ANJOMAN-E OḴOWWAT (or OḴŪWAT) “The Society of Brotherhood,” a non-political Sufi-type society officially founded on 15 Šabʿān 1317/21 December 1899 by Mīrzā ʿAlī Khan Ẓahīr-al-dawla to promote the ideals of equity and brotherhood in Iran. The society, modeled after Masonic lodges and following, at least in its general outline, a socio-religious approach similar to that of the medieval Eḵwān al-Ṣafāʾ, had its roots in the Sufi order founded by Mīrzā Moḥammad-Ḥasan Eṣfahānī, Ṣafī-ʿAlīšāh (1251-1316/1835-99), who had among its devoted followers many from the ranks of princes, the nobility, and court officials (see, e.g., M. Ḥ. Eʿtemād-al-salṭana, Rūz-nāma-ye ḵāṭerāt, ed. Ī. Afšār, 3rd ed., Tehran, 2536 = 1356 Š./1977, p. 1059). Under Ṣafī-ʿAlīšāh the order held general weekly meetings on Thursday evenings as well as private sessions, which later were attended by only a few close devotees such as Ẓahīr-al-dawla and prince Sayf-al-dawla who formed the nucleus of the future Anǰoman-e Oḵowwat (Rāʾīn, Farāmūš-ḵāna III, pp. 487-88). Ṣafī-ʿAlīšāh died on 24 Ḏu’l-qaʿda 1316/6 April 1899 and was succeeded, in accordance with his own wish, by Ẓahīr-al-dawla, now called Ṣafā-ʿAlīšāh. Using his personal influence at the court—he had married the shah’s sister—and being helped by the then prime minister Mīrzā ʿAlī-Aṣḡar Khan Amīn-al-solṭān, Ẓahīr-al-dawla succeeded in obtaining a royal decree on 15 Šaʿbān 1317/19 December 1899 which gave official sanction to the activities of the Anǰoman-e Oḵowwat. Thus the foundation of the Anǰoman-e Oḵowwat was formally announced, and its first official meeting held in the hall of Ẓahīr-al-dawla’s residence, which was adorned by a bust and a portrait of its real founder Ṣafī-ʿAlīšāh. The 110 members who attended the meeting were all carefully picked by Ẓahīr-al-dawla himself for the occasion from among people known for their integrity and reformist ideas, many belonging to the Masonic lodge of Bīdārī-e Īrānīān. (The figure 110 apparently was significant since it represents the numerical value of the name ʿAlī according to the Abīad [q.v.] system.) A board of advisors (hayʾat-e mošāwer), composed of twelve members, formed the ruling body of the Anǰoman (for the first board members see Rāʾīn, op. cit., pp. 495-96), and new members, upon initiation, were given a copy of a code of conduct (marām-nāma) drawn up by Ẓahīr-al-dawla himself.
Although the society professed a non-political philosophy, many of its members held high political offices and many more, including Ẓahīr-al-dawla himself, were politically active during the constitutional movement. With the accession of Moḥammad-ʿAlī Shah in 1324/1906, members intensified their revolutionary activities. After the coup d’état of 23 Jomādā I 1326/23 June 1908 the residence of Ẓahīr-al-dawla (at that time the governor of Gīlān), which served as the headquarters of the Anǰoman, was stormed and looted, and many priceless manuscripts and objects of art were destroyed. This, however, was just a temporary setback for the Anǰoman which prospered again under Aḥmad Shah (r. 1327-42/1909-24) whose brother, the Crown Prince Moḥammad-Ḥasan Mīrzā, joined the Anǰoman in 1329/1911 on the 12th anniversary of its official foundation. The Anǰoman continued to hold its weekly meetings on Thursday evenings up to the 1357 Š./1978-79 revolution; even under Reżā Shah Pahlavi (r. 1304-20 Š./1925-41), who seriously restricted any group activities while in power. It celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1327 Š./1948 on which occasion the names of the members of the board of advisors and a number of other notable members were published (Rāʾīn, op. cit., pp. 503-05). In 1338 Š./1958 the Anǰoman started rebuilding its old headquarters where, according to Rāʾīn (loc. cit.), the Masonic lodges of Mehr, Āftāb, Ṣafā, and Wafā had held their meetings in recent years.
The society was responsible for at least three philanthropic events: 1. When in 1318/1901 fire destroyed much of the city of Āmol, Ẓahīr-al-dawla and his brethren arranged a successful fund-raising party, the proceeds of which were entirely donated to the rebuilding of Āmol. 2. In Šaʿbān, 1327/August-September, 1909, after the defeat of Moḥammad-ʿAlī Shah by the Nationalists, the brethren held a victory celebration (ǰašn-e noṣrat-e mellī) in the much-ruined headquarters of the Anǰoman, using all the funds raised to assist the families of those who had fallen for the cause of the constitution. 3. Staging a play (in itself an innovational event) with marked political overtones, the proceeds again being donated to charity.
