H.M. CONSUL, KERMAN AND PERSIAN BALUCHISTAN;
AWARDED SILVER MEDAL BY THE SOCIETY OF ARTS, 1897; THE BACK GRANT IN 1899; AND
THE GOLD MEDAL IN 1902 BY THE ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY
JOHN MURRAY ALBEMARLE STREET
Chap. xvi page 194
...known as Masjid-i-Malik. It was founded by the Seljuk Malik
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,
about A.H. 793 (1390). In all there are said to be
ninety mosques in Kerman and six madaris1
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
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
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
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
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
In the history of Mohamed Ibrahim it is told of Malik
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
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
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.
had appointed Mirza
to succeed him, and for ten years he was acknowledged, but his position was
challenged by his elder half-brother, Mirza
Husein Ali, Beha
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
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
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
utterly declined to accept the new teacher, and became his
bitterest opponents. The Sheikhis claimed that there must always be a
or Perfect Shia, to serve as a channel of grace between the
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
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
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
2 Still more so the Neo-Platonists of Alexandria.