Ḍarīḥ (Arabic: الضَريح) is a metal structure similar to a grille made of gold, silver, copper, wood, etc. placed on the grave of an Imam, children of Imam or religious leaders. There is no exact information about the history of the emergence of Darih, and its development to the current form; but "Darih" meaning "a small room or box" has been commonly used since the first/seventh century. Apparently, the history of Darih with its current form (grille-shaped and made of silver or copper) dates back to Safavid period.
"Darih" is an Arabic word meaning "grave" and "the cleft in the middle of the grave" is mentioned in Arabic dictionaries; however, in Farsi, it refers to "a small room, box or a grille-shaped structure made of iron or wood placed on the grave of an Imam or children of Imam". With its common Persian meaning, in Lebanon, it is referred to as "Shubbak" meaning "a net-like enclosure made of iron or wood" and in Egypt it is called "Maqsura" commonly referring to "a place, room, or small house".
Darih is a small room in a rectangular cubic form which separates the space around the grave from the surrounding area. Usually, a Darih has four corners, but the Darihs installed for the shrine of Imam al-Husayn (a) and al-'Askariyyayn (a) have six corners. In the sides of a Darih, there are small openings to drop in donations.
There is no exact information about the cause and the time of the emergence of Darih and how it has developed to its current form. However, Muslims' belief in the necessity of honoring and glorifying religious leaders has been a cause for building a memorial place for them after their death. And so placing a box, later fence, and after it a Darih on their graves, turned their graves into shrines for people to visit.
With the meaning of "a small room or box", Darih has been commonly used since the first/seventh century. For example, there are reports about placing a box, making a roof and a small building upon the grave of Imam al-Husayn (a) before 65/684-685. Also around 170/786-787, Harun built a Darih on the grave of Imam 'Ali (a) using white bricks. But apparently, the history of Darih in its current form (grille-shaped and made of silver or copper) dates back to the time of Safavids.
Fiqh scholars have spoken about the rulings related to Darih under discussions such as purity. These scholars have regarded Darihs of the Infallibles (s) and their children honorable and therefore have forbidden (announced it Haram) to disrespect those darihs.
Regarding the building of Darih an innovation (Bid'a) and polytheism, Wahhabis have many times demolished the Darihs of religious leaders. They have also looted and destroyed Darihs of the Imams (a) buried in al-Baqi' cemetery in Medina and the Darih of Imam al-Husayn (a) in 1216/1801-1802 in Karbala. In his journey to Hajj in 1297/1879-1880, Hisam al-Saltana has spoken of seeing a green Darih made of wood on the graves of the Imams (a) buried in al-Baqi' which was destroyed in the second attack of Wahhabis to Medina in 1344/1925-1926.
Making Darih is among religious arts including a combination of different arts such as painting, calligraphy, engraving, woodcarving, gilding, and metalwork. Therefore, usually, to make a Darih a team of metalworkers (goldsmiths, engravers, fretworkers, enamel workers) must work together. Making Darih has been among common handicrafts in Isfahan. In addition to Darih, the same arts are used to build the gates of the shrines.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from ضریح in Farsi Wikishia.