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The Honorable Golden Dome

Two domes cover the sacred mausoleum of Imam Ali (a.s.): an internal convex in the form of almost half round hemisphere and embroidered with beautiful mosaic tiles. The dome is raised above the ground by (23.50 m). The external dome is of bulbous shape which is of (18.15 m) in height from its base to the top of the dome with the name of Allah, which sits at its summit and there is a space between the two mentioned layers. The diameter of the dome interior is (13.5) m, while the external diameter of the dome is (16.6) m. The external shape of the dome is unique as there is no mosque or shrine dome in the world[1]that matches it. The Dome of Imam Ali (peace be upon him) is one of highest domes and characterized with its cylindrical base, which increases its prestige and significance. It is considered to be one of the most technically accurate and architecturally coordinated domes and is spectacular in sight. The traveler Niebuhr said, who visited Najaf in 1765, saying: (There is not any building in the world more precious than this ceiling cap).

The dome sits on four huge pillars which are angled towards the summit of the dome and stem from the cylindrical base. The pillars are (5.60 m) in height, with an outer circumference of (51.85 m), it also consist of (12) windows to ventilate and light the honorable courtyard. The height of the windows from the outside is (4) m and width of (2.1) m, and the area between the window and another is (2.15) m, while the depth of the window is (1.45) m and leading into the interior dome. The inside of the dome is decorated with the most wonderful decoration of Islamic Art, and Nader Shah ordered to cover the writing of the dome from within with enamel, mosaic[1]. He also ordered the dome, pillars and junctions to be covered with mirrors of great beauty and precision, and then topped this by enveloping the cylindrical base with glazed tiles, and had verses from the Holy Quran written on it, surrounded by Ibn Abi Alhadid poetry in the form of the (24) lines of the poem at the top, as well as the bottom. Windows for lighting and ventilation were also positioned within and around the cylindrical base.

Inside the dome there is a strip which separates the dome from the cylindrical base which has Surat Alfajr written on it in Al-Thulth Arabic calligraphy. Also at the bottom of the cylindrical base where it sits on the four corners, Surat Al-Naba is written in Al-Thulth Arabic calligraphy.

The outside of the dome was covered with ceramic tiles until they were removed in the reign of Nadir Shah (1156) Hijri, who visited Najaf and ordered to take off the ceramic tiles and replace them with gold plates. The outer face of the cylindrical base was tiled with square shaped gold plates with a side length (24) cm, while the dome was covered with rectangular shaped gold plates of about (31.5) cm in length and (22) cm in width.

The plates reduce in size as they get closer to the summit. A golden spherical shape is placed on top of the golden dome with a height of (3.5 m) from the tip of the dome to the Name of Allah, which is put at the highest peak. The golden name of Allah was the replacement to a golden crown (consisting of a golden palm and sun and wrote the verse God's hands over their hands). The government ordered the lifting of the golden crown at the beginning of the Eighties; it was then taken to Baghdad and has never been found in spite of continued investigation by the holy shrine management. Al-Tamimi[1] has referred to a picture of the crown as well as the notable Haj Mohammed Saleh Aljohrgi who donated the maintenance of the crown.

The gilding of the dome and minarets of the most famous historical monuments of the holy shrine was carried out by more than two hundred jewelers and brass smiths who were gathered from several countries, including China, India, Turkey, Persia, and Arabia. Most of them wrote their names on the copper sheets behind the gold. Each piece has been painted with 9.36 Gram of pure gold as reported by one of the immediate repair workers.

Because of the different size of the plates covering the dome – as mentioned earlier the closer you get to the tip of the dome the smaller the plates become, therefore it is not possible to calculate the precise number of plates by conventional mathematical formulas. This led to a disagreement about the number of plates between 8787 as said by al-Hakim and Abdul Rahim Mirza, and 7777 as others narrated. It also mentioned by the architect Haj Abu Yusuf in a private meeting that the number is 8888 he also said: "The number of gold plates over the Enamel surface (tape that is facing Kibla) and up to the summit is (8888) plates. It is believed that he counted them by hand. He added that (63) kg of gold used for the dome and the gilding work lasted for several years. Ahmed Ali Abbas Moussawi, the former Director of Statistics of Najaf narrated that whilst in Turkey he had seen in print that the number of gold plates, covering the dome was 9990, according to an accurate counting by a group of engineers.

The number of plates under the surrounding tape of the golden dome is 2676 plates of various sizes and measurements. They were counted by adding the inner rooms and windows which sat side by side and multiplying the number by (12) as there are twelve rooms and windows, excluding the carving and the narrow stripes that cover the windows frame.

The Dome Surrounding Tape

Encircles the honorable dome from outside a band of blue enamel with highlight (1.46 m), engraved with standing out golden letters. The writing is Surat Al-Fath:

In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful. We have granted you a conspicuous victory (1) That God may forgive you your sin, past and to come, and complete His favors upon you, and guide you in a straight path (2) And help you with an unwavering support (3) It is He who sent down tranquility into the hearts of the believers, to add faith to their faith. To God belong the forces of the heavens and the earth. God is Knowing and Wise (4) He will admit the believers, male and female, into Gardens beneath which rivers flow, to abide therein forever, and He will remit their sins. That, with God, is a great triumph (5) And He will punish the hypocrites, male and female, and the idolaters, male and female, those who harbor evil thoughts about God. They are surrounded by evil; and God is angry with them, and has cursed them, and has prepared for them Hell—a miserable destination (6) To God belong the troops of the heavens and the earth. God is Mighty and Wise (7) We sent you as a witness, and a bearer of good news, and a warner (8) That you may believe in God and His Messenger, and support Him, and honor Him, and praise Him morning and evening (9) Those who pledge allegiance to you are pledging allegiance to God. The hand of God is over their hands. Whoever breaks his pledge breaks it to his own loss. And whoever fulfills his covenant with God, He will grant him a great reward (10)﴿

This dome belt is divided laterally as follows; (97cm) at the middle there is a writing of the Qur'anic verse of Surat Al-Fath, and the upper and lower areas of the tape which they are with height of (24) cm, some verses of Persian poetry were written. Due to this poetry being their, Saddam’s regime order the removal of the whole surrounding belt.

The verses of the Quran that are written on the surrounding belt of the dome engraved on two pieces of copper orthogonal that surround the honorable dome, each piece with height of (49) cm, and the width ranges between (22.5) to (33.5) cm.

Some verses of Persian poetry are written on the copper pieces above and below the Quranic verses, these are square shaped with side length of (24.5) cm.

It is through research and follow-up the last painting of the dome belt was found with some writing to state the date, place and the craftsman who did it. This is written in Farsi with the meaning of; (Praise be to Allah Almighty, we are sons of Allah’s slaves; Mohammad Quli Mohammad and Mohammad Ali Ibn Mohammed Saleh they did good, and Mohammed Ebrahimi Rukn Bashi with the son of Mirza Mohammad Tabrizi working to the order of this enlighten dome which is the destination for mankind and the jinn due to the prestige of the Imam and we're the envy of the world). Also beneath the Farsi writing there were words in Arabic, namely, (praise be to Allah who blessed us with this great grace in the year 1156 AH, had the honor to write it in Tehran, Mohammad Hossein Tabrizi.


355 View | 22-05-2014 | 11:01

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