Iran: Province of Tehran (including Qumm, Simnán, and Dámghán)
by Moojan Momen1994
Tehran (Tihrán) is the capital of Iran and the city of the birth of Bahá'u'lláh. It is called by him the "Land of Tá" (ard-i-Tá).
Tehran is situated near the ruins of the ancient city of Rayy on the southern flanks of the Elborz mountain where they fall away to the central plain of Iran. It is reported that Karím Khán of the Zand dynasty intended to make Tehran his capital in the eighteenth century but then chose Shiraz instead. The town itself was of no size or importance until it was made the capital of Iran by the Qájár dynasty in 1200/1786. The traditional province of Tehran includes also the important Bábí-Bahá'í communities of Sangsar and Shahmírzád to the east and Qumm to the south.
Bahá'u'lláh was born in Tehran on 12 November 1817 in the house of his father Mírzá Buzurg Núrí (see "Bahá'u'lláh, Birth of" and "House of Bahá'u'lláh, Tehran"). It was the custom of Bahá'u'lláh's family during the years that he was growing up to spend most of the year in Tehran, but to retire to their house in Núr during the hot summer months. Bahá'u'lláh was therefore brought up in Tehran and married there in 1835. It was also in 1835 that Bahá'u'lláh's father fell from favor at court and sustained great losses. The family house in Tehran had to be sold and Bahá'u'lláh took a house near the Shimrán Gate of the city. It was here that Bahá'u'lláh lived for the remainder of his time in Tehran. It was also here that his children `Abdu'l-Bahá, Mírzá Mihdí (q.v.), and Bahiyyih Khánum (q.v.) were born.
Mullá Husayn Bushrú'í (q.v.) brought the message of the Báb to Tehran at the very beginning of the mission of the Báb in 1844. Among those who converted in those first few months of the new religion was Bahá'u'lláh. Soon a large and influential Bábí community existed in Tehran, including several figures who moved in court circles such as Bahá'u'lláh himself and Ridá Khán Turkamán. Tehran became the natural centre for all Bábí activities and the house of Bahá'u'lláh appears to have been a focus for the community. A number of prominent Bábís came to or stayed at his house when they were in Tehran, including Vahíd (q.v.). The writings of the Báb were brought from his place of captivity in Maku and Chihríq to Tehran where they were transcribed by Mírzá Ahmad Kátib-i-Qazvíní and then distributed. Many of the most prominent Bábís passed through the city on their travels or spent periods of time there. When Táhirih was in trouble in Qazvín following the murder of her uncle, Bahá'u'lláh arranged to have her released from captivity and brought to Tehran in late 1847. For his assistance to the other Bábís of Qazvín who had been arrested and brought to Tehran, Bahá'u'lláh was himself imprisoned for a time in the house of one of the kad-khudás of Tehran.
In 1850, Mírzá Taqí Khán (q.v.), the prime minister, caused the arrest of a number of Bábís in Tehran for an alleged plot against him. Eventually seven of them were condemned to death. Since these seven individuals were representative of all that was considered most respectable in Iranian society, great efforts were made to save them and they were promised their lives if they would recant their faith, but they refused to do so. Their execution on 19 or 20 February 1850 produced a marked effect upon the people of Tehran. They included among their number the uncle of the Báb, Hájí Sayyid `Alí.
