The Mosque of Imam el Hussein holds special significance for Shia Muslims, who believe that the decapitated head of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Imam Al-Hussein, is buried at Al-Hussein Mosque.
The Al Hussein Mosque is famously known for it is housing the oldest complete manuscript of the Holy Qur’an.
Al Hussein Mosque is located just a short distance from downtown Cairo, in an area of the city known as Old Cairo or Islamic Cairo, next to Khan Khalili Bazaar where traders have been selling their wares ever since the 14th century.
The grandson of the Prophet Muhammed, Hussein was killed in Iraq in 680 by the Umayyads, who had earlier been recognized as Muhammed’s successors against the claims of Ali, Hussein’s father. This generation power struggle over the caliphate caused an enduring schism within Islam.
The Muslim world’s Sunni majority not only recognized the Umayyads caliphate but forbade the office to anyone of Ali’s line.
Conversely, the Shia (‘partisans of Ali’) minority refused to accept any leader but a descendant of Ali, and revered Hussein as a martyr. In Egypt, whose Muslim population is almost completely Sunni, Hussein is nevertheless regarded as a popular Saint.
Today, Al Hussein Mosque is considered to be one of the holiest Islamic places in all of Egypt.
Another fascinating feature of this mosque is the fact that one can see huge ornately decorated umbrellas at the front of the building. These were installed for two reasons: to provide much needed shade for people praying outside the mosque, and to provide some shelter from the rain during heavy downpours.
Shia Muslims believe that Husain’s head is buried on the grounds of the mosque. The complex includes a mausoleum, which dates back to the mosque’s original construction 549 A.H/ 1154 A.D.