Glossary

Names and titles often seen on Iran Press Watch:

Afif Naemi – One of the seven former Yaran.  An industrialist who was unable to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor, because as a Baha’i he was denied access to a university education.  Instead, he diverted his attention to business, one of the few avenues of work open to Baha’is, taking over his father-in-law’s blanket and textile factory.  Arrested at his home in Tehran on May 14, 2008.

Akhund – originally used to designate a high-ranking religious cleric, but now used as an equivalent to mulla or to denote any member of the ulama. Today predominately used pejoratively, especially against clerics considered hypocritical or misguided.

Allamah – a general term, indicating a learned member of the ulama; learned in many branches of the Islamic sciences.

Aqa (lit. lord or master) – used to designate persons in a position of power and authority. In modern Persian when prefixed to a name it is the equivalent of English “Mr”.

Ayatollah (lit. sign of God) – title granted to highest Shia mujtahids. An Ayatollah can teach in hawzas (seminaries of traditional Shia Islamic studies); according to his speciality, he can act as a reference for religious questions and/or act as a judge.

Bab (lit. gate), the – The founder of the Babi religion. Regarded by the Baha’is as the Hidden Twelfth Imam, a Manifestation of God and the Forerunner of Baha’u’llah.  Born Shiraz, Oct. 20, 1819, martyred Tabriz, July 9, 1850.

Baha’u’llah (lit. Glory of God) – Founder of the Baha’i Faith.  Born Tehran, Persia, Nov. 12,1817; passed away  Bahji, Palestine, now Israel, May 29 1892.

Behrouz Tavakkoli – One of the seven former Yaran.  A former social worker who lost his government job in the early 1980s because of his Baha’i belief.  Prior to his current imprisonment, he also experienced intermittent detainment and harassment. In 2006, he was jailed for four months without charge, spending most of the time in solitary confinement.  Arrested at his home in Tehran on May 14, 2008.

Boroujerdi – Ayatollah Sayyih Hossein Kazimeyni Boroujerdi.Jailed dissident cleric who was incarcerated for protesting the suspicious death of his father Ayatollah Sayyid Mohammad Ali Kazimeyni Boroujerdi in 2002.  Supports separation of church and state in Iran, and has issued a statement in support of Baha’is.

Evin Prison – A notorious prison in Iran, located in northwestern Tehran.  It is noted for its political prisoners’ wing, where prisoners have been held both before and since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The Iranian Baha’is, formerly known as the ‘Yaran’ are currently being held at Evin.

Faqih – an expert in fiqh; used in the Shia world as the equivalent of a mujtahid.

Fiqh – religious jurisprudence, elucidation and application of Shari’a.

Fariba Kamalabadi – One of the seven former Yaran.  A developmental psychologist and mother of three.  Denied the chance to study at a public university as a youth because of her Baha’i belief.  Because of her volunteer work for the Baha’i community, she was arrested twice in recent years and held for periods of one and two months respectively before her arrest at her home in Tehran and imprisonment on May 14, 2008,.

Hamadan – capital city of Hamadan province, located approximately 360km southwest of Tehran.

Hojjatieh – (also called Hojjatieh Society) semi-clandestine traditionalist Shia organisation, founded on the premise that the most immediate threat to Islam is the Baha’i religion.  Banned in 1983 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, yet very active in the present government of Iran.

Ibn – son of

Imam (lit. the one who stands in front) – Principal meaning for Twelver Shi’is is as designation of one of twelve legitimate successors of the Prophet Muhammad.  Also used to designate the religious leader of a community, or simply a prayer leader.

Imam-Jum’ih – leader at Friday (lit. Yawm al-Jum’ih – “Day of the Congregation”) communal prayer (usually, in Iran, government appoints one main Imam-Jum’ih in each city, often a hereditary position).

Jamaloddin Khanjani – One of the seven former Yaran.  A once-successful factory owner who lost his business after the 1979 Islamic revolution because of his belief in the Baha’i Faith. Spent most of the 1980s on the run under threat of death from Iranian authorities. Arrested at his home in Tehran on May 14, 2008.

Jihad – Holy war announced in Islamic history to expand boundaries of Islam or to defend it against an attack.  In Arabic the noun means “struggle”.

Khademin (lit. Servants) – Assistants to the Yaran who informally served the Baha’i communities of various cities and towns in Iran.

Khamenei – Grand Ayatollah Siyyid  Ali Hoseyn Khāmene’i.  President of Iran from  October 2, 1981 to August 2, 1989, and Supreme Leader of the country since June 4, 1989.

Khomeini – Ayatollah Siyyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini.  Iranian religious leader and politician and leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, after which he became the Supreme Leader of Iran – a position created in the constitution as the highest ranking political and religious authority of the nation until his death on June 3, 1989.

