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The Persian Influence Over Ayuthiya (Ayutthaya)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

نقش تاریخی شيخ احمد قمی در مناسبات ایران و تایلند

دانشگاه تربیت معلم شهر آیوتایا پایتخت سابق تایلند دارای بنائی است كه در آن از عناصر معماري ايراني اسلامي استفاده شده وقدمت آن به اواسط دهه 1990 می رسد. این بنا که مقبره یکی از بزرگان مهاجر ایرانی است دارای گنبد تذهيب شده ای است که یاداور بناهای تاریخی ایران می باشد. از تابلوئی که در کناراين مقبره وجود دارد می توان دریافت که مقبره متعلق به شيخ احمد اهل قمی ملقب به "شخصیت فوقالعاده" یا "چاوپرايا بوورن راج نايوك " مي باشد.

شيح احمد یک مسلمان شيعه است که در سال 1543 ميلادي در شهر قم، ديده به جهان گشود.وی در اولين سالهاي قرن هفدهم (1605) يعني زماني که کشور تايلند از زير سلطه پانزده ساله برمه اي ها آزاد شده به آيوتايا مهاجرت کرد و پس از مدتي توانست در سايه مديريت و درايت خود در دربار پادشاه سيام نفوذ کرده و به يکي از مقامات عاليرتبه سيام مبدل گردد.

شيخ احمد با بانويي جوان از آيوتايا بنام"چوری" که از خاندان سلطنتي بود ازدواج كرد و از او داراي دو پسر و يك دختر شد. پسر بزرگتر وي "چوئن" نام داشت. ازپسر دوم وي که در سنين نوجواني در گذشت اطلاع زيادي موجود نيست. دختر او نيز "چای" ناميده شد. اين خانواده پايه گذار خاندانهای بزرگ بوناک و احمد چولای که هنوز هم در تايلند صاحب نام و دارای مناصب عالي هستند به حساب مي آيند.

اگرچه با هجوم مجدد برمه به سيام و هجمه به مراکز فرهنگي و و تخريب کتابخانه ها و نابود سازي اسناد تاريخي و کتب، اطلاعات زيادي جهت شناخت جزئيات زندگي و نقش شيخ احمد قمي در سيام موجود نمي باشد اما بارجوع به دفتر خاطرات مقامات آن عصر از جمله خانواده سلطنتي و همچنين مستندات تاريخي موجود در مراكز مذهبي مسلمانان و معابد بودايي مي توان به موقعيت بالاي شيخ احمد و ميزان نفوذ وي در دربارسلطنتي سيام پي برد.

آقاي دكتر "تاتیا بوناک" از نوادگان شيخ احمد قمي مي گويد

"شيخ احمد قمي كه از زادگاه خود شهر قم و به قصد ترويج عقايد شيعي و همچنين تجارت راهي اين منطقه شده بود با ورود به شهر “ آيوتايا” پايتخت وقت “ سيام ” توانست از پادشاه وقت يعني “ نارا سوان ” كبير اجازه نامه دريافت کند و پس از يك دهه اقامت در آيوتايا، علاوه بر انجام ماموريت اسلامي خود يعني تبليغ و ترويج دين اسلام و مذهب شيعه، در فعاليتهاي تجاري و يازرگاني نيز به پيشرفت و شهرت قابل توجهي دست يايد.نسل هاي پس از او نيز توانستند از قرن هفدهم تا عصر حاضر، آوازه و نام بلند او را پاس دارند و آنان نيز چون جد خود شيخ احمد قمي داراي موقعيت ممتاز اجتماعي و سياسي در كشور تايلند گردند."