Following the martyrdom of the Báb in July 1850, the Bábí community of Tehran fragmented somewhat. Several persons put forward claims of leadership, including Shaykh `Alí `Azím and Hájí Mírzá Ismá`íl Dhabíh Káshání. In the gloom that descended upon the community, a number of the Bábís came together to make desperate plans. Bahá'u'lláh heard of these and tried to dissuade `Azím who appears to have been the ring-leader. But just then, Bahá'u'lláh was forced to go into exile on the strong suggestion of the prime minister. Shortly after Bahá'u'lláh's return from his enforced journey to Karbalá, an ill-fated attempt was made on the life of the Shah on 15 August 1852. The pistols loaded with grape-shot failed to cause anything more than superficial wounds to the Shah but the result for Bábís was the unleashing of a violent campaign of persecution. All known Bábís were rounded up and many were put into the underground Siyáh-Chál (q.v.) prison. For days on end, there were executions. The exact numbers of Bábís who were executed cannot be known for certain. While the official records speak of some thirty-five executions, other accounts report hundreds of deaths; among these were Táhirih, Sayyid Husayn Yazdí (the Báb's secretary), and Sulaymán Khán. Bahá'u'lláh was one of the few to survive the Siyáh-Chál. He was exiled from Iran and chose to go to Baghdad.4. The Bahá'í period to 1921
The Bábí community of Tehran lay shattered by the persecutions that followed the attempt on the life of the Shah. All of the leading Bábís of the city were arrested and the majority of them killed. After a few years however, the Tehran Bábí, and later Bahá'í, community began to recover. Its numbers were swelled by much propagation of the religion in that city resulting in new converts. There was also a continuous stream of Bahá'ís fleeing persecution in other parts of the country coming to Tehran for sanctuary. The latter were often destitute on arrival. They began to settle in the poor quarters of Tehran; some districts in the Darvázih Qazvín and Sar Qabr Áqá areas of the town became known as Bábí quarters.
A number of prominent Bahá'ís from other parts of the country also established themselves in Tehran: Ibn-i Abhar (q.v.), Ibn-i Asdaq (q.v.), Hájí Ákhund (q.v.), Hájí Mírzá Haydar-`Alí Isfahání (q.v.), Áqá Jamál Burújirdí, and Nabíl Qá'iní. From here, these individuals undertook missionary journeys throughout Iran on a regular basis. Thus was begun an institution that became known as the muballighs.
Other institutional developments that originated in Tehran include the establishment of a local House of Justice (see "Local Spiritual Assembly") and the beginnings of the institution of the Hands of the Cause (q.v.). When copies of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas with its statements about the House of Justice reached Iran in 1294/1877, some of the Bahá'ís of Tehran decided to set up a House of Justice in that city (see "Iran.7"). Bahá'u'lláh named four individual Bahá'ís as Hands of the Cause from about 1887 onwards; the full significance of this institution did not, however, become apparent until later. These four were all at this time residing in Tehran. `Abdu'l-Bahá instructed them to convene a meeting of a group of the prominent Bahá'ís of Tehran in 1315/1897. This meeting evolved into the Central Assembly of Tehran, which was established in 1899 and which was the predecessor of both the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tehran and the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran. A significant feature of that first spiritual assembly in Iran was its inclusion of a Bahá'í from Zoroastrian background (SiyávashSifídvash) and a Bahá'í from Jewish heritage (Zakariya Javáhirí) as members, indicative of the integrating power of the Bahá'í Faith in the land of its origin. From about 1316/1898 the Bahá'ís of Tehran began to publish books by jellygraph and photo offset methods. Thus Tehran gradually became the unrivaled center of Bahá'í activities in Iran.
There were a number of very influential people in Tehran who were greatly opposed to the new religion. Foremost among these was Násiru'd-Dín Sháh himself and his son Kámrán Mírzá Náyibu's-Saltanih, the governor of Tehran; and also two of the most important religious figures in the capital, Mullá `Alí Kaní and Sayyid Sádiq Tabátabá'í Sanglají.
