Read: Ten Thousand Miles in Persia or Eight Years in Iran



Chap. xvi page 194

...known as Masjid-i-Malik. It was founded by the Seljuk Malik Turin Shah, who reigned from A.H. 477 (1084) to A.H. 490 (1096). In the sixteenth century the historian Mohamed Ibahim mentions that he saw it still standing but in ruins, and since that date it has been practically rebuilt, but can hardly be deemed a fine building, although covering a large area.

The Masjid-i-Jami, known also as Masjid Muzaffar, was built, as the inscription shows, in A.H. 750 (1349) by Mobariz-u-Din, Mohamed Muzaffar, who ran a somewhat meteoric course, as described in chap. vi. The third mosque of any interest, the Masjid-i-Pa-Minar, was founded by another member of his family, Sultan Imad-u-Din, about A.H. 793 (1390). In all there are said to be ninety mosques in Kerman and six madaris1 or colleges, the finest of which is that founded by the Zakir-u-Dola, consisting of a beautifully tiled court and entrance; it is well worth a visit. There are also fifty baths and eight caravanserais, that built by the first Vakil-ul-Mulk being quite a model. The bazars are good and extensive, but are inferior to those of Shiraz.

Until 1896, when an earthquake completed its ruin, the Kuba Sabz or Green Dome was by far the most conspicuous building in Kerman. It was the tomb of the Kara Khitei dynasty, and formed part of a college, known as the Madrasa of Turkabad. The Kuba was a curious cylindrical building, perhaps fifty feet high, with greenish-blue mosaic work outside, the plastered interior showing traces of rich gilding. An inscription on the wall was read for me as follows --"The work of Ustad2 Khoja Shukr Ulla and Ustad Inaiat Ulla, son of Ustad Nizam-u-Din, architect of Isfahan." The date was A.H. 640 (1242), which would be eight years after the death of Borak Hajib, the founder of the dynasty. At the same time, I cannot vouch for the exact accuracy of my informant, and the tomb, which was partly destroyed by the Vakil-ul-Mulk in a search for treasure, is now a shapeless mound, thanks to an earthquake in 1896.

Not far from it is a stone, exquisitely carved, with verses from the Koran in Kufic and Naskh3 set in the wall of a square domed building, which was ornamented in the same style as the Kuba Sabz,

1 The plural of madrasa.
2 Ustad signifies master craftsman.
3 Naskh is what we should term copper-plate writing in Arabic.

Chap. xvi page 195

fragments of blue tiling still adhering to the pillars. Underneath is a vault, showing that it was evidently a tomb, but no one in Kerman could give me any information on the subject, except that it is known as Khoja Atabeg or Sang-I-Atabeg.1

In the history of Mohamed Ibrahim it is told of Malik Mohamed, the seventh Seljuk sovereign, that "on the outskirts of Bardsir, he built in one line hospital, college, caravanserai, mosque and his own grave." It is just possible that the Kuba Sabz may also have formed part of this imposing group of buildings, and this would account for its date as given in Lord Curzon's work, 1155 A.D.2 but, at the same time, my informant was a well-educated man, and apparently read the inscription quite accurately; and as local information also corroborates the date he gave, it may be that the Kuba was built by Malik Mohamed and appropriated by the Kara Khitei dynasty. There is little else of interest, with the exception of a fine square touching the Ark, and a smaller one called after Ganj Ali Khan, Kerman presenting a maze of the usual narrow lanes and high mud walls. I will now turn to its inhabitants.

Known in Oriental phraseology as the Dar-ul-Arman or Abode of Peace, Kerman with its suburbs can claim a population estimated at just under 5o,ooo. This may be divided according to the various religious sects as follows:
    Shia Mohamedans.     .            .       .      37,000
    Sunni Mohamedans.          .          .      .       70
    Babis (Behai).          .          .          .   3,000
    Babis (Ezeli).          .          .          .      60
    Sheikhis.          .          .          .        6,000
    Sufis.          .          .          .    .      1,200
    Jews.          .          .          .          .    70
    Zoroastrians (Parsis).          .          .      1,700
    Hindus.          .          .          .        .    20
                       TOTAL     .     .       .     49,120
Shia Mohamedans differ from the Sunnis in that they

1 Or Stone of the Atabeg.
2 Malik Mohamed died in A.H. 551 (1156).
3 These numbers are only approximate, and represent the mean of several estimates.

