AḴBĀRĪ, MĪRZĀ MOḤAMMAD (1178-1233/1765-1818), a leading exponent of the Aḵbārī school of feqh and a violent polemicist against its opponents. He was born in Akbarābād, India, but settled in the ʿatabāt in 1198/1784, after performing the ḥaǰǰ. There he engaged in bitter and sometimes scurrilous controversy with the adherents of the Oṣūlī school, accusing his opponents of such offenses as Omayyad ancestry and pederastic proclivities. Chief among his enemies was Shaikh Jaʿfar Naǰafī, from whose wrath he was ultimately obliged to flee and seek refuge in Tehran. There he succeeded in gaining access to Fatḥ-ʿAlī Shah. Fearing that Mīrzā Moḥammad might influence the monarch in favor of the Aḵbārī school, Shaikh Jaʿfar composed a work entitled Kašf al-ḡeṭāʾ ʿan maʿāʾeb Mīrzā Moḥammad ʿadūw al-ʿolamāʾ and sent it to the court in Tehran; in it he denounced Mīrzā Moḥammad in terms similar to those he himself had employed. But Mīrzā Moḥammad did enjoy a brief period of prominence at Fatḥ-ʿAlī Shah’s court, based largely on his promise to secure, by supernatural means, the death of Tsitsianov, commander of the Russian forces at that time besieging Bākū. Retreating for a period of forty days to the shrine at Shah ʿAbd-al-ʿAẓīm, he began to engage in certain magical practices, such as beheading wax figures representing the general. It so happened that during his retreat, Tsitsianov was assassinated during negotiations at Bākū, and the severed head (or, according to some accounts, hand) of the Russian commander arrived in Tehran just before the forty days were up. In return for his apparent success, Mīrzā Moḥammad demanded of Fatḥ-ʿAlī Shah that he give the Aḵbārī school state patronage and recognition. The monarch demurred and instead sent Mīrzā Moḥammad into exile in Arab Iraq. Settling in Kāẓemayn, he became involved in a contest for the governorship of Baghdad, offering magical assistance to Asʿad Pāšā against his rival, Dāʾūd Pāšā. Afraid of sharing the fate of Tsitsianov, Dāʾūd Pāšā incited a mob to attack Mīrzā Moḥammad’s house in Kāẓemayn and kill him. It is entirely possible that the Oṣūlī ʿolamāʾ of the ʿatabāt, nursing their grievances against Mīrzā Moḥammad, should also have had a hand in the affair. Mīrzā Moḥammad was a prolific author, and wrote widely on feqh and kalām as well as the occult sciences; a partial list of his writings is given by Mīrzā Moḥammad-ʿAlī Modarres, Rayḥānat al-adab, new ed., Tabrīz, n.d., I, pp. 85-86.
See also H. Algar, Religion and State in Iran, 1785-1906: The Role of the Ulama in the Qajar Period, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1969, pp. 64-66.
Anonymous, “Fāǰeʿa-ye qatl-e Moḥammad-e Aḵbārī,” Eṭṭelāʿāt-e māhāna 4, 1330 Š./1951, p. 31.
E. G. Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia IV, pp. 374-76.
Mīrzā Moḥammad-Ḥasan Khan Eʿtemād-al-salṭana, Tārīḵ-emontaẓam-e Nāṣerī, Tehran, 1330/1883, III, p. 116.
Reżā-qolī Khan Hedāyat, Rawżat al-ṣafā-ye Nāṣerī, Tehran, 1339 Š./1960, IX, p. 415.
Mīrzā Moḥammad-Taqī Sepehr Lesān-al-molk, Nāseḵ al-tawārīḵ, Tehran, n.d., I, pp. 79-80.
Moḥammad b. Solaymān Tonokābonī, Qeṣaṣ al-ʿolamāʾ, Tehran, 1304/1887, pp. 131-32.
Moḥammad-Bāqer Ḵᵛānsārī, Rawżāt al-ǰannāt fī aḥwāl al-ʿolamāʾwa’l-sādāt, Tehran, 1304/1887, pp. 152-53.
Originally Published: December 15, 1984
Last Updated: July 29, 2011
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Vol. I, Fasc. 7, p. 716