In the old Tashkent residential neighborhood called Sibzar, lies Khazrat Imam Square with a complex of architectural monuments that sprang up here in the course of several centuries. Scientists believe that early in the Middle Ages this place was the town’s center, which was then called Shash. The ensemble of the monuments began to take its shape around the burial-place of Kaffal ash-Shashi, the first Tashkent’s imam and propagator of Islam. It was he after whom the square was named Khazret Imam (‘Saint Imam’).
Abubekr Muhammad ibn Ali Ismail al-Kaffal ash-Shashi was born in Tashkent in 903. He got education in Bukhara, Samarkand and Termez madrassahs and was considered a spiritual heir of Imam al-Bukhariy and Muhammad at-Termiziy, who were two of the pillars of Muslim theology. Several times Kaffal ash-Shashi made a hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca. He visited Damascus, Baghdad and Hijaz. During his travels he took part in disputes with eminent Muslim theologians of the time and showed a deep knowledge in all the realms of theology. His authority was so great that he was given the title of ‘Great Imam’ in Arabian world. His contemporaries believed that he had no equal among the best theologians of Movarounnahr. When he returned home he did everything in his power to spread Islam and to strongly establish the basics of sharia.
After his death in 976, his burial-place was proclaimed to be holy. In 1541 a mausoleum was built over his grave. Above the façade door of the mausoleum there still exists an inscription in verse with the date of the construction and the names of the royal architect Gulyam-Hussein and calligrapher Kudrat, who took part in the construction. The mausoleum has an unusual design. Since the burial-place of Kaffal al-Shashi was a place of pilgrimage, the mausoleum had the shape of a khanaka – shelter for travelers. Besides a large X-shaped hall, it has three tiers of khudjra cells in the corner pylons. The structure stands on quite a high base contrasting the surrounding low graves. Its portal faces northward, not the direction of Mecca, which conflicts with the tradition. In spite of its large size, the building looks graceful and tall due to the blue dome lying on a drum in the form of a rectangular prism. The façade has a large peshtak portal with majolica decorative patterns. The tombstone of the saint is located in the faceted niche in the western part of the mausoleum. Many pilgrims still visit this holy place to get the saint’s blessings and help.
Near the mausoleum of Kaffal ash-Shashi is Imam al-Bukhariy Islamic Institute. It is housed in the former Namazgokh Mosque, which was built in the 19th century. This building is decorated with national gunch stucco carvings and patterned paintings. The Institute was established in 1970, and it has become an authoritative higher education institution in the Muslim world. The young men who are eager to devote themselves to serving Allah after getting secondary learning at a madrassah, can proceed with their studies in this Institute. Here, within four years they study theology, literature, history and Arabic.
Khazrat Imam Complex also includes the building of Uzbekistan’s Office of Spiritual Administration of Muslims. Near it stands Juma Mosque, which was built on the ancient foundations in the 19th century and was repeatedly reconstructed in the later period. This Mosque provides Friday prayer service and performs wedding ceremonies. Opposite the Mosque there is the library of Uzbekistan’s Office of Spiritual Administration of Muslims with over 30 thousand religious and secular books. Among them are two thousand valuable rarities: richly illustrated manuscripts of the early 16th century, unique samples of calligraphy, splendidly decorated books of the Koran gifted to the Office of Spiritual Administration by leaders of Islamic countries… Especially valuable is the sacred Osman’s Koran, which is on display in the library’s special hall.
The fourth construction to complete the complex on Khazrat Imam Suqare is a huge Friday Jamiy Mosque with its bright turquoise domes. It was built in our time in the best traditions of Central Asian achitecture. Two huge 56-meter tall minarets flank the entrance to the mosque in Karaserai Street.
Khazret Imam Complex has been Uzbekistan’s center of Islamic culture for over a thousand of years.