VARQĀ, ʿALI-MOḤAMMAD (b. Yazd, 1855; d. Tehran, 2 May, 1896, FIGURE 1), a well-known poet, student of traditional Iranian medicine, and an early follower of Bahāʾ-Allāh, the founder of the Bahai Faith. He was the youngest son of Ḥāji Mollā Mehdi (ʿAṭri) of Yazd. Varqā became a courageous teacher of Bahaism. He was one of the four Hands of the Cause of God (Ayādi Amr-Allāh), posthumously elevated to this rank by ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ (The Universal House of Justice, p. 446) and one of the 19 Apostles of Bahāʾ-Allāh (Harper, pp. 42-51). He was given the title Varqā (‘dove,’ in Arabic) by Bahāʾ-Allāh in recognition of his poetic talents, and he subsequently adopted this title as his family name, often using it as a pen name (taḵalloṣ) in his poetry.
It is estimated that the collection of Varqā’s poetry is in excess of 6000 verses, of which 3052 verses have been classified and copied (Varqā, p. 488; Afnān, p. 37). Regarded as one of the outstanding Bahai poets of his time, Varqā’s poetic style comprised virtually all structures typical of Persian poetry, including ḡazals, maṯnawis, qaṣidas, and tarkiband and tarjiʿband compositions. The theme common to all of Varqā’s poetry is a testimonial to his dedication and absolute devotion to Bahāʾ-Allāh and ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ. In this regard, his poetic output is unique and unparalleled inasmuch as the combination of his style and content is not encountered amongst the works of any of his contemporaries (Afnān, pp. 37-38).
In his early twenties, Varqā married Faṭema, the only child of Mirzā Abd-Allāhʾ Khan Nuri Māzandarāni (Goharriz, pp. 92-94). The marriage produced four sons, Aziz-Allāh, Ruḥ-Allāh, Wali-Allāh, who was appointed a hand of the cause of God by Shoghi Effendi, and Badiʿ-Allāh. Ruḥ-Allāh was put to death at the age of twelve along with his father (Momen, pp. 361-62). Varqā’s second eldest son, young Ruḥ-Allāh, was an avid teacher of the Bahai faith from an early age, and was endowed with poetic talents of high caliber. The most well known of his poetic work is in couplets (maṯnawi).
During his lifetime, Varqā made three voyages to the Holy Land, twice on pilgrimage during the life of Bahāʾ-Allāh (1879, and 1891), and once during the lifetime of ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ (1893). His two eldest sons accompanied him during his last two pilgrimages.
In the spring of 1896, Varqā and his son Ruḥ-Allāh, along with two other Bahais, were imprisoned under heavy chains in the government prison located in Sabza Maydān, Tehran, on charges of spreading the tenets of the new religion and failing to recant their faith (taqia; Mehdi Varqā, 2001, p. 97). Enraged by the assassination of Nāṣer-al-Din Shah (1 May 1896) while on a pilgrimage at the Šāh ʿAbd-al-ʿAẓim shrine in the south of Tehran, Moʿin-al-Solṭān Ḥajeb-al-Dawla, accused Varqā of having instigated the assassination and proceeded to stab and mutilate his body in front of his son, thereafter strangling the young Ruḥ-Allāh who also refused to recant and insisted on joining his father.
The remains of Varqā and Ruḥ-Allāh were buried in the old Bahai cemetery in Tehran (Mehdi Varqā, 1994, p. 34).
Abu’l-Qāsem Afnān, “Morur-i bar ašʿār-e Varqā,” Ḵošahā-i az ḵarman-e adab wa honar 5, 1994, pp. 37-38.
Hušang Goharriz, The Apostles of Bahāʾuʾlláh: Ḥawwariyun-e Ḥażrat-e Bahāʿ-Allāh, New Delhi, 2001.
Barron Deems Harper, Lights of Fortitude: Glimpses into the Lives of the Hands of the Cause of God, Oxford, 1997, pp. 42-50.
Ḵošahā-i az ḵarman-e adab wa honar 5, 1994, pp 21-55.
Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahaʾu’lláh IV, Oxford, 1987, Chap. 4.
The Universal House of Justice, The Bahaʾi World XIV, Haifa, 1974.
Idem, Baháʾí World XIII, Haifa, 1970, p. 381.
Mirzā ʿAli-Moḥammad Varqā, Naḡmahā-ye Varqā, Compiled by Beruz Jabbāri Ontario, Canada, 1998, p. 488.
Mehdi Varqā. “Šarḥ-e aḥwāl wa šahādat-e janāb-e Varqā wa Ruḥ-Allāh,”Ḵošahā-i az ḵarman-e adab wa honar 5, 1994, pp. 29-30.
Originally Published: August 31, 2017
Last Updated: August 31, 2017Cite this entry:
Iraj Ayman, “VARQĀ, ʿALI-MOḤAMMAD,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2017, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/varqa-ali-mohammad (accessed on 31 August 2017).