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Al-Hussein Mosque

The Al-Hussein Mosque (Arabic: مسجد الإمام الحسين‎; Egyptian Arabic: جامع سيدنا الحسين; alternative transliterations: Husayn, Hussain, Husayn, Hussayn; also prefixed by the honorific title Sayyidna) is a mosque built in 1154 and located in Cairo, Egypt, near the Khan El-Khalili bazaar. It is named for the grandson of Muhammad, Husayn ibn Ali. Dawoodi Bohra and other Sunni Muslims believe that his head is buried on the grounds of the mosque. The mosque, considered to be one of the holiest Islamic sites in Egypt,[1] was built on the cemetery of the Fatimid caliphs, a fact that was later discovered during the excavation. The mausoleum is the oldest part of the complex, dating back to the original time the mosque itself was built, around 1154.[2] The currently standing building was built in the 19th century, and was influenced by Gothic Revival architecture.[3]

The Mosque houses some items considered sacred by Muslims, such as the oldest, complete manuscript of the Quran.[4]

History of transfer of the head of Husayn to Cairo in Fatimid belief[5]

The Zarih of Husayn's head, Al Hussein Mosque, Cairo

It was the 15th Fatimid/Ismaili/Dawoodi Bohra Imam, Abu Mansoor Nizar al-Aziz Billah (d.386 AH/996), who traced the site of the head of his great-grandfather through the office of his contemporary in Baghdad in 985. In the town of Ashkelon it remained buried at "Baab al Faradis", for about 250 years, to 1153.

After the 21st Fatimid Imam At-Tayyib Abi l-Qasim, went into seclusion and his uncle, Abd al Majid occupied the throne of the Fatimid Empire. Fearing disrespect and the atrocities of the traitors and enemies, the Majidi-monarch, Al-Zafir, ordered the transfer of the head to Cairo. The W’ali of the city of Ashkelon, Al Amir Sayf al Mamlaka Tamim, along with the custodian of the Mashhad, Qazi Mohammad bin Miskin, took out the buried casket of Raas al Imam al Husayn from the Mashhad, and with due respect and great reverence, on Sunday 8 Jumada al-Thani, 548 (31 August 1153) carried the head from the city of Ashkelon to Cairo, Egypt. Syedi Hasan bin Asad (Hir’az, Yemen) discussed this event in his Risalah manuscript 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."

Historians Al-Maqrizi, Ahmad al-Qalqashandi, and Ibn Muyassar (d.1278) have mentioned that the casket reached Cairo on Tuesday 10 Jumada al-Thani (2 September 1153). Ust’ad Maknun accompanied it in one of the service boats which landed at the Kafuri (Garden). Buried there in the place known "Qubbat al Daylam" or "Turbat al Zafr’an" (currently known as "Al Mashhad al Husain", wherein lie buried underground thirteen Fatimid Imams from 9th Muhammad at-Taqi to 20th Al-Amir bi-Ahkami l-Lah). This place is also known as "B’ab Makhallif’at al Rasul".

The famous Mamluk historian of Egypt, Mohiyuddin Abd al Zahir (d. 1292) wrote:
'When Salahuddin came to power he seized all the Palaces of the Aimmat Fatemiyeen and looted their properties and treasures. He destroyed the valuable and rare collection of hundreds of thousands of books available in libraries, along the river Nile. When he learned through his intelligence agents that one of the custodians of Raas al Imam al Husain.. was highly respected by the people of the city of Qahera, he surmised that perhaps he would be aware of the treasures of the Aimmat Fatemiyeen. Salahuddin issued orders to present him in his court. He inquired of him the whereabouts of the Fatemi treasures. The nobleman flatly denied any knowledge of the treasures. Salahuddin was angered, and ordered his intelligence agents to ask him through 'third-degree-torture', but the nobleman bore the torture and repeated his previous statement that he knew nothing of any treasures. Salahuddin ordered his soldiers to put a cap containing centipedes on the head of the nobleman, such a type of punishment was so severe and unbearable that none could survive even for a few minutes." Prior to putting the Cap of Centipedes on the head, his hair was shaved, to make it easy for the centipedes to suck blood, which in turn made holes in skull. In spite of that punishment the noble custodian of Husain's Head felt no pain at all. Salahuddin ordered more centipedes to be put on the nobleman's head, but it could not kill or pain him. Finally, Salahuddin Ayyubi ordered for a tight cap full of centipedes to accomplish the result. Even this method could not torture or kill him. The Ayyubid brutes were greatly astounded further when they saw, on removing the cap, the centipedes were dead. Salahuddin asked the nobleman to reveal the secret of this miracle. The nobleman revealed as follow: "When Raas al Imam al Husain was brought to Qasar, Al Moizziyat al Qahera, he had carried the casket on his head. 'O Salahuddin! This is the secret of my safety.

