Archive for the ‘ Family ’ Category




Keyvan Tabari


Copyright Keyvan Tabari 2016. All Rights Reserved.

The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or otherwise distributed without the prior written authorization of Keyvan Tabari.


Recently, I received a picture of a turbaned and bearded man who seemed to be in his forties. It was a scanned version of a photograph printed in a Persian publication. The few lines in Persian under the picture identified him as `Ali Akbar Tabari, a clergy from Sari, and grandfather of Ehsan Tabari. Twenty other grandchildren survived `Ali Akbar, none as famous as Ehsan. He is widely-known primarily for his prolific writings. Among them, a book of memoirs of Ehsan’s early childhood, Daheh Nakhosteen (The First Decade) is virtually the sole source for this article. `Ali Akbar was my grandfather as well. He died in the year I was born. The little I have heard about him, mostly from my late father, is virtually negligible. I know of no other worthy written source.

In my circle of some twelve cousins, the ones I saw more frequently as I grew up, we referred to my late grandfather as Agha-jan Bozorgeh (Dear Grandfather). When in Sari as a child, I visited the compound of his houses where now my grandmother lived. Her modest room faced the bigger structure where Grandfather’s much grander room had been located. Passing the domed bathhouse of the compound, I would then stop to see one of my aunts and her family in another of the houses which had its own yard and a little pool.


Grandfather was about 80 when he died, which would mean he was born around 1858. His father, Haji Ahmad, was a merchant. Perhaps more a trader, Haji Ahmad was so successful that even though he lived in the village of Joybar (a few miles northwest of Sari) [1], in the 1850s he began to build in Sari the big six-house compound which I would come to know. Sari, a city that boasts to have existed since pre-Islamic times, was the provincial capital with some 20,000 people. The family had come to Joybar sometime before from Amol, another town west of Sari, in the same Caspian Sea province of Mazandaran, Iran. In Haji Ahmad’s time people in Iran were known by their first names. It was later that a new law required them to assume a family name. The name Tabari, however, had existed in this family even before. `Ali Akbar claimed that it could be traced to three 9th century Muslim luminaries:  a historian (Abu Mohammad Jarir), a physician (Ibn Rabban) and a mathematician (Haseb), all called Tabari. There is no convincing evidence that supports this claim, or that those three had been related to each other.

I have no information about `Ali Akbar’s mother. He began school in Sari at Madreseh Madar Shazdeh where he received traditional Islamic training, including the important subject of Moqaddamat (Introductions) from a renowned teacher, Vosouq al-Doleh, who left a permanent impression on him, especially, with his unrivaled mastery of old Arab literature. Recalling him, `Ali Akbar would often recite approvingly an Arabic poem which said that people are appreciated only after their death. It resonated with him because `Ali Akbar did not think he was himself fully appreciated.

`Ali Akbar left Sari for Tehran to pursue his education at the well-known Marvi School. For people like Haji Ahmad, the ultimate educational goal for a son was attaining the stage of Ejtehad (Striving), the highest degree of accomplishment for a Shiite Muslim student, especially in the city of Najaf. That city was at the time in the province of `Araq (Iraq) which was a part of the Ottoman Empire. Before his trip to Najaf, `Ali Akbar wed his first wife, Jahan Banoo. She was the sister- in- law of Sartip (General) Alahyar Khan, the principal landowner of Kord-e Kola, a village close to Joybar. This village was in fact a tribal settlement. The inhabitants were Mukri Kurds from Savojbelagh in the west of Iran. Known as courageous riflemen, they had been moved to this location on the shore of the Caspian Sea, by the kings of the previous Safavid dynasty to defend against the threat of rebellious Turkmens. More than a hundred years later, these Kurds still stood guard with guns to protect the area. Accordingly, the principle landowner of their village had the title of the General of the Kord-e Kola Foj (Regiment).

`Ali Akbar’s marriage received the blessing of the General because Haji Ahmad was now a respectable merchant. `Ali Akbar was deeply in love with his beautiful bride. Alas, she died in Najaf barely past age 20, after giving birth to his first child. `Ali Akbar was heartbroken. While she was alive, Jahan Banoo was his only love. For ten years thereafter he did not marry again, spending all his time in the worship of God; all his love for the beloved wife was now focused on the son she left behind. He was Hossein, Ehsan’s father.