شيخ احمد قمي طي شش دوره پادشاهي سيام ارتباطات نزديكي با دربار و پادشاهان وقت داشت. وی در دوران سلطنت شاه" فارا سوام سنگدوم" که با شاه عباس صفوی معاصر بوده، به عنوان مشاور عالي وی و وزير خزانه داري منصوب و مسئوليت تمامي امور مربوط به تجارت خارجي را بر عهده گرفت. در همین دوره بود که وی به خاطر مساعی خود جهت توسعه بنادر به دستور پادشاه به مقام "پياشيخ احمدراتتانارج ستي" یا "انسان بزرگ" که از القاب درباری بود نائل گشت. از این پس وی موظف شد در کنار ساماندهی تجارت خارجي،مشاجرات بين خارجيان را نیز حل و فصل كند. او همچنين اولین کسی بود که در زمان رياست جامعه مسلمانان سيام به مقام "چولا راج مونتري" یا "شیخ الاسلامی" رسيد، مقامي كه بر اساس آن اجازه یافت تا مذهب شيعه اثني عشري را به جامعه تايلند معرفی کند.

دفتر شيخ الاسلام كه به نحوي وزير امورمسلمانان به حساب مي آيد و تاقبل از شيخ احمد وجود نداشت در زمان ریاست وی افتتاح شد. شاه سنگدوم مقام شیخ الاسلامی را به او تفويض كرد.اين دفتر هنوز به كار خود ادامه مي دهد.

بر اساس اسناد مکتوب از جمله نوشته هاي ابن محمد ابراهيم، به دلیل حضور شیخ احمد،اكثريت مسلمانان آيوتايا را شيعيان تشكيل مي دادند اگرچه جمعيت سني هم به احتمال قوي كه اغلب از اهالی مالزی و اندونزي بودند وجود داشته است. رابطه مسلمانان شيعه و بودائيها بر اساس احترام و بردباري بناشده بود. جالب است بدانيم كه تا سال 1945 خانواده سلطنتي تنها حكم شيخ الاسلامي را براي شيعيان كه از نوادگان شيخ احمد بودند تفويض مي كردند. لذا تنها چهار نفر شيخ الاسلام اخير سني وما قبل از آن (سیزده نفر)شيعه بوده اند.

وی در این دوره مسئوليت مدیریت امور گمرگي و تجارت، امور خارجه،بندر، وحل وفصل اختلافات و دعاوي خارجيان مقيم آيوتايا را متقبل شد.محل كار و زندگي شیخ احمد در محله "گايي" از نقاط معروف آیوتویا بود.

از حوادث مهم دیگر که موجب افزایش احترام شیخ احمد گردید مداخله وی در جریان حمله جمعی از اتباع ناراضی خارجی به قصر پادشاه و تصرف آن بود.در این مقطع شيخ احمد از طریق عوامل خود مردم را از اين امر مطلع کرد و با کمک آنان به غائله خاتمه داد. بعد ازاين اقدام خطرناك بود که وی توسط شاه به مقام "چائوفيا" یا "انسان شجاع" رسيد.

آخرین ارتقاء مقام شیخ احمد درزمان شاه "پراساتترنگ" بود.در این زمان شيخ احمد در سن هشتاد و هفت سالگی به عنوان مشاور افتخاري شاه درامورداخلي برگزيده شد. او يك سال بعد يعني درسال 1631 ميلادي و در اوالیل سلطنت " نارای" در سن هشتاد و هشت سالگي ديده از جهان فروبست.

از این پس تمامي كساني كه به این مسئوليتها نائل شدند از نوادگان شيخ احمد قمي بودند واين مقام تا هشتمين نسل از نوادگان وی یعنی تا زمان"راماي پنجم" در سال 1875 ادامه داشت.

"با ورود شیخ احمد به آیودیا و تشکیل تاسیسات اسلامی،در این ناحیه برای نخستین بار اسلام بصورت جدی رایج شد.مذهب شیعه،خط عربی و زبان فارسی به دلیل نفوذ وی و پیروانش در این کشور گسترش یافت.به طوری که مسلمانان تایلندی واژه نماز رابه همین شکل فارسی می شناسند،و کسانی که عربی می دانند واژه صلاه را به کار می برند."

فرزندان شیخ احمد
نسل دوم فرزندان شیخ احمد بدینصورت شکل گرفت که محمد سعيد برادر شيخ احمد كه همراه وي به آيوتايا آمده بود بدليل مسائل فاميلي و مشكلات روحي، سيام را به قصد ايران ترك نمود. پسرمحمد سعید به نام آقامحمدكه از همسر تايلندي وی بود نیز همراه پدر به ايران رفت. پس از در گذشت محمد سعيد در ایران، آقا محمد دوباره به آيوتايا بازگشت و در منزل فرزند شیخ احمد یعنی پسر عمويش"تون چوئن" زندگي کرد.

