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Ḍarīḥ (Arabic: الضَريح) is a net-like structure 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 (net-like 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 net-like 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 "Shabbak" 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 cube form which separates the space around the grave from the greater 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 for dropping in donations.
There is no exact information about the cause, the time of emergence of Darih, and its way of development to the current form. But, 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 with its current form (net-like and made of silver and copper) dates back to the time of Safavids.
Fiqh scholars have spoken about the rulings related to Darih under discussions such as purity and have regarded Darihs of the Infallibles (s) and their children honorable. Based on those rulings, it was therefore forbidden (Haram) to disrespect them too.
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 itself, for making the doors of the holy shrines the same arts are used.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from ضریح in Farsi Wikishia.