When `Ali Akbar returned from Najaf, he was struck with the extreme resemblance between his late wife and her niece, upon seeing her for the first time. She was only 12 while he was 35. He fell in love with her because of his love for his lost wife and when the child reached the age of 15, he asked to marry her. Her father, the General, gave his consent despite the great age difference, again as he considered Hajji Ahmad now one of Sari’s wealthiest men. The new bride, my grandmother whom we called Khanom Jaan remained `Ali Akbar’s sole zan-e `aqdi (wife) the rest of his life. This did not stop him from marrying several more sigheh (concubines). Indeed, soon thereafter he married a distant cousin of his wife (whom, therefore, we called Da’i Ghezi Joon (Dear Uncle’s Daughter) [2], a young pretty widow, also from Kord-e Kola. She remained the most important among `Ali Akbar’s concubines whose number reached six, and would have gone higher were it not for his fear of his wife’s displeasure. Indeed, it was the wife’s active revolt that forced him to divorce his latest concubine. This was in 1925, some 37years into their marriage, when `Ali Akbar was 67 years old. Khanom Jaan led a posse of existing concubines and other women who worked in the house to confront Grandfather’s new concubine, Karbelai Robabeh, who lived across the street, and made her promise to sever all relations with `Ali Akbar [3].

The concubines and the wife all lived in the same big compound of houses. Khanom Jaan’s primacy as the lady of the house was acknowledged. She would often sit in her room smoking water pipe. Others each had a special function.  Da’i Ghezi Joon ran the house. She was in charge of the kitchen and personally did much of the work of feeding the many in the household. These two women and their children lived in the Andarooni (Inner Sanctum) house of the compound. Another concubine, a young woman called Sediqeh, was Khanom Jaan’s personal servant. The third concubine, Manizheh, was the house carpet weaver, hence she was also entitled Ussa (Master- craftsman).

The rumors about `Ali Akbar’s sexual appetite threatened to undermine his reputation for piety and self control. In having so many wives, however, he was not unique among the clergy of the time. Islamic tradition allowed such pleasures on the condition that he observed `edalat (justice) among the spouses. In practice this meant that Grandfather could provide for their livelihood. The elaborate accommodations and services in his household left no doubt on that score. The compound where he lived was a complex of six connected houses, only two of which were occupied by his two younger brothers Musa and Karim –who both followed their father’s footsteps as merchants, albeit less successfully. The compound, in Sari’s Bahram-Ottor district, had its own free-standing big bathhouse, a stable and several private yards and small pools, as well as a kitchen with extensive storage rooms which could feed a crowd. In addition to cooks and servants, there was a man whose job was to heat up and maintain the bathhouse, a gardener, a stable hand and a private valet who also served as Fanooskesh (Light-carrier) before the donkey (khar), which `Ali Akbar used to ride through town.


That big white Egyptian donkey, handsome with an elegant face and intelligent eyes like those of a dog, had a reputation of its own in Sari. It added to the drama that `Ali Akbar created when he rode through the narrow alleys and bazaars of town. Shopkeepers would stand up and fold their hands across their chest as a sign of great respect, and police officers would salute, while Grandfather nonchalantly carried on the conversation with the person who happened to be the companion, walking alongside his saddle. The death of the donkey was an event that caused a stir in town. Everyone said “Alas, the Master’s donkey has died.” Grandfather himself took it as a bad omen and said: “destiny pulled me down.” The ride’s death, indeed, coincided with the gradual decline of the rider’s aura.

In his prime, Sheikh `Ali Akbar, Mojtahed Joybari indeed cut quite a figure. Sheikh was the highest honorific title for an Iranian clergy at the time. Mojtahed (One who has exerted Ejtehad) indicated the highest academic ranking in religion. Joybari (from Joybar) was eventually abandoned in favor of Saravi, meaning from Sari which was bigger and more important than Joybar. Only Sheikh Kabir Mazandarani outranked `Ali Akbar in the whole province of Mazandaran, as he was widely known throughout the country. `Ali Akbar was considered among the top clergy (Ulama) of Sari, his name was known to the kings of the Qajar dynasty and the Pahlavi dynasty that succeeded it, and any newly appointed governor of Mazandaran deemed calling on him as one of his first duties.