Every year the Anǰoman celebrated the birth of Imam ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭāleb with great festivity. In warm weather, it was celebrated in a garden capable of holding a large number of people, who participated without any distinction of wealth, birth, rank, or office. Festivities, which usually went on for several hours, started with the playing and singing of the Anǰoman song and were highlighted by the performance of great masters of the time such as Darvīš Khan, Montaẓem-al-hokamāʾ, Samāʿ Ḥożūr, Mošīr(-e) Homāyūn, Ḥ. Esmāʿīlzāda, Y. Forūtan, ʿA. N. Wazīrī, etc. (for a photo see Moʿayyer-al-mamālek, Reǰāl, p. 113).
The Anǰoman does not seem to have been much involved in publishing books. Its only such endeavor, besides the leaflet containing the brethren’s code of conduct meant only for them, seems to have been a book published on the occasion of the Anǰoman’s 50th anniversary. In 1323/1905 the Anǰoman published in Tehran a bi-weekly periodical called Maǰmūʿa-ye aḵlāq (Ethical miscellany) under the editorship of Mīrzā ʿAlī-Akbar Khan Moṣawwer. It aimed, as stated in the first issue, at promoting ethics and the refinement of manners among its readers and drew heavily on poetry, history, and religious and Sufi literature. The first page bore the Anǰoman’s emblem set in a circle, a pair of crossed battle-axes from which hung a rosary and a kaškūl, actually an adaptation of the level, compasses and chipaxe used in Masonic emblems (M. ʿErfān, apud Naǰāt, Jamʿīyathā-ye serrī, p. 319). Its publication lasted for only eighteen issues, the last two of which were published every ten days. Two other such publications are credited to the Anǰoman: a weekly paper in Shiraz which survived only five issues (1326/1908-09), and a monthly magazine in Kermānšāh (1307-08 Š./1928-29), only twelve issues. The first issue of the latter contains a biography of Ẓahīr-al-dawla and specimens of his poetry (M. Ṣadr Hāšemī, Tārīḵ-e ǰarāyed o maǰallāt-e Īrān, Isfahan, 1327-32 Š./1948-53, I, pp. 79-80; IV, pp. 190-91).
The Anǰoman expanded considerably after World War II, with branches in almost every major city and over 30,000 members. Its leaders (raʾīs) after Ẓahīr-al-dawla were Mīrzā Sayyed Moḥammad Enteẓām-alsalṭana, Esmāʿīl Marzbān Amīn-al-molk, Fatḥallāh Ṣafāʾī Ṣafāʾ-al-molk, and ʿAbdallāh Enteẓām (d. 1982). No information is available of the Anǰoman’s activities since the 1357 Š./1978-79 Islamic revolution.
See also Ī. Afšār, Ḵāṭerāt o asnād-e Ẓahīr-al-dawla, Tehran, 1351 Š./1972, pp. 31-75.
Ḡ. Ḥ. Afżal-al-molk, Afżal-al-tawārīḵ, ed.
M. Etteḥādīya and S. Saʿdvandīān, Tehran, 1361 Š./1982, pp. 371-76.
A. ʿAlawī, “Reǰāl-e ṣadr-e mašrūṭīyat,” Yaḡmā 5, pp. 329-30.
Anǰoman-e Oḵowwat, Yādgār-e ǰašn-e panǰāhomīn sāl-e anǰoman-e oḵowwat, Tehran, 1327 Š./1948, p. 83.
Bāmdād, Reǰāl II, pp. 368-70.
M. E. Bāstānī Pārīzī, “Morīdān-e morādǰūy,” Yaḡmā 22, pp. 261-62.
E. G. Browne, Press and Poetry of Modern Persia, repr. Los Angeles, 1983, p. 134.
Idem, The Persian Revolution of 1905-1909, repr. London, 1966, p. 209.
M. ʿErfān, “Ferāmāsonerī,” Yaḡmā 11, pp. 504-05.
M. Katīrāʾī, Ferāmāsonerī dar Īrān, Tehran, 1347 Š./1968, p. 263.
A. Naǰāt, Jamʿīyathā-ye serrī wa ferāmāsonerī, Michigan, 1362 Š./1983, pp. 310-27.
E. Rāʾīn, Farāmūš-ḵāna wa ferāmāsonerī dar Īrān, Tehran, 1357 Š./1978, III, pp. 480-505.
D. Moʿayyer-al-mamālek, Reǰāl-e ʿaṣr-e Nāṣerī, Tehran, 1361 Š./1962, pp. 110-13.
E. Ṣafāʾī, Rahbarān-e mašrūṭa: Ẓahīr-al-dawla I, Tehran, 1344 Š./1965.
(ʿA. Anwār and EIr)
Originally Published: December 15, 1985
Last Updated: August 5, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. II, Fasc. 1, pp. 88-89
ʿA. Anwār and EIr, “ANJOMAN-E OḴOWWAT,” Encyclopædia Iranica, II/1, pp. 88-89, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/anjoman-e-okowwat (accessed on 30 December 2012).