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R E L I G I O N
Islam in Iran, Safavid Era
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Encyclopedia Iranica
Partition

In addition, the energies of the Neʿmat-Allāhis were increasingly consumed by internal divisions and rivalries, the fate of so many Sufi orders. The last leader (qoṭb) to enjoy more or less unanimous acceptance was Moḥam-mad-Jaʿfar Kabudar-Āhangi (d. 1238/1823). Three claimants to leadership arose after his death: Kawṯar-ʿAlišāh (d. 1247/1831), Sayyed Ḥosayn Astarābādi, and Zayn al-ʿĀbedin Širvāni Mast-ʿAlišāh (d. 1253/1837). The first became the eponym of a suborder, the Kawṯariya, which continued into the 20th century, albeit with a very restricted membership; similar remarks apply to the line descended from Astarābādi, which later became known as the Šamsiya after its most celebrated member, Sayyed Ḥosayn Ḥosayni Šams-al-ʿOrafāʾ (d. 1353/1935). The main line of descent was that which passed through Zayn-al-ʿĀbedin Širvāni. He was the author of a number of treatises on the Neʿmat-Allāhi path as well as voluminous travelogues in which he displays a broad knowledge of the history of Sufism and its condition throughout the Muslim world in the early 19th century. He was succeeded by a namesake, Zayn-al-ʿĀbedin Raḥmat-ʿAlišāh, upon whose death in 1278/1861 a further trifurcation took place.

The contestants on this occasion were Saʿādat-ʿAlišah, nicknamed Ṭāʾus-al-ʿOrafāʾ (peacock of the gnostics) because of his penchant for elegant costume (d. 1293/1876 in Tehran); Ḥājj Mirzā Ḥasan Ṣafi-ʿAlišāh (d. 1316/1899); and Ḥājj Moḥammad Āqā Monawwar-ʿAlišāh (d. 1310/1884). The first-named, a minimally literate tobacco merchant from Isfahan, was succeeded by Mollā Solṭān Moḥammad-Solṭān-ʿAlišāh of Bidoḵt in the Gonābād region of Khorasan, under whose direction this line of Neʿmat-Allāhi tradition evolved into essentially a separate order, the Gonābādi. The large following Solṭān-ʿAlišāh gathered during the thirty-four years he exercised the preceptorial function was reflected in a growing accumulation of wealth in Bidoḵt; even outside Khorasan, his devotees were numerous enough to justify the appointment of five shaikhs in different regions to administer them on his behalf. Certain items of his preaching were of a nature to arouse hostility as well as admiration; he thus claimed that “whoever knows his own Imam does not need to wait for the appearance of the Occulted Imam” (Solṭān-ʿAlišāh, p. 269) and hinted that he was himself—in an undefined sense—the Imam of the Age. He claimed also to have written an Arabic commentary on the Qurʾan, the Bayān al-saʿāda, which evidence suggest was plagiarized from the earlier work of an Indian scholar (al-Ḏariʿa III, pp. 181-82). Assassinated in 1327/1909, Solṭān-ʿAlišāh was succeeded by his son, Ḥājj Mollā ʿAli Nur-ʿAlišāh, despite the misgivings of some senior dervishes and a lengthy period of alienation that had separated father and son. Nur-ʿAlišāh faced much the same problems as his father, and like him he came to a violent end, while traveling between Kāšān and Tehran in 1337/1918. The leadership of the Gonābādi order remained in the family throughout the 20th century.

Ṣafi-ʿAlišāh, the second claimant to the mantle of Raḥmat-ʿAlišāh, also came from a mercantile background, and although initially inclined to accept the claims of Monawwar-ʿAlišāh, he put himself forward as the successor in 1279/1862; the line descended from him became known as the Ṣafi-ʿAlišāhiya, effectively a separate order like the Gonābādis, with whom they often became embroiled in polemics. Ṣafi-ʿAlišāh was succeeded by Ẓahir-al-Dawla Ṣafā-ʿAlišāh, minister of the court and brother-in-law of Moẓaffar-al-Din Shah, under whose administration the order took a turn that was both aristocratic and modernizing. Ṣafā-ʿAlišāh established a twelve-man committee to supervise the operations of the order, which now became known as the Anjoman-e Oḵowwat (Society of Brotherhood), In its rites and purposes, the society began to resemble more a masonic organization than a Sufi order (see ANJOMAN-E OḴOWWAT).
The line of the third claimant to the succession of Raḥmat-ʿAlišāh, Monawwar-ʿAlišāh, has the best claim to be regarded as the main line of Neʿmat-Allāhi descent; its adherents have continued to designate themselves exclusively as Neʿmat-Allāhi, although the clarificatory expression “line of Ḏu’l-Riāsatayn” (an epithet borne by the second and third successors to Monawwar-ʿAlišāh) is sometimes additionally used. Monawwar-ʿAlišāh had qualified as a mojtahed, and his descendants also cultivated formal religious knowledge to a degree unusual for Sufis in Shiʿite Persia. Among Monawwar-ʿAlišāh’s disciples, one of the sons of Raḥmat-ʿAlišāh stands out, Maʿṣum-ʿAlišāh, Nāʾeb al-Ṣadr (d. 1344/1926) author of the encyclopedic and highly informative Ṭarāʾeq al-ḥqāʾeq, but it was his own son, Ḥājj ʿAli Ḏu’l-Riāsatayn (d. 1336/1918) who succeeded him, possibly after an interval of four years in which he advanced to greater maturity. The primary locations of this branch of the order were Shiraz and Kermānšāh until its headquarters were shifted to Tehran in 1929.

