North of Chorsu Bazaar is the historical spiritual heart of Tashkent, a glimpse of what much of the city must have been like before it was levelled by the 1966 earthquake or replaced with Soviet concrete. At its heart is Hazrat Iman Square (sometimes also written as Khast Imom Square), and, facing onto it, the Hazrat Iman Mosque, which was constructed in just four months in 2007 on the instruction of President Karimov. The largest mosque in the city, it was an expensive undertaking: the sandalwood columns came from India, the dark green marble is Turkish and the interior of the blue-tiled domes is decorated with genuine gold leaf.
Of the numerous sites surrounding the square, the most important is undoubtedly the Muyi Muborak Library (09.00-12.00 & 14.00-17.00 Mon-Fri, 10.00-15.00 Sat; US$1.50). Muyi Muborak means 'the sacred hair', a reference to a holy relic held here: a hair said to have belonged to the Prophet Muhammad. Amongst its rare manuscripts collection, the library also holds the world's oldest Qu'ran, stained with the blood of Caliph Uthman who was reading it at the time of his assassination in Medina in ad656. This Qu'ran, sadly now incomplete, was produced just 19 years after the death of Muhammad. It is displayed in a glass-fronted vault; although the text appears to be written on parchment, it is in fact on deerskin.
Next door to the library is the 16th-century Barak-Khan Madrassa, home to the Muslim Board of Uzbekistan until 2007, and, immediately opposite it, the Tellya Sheikh Mosque, formerly Tashkent's main place of worship. Built by Mirza Akhmed Kushbegi in 1856, the mosque is a peaceful place with some attractive carved pillars and painted ceilings, though notably less ornate than the Hazrat Iman Mosque that has effectively replaced it.
On the western edge of the complex, no less visit-worthy, is the 19th-century Al-Bukhari Institute (once the Namozgoh Mosque), one of the few Islamic centres allowed to operate during the Soviet period. For much of the 20th century it was restricted in the scope of its work and limited to just 25 Imams; now there are more than 130 people studying here. Last but not least, the Tomb of Kaffal Shashi is a 16th-century shrine with a silver dome. It marks the final resting place of Abu Bakr Mohammed Kaffal Shashi, a local poet philosopher who died in the late 10th century. Pilgrims, in particular barren women, still pray here in the hope that the saint will give them help.