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The Ḥaydarī-Nimatī Conflicts in Iran

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

Hossein Mirjafari*
University of Isfahan, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Chicago


From earliest times, religion has always been one of the most important factors in social cohesion and at the same time a major cause of urban factionalism and strife. The existence of opposing sects in the same city has invariably provided a breeding ground for economic, social, and political differences in the guise of sectarian disputes.

The basic elements of urban organization in the Islamic period were local government (ḥukūmat), religious solidarity (ummat), professional associations (the craft guilds, aṣnāf), and the city wards or quarters (maḥallāt). Occasionally, other social organizations rose to prominence such as esoteric fraternities, mystical and dervish orders, and chivalrous and paramilitary associations (futuvvat, Cayyārān); these too formed part of the overall social life of the city. The wards or city quarters were the centers of group activity based on kinship, or ethnic or sectarian affiliation. Iranian cities during the Islamic period saw political and social activities by the followers of the four rites of the Sunna--Shāfiī, Ḥanbalī, Ḥanafī, and Mālikī--and by Shi'ite and other dissident sects such as the Zaydīs, Carmathians, Mu'tazilites, and Ismāīlīs.

Copyright © Association For Iranian Studies, Inc 1979

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1. E.g., Iṣṭakhrī writes of Bam: “On Fridays, three mosques are in use--the Khārijite mosque in the bazaar, the Sunnī mosque in the drapers’ quarter, and a third one in the citadel” (Al-Masālik wa'l-Mamālik, ed. Afshār, Īraj [Tehran, 1957], p. 143).Google Scholar

2. Aḥmad al-Muqaddasī, Muḥammad ibn, Aḥsan al-Taqāsīm fī Marifat al-Aqālīm, ed. De Goeje, M. J. (Leiden 1906), p. 327.Google Scholar

3. Mujam al-Buldān, ed. Wüstenfeld, F. (Leipzig, 1924; Tehran, 1965), II, pp. 893–94.Google Scholar

4. Ghiyā al-Dīn Khwāndamīr, Ḥabīb al-Siyar fī Akhbār Afrād al-Bashar (Tehran, 1955), III, p. 2.Google Scholar

5. Mustawfī, Ḥamdullāh, Nuzhat al-Qulūb (Tehran, 1957), p. 53.Google Scholar

6. Baṭūṭa, Ibn, Riḥla (Cairo, 1964), Part 1, p. 124.Google Scholar

7. Barthold, V. V., Historico-Geographical Survey of Iran (Taẕkira-yi Jughrāfiyā-yi Tārīkhi-yi Īrān), translated by Serdadver, H. (Tehran 1308/1930), p. 186Google Scholar

8. See, e.g., Abū Dulaf, Safarnāma (Cairo, n.d.), p. 41; Yāqūt, Mujam al-Buldān, ed. Wüstenfeld, I, p. 53; Bosworth, W., Mussulman Culture (Calcutta, 1934), pp. 168–69.Google Scholar

9. See further Ahmad Ashraf's article Vīzhagīhā-yi tārīkhī-yi shahrnishīnī dar Īrān-i dawra-yi Islāmī,” in Nāma-yi ulūm-i Ijtimāī I, No. 4 (Tehran, 1970).Google Scholar

10. Accounts of the life and works of Shāh Nimatullāh Valī may be found in the following: Rasā'il-e Janābi Shāh Nimatullāh Valī-yi Kirmānī, ed. J. Nūrbakhshi Kirmānī, Vols. I-V (Tehran, 1961-65); Dīvān-i Shāh Nimatullāh Valī, ed. M. Ilmī (Tehran, 1949)Google Scholar; Dīvāni Shāh Nimatullāh Valī (Kerman, 1957)Google Scholar; Manuscript collections of the treatises of Shāh Nimatullāh Valī in the Khānaqāh-i Shams al-Urafā, the Malik Library and the National Library, in Tehran; Majmūa-yi tarjuma-yi aḥvāl-i Shāh Nimatullāh Valī, ed. Aubin, Jean (Tehran, 1966).Google Scholar For the Nimatullāhī order of dervishes, see Gramlich, Richard, Die Schiitischen Dervischorden Persiens (Wiesbaden, 1965Google Scholar: Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morganlandes XXXVI; 1), pp. 27-69.

11. Zāva had not yet developed into anything resembling a town by the early 7th century A.H. (early 13th A.D.); in the geographical works prior to the Mongol invasions the cultivated area now comprising the town and its fields was included in the district of Khwāf, and only with the growth of a settlement round the nucleus of Quṭb al-dīn Ḥaydar's tomb did the present town, renamed for the Sẖaykh, come into being. See Abd al-Ḥamid Mawlavī, Aār-i Bāstānī-yi Khurāsān (Tehran, 1976), I, p. 3.Google Scholar

12. Riḥla, Part I, p. 252; cf. Guy Le Strange, Lands of the Eastern Caliphate, p. 356. In addition to this encounter, Ibn Baṭūṭa met yet another Shaykh Quṭb al-dīn Ḥaydar, surnamed Alavī, at the town of Awja in Sind, and was presented by him with an initiatory robe (khirqa) which he wore proudly until it was stolen from him by pagan Indian pirates (Riḥlay Part 2, p. 8).