Less widespread but also less prone to internal division was the Ḏahabiya, a Sufi order which not only weathered the storms of the Safavid period but also enjoyed the favor of Karim Khan Zand, in strict contrast to the Neʿmat-Allāhis. Shiraz was for long their principal, if not sole, base. The degree to which the Ḏahabis became integrated into the religious life of the city was made fully apparent when their leader, Mirzā Abu’l-Qāsem Šarifi “Rāz-e Širāzi” (d. 1286/1869), was awarded the administration of Shah-e Čerāḡ, the principal shrine of Shiraz (Gramlich, I, p. 20). He was succeeded by his son, Jalāl-al-Din Šarifi “Majd-al-Ašrāf” I (d. 1331/1913), whose leadership of the order was distinguished chiefly by the expansion and organization of its following in Azerbaijan.

It is probably in the early Qajar period that the Ḵāksār dervishes first emerge, as a group, however loosely organized, bearing that designation. From the melange of legends, each more improbable than the last, that the Ḵāksār invoke in explanation of their origins, it can be surmised that they were a loose amalgam of mendicants (qalandars) that gradually coalesced into an order, probably in imitation of the resurgent Neʿmat-Allāhis. This likelihood is strengthened by the fact that their two rival factions were known as Šalām-ʿAlišāhi and Maṣum-ʿAlišāhi, designations that are reminiscent of the ṭariqat names used by the Neʿmat-Allāhis. The sparse literature produced by the Ḵāksār, a strictly popular order favored by artisans and shopkeepers, is concerned primarily with ritual (Gramlich, I, pp. 70-88).

It was remarked above that the post-Mongol history of the Ismaʿili Imamate in Persia became intertwined with that of the Sufi orders. This remained the case into the Qajar period. The first Imam of the Qāsemšāhi line known definitely to have had a Neʿmat-Allāhi affiliation was Šāh Nezār, fortieth in the succession according to Ismaʿili tradition. Since he died in 1134/1722, several decades before the resurgence of the Neʿmat-Allāhiya in Persia, he was presumably in communication with leaders of the order in the Deccan. His name in the ṭariqat was ʿAṭāʾ-Allāh, a fact reflected in the designation of his nomadic followers in the Sirjān region of Kerman as ʿAṭāʾ-Allāhis. The next Imam but one, Sayyed Ḥasan Beg, moved his headquarters from Kahak to Šahr-e Bābak, also in southeast Persia, some time in the mid-18th century, and thanks to an improved flow of revenue from Ismaʿilis in India, he was able to acquire extensive property and influence in Kerman. The forty-fourth Imam, Abu’l-Ḥasan ʿAli (d. 1206/1792) was even made governor of Kerman by Karim Khan Zand, which did not prevent him from pragmatically refusing the Zands assistance against Āqā Moḥammad Khan Qājār. He remained loyal, however, to the Neʿmat-Allāhi traditions of his family and attempted, although without success, to protect Moštāq-ʿAlišāh from death at the hands of the ulema of Kerman in 1202/1791; the anticipation of Ismaʿili patronage may, indeed, have been one reason for the choice of Kerman as a principal center of activity by the Neʿmat-Allāhis. Subsequent Ismaʿili Imams and members of their family preserved both the favor of the Qajars and their links to the Neʿmat-Allāhi order. Shah Ḵalil-Allāh, successor to Abu’l-Ḥasan ʿAli, transferred the seat of the Imamate back to Kahak for twenty years before being moving to Yazd in 1230/1815; he lost his life there two years later, during a brawl in the bazaar (Algar, 1969a, pp. 60-61).

