ĀL-E KAṮĪR, an Arab tribe of Ḵūzestān composed of two subtribes, Bayt Saʿd and Bayt Karīm and inhabiting two sectors of Šūš and Dezfūl. The origin of the name is unknown; they themselves claim that they are the descendants of Jaʿfar Barmakī, and because of their large population are known as Āl-e Kaṯīr. In the Arab genealogies we come across a family known as Banū Abī Kaṯīr (Abu’l-Fawz Moḥammad Amīn al-Sowaydī, Sabāʾek al-ḏahab fī maʿrefat al-qabāʾel al-ʿarab, Naǰaf, 1280/1863-64, pp. 101-02); if Āl-e Kaṯīr belong to this clan, they are descendants of the Lawāta tribe of the Berbers. A. H. Layard claims that they derive from the Nebān tribe of the Naǰd (“Description of the Province of Khuzistan,” JRGS 16, 1846, p. 33). In any event, Āl-e Kaṯīr belong to those Arabs who came from Iraq to Ḵūzestān during the reign of the Mošaʿšaʿīān, settling first in the western part of the province (Ḥowayza) and moving then to the region of Dezfūl and Šūš (A. Kasravī, Mošaʿšaʿīān, Tehran, 1334 Š./1955, p. 96), perhaps during the reign of Shah ʿAbbās I (996-1038/1588-1629) when the leadership of the clan was held by Shaikh Ḵenayfar, the great grandfather of Shaikh Fāres (local investigation by the author). Shaikh Fāres is the first member of the tribe one encounters in the history of the Safavids; he was an important chief in Dezfūl in the year 1137/1724 during the uprising of Ṣafī Mīrzā the Pretender (Sayyed ʿAbdallāh b. Nūr-al-dīn Jazāyerī, Taḏkera ye Šūštar, ed. Maula Bakhsh and M. Hidayet Husain, Calcutta, 1914-24, pp. 70-71; A. Kasravī, Tārīḵ-epānṣadsāla-ye Ḵūzestān, Tehran, 1333 Š./1954, pp. 75-76). If we assume one hundred years for the lifetime of three generations, then Ḵenayfar must have been alive in 1037/1587 or towards the end of Shah ʿAbbās’s reign. After Ḵenayfar’s death the Āl-e Kaṯīr split into two groups following his two sons Saʿd and Nāṣer, and today the two subtribes are named after Saʿd and Nāṣer’s son Karīm. The Bayt Saʿd tribe lives on the land south of Dezfūl, and Bayt Karīm on the right bank of the Dez river and in the area of Šūš (local research).
The Āl-e Kaṯīr were involved in most of the troubles and disturbances in Ḵūzestān; these took place either at their initiative or at the instigation of the Mošaʿšaʿīān, who ruled in the western sector of Ḵūzestān (Ḥowayza). Among these troubles were those of Ṣafī Mīrzā in 1137/1724-25 (Taḏkera-ye Šūštar, pp. 70-88), those in 1142/1729-30 (Mīrzā Mahdī Khan Astarābādī, Jahāngošā-ye Nāderī, ed. ʿA. Anwār, Tehran, 1341 Š./1962, p. 117), the revolt of Moḥammad Khan Balūč in 1144/1731-32 (Tārīḵ-epānṣadsāla-ye Ḵūzestān, p. 78), the uprisings of the people of Šūštar and Dezfūl in 1160/1737 and in the reign of ʿAdel Shah (Taḏkera-ye Šūštar, p. 99; Mošaʿšaʿīān, p. 111) as well as other rebellions (Taḏkera-ye Šūštar, pp. 100-02, 113-14, 152-53).
In 1165/1751-52 a dispute over the leadership of the tribe of Bayt Karīm led to a revolt by the descendants of Karīm b. Nāṣer against Saʿd, the son of Fāres II, who was the chief of the tribe, and many people were killed on both sides. Shaikh Saʿd took refuge with the chiefs of Āl-e Ḵamīs in Rāmhormoz, and the leadership of the tribe went to Nāṣer b. Karīm (Taḏkera-ye Šūštar, pp. 152-53). His rule was full of conflicts between Āl-e Kaṯīr and the local government of Ḵūzestān (Taḏkera-ye Šūštar, pp. 158-59).
It was at this period that Karīm Khan Zand and ʿAlīmardān Khan Baḵtīārī placed Shah Esmāʿīl III on the throne. As regent, ʿAlīmardān Khan gave the government of Šūštar and Dezfūl to Shaikh Nāṣer, an act which resulted in numerous rebellions and conflicts in both cities, where the local chiefs themselves claimed authority; the disturbances spread throughout Ḵūzestān, to the extent that the tribes of Banū Lām and Āl-e Ḵamīs invaded Dezfūl, Šūštar and Ḥowayza, causing extensive damage and coming into conflict with the Mošaʿšaʿīān. Although the author of Taḏkera-ye Šūštar does not mention the clans of Āl-e Kaṯīr in connection with these events, it is hard to believe that they had no part in them, since they were supporters of the Mošaʿšaʿīān (Tārīḵ-epānṣadsāla-ye Ḵūzestān, p. 92; Taḏkera-ye Šūštar, p. 164). The relations between ʿAlīmardān Khan Baḵtīārī and Karīm Khan Zand soon became strained, while the Āl-e Kaṯīr continued to lead a rebellious existence. By 1174/1760-6l Karīm Khan had gained the upper hand; he sent a force to suppress them, but nothing was achieved (Moḥammad Ṣādeq Nāmī, Tārīḵ-egītīgošā, ed. S. Nafīsī, Tehran, 1317 Š./1938, pp. 109-10).