13. Khwāndamīr, Ḥabīb al-Siyar III, p. 332. Khwāja Rukn al-dīn, with the laqab Shāh Sanjān, was a leading poet and mystic of the 6th/14th century; see Mustawfī, Ḥamdullāh, Tārīkh-i Guzīda, ed. Strange, Le (Leiden, 1917), p. 793Google Scholar; Jami, Nafaḥāt al-Uns, ed. Tawḥīdīpūr, M. (Tehran, 1968), p. 374.Google Scholar

14. Samarqandī, Dawlatshāh-i, Taẕkirat al-Shuarā', ed. Browne, E. G. (Leiden, 1898), p. 192.Google Scholar There is a manuscript Ḥaydar-nāma with the title Dīvān-i Quṭb al-dīn Haydar in the Library of the Sipahsālār Mosque at Tehran (No. 248).

15. Amīd al-dīn Zakariyā ibn Muḥammad al-Qazvīnī, Āār al-Bilād wa Akhbār al-Ibād (Beirut, 1969), pp. 382–83.Google Scholar

16. Muḥammad Riżā Ṭabāṭabā'i Tabrīzī, Tārīkh Awlād al-Aṭhār (Tabriz, 1888), p. 99.Google Scholar

17. Karbalā'ī, Ḥāfiẓ Ḥusayn, Rawżat al-Jannāt va Jannāt al-Jinān (Tehran, 1965), pp. 467–68.Google Scholar Today Takya-yi Ḥaydar is the name of a spot at the edge of the Surkhab quarter of Tabriz, where the tomb of Sulṭān Mīr Ḥaydar used to be, in or near the former Darb-i Alā quarter. The shrine was frequented by great numbers of Sufis from near and far, even from Ottoman Turkey, and prospered accordingly. As an object of veneration to both Shīī and Sunnī Muslims, it remained undamaged by zealots of either sect until the reign of Shāh Abbās (995-1038/1587-1629). He denounced the shrine as a heinous center of heresy and had it demolished. The ruins, or a part of them, were extant until the later Qajar period, but nothing of the original now remains except the name. The site has been built over, and part of the courtyard of the shrine has evidently been superseded by a street running north and south through the area (see Jafar Sulṭān al-Qarā'ī's notes to the Rawżat al-Jannāt, p. 597). Shāh Abbās’ motive in reviling and destroying the tomb was probably his fear of the strength of the Shaykh's following, and his desire to divert his subjects’ veneration in the direction of Shaykh Ṣafī and the Safavid family. This propaganda campaign is preserved in a saying still current in Tabriz: “What business has a good man with the Takya-yi Ḥaydar?”

18. Ibid.

19. Shūshtarī, Qāżī Nūrullāh, Majālis al-Mu'minīn (Tehran, 1958) II, p. 51.Google Scholar

20. Ibid., p. 82.

21. Shīrāzī, Furṣat-i, Āār al-Ajam (Bombay, 1934), p. 73.Google Scholar

22. Muḥammad Maṣūm Shīrāzī (Maṣūmalī Shāh), Ṭarā'iq al-Ḥaqā'iq, ed. Maḥjūb, M. J. (Tehran, 1960-66) II, p. 642.Google Scholar

23. Ḥājjī Zayn al-Ābidīn Shīrvānī, Riyāż al-siyāḥa, ed. Ḥāmid, A. (Tehran, 1960), p. 226.Google Scholar

24. Muḥammad Alī Mudarris-Tabrīzī, Rayḥānat al-Adab (Tehran, 1944-53) III, p. 303Google Scholar; Lughatnāma-yi Dihkhudā Fasc. 84, p. 349, s.v. Quṭb al-dīn Ḥaydar-i Tūnī.

25. Muḥammad Ḥasan Khān Ṣanī al-dawla, Etemād al-salṭana, Mir'āt al-Buldān-i Nāṣirī (Tehran, 1874) I, p. 55.Google Scholar The physical description of the dervishes, though attributed by the author to Chardin, appears in fact to be a slightly garbled version of Kaempfer's description (see below and note 34).

26. Petrushevsky, I. P., Islām dar Īrān, tr. Kishāvarz, K., 3rd ed. (Tehran, 1974), pp. 366–67.Google Scholar

27. Mawlānā Ṣunullāh Nimatullāhī, Sawāniḥ al-Ayyām fī Mushāhadāt al-Avām (Bombay 1307/1883), p. 5.Google Scholar See also the article by Ḥamīd Farzām, “Ikhtilāfāt-i Jāmā bā Shāh Valī,” in Nashrīya-yi Dānishkada-yi Adabīyāt-i Dānishgāh-i Iṣfahān, No. 1 (1964), pp. 48-57, and the same writer's book Shāh, Valī va Davī-yī Mahdavīyat (Isfahan, 1979)Google Scholar; Farzām establishes on the evidence of the poetry and other works of Shāh Nimatullāh Valī that, contrary to general assumption, he was a Sunnī.

