Friday, January 8, 2010

Iranian/Persian in Thailand

Iran/Persia and Ayudhya

Iran’s cultural and trade relations with Southeast Asia date back far into the pre-Islamic period. However, official diplomatic relations between the two regions, exemplified by the exchange of non-permanent missions rather than by permanent extraterritorial embassies, become traceable only during the Safavid period (1501-1722).

Contacts between Persians (whether via the Indian subcontinent or from Iran proper) and the Thai people became possible only after the latter’s gradual settlement and domination of the central plains of present-day Thailand. This process of migration culminated in the foundation of Ayutthaya in 1351 by King U Thong (r. 1351-69, under the throne name Ramathibodi) as the capital of a Thai kingdom which became known as Siam. Ayutthaya is situated about 80 km to the north of modern Bangkok. It is strategically located on the navigable Chao Phraya river system which leads to the Gulf of Thailand and was destined to become one of the region’s most important trade emporia, situated equidistant from East Asia, China and India.

Ayutthaya being referred to by a Persian name - Šahr-e Nāv – among foreigners, non-Thais, as well as on the existence of a variety of different spellings for it. Here it can only be mentioned briefly that Šahr-e Nāv – ‘City of Boats and Canals’ – appears to be the correct form.

Culturally, Persians in the royal courts of Siam during the Ayudhya Kingdom introduced to Siam/Thailand the religion of Islam, Islamic cultures and Islamic traditions, including the institution of Sheikh’al Islam (จุฬาราชมนตรี). Some Iranian food—e.g., Chelo morgh (rice with chicken, or ‘kao mok kai’)—is popular in Thailand. Several Persian words have become Thai words, such as Jipoon (Japan), farang (Western foreigner), kulab (rose), caravan, nav (navy นาวี), kuchek kuchek (knickknack กระจุกกระจิก), and chatr (royal umbrella ฉัตร) (source:

Early Persian/Iranian : Sheikh Ahmad Qomi & family

1. Chaophraya Boworn Rajnayok Sheikh Ahmad Qomi- the early Persian in the court of King(1543-1631)

Sheikh Ahmad Qomi , was the Persian who introduced the Islamic faith of the Jaifari 12 imam Sect (know in Siam as the Chao Sen Sect, and known world wide as the Shi - ite Sect) to Siam in the later years of the reign of King Naresuan the Great(1555-1605), toward the end of the Sixteenth century. He was born in 1543 in the village of Tainnajahar, Qom, Persia. Qom is the holy city of Shi'a Muslim, as it is the site of the shrine of Fatema Mæ'sume, sister of Imam `Ali ibn Musa Rida (Persian Imam Reza, 789–816 A.D.). The city is the largest center for Shi'a scholarship in the world, and is a significant destination of pilgrimage.

Sheikh Ahmad Qomi was a Persian and the title 'Sheikh' used in Persia meant much more than an Arab tribal leader, it meant that the title - holder was a highly learned man of the Qoran and a person deem worthy of the utmost respect and honour.

Sheikh Ahmad came to Siam in 1605, for two specific purposes, one was propagating the Islamic faith of the Ja'Fari 12 Imam Sect or Shi-ite Teachings of Islam (known in Siam as Chao Sen Sect) to the Siamese, and the other one was the setting up a 'Trading Post'.

He was highly educated as well as well versed and qualified in the teachings of the Qoran - the Islamic Holy Scriptures. He had and intellect graced with the highest degree of integrity, loyality and responsibility besides being a shrewd administrator. He served his religion as he pledged to do. He also became Siam's greatest statesman of his time; yet, he always remained in the background, never in the limelight. When he became a member of Chao Phya Phra Klang's staff, (the Minister of the Royal Treasury, Customs and Foreign Affairs), he found that the Royal Coffers were depleted, and the system for the collection of tariffs was completely inefficient and poorly adapted to the expenditures of that time. It should be noted that, owing to the continual fighting which had taken place for decades had ceased in the later part of King Somdej Phra Naresuan the Great, Siamese manpower had been drained. The fighting forces at that time thus consisted mostly of foreign mercenaries, the payment which was the main cause of the Royal Coffers being empty. Thus his appointment to reorganize the complete tariff system on more profitable lines, could not have come at a more timely moment. In fact the system he set up was so efficient that it was continued right up to the time of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). It must be noted that when His Majesty King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) reorganized the Royal Treasury, Customs and Foreign Affairs, it was Chao Phya Bhanuwongse (Tuam), the direct descendant of Sheikh Ahmad Qomi, who supervised the reorganization into the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Having settled in Siam, he enthusiastically embarked upon developing his Islamic mission and his trading post. Within a decade, due to his tireless efforts, the Chao Sen Sect was firmly established and the trading mission prospered. While becoming somewhat prosperous on the way, he gained a reputation of being an honest and trust - worthy merchant. It was during this period that he married a lovely upcountry young lady by the name of Ob Chuay who bore him two sons and a daughter. The eldest son, was named Chuen, the second one died before reaching his teens while his daughter was named Chi.

