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INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL Of ACADEMIC RESEARCH

Vol. 3. No. 2. March, 2011, Part IV

SHAYKHIYYA AND KIRMAN`S SOCIO-POLITICAL CHANGES IN THE QAJAR PERIOD


Mohammad Khodaverdi Tajabadi PhD student, Department of History and Civilization of Islamic Nations, Faculty of Theology and Philosophy, Science and Research branch, Islamic Azad University (IAU), Tehran, (IRI) Panjeh1979@gmail.com ABSTRACT As Shaykhiyya religion found a noticeable party in Yazd due to the attempts of Shaykh Ahmad Ahsaiee, there was soon an enthusiasm between the people of Kirman. Soon afterwards, Kirman was of the important centers of Shaykhism in Iran. This article investigates the main reasons of Shaykhiyya propagation in Kirman city. Some of the principal causes of this propagation were as follows: lack of a good scientific extent in the region, existence of neighboring cities as Yazd, existence of notable Shaykhiyya parties in Kirman and the support of Kirman governors as Ebrahim Zahir-al-Dolleh. Tendency of Haj-Mohammad Karim Khan (the son of Ebrahim Khan Zahir-al-doleh) toward Shaykhiyya religion and having different speech gatherings in mosques in addition to teaching in Ebrahimieh school and edition of different shaykhiyya books in domain of jursisprundence, etc. are of the prominent causes of Shaykhism propagation in Kirman of qajarid era. Key words: Shaykhiyya, Kirman, Mohammad Karim Khan, Ebrahim khan Socio-Political Changes, Qajar Period 1. INTRODUCTION Little is documented about the early life of Shaykh Ahmad, except that he was born in Ahsa, in the northeast of the Arabian peninsula, to a Shi'i family of Sunni origin in either the year 1166 A.H. (1753 C.E.), or 1157 A.H. (1744 C.E.). Nabl-i-A`zam, a Baha'i historian, documents his spiritual awakening in his book The DawnBreakers as follows: He observed how those who professed the Faith of Islam had shattered its unity, sapped its force, perverted its purpose, and degraded its holy name. His soul was filled with anguish at the sight of the corruption and strife which characterised the Sh'ah sect of Islam.... Forsaking his home and kindred, on one of the islands of Bahrayn, to the south of the Persian Gulf, he set out,... to unravel the mysteries of those verses of Islamic Scriptures which foreshadowed the advent of a new Manifestation[revelation].... There burned in his soul the conviction that no reform, however drastic, within the Faith of Islam, could achieve the regeneration of this perverse people. He knew,... that nothing short of a new and independent Revelation, as attested and foreshadowed by the sacred Scriptures of Islam, could revive the fortunes and restore the purity of that decadent Faith. While it is unclear how much of Nabil's interpretation is consistent with Shaykh Ahmad's true feelings, the underlying motivations for reform, and ultimately for messianic expectation, become somewhat clearer. [1] Appearance and Propagation of Shaykhiyya Shaykh Ahmad, at about age forty (1784 or 1794 - circa), began to study in earnest in the Shi'i centers of religious scholarship such as Karbala and Najaf. He attained sufficient recognition in such circles to be declared a mujtahid, an interpreter of Islamic Law. He contended with Sufi and Neo-Platonist scholars, and attained a positive reputation among their detractors. Most interestingly, he declared that all knowledge and sciences were contained (in essential form) within the Qur'an, and that to excel in the sciences, all knowledge must be gleaned from the Qur'an. To this end he developed systems of interpretation of the Qur'an and sought to inform himself of all the sciences current in the Muslim world. [2] He also evinced a veneration of the Imams, even beyond the extent of his pious contemporaries and espoused heterodox views on the afterlife, the resurrection and end-times, as well as medicine and cosmology. His views on the soul posited a "subtle body" separate from, and associated with the physical body. It was this body that ascended into Heaven, he posited, when Muhammad was said to have bodily ascended, and this also altered his views on the occultation of the Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi. His views resulted in his denunciation by several learned clerics, and he engaged in many debates before moving on to Persia where he settled for a time in the province of Yazd. It was in Yazd that much of his books and letters were written. [3] Juan Cole summarizes the situation at the advent of the Shaykhi School, and the questions that were unfolding as his views crystallized and he acquired an early following: When Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i wrote, there was no Shaykhi school, which only crystallized after his death. He saw himself as a mainstream Shi'ite, not as a sectarian leader. Yet he clearly innovated in Shi'i thought in ways that, toward the end of his life, sparked great controversy. Among the contentious arenas he entered was that of the nature of religious authority. He lived at a time when his branch of Islam was deeply divided on the role of the Muslim learned man. Was he an exemplar to be emulated by the laity without fail, or merely the first among equals, bound by a literal interpretation of the sacred text just as was everyone else? Or was he, as the Sufis maintained, a pole channeling the grace of God to those less enlightened than himself? How may we situate Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i with regard to these contending visions of Shi'i Islam? Momen in his Introduction to Shi'i Islam (George Ronald, Oxford, 1985) states that many

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mujtahids were afraid that the Shaykh's preference for intuitive knowledge, which he claimed to obtain directly by inspiration from the Imams, would seriously undermine the authority of their position. Momen has some interesting and useful commentary on Shaykh Ahmad's doctrines and his succession during which the conflict with Shi'i orthodoxy intensified. [4] The primary force behind Shaykh Ahmad's teachings is the Twelver Shi'a belief in the occultation of the Twelfth Imam. Twelver Shi'ah believe there were twelve Imams starting with Ali and ending with Muhammad alMahdi. While the first eleven Imams died, the twelfth is said to have disappeared, to return "before the day of judgment" and "fill the Earth with justice and make the truth triumphant". This messianic figure is called the Mahdi. The Shaykhs believed that since Muslims require the guidance of the Mahdi, there must be an individual on Earth who is capable of communicating with him. This personage would be described as the "perfect Shi'a", and Shaykh Ahmad was the first to adopt that position. Due to this unique capability, the leader of the sect attained a quasidivinity in the eyes of his followers. It is not clear whether it was Shaykh Ahmad or his successor, Sayyid Kazim Rashti, who predicted that the coming of the Mahdi was nearing. The source of knowledge and certainty Shaykh teachings on knowledge are similar in appearance to that of the Sufis, save that where the Sufi "wayfarer" arrogates to himself the role of interpreting and adjudicating truth, Shaykh Ahmad was clear that the final arbiter for interpretation and clarity was the 12th Imam. "For Shaykh Ahmad, then, the Shi`ite learned man is not simply a mundane thinker dependent on nothing more than the divine text and his intellectual tools for its interpretation. The Learned must have a spiritual pole (qutb), a source of grace (ghawth), who will serve as the locus of God's own gaze in this world. Both pole and ghawth are frequently-used Sufi terms for great masters who can by their grace help their followers pursue the spiritual path. For Shaykh Ahmad, the pole is the Twelfth Imam himself, the light of whose being is in the heart of the Learned. The oral reports, he notes, say that believers benefit from the Imam in his Occultation just as the earth benefits from the sun even when it goes behind a cloud. [5] Shaykh Ahmad's perspectives on accepted Islamic doctrines diverged in several areas, most notably on his mystical interpretation of prophesy. The "Sun" and "Moon" and "Stars" of the Qur'an's eschatological surahs are seen as allegorical, where common Muslim interpretation is that events involving celestial bodies will happen literally at the Day of Judgement. In other writings, Shaykh Ahmad synthesizes rather dramatic descriptions of the origin of the prophets, the primal word, and other religious themes through allusions and mystical language. Much of this language is oriented around trees, specifically the primal universal tree of Eden, described in Jewish scripture as being two trees. This primal tree is, in some ways, the universal spirit of the prophets themselves: " The symbol of the preexistent tree appears elsewhere in Shaykh Ahmad's writings. He says, for instance, that the Prophet and the Imams exist both on the level of unconstrained being or preexistence, wherein they are the Complete Word and the Most Perfect Man, and on the level of constrained being. On this second, limited plane, the cloud of the divine Will subsists and from it emanates the Primal Water that irrigates the barren earth of matter and of elements. Although the divine Will remains