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Mazar-i-Sharif(mäzär`-ē-shärēf`), city (1988 est. pop. 131,000), capital of Balkh prov., N Afghanistan, near the Uzbekistan border. It is held sacred as the alleged burial place of AliAli
(Ali ibn Abu Talib), 598?–661, 4th caliph (656–61). The debate over his right to the caliphate caused a major split in Islam into Sunni and Shiite branches, and he is regarded by the Shiites as the first Imam, or leader: Shiite derives from the phrase
..... Click the link for more information. , son-in-law and cousin of Muhammad; a noted mosque of Ali is in the city. Most of the inhabitants are Uzbeks. The center of Afghanistan's former rug and carpet industry, Mazar-i-Sharif also had cotton and silk industries. The surrounding agricultural area was known for its horses and Karakul lambs. Mazar-i-Sharif was a center of the Karakul fur trade. During the Afghanistan WarAfghanistan War,
1978–92, conflict between anti-Communist Muslim Afghan guerrillas (mujahidin) and Afghan government and Soviet forces. The conflict had its origins in the 1978 coup that overthrew Afghan president Sardar Muhammad Daud Khan, who had come to power by ousting
..... Click the link for more information. , the city was an important link on the line of defenses guarding the strategic road between Kabul and Termez in Soviet Uzbekistan, and in the subsequent civil war it was the key to the control of N Afghanistan and the defense of Kabul.
a city in northern Afghanistan, at the Balkh oasis. The administrative center of Balkh Province. Population, 43,200 (1969).
Mazar-i-Sharif is the most important trade center and transportation junction on the Bactrian plain; trade is mostly in karakul, wool, leather, rugs, grain, fruits, and nuts, as well as in craft items and imported consumer goods. There are cotton gins and oil mills; metalworking is important. Craftsmen produce silk and cotton fabric, embroidered skullcaps, carpets, leather goods, and metalware. In 1973 the city worked with the USSR to build a plant for nitrogen fertilizers (based on gas coming from deposits in northern Afghanistan) and a steam power plant.
According to Muslim tradition, Mazar-i-Sharif is the site of the grave of Caliph Ali. At the end of the 15th century a mausoleum, or mazar, was built above it, and it became a site visited by Shiite pilgrims. (In Arabic, mazar-i-sharif means the grave of a noble; hence the name of the city.)