As a high ranking clergy with a reputation for learning, Grandfather was entrusted with overseeing various charitable endowments. This was one source of his income – not without rumored accusations of self-serving. He received a substantial sum from acting as the executor of one-third of the estate (all that a Moslem could give through will) of Haji Baqer, a rich Sari merchant who was a friend of his father. Equally important, however, was what `Ali Akbar inherited from his father.

Grandfather’s assets were comprised of real estate in the forms of shops, houses and farmlands. Among his properties, a large orchard on the outskirts of Sari was a source of special pleasure for him. `Ali Akbar would find rest and quite among the flowers and fruit trees planted and cared for by his skilled gardener. Sometimes, he would put his own hands in the dirt too, but mostly he enjoyed the company of the gardener and the simple conversations with him about nature, while drinking tea and puffing on a cigarette in his cigarette holder [4]. In the same way, Grandfather liked to talk to his valet, when taking breaks from reading books from his vast collection.

The books were mostly on religious subjects, especially in Feqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and Osool (Islamic principles), but `Ali Akbar was also fond of old Arab poetry.  In his room at home he would sit on large pillows on the floor furnished with Persian carpets, wearing a long fur robe (poosteen) or a sleeveless cloak (`aba), and scull-cap (araqchin), deeply engrossed in reading with magnifying glasses. Sometimes, he would describe for the person who might enter the room, parts of the book which appeared especially interesting.

Grandfather was a firm believer in the Shiite tradition of Islam but he was not as strict as some other clergy of his time. For example, his son Hussein carried the honorific title of Fakhr al-`Arafin (The Pride of Gnostics) as a dervish of the  Safi `Alishah Sufi group, but Grandfather ignored this fact although from a purely “legalistic (faqihaneh)” perspective of a clergy he could not agree with Sufism. Indeed, he also often recited this poem from the Gnostic Molavi Rumi: “Strictness and dogmatism are ignorance (khami)/so long as you are like that, there would be bloodshed.” One time, Grandfather unexpectedly arrived in his house and found a “burning of `Omar” ceremony in full progress, with a big effigy of `Omar (an early Sunni Caliph, hated by Shiite Iranians) put to fire in the middle of the yard. He admonished the participants angrily and commanded that they stop that show immediately. “This is not religion, it is pre-Islamic ignorance,” he told them. In the gatherings on the Shiite martyrs’ Day of Ashura, when Grandfather gave the sermon he would not dwell on the tragic stories of the murdered Shiites saints, as was customary; instead, he would read selected parts from relevant religious books, expounding on them in ways which were met with the approval of the esteemed clergy who were seated in front rows. It was clear that he thought and spoke about the chosen subjects earnestly and sincerely. His crinkled face, burnished in the sun, gave him a dignified look.

When Reza Shah in the mid-1920s ordered secularizing changes as a part of his modernization of Iran, the many women of Grandfather’s household who were students and teachers in high school had to remove their tent-like Islamic hijab (chador). Grandfather was content that at least when they passed by him they wore the chador. He even seemed agreeable to modernizing changes in Iran, unlike some other clergy in Sari. It is obvious that many progressive thoughts had entered his mind in his life and had made him tolerant and non-dogmatic. He was not, of course, totally immune to the superstitious culture of the time [5]. In particular, he tended to blame the failure to achieve his expectations on the bad luck brought by his son’s marriage to his second wife whose clan, the Isma’il Mostofis, he considered damned (adbar-zadeh).


Grandfather proved to be a passive consumer of the principals of his assets. As they thus were depleted, he gradually became poor. His misfortune was compounded by political events. The new king, Reza Shah Pahlavi (1925-1941), with his centralization of power and secularization policies increasingly degraded the status of the clergy [6]. In the case of `Ali Akbar, additionally, Reza Shah came to have a direct adversarial role. This arose from the rebellion of a clan that had a long-standing rivalry with Reza’s clan in the mountainous Savad Kouh region of Mazandaran.