unconstrained in essential being, its manifest aspect has now entered into limited being. When God poured down from the clouds of Will on the barren earth, he thereby sent down this water and it mixed with the fallow soil. In the garden of the heaven known as as-Saqurah, the Tree of Eternity arose, and the Holy Spirit or Universal Intellect, the first branch that grew upon it, is the first creation among the worlds." This notion of beings with both divine and ephemeral natures presages a similar doctrine of the Manifestation in the Babi and Bah' Faiths, religions whose origins are rooted in the Shaykhi spiritual tradition. Shaykh Ahmad, at about age forty, began to study in earnest in the Shi'a centres of religious scholarship such as Karbala and Najaf. [6] He attained sufficient recognition in such circles to be declared a mujtahid, an interpreter of Islamic Law. He contended with Sufi and Neo-Platonist scholars, and attained a positive reputation among their detractors. Most interestingly, he declared that all knowledge and sciences were contained (in essential form) within the Qur'an, and that to excel in the sciences, all knowledge must be gleaned from the Qur'an. His views resulted in his denunciation by several learned clerics, and he engaged in many debates before moving on to Persia where he settled for a time in the province of Yazd. It was in Isfahan that Shaykh Ahmad led the sect for only two years before his death. His undisputed successor also led the Shaykhs until his own death (1843). Siyyid Kzim said that he would not live to see the Promised One, but, according to the Bbs, his appearance was so imminent that Siyyid Kzim appointed no successor, instead instructing his followers to spread across the land and search him out. Siyyid Kzim did not explicitly appoint a successor. Rather, convinced that the Mahdi was in the world, he encouraged his followers to seek him out. Many of the Shaykhis expected Mull Husayn, one of his favorite pupils, to take on the mantle. Mull Husayn, however, declined the honor, insisting on obedience to Siyyid Kazim's final commands to go out in search of the Mahdi. Many of the followers of Shaykh Ahmad spread out as did Mullah Husayn. By 1844, two perspectives had emerged and camps arose based on the differing claims of two individuals. On May 23, 1844, during his search for the Mahdi, Mullah Husayn encountered a young man in Shiraz named Siyyid Al-Muhammad. Ali-Muhammad had visited some of Siyyid Kazim's classes, and later tellings assert that Siyyid Kazim implied a connection between his own predictions about the Mahdi and this Al-Muhammad attending his class. [7] Shaykhiyya and Kirman`s Socio-Political Changes Karm Khn Kirmn was born in 1810 and died in 1871. He came from the Persian city of Kirmn, and was the son of a Qjr prince. Kirmns father was Ibrahm Khn hir al- Dawlih, and Kirmn had nineteen brothers and twenty-one sisters. This Ibrahm Khn was an admirer of Shaykh Amad al- Asi, founder of the Shaykh movement, which contributed markedly to the establishment of the Bb religion. Ibrahm Khn founded a religious college named after himself, the Ibrhmiyyih. Haji Karim Khan Kirmani became the leader of the main

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Shaykhi group that did not follow the Bab. He became the foremost critic of the Bab, writing four essays against him. Baha'u'llah in turn described Karim as "foolishness masquerading as knowledge. Karim repudiated some of the more radical teachings of Ahsai and Rashti and moved the Shaykhi school back towards the mainstream Usuli teachings. Karim Khan Kirmani was succeeded by bis son Shaykh Muhammad Khan Kirmani (1846-1906), then by Muhammad's brother Shaykh Zaynal 'Abidln Kirmani (1859-1946). Shaykh Zaynal 'Abidln Kirmani was succeeded by Shaykh Abu al-Qasim Ibrahimi (1896-1969), who was succeeded by his son 'Abd al-Rida Khan Ibrahimi who was a leader until his death. When Karm Khn went to Karbala, soon after his fathers death, he met Sayyid Kzim Rasht, successor to Shaykh Amad al-Asi and leader of the Shaykh movement at the time. Karm Khn Kirmn became a disciple of Sayyid Kzim Rasht and eventually went back to Kirmn, where we planned apparently to teach and guide the faithful there.3 Kirmn was an extremely learned and highly prolific individual who wrote a great deal on a wide variety of subjects. He was perhaps best known for his elaborations on the fourth pillar (rukn al-rbi).4 Kirmn wrote a number of passages and tracts elaborating on his understandings of this fourth pillar. Other subjects he wrote on included optics, alchemy, hadith, color mysticism, prophetology, and many others. As time passed, because of the sorts of ideas he was teaching to his students, he ran into conflicts with various individuals and groups in Kirmn. Among those individuals was his brother-inlaw, Sayyid q Javd Shrz.5 These two quarreled over control of the Ibrhmiyyih, with Karm Khn trying to have Shaykhism taught there. When Sayyid Kzim Rasht died in 1844, Karm Khn proclaimed himself the new leader of the Shaykh School, continued to spread the teachings of Shaykh Amad and Sayyid Kzim and expanded Shaykh thought in various ways.