Samarra' is home to al-Askari Mosque, the Maqam Ghaybat and the Great Mosque of Samarra'.
The al-Askari Mosque, also known as the Golden Mosque, servers as a mausoleum to 10th and 11th Imams, Imam Ali al-Naqi and Imam Hasan al-Askari. The golden dome on one shrine was presented by Nasr al-Din Shah and completed under Muzaffar al-Din Shah in the year 1905 A.D. Beneath the golden dome are four graves, those of Imam Ali al-Naqi (10th Imam) and his son, Imam Hasan al-Askari (11th Imam). The other two are of Hakimah Khatoon, the sister of Imam Ali al-Naqi who has related at length the circumstances of the birth of Imam al-Mahdi and the fourth grave is of Nargis Khatoon, the mother of Imam al-Mahdi, peace be upon him.
Feb. 22, 2006 al-Askari Mosque Bombing
The bombing of the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra began at 7 a.m. on February 22, 2006 when insurgents dressed as Iraqi police officers entered the shrine and captured five guards. The attackers then placed two bombs inside the dome and detonated them, collapsing most of the dome and heavily damaging an adjoining wall.
The attack left the shrine's famous golden dome in ruins. The shrine has enormous significance for Shiites, and its destruction in the midst of growing sectarian violence ignited a nationwide outpouring of rage and panic that sharply underscored Iraq's religous divide. Following the attack, thousands of demonstrators gathered near the shrine, waving Iraqi flags and calling for justice.
There have been no claims of responsibility, though Sunni extremist groups are suspected. A government statement reported that "several suspects" had been detained. This attack and the violent retrbution that followed it seemed to push Iraq closer to civil war. President Talabani was quotes as saying that "we are facing a major conspiracy that is targeting Iraq's unity. We should all stand hand in hand to prevent the danger of a civil war."
Iraq's top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, appealed for calm and called for a week of mourning. The appeal came amid widespread Shiite demonstrations and reports of reprisal violence around Iraq.
Jun. 13, 2007 al-Askari Mosque Bombing
As the Iraqi government closed in on signing a contract to have the golden dome of the al-Askari Mosque rebuilt, it suffered a second attack. Bombing that occured early Wednesday morning destroyed the two minarets of the revered shrine, prompting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to request a coalition rapid reaction force to support Iraqi army and police units enforcing a curfew on vehicle traffic and large gatherings in and around the capital, Baghdad.
Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, appealed for calm, but media reports indicated that several Sunni and Shiite mosques had already been attacked, albeit with minimal damage, since the al-Askari attack. At least one Sunni mosque was reportedly levelled later in the week following the attack on the al-Askari Mosque as retaliation. However, violence did not escalate to levels seen following the February 2006 bombing that destroyed the golden dome.
The bombings appeared to be the work of al-Qaeda, perpetrators of the February 2006 bombing of the mosque. The attack has been seen as an attempt by al-Qaeda to incite secretarian and ethnic tensions in Iraq.
According to reports by the American military command in Iraq, the bombings took place around 9am on Wednesday and none of the bombers were seen in the vacinity. This indicated the possibility that the attack was an inside job. Security forces guarding the site were detained at the scene as it was thought that they could have assisted or even directly participated in the attack.
The second shrine marks the place where Imam al-Mahdi went into concealment. It has a dome that is distinguished for the soft delicate design that is worked in blue tiles, and beneath it is the Sardab (cellar) where the Imam is said to have disappeared. Visitors may enter this Sardab by a flight of stairs.
Imam Mahdi was unseen from the eyes of common people and nobody could see him except special group of Shi'ites could not deserve his meeting. After the martyrdom of his father (Imam Hassan-e Askari [Pbuh]) he was appointed as the next Imam. Then he was hidden by God's command and he was just observable by the special deputies of his own. The Maqam Ghaybat / Maqam Ghaibat (maqam = permanent state, ghaibat = absence, unseen, ie the place of occultation) in Samarra includes the cellar where the 12th Imam, Imam Ya Aba Salih Al-Mahdi [a], was last seen before going into occultation. Beneath the blue dome is the cellar (sardab) where Imam al-Mahdi [a] is said to have disappeared.
Great Mosque of Samarra'
The Great Mosque of Samarra was built in 848-852 AD on an open plan principle, it is the largest mosque of Islam (748 x 512 ft).
The most outstanding landmark of Samara is the great (al- Jami') mosque and its eminent minaret "al-Malwiya" which has a unique form of building. This mosque was built by al-Mu'tasim when he moved to Samarra at a time when it could no longer take in the large numbers of people, al-Mutawakil built another great mosque and enlarged its area to become the biggest mosque in the world. Its area was 38,000m2. It was designed to hold eighty thousand worshipers. Its brick walls surround a rectangular area about 240m in length, 158m in width and 10m in height. It has 23 doors, five of which are in the northern corner and eight in the eastern and western corners with two doors open in the niche wall.
The spiral Malwiya Minaret is about 25m far from the mosque's northern wall. It lies exactly on its middle axis. It stands on a quadrangular basis of 32m for each side. Above it there is a spiral building with stairs of 2,3m in width and starts from the middle of the eastern side of the basis and turns anti-clock-wise completing by this five rounds that end in a small cylindrical room of a 6-meter radius. Its is decorated with 8 arcs from the outside. Each arc is erected on two small brick posts. One of these posts forms a door where the ascent ends and leads to a small ladder that ends on the top of the minaret.
The most striking feature of the mosque is the winding minaret (Al-Malwiyya) which is ascended by an external stairway. The spiral minarets are one of the most distinctive and famous aspects of Samarra. The tradition of spiral towers in Mesopotamia probably ultimately derives from the Babylonian ziggurat, the type - represented in the painting of the Tower of Babel by Brueghel and other early modern depictions.
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