Qom; Geographically and Historically

There is no an accurate dating about the establishment of this city nor a certain reason behind its name. There are some historians confirming that its history belongs to the pre-Islamic conquest period relying on some historical manuscripts, which show clearly that the city has been available during the age of Anushirvan, the Persian king.[1] It (Qom) has been mentioned during the Islamic conquests when talking about the battle of Jalawla’ against Khosrow, the last king of the Sasanian dynasty, where Hijr bin Adiy was one of the leaders of the Islamic armies at that day.

Hence the history of the city belongs to the period before the year twenty-third A.H. (the year of (al-Fat~h-the Conquest) for a long time.

Many stories have been said about the name of the city each trying to give an explanation about it. Some have said that its name was “Kumondan”[2] and then some of its letters have been dropped and others have said that the original name was “Kam” meaning “little” that it was a small village and then it was Arabized into “Qom” after the Islamic conquests.[3]

But the name of the city began to shine on the Islamic map after it had been occupied by the Ash’arites[4] in

[1] Al-Akhbar at-Tiwal by ad-Daynowari, p.67.
[2] Mo’jamul Buldan, vol.4 p.397.
[3] Encyclopedia of the Shia Imamiyya.
[4] People of an Arab tribe.

ninety-four A.H. They had tried their best to build the city. It grew and became one of the important cities in Persia after its people had believed in Ahlul Bayt[5] (s) and after it had become independent of Isfahan[6] in 189 A.H.

The fate had willed that the city was to be one of the sacred cities after its ground had embraced the pure body of Fatima, the daughter of Imam Musa al-Kadhim[7] (s) in 201 A.H. Hence it could be said that since that date the city of Qom had begun to ascend the stairs of glory to be at the head of the Islamic capitals.

The city has paid the price of its allegiance and love to Ahlul Bayt (s) so expensively along all the ages. The Abbasid policy has followed a degrading means by imposing very heavy taxes.

In spite of that there was a kind of political ease towards Ahlul Bayt (s) during the reign of al-Ma’moon.[8] History has recorded that a revolution has broken out in Qom in 210 A.H. because of the heaviness of taxes but the revolution has been suppressed severely, the walls of the city have been destroyed and the taxes have been increased three and a half times.[9]

Some books of history mentions stories, which are like fables, about the name of the city. One of them says that the Prophet (s), during his ascension to the

[5] The Prophet’s progeny (s).
[6] A province in Persia.
[7] The seventh Imam of the Shia.
[8] He was an Abbasid caliph.
[9] Refer to The Encyclopedia of the Islamic History, vol.1 p.1206.

Some books of history mentions stories, which are like fables, about the name of the city. One of them says that the Prophet (s), during his ascension to the Heaven, has seen a place on the earth, which was more beautiful than the color of saffron and with a fragrance better than the fragrance of musk, and has seen an old man putting a long cap on his head. The Prophet (s) asked Gabriel and Gabriel said: “This is the place of your Shia and your guardian’s Shia and this old man is Iblis. He invites people to disbelieve.” The Prophet (s) asked Gabriel to swoop down and Gabriel swooped down faster than lightening. The Prophet (s) shouted at Iblis: “Get up (qom)[10] O you cursed!” Then the city was called as “Qom”!

In spite of the vicissitudes of time, the city has withstood throughout the ages of history and has remained as a capital of knowledge and intellect and as a refuge for the wronged and subdued people of the Prophet’s progeny. This is why there are many shrines of the Hashemites[11] in this great city.

Qom in traditions

Much praise has been mentioned in traditions related to Imam as-Sadiq[12] (s). He said:

“Above Qom there is an angel flapping his two wings. No arrogant intends to offend it (Qom), unless Allah will make him melt away like salt being melted in water.”[13]

He also said:

[10] Qom in Arabic means “get up” or “leave”.
[11] The Hashemites are the Prophet’s family. Hashem was the Prophet’s grandfather.
[12] He is the sixth imam of the Shia.
[13] Biharul Anwar, vol.60 p.216.

