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GHARIB MIRZA (899-902/1493-1496), 34TH IMAM

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"Abbas Shah, surnamed Shah Gharib or Gharib Mirza, was also known as Gharibu'l-lah and Mustansir billah III, and assumed the Imamate in 899/1493. Imam Gharib Mirza seems to have left Shahr-i Babak few months after assuming Imamate. He seems to have repaired for about one year out of Shahr-i Babak, leaving behind his hujjat, called Badiuddin Khwaja Kassim, and at length settled down in Anjudan, most possibly in 900/1494. Pir Shihabuddin Shah (d. 1884) also writes in his Khitabat-i Aliyya (pp. 42-43) that, "The thirty-fourth Imam Abbas Shah (Gharib Mirza) was obliged to live for some time away from his ancestral home (watn-i maluf), i.e., Shahr-i Babak." The reason of his absence was that the rambling bands of Chaghatays and Turkomans had once again gushed from Jurjan and Tabaristan after being suppressed in 883/1478 by the Ak-Koynunlu commander, Sufi Khalil Beg. They plundered the surrounding localities of Kirman and Sirjan.

Anjudan is situated at the foot of relatively low rocky range, about 37 kilometers east of Arak and about the same distance westward from Mahallat in central Iran. It is separated 35-40 kilometers with Kahek by a number of shallow ranges, and is also close to Qumm and Kashan. The Ismailis had begun their settlements slowly in Anjudan most probably during the time of Imam Mustansir billah II, and had taken there agriculture. It was the cradle land of the Ismaili mission in post-Alamut era. It was simply walled to protect the populace in times of insecurity. It appears that the dawa system after the fall of Alamut was organized systematically in Anjudan period.

Imam Gharib Mirza shifted to Anjudan and kept himself completely out of the vortex of politics, and passed a life of darwish, where he became known as Gharib Mirza i.e., "an unknown stranger." Earlier, he was generally known as Abbas Shah. He also applied the name Gharib Mirza in his writing in Anjudan. His eloquent power was impressive and sweet, and was highly respected among the local non-Ismaili orbits. He was a man of affable temperament and wide human sympathies, which made him a popular figure in the locality.

The Safavid family was active in making ground to emerge as a new power in Iran, tracing descent from Musa Kazim. The prominent head at that time was Shaikh Safi (1252-1334), who founded a Sufi order, known after him as the Safaviya at Ardabil. He died in 735/1334 and his order was continued by his son, Sadruddin Musa (1334-1391), and then by another son, Khwaja Ali (1391-1427). They deeply influenced most of the Mongol rulers and amirs. Ibrahim (1427-1447), the son of Khwaja Ali also continued the Sufi order founded by Shaikh Safi, but Junayd (1447-1460), the son of Ibrahim acquired some political power and introduced the doctrines of the Twelvers at the time of his death in 1460. He fought several times with the rulers of Kara-Koyunlu, but was killed at Shirwan. His followers continued to gain religious and political leads in Iran. Junayd's son married to Martha, a Greek princess, who bore Sultan Ali, Ibrahim and Ismail. His another son, Hyder (1460-1478) was killed, and other sons were arrested. Thus, only Ismail was survived, because Sultan Ali was also killed and Ibrahim had died very soon. Hence, the events continued to boost the rising of the Safavids during the time of Ismail. Gilan was the centre of the Safavid family. Ismail collected a small force and occupied Baku and Shamakha. He defeated Alwand, the prince of Ak-Kuyunlu dynasty, and captured Tabriz. He also inflicted defeat to the Mongolian ruler and was proclaimed as Shah Ismail and founded the Safavid dynasty in 905/1500 in Iran.

Nuruddin Shah, the younger brother of Imam Gharib Mirza is said to have built a small village near Anjudan after his name, called Nurabad. He also built a defensive post and few small buildings. He erected a Sufi khanaqah (cloister) of Abbas Shahi tradition for the local Sufis.

The Ismailis had continued their flocking at Anjudan, where Imam Gharib Mirza confessed their offerings and blessed them with written guidances, bearing his signature and seal. It has since become a tradition in India to celebrate the day of rejoice with great pomp by commonalty and gentry alike when the pilgrims returned unscathed to their homeland.

Abu Ishaq Kohistani was a learned da'i around this period. His name was Ibrahim, was from the district of Mominabad-i Kohistan in the province of Birjand. Nothing is known about his activities. He was however a writer, and it appears from his writings that he had studied the accessible literature of Alamut period. His famous work, Haft Bab-i Bu Ishaq deals the recognition of the Imam with philosophical arguments on Ismaili tariqah. His another work, Tarikh-i Kohistan is not traceable.

Bawa Khair al-Din, known as Khair or Khaitaji, the son of Bawa Ghul Muhammad bin Syed Hashim visited Anjudan with a deputation. During conversation, the Imam asked, "Who is the greatest?" Nobody returned satisfactory answer. At last, Bawa Khair al-Din said, "The amr (authority) is the greatest." Imam was pleased with his answer and appointed him his vakil for India.

It is related that Imam Gharib Mirza mastered the botanical field, and with his knowledge, the village of Anjudan was turned into a fertile tract. He mostly passed his whole life in Anjudan, and died in 902/1496. In Anjudan, near the mausoleum of Imam Mustansir billah II, there exists an old burial ground in the garden, the middle of which stands the mausoleum of Imam Gharib Mirza. The wooden box (sanduq) contains Sura Yasin of the Koran. In one place, it is clearly written:- "This is the wooden box (sanduq) of Shah Mustansir billah (i.e., Gharib Mirza), the son of Shah Abdus Salam. Written on the 10th of Moharram, 904/August 29, 1498." From this one can conclude that this wooden box was erected about two years after the death of the Imam.

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