Architecture is among the important branches of art and civilization and architectural structures, beside their practical uses, have also served as the ground for the emergence of different arts and as indications of the grand status and glories of their founders. Among the various branches of architecture, tomb structures and funeral monuments have long played significant roles in culture, civilization and society of Iran and also have occupied an essential place in the history of our architecture. Therefore, beside the mosques, shrines have been the most popular public buildings in Iran and have entered the cultural tissues of Iranian life and society. A large portion of the evolution of architecture in Islamic era can be traced in the holy shrines and tombs. The formation, identity and being of these buildings are often closely connected with great local, national, political and religious leaders and characters. Thee architectural monuments also deserve scholarly studies in terms of their artistic, social, historical, cultural and religious aspects. Caring for shrines and building them is related to belief in hereafter, desire for immortality and love of followers and lovers of the deceased persons. Building of such places which come under various names such as “burial place”, “shrine”, “sanctuary”, “sanctum”, “receptacle”, “tomb”, “sepulcher”, “tower”, “imamzadeh”, etc. roughly began in 4th century A H. and became then more prevalent is eastern and northern Iran through the practice and believes of various sects and dynasties. The process became especially popular during the Shite dynasties such as Alavids (250-360 A H), and Buwayhids (320-447 A. H.) whose political power and rule helped the building of such places, shrines and tombs more than ever.
In the Islamic societies of middle centuries, shrines found a very high stature among the masses and ordinary religious people. Interestingly, building shrines for great religious and social leaders has been more passionately pursued in Iran than in other Islamic countries so that, Ernst Diez, the Austrian art historian, “such buildings are the most popular and prevalent in Islamic Iran.” In fact, it was for the grand status and importance of such places that the first major undertaking that kings did after succession, was erecting graves and shrines for themselves and their fathers and relatives so as to be redeemed by God and gain an everlasting fame and name. Regarding their shape and format, sepulchers are basically divided into two forms: tower tombs and non-tower (rectangles tombs). A large portion of the shrines in Islamic era are tower tombs which have different shapes such as circular, multisided and finny, and also have common features such as a tall outside tower, and in them, emphasis is on the altitude not the extent of the building. Although some scholars have tried to work out a justification for the birth and building of tower tombs, none has ever come up with an all-satisfying evidence for the formation of such building along with the Islamic traditions governing them. In Hamadan province, Iran, there are some tower tombs from different Islamic eras, such as Ghorban Tower, Baba Hossein Tower in Malayer, Hayaquq Tower Tomb, etc. in the present study, we have undertaken to introduce one such tower tomb and describe its architectural and archeological characteristics; that is “Azhar Tower” that is located at the Dargazin section of Razan city, Hamadan Province. The city is situated at the north of Hamadan province and has many historical and cultural works belonging to different historical epochs, mostly Islamic era. The tower tomb with finny shape ,also called AzharImamzadeh, is one of the works from the Islamic era, but has not so far been comprehensively studied and there exists still many ambiguities about its history and being. The present study, thus, aims at considering the structural features of this building, its decorative elements, architectural innovations, and finding about the identity of the person buried under it. It also intends to consider this tomb as one of the few tower tombs with a finny shape and a star-like base for the tower, and comparing it with similar buildings in order to trace the mutual influences exchanged between it and similar forms both before and after its date. The research methodology applied for this purpose is an archeological case studythrough a descriptive-analytic study alongside using written sources such as historical and geographical documents and travelogues. The main questions posed by the project are: 1- in which historical age was the Azghar Tower built and with which similar architectural works can it be compared? 2- What are the innovations, and the architectural and decorative elements of the Tower? 3- Regarding the great importance of the Dargazin region in different historical eras, especially in middle Islamic epochs and the great sociopolitical people that have emerged in this region, what can be known about the identity of the person buried in there? The final results of the study show that the Azhar Tower Tomb dates back to the first half of the eighth century A. H. when the Ilkhanate (654-750 A H). Also, as the last tower shrine with a finny design in the history of Iranian Islamic architecture, it had been built based on the architectural and decorative forms dominant in the Ilkhanate age, and had been affected by some tower tombs in the central and northern parts of Iran, particularly, Imamzadeh Abdullah, and Ubayd Allah of Damavand, and the Bastam Tower. It is also most probable that the Azhar Tower was built for the burial of one of the outstanding man of the Dargazin region, named Sheik Sharaf-o-AldinDargazini.