ḤOSAYNIYA, buildings specifically designed to serve as venues for Moḥarram ceremonies commemorating the martyrdom of Ḥosayn b. ʿAli (q.v.), and to accommodate visiting participants (Dehḵodā, Loḡat-nāma, s.v.). This name has also been used for certain branches of early Shiʿism and as a place name. Ḥosayniyas had been built in the major cities of Baghdad, Aleppo, and Cairo by the end of the third/tenth century, originally in the form of annexes to mosques (Ayoub, p. 154). They served as the starting-point for local ʿĀšurā (q.v.) processions. There is no evidence of the building of ḥosayniyas in Persia before the Safavid period, during which their history remains poorly documented. ʿĀšurā processions could start and end in any religious building or next to shrines, and therefore did not require a building specifically designed for this purpose. However, it is reported that from the early 17th century the Portuguese Augustinians were based near the Masjed-e Jāmeʿ in Isfahan, in a district called “the Ḥosayniya quarter,” which suggests the presence there already of a ḥosayniya of some kind by this time (see Richard, I, p. 26).

In the 1780s, the development of dramatized Moḥarram rituals led to an increase in the building of venues for them (usually called takias), particularly in Caspian areas of Persia (see Peterson, pp. 65 ff., 72). The functions of takias and ḥosayniyas thus began to overlap (Homā-yuni, p. 287). The Maydān-e bozorg at Zavāra near Arde-stān (q.v.), “built” under Āḡā Moḥammad Khan or during the early years of Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah’s reign, is considered to be the first ḥosayniya of the Qajar period. This ḥo-sayniya had both covered and open areas in order to enable the performance of Moḥarram ceremonies in all seasons (Homāyuni, pp. 72 ff., 120; see the photograph of the covered arena of the Ḥosayniya-e kučak at Zavāra, in Peterson, p. 72). Although the building of ḥosayniyas nowincreased rapidly all across Persia, only those with intrinsic architectural or artistic importance, such as the Ḥosayniya-ye Mošir (q.v.) in Shiraz and the Ḥosayniya-ye Amini in Qazvin (Fontana, p. 44, n. 67), have received a significant amount of attention.

Ḥosayniyas are generally built according to a similar design as that of a kārvānsarā. Their basic requirement is a large amount of space, open or covered, in which to perform the Moḥarram ceremonies, and lodgings for visiting participants. Thus the lodgings are built around a courtyard (maydān), which contains the stage, in the form of a square or circular platform (saku). Expenses for the maintenance and running of the ḥosayniya, such as for the invitation and housing of visiting participants and feeding the poor, have normally been met by charitable contributions and endowments (waqf).

During the constitutional revolution of 1905-11, Moḥar-ram gatherings began to take on a political character, a tendency which was later revived by opponents to the rule of Moḥammad-Reẓā Shah Pahlavi. In 1965, an institute called the Ḥosayniya-ye Eršād was established in Tehran, where lectures were held between 1967 and 1973, most famously by ʿAli Šariʿati (1933-77; see Momen, p. 258), who is considered to have been a major influence behind the Islamic Revolution.

In India, the most common equivalent term for a ḥosayniya, and for a takia as well, is imambara (emāmbāra, also sometimes called ʿāšur-ḵāna and ʿazā-ḵāna). The Ḥosayniya (or Ḥosayni) Dālān built at Dacca in 1052/1642 is considered to be the oldest imambara in the Indian subcontinent (Hassan ul-Ameene, IV, p. 198 ff.).



M. Ayoub, Redemptive Suffering in Islam, The Hague, 1978.

M. V. Fontana, Iconografia dell Ahl al-Bayt. Immagini di arte persiana dal XII al XX secolo, Supp. no. 78, AIUON 54/1, 1994.

Ṣ. Homāyuni, Taʿzia dar Irān, Shiraz, 1368 Š./1989.

M. Momen, An Introduction to Shiʿi Islam, New Haven and London, 1985, p. 258.

S. R. Peterson, “The Ta’ziyeh and related arts,” in P. L. Chelkowski, ed., Taʿziyeh: Ritual and Drama in Iran, New York, 1979, pp. 64-87.

F. Richard, Raphaël du Mans missionnaire en Perse au XVIIe s., 2 vols., Paris, 1995, I, p. 26.

M. Tawaṣṣoli, “Moṣallā, takia, Ḥosayniya,” in M. Y. Kiāni, ed., Meʿmāri-e Irān, dawra-ye eslāmi, Tehran, 1366 Š./1987, pp. 81-90.

Hassan ul-Ameene, Islamic Shi’ite Encyclopaedia, Beirut, 1973, IV, p. 198 ff.

(Jean Calmard)

Originally Published: December 15, 2004

Last Updated: March 23, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XII, Fasc. 5, pp. 517-518