[8] In addition to clashes with the religious orthodoxy, and other Shaykhis, Karm Khn also denounced the Bb, and in fact viciously attacked Him and His claims in a number of essays and books (at least eight). His earliest work against the Bb was entitled the Izq al-btil, a text which has been analyzed by William McCants.6 Karm Khn Kirmn spent his last years in privacy on his estate in Langar, outside of Kirman city. Mangol Bayat states that his ideas remained unrealized, his ambition unfulfilled, and the radical transformation of Shaykh ideas into a concrete program of action was instead undertaken by someone else namely the Bb. Bahullh first discusses Kirmns writings in a passage of the Kitb-i qn, where He comments on something that Kirmn had written in a book entitled the Irshd al-avm. In the Irshd al-avm, Kirmn states that in order to understand the mirj, or the night journey of the prophet Muammad, one must be well versed in a vast range of sciences, including everything from alchemy to physics. Bahullh disagrees with this, stating that ones spiritual qualities were what mattered. This section serves as the immediate introduction to the famous true seeker section of the Kitb-i qn. The current leader of the Shaykhiya is Ali al-Musawi, who heads a community with followers in Iraq mainly Basrah and Karbala - Iran and the Persian Gulf. Basrah has a significant Shaykhi minority, and their mosque is one of the largest in the city holding up to 12,000 people. The Shaykhiya were resolutely apolitical and hence were allowed relative freedom under Saddam Hussein. Since the 2003 Invasion of Iraq and subsequent Iraqi Civil War they have been targeted by Iraqi nationalists who accused them of being Saudis on the grounds that Ahmad al-Ahsai was from present-day Saudi Arabia. 2. CONCLUSION As Shaykhiyya religion found a noticeable party in Yazd due to the attempts of Shaykh Ahmad Ahsaiee, there was soon an enthusiasm between the people of Kirman. Soon afterwards, Kirman was of the important centers of Shaykhism in Iran. Shaykh Ahmad cultivated followers in al-Hasa in eastern Arabia, Bahrain, and Iraq, as well as in Yazd and Kermanshah in Iran. A separate school of Shi ism did not coalesce around his name until after his death, when he was succeeded by Sayyid Kazim Rashti (d. 1844) in Karbala; for a time, esoteric Shaykhism offered a challenge to the scholastic orthodoxy of the Usuli school. After Rashti's death, though many Shaykhis became Babis, important Shaykhi communities continued to exist in the Persian Gulf, and in Kerman and Tabriz. The Tabriz Shaykhis diminished their doctrinal and ritual differences with the majority Usuli School, and played a progressive role during Iran's Constitutional Revolution (1905 - 1911). The Kerman Shaykhis, led by the Qajar noble Karim Khan Kermani (1810 - 1871) and his descendants, remained esoteric. Some among the Qajar nobility, as well as Mozaffar al-Din Shah (r. 1896 - 1906), converted to this school. Kerman Shaykhism proved conservative and often was supported by local governors. This privileged position helped to provoke Shaykhi-Usuli riots in 1905. Shaykhi communities persist in Kerman and elsewhere. REFERENCES 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. A-L-M Nicolas. Essai sur le cheikhisme. Paul Geuthner (Paris: 1910), 2. Auflage. Henry Corbin. L'ecole Shaykhie en Theologie Shi`ite. Taban (Tehran: 1967). Henry Corbin. En islam iranien. Galimard (Paris: 1972), 4. Auflage. Vahid Rafati. The Development of Shaykhi Thought in Shi`i Islam. (University of California, Los Angeles, 1979). Denis Maceoin. S.V. Ahsa'i, Shaikh Ahmad b. Zayn al-Din, in Encyclopaedia Iranica, 3. Auflage. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983). Juan Cole. "The World as Text: Cosmologies of Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i," in Studia Islamica, No. 80. (1994), S. 145-163. Idris Samawi Hamid. The Metaphysics and Cosmology of Process According to Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i. (University of New York at Buffalo, 1998). Issawi, C., ed, The Economy History of Iran, 1800-1914, Chicago, 1971.

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