Shah Ḵalil-Allāh’s heir, Ḥasan-ʿAlišāh, was handsomely compensated by Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah with marriage to one of his daughters; an addition to the family lands in Maḥallāt; the governorship of Qom; and the grant of the title Āqā Khan (q.v.; Agha Khan) that was destined to become the hereditary designation of the Qāsemšāhi Imams (Algar, 1969a, p. 62). In 1251/1835, Moḥammad Shah Qajar appointed Ḥasan-ʿAlišāh governor of Kerman; the armed resistance with which he responded to dismissal from this post two years later was broken, but he was pardoned on condition that he retire quietly to the family estates in Maḥallāt. Instead, he gathered an army, and after about a year he launched an uprising in areas of southeastern Persia where he could count on the support of local Ismaʿilis. This venture also failed, and in 1257/1841 he crossed into Afghanistan, bringing to a definitive end the Persian period of the Imamate; Bombay became its new seat (Algar, 1969a, pp. 70-71). The Ismaʿilis of Persia henceforth found themselves traveling to India in order to convey their offerings to the Imam, just as before their Indian co-religionaries had had to make their way to Persia. Given the embrace of the first Āqā Khan by the British and the military services he rendered them in Baluchistan and elsewhere (Algar, 1969a, pp. 76-78), it seems likely that some degree of external instigation was at work in his rebellion. Another factor was, however, rivalry for the leadership of the Neʿmat-Allāhi order. The Āqā Khan’s maternal uncle, ʿEzzat-ʿAlišāh, had been an intimate of Zayn-al-ʿĀbedin Širvāni, and when Kabudar-Āhangi died in 1238/1823, the Āqā Khan supported Širvāni’s claim to the succession. Moḥammad Shah’s minister, Ḥāji Mirzā Āqāsi, was, however, himself a minor contender for the leadership of the Neʿmat-Allāhiya, and he therefore looked askance at the activities of the Āqā Khan (Pourjavady and Wilson, pp. 126-28).

The most important developments affecting the Sunnite communities of Persia during the Qajar period all related to the activity of various branches of the Naqšbandi order. Thus in 1222/1807, Ṣufi Eslām, a Naqšbandi dervish from Bukhara, lent his energies to an unsuccessful attempt to liberate Herat from Qajar control. He was killed in battle, but the ḵānaqāh he founded at Karroḵ near Herat continued to exercise a powerful influence among the Hanafites of Khorasan even after the definitive separation of Herat from Persia in 1857 (Harawi, pp. 154-57). Somewhat later, a certain Ḵᵛāja Moḥammad-Yusof Jāmi, established a center of the Mojaddedi branch of the Naqšbandi order, at Torbat-e Jām near the Afghan border; it attracted devotees from Central Asia and even India as well as Khorasan. Farther to the west, Yusof Ḵᵛāja Kāšḡari, a wandering scion of the Ḵᵛājas, a Naqšbandi lineage that had ruled over eastern Turkestan, managed in 1228/1813 to launch an uprising among the Yomut and Göklan tribes of Torkman-Ṣaḥrā and to plunder the region of Astarābād before meeting his death in battle. A similar uprising under Naqšbandi leadership, this time involving the Tekke and Yomut tribes, was suppressed in 1841 (Sarkisyanz, pp. 221-22). Considerably more significant than these miscellaneous occurrences was the rise in the first quarter of the 19th century of the Ḵālediya, a derivative of the Naqšbandi-Mojaddedi order. Founded by a Kurd, Mawlānā Ḵāled, generally known as Baḡdādi despite his birth in Solaymāniya, the Ḵālediya swiftly rose to prominence in all areas of Kurdish population soon after his death in 1243/1827, effectively depriving the Qāderiya of the supremacy it had previously enjoyed. Particularly influential among the inhabitants of Persian Kurdistan was the hereditary lineage established at Biyāra, just across the border in what was to become Iraqi Kurdistan, by Shaikh ʿOṯmān Serāj-al-Din (d. 1283/1867). His ḵānaqāh attracted devotees not only from Kurdish towns such as Sāvojbalāgh (Mahābād) and Sanandaj, but also from Tāleš, a partially Shafeʿite enclave in Gilan. One of his Tāleši ḵalifas, Shaikh ʿAli of ʿAnbarān (d. 1320/1902), established in his native village a hereditary line which remained locally influential into the late 20th century. A quite separate line of Kurdish Ḵāledi descent led from the eponym to Shaikh ʿObayd-Allāh of Nehri (d. 1300/1883) in eastern Anatolia; in 1298/1880, his rebellion against the Ottoman government spilled over into an invasion of Persian Azerbaijan which included the ravaging of Shiʿite- and Assyrian-inhabited villages in the area of Urmia. Finally, there are traces of Ḵāledi implantation among the Turkmans of the northeast in the 19th century, deriving not only from Kurdistan but also from Daghistan in the Caucasus (Algar, forthcoming, p. 16).

Partition
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