The Shrine of Hazrat Ali, also known as the Blue Mosque, is a mosque located in the heart of Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. It is one of the reputed burial places of Ali ibn Abi Talib, cousin and son-in law of Prophet Muhammad. The site includes a series of five separate buildings, with the Shrine of Hazrat Ali being in the center and the mosque at the western end so that Muslims can pray towards the direction of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The site is further surrounded by numerous gardens with places for people to sit or walk around.
The mazar is the building which gives the city its name, (meaning "Tomb of the Exalted"). According to Shia Muslim belief, Ali was originally buried by his two sons, Hasan and Hussein in an undisclosed location, which was later made known by the great, grandson of Husayn and Sixth Shia Imam, Ja'far as-Sadiq - as the grave that is found within Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, Iraq.
History of the mosque
The story the founding of the shrine indicates that, shortly after the murder of Ali and the burial of his body at Najaf, near Baghdad, some of Ali's followers worried that his body would be desecrated by his enemies, and they placed his remains on a white female camel. Ali's followers traveled with the camel for several weeks, until the camel ultimately fell to the ground exhausted. The body was then reburied where the camel fell. The body was said to be rediscovered there in the 12th century.
According to tradition, Mazar-i-Sharif owes its existence to a dream. At the beginning of the 12th century, a local mullah had a dream in which Ali bin Abi Talib, the prophet's cousin and son-in-law and first Shia Imam and one of the four Rightly Guided Caliphs appeared to reveal that he had been secretly buried near the city of Balkh. After investigation and the opening of the tomb, the Seljuk sultan Sanjar ordered a city and shrine to be built on the spot, where it stood until its destruction by Genghis Khan. Although later rebuilt, Mazar stood in the shadow of its neighbor Balkh, until that city was abandoned in 1866 for health reasons.
The Seljuq dynasty sultan Ahmed Sanjar rebuilt the first shrine at this location. It was destroyed by Genghis Khan in the invasion around 1220. It was rebuilt in the 15th century by Sultan Husayn Mirza Bayqarah. Most of the shrine's decorations, however, are the result of modern restoration work. One of the few remaining artifacts from the earlier shrine is a marble slab inscribed with the words, "Ali, Lion of God."
A site plan of the location made in the 1910s shows that there had earlier been a smaller walled precinct in the mosque, which was razed to create parklands later, although the portals to this precinct still remain as gateways for the shrine.
Tombs of varying dimensions were added for a number of Afghan political and religious leaders over the years, which has led to the development of its current irregular dimensions. These include the square domed tomb of Amir Dost Muhammad, Wazir Akbar Khan and a similar structure for Amir Sher Ali and his family.