Named in honor of saint Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani (1077-1166), the shrine complex is one of the most important sanctuaries in Baghdad. It lies in the eastern part of the city in al-Rusafah neighborhood.
The first structure erected on the site was a Hanbali madrasa, built by Abu Said al-Mubarak bin Ali al-Muharrami in 1145. Al-Jaylani developed the madrasa into a takiyya of the Qadiriyya order and was buried there upon his death. In 1534, Ottoman sultan Suleyman I (the Magnificent) built a complex around the shrine, consisting of a tomb, mosque, madrasa and soup kitchens. The complex was renovated in 1638, 1709, 1865 and 1903 under the Ottomans and restored by the Iraqi Waqfs Directorate in 1970-76 and 1982-84.
Aligned with qibla along the southwest-northeast axis, the roughly rectangular complex is centered on a mosque-tomb structure set into its south corner. Built in 1534, the mosque-tomb is enveloped by an enclosed double-portico or ambulatory on three sides. The remaining L-shaped courtyard is enveloped by madrasa cells preceded by porticoes. Two gateways, located among the southeast and northwest cells, lead into the shrine courtyard. A larger walled courtyard adjoins the qibla (southwest) wall of the complex, accessed with a doorway from the shrine courtyard.
The courtyard facade of the mosque-tomb is composed of pointed arches separated by a jutting pilaster. A band of inscription runs above the arches on three sides. Inside, the ambulatory domes are supported by tall columns with capitals decorated with geometric motifs. Four recently restored mihrabs are carved into the mihrab wall of the ambulatory aisles on either side of the mosque.
The single-domed mosque is entered primarily from a portal centered on its northwest wall. Two side entrances from the ambulatory are located along its northeast wall. A single dome, supported on squinches covers the interior. The qibla wall houses the mihrab with its simple inscriptive frame while the remaining walls are animated with central niches flanked by slim columns carrying acanthus scrolls capitals. Above the mihrab, two windows admit light into the space. On the right side of the mihrab a few steps lead up to the Ottoman minbar.
The tomb, which adjoins the southeast wall of the prayer hall, is accessible from ambulatories to its southeast and northwest, as well as from the mosque. It consists of three domed rooms; the largest dome is set over the central burial chamber, carried on muqarnas squinches. It holds the saint's wooden sarcophagus and is decorated by a marble dado and mirrors on the interior. A band of inscription envelops the interior of the dome. Three other tombs -- belonging to Jaylani's sons Abduljabbar, Abd al-Rahman and Abd al-Wahab, are located among the madrasa cells to the right of the southeast gateway.
A fenced platform in the shrine courtyard serves as an outdoor prayer space during the summer. A Saljuk-period minaret rises at the southern corner of the narrow, rectangular platform; it is tied over to the southeast gateway with an archway. It has an octagonal base, a cylindrical shaft with two balconies, and a small dome. Muqarnas carvings adorn the corbels of the upper balcony. A clocktower, erected in 1899, occupies the opposite corner of the prayer platform in the courtyard. A second, smaller minaret was added during the Ottoman period to the northwest gateway; its cylindrical body is topped by a green-tiled conical crown.
Strika, V. and Khalil J. 1987. The Islamic Architecture of Baghdad. Naploi: Instituto Universitario Orientale, Napoli, 39-42.
Uluçam, Abdüsselam. 1989. Irak'taki Türk Mimari Eserleri. Ankara: Kültür Bakanligi, 31-36.