The mausoleum is a shrine to the mystical figure Harun Vilayat, who is varyingly personified by distinguished sets of Muslim believers as different holy personalities, such as the son of the tenth imam, the son of the eleventh imam, the grandson of the sixth imam or the seventh Imam. The shrine reputed for its miraculous powers is also venerated by some Armenian Christians and greatly influenced Safavid Isfahan's urban design in the sixteenth century. The square of Harun Vilayat in the Dardasht quarter of the city was the original town centre of Isfahan, with mention in documents dating to the first Safavid ruler Shah Ismail's reign till Safavid ruler Shah Abbas I shifted the focus to the grand Maidan-i Shah in 1590.
The mausoleum was built in 1512-13 by Mirza Shah Husain, a vassal of Durmish Khan Shamlu, Isfahan's governor under Shah Ismail. One of the earliest Safavid buildings, the building is Timurid in form but is dominated by the exterior tile decoration of its dome, a phenomenon further encouraged in later Safavid architecture. Best known as an example of tile ornamentation of domes and panels in Isfahan, the building is also remarkable for its intriguing murals and unusual degree of naturalism in Kufic inscriptions and arabesque. The inner shrine is now often used as a religious theater for staging passion plays and thus is only accessible during performances. The continued reverence for the shrine has ensured its upkeep, though excessive traffic has taken its toll on the intricate tile panels.
Blake, Stephen. Half the World: The Social Architecture of Safavid Isfahan, 1590-1722. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 1999. 169, 170.
Hutt, Anthony and Leonard Harrow. Iran. Islamic Architecture. London: Scorpion Publishers, 1978. 70-71.
Lockhart, Laurence. Persian Cities. London: Luzac & Company, 1960. 31.