پس از مدتی "تون چوئن" آقا محمد را به شاه نارای معرفي نمود و از شاه در خواست نمود تا اجازه دهد كه "چای" دختر شيخ احمد قمي با آقامحمد پسر عموی خودازدواج نمايد. ثمره اين ازدواج دو پسر بود كه پسر جوانتر به نام "کیائو" بعدها رهبر جامعه مسلمانان تايلند و جانشين شيخ احمد قمي در دوران پادشاهی نارای گردید. پسر بزرگتر نیز به نام "ری" در زمان سلطنت همین پادشاه، همچون برادرش سمت شيخ الاسلامي يا رهبري جامعه مسلمانان تايلند رابرعهده گرفت.

نسل سوم پس از فوت "تون چوئن" شکل گرفت و فرزند وی یعنی نوه شیخ احمد به نام "سامبون" جانشين پدر شد و به عنوان وزير امور شهري انتخاب گرديد. سامبون نيز اين منصب را تازمان مرگ برعهده داشت و پس از آن پسر ارشد وی به نام "جای" جانشين سامبون گرديد. پسر كوچكتر وی بنام"چیت" نیز رئيس گارد مسلح قصر بوداما در عنفوان جوانی و در سن بيست سالگي در گذشت.

نسل چهارم با تغییر مذهب برخی از نوادگان شيخ احمدقمي همراه شد.در این مقطع "جای" يعني پسر ارشد سامبون نوه شيخ احمد قمي، در ابتدا در دربار پادشاه نارای بود.وی نیز همانند اعقاب خود مراحل رشد راطی کرد و در سال 1758-1733 یعنی دوره سلطنت پادشاه "بورماگوتر" به عنوان فرمانده نگهبانان قصر سلطنتي و فرمانده نيروهاي داوطلب ضد ژاپني گمارده شد.

اهميت دوران زندگی "جای" به دليل نقش وي در شكل گيري اولين نسل بودايي در خاندان شيخ احمد قمي است. ماجراي تغيير مذهب بدينگونه است كه پادشاه به دنبال رهائی از یک بيماری و براي ابراز تشكر و سپاس از بودا در یکی از معابد مراسم مذهبي بزرگي برپاي داشت واز تمامي دو لتمردان و اعضاي دربار سلطنتي باستثنای "جای"برای شرکت در آن دعوت کرد. "جای" از اين امر به شدت ناراحت و شد و در ملاقاتي با پادشاه دليل اين امر را جويا شد. پادشاه علت عدم دعوت از وی را مليت ايراني و مذهب او عنوان کرد و گفت تا زمانی که وی ایرانی و شیعه باشد نمی تواند در مراسم مذهبی دربار شرکت کند.
از این پس"جای" برای حضور بیشتر در کنار شاه طی یک مراسم رسمی در معبد بودائیان مذهب بودا را پذیرفت و به تابعیت سیام درامد.شاه نیز دستور داد تا نام وي نيز درليست درباریان ثبت گردد.
اين امر موجب گرديد كه اولين انشعاب مذهبي در ميان نوادگان شيخ احمد قمي پديدار گردد. انشعابي كه تازمان حاضر ادامه دارد.

اما "جای" چهار فرزند داشت. بزرگترين فرزند وي دختري بود به نام "کیائو" که وی به کیش بودائی در آمد اما يكي از پسران وي بنام "شی ین" بردين اسلام ماند و بعد ها رهبر جامعه مسلمانان سيام و آخرين شيخ الاسلامي دوره تاريخ آيوتايا گرديد. وی در زمان سلطنت شاه"سومجد" به عنوان رهبر جامعه مسلمانان انتخاب گرديد. پسران "شی ین" راه پدر را دنبال كردند و تا چندين نسل، منصب شيخ الاسلامي در ميان فرزاندن Shane دور مي زد.

