Iran: Provinces of Kirmánsháh, Hamadán, Kurdistán, and Luristán
by Moojan Momen1994
These provinces lie in the mountains of the west of Iran. There is more rainfall here than in much of the rest of Iran and cereals are grown. Around Kirmánsháh the population is predominantly Kurdish but towards Hamadán the majority become Iranians with a large Turkish minority. The Lurs are nomadic tribespeople speaking a language akin to Persian. Hamadán itself is one of the most ancient cities of Iran. In the seventh century B.C.E. it was the capital of the Median Empire. The Biblical figures, Esther and Mordecai, are supposed to be buried here and there has been a considerable Jewish settlement of the area since at least the fourth century.
Kirmánsháh and Hamadán stand on the road between Tehran and Baghdad. As such, a number of prominent Bábí and Bahá'í passed through and spent time in both of these towns: Táhirih spent time in both towns in about 1273/1847; Mírzá Ahmad Kátib, the Báb's secretary, and Nabíl Zarandí spent several months in Kirmánsháh in 1267/1851; Bahá'u'lláh himself spent one month in Kirmánsháh in 1267/1851; Mírzá `Abdu'lláh Ghawghá lived in Kirmánsháh until his death in 1289/1872 but his association with the new religion was somewhat ill-defined; and Mírzá Muhammad Tabíb Zanjání spent a few years in both towns from about 1850. And yet despite this, no permanent Bábí community became established in either town.
It was only in later years that the Bahá'í Faith was established in these towns. In 1280/1863 two brothers Áqá Muhammad-Javád and Áqá Muhammad-Báqir of Naráq migrated to Hamadán and settled there. It was through the latter that a physician, Hakím Áqá Ján, the first of a stream of Jewish converts, became a Bahá'í in about 1294/1877. In 1299/1881-2 another Jewish physician, the Hakím-báshí, was visiting Hamadán from Kirmánsháh. Here he met some of the Jewish Bahá'ís and was converted. He returned to Kirmánsháh and succeeded in converting a large number of the Jews of that town. Apart from these Jewish converts there were also Muslim converts in these two towns and also in surrounding towns and villages such as Maláyir, Asadábád and Bahár. Of particular interest among these converts were a number of minor members of the Qajar royal family (see under Maláyir below); several members of the Ahl-i Haqq religious minority from among the Kurds; and some Sufis. Among the last category was Hájí Qalandar, who traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and was the cause of conversion of many other Sufis.
A number of prominent Bahá'ís from parts of the country came to help in establishing the Bahá'í community. Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl Gulpáygání, who was in Hamadán and Kirmánsháh in 1887-8, was of particular help in view of his extensive knowledge of the Jewish holy books and traditions. He reports that at that time, there was an active group of Azalís in Kirmánsháh who had taken it upon themselves to oppose everything the Bahá'ís did (Mihrábkhání 142-43).
Of the episodes of persecution of the Bahá'ís of this area, several were instigated by the Jewish rabbis and were aimed specifically at the Jewish converts. Mullá `Abdu'lláh Burújirdí, mujtahid of Hamadán, was the main opponent of the Bahá'ís. The Bahá'ís were also victims in a number of anti-Shaykhí riots, the most serious being in 1315/1897. In the following year, some nine Bahá'ís gathered for Naw-Rúz celebrations were arrested and their houses looted.
In 1327/1909, the Ta'yíd School for boys and the Mawhibat School for girls were established by the Bahá'í community of Hamadán with the particular assistance of Mírzá Áqá Ján Tabíb. In 1331/1913, they were officially recognized by the government.Luristán
Siyyid Basír-i-Hindí, a blind Indian Bábí, was killed in this province by the governor Ildirím Mírzá in about 1851. In later years there were a number of Bahá'ís resident in Khurramábád (now Khurramshahr), among them Mírzá Abu'l-Qásim Hakím-báshí. He succeeded in converting Mírzá Báqir Khán (d. 1317/1899), the secretary of the governor, who was, however, forced to flee to Tehran when the governor took steps against him because of his faith. `Abdu'n-Nabí ibn Ázád Khán (d. 1354/1935) was a leader of the Lur tribe and had much wealth and property. But when he became a Bahá'í he lost his wealth and was compelled to leave for Tehran.
Husayn-Qulí Mírzá, a Qájár prince (a great-grandson of Fath-`Alí Sháh) with the poetic sobriquet of Mawzún, became a Bahá'í in 1292/1875 in Tabriz. He returned to Maláyir where he succeeded in converting several members of his family in Maláyir and Túysargán as well as Hakím Dáwúd a Jewish physician and others. In 1310/1892, Shaykh Diyá'u'd-Dín mujtahid and his brother Áqá Mihdí plotted a major persecution of the Bahá'ís in the town and arranged with the head of the telegraph and post services that no-one would be able to appeal for help. Husayn-Qulí Mírzá was, however, able to slip out to Sultánábád and telegraph to the Shah from there.
Siyyid Jamál Burújirdí, who was a member of an important family of `ulamá, became a follower of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad in about 1280/1863. After the death of Bahá'u'lláh, he was to become the leading supporter of Mírzá Muhammad-`Alí in Iran. The growth of the Bahá'í Faith in Burújird, however, did not begin until about 1328/1910 with the conversion of the three Ávárigán brothers. After this a number of towspeople became Bahá'ís. With the presence of many notable `ulamá in this town, however, there was much pressure against the Bahá'ís.
On Kirmánsháh (and Maláyir), see ZH 3:405; 6:695-702; 8b:745-757. On Hamadán, see memoires of Mírzá Mihdíy-i-Tabíb, photocopy of mss in Afnán Library; ZH 6:702-726; 8b:882-894. On Luristán, see ZH 6:974-5. On Burújird, see ZH 6:300-316; 8a:174-199. See also Mihrábkhání, Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl 125-153