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Ḥūsayniyya (Arabic: حُسَینیَّه) is one of Shi'a religious institutions, which is mostly used for holding mourning sessions for Imam al-Husayn (a) and the martyrs of Karbala. In different regions, names such as Ma'tam, Imambara, 'Ashurakhana or 'Aza Khana are used to refer to this place.

There is at least one Husayniyya in each neighborhood in Shi'a cities. It is said that there were about 2000 Husayniyyas in Lucknow, India, in about 1795. In the late 1960s, there were 630 Husayniyyas in Tehran, the capital city of Iran. According to the official statistics of the year 1996-7 in Iran, 7528 Husayniyyas were counted, which is more than 11 percent of all the religious places of the country. Mostly in Muharram and Safar, Husayniyyas are exclusively utilized for holding traditional sessions of mourning for Imam al-Husayn (a) and his companions; in other times, it is used for general religious and cultural ceremonies. Most Husayniyyas have plain architecture. Public donations fund Husayniyyas.


The word “Husayniyya” was not mentioned in early sources. Seemingly, from the time of Safavid, Husayniyyas started to appear in the cultural sphere of Shi'a in Iran. During the Buyid (Al Buya), in 963-4, Mu'izz al-Dawla al-Daylami ordered to set up tents in streets for mourning on 'Ashura'. The tents were made of wooden or metal frames covered by canvas. This tradition has continued to the present time. There is no report in early sources about permanent sites or buildings titled as Husayniyya; as the mourning sessions were held in mosques, holy shrines of the Imams and their descendants, bazaars, Tekyehs and such. Most likely, allocating a building to be used as Husayniyya has started from the time of Qajar Dynasty, as the construction date of the most famous and important Husayniyyas are not older than that.

Husayniyya in Different Regions

Naming the places of mourning for Imam al-Husayn (a) depended on the traditions and literature of each region; for instance, the word "Tekyeh" was mostly used in Iraq and Iran. In contemporary Iran, most places that are built for mourning for Imam al-Husayn (a) are named Husayniyya and almost no one use "Tekyeh" as a title for these new-built places; even Tekyehs are changed to Husayniyya after reconstruction.

Shi'a in Oman and Bahrain use "Ma'tam" for these places. Shi'a in India and Pakistan use "Imambara" or "Imambari" or "'Ashurakhana" or "'Aza Khana" and in Afghanistan the word "Manbar" is used for addressing these places.



Special mourning ceremony of Muharram 8th, in Husayniyya A'zam in Zanjan.
Husayniyya Sadat Akhawi is one of the oldest Husayniyyas located in Tehran, Iran.

Despite the significance of mosques, Husayniyyas have a special place for holding religious mourning sessions. The most prominent functions of Husayniyya are holding mourning ceremonies for Imam al-Husayn (a) in the first ten days of Muharram or from the first day of Muharram to Safar 28th, holding mourning sessions for other infallible Imams (a), celebrating the birthdays of the Imams (a) or the important holidays (Eids) in Islam, holding religious sessions during the month of Ramadan especially in the Nights of Qadr, holding Qur'an-reciting sessions, holding funeral ceremony for the citizens and other religious and cultural sessions.

Strengthening Empathy

The most important center of Shi'a mass communications in Muharram and Safar is Husayniyya. The presence and cooperation of people for preparing, providing services and holding the ceremony, regardless of age, gender, financial status and social rank, will boast their morale of empathy and solidarity. Because a Husayniyya of each neighborhood has gained the special identity of that neighborhood, this social function of Husayniyya establishes and strengthens deep-rooted relations among the resident on a neighborhood scale. Strengthening the empathy and solidarity becomes more prominent in Husayniyyas of immigrant minorities or people of other cities, for instance, the Husayniyya of the people of Tabriz in Tehran or the Husayniyya of Iranians in Iraq.

Welfare Services

Recently, Husayniyya has become a center for some welfare activities such as Qard al-Hasans fund(interest-free loan fund).

Accommodations for Pilgrims

In famous religious cities such as Karbala, Najaf and Mashhad, Husayniyyas are used as accommodations for pilgrims, for instance, Husayniyya-i Tehraniha in Karbala, which was the biggest Husayniyya in Karbala and was built by the donations of the people of Tehran. In addition to a vast hall on the first floor and several spacious basements, it contained more than 200 rooms for housing the pilgrims. However, this Husayniyya was destroyed by the Ba'th army during the 1991 Shi'a uprising in Iraq.

Architecture Style

"Seven Colors" tiling of Husayniyya-i Mushir in Shiraz

Most Husayniyyas have plain architecture style and contain an indoor space for gathering; however, some of them are important due to their interior and exterior decorations, such as Husayniyya-i Shaykh Muhammad Taqi Farahi and Husayniyya-i Aqa Shaykh Ali in Behshahr, Mazandaran and Husayniyya-i Mushir. Also, Husayniyya-i Irshad, which was established in Tehran in 1966-7 for cultural and social purposes, has modern architecture and a hall for delivering lectures. Husayniyyas usually consist of a single building; however, sometimes they are built in a complex containing garden, mosque, iwan, bathroom, small markets and …, such as Husayniyya-i Mushir in Shiraz and Husayniyya Amir Sulaymani in Tehran.

Husayniyya Role in Urban Architecture

In relation to the location of Husayniyyas in an urban context, in most cases, Husayniyyas are the main connection point of the streets and an important part of the architectural structure of the city and the most important indoor place in each neighborhood.

Naming Husayniyyas

Husayniyyas are sometimes named after the person who had built or endowed them such as Husayniyya-i Sayyid Muhammad Salih in Karbala, sometimes they are named by guilds such as Husayniyya of tailors' guild in Birjand, sometimes they are named by the people of a city (mostly when the Husayniyya is in another city) for example Husayniyya-i Qumiha (Husayniyya of the people of Qom) in Karbala, sometimes they are called by the neighborhood they are located in and sometimes they are named after the infallible Imams (a) or their descendants.

Expenses and Incomes

Some devout sponsors usually pay the expenses of construction, maintenance, and ceremonies in Husayniyyas, who usually endow sums of money or estates for this purpose. Sometimes, ordinary people meet the expenses collectively. Some people change their house to Husayniyya temporarily or permanently. In addition to general religious motivations, vowing (Nadhr) (e.g. for healing the sick) or success in their works are the most important motivations for establishing temporary or permanent Husayniyya.

See Also


  • The material for this article is mainly taken from حسینیه in Farsi WikiShia.