بدين ترتيب منصب شيخ الاسلام پس از مدتي كه توسط فرزندان محمد سعيد برادر شيخ احمد اداره مي شد، مجدداً به دست فرزندان شيخ احمد افتاد خاندان معروف احمد چولا که هنوز هم در تایلند وجود دارند از اعقاب"شی ین"محسوب می شوند. پسر دیگر "جای" يعني "نوو" نيز در جنگ با برمه اي ها كشته شد.

نسل پنجم پس از انشعاب در مذهب نوادگان شیخ احمد شکل گرفت.در این مقطع چهارمین فرزند "جای"که "سون"نام داشت همانند پدر به مسلک بودايي درآمد و در خدمت شاه "بروماگوتر" بود و در سایه خوش خدمتی به لقب "فیا سانیهار پادهوم"یا "مقام بزرگ"مفتخر شد.

"سون" پنج فرزند داشت. سه دختر او توسط برمه اي ها به اسارت گرفته شدند و دو پسر او به نامهاي "بوناک"و "بومنا"، به شهر راجبوری مهاجرت کرده و از مرگ رهايي يافتند. امروزه "بوناک" جد خانواده بوناك مي باشد كه فرزندان و نوادگان وي در تاريخ معاصر تايلند چه در عصر قدیم و چه در عصر جديد نقش برجسته و ممتازي برعهده داشته اند."بوناک" همچنين جد خانواده ملكه "چاو کون نوال"مي باشد.

"شی ین"پسر ديگر "جای" كه بر اسلام باقي مانده بود، علاوه بر منصب شيخ الاسلامي، مسئوليت خزانه داري سلطنتي را نيز برعهده داشت. پسر او به نام"کیائو گورن" نيز همچون پدر به منصب شيخ الاسلامي و رهبري جامعه مسلمانان سيام در زمان شاه راماي اول، دست يافت.



King Narai himself is said to have been under Iranian cultural influence in terms of his daily food and dress and his preferred architectural styles", M. Ismail Marcinkowski, Phd, "SAFINE-YE SOLAYMANI"
Sheikh Ahmad Qomi, was an Iranian expatriate who lived in Thailand for 26 years. He was a merchant, a religious figure and the architect of cultural relations between Persian And Siam. He was also one of the pioneers of promoting Islam in East Asia.

Sheikh Qomi was born in Iranian holy city of Qom in 1543 and moved to Bangkok in 1605 at the age of 62. He lived in Siam for 26 years until his death. He was trusted in Siam royal court and undertook top positions in government hierarchy of Siam thanks to his insight and intellect.
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SIAM-IRANIAN RELATIONS

Iran's cultural and trade relations with Southeast Asia date back far into the pre-Islamic period. With regard to the Sasanid and the early Islamic periods, the studies by Colless and Tibbetts (see bibliography) are essential. 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.

In the 1st half of the 15th century, the Muslim Chinese writer Ma Huan, who accompanied the famous Ming admiral Cheng Ho on some of his explorations in the Indian Ocean region, also visited Siam (Hsien-lo) and reported on the presence in Ayutthaya (Yu-ti-ya) of "five or six hundred families of foreigners," however, without explicitly mentioning Persians among them (Ma Huan, tr. Mills, p. 106). In 1442, however, ¿Abd al-Razza@q Samarqandi, in his Matla' al-Sa'dayn (English tr. in Browne, vol. 3, pp. 397-, refers explicitly to close trade connections between the Persian Gulf emporium of Hormuz and ˆahr-e Na@v, a synonym for Ayutthaya. Arab sources of the 15th century, too, such as Ebn Ma@jid, refer to the same ˆahr-e Na@v, calling it ˆahr Nawa@ (Tibbetts, tr. Arab Navigation, 'index of place names' and 'Arabic index').

I have elaborated elsewhere (Marcinkowski, "The Iranian Siamese Connection", p. 25-29) on the circumstance of Ayutthaya being referred to by a Persian name - ˆahr-e Na@v – 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 ˆahr-e Na@v – 'City of Boats and Canals' – appears to be the correct form (see also Persian Presence in Islamic Communities of South-East Asia; Al-Attas, The Mysticism of Hamzah Fansuri, pp. 3 ff.; Abdul Rahman Haji Ismail (ed.), Serajah Melayu. The Malay Annals, pp. 110 ff.; English tr. in Brown, (tr.), pp. 45 ff.; Hobson-Jobson, pp. 795-96, entry "Sarnau, Sornau").