When Sheikh Ahmad Qomi passed away, he held Siam's highest title, that of Chao Phya Boworn Rajnayok. His tomb, stands on the campus of the Phra Nakorn Sri Ayudhya Teachers College.

Sheikh Ahmad, was the ancestor of many respected Thai families, the Bunnag, Singhaseni, Siphen, Chularat and Bunyaratklalin families

Map of Qom/Qum

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Qom (Persian: قم, also known as Q'um or Ghom) is a city in Iran. It lies 156 kilometres (97 miles) by road southwest of Tehran and is the capital of Qom Province. It has an estimated population of 1,042,309 in 2005. It is situated on the banks of the Qom River.

Qom is considered holy by Shi`a Islam, as it is the site of the shrine of Fatema Mæ'sume(Fātimah bint Mūsā' al-Kādhim (Arabic: فاطمة بنت الإمام موسى الكاظم‎) (commonly known as, Fātimah al-Ma‘sūmah - "Fātimah the Innocent", Fatemah Mæ'sume and Masuma-e-Qum), who is the sister of Imam `Ali ibn Musa Rida (Persian Imam Reza, 789–816 A.D.). The city is the largest center for Shi'a scholarship in the world, and is a significant destination of pilgrimage.

Qom is currently the largest center for Shi'a scholarship in the world. There are an estimated 50,000 seminarians in the city coming from 70 countries including 6000 from Pakistan. Qom has seminaries for women and some non-Shia students. Most of the seminaries teach their students modern social sciences and Western thought as well as traditional religious studies. Famous scholars like Grand Ayatollah Khomeini, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri studied from there. Hossein Ali Montazeri died on 19-12-2009 in Qom, and funeral held there on 21-12-2009, which evolved into "a new phase" in Iran's Green Movement 2009 uprising. His body was reported laid to rest in the shrine of Hazrate Masoumeh, one of the most revered female saints in Shia Islam. He was buried alongside his son(source: wikipedia).

Readers can now see the significant of Qom city to Persia/Iran from ancient time until today.

Note to the readers:
This is a video of Bayt an Noor, the worshipping place of Lady Masooma [s] in the last days of her life. The house of Musa ibn Khazraj ibn Sa`d Ash`ari, where Lady Fatima Masuma [s] lived for the few days that she was in Qum, has now become a school named Madres-ye Sittiyeh. [Sittiy means Lady hence the name of the school is School of the Lady]. Till today, opposite the gates of this school and within its grounds, there remains the alter of worship (mihrab `ibadat) of this noble lady, where she spent hours of the last days of her life worshiping.

Again,the article and video is for knowledge enrichment purpose; readers need to be open mind. The blogger is neutral, no political and religion biased. Qom is the birth place of Sheikh Ahmad Qomi,it is a holy place for Shites Muslim and produced many religion scholars. Being missionary, Sheikh Ahmad Qomi learn from many famous teachers there. He take a bold step of courage to leave his birth place and arrive at Siam, and later contributed much to the country. The inter-religion, inter-cultural and inter-racial exposure and interaction is amazing even to the modern man today. From the video, we know where he come from, and the background of his homeland, Qum/Qom.

2. The 2nd generation - Tunn Chuen
Tunn Chuen, Sheikh Ahmad Qomi's son, had been a courtier in King Somdej Phra Chao Song Dhum's reign and then successed his father in the reign of King Narai the Great. He initially received the title of Phya Boworn Chetra Bhakdi, and later was raised to the title of Chao Phya Apai Raja, and held the highest rank of office during this time; Principal Minister of Civil Affairs (North) and Chao Khun Kromma Tha. He maintained these position right through the reign of King Narai the Great. At the age of seventy Chao Phya Apai Raja passed away.