“If you are afflicted with distress and suffering, you are to resort to Qom because it is the refuge of the Fatimites and the resort of the believers.”[15]

Imam Musa al-Kadhim (s) said:

“Qom is the shelter of Muhammad’s progeny and the resort of their Shia.”[16]

He also said in another tradition, which was as an astonishing prediction:

“There will be a man from Qom, who will invite people to the truth and great masses of people will join him. They will not be shaken by the most violent storms.”[17]

This tradition has become real after the Islamic revolution under the leadership of Imam Khomeini (may Allah be pleased with him).

There is another tradition of Imam as-Sadiq (s) deserving to be pondered on. Imam as-Sadiq (s) said: “The ground of Qom is sacred. Its people are from us and we are from them. No arrogant tries to offend them, unless his punishment will be hastened to him as long as they do not betray their brothers. If they do that, then Allah will subject them to the offenses of the arrogants.”[18]

[14] The progeny of Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter.
[15] Biharul Anwar, vol.6 p.214.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid, vol.53 p.216.
[18] Ibid, vol.6 p.218.

There is another tradition related to Imam as-Sadiq (s) talking about Fatima al-Ma’ssooma (s).

He said:

“We have a sanctum. It is the village of Qom, in which a woman from my progeny will be buried. Her name will be Fatima.”[19]

Biography of Fatima al-Ma’ssooma

Fatima al-Ma’ssooma (s) was born in Thil Qa’da,[20] 173 A.H. She was six years old when her father Imam al-Kadhim (s) was put in prison in 179 A.H.[21]

She had several surnames but she was known as “al-Ma’ssooma”. It not known exactly why she has been surnamed as al-Ma’ssooma but there might be some reasons behind that.

The girl was pure and infallible besides that she was a daughter of the seventh imam of the infallible house of the Prophet (s), a sister of an infallible imam (Imam ar-Redha[22] (s)) and an aunt of an infallible imam (Imam al-Jawad[23] (s)).

We could add another reason that she had died oppressedly far from her nation while she was still a

[19] Mustadrakul Wassa’il, vol.10 p.268.
[20] Thil Qa’da is the eleventh month in the Islamic calendar.
[21] Imam al-Kadhim (s) was put in prison by the orders of Haroon ar-Rasheed, the Abbasid caliph, himself. He (Imam al-Kadhim) was assassinated in one of the prisons of Baghdad in 183 A.H.
[22] He is the eighth imam of the Shia.
[23] He is the ninth imam of the Shia.

famous than her name.

In 201 A.H. Fatima al-Ma’ssooma (s) decided, with some of her brothers, to travel to Marw,[25] which was then the capital of the Islamic state after the end of the war between the two Abbasid brothers, al-Ameen and al-Ma’moon, who won the war and killed his brother.

Al-Ma’moon, after becoming the caliph, took a decision, whose motives have been still disputable until now, to make, apparently, reconciliation between the Alawite[26] house and the Abbasid house and to put an end to the distresses of Ahlul Bayt (s). Many people doubted the intents of al-Ma’moon when he appointed Imam ar-Redha (s) as his crown prince. They had convincing justifications about doubting the real intents and aims of al-Ma’moon towards the progeny of Ali (s).

It was very probable that the travel of Fatima al-Ma'ssooma (s) with her brothers, which was in tow separate caravans; one followed the way of Basra to Shiraz and then to Marw and the other followed the way of Hamadan-Sawa[27] and then to Marw, was to confirm the situation of Imam ar-Redha (s), whom al-Ma’moon had begun to confine. What confirmed these doubts [24] The Iranians often say “an infallible (ma’ssoom) child” to mean an innocent child. Infallibility in the Persian literature means innocence.

[25] Marw belonged to Khurasan at those days but now it is Mary in Turkmenistan.
[26] Concerning Imam Ali’s progeny.
[27] Shiraz, Hamadan and Sawa are in Iran.

that the two caravans did not reached Marw. The first one stopped at Shiraz and its people separated here and there after a clash with government forces and the other stopped at Sawa. Some historical sources mentioned that the second caravan had been attacked too and that Fatima al-Ma'ssooma (s) felt that she was about to die after she had felt too weak and this made her ask about the city of Qom. It was said to her that Qom was about eighty kilometers and so she asked to be taken there.