The burial place is now also known as Raous (head)-us-Husain, A silver Zarih (Maqsurah) is made on the place by Dawoodi Bohra Dai, and the place is visited regularly by all Shia. The presentation of the Maqsurah is also unique in the history of loyalty and faithfulness. The Maqsurah of Raas al Imam al Husain was originally constructed for the Al Abbas Mosque at Karbala, Iraq. When this Maqsurah reached the mosque of Al-Abbas ibn Ali it would not fit on the place. The size of the Maqsurah and the site of the fitting place differed at the time of fitting, although every technical aspects and measurements of the site were taken into account very precisely. The engineers were astonished at what had happened, although every minute detail was handled very professionally. The loyalty of Al-Abbas ibn Ali was also witnessed on that day too, as it had been witnessed on the day of Aashurah. There a divine guidance came to the effect by way of intuition that a sincere, faithful, loyal and devoted brother could not tolerate, that the head of Muhammad's grandson, Husayn, buried in Cairo, Egypt, should be without a Maqsurah, thus how could he accept this gift for himself. Hence even after Shahadat, Al-Abbas ibn Ali paid his tribute to Husayn and presented his own Maqsurah for Raas (head) al Imam al Husain. When this above-mentioned Maqsurah was brought from Karbala, Iraq to Al Moizziyat Cairo, Egypt, it fitted upon the original position of the grave known as Mashhad of Raas al Imam al Husain in such a manner, as if it had been fabricated for Raas al Imam al Husain itself.

The Arab traveler Ibne Batuta also wrote in his safarname (rihla) that, after the tragic incident of Karbala, the sacred head of Imam Husain (A) was in the Umayyad mosque of Damascus. From there it was taken by the general Muslim people and was buried in Asqalan- a city in Filistine. During the crusade to protect from the infidel the Fatimid ruler of Egypt exhumed the sacred head and brought it to Egypt. Thereafter the sacred head of Imam Husain (A) was buried again in the al Qarrafa graveyard in Cairo. The site of the graveyard became the greatest sacred mausoleum of Egypt called Raasul Husain.[6]


  1. ^ Review of Mosque
  2. ^ Williams, Caroline. 2002. Islamic Monuments in Cairo: The Practical Guide. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 193-194.
  3. ^ Review of the Mosque
  4. ^ Restoration of the First Quran
  5. ^ Brief History of Transfer of the Sacred Head of Hussain ibn Ali, From Damascus to Ashkelon to Qahera By: Qazi Dr. Shaikh Abbas Borhany PhD (USA), NDI, Shahadat al A’alamiyyah (Najaf, Iraq), M.A., LLM (Shariah) Member, Ulama Council of Pakistan , Published in Daily News, Karachi, Pakistan on 3 January 2009.
  6. ^ Safarname Ibne Batuta

Coordinates: 30°2′52″N 31°15′47″E / 30.04778°N 31.26306°E / 30.04778; 31.26306{{#coordinates:30|2|52|N|31|15|47|E|type:landmark |primary |name= }}