In the absence of a strong central government with an effective standing army, from several decades ago pockets of local powers had been established throughout Iran, often by tribes or clans having their own militias, and the clergy as well as the landlords and merchants sought access to such sources to optimize their own roles and positions. In the early 1920s, the Bavand clan, led by Amir Mo’ayed, dominated Savad Kouh. Its relations with the smaller Palani clan from the same area were often strained.  Reza was from this clan. Following the example of his father and grandfather, Reza had joined one of the national armed forces, the Cossacks in his case. He rose in the ranks as an exceptional soldier and, after taking over the country’s capital Tehran by a military coup in February 1921, he was appointed by the sitting Qajar king, the Commander of the Cossacks with the title of the Commander of the Army. A few months later, Reza became the Minister of War.

In late July of 1921, when Amir Mo’ayed forces launched new armed campaigns to extend their rule over Mazandaran’s small towns and villages they met resistance in the form of the threat of reprisal by the Central Government and the dispatch of some Cossacks. Amir Mo’ayed had to retreat.

Also opposing the Bavand forces actively at this time were men of the Palani clan under control of Reza’s uncle [7], Cheraq `Ali. Sheik `Ali Akbar was displeased with Cheraq `Ali’s unjust treatment of peasants on his lands, especially the legendary merciless conduct of his son. In contrast, Grandfather considered the Bavands as fair and compassionate toward the peasants who worked their lands. He thus favored Amir Mo’yed. But Grandfather’s support did not go beyond words. He did not engage in politics, even to the extent that some clergy had shown at the height of the ongoing Constitutional Revolution -which had begun in 1892.  Indeed, when `Ali Akbar wished to appear modern and radical, he would only move from the traditional discussion of old religious subjects and broach old style philosophy, and that with caution.

`Ali Akbar’s involvement in Amir Mo’yed’s rebellion against the emerging dictatorial power of the Central Government turned from words into action when a group of peasant rebels took up arms to fight alongside Amir and his two sons, Sahm al-Mamalek and Hozhabr al-Sultan, against the Cossacks and the riflemen of Sari’s wealthiest landowner, Sardar Jalil. These rebels were from the central plain of Mazandaran. They were in contact with `Ali Akbar. Their leaders were two brothers, Seyyed Jalal and Seyyed Karim. These two were in reality part rebels and part bandits. They used their descent from the prophet Mohammad, as Seyyed, to appeal to the peasants who were simple believers; but they were also well-intentioned. They were courageous, adventurous and honest men arising from among rural people.

One day about 10 or 15 armed men, led by Seyyed Karim, the younger brother, arrived in Grandfather’s house. They had come to discuss their increasingly difficult situation with him. By now Sardar Jalil’s men had killed Amir’s two sons and he was facing defeat. The peasant rebel group was fast losing all hopes and feared their own imminent destruction. Seyyed Karim had been sent by his brother to impress on Grandfather their dire circumstances in case of the expected renewed attack by the Cossacks and Sardar Jalil’s forces.  They were saying “winter is coming and forests will be without leaves and government sharpshooters will hunt us down like wild foxes.”

Grandfather in fact could not do anything to solve their problem. The new Governor of Mazandaran who was close to Cheraq `Ali, relying on Reza’s power was not willing to make any concession. Therefore, Grandfather’s intercession would have been in vain, and he knew that. Seyyed Karim’s riflemen stayed a few days in Grandfather’s house and he, despite shortage of funds, ordered that they be served generous meals. His concubine who was in charge of the kitchen, however, soon declared that feeding so many young men with their big appetite was no longer possible as the reserves were exhausted. Furthermore, the head of the telegraph office who was a friend secretly informed Grandfather that coded cables were being constantly sent to Tehran by the Government agent that “Sheikh `Ali Akbar Tabari has sheltered the rebel Seyyed Jalal’s armed men in his house.” He advised Grandfather: “Get rid of these men; otherwise, you will be in danger.”

On the day that Sheikh, reluctantly concluded to get rid of these men, first his valet took Seyyed Karim aside and said that “on the basis of reliable information, the government and Sardar Jalil have plans against you and your remaining in Sari is not at all advisable. You will be easy targets with your hands tied. Anytime now the Cossacks may come and a fight may ensue and innocent men may be killed. That won’t be fair; you are a just man and should not allow such problems for other people.”  Seyyed Karim was not willing to pay attention to these words because he deemed the Sheikh to be powerful and able to obtain forgiveness for his group from the Government.

