ABU’L-FAŻL (or ABU’L-FAŻĀʾEL) GOLPĀYEGĀNĪ, MĪRZĀ MOḤAMMAD, prominent Bahaʾi scholar and apologist. He was born in Jomādā II, 1260/June-July, 1844 in Golpāyegān, the son of Mīrzā Moḥammad-Reżā Šarīʿatmadār. After studying traditional Islamic sciences at Karbalā, Naǰaf, and Isfahan, he proceeded, in October, 1873 to Tehran, where he soon became head of Madrasa-ye Ḥakīm Hāšem, also known as Madrasa-ye Madār-e Šāh.
After his conversion to the Bahaʾi faith in September, 1876, Abu’l-Fażl was dismissed from his post and imprisoned for five months. He then became secretary to Mānakǰī Ṣāḥeb, the Zoroastrian agent, and was involved in the production of the Tārīḵ-e ǰadīd (of Mīrzā Ḥosayn Hamadānī, tr. E. G. Browne, Cambridge, 1893; see pp. xxxiii-xlii). In December, 1882, together with numerous other Bahaʾis of Tehran, Abu’l-Fażl was arrested. He was interrogated repeatedly and imprisoned for twenty-two months and again for six months before being released in February, 1886. Thereupon he began a series of journeys to promote the Bahaʾi faith, visiting Qom, Kāšān, Isfahan, Yazd, Tabrīz, Hamadān, and Kermānšāh. In July, 1888, he went to ʿEšqābād and later to Samarqand and Bokhara, where he discovered the only extant manuscript of Ḥodūd al-ʿālam (see Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, tr. Minorsky, pp. xlii-xliii). In 1894 he spent ten months in Acre meeting ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ, who then sent him to Egypt, where he succeeded in converting a number of students of al-Azhar. Between 1900 and 1904, he traveled to Paris and the United States, where his writings and talks enabled the nascent American Bahaʾi community to obtain a clearer understanding of their faith. He then lived in Egypt and Beirut until his death in Cairo on 24 Ṣafar 1332/21 January 1914.
Abu’l-Fażl’s biographers agree on his profound learning, especially in philosophy and religious history, his exceptional mastery of the Persian language, his skill in debate, the simplicity of his life, and his great personal humility.
Works: 1. Ketāb al-farāʾed (Cairo, 1315/1898) is the best known and generally reckoned to be the most important work of Abu’l-Fażl. It is written in defense of the Bahaʾi faith and refutes an attack on Bahāʾallāh’s Ketāb-e īqān by the Šayḵ-al-eslām of Tiflis. 2-3. Šarḥ-e āyāt-e mowarraḵa and Resāla-ye Ayyūbīya, both written in 1305/1888 and published together (Shanghai, 1344/1925), dealing with questions on Jewish prophecy. 4. Dorar al-bahīya (Cairo, ca. 1317/1899), written in Arabic in 1316/1898. 5. Ḥoǰaǰ al-bahīya, written in 1901-02 for the American Bahaʾis. English translation by Ishtael-ebn-Kalenter (ʿAlī-qolī Khan), The Behai Proofs, New York, 1902; text printed in Egypt, 1342/1925. 6. Borhān-e lāmeʿ, a reply to the attack of Rev. P. Z. Easton; text and English translation, Chicago, 1912. 7-8. Maǰmūʿa-ye rasāʾel-e ḥażrat-e Abi’l-Fażāʾel (Cairo, 1339/1920) and Rasāʾel va raqāʾem (ed. R. Meḥrābḵānī, Tehran, 134 Badīʿ/1977), two collections of letters and other writings. 9. Moḵtārāt men moʾallafāt Abi’l-Fażl, Brussels, 1980, a compilation of some of Abu’l-Fażl’s Arabic works. A number of the works of Abu’l-Fażl remain unpublished.
R. Meḥrābḵānī, Šarḥ-e aḥwāl-e ǰanāb-e Mīrzā Abu’l-Fażāʾel Golpāyegānī, Tehran, 131 Badīʿ/1974.
A. Solaymānī, “Janāb-e Abu’l-Fażāʾel Golpāyegānī,” in Maṣābīḥ-e hedāyat II, Tehran, pp. 235-382.
Ḥāǰǰī Mīrzā Ḥaydar-ʿAlī Eṣfahānī, “Tarǰama-ye aḥwāl-e Abu’l-Fażāʾel,” MS, Haifa, August, 1915.
H. M. Balyuzi, Edward Granville Browne and the Baháʾi Faith, Oxford, 1970, pp. 65-72.
Bāmdād, Reǰāl I, pp. 54-55.
Originally Published: December 15, 1983
Last Updated: July 21, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 3, pp. 289-290
M. Momen, “ABU’L-FAŻL GOLPĀYEGĀNĪ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/3, pp. 289-290; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abul-fazl-or-abul-fazael-golpayegani-mirza-mohammad-prominent-bahai-scholar-and-apologist (accessed on 31 January 2014).