Iran: Province of Káshán and Central Provinces (Sultánábád, Mahallát, and Gulpáygán)
by Moojan Momen
Káshán lies some 130 miles (200 kilometers) south of Tihran in the center of Iran. It is on the high plateau that occupies most of central Iran and at the western edge of the country's great central desert. The climate is dry and agriculture dependent on irrigation. The area had numerous mulberry trees and was famous for silk production. The city of Káshán was a center of silk manufacture.
The message of the Báb was first brought to Káshán in 1844 by Mullá Husayn-i-Bushrú'í. The Báb stayed in the town for three days (20-23 March 1847) as a guest of Hájí Mírzá Jání. A strong Bábí community grew up here and when the Bábí leadership became centered on Baghdad in the 1850s, a large number of Káshánís went to Baghdad. Some stayed and some returned. Owing to this close connection with Baghdad, the consequences of the split between Mírzá Yahyá and Bahá'u'lláh manifested themselves earlier in Káshán than elsewhere. Indeed it would appear that there was already a split among the Káshánís even before the split between Mírzá Yahyá and Bahá'u'lláh had come into the open (which did not occur until the Edirne period). Even some families were divided. Hájí Mírzá Jání, who was the host of the Báb during the latter's stay in Káshán was among the Bábí martyrs of 1852, his brother Muhammad Ismá`íl Dhabíh (d. 1881) became an ardent follower of Bahá'u'lláh, while another brother, Mírzá Ahmad, followed Azal.
In Káshán itself, there was one leading Bábí who was a strong proponent of Mírzá Yahyá, Mullá Ja`far Naráqí (killed by the government in 1286/1869). His father had been Shaykhu'l-Islám and he had married the daughter of Mullá Ahmad Naráqí, one of the leading mujtahids of the reign of Fath-`Alí Sháh, and settled in Káshán where he was a respected religious leader and teacher. He became a Báb and was soon well-known as such (Bámdád 6:219-222). He was successful in advancing Azal's case for many of the Bábís of Káshán. He was, however, let down by the fact that when these people then went to Baghdad, Mírzá Yahyá refused to see them and so they usually became adherents of Bahá'u'lláh. This is what happened, for example, to one of the most prominent converts, Hájí Mírzá Kamálu'd-Dín Naráqí. He was from a very important religious family; his grandfather was Mullá Ahmad Naráqí and he was married to the daughter of Mírzá Abu'l-Qásim known as Mírzáy-i- Qummí; both of these had been among the top-ranking `ulamá of the reign of Fath-`Alí Sháh. He was converted to the Bábí cause by Mullá Ja`far in late 1269/1853 and immediately travelled to Baghdad. But Mírzá Yahyá would not meet him and only gave a very inadequate reply to his request for a commentary on a verse of the Qur'án. Bahá'u'lláh, however, gave a reply that satisfied Hájí Mírzá Kamálu'd-Dín, who returned to Káshán a follower of the latter.
The Bahá'í community in the Káshán area grew gradually with a number of conversion from among the people of the town and also in such villages as Naráq, Júshqán, Núshábád, Qamsar and Mázgán during the time of Bahá'u'lláh and in Árán and Yazdil during the time of `Abdu'l-Bahá. In Mázgán, Shaykh Abu'l-Qásim, the leading religious authority in the village became first a Bábí and later a Bahá'í. In addition, Mírzá `Abdu'lláh, one of the notables of Qamsar and Mázgán was friendly towards the Bahá'ís and protected them on a number of occasions. Mírzá Hasan Núshábádí became one of the Bahá'í muballighs (permanent travelling teachers, see "Iran"); Áqá Mír Muhammad-`Alí Munzaví known as Arbáb Áqá Mírzá from Núshábád came under much pressure and his wife was killed; in Árán, Mírzá Muhammad-`Ali Adíb-i-Baydá'í and Mírzá Mahmúd Furúghí became Bahá'ís and converted many others. A large number of the Jews of Káshán also became Bahá'ís; among them several notable families, the Mítháqiyyih, Rayhání, Yúsifiyán and Mutahhidih families. Among those who were most active for the Bahá'ís and succeeded in converting a number of people was Khadíjih Bigum, known as Mírzá Bájí Káshániyyih. Mírzá `Abdu'r-Rahím Khán, a Bahá'í of Káshán, was Kalantar of Tehran for a time.