It is important to mention here the adverse influence Constantine Phaulkon, a greek adventurer, had on the diplomatic relations of Siam with the West. Though intially Siam profited from his endeavours, his conversion to Roman Catholicism by the French (who came to Siam in 1663) and his blatant attempt to convert King Narai the Great, incited a revolt in which Phaulkon was executed and most Eupopeans were driven from the country. Henceforth foreign contact was minimized but Tunn Chuen accepted his father's bequest and as such Siam's policy, which lasted until the middle of the nineteenth century, little affected the descendants of Sheikh Ahmad Qomi.

Little more be said of Tunn Chuen except that he carried out the duries of his officers as his father would have wished. His real importance lies in his begetting two children, one who begot Jai, who occasioned the next major occurance in the evolution of Sheikh Ahmad Qomi's family Tree.

Tunn Chuen had two children. The elder child, a daughter named Luen, became the Consort of King Narai the Great. She had one daughter by him, Phra Ong Chao Ying - Princess Saeng Chandr.

The son, his named Somboon, who succeeded his father became Chao Phya Chamnarn Bhakdi in the reign of King Narai the Great.

We wish to digress for a moment by mentioning that Mohamudh Said, Sheikh Ahmad Qomi's brother, due to family concerns and certain amount of home sickness, had departed from Siam for good some years earlier. He had taken with him a prize souvenir - a son Agha Mohamudh. Just before Said died, he told his son about his mother and his family relations back in Krung Sri Ayudhya, in Siam. After Mohamudh Said passed away, Agha Mohamudh returned to Krung Sri Ayudhya. He lived with his first cousin Chao Phya Apai Raja (Chuen), who handed over Mohamudh Said's share of the family fortune. Tunn Chuen then presented Agha Mohamudh to King Narai the Great who bestowed on Agha Mohamudh the title of Phya Sri Naowaratr.

Later on, of major significance hre, Chao Phya Apai Raja (Chuen) asked permission of King Narai the Great to grant Tunn Chi, the daughter of Sheikh Ahmad Qomi and thus Tunn Chuen's sister to leave the royal palace and become a commoner. She had been a consort of King Somdej Phra Chao Prasart Thong, but was childless. The King granted permission. Thus Tunn Chuen played host to Agha Mohamudh and Tunn Chi. It came to pass, propinquity playing its part, that Phya Sri Naowaratr (Agha Mohamudh) married Tunn Chi. They had two sons, the younger of whom, Named Keaow, became the second Phya Chula Rajmontri, Leader of the Muslim Community in Siam, and the successor to Sheikh Ahmad Qomi, in the time of King Narai the Great.

The elder son, named Yee was besowed the title of Chao Phya Srisai Harn Narong in the reign of King Narai the Great. Yee's son named Sonn, became the third Phya Chula Rajmontri (Leader of the Muslim Community in Siam).

In the meantime Phya Sri Nawaratr (Agha Mohamudh) had built a house which was surrounded on three sides by a brick wall. The side facing the canal was left open, and it was known as Kuti Yai. It is in close proximity to Toong Kag, where the majority of the Muslims resided.

The interesting point, which should be mentioned is the influence the Persian language has had on the names of the districts and many places in Krung Sri Ayudhya.

The prefix 'aghayee' and 'Aghayer', before a proper noun, denotes a place or person held in esteem, and is used in a similar manner in the Siamese use of 'Tunn'.

The site of Sheikh Ahmad Qomi's residence, trading post and Kuti Chao Sen (Mosque) is the location of the present day Phra Nakorn Sri Ayudhya Teachers College, and is in front of the river landing known as Taghayee, or Ta Kayee.

3. The 3rd generation - Tunn Somboon
During the reign of King Somdej Phra Chao Prasart Thong, Tunn Somboon, the son of Tunn Chuen was given the title of Chamuen Chorng Bhakdi, attached to the Royal Pages. In the reign of King Somdej Phra Chao Narai the Great, he was elevated to Phya Bumrer Bhakdi, Deputy Commander of the Palace Guards. It must be mentioned that three generations of title - holders exsisted in the early part of the reign of King Somdej Phra Chao Narai the Great(1629-1688). Sheikh Ahmad Qomi, Tunn Chuen and Tunn Somboon. It was then that Sheikh Ahmad Qomi retired owing to old age and bad health, and died shortly thereafter. His successors as Principal Minister of Civil Affairs (North) was Tunn Chuen, and Leader of the Muslim Community of Siam, as already mentioned, was Keaow the son of Agha Mohamudh, who was the son of Mohamudh Said. Chao Phya Chamnarn Bhakdi (Somboon) succeeded Chao Phya Apai Raja (Chuen) as Principal Minister of Civil Affairs (North) which title and position he held till his death.