Whether her sickness was because of poison, which had been inserted into her food, or because of the great tiredness and sufferings that she had faced, she died after seventeen days only after arriving at Qom. She was as a guest of Musa bin[28] Khazraj until she died after some days to be buried in a land called Babulan belonging to this man.

After a period of time, this land became a great graveyard containing bodies of thousands of narrators, speechers, leaders and rulers. This peace of land became the central part of the city, which began to grow rapidly.

The Holy Shrine

The shrine (of Fatima al-Ma'ssooma) was at first as a shed of straw mat erected according to the order of Musa bin Khazraj al-Ash’ari to be now as a high gold dome, around which high minarets rising towards the Heaven.

Through twelve centuries the shrine has been rebuilt many times.

[28] Bin and ibn mean the son of.

The first dome, after that straw mat shed, has been built after half a century by the order of Zaynab, the daughter of Imam al-Jawad (s) in the middle of the third century of hijra. It has been built with adobe, stone and plaster.

Then two other domes have been built after some Alawite ladies have been buried (in the same shrine). The three domes remained until the middle of the fifth century of hijra when the first high dome has been built to replace those three domes. It has been built by the vizier of Tugril the Great[29] after encouragement by Sheikh at-Toossi. This dome has been decorated with colored figures, bricks and tiles (kashi).

In 925 A.H. the roof of the dome has been decorated with mosaic according to the order of Lady Beigam, the daughter of Shah Issma’eel as-Safawi (the Safavid). Also a hall and two minarets have been built in the old yard.

Finally, Fathali (Fat~h Ali) Shah al-Qajari[30] has ordered to decorate the roof of the dome with gold plates to remain shining for two centuries.

After some damage had happen to some of the gold plates, the office of the custodian of the shrine decided to rebuild the dome.

The old gold plates have been collected to be replaced with others in a great project,
[29] He was a Turkish ruler controlling the western part of Persia at that time.
[30] He was a king of Qajar; a northern Iranian people of Turcoman origin, who formed the ruling dynasty of Persia from 1794 to 1925.

whose cost might be twenty-five milliard Iranian rials (one dollar equals eight thousand rials).

In general the shrine is a structure with wonderful signs of Islamic architecture. It has been adorned with marvelous figures.

The total area of the shrine is about fourteen thousand square meters including the haram, the porches, the halls, the three yards,[31] the tombs of the kings and the two mosques; at-Tabataba’iy and Balasar (over the head). Lately the Great Mosque has been added to the shrine. The area of the Great Mosque alone is about twenty-five thousand square meters.

When a visitor arrives at the outskirts of the city, he will see two minarets shining distantly.
The dome leans over a silver tomb crowned with gold. The tomb is four meters high, five meters and twenty-five centimeters long and four meters and seventy-three centimeters wide.

The northern hall is fourteen meters and eighty centimeters high, eight meters and seventy centimeters wide and nine meters long. It is adorned with gold from inside and its figures are demarcated with gold too. Upon this hall the two minarets go high in the space until thirty-two meters and twenty centimeters from the ground. The diameter of each minaret is one hundred and fifty centimeters. This hall is called “the hall of gold” and its gate is called “the gate of gold”.

[31] After adding the yard of the Great Mosque (al-Masjidul A’adham).

In the eastern side there is a hall decorated with hundreds of mirrors where lights reflect to make it more beautiful and wonderful. This hall adjoins with the haram by a porch, which is seven meters and eighty centimeters high, seven meters and eighty-seven centimeters wide and nine meters long. The porch stands on four stone pillars. Each of them is eleven meters high.

