Iran: Provinces of Kirmán and Sístán
by Moojan Momen1994
The town and province of Kirmán lie in south-east Iran on the edge of the great central desert. The town is famous for its carpets while the countryside produced cotton and, in the nineteenth century, opium.
The Bábí movement found it difficult to become established in the town of Kirmán due partly to the intense opposition of the Shaykhí leader, Muhammad-Karím Khán Kirmání. Quddús was the first to attempt to establish it but was driven from the town (DB 180-2). He was followed by Mullá Sádiq-i-Muqaddas and Mullá Yúsif-i-Ardibílí, who also met the same fate (DB 187). The Imám-Jum`ih of Kirmán, Hájí Siyyid Javád, a paternal relative of the Báb, however, did his best to mitigate the activities of Karím Khán.
This difficulty was compounded for the Bahá'ís in subsequent years by the presence of a strong Azalí group in Kirmán. The leading Azalí was Mullá Muhammad Ja`far, a prominent Islamic scholar and a teacher at a religious college (d. before 1300/1882; Tihrání, no. 470, p. 230). Through him a number of others became Azalís including his son, Shaykh Ahmad Rúhí, and Mírzá Áqá Khán. (Bayat 1971; Bayat 1982:157-161; Balyuzi 18-28). Another, somewhat strange, figure was Mírzá Ahmad Kirmání who vacillated between the Azalí and Bahá'í positions, sometimes supporting and sometimes attacking the Bahá'ís. Eventually he became a supporter of the Constitutional Movement. He was arrested and his accusations led to the arrest of Hájí Amín and Hájí Akhúnd in 1891. Mírzá Ridá Kirmání, the assassin of Násiru'd-Dín Sháh, stayed with him immediately before he shot the Shah. Mírzá Ahmad fled Tehran for Hamadán. Here he persuaded a certain Siyyid Hasan to claim to be the Imam Mahdí. The two of them were arrested and Mrzá Ahmad died in prison in Tehran. (Browne 1910:78, 405-6. Bámdád 1:99-100, 339). After the death of Bahá'u'lláh, Ustád Muhammad Haddád was won over to the side of Mírzá Muhammad `Alí but, after he died, there was no further support for that position.
Even of those who were Bahá'ís in Kirmán, it would appear from E.G. Browne's account of his stay there that several were somewhat dissolute in their habits (Browne 1926:475-594). It is of interest to note that Browne's Bahá'í acquaintances in Yazd appear not to have held a high opinion of the Kirmán Bahá'ís and tried to dissuade Browne from going there. It is perhaps therefore little wonder that Bahá'u'lláh addresses Kirmán so reproachfully in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas.
Despite these obstacles, a number of conversions to the Bahá'í Faith occurred in the city and the community did grow albeit more slowly than elsewhere. A few of the Shaykhís and Zoroastrians of the town became Bahá'ís as well as some other persons. A Bahá'í school was established in this town (Momen 1981:476-7).
In Rafsinján, between Kirmán and Yazd, a strong Bahá'í community was formed. Áqá Muhammad-`Alí Yazdí moved to that town in order to look after the properties of Hájí Mírzá Muhammad-Taqí Afnán (see "Afnán Family"). He married into one of the notable families of the town who were Shaykhís. Little by little he established himself as one of the most prominent citizens of Rafsinján such that even the governor of the town was beholden to him. Many became Bahá'ís, including his wife's family. Several of the prominent Bahá'í teachers such as Hájí Mírzá Haydar-`Alí and Áqá Shaykh Muhammad `Arab were able to teach openly here (Momen 134-137, esp. note on p. 134). As a result many became Bahá'ís including Mírzá `Alí-Akbar Rafsanjání (d.1921).
The most prominent Bahá'í from Sístán was Muhammad Khán-i-Balúch. He was a dervish who travelled much and ended his life in `Akká.Bibliography
ZH 3:396-405; 6:900-922; 8b:730-45. Hasan Balyuzi, Edward Granville Browne and the Bahá' Faith, Oxford, 1970. Mihdi Bámdád, Tarkh-i-Rijál-i-Írán, 4 vols., Tihran, 1347 A.H.S.; Mangol Bayat, "Mirza Aqa Khan Kirmani: 19th century Persian Revolutionary Thinker", PhD, University of California, Los Angeles, 1971; idem, Mysticism and Dissent: socioreligious thought in Qajar Iran, Syracuse, 1982. Browne, Persian Revolution, Cambridge, 1910; Browne, A Year among the Persians, Cambridge, 1926. M. Momen, Selections from the writings of E.G. Browne on the Báb and Bahá' Religions, Oxford: George Ronald, 1987. Ághá Buzurg Tihrání, Tabaqát A`lám ash-Shi`a (13th Century).