In 1176/1762-63 Zakī Khan Zand, Karīm Khan’s cousin, revolted and went to Ḵūzestān, where he was warmly received by the Āl-e Kaṯīr. Karīm Khan sent Naẓar-ʿAlī Khan Zand, who succeeded in putting an end to the rebellion as well as the misbehavior of the Āl-e Kaṯīr and other tribes such as Banū Lām and Banū Kaʿb (Tārīḵ-epānṣadsāla-ye Ḵūzestān, pp. 93-94; Gītīgošā, pp. 118-19). After this date until 1264/1848—a period of 88 years—we have no information concerning the Āl-e Kaṯīr. In 1264/1848 at the accession of Nāṣer-al-dīn Shah, rebellions broke out in many parts of Iran; in Ḵūzestān, these were led by a certain Ḥaddād, one of the shaikhs of Bayt Saʿd. He took over Dezfūl and Šūštar and settled in the Salāsel citadel of Šūštar, the seat of the rulers of eastern Ḵūzestān. Calling himself Ḥaddād Shah, he minted coins in his own name (Tārīḵ-epānṣadsāla-ye Ḵūzestān, p. 136). At this time the government of Ḵūzestān was in the hands of Mawlā ʿAbdallāh Khan Mošaʿšaʿī; with the help of a number of tribes of the Banū Sāla, the Bāwī, and the ʿAnāfeqa, he attacked Shaikh Ḥaddād and defeated him in the vicinity of Dezfūl. After a short period of imprisonment in Ḥowayza, Shaikh Ḥaddād was sent to Ḵorramābād, but he managed to escape and return to Dezfūl, where he resumed his rebellion (J. Qāʾem-maqāmī, “Ḏayl-e tārīḵ-e Mošaʿšaʿīān,” Yādgār 2/9, 1325 Š./1946, p. 9). Finally Ardašīr Mīrzā was made governor of Lorestān and Ḵūzestān; he managed to capture Shaikh Ḥaddād and send him to Tehran (Mīrzā Moḥammad-Taqī Sepehr, Nāseḵ al-tawārīḵ III, Tehran, 1337 Š./1958, p. 127; Tārīḵ-epānṣadsāla-ye Ḵūzestān, p. 137).
After Shaikh Ḥaddād the leadership of the Bayt Saʿd passed to Shaikh Asad and then to his son Farḥān, who greatly increased the influence of the tribe. All the tribes settled between the Gulf and Dezfūl came under his sway. The tribe of Bayt Karīm was sometimes dominated by Bayt Saʿd and sometimes independent (local research).
In 1315/1897 the Āl-e Kaṯīr again seem to have caused trouble; they were quieted by the new governor of Ḵūzestān, Sardār Akram (Rūz-nāma-ye Īrān 920, 1315/1897-98). About this same time Shaikh Ḵaẓʿal of the Banū Kaʿb was increasing his influence in the region and instigating various tribes to leave Farḥān and join him. The Bayt Karīm came under his direct influence. In 1303/1924 Shaikh Ḵaẓʿal’s power was brought to an end and all the tribes of Ḵūzestān came under the direct control of the central government. Thus ended the rebellious behavior of the Āl-e Kaṯīr (local research).
Bayt Karīm is made up of 400 families and includes the clans of Bayt Fārs, Bayt Mašʿal, Bayt Mosāʿed, Bayt Ṭaʿān, Bayt Farḥān, Ḥamzawī, Ḥayyāz, Ṣaʿābara, Ẓahīrīya, Nīs, Moṣāḥana, and Ḥūšīya. They inhabit the villages of Ḵalafābād, Bona-ṭāleb, Sobḥa, Ṣaḥīḥī, Āl-e Moʿallā, Daylam, Labībāt, Banī ʿAqīl, and Šarfa. Bayt Saʿd comprises 215 families divided into three clans: Bayt Saʿd (divided in turn into Bayt Farḥān, Bayt Solṭān, and Bayt ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn), Badwān (Bayt Rāšed and Bayt Ṭarbūš) and Ḥūšīya. In general they inhabit the villages of Šab Ḵāṣṣ, Šāhwalī, ʿAqīrab, and Šamʿūn. The Āl-e Kaṯīr are sedentary farmers and herders.
See also J. G. Lorimer, Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, ʿOman and Central Arabia, Calcutta, 1908, pp. 994-97.
A. T. Wilson, “Tribes of Khuzistan,” in H. Field, Contributions to the Anthropology of Iran, Chicago, 1939, pp. 194-95.
Originally Published: December 15, 1984
Last Updated: July 29, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 7, pp. 760-761