There are two minarets on this hall. Each of them is twenty-eight meters high from the roof of the hall. It is written on the top of them in one meter width “la hawla wela quwatta illa billah: there is no power save in Allah” and on the other one “subhanallah, wel hamdu lillah, wela ilaha illallah, wellahu akbar: glory be to Allah, praise be to Allah, there is no god but Allah and Allah is Great”.

The visitors feel a state of spirituality and happiness under the shadows of the shrine and in the new yard where several minarets extend high towards the Heaven and lights reflect in the hall, which is decorated with hundreds of mirrors besides the flying flocks of doves, which have taken this holy shrine as warm nests while the fountains dance in a glittering pool.

In the past the visitors and tourists could come into a museum from the yard of the shrine directly but now this way is closed and the museum has a gate outside the shrine in the Moozeh (museum) street.

The museum, which consists of two floors, contains a good group of gifts and valuable things that have been gifted to the holy shrine throughout its long history.

Surely whoever visits the museum feels eager to see al-Faydiyya school beside it, which is one of the most famous religious schools and hawzas.[32] This school, according to certified facts, has replaced al-Aastana school. It is connected with the haram by a hall in the old yard.

A tourist’s attention may be drawn by the masses of the passer-bys between the small park adjacent to the street and between the school, the museum and the markets. He may think to take his way to the bazaar!

A tourist will feel that he enters a museum showing him different kinds of arts of architecture and different handworked goods in this ancient bazaar.

A tourist may ask, in the other side of the bazaar, about “Baytun noor: the house of light”, which is one of the important marks in the city that has become a school called as-Satiyya, where Fatima al-Ma'ssooma (s) had lived as a guest for seventeen days before she left to the better world.

Qom; Country and People

Qom is the smallest governorate in Iran. Previously it was as a district belonging to the governorate of Arak and then it was attached to Tehran until it was certificated to be as independent governorate.

Its population was not more than one hundred and fifty thousand in 1957 A.D. In 1979, when the Islamic revolution triumphed, the population of the city was about three hundred thousand.
[32] Hawza is the greatest institute of teaching and learning Islamic knowledges.

The city has progressed so much and has gotten much attention from the government after the years of deliberate neglect during the reign of Shah. After the triumph of the Islamic revolution, the city began to grow rapidly until its population became more than one million besides the many foreign students coming from the different continents of the world. They have come to study in Qom and then they got married and make families or they have brought their families with them. There are also many Afghan emigrants, who are more than half a million besides some thousands of Iraqi emigrants.

The city has flourished and prospered in every side especially that there is cheap employment because of the great numbers of the emigrant Afghans.

The cultural life has become too prosperous because of the availability of learned Arabs, among whom the Iraqis form a great proportion.

As for the texture of the local population of the governorate, we can say that only nine percent live in the countryside whereas ninety percent live in the city.

Nearly half a century ago the farms and gardens covered most parts of Qom and then they began to abate little by little before the expansion of building.

Some people, who have lived in the city about fifty years ago or those who have been born in the city, refer to some main streets of the city and say that they were as gardens full of pomegranate and fig trees.

Some famous quarters in the city are still having names that refer to their rural origins.[33]

Nevertheless Qom was and is still as a district having a desert and semi-desert climate.

There are some certain areas having cold mountainous climate and others having moderate climate but the general climate of this governorate is the semi-desert climate.

At the shores of the “Lake of Salt” there is a long line of desert having many dunes. After that and towards the north and the west-north there are wide wild lands, in the western side of which Qom is. As for the moderate areas, they form the western line and have an area four times more than the area of the desert line. There is a small area having a cold mountainous climate around Mountain Ghaleek, which is 3171 meters high.

The western line has an important role in the life of the governorate because it has fertile agricultural lands and many water sources.

From among fourteen rivers flowing in the land of the governorate there are only two permanent rivers; one is “Qara Chai”, which flows from the mountains of “Shazand” in Arak to the west of Qom and the other is “Qamrood”, which flows from the mountains of “Khawansar” in the south.

The rate of raining in the governorate is about 138 millimeter. It is very little rate in comparison with the [33] There is a quarter called (Zanbeelabad). Zanbeel means basket where fruits have been gathered in baskets during the season of harvest.

general rate of rain in Iran, which is about 255 millimeter.

