The Oldest Mosque of Iran
Jameh mosque of Fahraj or Congretation mosque of Fahraj, Friday mosque of Fahraj or Grand mosque of Fahraj, Imam Hassan mosque is a mosque from early Islamic era located in Fahraj, Yazd country, Iran.
The knowledge of the history of Iranian architecture during the first five centuries of the Hegira (from the 7th to the 11th century of the Christian era) is important to better understand the roots and evolution of the architecture of the Islamic period until today.
From a historical point of view, the first centuries of the Hegira were marked by major events in the history of the country: Arab invasion, fall of the Persian Empire of the Sassanids, collapse of the Persian state and domination of the country. califal order, progressive Islamization of Persia, appearance of the first Muslim Persian states followed by the emergence of Turkish-speaking dynasties (the Ghaznavids and Seljuks).
Iranian historians often view this long leg of the country's history as a "transitional period."
In fact, if the Arab invasion and the collapse of the Sassanian Empire were rapid events that suddenly changed the political order of a great empire that became the eastern possession of the califal order, the other socio-cultural developments of that period only in a progressive way: the disappearance of the Persian medium replaced by the modern Persian, the substitution of the old writing by the Arabic writing to write the Persian, the Islamization of the population, the mixing of the Persian culture with Muslim culture, etc. The arts and architecture were undoubtedly directly influenced by these major socio-cultural developments.
The mosque "the oldest of Iran" remained unknown for over a thousand years until it was discovered by chance in the mid-1960s by Professor Mohammad-Karim Pirnia (1922-1997), historian and theorist of Iranian architecture. One day, as he was traveling from Bafq to Yazd in his official vehicle belonging to the Organization for the Protection of Ancient Works, he saw from a distance a minaret of land in the village of Fahraj. He was intrigued, and wished to see more closely the mosque to which belonged this minaret. He left the main road and went to the village. When he got off his vehicle, he saw a group of villagers near the mosque gathered in front of the mosque. The inhabitants were talking about a decision to destroy the old building of the mosque and rebuilding a brand new mosque. When he got off his service vehicle, the people, who had seen the logo of the ancient works, gathered around him and asked him for advice. When Professor Pirnia came into the mosque to visit the site, he was amazed: the mosque he was visiting was a Sasanian building more or less intact for more than a thousand years. The only thing he could do at the moment was to explain to the inhabitants the historical and cultural value of the old mosque in their village and urge them not to touch the building until the experts examine the place. . Professor Mohammad-Karim Pirnia published his first article on the Fahraj Mosque in 1969 and made it known as the oldest mosque in Iran. According to his studies, the mosque of Fahraj was built during the first half of the first century of the Hegira (second half of the seventh century of the Christian era), that is to say in full conquest of Persia by the Arab troops. According to his studies, the small mosque of Fahraj was older than the Tari-Khaneh mosque of Damghan, considered until then as the mosque oldest of Iran.
The dating done by Professor Pirnia was later questioned by some Iranian and European experts. Mehrdad Shokouhi published an essay on the Fahraj Mosque in 1976 and estimated that the mosque was built in the 2nd century AH (around the middle of the 8th century AD). A year later, Italian researchers Riccardo Zipoli and Bianca-Maria Alfieri published the results of their research on the Fahraj Mosque. For them, the mosque was built late, in the fourth century of the Hegira (tenth century of the Christian era). Finally, the German Barbara Finster estimated, in her book The first Iranian mosques, that the mosque of Fahraj was built in the third century of the Hegira (ninth century of the Christian era). These authors questioned the dating conducted by Professor Pirnia in the late 1960s, finding that the very obvious existence of elements of Iranian Pre-Islamic architecture of the Sassanid era (224-651 of the Christian era) would not be enough to say with certainty that the building was built at a date close to that of the fall of the Sassanid empire. To support this hypothesis, these researchers recalled that these very obvious elements of pre-Islamic architecture of Persia appeared in the construction of buildings of the Islamic period, including mosques, until the fourth century of the Hegira (10th century AD). the Christian era) and even later.
However, despite these doubts about the dating of the mosque of Fahraj, this building retains all its importance in the history of the Iranian architecture, but also in the history of the construction of the mosques in the Moslem world: it does not There is no doubt for contemporary scholars that the Fahraj Mosque, with Tari-Khaneh of Damghan, is one of the oldest mosques in Iran. What accentuates this historical importance is that the architectural plan of the mosque has remained intact for a millennium. In addition, unlike most of Iran's ancient mosques, which were built through the planning and transformation of pre-Islamic Zoroastrian temples, experts believe that the Fahraj temple was built from the beginning as a mosque. Another peculiarity of the Fahraj Mosque: despite its antiquity and its historical and cultural value, it still functions as a mosque and the inhabitants of the village always frequent it regularly.