Káshán was also an important center for the diffusion of the Bahá'í Faith. It was from Káshán that Áqá Muhammad-Javád and Áqá Muhammad-Báqir moved to Hamadán and thus established the Bahá'í community there. In addition, they began the conversions of Jews in Hamadán. It was also in Káshán that the first Zoroastrian to become a Bahá'í converted. The first Zoroastrian convert has been variously named as Mihrabán Bahman (ZH6:841) and Kaykhusraw Khudádád (ROB3:269). It is agreed however that he became a believer in Káshán. He was instrumental in the conversion of another Zoroastrian, Mullá Bahrám, who went on to Yazd and began the large number of conversions that occurred in that town. (There had also been a conversion of a Zoroastrian in Káshán in the time of the Báb; see ZH3:395n).
There were a number of persecutions of the Bahá'í community in Káshán. In 1282/1865, Shaykh Abu'l-Qásim Mázgání was executed by the governor. In 1290/1873, there was a general uprising against the Bahá'ís of Naráq. But in general, some of the leading `ulamá of this area were inclined to protect the Bahá'ís; in particular, Mullá Muhammad Mujtahid-i-Naráqí, who was the uncle of Mírzá Kamálu'd-Dín Naráqí and had met Mullá Husayn Bushrú'í.
A large number of the Bahá'ís of this area chose to migrate to be with Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad and later to accompany him on the various stages of his exile. Indeed, Káshánís were among the largest contingent of those accompanying Bahá'u'lláh and included such persons as Mírzá Áqá Ján Khádimu'lláh and Mírzá Áqáy-i-Munír.
In 1316/1898, Khájih Rabí` (d. 1336/1917) established a Bahá'í school named the Vahdat-i-Bashar School in Káshán. This received official government recognition and approval in 1328/1917. A Bahá'í boys' school was also established in the village of Árán, and a girls' school was added later.Sultánábád (Arák), Mahallát and Gulpáygán
In Sultánábád, a Bábí community had been established. In about 1864, seven of its members were either killed by the mob on the orders of Siyyid Muhammad Báqir Mujtahid or executed by the government in Sultánábád, while an elderly lady was taken to Tehran and strangled there (Browne 562-129; cf Áyátí 2: 241-2). This community briefly became followed Mírzá Yahyá, but with increasing contacts with Baghdad, most of the members became Bahá'ís once Bahá'u'lláh put forward his claim. Mírzá Áqá Khán Qá'im-Maqámí, a grandson of Mírzá Abu'l-Qásim Qá'im-Maqám the first prime minister of Muhammad Sháh, and Hájí `Arab became Bahá'ís in the time of `Abdu'l-Bahá. In the village of Sháhábád near Sultánábád some 400 persons became Bahá'ís and Bahá'í communities also developed in other villages such as Idrísábád and Varqá.
A number of important Bahá'ís came from these central provinces, although their main contribution to the spread of the Bahá'í Faith did not occur in this area. Among these were Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl Gulpáygání (q.v.) and his nephew Siyyid Mihdí Gulpáygání, who both came from prominent families of `ulamá. Some of the Bahá'ís from these central provinces also became important government officials. Mírzá `Alí-Ridá Khán I`tidádu'l-Vuzará Mahallátí was post-master in a number of different localities.
House of Hájí Mírzá Jání where the Báb stayed.Bibliography
On Káshán: ZH 3:392-6; 6:624-695; 8b:663-720. On Sultánábád: ZH8a:267-82. Bámdád, Táríkh Rijál Írán; Browne, Year among the Persians. On Naráq: Mírzá Muhammad-`Alí Furúghí, Sharh-i-Vaqáyi`-i-Amrí dar Naráq, Tehran: Lajnih Nashr-i-Áthár-i-Amrí, 106/1950.