Next, Grandfather’s eldest son talked to Seyyed Karim and his men and forcefully told them: “It is best for you to leave Sari immediately. The Government does not listen to Sheikh’s requests. Indeed, he is himself in danger. Why don’t you understand? Here you will be targets with hands tied. Flee to the forest (jungle)! Maybe you can find an escape route there.” Seyyed Karim now realized the gravity of the situation and asked to see Grandfather himself. Approaching Grandfather’s room, he leaned his rifle against the wall and, bowing repeatedly, entered the room. There, he began crying like a baby. “Master, you were our hope. It seems that we must leave this house disappointed. Poor Seyyed Jalal is howling in the jungle like a hungry wolf and waiting for me to bring the good news to him. I am so sorry. Thank you. They call us rebels and bandits but God is my witness we took up arms because we did not want to submit to injustice (zoor). Sardar’s agents had no mercy toward us, our property, and our women. We too gave no thought to our youth and told ourselves that we must take revenge. We were also misled by Amir Mo’yed’s sons. They themselves have now lost their heads. Since we heard that you are a friend of the innocent and the weak we came here. Now Master, excuse me as it is not proper, but I don’t know if you are scared or you are really powerless. Khona be-doon [8] (Thank you)! We submit to your command, and this may be our last meeting. Let me kiss your hand. May you bless us!”

Sheikh was very agitated and shamed, and tears fell from his eyelashes onto his beard. Doubtless, he was a man of conscience because he was pained by feeling useless before people who, he knew, were fighting for the love of justice. He did not want to appear so powerless and confused before Seyyed Karim, a twenty- something peasant. But what could he do? He got up from his pillows and came toward Seyyed Karim. Seyyed kissed his hand and he kissed Seyyed’s face several times and damped his cheeks with his tears of helplessness. He knew that Seyyed Karim could not escape from the Government and that this tall, powerful, healthy body would soon fall on the ground. Seyyed Karim in his own limited peasant way realized the Sheikh’s complicated situation and his sincerity. He felt very hopeless, heavily burdened with thoughts of defeat and total helplessness. He came out of the Sheikh’s room and picked up his rifle. He told the household staff who were now standing outside: “Thank you, forgive us!” Then he ordered his men: “Let’s go!” He jumped on his horse and his men followed him. A senior one among them asked: “What happened there?” Seyyed Karim said: “The Master gave us a negative response.” A few of the men opened their mouth with language of denunciation. Seyyed shouted: “Don’t be impolite. Respect the Master. Our fate is in God’s hand.”

Maybe ten days passed from this meeting before Government forces and the riflemen of their local allies annihilated this small partisan group that now had no power or support. Seyyed Jalal and Seyyed Karim died in a manly battle and their bodies were brought to Sari, laid in the cemetery for all to see as a lesson. Amir Mo’yed was defeated and forced to exile. A similar fate awaited Grandfather soon.


Now it was 1925 and Reza had decided to depose the Qajar dynasty and crown himself king. In Sari’s town Green (Sabzeh Midan) a tribune was set up and speakers took turn to criticize the Qajar king, Ahmad Shah. In the Green, free theater was staged at night. In one scene, the Shah with his elaborate uniform and hat was shown drinking alcohol in Europe’s brothels. They were making Ahmad Shah unpopular. The picture of Reza with Generals of the Army in attendance were distributed everywhere in town. It was rumored that Cheraq `Ali Khan was sending a new Governor to Mazandaran with strict orders to round up Amir Mo’yed’s supporters.

The Governor, in fact, had instructions to cleanse this province from anyone who might not be desirable for the new regime. He was the one who ordered the exile of Grandfather and his eldest son Hussein.  Amir Mo’yed, an educated man who had lived for a while in Europe, like many nationalist Iranian politician of the time opposed the undue influence of Britain and Russia. After the 1917 Russian Revolution, however, he became a supporter of that type of revolution. Grandfather’s son, Hussein shared Amir’s views and like him was a member of the Socialist Party (Ejtemae`yyoon), although in Hussein’s case, this did not lead to any action.

A large group of Cossacks came and surrounded Grandfather’s house to execute the order of the Governor. In the case of Hussein the order was “For now, he comes to Tehran for a year.”  As for Grandfather who was a famous Mojtahed, they were careful and said: “The Master stays one month in Joybar.” Sending so many armed soldiers for the implementation of these relatively gentle orders was extraordinary. It was obvious that they feared reactions from the public.

