Ten Days in Tehran: Day 3 – Qom


A city built in the middle of the desert. Too hot in summer and too cold in winter, yet tens of thousands and more flock from world-wide to visit the grave around which the city was founded, and more specifically the attend universities and hawzeh (traditional centres of religious learning). Whose grave is it that has inspired what is currently the powerhouse of religious thinking in Iran and beyond? A woman born in the 9th century CE, who by today’s standards would, due to appearance and heritage, be described as black. There are signs everywhere for those that want to see. What part of the world would she be revered today, let alone the Muslim world? I am visiting Qom to interview some scholars on the genesis and legal reasoning behind the so-called fatwa against Salman Rushdie in 1989. More on that at a later date when things are properly written up. For now, a joke, except that it’s not very funny: When is a fatwa not a fatwa? When it is a hukum. On the way back we stop to buy some drinks. The total for two colas and a bottle of water is now 20p. Six months back it would have been nearer £1.50. It’s grim, but people I have met so far are resolved. They have come this far…

Arzu Merali is a writer and one of the founders of IHRC. She can be contacted via Twitter @arzumerali – You can read more of her blog entries here