Iran: Province of Gílán
by Moojan Momen
Gílán is a northern province of Iran occupying the western half of the south Caspian littoral. Like Mázandarán, it has a semi-tropical climate and dense vegetation. The people speak a distinctive dialect of Persian called Gílakí.
The Bahá'í Faith was slow in becoming established in Gílán. There had been some Bábís in Rasht who had followed Mírzá Asadu'lláh Dayyán in the confused state that followed the martyrdom of the Báb. Nothing much is known of these Dayyánís and they presumably died out as a group (ZH6:923). A small group of Bábís migrated from Qazvín to Láhíján and established a community there. One of their number, Áqá Siyyid Javád, had been a Shaykhí and he succeeded in converting a number of Láhíján residents. When Áqá Siyyid Javád became an Azalí and he tried to keep his small group of converts from the other Bábís of Láhíján who had become Bahá'ís. One day, however, when Áqá Siyyid Javád was away in Qazvín, one of these converts, Mírzá `Alí-Ashraf (better known as the poet `Andalíb, q.v.), searched out the Bahá'ís and became convinced of their truth. Later, Mírzá `Alí-Ashraf succeeded in converting Áqá Siyyid Javád as well as the others of the Azalí group (EB 62-64).
These Qazvíní and Láhíjání Bahá'ís were responsible for taking the Bahá'í Faith to Rasht. Hájí Nasír Qazvíní, a survivor of Shaykh Tabarsí, together with `Andalib and others moved to Rasht and, by 1296/1879, there were some 20 Bahá'ís in the community there and the numbers continued to increase thereafter. During the general persecution of Bahá'ís which erupted in 1300/1882 and affected several Iranian cities, 11 of the Bahá'ís of Rasht and 3 Bahá'ís in Láhíján were imprisoned and Hájí Nasír and one other died in prison (ZH 6:928-30; EB 69-72).
After the passing of Bahá'u'lláh, Áqá Jamál Burújirdí travelled through the province and tried to raise support for Mírzá Muhammad `Alí, but had little success. There was an upheaval against the Bahá'ís in 1903 when a picture of the Bahá'í community of Rasht fell into the hands of the mullás who tried to get the people in the photograph arrested and punished. One prominent Bahá'í, Mírzá Ibrahím Khán Ibtiháju'l-Mulk, was banished for a time to Tehran but the governor managed to maintain the peace. In 1340/ 1921, however, Ibtiháju'l-Mulk was killed during the disturbances caused by the uprising of the Jangalís.
With the development of Russian territory, the ship from Rasht to Baku became one of the commonest routes for Bahá'í pilgrims to `Akká. Numerous prominent Bahá'í teachers travelled through Rasht. The first Spiritual Assembly of Rasht was established in about 1315/1897. A number of Jewish families became Bahá'ís.Bibliography
Mírzá Yahyá `Amídul-Atibbá, History of the Bahá'í Faith in Rasht, written 1345/1926, photocopy of mss in Afnán Library. Also memoires of Mírzá Mihdíy-i-Tabíb, photocopy of mss in Afnán Library. ZH6:923-974; 8b:757-799.