Mahvash Sabet – One of the seven former Yaran.  A teacher and school principal who was dismissed from public education for being a Baha’i.  For the last 15 years, she has been director of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education, which provides alternative higher education for Baha’i youth. Also served as secretary to the Yaran.  Arrested in Mashhad on March 5, 2008.

Mashhad – second largest city in Iran. Centre and capital of Khorasan province, north-eastern Iran.

Mofsed fel-Arz (lit. Corrupters on earth) – A serious charge which the Islamic Republic of Iran has been known to put forth on particular occasions, and one that has carried consequences as extreme as the death penalty in the past.  One of the charges against the Yaran.

Montazeri – Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri.  One of the leaders of the Islamic revolution, a senior Islamic scholar and a grand marja (religious authority) of Islam. Criticised Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for nuclear and economic policies and issued a statement in support of the rights of Baha’is in the Islamic Republic.

Muharram – First month of Islamic calendar.  The first 10 days are observed by Shi’ahs as a mourning period commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Husayn, which occurred on Ashura, the tenth day.

Mujtahid – one who has studied sufficiently and achieved a level of competence necessary to obtain permission (ijaza) to practice ijtihad (technical term of Islamic law that describes the process of making a legal decision by independent interpretation ofthe legal sources, the Qur’an and the Sunnah).

Mulla (derived from mawla) – Title given to some Islamic clergy.  Usual Persian term for one of the ulama.

NajafabadiAyatollah Ghorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi.  Attorney General of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  In 2009 proclaimed administration of Baha’i faith as illegal, claiming that the Baha’i community has an allegiance with Israel and that opposition to Islam and Islamic regime is documented.

Qadi – judge

Qom – capital of Qom province. It lies approximately 156 kilometres by road southwest of Tehran, and is the site of the largest Shi’ah seminary in Iran.

Saeid Rezaie – One of the seven former Yaran.  An agricultural engineer who has run a successful farming equipment business in Fars Province for more than 20 years.  Also known for his extensive scholarship on Baha’i topics, and is the author of several books. Arrested at his home in Tehran on May 14, 2008.

Semnan – capital city of Semnan province, northern Iran, and site of intense Baha’i persecution in recent times.

Shah – King, especially of Persia

Shahid – martyr

Shari’a – Islam religious law

Sufi – a Muslim mystic.  Practitioner of sufism (generally understood to be the inner, mystical dimension of Islam).

Shaykh (lit. elder) – Designation sometimes used for leading ulama.  In Arab world in general it is more commonly used for tribal leaders.

Shaykh al-Islam – official title given, in Iran, to a member of the ulama appointed to preside over the Shari’a court in each major town.

Shiraz – city located in the southwest of Iran, capital of Fars Province.

Shirin Ebadi – An Iranian lawyer, human rights activist and founder of Children’s Rights Support Association in Iran.  On October 10, 2003, Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her significant and pioneering efforts for democracy and human rights, especially women’s, children’s, and refugee rights.  She was the first ever Iranian to have received the prize.  She was also the first female Iranian judge.

Tehran – capital and largest city of Iran, administrative centre of Tehran province. Located to the north of the central plateau of Iran.

Ulama (lit. learned persons) – the religious class; Muslim legal scholars engaged in several fields of Islamic studies.  Singular of this word – alim – can be used denoting a person learned in any branch of knowledge, but plural is restricted tothe learned in religion.

Vahid Tizfahm – One of the seven former Yaran.  An optometrist and owner of an optical shop in Tabriz, where he lived until early 2008, when he moved to Tehran.  At one time he was a member of the Baha’i National Youth Committee.  Later, he was appointed to the Auxiliary Board, an advisory group that serves to uplift and inspire Baha’i communities at the regional level. He has also taught local Baha’i children’s classes. Arrested at his home in Tehran on May 14, 2008.

Wilaya – a term which can indicate temporal government or power. An administrative division, usually translated as “province” or “governorate”.

Wilayat al-faqih (lit. guardianship of the jurists) – A theory promoted by Ayatollah Khomeini which states that religious jurists should lead Islamic governments.  Now forms the basis of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the role of its Supreme Leader.

Yaran (lit. Friends) – The ad hoc administrative body formed with the knowledge of the government of Iran, composed of Baha’is who oversaw the needs and affairs of the Baha’i community of Iran from the 1980s to March 2009, when they formally disbanded as a result of an order from the Iranian government.

Bibliography:
An Introduction to Shi’i Islam – M. Momen
A Baha’i Glossary – M. Gail
Muhammad and the Course of Islam – H.M. Balyuzi

 

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