Imam Ali Mosque
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 Religious status
It is venerated as the fourth holiest site by Muslims, particularly Shiites, Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad and the fourth caliph, is buried there. The Imam Ali Shrine is the third holiest site (see below) for the estimated 130 million followers of the Shiite branch of Islam worldwide – approximately 10 percent of total Muslims. It is estimated that only Mecca and Medina receive more Muslim pilgrims.
Asian Times Online reports about Qom being the second holiest city in Iran. In an attempt to impress the importance of the Hazrat-e Masumeh shrine located in Qom, the article quotes the following famous hadith: "Our sixth imam, Imam Sardeg, says that we have five definitive holy places that we respect very much. The first is Mecca, which belongs to God. The second is Medina, which belongs to the Holy Prophet Muhammad, the messenger of God. The third belongs to our first imam of Shia, Ali, which is in Najaf. The fourth belongs to our third imam, Hussein, in Karbala. The last one belongs to the daughter of our seventh imam and sister of our eighth imam, who is called Fatemah, and will be buried in Qom. Pilgrims and those who visit her holy shrine, I promise to these men and women that God will open all the doors of Heaven to them." 
Heritage Photo Agency based in Iran states: “The world's 120 million Shiites regard Najaf - a center of scientific, literary and theological studies - as their third holiest site, behind Mecca and Medina”. 
In refering to this site, Modarresi News calls it: "The place was the burial site of Islam’s second most important figure and third holiest shrine". <ref>[http://www.modarresinews.com/artc.php?id=75/ Never Again!, Modarresi News, September 4, 2003.</ref>
Zaman Newspaper, based in Turkey, reports that “Because Najaf is home to the Imam Ali tomb and Mosque, Shiite Muslims regard Najaf as the third holiest city after Mecca and Medina”. <ref>Zaman Online, August 13, 2004.</ref>
The Guardian described Najaf, as the third holiest place of Shi'ite Muslims <ref>Why 2003 is not 1991, The Guardian, April 1, 2003.</ref> The Boston Globe reports “for the world's nearly 120 million Muslim Shiites, Najaf is the third holiest city, behind Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. <ref>Iraqi forces in Najaf take cover in important Shiite shrine, The Boston Globe, April 2, 2003.</ref> The CNN website states: “the Shiite the city of Najaf, Islam's third holiest city after Mecca and Medina and home to the Tomb of Imam Ali, cousin of the Prophet Muhammad and father of Karbala's Husayn ibn Ali”. <ref>Religious rivalries and political overtones in Iraq, CNN.com, April 23, 2003.</ref> Referring to Najaf, ShiaNews.com describes it as “the place is the burial site of Islam’s second most important figure and third holiest shrine” 
On the website of The Virtual Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of the Islamic World, a division of the University of Georgia, under Miscellaneous Relevant Links, it cites a link to a news story “about Iraqi troops using the shrine of Ali in Najaf and about the instructions given to American troops not to damage the shrine, which, after Mecca and Medina, is the holiest city for Shiites.” And “American authorities have not taken an active public role in the mosque investigation because of Iraqi sensitivity to any US presence at the Najaf Shrine. The mosque is the most sacred Shiite shrine in Iraq and the third holiest in the world after Mecca and Medina”  (last section on page)
IslamicTouism goes further and bypasses Medina stating “Najaf, home to the shrine of Imam Ali, the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, is Muslim Shiites second holiest site after Mecca in Saudi Arabia”. 
The shrine was first built by the Iranian ruler the Daylamite Fannakhosraw Azod ad Dowleh in 977 over the tomb of Ali. After being destroyed by fire, it was rebuilt by the Seljuk Malik Shah I in 1086, and rebuilt yet again by the Safavid Shah Ismail I shortly after 1500.
During the uprising of March 1991, following the Persian Gulf War, Saddam Hussein's Republican Guards damaged the shrine, where members of the Shiite opposition were cornered, in storming the shrine and massacring virtually all its occupants. Afterwards the shrine was closed for two years, officially for repairs. Saddam also deported to Iran a large number of the residents of the area who were of Iranian descent.
 Events in 2003-2006
On April 10, 2003, Shiite leader Sayed Abdul Majid al-Khoei, the son of Grand Ayatollah Abu al Qasim al-Khoei, was killed near the mosque. Al-Khoei had returned from exile in Britain to encourage cooperation with the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.
On August 29, 2003, a car bomb exploded outside the mosque just as the main Friday prayers were ending. Somewhere between 85 to 125 people were killed, including the influential Ayatollah Sayed Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, the Shiite leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The blast is thought to be the work of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
In August 2004, an ongoing battle between combined U.S. and Iraqi forces, and the Islamist al-Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr, damaged two of the minarets of the mosque in which al-Sadr's forces have taken refuge. On August 23, at least 15 explosions, many sounding like artillery shells, rocked the area, as shrapnel fell in the courtyard of the gold-domed mosque and gunfire echoed through the alleyways. The fighting was eventually ended by a peace agreement; although the neighboring buildings suffered considerable damage, the mosque itself suffered only superficial damage from stray bullets and shrapnel.
 See also
- Imam Ali
- Timeline of Islamic history
- Islamic architecture
- Islamic art
- List of mosques
- Third holiest site in Islam
 External links
- GlobalSecurity.org website: past and current history of the mosque
- Fighting, Artillery Barrage Rocks Iraqi Shrine (Reuters; August 23, 2004)ka:იმამ ალის მეჩეთი