QOHESTĀNI, ABU ESḤĀQ Ebrāhim, one of the most prominent Nezāri Ismaʿili dāʿis and authors of the early Anjedān period in Nezāri history.  He was born around the middle of the 9th/15th century in Moʾmenābād, a district to the east of Birjand, in southeastern Khorasan, a region known as Qohestān (Pers. Kuhestān) in medieval times.  Qohestāni spent his entire life in his native land and died at an unknown date after 904/1498.  As mentioned in his sole surviving work, the Haft bāb, Qohestāni was a contemporary of the thirty-fourth imam of the Qāsemšāhi Nezāri Ismaʿilis, Mostanṣer be’llāh III, also known as Ḡarib Mirzā, who died in 904/1498 and whose mausoleum is still preserved in the village of Anjedān in central Persia.  In fact, this is the last imam of that branch of Nezāri Ismaʿilism to be mentioned by Qohestāni (text, p. 24).

As narrated in the first chapter of Qohestāni’s Haft bāb (text, pp. 4-9), containing the only available biographical details on him, Qohestāni was born into a non-Ismaʿili, probably Twelver (Etnāʿašari), family, and was converted in his youth to Nezāri Ismaʿilism by a local dāʿi.  Subsequently, he was appointed to the rank of maʾḏun, or assistant dāʿi, in the daʿwa hierarchy by the local chief dāʿi, a certain Ḵˇāja Qāsem.  This appointment would permit Qohestāni to preach as well as commit the Ismaʿili teachings to writing.

In the aftermath of the Mongol destruction of the Nezāri Ismaʿili state in Persia in 654/1256, the Nezāri daʿwa remained inactive for two centuries while the imams were in hiding.  However, from the middle of the 9th/15th century, the Nezāri imams of the Qāsemšāhi line established their headquarters at Anjedān, initiating a revival in the daʿwa and literary activities of their community that lasted some two centuries. Qohestāni is perhaps the earliest Nezāri author of doctrinal works during the Anjedān revival (Ivanow, 1963, pp. 141-42; Poonawala, pp. 269-70; Daftary, 2004, pp. 107, 124; idem., 2007, pp. 406, 433-34).

Manuscript copies of Qohestāni’s Haft bāb, written in Persian in late 9th/15th century, are relatively rare, but some have been preserved by the Nezāris of Badaḵšān (now divided between Tajikistan and Afghanistan) and other regions of Central Asia (Bertels and Bakoev, p. 103).  The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, also has several manuscripts of this work.  The Haft bāb, comprised of seven chapters (bāb), including an initial autobiographical one, covers aspects of the Nezāri teachings of the time.  It contains chapters on the seventy-two erring sects in Islam; on the saved community; on prophecy, the revelation (tanzil) of the Qurʾan and its esoteric interpretation (taʾwil); on the imamate and the eras of concealment (satr), manifestation (kašf), and resurrection (qiāmat); on the spiritual and physical worlds, origination (mabdaʾ) and destination (maʿād) and the hierarchy of the daʿwa; and, finally, on certain specific esoteric interpretations (taʾwilāt).

The doctrines contained in the Haft bāb basically reflect the Nezāri teachings of the Alamut period, especially after the declaration of the qiāmat or spiritual resurrection by Ḥasan II ʿalā ekrehe’l-salām (r. 557-61/1162-66), the fourth lord of Alamut (see Daftary, 2007, pp. 358-67).  In fact, the Haft bāb is the only known Nezāri source providing details of that controversial event, which occurred at Alamut on 17 Ramadan 559/8 August 1164 (Qohestāni, text, pp. 41-42).  Qohestāni’s Haft bāb was evidently plagiarized by Moḥammad-Reżā Ḵayrḵˇāh Herāti, another early Nezāri author of the Anjedān period; it was re-named as Kalām-e pir and attributed to the famous Ismaʿili dāʿi and poet Nāṣer-e Ḵosrow (d. after 462/1070) in order to enhance its popularity among the Nezāri communities of Central Asia (Ivanow, 1963, pp. 142-43; Daftary, 2007, p. 433).  Abu Esḥaq Qohestāni evidently produced other works, which do not seem to have survived, including a history of his native land called Tāriḵ-e Qohestān.


Andreĭ E. Bertels and Mamadvafo Bakoev, Aflavitnyǐ katalog rukopiseǐ obnaruzhennykh v Gorno-Badakhshanskoǐ Avtonomnoǐ Oblasti éksepeditsieǐ 1959-1963 gg./Alphabetic Catalogue of Manuscripts Found by 1959-1963 Expedition in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, ed. Bobodzhon G. Gafurov and ʿAbd-al-Ḡani M. Mirzoev, Moscow, 1967. 

Farhad Daftary, Ismaili Literature: A Bibliography of Sources and Studies, London, 2004. 

Idem, The Ismāʿīlīs: Their History and Doctrines, 2nd ed., Cambridge, 2007.  Wladimir Ivanow, Ismaili Literature: A Bibliographical Survey, Tehran, 1963.  Idem, ed. and tr., Kalām-e pir, as Kalami Pir: A Treatise on Ismaili Doctrine, also (wrongly) called Haft-Babi Shah Sayyid Nasir, Bombay, 1935. 

Ismail K. Poonawala, Biobibliography of Ismāʿīlī Literature, Malibu, Calif., 1977.  Abu Esḥāq Qohestāni, Haft bāb, ed. and tr. Wladimir Ivanow, Bombay, 1959.

(Farhad Daftary)

Originally Published: April 25, 2015

Last Updated: April 25, 2015

Cite this entry:

Farhad Daftary, "QOHESTĀNI, ABU ESḤĀQ,"   Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2015, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/qohestani-abu-eshaq (accessed on 25 April 2015).