The Cossacks siege was lifted after Grandfather and Hussein left the house. The Governor’s name became the most despised in Grandfather’s house. A sense of confusion prevailed. Rumors were widespread that the people of Sari had sent cables protesting Grandfather’s exile, that the Ulama had gone to the Government Office demanding Grandfather’s return, that they threatened they would send cables to the Ulama in Najaf, Mashhad, Qum and Tehran. The Governor promised that Grandfather will return soon and that he would inform Tehran about the people’s views. Among Grandfather’s household, the fear of bankruptcy was real. Lately, they had survived mostly by borrowing. Houses and stores had been sold. After a few weeks, the opportunistic creditors began pressing their demands.

Grandfather never recovered from the impact of these events. With his bald (asla`) head, thick nervous (moteshannej) eyebrows, dark (tireh rang) skin, a stern (`aboos) and angry man, he looked as if he lost all hope and self-confidence and turned into a lost soul, deserving of pity. You could sometimes find him among those dusty and brown papers which were his library of mostly manuscripts about subjects not directly related to living. He would occasionally get up from his pillows, come sit close to the windows of his room, then would get up again and recite: “From weakness wherever I sat became my hometown/and from my tears whichever side I turned green grass grew.” It was clear that he was beaten and did not know what to do. He lived in the dark clouds of doubt and defeat: the bitter result of a long life with wide experience and the damaging attacks of reality on dreams.

Toward the end, Grandfather suffered from kidney problems (`avarez kolyeh) and urinary infection (zeeq masaneh). One devoted daughter sacrificed her youth to nurse him and one son served as his personal physician [9]. They could not stop death when it came at long last.


I have not seen any writing which Grandfather might have left behind. In the absence of any other sources, Ehsan’s Daheh Nakhosteen remains my sole source for this piece. It has, of course, inherent limitations. It is not a book about Grandfather; it is an autobiography of Ehsan’s first ten years of life. Whatever it does say about Grandfather is secondary, intended to illustrate the main subject. Furthermore, the book was written some fifty years after the events which it describes, and apparently simply based on Ehsan’s memory. The author’s viewpoints color the picture. Ehsan strong likes and dislikes are even admitted in the text of the book. At times, stories function to prove his pronounced judgments about people who left indelible emotional marks on him, especially his father, or even as testimony to Ehsan’s future political convictions and creed [10].

Inevitably, there are lacunas in our source. There is no discussion of what Grandfather did as work. Implicit in the stories are some of his functions as a va`ez who gave sermons, an amin who was entrusted with the management of religious trusts as motevalli (trustee) and executor of estates (vasi), and as a member of the notables (mohtaramin) who had a sway over public opinion and thus could intercede with the authorities. There is no mention of his being an Islamic judge (qazi) or a teacher of Islamic disciplines, the more substantial roles of the high clergy [11].

Furthermore, there is nothing in Ehsan’s book about Grandfather’s relationship with his children (other than Ehsan’s father) and grandchildren (other than Ehsan).  Grandfather was cold toward Ehsan in the beginning, he felt, because Grandfather regarded him as the child of a marriage he disapproved, but grew warmer over the years, especially when he found this grandchild unique in wanting to peruse his library. No other grandchild or child of Grandfather is even mentioned by name in the book except those who were dead: three sons and one granddaughter. Ehsan’s only reference to his several aunts and uncles is brief, recalling them fondly as being a group almost his own age, all at more than ten years younger than Ehsan’s father.

Regardless, Daheh Nakhosteen is all we had to work with. If annotations and amplifications were necessary, I have kept them at a minimum so as this piece remain the voice of Ehsan.  Our measure of success is, therefore, whether a faithful summary of the relevant parts of that book has been rendered. To that end, certain parts were selected here for greater elaboration as they shed light on diverse aspects of Grandfather’s life. The stories about Amir Mo’ayed Savad Kouhi are exemplary. They singularly reflect the distinct political and social landscape in which Grandfather’s status and his role and worth come into focus, indeed, at the very critical juncture when they change [12].


