KAHAK, Markazi Province (lat 34°10′53″ N, long 50°19′60″ E) , a village located about 35 km northeast of Anjedān and northwest of Maḥallāt in central Iran. Kahak was an important locality in the late medieval period for the Qāsemšāhi Nezāri Ismāʿili community in Iran, but now it is a small and isolated village with a Twelver Shiʿite population of about 500 persons.

Kahak evidently enjoyed greater importance in Safavid times as a stage between Qom and Arāk (former Solṭānābād), as attested by the ruins of a fairly large caravanserai there. By the end of the Anjedān revival in Nezāri Ismāʿilism, which lasted some two centuries from the middle of the 15th century, the Nezāri imams had established deep roots in central Persia around Qom, especially in Anjedān and Kahak.

Ḵalil-Allāh II, the 39th Qāsemšāhi Nezāri imam, was the last imam of his line to reside in Anjedān; he died in 1680 and was buried there. His son and successor, Šāh Nezār, for unknown reasons transferred his residence and the headquarters of the Nezāri daʿwa to Kahak during the earliest decades of his imamate. Anjedān, separated from Kahak by a number of shallow ranges, was then abandoned permanently by the Nezāri imams.

Šāh Nezār died in September 1722, according to the inscription of his tombstone, shortly before the Afghan invasion of Persia that extended to Kahak. He was buried in one of the chambers of the building that served as his residence and which is still in situ in Kahak. Šāh Nezār’s son and successor, Sayyed ʿAli (d. 1754), also lived in Kahak, and his grave is located in Shah Nezār’s mausoleum. Preserved at the western end of Kahak, this mausoleum has several chambers, each one containing a few graves. In the compound and its adjacent garden there are also several tombstones with inscriptions in Ḵojki Sendhi characters, attesting to the pilgrimage of the Nezāri Ḵojās who regularly embarked on the long and dangerous journey from India to see their imam in Kahak. In fact, Kahak is mentioned in several genāns, the indigenous devotional poems of the Ḵojās, as the place of residence of the imams (see Hooda, pp. 75, 109-10). Shah Nezār’s mausoleum, first described in modern times by Wladimir Ivanow (pp. 56-59), was restored in 1966 without any attention to restoration principles, resulting in the destruction of its original carved wooden doors and other fixtures. A stone platform discovered by Ivanow (p. 59) in 1937, in the gardens of Shah Nezār’s former residence, on which the imam used to sit when receiving his followers, was no longer in situ when the present author visited Kahak in 1976.

By the middle of the 18th century, the Nezāri imams had transferred their residence and headquarters to Šahr-e Bābak and Kermān, in the province of Kermān, probably to be nearer to the pilgrimage route of their Indian followers, but they continued to maintain their roots in Kahak at least until the early decades of the 19th century. Shah Ḵalil-Allāh III, who succeeded to the Nezāri imamate in 1792 after his father Abu’l-Ḥasan ʿAli, known as Sayyed Kahaki who governed Kermān under the Zands for almost half a century, re-established himself in Kahak soon after his accession. In 1794, Āqā Moḥammad Khan Qājār, who had by then gained possession of Kermān, permitted a number of Nezāri Sayyeds, relatives of the imams, to move from Šahr-e Bābak to Kahak, also giving the Nezāri imam new landed properties in Kahak in compensation for what had been left behind in Kermān. Shah Ḵalil-Allāh III remained in Kahak until 1815 when he moved to Yazd, where he was murdered two years later (Daftary, p. 504). Jean Baptiste L. J. Rousseau (1780-1831), a member of a French mission sent in 1807 to the court of Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah Qājār, is the earliest European to supply information on Shah Ḵalil-Allāh III and his place of residence in Kahak (Rousseau, pp. 279-80; see also de Sacy, p. 84; tr., p. 182). It was also at Kahak that Shah Ḵalil-Allāh III’s son and future successor as the 46th Nezāri imam, Ḥasan-ʿAlišāh Āqā Khan I, was born in 1804. The Nezāri imams maintained some landed interests in Kahak for a while longer until they next established themselves firmly in Maḥallāt.



Farhad Daftary, The Ismāʿīlīs: Their History and Doctrines, 1st ed., Cambridge, 1990, pp. 22-23, 437, 498-99, 503-4.

Moḥammed b. Zayn al-ʿĀbedin Fedāʾi Ḵorāsāni, Hedāyat al-moʾmenin, ed. A. A. Semenov, Moscow, 1959, pp. 140, 144.

V. N. Hooda, tr., “Some Specimens of Satpanth Literature,” in Wladimir Ivanow, ed., Collectanea I, Leiden, 1948, pp. 55-137.

Wladimir A. Ivanow, “Tombs of Some Persian Ismaili Imams,” Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, N.S. 14, 1938, pp. 49-62.

Ḥosayn-ʿAli Razmārā, Farhang-e joḡrāfiāʾi-e Irān I, Tehran, 1949, p. 188.

J. B. L. J. Rousseau, “Mémoire sur l’Ismaélis et les Nosaïris de Syrie, adressé à M. Silvestre de Sacy,” Annales des Voyages 14, 1811, pp. 271-303.

A. I. Silvestre de Sacy, “Mémoire sur la dynastie des Assassins,” Mémoires de l’Institut Royal de France 4, 1818, pp. 1-84; repr. in Bryan S. Turner, ed., Orientalism: Early Sources I: Readings in Orientalism, London, 2000, pp. 118-69; tr. A. Azodi as “Memoir on the Dynasty of the Assassins,” in Farhad Daftary, The Assassin Legends: Myths of the Ismaʿilis, London, 1994, pp. 136-88.

July 20, 2009

(Farhad Daftary)

Originally Published: December 15, 2010

Last Updated: April 19, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XV, Fasc. 4, pp. 349-350