The Hast Imam ensemble may be one of the most important religious sites in the Islamic world, but you won’t hear much about it outside of Uzbekistan. Hosting the oldest known copy of the Quran, and a strand of hair from the Prophet Muhammad, Hast Imam is the heart of muslim Tashkent. This sprawling architectural complex, packed full of impressive monuments, is largely devoid of tourists, but is also one of the most interesting places in the Uzbek capital city.
Full of sacred buildings both ancient and new, Hast Imam is named after local scholar and former imam of the city of Tashkent, Abu Bakr ibn Ismail al-Kaffal al-Shoshiy, or Hazroti Imom for short. Hazroti is most famous for his legendary mastery of 72 languages, and translation of the Hebrew Bible into Arabic. He died in the 10th century, but after 600 years his tomb had to be rebuilt thanks to Uzbekistan’s brutal climate. Thus the historical significance of this site dates back more than 1000 years.
Additional names for the ensemble that are generally recognized by local guides and taxi drivers are Hazrat Imam, Khast-Imam, and Khazrati Imam, although to be fair, Khazrati and Hazroti are both pronounced the same. When in doubt, show the Cyrillic spelling of the name (Хазрати Имам) to your driver and you might have better luck getting there. Admission to the square is free and open to all, unlike Registan Square in Samarkand. Again, Hast Imam is largely ignored by international tourists anxious to get out to the more famous cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva.
Anchoring the main square, which measures 140 by 90 meters (and seems to take an eternity to cross in the blazing heat of the summer), is the cathedral mosque Hazrati Imam. Built only in 2007, this project was an initiative of the late President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, and effectively “completed” the 1000 year history of the entire architectural complex.
Looking at the mosque today, there’s little indication that the it’s brand new, except for the outstanding condition of the structure. The architects purposely constructed this new mosque in the exact style of all the other buildings on the square to avoid making it stand out too much. The mosque is flanked by two super-tall minarets, which at 53 meter each, are surpassed only by the 56.6 meter Islam Khoja minaret in Khiva.
Among the unique design features of the Hazrati Imam Mosque are windows that let in direct sunlight from sunrise to sunset. Despite modern conveniences like electric lights, every effort was made to avoid using technological enhancements and preserve the look and feel of the structure in accordance with the architectural innovations of the 15th century. The interior dome also features gold leaf in a similar style as the Tilla-Kori Madrassah in Samarkand.
The Hazrati Imam Mosque is just one of the historically significant sites of the Hast Imam Ensemble. This last 100 days blog project will feature various other important historical monuments which can be found here in the weeks ahead, so stay tuned!