BOQʿA (plur. beqāʿ or boqaʿ but commonly although incorrectly boqāʿ), the mausoleum of a sacred or revered personage, sometimes taken to include additional structures adjoining the tomb or the open space surrounding it. Originally meaning a piece of land visibly distinguished from its surroundings either by its elevation or in some other way, the word boqʿa came to mean a choice or preferred plot of land (Dehḵodā, s.v. boqʿa). By the fifth/eleventh century, the word appears also to have acquired in Persian the general sense of “sacred place.” Maybodī, for example, refers to the church built in Ṣaṇʿā by Abraha as a boqʿa (X, p. 616). We also find the word being applied to Sufi hospices, as in the case of those built by Abū Esḥāq Kāzarūnī (d. 426/1035; see Maḥmūd b. ʿOṯmān, pp. 31, 204, where boqʿa is used interchangeably with rebāṭ). The common practice of burying shaikhs (particularly the founders of orders) in the hospices they had established presumably led to the use of boqʿa in the sense of mausoleum. Some surviving pre-Safavid mausolea are now known as boqʿa (e.g., the Boqʿa-ye Jaʿfarīya in Isfahan, an eighth/fourteenth-century structure; see Honarfar, pp. 300-01), but the use of boqʿa in this sense appears to be a relatively late development, not encountered perhaps before the Safavid period, and to be restricted to Iran. Nonetheless, it has been suggested that the name of the Beqāʿ valley in Lebanon derives not only from its being an area of low elevation but also from tombs attributed to various prophets that are situated there (R. Hartmann, “Buḳʿa,” in EI1).
Mausolea designated as boqʿa occur in a wide variety of settings. Some stand in the middle of cities, surrounded by buildings of a secular nature; this is the case with the Boqʿa-ye Sayyed Esmāʿīl, a Qajar structure situated near Čāla Meydān in Tehran (Najmī, pp. 263-64). Others are found in complete isolation, in remote or rural settings, such as the boqʿa attributed to ʿAlī b. Šahrāšūb in the forest outside Bābol (Rāzī, III, p. 160). Very often a boqʿa is situated inside a cemetery, as for example Boqʿa-ye Bābā Rokn-al-Dīn which stands inside the ancient Taḵt-e Fūlād cemetery on the south bank of the Zāyandarūd in Isfahan (Honarfar, pp. 493-97). A boqʿa may sometimes form the nucleus around which a cemetery has grown: this was the case with the Boqʿa-ye Sayyed Walī, situated with its surrounding cemetery at the eastern extremity of the shoemakers’ bāzār (Bāzār-e Kafšdūzhā) in Tehran (Najmī, p. 266). A more limited form of expansion took place when a number of persons were successively buried in the same structure, giving it something of a collective aspect; thus the boqʿa of Āqā Ḥosayn Ḵᵛānsārī in Isfahan came to receive the remains of a number of other Safavid ʿolamāʾ and to be known as qobbat al-ʿolamāʾ (the dome of the scholars; Honarfar, pp. 657-59).
Attached to the mausoleum as the central and defining element of the boqʿa are, in some cases, additional structures such as a mosque or a takīya. Conversely, a mausoleum designated as boqʿa may be the sole surviving element in a complex of structures that once included a madrasa or a ḵānaqāh; this is the case with Boqʿa-ye Pīr-e Bakrān, a Mongol building situated 30 kilometers to the southwest of Isfahan (Honarfar, p. 253).
Those buried in a boqʿa generally comprise scholars, Sufis, and half-forgotten or even legendary personalities, the term emāmzāda being reserved for the relatives and descendants of the twelve imams. Sometimes, however, the word boqʿa is applied to an emāmzāda, and the words may even be used in combination; thus Najmī (p. 264) speaks of the Boqʿa-ye Emāmzāda Zayd to the south of Bāzār-e Amīr in Tehran.
An exception to the general rule that a boqʿa consists of, or is centered on, a tomb is provided by the Boqʿa-ye Ṣāḥeb-al-Amr in Tabrīz. The main feature of this boqʿa is a dome, built in Qajar times, over a space where a number of pious persons were believed to have seen the Hidden Imam, the space being known as maqām-e ḥojjat (Nāder Mīrzā, pp. 109-10). The Boqʿa-ye Davāzdah Emām in Bam would appear to be analogous (Rāzī, III, p. 220).
The function of the boqʿa was, of course, to provide a minor place of visitation, where vows might be made and intercession sought. In addition, certain mausolea known as boqʿa provided sanctuary (bast) during the Qajar period.
L. Honarfar, Eṣfahān. Maḥmūd b. ʿOṯmān, Ferdaws al-moršedīya fī asrār al-ṣamadīya, ed. F. Meier, Die Vita des Scheich Abū Isḥāq Kāzarūnī, Leipzig, 1948.
Abu’l-Fażl Rašīd-al-Dīn Maybodī, Kašf al-asrār wa ʿoddat al-abrār, ed. ʿA.-A. Ḥekmat, Tehran, 1339 Š./1960.
Nāder Mīrzā Qājār, Tārīḵ o joḡrāfīā-ye dār-al-salṭana-ye Tabrīz, Tehran, 1323/1905.
N. Najmī, Dār al-ḵelāfa-ye Tehrān, 2nd ed., Tehran, 1362 Š./1983.
M. Šarīf Rāzī, Ganjīna-ye dānešmandān, Tehran, 1353 Š./1974.
Originally Published: December 15, 1989
Last Updated: December 15, 1989
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Vol. IV, Fasc. 4, pp. 365-366