Qadamgāh (Persian: قَدَمْگاه) refers to places of pilgrimage in the Islamic world where there is believed to be a footprint attributed to an Infallible (a) or a prominent religious figure, or a place where a holy person is thought to have stepped in.
Footprints of saints are respected in other religions as well. In the Islamic world, there are qadamgahs attributed to Israelite prophets (a), the Prophet Muhammad (s), and Shiite Imams (a). Those attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (s) are mostly found in Arabia and India, and those attributed to Shiite Imams (a), including Imam 'Ali (a) and Imam al-Rida (a), are usually found in Iran and Iraq. There are many qadamgahs in Iran attributed to Imam al-Rida (a)—places he stepped in on his way from Medina to Merv. One of these is a qadamgah in Nishapur.
"Qadamgah" literally means the place of foot or the place of stepping. In the Islamic culture, it refers to a place where a prophet, an Imam, or another holy person has stepped, or where there is a footprint on a stone or something else which is thought to belong to a prophet or an Imam. In some regions, a qadamgah is referred to as "nazargah" (place of looking) or "gozargah" (place of passage).
In some qadamgahs, there is a print of two human feet and sometimes one foot on a piece of stone. The stone is usually kept and visited in a building.
Visiting the footprints of religious figures is common among followers of other religions as well. Hindus visit the footprint of Shiva, and Buddhists visit the footprint of Buddha. Some qadamgahs in the Islamic world are attributed to Israelite prophets. There are footprints attributed to the Prophet Adam (a) in Ceylon and Mecca. Maqam Ibrahim (a) (Stance of the Prophet Abraham (a)) in Mecca was also visited as a qadamgah. There are other qadamgahs in Iran, Syria, and Palestine attributed to Methuselah, Isaac (a), Jacob (a), Job (a), Idris (a), Khidr (a), Moses (a), and Jesus (a).
History of Qadamgah in Iran
Some qadamgahs in Iran trace back to the late Abbasid period, that is, the seventh/thirteenth century. However, most qadamgahs date back to the Safavid period. The construction of qadamgahs increased in this period, because Safavid kings considered qadamgahs to be sacred and constructed them as a means for the propagation of Shiism. According to a statistics published in 1996, there are 1,185 qadamgahs and nazargahs in Iran, 250 of which are attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (s), Imams (a), and holy people. Most of these qadamgahs are located in Hormozgan, Kerman, Khuzestan, and Khorasan provinces.
Qadamgahs Attributed to the Prophet (s)
There are qadamgahs attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (s), known as "Ithr al-Nabi (s)" (the trace of the Prophet (s)), "Ithr al-Sujud" (the trace of prostration), or "al-Qadam al-Sharif" (the holy step). The best-known footprint attributed to the Prophet (s) is the one on Foundation Stone under the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat al-Sakhra) in Jerusalem al-Quds. According to Muslims, at the night of Mi'raj the Prophet (s) stepped on that stone and then rode Buraq and flied to the sky. Some qadamgahs are attributed to the Prophet (s) in Mecca, Medina, and Ta'if. Even the print of the hoofs of the Prophet's (s) mule was honored by people.
Of one of the stones on which there is a footprint attributed to the Prophet (s) installed in a dome near Zamzam, it is said that Sharif 'Awn al-Rafiq, the ruler of Mecca, destroyed the dome in 1229/1813 and then sold the stone to a Hindu. In a small town known as "Ithr al-Nabi" near Cairo, the stone of "Ithr al-Nabi" was visited in a mosque. The inscriptions on the stone show that its dome was reconstructed by Ibrahim Pasha in 1071/1660.
Indian Muslims believe that they had brought stones on which there were the Prophet's (s) footprints from Hijaz to India. Qadam al-Rasul in Lucknow and Qadam Sharif in Delhi are attributed to the Prophet (s).
The claim about the Prophet's (s) footprints on stones cannot be found in early sources or reliable hadiths. According to some Muslim scholars, such beliefs were contrived by laypeople, and visiting such places is objectionable.
Qadamgahs Attributed to Imam 'Ali (a)
In Iran and Iraq, qadamgahs are mostly attributed to Imams and Shiite holy figures. According to Nasir Khusraw, there were thirteen qadamgahs in Basra attributed to Imam 'Ali (a). In Iran, there are many qadamgahs attributed to Imam 'Ali (a), in some of which there are prints of the hoofs of the Imam's horse, Duldul, or traces of his sword, Dhu l-Faqar. The construction of some of these qadamgahs in Iran dates back to the pre-Safavid era, including a qadamgah in Saleh Abad near Kashan the inscription of which dates back to 711/1311.
Qadamgahs Attributed to Imam al-Rida (a)
As a result of Imam al-Rida (a)'s travel from Medina to Merv, in which he crossed a major part of Iran, there are many qadamgahs attributed to him. The best known qadamgah attributed to the Imam (a) is the one in Nishapur which was constructed at the command of Shah 'Abbas in 1020/1611 over the relics of another building. It is widely believed that there is a human footprint on a black stone installed inside the building which is attributed to Imam al-Rida (a).
The majority of qadamgahs attributed to Imam al-Rida (a) in Iran date back to the Safavid era. At least one-tenth of the 250 qadamgahs in Iran which are attributed to a prophet, an Imam, or a holy person are attributed to Imam al-Rida (a). The majority of qadamgahs attributed to him are located on his way from Medina to Merv (the so-called "Path of Wilaya"). However, there are qadamgahs attributed to him in other parts of Iran as well.
No particular ritual is cited for visiting a qadamgah. Believers usually kiss the footprint in a qadamgah, make tabarruk with it, and sometimes bury the dead near a qadamgah. They also endow for the qadamgah, such as a place for its visitors, or giving nadhr foods to its visitors.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from قدمگاه in Farsi WikiShia.