28. Shūshtarī, Majālis al-Mu'minīn II, p. 82.

29. From the time of Shaykh Ḥaydar, the father of Ismāī I Ṣafavī (907-930/1502-24), there arose in several provinces of Anatolia an extreme Shi'ite sect known as Ḥaydarīya, which is not the same as our Ḥaydarīya. So fanatical were they that they considered the killing of one Sunnite to be as meritorious as the slaying in battle of five pagans, and held that the divine nature had been incarnated in Alī, and ultimately in the Safavid Ḥaydar (see Falsafī, Naṣrullāh, zindigānī-yi Shāh Abbās-i Avval, [Tehran, 1956-76], V, pp. 3234).Google Scholar

30. Tâci-zâde Sa'di Çelebî, Münṣeât, ed. Lugal, N. § Erzi, A. (Istanbul, 1956), p. 28.Google Scholar

31. Narrative of the Most Noble Vicentio D'Alessandri,” tr. Gray, Charles, in A Narrative of Italian Travels in Persia (London, 1873), Hakluyt Society Ser. 1, Vol. 49, p. 224.Google Scholar The names of the factions appear here as Nausitai and Himcaivatu, which forms are however more recognizable than many others of D'Alessandri's transcriptions of Persian names. His statement that when Shāh Ṭahmāsb was still resident in Qazvin (i.e., between 1524 and about 1533) the feud had already lasted thirty years lends support to the view that it probably predated the establishment of the Safavid dynasty. See also Jean Chardin, Voyages (Amsterdam, 1711) II, p. 316.

32. Tavernier, Jean Baptiste, Les Six Voyages (Paris, 1677) I, p. 396.Google Scholar

33. Chardin, VIII, pp. 11, 13.

34. Kaempfer, Engelbert, Am Hofe des Persischen Grosskönigs, German edition by Hinz, W. (Leipzig,1940), pp. 110–11.Google Scholar This description appears to have found its way in part into the Mir'āt al-Buldān (see above and note 25).

35. D'Alessandri, Kaempfer, ibid.; Chardin, VIII, p. 13.

36. Valle, Pietro della, Voyages dans la Turquie, l'Egypte, la Palestine, la Perse, les Indes orientales et autres lieux (Rouen,1745) III, p. 42.Google Scholar

37. Quoted in Falsafī, Naṣrullāh, zindagānī-yi Shāh Abbās-i Avval (Tehran, 1344) II, p. 328.Google Scholar

38. Krusinski, Tadeusz Judasz, The History of the Late Revolutions of Persia (London 1750), I, p. 91.Google Scholar This was copied by Hanway, (An Historical Account of the British Trade over the Caspian Sea, London, 1753, III, p. 32)Google Scholar--somewhat inaccurately, as the names of the factions appear here as Peleuk and Feleuk; it is also cited by Browne (Literary History of Persia, IV, p. 119 and note). We are unable to throw any light on the terms Pelenk and Felenk.

39. Ibid., pp. 91-93.

40. Kaempfer, p. 111.

41. Qājār, Nādir Mīrzā, Tārīkh va Jughrāfiyā-yi Dār al-Salṭana-yi Tabrīz (Tehran, 1972), p. 192.Google Scholar

42. “…bezanīd pidar-i Nimatīhā dar ārīd!” I owe this anecdote to my friend the poet Alī Maẓāhirī, who heard it from a village headman of Isfahan.

43. Tavernier, I, p. 388.

44. Chardin, VII, pp. 12-13.

45. Chardin, II, p. 316.

46. Ḥusaynī Fasā'ī, Ḥājjī Mīrzā Ḥasan, Fārsnāma-yi Nāṣirī (Shiraz, 1933), II, p. 22.Google Scholar Note that Fasā'ī's geographical location of the factions is opposite to that of Chardin (VIII, p. 11), who places the Nimatullāhīs in the eastern half and the Haydarīs in the western half of Isfahan.

47. Watson, Robert, A History of Persia (London, 1866), p. 110.Google Scholar

48. Sayyid Abdullāh Dāī-yi Dizfūlī, Taẕkirat al-Akhyār wa Majma al-Abrār (Ahwaz, 1826)Google Scholar, passim.

49. SirMalcolm, John, History of Persia (London, 1829), II, p. 429.Google Scholar

50. Kasravī, Aḥmad, Tārīkh-i Mashrūṭa-yi Īrān (10th ed.; Tehran, 1974), pp. 195–97.Google Scholar

51. Ismāīl Amīrkhīzī, Qiyām-i Āẕarbāyjān va Sattār Khān (Tabriz, 1960), p. 411.Google Scholar

52. This information was supplied by Muḥammad Ḥusayn Anṣārī Ardakānī, a history student at the University of Isfahan.

53. The materials relating to Julga-yi Rū-dasht were supplied by Nādir Alī Nāẓiriān Jazzī, a geography student at the University of Isfahan.

54. Reported by Majīd Hāshimī Ardakānī, local high school teacher. This place is not the Ardakān of Yazd mentioned above.

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