A number of factors served to counter the enmity of these figures, however. First, Tehran was the capital and the Shah could not afford to have wild mobs running through the streets killing and looting as occurred elsewhere in the country during episodes of persecution. Quite apart from the insult to his own authority that would result therefrom, there was the presence of foreign ambassadors who would report such occurrences to their governments and embarrass the Shah. These foreign ambassadors also occasionally intervened on behalf of the Bahá'ís for humanitarian reasons (see in particular the interventions of Drummond Wolff detailed in BBR 249-50, 279, 284-8). Second, the Bahá'ís could rely on a number of persons who helped them and informed them of pending persecutions, thus enabling them to flee in time. Rahím Khán Kan-kan, the farrash-ghadáb (royal executioner) was the person ordered by the government to arrest Bahá'ís; but his daughter was married to a Bahá'í and so he would first warn them through her to flee; he also assisted the Bahá'ís to obtain food during the famine of 1288/1871 (ZH 6:406-411; Bámdád 6:101-2). Another Bahá'í, Mírzá Faraj, was the cousin and píshkár (steward) of `Ali-Asghar Khán Amínu's-Sultán, the prime minister for much of this period. A number of other Bahá'ís also moved in influential circles. Sulaymán Khán Tunukábuní (q.v) was a landowner and had been governor of Tunukábun before he moved to Tehran. Tá'irih Khánum's father was an army financial officer and her mother had worked as a secretary in the andarún of the Shah. Among the clerics, Shaykh Hádí Najmábádí, a leading mujtahid, was favorable towards the Bahá'í Faith (see "Adíb, Mírzá Hasan").
Episodes of persecution did erupt from time to time. There were arrests of varying numbers of Bahá'ís in 1285/1868, 1289/1872, 1290/1873, 1293/1876, 1305/1888, and 1308/1891 but the most important and episode was in 1300/1882, when some fifty Bahá'ís were arrested and held for nineteen months. A number of Bahá'ís were also executed in Tehran, but these were usually persons who had been arrested elsewhere and sent to Tehran for a decision on their case. The most notable Tehran martyrs were Áqá Buzurg Badí` (q.v., in July 1869) and Mullá `Alí Ján Máhfurúzakí (in 1300/1883, see "`Alaviyyih Khánum").
The Bahá'í Faith was spread to a number of villages in the surrounding area. In Tálqán, the deputy govermor Iskandar Khán and his son who succeeded him, Mírzá Muhammad-`Alí, were Bahá'ís. Through the former, Mírzá `Abdu'r-Rahím was converted and he in turn converted a number of others, including some of the `ulamá of the village and of the nearby village of Fashandak.5. Bahá'í writings about Tehran
Tehran is referred to by the Báb as "the Sacred Land" in the Qayyúmu'l-Asmá (SWB 42). Bahá'u'lláh evidently retained a great fondness for his native city, referring to it as the "Mother of the World" (GWB 63:120), "the Abode of supreme blissfulness," "the holy and shining city," and "the city in which the sweet savors of reunion have breathed" (GWB 64:121). Its greatness is on account of the birth of Bahá'u'lláh there: in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, in reference to the city of Tehran, Bahá'u'lláh makes the following statement: "Rejoice with great joy, O Land of Tá, for God has made thee the dayspring of His light, inasmuch as within thee was born the Manifestation of His glory" (ESW 149). "In thee," Bahá'u'lláh states, "the Unseen hath been revealed, and out of thee hath gone forth that which lay hid from the eyes of men" (GWB 55:109).
Bahá'u'lláh calls Tehran the "Land of Tá" and apostrophizes it in many of his writings. The most well-known passage occurs in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas where Bahá'u'lláh makes a prophecy relating to a future king and the advent of democracy: "Let nothing grieve thee, O Land of Tá, for God hath chosen thee to be the source of the joy of all mankind. He shall, if it be His Will, bless thy throne with one who will rule with justice, who will gather together the flock of God which the wolves have scattered. Such a ruler will, with joy and gladness, turn his face towards, and extend his favors unto, the people of Bahá . . . Rejoice with great joy, for God hath made thee `the Dayspring of His light,' inasmuch as within thee was born the Manifestation of His Glory . . . Erelong will the state of affairs within thee be changed, and the reins of power fall into the hands of the people . . . The day is approaching when thy agitation will have been transmuted into peace and quiet calm (KA 91-93:53-4).6. Holy Places
There are many Bahá'í holy places in Tehran. Among them are places associated with Bahá'u'lláh: the House of Bahá'u'lláh (q.v.) and the Siyáh-Chál (q.v.). There is also the house of Mírzá Husayn-`Alíy-i-Núr where the body of the Báb was kept for several years; the House of Mahmúd Khán-i-Kalantar where Tahirih was imprisoned; the Ílkhání garden where she was martyred; and the Sabzih-Maydán where the Seven Martyrs of Tehran were martyred. There are also two Imámzádihs (shrines of descendants of the prophet Muhammad) in the vicinity of Tehran where the remains of the Báb were kept.
