Like many Bahai communities in Iran, Kashan Bahais can trace their roots to the early years of the Babi movement. The Babi leader Mollá Mohammad-Hosayn Boshruʾi
visited Kashan in 1845 to bring news of the coming of a new religious dispensation. Although he was rejected by Kashan’s leading Shiʿite cleric, Mollá Mohammad Naráqi, son of the celebrated Mollá Ahmad, other junior ulama (including a number of Naráqi’s own relatives) accepted the Babi message and later became active Bahais or Azali Babis (see Azali Babism
). A number of converts within the Naráqi family moved to Hamadan
some time afterward, where their Babi/Bahai convictions were less known (Abbas Amanat, pp. 269-71; Eshráq Khávari, 2004, pp. 37-46, 184-97). The early history of Babis and Bahais of Kashan is characterized by persecution.
Among those outside of Kashan’s ulama who accepted the Báb’s message was a young merchant, Háji Mirzá Jáni Kásháni (also known as Parpa), the author of the wellknown, early Babi chronicle, Noqṭat al-káf. His brother Háji Mohammad-Esmáʿil Kásháni (Dabih), who authored Maṯnawi-e Dabih, a Babi account in verse, also converted. A number of their relatives, including some women, became devoted Babis and Bahais. During the Báb’s short stay in Kashan (20-23 March 1847), while he was being escorted to Tehran, Mirzá Jáni persuaded the guards to allow the Báb to stay at his home and gathered a number of ulama and notables to meet him. Mirzá Jáni and his brother planned to arrange the escape of the Báb and offered to give their lives to this end, a proposal the Báb rejected (Abbas Amanat, pp. 346-47). In 1852, during a general reprisal against the Babis following an attempt made by them on the life of Náṣer-al-Din Shah, Mirzá Jáni was forced out of the sanctuary of Sháh ʿAbdal- ʿAzim (q.v.) in Tehran and killed. In a highly unusual case, his execution was assigned to fellow Tehran merchants, who were expected to demonstrate their hatred of the Babis by killing him. They were led by Tehran’s leading merchant, Mirzá Mahdi Malek-al-Tojjár (Waqáyeʿ-e ettefáqiya, no. 82, 10 Du’l-qaʿda 1268; Abbas Amanat, pp. 344-47; for contemporary reports concerning the event, see Momen, pp. 129-46).
Among other early Babi merchants of Kashan were Háji Mohammad-Reżá Maḵmalbáf and the two brothers, Áqá Abu’l-Qásem and Áqá Mahdi ʿAṭṭár. The latter, like Mirzá Jáni, fled to Tehran in 1849 but was killed in the 1852 persecutions. Háji Mohammad-Reżá , son of the prominent merchant Háji Zayn-al-ʿÁbedin Jawáheri, also fled to Tehran, where he was arrested in 1850 and was released after payment of a fine of 4,000 tomans, only to be killed in Tehran’s 1852 persecutions. His son and daughter both became active Bahais (Mousa Amanat, pp. 57-58).
The poetess Kučak Begom, also known as Khadija Káshániya, daughter of the Sufi Háji Mohammad- Sádeq, met the Báb at the home of her nephew, Mirzá Jáni, and became a devout follower. Facing persecution, she left Kashan and lived and died in Ardestán (Dokáʾi Bayḏáʾi, I, pp. 309-14; Fáżel Mázandaráni, III, p. 310). Another noteworthy Babi figure of Kashan is Mohammad-Mahdi Sharif Kásháni, the son of Mollá Mohammad-Jaʿfar Naráqi and the author of Wáqeát-e ettefáqiya, a contemporary history of the Constitutional Revolution.
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