Earlier Baha’is were involved in Opium Trade

The export crops passed through Shiraz on their way to the Gulf. Iranian long-distance merchants from Fars developed marketing networks for these commodities, establishing trading houses in Bombay, Calcutta, Port Said, Istanbul and even Hong Kong. The encounter with European colonial institutions, and with local reformist and independence movements, made these Iranian expatriates more cosmopolitan than the majority of their compatriots.

Within Iran, those merchants who proved successful in the opium trade grew fabulously wealthy and politically influential, as did the government officials, such a Qavam al-Mulk, who sponsored it and taxed it. As we shall see below, one of the important Iranian export houses (with an outpost in Hong Kong) was operated by the Afnan clan, Baha’is and relatives of the Bab.[1]

Family of The Bab

Family of The Bab

The backbone of the Shiraz Baha’i community, however, was the artisans and merchants. The merchants benefited from a number of advantages, including their mobility and the international character of their commerce. Bombay served, not only as a center of trade, but also as a place where Baha’i culture could begin to be developed more freely. In the late 1880s the Afnan clan established a printing press in Bombay, where they printed several volumes of Baha’u’llah’s writings and smuggled them back into Iran for distribution throughout the country through clandestine Baha’i networks. Should any of the Afnans become controversial, they could always send him to one of their commercial outposts (thus, they dispatched Aqa Nur al-Din to Bombay in 1879 in the wake of the judicial murder on charges of heresy of his business associates, Hasan and Husayn Nahri in Isfahan). In the 1880s, the Afnan families of Shiraz and Yazd were influential in founding a Baha’i community in Ashkhabad, under the tsarist Transcaspian administration not far from the Iranian border, which served as a refuge for some Baha’is from persecution and as a further commercial opportunity, in the tea trade.[2]

[1] A major secondary source on this family is Muhammad `Ali Fayzi, Khandan-i Afnan, Sidrih-‘i Rahman (Tehran: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 127 B.E./1971); for our period, this source mostly replicates information available in the primary account, Mirza Habib Allah Afnan, “Tarikh-i Amri-yi Shiraz,” copy of uncatalogued Persian MS, Afnan Library, London, and I will keep most citations to the latter.

[2] Moojan Momen, “The Bahai Community of Ashkhabad: Its Social Basis and Importance in Baha’i History,” in Shirin Akiner, ed., Cultural Change and Continuity in Central Asia (London: Kegan Paul International, 1991), pp. 278-305.


More detailed article on this topic in Persian can be found here :

Article by: Prof. Juan Cole

About imranshaykh
I am a student of comparative religion with a special interest in Islam and The Bahai Faith

6 Responses to Earlier Baha’is were involved in Opium Trade

  1. Sukumaran says:

    God is watching you for your utter ignorance and transgression of His Will and Testoment. Is there any wonder why all those past religions including Islam facing the down fall?

    • imranshaykh says:

      Of course God is watching mem, as He is watching you as well. Instead of making such statements, you would be better off trying to explain to me about the “truth” of the Bahai Faith – if there is any truth at all in it.

  2. Sukumaran says:

    In the Holy Quran you will find the evidences and proofs for the coming of Bab and Baha’u’llah.
    The Truth is One,it can’t be different because of our prejudices of colour, race,religion or nationality which block our eyes from seeing the Day light Star!

    • imranshaykh says:

      This is one of the biggest lies perpetrated by the Bahais. Neither the Quran nor traditions have a single proof for the coming of Bab and Bahaullah. If there are, I would like to know them. Please share and we can have a healthy discussion on them., In fact on http://www.bahaiwareness.com I have answered quite a few arguments of Bahais which they have put forth on this topic. While interpreting the Quran, we rely only on the words of the Prophet (pbuh) and his family. Race, religion, caste or creed have no role to play on this matter.

  3. Sukumaran says:

    Misguiding the people from investigating The Truth was the work of priests and the kings! See what happened to these two institutions! Power has been removed from their hands!

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