Once Sayyid Muhsin al-Ameen al-Aamily has passed by this city and written down his notes about it in his Iraqi-Iranian travel in 1353 A. H., 1933 A/D.

Here are some lines of his notes:

“A flood has come and covered all the streets (of Qom) so we were obliged to walk away from the places being covered by the flood. We couldn’t reach Qom at that day. We spent the night some kilometers before Qom in a café near a village there. In the café there was an official having a high position in the army. He began to smoke opium with the keepers of the café. In the morning we set out towards Qom. We found that the flood had covered the way. We could not pass the bridge near Qom by the car so we passed it on foot.”

The Village of Qom

Qom is a flourishing village with an ancient history. Particular histories have been written about it. Most of its people are poor. They are famous of their Shiism since the ages of the infallible imams (s) like the people of Kufa.[34]

Most narrators (of traditions) of the Shia were from these two cities (Qom and Kufa). The Arab Ash’arites had come to live in Qom after the advent of Islam. They were followers of Ahlul Bayt (s) and from among the
[34] Kufa is a town in Iraq. It was the capital of the Islamic state during the rule of Imam Ali (s).

narrators of their (Ahlul Bayt’s) traditions. The people of Qom nowadays are well-known for their piety.

In Qom there was a big river, on which there was an arch, flowing from the west to the east in the north part of the city.

Most buildings of the city were made of adobe and some were made of brick.

The water of the city was and is somehow salty but it is said that it is useful. There are many old wells, to which it is come down by ladders. They are too deep. They were the source of drinking water.

Mosquitoes spread in the city in big numbers. The prices were satisfactory. Eggplants were sold singly. One hundred eggplants equaled one kiran (five Syrian piasters) in comparison with the Ottoman lira, which equals five hundred and fifty Syrian liras. Pistachio is much cultivated in the governorate.

One of the wonders of this governorate is that there is a sandy land near it, which no one can walk in. Whoever enters this land will sink as if he sinks in water and mud and he cannot save himself from that.

The river of the city flows until it reaches this sandy land to sink in it.

In Qom there is a high minaret. It is said that it has been erected during the reign of Umar bin Abdul Aziz, the Umayyad caliph.

Sheikh Abdul Kareem al-Yazdi

He was the jurisprudent and teacher of Qom. He taught Sayyid Muhammad al-Isfahani. He was so prudent and strong-minded with great knowledge, high morals and deep thinking. We could not say that his knowledge was more than his mind or his mind was more than his knowledge because he was so skilled in both.

He lived in Sultanabad and then he moved to live in Qom, in which he established a religious school, until he died.

Everyday the postman came to the sheikh with a parcel of books and letters. The sheikh had a clerk, who used to receive the parcel. If there was something not so important, the clerk himself would answer it and bring it to the sheikh in order to sign it but if there was something important, the sheikh himself would reply to it.

In his meeting many scientific deliberations were held. I often attended them. They all were in Persian.

He had a disease in his stomach so he was confined to certain kinds of food and in certain times according to the doctors’ recommendations.

Because he was so prudent, he used not to take the monies that came to him (as religious rights) but he let them with a merchant and asked him to spend them in paying the students’ salaries and he himself took a salary from the merchant. By such he lived in ease and let none criticize him. The poor are always at his door. He either gave them from his own money or asked his companions to give them what they needed.

Al-Mutawally Bashi

From among the notables of Qom was al-Mutawally Bashi (the responsible) of the holy shrine of Fatima al-Ma'ssooma (s), whose name was Sayyid Muhammad Baqir bin Sayyid Hasan al-Husayni al-Aamily al- Qommi. He was a lofty Hashemite man from Mountain Aamil in Lebanon. Once he went to perform hajj and we met him in Damascus.

When we came to Qom, we were told that he had been cripple. We visited him in his house. One day his son Sayyid Misbah visited us in our house. Now he undertakes the affairs of the shrine instead of his father.