Chao Phya Chamnarn Bhakdi (Somboon) had two sons, and here is where our interest lies.

The younger son, Chit, Received the title of Phra Prom Surin, he was the Director of the Gentlemen of Arms in the Boworn Palace, but he died when he was in his late twenties.

The elder, Jai, the one more significant in this story, was to succeed Tunn Somboon to become Chao Phya Petr Pichai.

4. 4th Generation- Jai become Buddhist
Jai, the son of Chao Phya Chamnarn Bhakdi (Somboon) was intially a Royal Page of King Somdej Phra Chao Narai the Great, then raised to Phya Petr Pichai in the reign of King Boromma Gotr (1773 - 1758) by the King. According to extracts from archives, on the eighth month of the tenth waning moon, in the year of the Tiger, King Boromma Gotr became seriously ill. Little hope was held for him. He did, however, recover from his illness in the twelveth month. In order to make merit and thanksgiving (to receive benediction from the Buddhist priests and present offerings of food and gifts to them), he decided to go to Mount Phra Buddha Bart (where the sacred Buddha foot - print is located in Saraburi Province).

On this occasion all the senior officials and all members of the Royal Court were to accompany him. The rites were to last for seven days.

During the preliminary arrangements, a list of anybody of any importance was draw up. Jai's name was not included! Needless to say he was displeases and disappointed. He sought and secured an audience with the King and asked why he had been put in disgrace by not being allowed to accompany the King on this occasion. The King pointed out that he was not in disgrace or disfavour, but owing to Jai's nationality and religion, being Persian and a Muslim, he did not feel it proper to have him go on a pilgrimage to the Buddha's Foot print as he was not a Buddhist or a Siamnese. Jai promptly replied that he was more than willing to embrance Buudhism and become a Siamnese. The King immediately consented to have him included in his entourage. Special rites, presided over by His Holiness the Patriarch, were held at Phra Buddha Bart for Jai's acceptance of the Buddhists tenets and the taking of his oath of allegiance to the King. He was then made Chao Phya Petr Pichai. This created even more rejoicing in the merit - making and thanksgiving rites and ceremony. Thus Jai became the first descendant of Sheikh Ahmad Qomi Chao Phya Boworn Rajnayok to become a Siamnese and a Buddhist. It is here that a dicotomy in the descendants of Sheikh Ahmad Qomi occurs: one that has carried on right up to the present. He was also the Commander of the Moor Volunteers as well as the Japanese Volunteer Forces.

Chao Phya Petr Pichai (Jai) had four children, the eldest of whom was a daughter named Keaow. A son Shane, a Muslim, became the fourth Phya Chula Rajmontri, Leader of the Muslim Community in Siam in the reign of King Somdej Phra Chao Egatutr, the last of the Phya Chula Montries of the Ayudhya period. So the leadership of the Muslim Community reverted back to the descendants of Sheikh Ahmad Qomi and away from the descendants of Mohamudh Said, the two brothers who ushered in the Leadership of the Muslim Community in Siam. A son Sane was Phya Maha Sena in the reign of King Somdej Phra Chao Egatutr. The youngest son, Noo, was Chamuen Wai Woranart at the time Krung Sri Ayudhya was sacked by the Burmese. It must be mentioned here that Phya Chula Rajmontri (Shane) was the progenitor of the Ahamudh Chula Family Tree.

5. 5th generation- Chao Phya Maha Sena (Sane)- become Buddhist
Chao Phya Maha Sena (Sane) the lineal line that we will be following was the son of Chao Phya Petr Pichai (Jai) and Khun Ying Chang, and the younger brother of Phya Chula Rajmontri (Shane). However, like his father he became a Buddhist.

He entered the service of King Somdej Phra Baromma Gotr and received the title of Phya Saneyhar Pudhorn. In the reign of King Somdej Phra Chao Utoomporn, he received the title of Phya Jarsan Yakorn, and in the reign of King Somdej Phra Chao Egatutr, the last King of Krung Sri Ayudhya, he was made Chao Phya Maha Sena (Sane).

