Thursday, November 30, 2017

Bibi-Heybat Mosque - Baku, Azerbaijan

96.9% of the population of Azerbaijan is Muslim and 85% of the Muslims are Shia. The other 15% are Sunni. Azerbaijan has the second highest Shia population in the world, after its neighbor, Iran. However, given those numbers, 49% of the population said religion was not an important part of their daily life (2010 Gallup Poll) and only 7% are ardent believers (1998 poll). 
Bibi-Heybat Mosque
Islam came to the Caucasus with the Ummayads in the 8th century and Shia Islam was established in the 16th century by the Safavids, the same time it was established in Iran. Before the Soviets gained control in Azerbaijan, there were 2,000 active mosques. After the Soviets took control, most of the mosques closed in the 1930s. In the 1980s there were only two large and five smaller mosques holding services in Baku and only 11 operating in the rest of the country. 
Bibi-Heybat from the front, across the busy main highway.
From the back.
From the side. 
In the 7th century a dispute in Baghdad between the 7th and 8th Shiite Imams resulted in the 7th Imam and his family moving to Khorasan, Iran. After the 7th Imam died his tomb became a pilgrimage site for Shiite Muslims and it is now one of the major religious centers for Shiites, after Mecca and Karbala. The 7th Imam's daughter, Okuma Khanim, or Ukeyma Khanum, moved to Baku and settled near the Caspian Sea and led the life of a holy woman. 
This photo, from the rear of the mosque, shows dockyards on the Caspian Sea and downtown Baku in the background. 
After she died a small crypt was erected over her grave. Over time the site was declared a holy place and many religious people, including sheiks, began to settle nearby. The name of the area was thus called Sheikhovo, then later Shikhovo. Eventually, between 1264 and 1266, the small Bibi Heybat Mosque was built over the tomb. It was not proper to call it the Ukeyma Khanum Mosque, after the name of a woman, but Ukeyma Khanum had a devoted servant named Heybat. In Azeri, "bibi" means aunt. So the name of the mosque is the mosque of Heybat's aunt. The inscription over her tomb says, "Here was buried Ukeyma Khanum, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, the granddaughter of the sixth [Shiite] Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq, the daughter of the Seventh Imam Musei Kazym, sister of the eighth Imam Riza." The two minarets were built from 1305 to 1313. In 1911 the mosque and tomb were reconstructed. The Soviets took control of Azerbaijan in the 1920s and the Bolsheviks blew up the mosque in 1934 as part of an anti-religion campaign instituted by Stalin. 

In 1994, three years after Azerbaijan gained independence, president Heydar Aliyev ordered construction of the mosque at the same place where it was destroyed. The layout and size were based on photographs taken shortly before the explosion and on records of travelers who had visited. The new Bibi-Heybat Mosque was dedicated on July 11, 1997 in a ceremony attended by President Heydar Aliyev. The mosque is built of local limestone and has three domes, the insides of which are decorated with green and turquoise mirrors, bordered with gilded inscriptions from the Quran.
The men's prayer room. The mirhab is at the back.
The mihrab.
A rug hanging in the prayer room with a Quran open on a stand and a saber underneath. 
The startling and striking green and turquoise mirrored dome. 
A closer view - very beautiful.
The floor rug partitioned into individual praying spots. 
Turbah, small clay disks used by Shiites during prayer. 
The mausoleum is in the center of the mosque and the men's prayer room is on the south side and the women's prayer room is on the north side. 
Entrance to the mausoleum. The heavy, dark green was kind of shocking to the senses. I wasn't prepared for that as we walked in. 
The tomb, surrounded by a grating. It was very crowded while we were there and not picture friendly. 
The dome above the tomb. The green domes of this mosque are what really stood out to me. 
The top center of the dome. 
The very top of the tomb is at the bottom and the dome above it.

2 comments:

  1. Though just over 20 years old, this mosque looks ancient on the outside. They have done a great job in re-creating the look of mosque's predecessor. The interior domes were very unusual and quite beautiful.

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