A provincial capital since June 1996, 140 kilometers south of Tehran, Qom is the biggest center of Shi˓ite religious studies and a pilgrimage site next only to Mashhad in importance. A village before it was settled in the seventh and eighth decades of the seventh century by the Ash˓aris, a Shi˓ite Yemenite tribe that had migrated from Iraq due to differences with Sunni Umayyad rulers, it became, in contrast to the predominantly Sunni towns of the region, a major Shi˓ite academic center in the following centuries. Many of the names of authors in al-Najashi's eleventh-century list of Shi˓ite compilers, as well as those of many narrators of traditions in Shi˓ite compendia of hadith, pertain to the Ash˓aris of Qom (not to be confused with the Ash˓ari theological school).
Qom's fame as an academy seems to have disappeared after the eleventh century, as the center of Shi˓ite learning in Iran shifted to Rey and other northern towns. Although such figures as Fayz Kashani (d. 1681) and Molla Mohammad Tahir Qommi (d. 1686) lived here during the Safavid era, Qom's partial reemergence as an academy was due to the patronage of the Qajars. The presence of Mirza-ye Qommi (d. 1816), who enjoyed the patronage of Fath ˓Ali Shah (1797–1834), is considered a point of departure in the history of Qom as an academy. However, a new era began with the arrival of Ayatollah Ha˒eri (1859–1936) in 1921. He established the present center of learning (hawza-ye ˓ilmiyya) during a period when the Qajar regime was passing away and the Pahalvi regime was taking shape. From the times of Ayatollah Borujerdi (d. 1961) onward, the hawza began its rapid growth. At the end of Reza Shah's reign the number of seminary students was about 500. It was above 6,000 in 1975, and above 23,000 in 1991, and presently students from Iran and abroad make up more than 36,000. Under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini, a pupil of Ayatollah Ha˒eri, Qom played a key role in leading the opposition to the Pahlavi regime in the events of 1964. It was here that on 9 January 1978 the confrontation with the Shah's security forces occurred, an event that triggered off the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Qom's political importance as a spiritual and academic center of the Shi˓ite clergy has grown enormously following the Islamic Revolution. From being a small town with a population of 96,499 in 1956, Qom itself has grown rapidly to become one of the major cities of Iran, with a population of 825,627 in 2000.
Qom's fame as a pilgrimage spot visited by millions from Iran and abroad is mainly due to the shrine of Fatimah the Infallible (ma˓sumah) (d. 816), daughter of Musa b. Ja˓far, the seventh imam. On the way to visiting her brother, Imam ˓Ali b. Musa al-Reza, who was at Marv at the time, she died after a brief illness at Qom. Since then her shrine has been a pilgrimage spot, whose sacred precincts have served as a site for royal and noble mausoleums as well as a favored burial ground of the faithful since the Safavid and Qajar periods. Although the city and the shrine received some royal attention during the rule of the Buwayhid (tenth century), Seljuk (eleventh century), Qara Qoyunlu and Aq Qoyunlu (sixteenth century) regimes, the present structure dates partly from the Safavid and largely from the Qajar era. Other sites visited for pilgrimage (ziyara) are the graves of numerous Alavite personages in and around Qom (about 400 imamzadahs, or descendents of the imams, are said to be buried in the city and surrounding hamlets). A third major attraction is the Jamkaran Mosque, located five kilometers from the city. Visited by more than an estimated ten million people annually, it is believed to have been built at the order of the Twelfth Imam. These shrines in conjunction with numerous traditions related from the imams concerning the station of Qom as a Shi˓ite sanctuary and stronghold make it Iran's second holiest city after Mashhad.
Shrine town in Iran.
The city of Qom (also Qum), 92 miles (148 km) south of Tehran, is, after Mashhad (the burial place of the eighth Shiʿite imam, Ali Reza), the second most important shrine town in Iran. The sister of Imam Reza, Hazrat-e Fatima, is buried in Qom. The city was a winter capital as well as a royal mausoleum town during medieval times and was strongly patronized when the Shiʿite Safavids came to power during the sixteenth century. In 1920 a religious center of learning (hauzeh-ye ilmiyeh) was established in the city by Shaykh Abd al-Karim Ha'eri Yazdi. Through its madrasas (religious schools) Qom is one of the main centers of Islamic studies in Iran today. With the accession to power of Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1925 and the modernization reforms undertaken, the town soon became the scene of a struggle between the monarchy and the religious establishment. The first major episode of violence that precipitated the Iranian Revolution of 1979 occurred there. When Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned to Iran in 1979 as the leader of the revolution, he established his headquarters in the Madrasa-y Faiziyeh in Qom.
see also iranian revolution (1979).