Qom’s Religious and Historical Significance
By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi
Although no infallible Imam has been buried in the city of Qom in Iran, but its importance and glory is derived from several aspects and reasons, which are connected to each other. The primary reason behind the holiness of this city is the burial of Lady Fatima Al-Masuma (sa), who is the sister of Imam Ali Al-Redha (a) who is also buried in Iran in city of Mashhad. In addition, there are enormous historical resources about this city in ancient times, pre-Islamic era and post-Islamic era, which indicate that Qom was a place with great importance. Currently, Qom is the home to the largest number of Shia scholars in the world, as the semi – official numbers give the number of 50000 clergymen in his city.
Lady Fatima Al-Masuma
According to Shia there are only 14 infallibles and those infallibles are chosen by God to guide the humanity in their journey, through presenting and delivering the principles, teachings, ordinances and the pillars revelled by Gog. However, there are individuals from the household of Prophet Mohammad, who have fulfilled this role according to their best ability, and gained very high status with the Imams and Shia traditions. Lady Fatima Al-Masuma, is one of those individuals, who have been praised by several Imams, and has been given the nickname ‘Al-Masuma’, which means the infallible. When visiting her Shrine in Qom, a small eulogy is recited, which addresses her in the following way: ‘Peace be upon you, O’ daughter of God’s heir. Peace be upon you, O’ sister of God’s heir. Peace be upon you, O’ aunt of God’s heir’.
In addition, there are numerous narrations by the Imam, recommending to their followers to visit the tomb of this pious woman, who died in desolation and away from her land and home. The story of this lady is: once the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mamun summoned Imam Ali Al-Redha (her brother) to Khorasan, and placed him as his successor, Lady Fatima Al-Masuma decided to travel to Persia and follow her brother. She was very attached to her brother, especially after the death of her father in the prison of Al-Mamun’s father Harun Al-Rashid. According to Shia sources, a year after her brother was summoned to Khorasan, she set off in a caravan alongside 23 members of her Brother’s family and thousands of followers. Unfortunately, the caravan never made it to Khorasan, as it was attacked by enemies of AhlulBayt in a city nearby Qom, name Saveh. Majority of the caravan were killed, wounded and many of them fled to unknown places, and among those who survived the attack, was Lady Fatima Al-Masuma, who asked to be taken to Qom.
The reason she asked for Qom specifically, is due to the fact that Qom was occupied by a Shia majority population, and many Shia scholars, descendants of previous Imams and general Shia groups were stationed in Qom. Therefore, Qom was the obvious and safest place for resting and reinforcement to finish the journey to Khorasan. However, Lady Fatima Al-Masuma became very sick in Qom, and according to other sources, she was poisoned by a woman and died in Qom and was buried in Qom as well.
Fatima Al-Masuma’s impact on Qom
Due to the high numbers of narrations praising the one who visits the tomb of Lady Fatima Al-Masuma and her status in the hearts of Prophet’s holy household, the burial place of this lady became of great significance. The extent of this significance can be identified by the numbers of high status scholars, who moved to the city of Qom, or originated from this city. In addition, these scholars attracted large numbers of pupils and followers as well, which was a great factor in urbanizing this area into an actual important attraction and destination.
As mentioned above, currently the city of Qom holds the highest number of Shia clergymen in the world, and it is considered Shia Islam’s largest religious center. The famous traditional seminaries of Qom were founded by Ayatollah Sheikh Abdul Kareem Al-Haieri and Ayatollah Boroujerdi, who are both buried in Qom. At the present time, majority of Qom’s seminaries are officially ran by the state, as the official system of Iran is (Islamic Republic). In addition, there are many independent schools and seminaries in Qom led by prominent and great scholars, which are not affiliated with the state.
The city of Qom would never be equal to Najaf or Karbala in status and holiness, as the status of those two cities as beyond comprehension, but its religious importance and intellectual centrality has doubled the significance of this city. The Iranian revolution of 1979 and a clergymen led government in Iran, alongside severe oppression against the scholars of Najaf by Saddam Hussein, had an important role in Qom’s intellectual and economic advancement.