf and Kufa," Senor said.

The agreement, announced 10 days ago by Najaf governor Adnan Alzurufi, calls for the departure of militia fighters; evacuation of occupied buildings; closure of the Sharia court and prison; and the return of the Iraqi police to all parts of the city.

Senor said the coalition would give the agreement 72 hours, "to monitor it, see if it is heading in the right direction."

"It's not a deadline," he explained. "It is just a period, a reasonable timeframe within which we think we can monitor the progress and see if this is sort of an isolated situation or is part of a broader trend to really resolve the situation peacefully."

Nevertheless, Senor warned that if Sadr does not meet the expectations of the Shiite Caucus and the coalition, the coalition "will act and respond accordingly."

He also cautioned that any fighters bearing arms in Najaf and Kufa after implementation of the agreement will be considered "third-party agents provocateurs." They too will be dealt with accordingly, he added.

Meanwhile, Senor characterized the most recent agreement between the two sides as "firm," though it is still in the implementation stage.

"What you have seen now is the actual withdrawal of Muqtada's militia from Najaf and Kufa," he said.

"You have seen the deployment of Iraqi police into the city. You are seeing joint patrols between Iraqi police and coalition forces. You are seeing these weapons being turned in," he added.

He said coalition officials view the agreement as a first and "now a second step" toward getting peaceful resolution to the violence in the two cities.

"We have said any time you have Iraqi leaders working among themselves to reach peaceful resolution in a situation that could otherwise be and has been quite violent is a positive sign," Senor pointed out.

Yet again, he again emphasized to reporters that two conditions concerning Sadr remain unchanged: He must disband and disarm his militia, and he must meet the requirements of the Iraqi arrest warrant issued against him.

"Muqtada al-Sadr must face Iraqi justice," he said.