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Nabil al-Dawla:
Iranian diplomat and translator of Bahai scriptures

by Guity Etemad

published in Encyclopaedia Iranica
New York: Columbia University, 2012

NABIL-AL-DAWLA, ʿALIQOLI (Ali Kuli) KHAN (b. Kashan, ca. 1879; d. Washington, D.C., April 1966; Figure 1), Iranian diplomat and translator of Bahai scriptures.  His father, Mirzā ʿAbd-al-Raḥim Khan (d. ca. 1894), a member of the notable Żarrábi family of Kashan, had become a Bābi in 1866 and later a Bahai (Gail and Ali-Kuli Khan, p. 67; Gail, 1991, pp. 22, 28).  Mirzá ʿAbd-al-Rahim moved to Tehran in 1880, where he became counselor (mostashār) in the new-style police department (naẓmiya), hence his title Kalāntar. He is the author of a history of Kashan entitled Merʾát al-Qásán (see pp. 5-8)

ʿAliqoli Khan learned English and French at the Dár al-Fonun School (q.v.) and, with his older brother, Ḥosaynqoli Khan Kalántar (later chamberlain to Moẓaffar-al-Din Shah when he was governor in Tabriz), frequented traditional Persian gymnasia (zur-kána), where the latter was converted to the Bahai faith by a wrestler called Ostád Ḡolám-Hosayn Káshi, and he in turn led ʿAliqoli Khan into the new faith in about 1895 (Gail and Ali-Kuli Khan, pp. 24-67). After a period spent as a wandering Bahai darvish, ʿAliqoli Khan heard that the Bahai leader ʿAbd-al-Baháʾ needed Bahais who could translate for the new American co-religionists.  Therefore, he left in 1899 for ʿAkkā, where he served as secretary to ʿAbd-al-Baháʾ, and then accompanied Mírzá Abu’l-Fadl Golpáyegáni to Paris and America in 1901 as his translator (Gail and Ali-Kuli Khan, pp. 97-148; Gail, 1974, pp. 351; Fāżel Māzandarāni, p. 490). He settled in America, where he was known as Ali Kuli Khan and became secretary to the Persian minister in Washington in 1902. In 1904, he married Florence Breed, a Bahai lady from Boston (Gail 1987, pp. 213-20).

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