Chao Phya Maha Sena (Sane) had five children. Three daughters were taken hostage by the Burmese. His two sons, Bunnag and Boonma, escaped the fate of being taken hostage as they had been sent to live with some relatives in Rajburi. Bunnag became the progenitor of the Bunnag Rajineekul Sai Chao Khun Nual (The Queen's Family).

Jai's other son Shane Ahamudh Chula did not follow his father's footsteps to become a Buddhist, but instead remained a Muslim. Earlier in the reign of King Somdej Phra Boromma Gotr, he received the title of Phya Wichit Narong. He was then appointed Phya Chula Rajmontri, Leader of the Muslim Community in Siam. Later he was given charge of the Royal Treasury, but was not given the title of Chao Phya Phra Klang, which was usually given with this position.

Shane's son Gorn Keaow likewise became Phya Chula Rajmontri, Leader of the Muslim Community in Siam in the reign of King Rama I.

6. The 6th generation- Bunnag

Phya Taksin defeated the Burmese and assumed Royal Power as King Taksin(1734-1782) the Great of Dhonburi - for that is where he established his Capital. And who were his classmates earlier in his life at Wat Gossawart in Ayudhya? Why no other that Bunnag and the two brothers Boonma and Thong Duang. The latter to be most instrumental in the rise of power of Bunnag. Although in these early days Sin (King Taksin) never got along with Bunnag. He did get along quite well with Thong Duang and Thong Duang's brother Boonma.

Thong Duang became his right hand man. At first Thong Duang received the title of Phya Ronarith, then Phya Yomaraj and later on when he became General of the Army, he was given the title of Chao Phya Chakri, and towards then end of the reign of King Taksin the Great he was created Somdej Chao Phya Maha Krasatsuk and very soon destined to become King Somdej Phra Buddhayodfah, Rama I(1736-1809)

On Boonma, his younger brother, King Taksin bestowed the title of Phya Rajawangsan, Admiral of the Fleet. Later on he received the title of Chao Phya Surasri Pitsawaraj and in the reign of King Rama I (Thong Duang) he became H.R.H. Prince Kromma Phra Rajawang Boworn Maha Sura Singharaj. In 1803, through his brilliant amphibious campaigns, taking his armies through rivers over vales and dales he outmanoeuvred and defeated the Burmese army in the North of Siam. Since then the Burmese never again fought against the Siamese.

Much earlier Bunnag had taken up residence in Petchaburi. Later on, he became Chao Phya Chakri's (Thong Duang) solicitor and looked after his estates and interests. So well did Bunnag take care of the personal affairs of Chao Phya Chakri, that Chao Phya Chakri accepted Bunnag into his family via the marriage of his wife's sister Nual to Bunnag. This marriage was shortly to propel Bunnag into the Royal family.

Seven years later, this personal friend of Bunnag was proclaimed King Rama I(1736-1809). The start of the Chakri Dynasty which has held sway to the present day. Nark became Queen Amarintra Barom Maha Rajinee; her sister Nual, Chao Khun Nual or Chao Khun Rajabandh II.

Bunnag, the commoner the great great great, great grandson of Chao Phya Boworn Rajnayok (Sheikh Ahmad Qomi), became in time, the highest nobleman of the land with the title of Chao Phya Arkara Maha Sena (Bunnag). He and his descendants are known as Rajineekul Sai Chao Khun Nual or The Family of the Queen. The infant, that was asleep in Chao Khun Nual's arms became King Rama II(1767-1824).


Related articles/websites:
1. Muslim Influences in Seventeenth Century Ayutthaya(2007), by Peter Hourdequin, published in A Graduate Student Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Volume 7 issue 2, Spring 2007.
3. THAILAND-IRAN RELATIONS,by M. Ismail Marcinkowski, Encyclopaedia Iranica Online://
4. Sheikh Ahmad Qomi - ชมรมสายสกุลบุนนาค : The Bunnag Lineage Club,
5. Qom,
6. Hussein-Ali Montazeri,

1 comment:

  1. Hello from Los Angeles California. I have been looking for information concerning the ties between Siam and Persia. This is one of the few articles I have been able to find. It was very informative and I thank you. You sound like a very good person.
    To peace on Earth -