In order to understand the background of the presence of Persians in Siam, it is important to consider the wider setting. The insubordinate status of the principality of Malacca (a vassal of Ayutthaya on the Malay Peninsula) during the 15th century, and especially its final extinction by the Portuguese in 1511, had forced its Siamese sovereigns to look for additional gateways for trade with the western Indian Ocean region. During the 1460s Siam took control of Tenasserim, followed in 1480 by Mergui (Sunait, pp. 104-18), thus gaining direct access to the Gulf of Bengal and Mughal India. Further west, the 16th century saw major political changes in northern India with the gradual establishment of the Mughals. Towards the beginning of the 17th century the Mughals had gained full control over Bengal and Orissa, by which they obtained access to the Bay of Bengal. A formidable power in the southern Indian region was the Deccan kingdom of the Qotb-Shahi dynasty (1512-1687)in Golconda (see the studies by Sherwani and Minorsky), a successor-state of the Bahmanid kingdom (1347-1525). The Qotb-Shahi rulers were Twelver Shi'ites with political links to the Safavid shahs of Iran, whose names where even mentioned alongside the names of the Twelve Imams in the sermon during Friday prayers. Their highly Iranized kingdom was not only a major trading power but also was to become a haven for Shi'ites, in most cases Persians from Persia but also from northern India, who were at times subjected to persecution under the Sunni Mughals. In his study of the migration of Persians from Persia to India and Southeast Asia, Subrahmanyam (see bibliography) has provided abundant evidence for their massive economic, political and literary presence in the Qotb-Shahi kingdom. By the 2nd half of the 16th century intensive trade links existed between Golconda's main port Masulipatam (or Matchlibandar) and Siamese Tenasserim (see Alam and Arasaratnam). The Qotb-Shahi kingdom thus also served as an important gateway to Southeast Asia, and the Thai empire of Ayutthaya in particular, since merchant-ships bound for the east used its harbors as stopover ports. In spite of the existence of Bengali, Gujarati, and Hadrami trade networks in the Indian Ocean region, the role of the Persians should be seen as beyond that of pure merchants. This last aspect, i.e. the various additional educational and cultural activities of the Persians, however, still needs further investigation and clarification since similar activities are due also to the Hadramis with regard to their role in spreading Sufism in Southeast Asia. In the light of the dominating role of Persianized Muslim states on the subcontinent, however, it is not surprising that the Siamese trading emporium of Ayutthaya should have been known to the mainly Muslim merchants under a Persian name. Politically and militarily, the Qotb-Shahi kingdom was on the decline from the 2nd half of the 17th century on, due particularly to Mughal pressure from the north. To the knowledge of the present writer, Indo-Persian historiographical literature (especially from the Deccan) has not yet been investigated with regard to Siamese-Deccan relations from the 15th century onwards. (For an overview of Persian literary activities in that kingdom see the excellent, but often neglected, study by Devare).

The first Persians in the Ayutthaya kingdom might thus have settled in Tenasserim and Mergui (Subrahmanyam). There is evidence, at least, for Persians in Siam's Burmese neighboring state Pegu and in Malacca for the early 16th century (Ferrier, p. 423, based on assertions by the early 16th-century travelers Ludovico de Varthema and Tome‚ Pires). The presence of Persians in the Siamese capital Ayutthaya, however, seems to have remained limited in number up to the beginning of the 17th century. Several factors appear to have contributed to an emigration of Persians (mainly from southern India, but perhaps also directly from Iran) to Siam, in particular during the 17th century. These include political instability in the Deccan, the extension of international Safavid trade under Shah ¿Abba@s II (r. 1642-66) and the expansion of Siamese trade with East Asia, in particular Japan (see the works by Yoko Nagazumi and Hiromu Nagashima). This latter resulted in Ayutthaya becoming an important entrepôt of its own for trade with that region, and thus attracted foreign immigration. Up to the end of the 17th century Shi'ite Persians, whether immigrants from India (in particular the Shi'ite kingdoms of the Deccan) or from Iran proper, might have even have constituted the majority of the Muslims resident at Ayutthaya. The French traveler and diplomat Guy Tachard (part 2, pp. 214-15) reported ta¿zia processions during the 1680s in that city, sponsored by the Siamese (Buddhist!) monarch (for the text see my "Shi'ism in Southeast Asia", "Persian Presence in Islamic Communities of South-East Asia").

