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Written for possible inclusion in The Baha'i Encyclopedia. Posted with permission of both the author and of the editor of the Encyclopedia project. Mirrored with permission from http://www.momen.org/relstud.


Iran: Province of Khamsih (Zanján)

by Moojan Momen

1994
The province of Khamsih has as its provincial capital the town of Zanján. It is on the road between Tehran and Tabriz and is an important agricultural and mining area. The area is populated by a mixture of Ádharí Turks and Persians, predominantly Shi`is.

Zanján had very strong Bábí populations from the very earliest stages of Bábí history. As soon as news of the Báb reached him, Mullá Muhammad-`Alí Hujjat-i-Zanjání (see "Hujjat-i-Zanjání"), one of the leading religious figures in Zanján, sent an emissary to Shiraz to investigate. As a result of this Hujjat became a follower of the Báb and a large part of the population of Zanján followed him.

The Zanján upheaval (q.v.) in 1850-51 was the largest and most prolonged of the Bábí upheavals with over 2,OOO Bábís participating. 5% of the participants at Shaykh Tabarsí were from Zanján (Momen 164). A number of the villages around, such as Ishtihárd and Abhar, had also small numbers of Bábís.

Shortly after Bahá'u'lláh put forward his claim, he sent Nabíl Zarandí to Zanján to announce it there. A number of prominent Bábís who had survived the upheaval of 1850-51 became Bahá'ís and, in particular, Mírzá Muhammad `Alí Tabíb, Siyyid Ashraf, Áqá Naqd-`Alí known as Abú Basír, and Hájí Ímán. The first three of these were martyred in about 1283/1867. Some of the Bábís also remained Azalís. Two of these went to live with Azal in Cyprus (Browne 761).

A number of people in the village of Abhar became Bahá'ís from about 1285/1868 onwards, through the conversion of the mujtahid of the village, Mírzá `Abdu'r-Rahím (d. 1290/1873). The latter's son, Mírzá `Adbu'l-`Atúf remained as religious leader in the village while another son, Mírzá Muhammad Taqí, Ibn-i-Abhar, became a prominent Bahá'í and was named a Hand of the Cause by Bahá'u'lláh.

A few Bahá'ís from other parts of Iran came to this area. The most well-known of these was Mírzá `Alí-Muhammad Varqá (q.v.) who lived for a number of years in Zanján. Varqá, his son Ruhu'lláh, Hájí Ímán and Mírzá Husayn were arrested in the winter of 1895-6 and sent to Tihran where the first two were eventually to meet their deaths.

Holy Places

The caravanserai where the Báb stayed; House of Hujjat; Mosque of Hujjat.

Bibliography

A number of manuscript histories of the Bábí upheaval at Zanján exist: Áqá Mírzá Husayn-i-Zanjání wrote an account on the instructions of Bahá'u'lláh; Háshim Fathí Khalkhálí; Áqá Naqd-`Alí Zanjání; Rúhá Khánum `Attá'í; and the account by Áqá `Abdu'l-Ahad translated and published by E.G. Browne, "Personal Reminiscences of the Babi Insurrection at Zanján in 1850", Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 29 (1897) 761-827. ZH 3:175-185; 6:319-344; 8a:263-266; M. Momen, "Social Basis of the Bábí Upheavals in Iran (1848-53): a preliminary analysis", International Journal of Middle East Studies vol. 15 (1983) 157-183.

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