1-  Joybar, now a small town with a population of 27,000, became world famous in 2013 when it sent three of the five gold-medalists in an Iranian team that won the world championship in freestyle wrestling. <;

2-Ehasn, inexplicably, calls her Khaleh Ghezi (Aunt’s Daughter).

3- It was rare for Grandfather to tolerate impudence and insubordination. He had instilled fear in the household by habitually raising his cane against the offender and calling them sag-bacheh (dog’s offspring), his own inverted form of a common gentle cuss word, pedar-sag (offspring of dog).]

4- As expected from a Muslim, he avoided alcohol and music (current in the form of the string instrument tar). He also stayed away from smoking opium which was permissible and was just becoming popular.

5-  As Ehsan put it, at the time Sari was a narrow-minded, backward and superstitious city still in the dark medieval ages.

6- See note 12 below.

7-  Ehsan calls him Reza’s cousin. Regarding this and a few other background facts in this section see Ghani, Cyrus. (1998) Iran and the Rise of the Reza Shah: From Qajar Collapse to Pahlavi Power:  pp. 161-182, 332.

8-  Colloquial from Persian kahneh abadan (May your household prosper)]

9-  Ehsan does not mention this service.  That physician, my father, used to tell me about frequent cauterization that Grandfather required. The daughter was Rahimeh.]

10- Prominent among those cited in the book are sympathy for the underprivileged, admiration for the working man, and relentless fight for truth and justice.

11- These services are attributed (as tadris and qaza) to `Ali Akbar in the brief introduction under his photograph in note 1. That introduction is not exactly trustworthy as, for example, it fails to accurately register the year Grandfather died. Considering that Ehsan mentions schools and classes frequently in his book, his not mentioning teaching (tadris) by Grandfather may indicate that, in fact, he did not do much teaching. The subject of judging (qaza) by the clergy in this period is more complex and merits some discussion here. Until the 1907 Constitutional evolution, the clergy with personal influence in their local community were the “actual” judges (often sharing this function with the respective bureaucratic officials). The principal sources for substantive and procedural laws were the treatises of Islamic jurists. They sometimes expressed conflicting views. Few clergy judges could have a clear grasp of their complicated rules; the overwhelmingly illiterate public certainly did not. More often than not, disputes were handled by the traditional kadkhodamaneshi, a reconciliation method aiming at community peace and local notions of fairness.

The Constitutional Revolution fed on widespread grievances against arbitrary rule and injustice. The success of the Revolution pitted two groups against each other in shaping the new judicial system: those who desired to follow the Western European model and modernize, and the clergy who wished to consolidate their hold. Supported by the merchant class of the Bazaar, the modernizers’ influence was clearly increasing. The military coup of 1921 enabled them to propose an ambitious program to overhaul the judicial system. The fulfillment of the promise of this program, however, had to wait until the real power behind that coup, Reza Khan, consolidated his control in 1925 as the new king of Persia. During the fourteen years from 1927 to 1941, Iranian civil law was constructed as a comprehensive new system. As its core were the 1335 articles of the Civil Code on the substantive law. The Code of Civil Procedure was enacted to enforce that law. These were augmented by many other codes. Rules for qualifications, training, and professional conduct of judges and lawyers were enacted. Sharia Islamic courts with limited jurisdiction dealing with specified matters deeply rooted in religion continued but regulated by national laws. See Tabari, Keyvan (2007) ‘Law and Modernization: A Brief History of Iranian Civil Law’,

12- The lore of Grandfather’s relationships with the Savad Kouhis lingered in his family. My father talked about them, but left me with the impression of a different narrative from Ehsan’s. In this version, the 5 main players are the same (Amir Mo`ayed, and his sons Sahm al-Mamalek and Hozhabr al-Sultan, Cheraq `Ali and Reza Shah) but they are from the same clan, as cousins. What is more, Grandfather and Reza are not in opposite camps. Far from it, in my father’s telling, Reza is portrayed as having been a morid (follower) of Grandfather. Inspired by the lore and the names, especially Hozhabr, 17 years after Grandfather’s death, another grandson wrote a short story, called Ra`na, Dokhtar Savad Kouh (Ra`na, the Girl from Savad Kouh), published in the weekly Roshanfekr. It was a love and anguish story, complete with horses and bandits, set, in the steaming summer weather of Mazandaran, on its mountains, but unrelated to the political drama told here.