ḴAYRḴᵛĀH HERĀTI, Moḥammad-Reżā b. Solṭān-Ḥosayn Ḡuriāni, Nezāri Ismaʿili dāʿi, author, and poet. He was born into a prominent Nezāri Ismaʿili family in Ḡuriān near Herat, in present-day western Afghanistan, in the final decades of the 15th century and died not long after 960/1553, the latest date cited in his writings. Ḵayrḵᵛāh thus lived during the first century of the so-called Anjedān revival in Nezāri Ismaʿili daʿwa activities after the collapse of the Nezāri centers of power in Persia in 654/1256.

By the middle of the 15th century, the Nezāri imams had established themselves in the village of Anjedān, near Maḥallāt, initiating the Anjedān revival in Nezāri Ismaʿilism that lasted for about two centuries. During this period, the Nezāri imams and their followers continued to disguise themselves under the mantle of Sufism, but, with the adoption of Twelver Shiʿism as the official religion of the Safavid realm, the Nezāris and other Shiʿite communities in Persia could now reduce the extent of their taqiya (precautionary dissimulation of one’s faith) practices. The Anjedān period also witnessed a renaissance in literary activities in the Persian Nezāri community. Doctrinal works now began to be composed for the first time in the post-Alamut Persian Nezāri Ismaʿili community. Ḵayrḵᵛāh Herāti may be considered as one of the most important Nezāri literary figures of the early Anjedān period in Persia, second in significance only to Abu Esḥāq Qohestāni (d. after 904/1498). Ḵayrḵᵛāh’s few extant works are extremely valuable for understanding the Anjedān revival in post-Alamut Nezāri Ismaʿilism and the contemporary Nezāri doctrines, which were essentially rooted in the Nezāri teachings of the late Alamut times, when Kᵛāja Naṣir-al-Din Ṭusi lived in the Nezāri fortress communities of Persia and synthesized the Nezāri doctrines in the Rawża-ye taslim attributed to him (see editor’s Preface, pp. xv-xvi).

In the autobiographical part of his Resāla (pp. 35 ff.), Ḵayrḵᵛāh relates how his father, Ḵᵛāja Solṭān-Ḥosayn, a dāʿi in the region of Herat, was murdered by brigands whilst on a journey to visit the Nezāri imam at Anjedān. Subsequently, the contemporary Nezāri imam, probably Mostanṣer Be’llāh III (d. 904/1498), better known under his Sufi name of Šāh Ḡarib, apparently designated Ḵayrḵᵛāh himself, then only nineteen years of age, to the position of the chief dāʿi or ḥojja, then more commonly called pir, of Khorasan and Badaḵšān. In that capacity, the youthful Ḵayrḵᵛāh made the hazardous journey to Anjedān to see the Nezāri imam of the time. Ḵayrḵᵛāh has preserved unique details in his Resāla on how the imam managed the affairs of the Nezāri daʿwa and dāʿis from his secret headquarters in Anjedān. In his Resāla, Ḵayrḵᵛāh also expounds his own views on the status and high attributes of the rank of pir in the Nezāri daʿwa hierarchy.

Ḵayrḵᵛāh was a prolific writer (see Ivanow, pp. 142-44; Poonawala, pp. 276-77; Daftary, 2004, pp. 123-24), and his works, all written in Persian, have been preserved mainly by the Nezāri Ismaʿili communities of Badaḵšān (now divided between Afghanistan and Tajikistan), as well as Hunza and other northern areas of Pakistan. Ḵayrḵᵛāh also composed poetry under the pen name (taḵalloṣ) of Ḡaribi, after the epithet of the contemporary Nezāri imam. His works include Faṣl dar bayān-e šenāḵt-e emām (1922, pp. 3-49), which was composed around 1545. This work contains a summary of the author’s views on the imamate and other contemporary Nezāri teachings. Ḵayrḵᵛāh’s other writings include the Resāla, his Qeṭaʿāt, and selections of his poetry, all edited and published by Wladimir Ivanow in a collection entitled Taṣnifāt-e Ḵayrḵᵛāh (pp. 1-75, 77-111, 113-32, respectively). As argued by Ivanow (1963, pp. 142-43), Ḵayrḵᵛāh also produced a plagiarized version of Abu Esḥāq Qohestāni’s Haft bāb (pp. 3-8) under the title of Kalām-e pir, attributing it to the Ismaʿili poet Nāṣer-e Ḵosrow (d. after 462/1070) in order to enhance its popularity within the Nezāri communities of Afghanistan and Central Asia.




Resāla-ye Ḵayrḵᵛāh Herāti, lithographed ed. in part by Sayyed Monir Badaḵšāni as Ketāb-e Ḵayrḵᵛāh mowaḥḥed waḥdat, Bombay, 1333/1915; repr. in idem, Taṣnifāt. Kalām-e pir, ed and tr. Wladimir Ivanow, as Kalami Pir: A Treatise on Ismaili Doctrine, Also Called Haft Babi Shah Sayyid Nasir, Bombay, 1935 (plagiarized version of Abu Esḥāq Qohestāni’s Haft bāb).

Faṣl dar bayān-e šenāḵt-e emām, ed. and tr. Wladimir Ivanow in his “Ismailitica,” in Memoirs of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 8, 1922, pp. 1-76; 2nd ed., Leiden, 1949; tr. Wladimir Ivanow, as On the Recognition of the Imam, Ismaili Society Series B, no. 4, Bombay, 1947.

Taṣnifāt-e Ḵayrḵᵛāh Herāti, ed. Wladimir Ivanow, Ismaili Society Series A 13, Tehran, 1961 (contains Resāla, Qeṭaʿāt, and poems).


Abu Esḥāq Qohestāni’s Haft bāb, ed. and tr. Wladimir Ivanow, Bombay, 1959.

Andrey E. Bertel’s and Mamadvafo Bakoev, Alfavitnyĭ katalog rukopiseĭ, obnaruzhennykh v Gorno-Badakhshanskoĭ Avtonomnoĭ Oblasti èksepeditsieĭ 1959-1963 gg. (Alphabetic catalogue of manuscripts found by 1959-1963 Expedition in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region), ed. Bobodzhon G. Gafurov and A. M. Mirzoev, Moscow, 1967, pp. 73, 104; tr. Qodrat Beg Ilči and Sayyed Anwaršāh Ḵomarof, as Fehrest-e nosḵahā-ye ḵaṭṭi-e mawjud dar welāyat-e Badaḵšān-e Tājikestān, Qom, 1997.

Farhad Daftary, The Ismāʿīlīs: Their History and Doctrines, Cambridge, 1990, pp. 439, 469-71, 476-77, 481.

Idem, Ismaili Literature: A Bibliography of Sources and Studies, London, 2004, pp. 123-24.

Wladimir Ivanow, Ismaili Literature: A Bibliographical Survey, Tehran, 1963.

Ismail K. Poonawala, Biobibliography of Ismāʿīlī Literature, Malibu, Calif., 1977, pp. 270, 275-77.

Naṣir al-Din Ṭusi (attributed), Rawża-ye taslim, ed. and tr. Sayyed Jalal Badakhchani as Paradise of Submission: A Medieval Treatise on Ismaili Thought, London, 2005.

April 15, 2009

(Farhad Daftary)

Originally Published: May 31, 2013

Last Updated: July 15, 2009

This article is available in print.
Vol. XVI, Fasc. 2, pp. 182-183