The shrine town of Qumm lay within the province of Tehran. In the time of Bahá'u'lláh, there were about seventy Bahá'ís there. They were subjected to persistent persecution. The Naddáf brothers, for example, owned a successful cotton-dressing business in Qumm, as well as seven houses in which they lived and had their business. From 1306/1888 onwards they were persecuted relentlessly. Despite telegraphing protests to Shah and getting government orders for their protection, they continued to suffer. Sayyid Sádiq Mujtahid declared them outside the shari`a and ordered that they be boycotted. Even though they succeeded in obtaining the support of two other prominent clerics, Áqá Sayyid `Abdu'lláh and Áqá Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Mujtahid, they were still unable to continue their business. After over twenty years of this state of affairs, one of the brothers died and the others moved to Tehran.
A number of villages around Qumm came to have important Bahá'í communities. In Jasb, one of the leading mullás of the village, Mullá Ja`far became a Bábí and as a consequence many others from the village also converted. After he was executed in 1283/1866, a woman whom he had converted, Mullá Fátimih, continued his work, converting her own family and others. The numbers in Jasb reached some thirty persons (KD 1:440-442).8. Simnán, Shahmírzád, and Sangsar
In Sangsar and Shahmírzád, two villages some twenty miles north of the town of Simnán, individuals such as Hájí Mullá Báqir, Karbalá'í `Alí, and Karbalá'í Abú Muhammad preached the near advent of the Qá'im in the early nineteenth century. Áqá Mír Muhammad, was a Shaykhí leader in Shahmírzád who also preached the same message to the people of these villages. Towards the end of his life, he moved with his family and some thirty students to Karbalá. Here he was still alive when news of the claim of the Báb arrived and he accepted this. He died in 1847 and his son Sayyid Ahmad returned to Shahmírzád to take up his father's pre-eminent position. When news of the Bábís at Shaykh Tabarsí reached the area, many set off to join them there; some were martyred, while others survived the episode.
Many were converted in these two villages, including several of the leading religious figures of the area. Among the most famous of the Bahá'ís of this area were Mullá `Alí-Akbar Shahmírzádí known as Hájí Akhund (q.v.) who was named a Hand of the Cause (q.v.) by Bahá'u'lláh and Mullá Nasru'lláh Shahmírzádí, the imám of one of the mosques in Shahmírzád, who was converted in 1310/1892 by Nayyir and Síná. The Bahá'ís of Shahmírzád formed a local spiritual assembly in 1327/1909, established the Taraqqí Bahá'í school in Shahmírzád in 1335/1916, and constructed a Mashriqu'l-Adhkár in Sangsar in 1340/1921.
In 1324/1906, there was an episode of persecution in this area in course of which several Bahá'ís were shot dead. An even more serious episode occurred in Sangsar in 1334/1916 when Mullá Nasru'lláh and several others were killed. In 1340/1921 the newly-built Mashriqu'l-Adhkár was burnt down. There were some further episodes of persecution. One of the leading religious figures of the area, Hájí Mullá `Alí, protected the Bahá'ís on several occasions.
On Tehran: Malik-Khusraví, Táríkh-i-Shuhadáy-i-Amr, vol. 3. Hájí Áqá Burújaní, account of the 1300/1882-3 upheaval, photocopy of mss in Afnán library. Mázandarání 3:205-234; 6:403-524; 8a:317-540. On Sangsar and Shahmírzád: Local Spiritual Assembly of Sangar, History of the Bahá'í Faith in Sangsar, 1932, photocopy of mss in Afnán library. Mázandarání 3:185-205; 6:392-402; 8a:288-315.