The mosque of Fahraj is located in the village of the same name 22 kilometers from Yazd, on the road that connects Yazd to Bafq. The village currently has a population of nearly 3000 souls. The name of the village was mentioned several times in the works of geographers of the Islamic period, attributing the creation of Fahraj to the Sassanid emperor Qobad I (Kacadh), who ruled from 488 to 496, then from 499 to 531 of our era.
Historians have cited Fahraj's name in the chronicles of the events of the mid-seventh century Arab invasion. On their way to Tabas, in pursuit of the last Sassanid king, Yazdgerd III, a small part of the Arab troops lost themselves in the desert and arrived near the village of Fahraj. The Zoroastrian inhabitants of Fahraj allied themselves with the Jewish inhabitants of a neighboring village, Khavidak. They attacked the Arabs during the night and killed them all. The cemetery of these latter is currently not far from the mosque of Fahraj, called the "Cemetery of the martyrs".
The main plan of the ancient mosque has remained intact until today and indicates that the mosque was, in a way, a replica of the Prophet's mosque in Medina, rebuilt according to the elements of the architecture of the time Sassanid. The mosque has a prayer hall and a portico all around the central courtyard. Inside the prayer room is a series of rectangular columns on which the roof of the building is supported. The details of these columns indicate, according to some experts, that the techniques used to build them would have been more advanced than those that were common in the construction of small mosques of the first two centuries of the Hegira (VII-VIII centuries of the era Christian). The small plaster mihrab that indicates the direction of Mecca would have been built at a later date.
As the 3D plan indicates, the prayer room (shabestan) has a higher height compared to the rest of the building. In addition, the central courtyard of the mosque is not a regular square, which required the construction of four porticos to cover the widest part of the building. The cylindrical minaret of the mosque was added one or two centuries after the construction of the mosque, around the fourth or fifth century of the Hegira (10th or 12th century of the Christian era) according to the date of Professor Pirnia . The researcher Mehrdad Shokouhi shares the same opinion. The small rooms at the foot of the minaret were probably built in place of an older building, but the researchers have not yet discovered their original function. The size of the terracotta bricks (32 × 32 × 5 cm.) Used in the construction of the mosque is identical to that of the bricks commonly used towards the end of the Sassanid period. This tradition lasted for several centuries after the Islamization of the country. One of the things that attracts the attention of researchers is the absence of any epigraph and inscription in the Fahraj mosque. Indeed, the mosque was built at a date prior to the appearance of such epigraphs in Iranian mosques. The epigraph in Kufic writing of the ancient mosque of Beylaghan (today in the south of the Republic of Azerbaijan) bearing the date of 308 AH (921 CE) is, in fact, the epigraph the oldest of an Iranian mosque ever discovered.
For almost fifty years, studies on the historical origins of the Fahraj Mosque have been based solely on the architectural aspects of the building, as no archaeological research has been conducted there. In addition, the ancient texts that mention the existence of the mosque of Fahraj do not offer precise details on its origin or its architectural particularities.
The construction techniques and the general plan of the mosque are in continuity with the traditions of pre-Islamic architecture of the Sassanid era. The plan of the prayer hall and its columns, however, reveal the influence of the Arab architecture, not of the first century of the Hegira (seventh century of the Christian era), but that of the Western regions of the caliphate of the Abbasids of the 3rd and 4th centuries of the Hegira (9th to 11th century). Other architectural details of the building can be attributed to the originality and creativity of the builders who were obviously trying to create a harmonious whole between ancient traditions and the general plan of a mosque to offer the building an identity independent. These efforts bore fruit under the Seljuk dynasty in the fifth and sixth centuries of the Hegira (between the middle of the eleventh century and the end of the twelfth century).
In any case, that the mosque of Fahraj, denominated by the inhabitants "mosque of Imam Hassan", was built during the first half of the first century of the Hegira (second half of the seventh century of the Christian era As Professor Mohammad-Karim Pirnia maintains, or dating from the 3rd century AH (9th century AD), it is without a doubt one of the oldest mosques in Iran. with, as we have mentioned, the Tari-Khaneh mosque of Damghan. These mosques thus represent the best examples of what historians sometimes call "transition period".
The website "www.360cities.net"; offers you a panoramic view of the mosque of Fahraj, which gives a more precise idea of the exterior facade of this ancient monument.