Chap. xvi page 196

consider Ali, the Prophet's son in-law, to have been the first Caliph, whereas his three predecessors Ahu Bekr, Omar, and Othman are execrated. As regards doctrine, the special Shia tenet is that of the Imamate, Ali its first holder being ordained by Mohamed, while his successors rule by divine right, and are believed to be immaculate, infallible, and perfect guides to men. The few Sunnis are mainly traders from Avaz, near Lar.

The sect of the Babis was founded by Mirza Ali Mohamed of Shiraz, who in 1844 began to declare that he was the Bab1 or Gate of Grace between some great person still behind the veil of glory and the world. As he was of the merchant class, and not erudite, his claims and writings appeared to be supernatural, and gained him many adherents. He was finally imprisoned, and in 1850 was sent to Tabriz for execution. Nearly a whole regiment fired at him, but when the smoke of the volley cleared away, there were no traces of the Bab, who was however eventually found quite unwounded, and was again bound and shot. In 1852, four Babis attempted to assassinate the Shah, and the sect was put down in the sternest fashion, the victims being allotted to the officials of all classes to be done to death.

The Bab had appointed Mirza Yahya, Subh-i-Ezel,2 to succeed him, and for ten years he was acknowledged, but his position was challenged by his elder half-brother, Mirza Husein Ali, Beha Ulla,3 who in 1866 proclaimed himself as "Him whom God shall manifest." Since this declaration his party has been in the ascendant, and that of the Subh-i-Ezel, who is living in Cyprus, has waned. Friendly relations among mankind, abolition of religious wars, and the study of all beneficial sciences, are inculcated, and these enlightened views are gaining thousands of converts, although mostly in secret. It is to be hoped that the doctrines of the Bab will eventually aid the cause of civilisation in Persia.4

The Sheikhi sect, albeit this is stoutly denied, holds almost identical views on many subjects with the Babis. It was founded by Sheikh Ahmad of Ahsa or Lahsa in Bahrein, who was born about 1750. He gained a great reputation for learning at Kerbela.

1 Cf. Bab-et-Mandeb and also The Sublime Porte.
2 Or Dawn of Eternity.
3 Or The Splendour of God. He died in 1892.
4 Vide The Episode of the Bab, by E. G. Browne.

Chap. xvi page 197

and being invited to Persia by Fath Ali Shah, finally settled at Yezd. He taught that at the resurrection men would not rise in the flesh, but only spiritually, and he believed that he was under the special guidance of the Imam. A "Master of the Dispensation" was expected, and accordingly many of the sect followed the Bab when he revealed his claims. A majority, headed by Haji Mohamed Kerim Khan, son of Ibrahim Khan, Kajar Zahir-u-Dola, utterly declined to accept the new teacher, and became his bitterest opponents. The Sheikhis claimed that there must always be a Shia-i-Kamil or Perfect Shia, to serve as a channel of grace between the absent Imam and his church, and that Haji Mohamed Kerim Khan was that channel. His son, Haji Mohamed Khan, is now head of the sect, which numbers 7000 followers in the province of Kerman, and perhaps 50,000 in Persia.1 He is a distinguished-looking man, possessing charming manners and a knowledge of the outer world which makes his society most agreeable, especially as he is entirely free from fanaticism.

The Sufi creed is a form of religious mysticism which has from earliest times deeply appealed to mankind in the East. Even Plato2 drank of its fountains, and thereby influenced all Western thought. It is difficult to define, but a pure theism and the immortality of the soul are inculcated in allegorical language, wherein human love typifies that love of God which is alone real, everything else on earth being illusory. The Murshid or Spiritual Guide at Kerman, who is the religious head of the Mahun shrine, is a typical Sufi, frankly maintaining that all religious fanaticism is the result of ignorance, and should be swept away to make room for universal love. In any case, a Sufi is tolerant, and the spread of such doctrines would do much to remove the ignorance and fanaticism still so rife in Asia.

We next come to the Jews of Kerman, who are in a wretched condition, and yet, as petty dealers, are absurdly grasping, their ideas of profit being extortion. They are an offshoot of the larger Yezd colony, which is said to have travelled east from Baghdad.

Among the most ancient religions is that of the Zoroastrians, which appeals so strongly to our interest as having survived from a

1 Hamadan and Tabriz are, after Kerman, their chief centres.
2 Still more so the Neo-Platonists of Alexandria. v2.7 (213613) © 2005 - 2015 Emanuel V. Towfigh & Peter Hoerster | Imprint | Change Interface Language: DE EN