One obstacle to research on the Iranian community in Ayutthaya using the surviving fragments of Thai 'Royal Chronicles' is the circumstance that non-Siamese individuals, whether subjects or foreign residents and visitors, are for the most part hidden under Thai official titles and are referred to throughout as khaek if they are of Middle Eastern or Indian ethnic origin. In the latter case non-Muslims are included (see Cushman tr., ed. Wyatt, index of proper names, "khaek"). Interestingly, in the 'Royal Chronicles', when referring to events from the 16th century until today, the Thai language refers to Westerners by the expression farang (ibid., "farang"). In that form farang is derived from Persian, where it has the same connotation. Apparently there exist other fragments of Thai chronicles which survived the sack of the Ayutthaya in 1767 at the hands of Burmese invaders but to which the present author has had no access. Thai historians of the 19th and early 20th centuries have based their works on them (see Chao Phraya Thiphakorawong Maha Kosa Thibodi). They refer to a certain "Shaikh Ahámad Qomi" or "Kuni", an immigrant who is said to have arrived toward the beginning of the 17th century as a merchant "from the West", perhaps via India. He is said to have risen to favor with Song Tham (r. 1610/11-1628), who appointed him to the highest administrative positions and who put him in charge of Siam's entire trade with the Middle East and Muslim India (Wyatt, Thailand, p. 108). Under the Thai title chualarajmontri, the Muslim office of Shaikh al-Isla@m (Marcinkowski, "Iranians, Shaikh al-Isla@ms and Chularajmontris"; idem, Mirza Rafi'a's Dastur al-Muluk, pp. 86-87 and 268-78) was introduced to Siam by Shaikh Ahámad, who was appointed to this position by the king as its first holder (for details see shi¿ites in southeast asia). The necessity for this action might be seen in the increase of Ayutthaya's Muslim (Shi'ite?) population (Marcinkowski, "Iranians, Shaykh al-Isla@ms and Chularajmontris"; Yusuf, "Islam and Democracy in Thailand: Reforming the Office of Chularajmontri/Shaykh al-Isla@m"). Remarkably, his Shi'ite descendants who became known as the Bunnag family, continued to be appointed to this position up to 1945. Since that year, Sunnites had held that office. From about 1750 onwards, the majority of his descendants, however, converted to Buddhism in order to be allowed to be present at court permanently, and many of them hold influential positions in Thai public life even today.

The fortunes of Ayutthaya's Iranian community rose under King Narai (r. 1656-88) who opened the kingdom further to foreign trade and who was also interested in cultural contacts. For this period we have the late 17th-century Persian travel account Safine-ye Solaymani of a Safavid embassy to Siam (see Safine-ye Solaymani, and bibliography), written by Ebn Moháammad Ebra@him. To our present knowledge, the SS appears to be the only extant Persian source for the extensive Safavid contacts with the region in question. In it we read that "[s]ince Siam is close to the ports of India and is situated on the sea route to China and Japan, merchants have always been attracted to settle there" (ibid., tr. O'Kane, p. 94). Ayutthaya's becoming an emporium of international trade in Asia, the presence of numerous foreign merchants there, and political and strategic considerations might have driven the Siamese rulers, apparently on the advice of the resident Iranian community, to seek diplomatic contacts with other countries with an interest in Indian Ocean trade, perhaps also as a counterbalance to Mughal India. In 1664, for instance, the court of Golconda received a splendid Siamese embassy (Alam, "Masulipatam", p. 178). In 1669, another Siamese embassy, sent by king Narai (r. 1656-88), arrived at the court of the Safavid Shah Solayman (r. 1666-94) (Records of the Relations Between Siam and Foreign Countries in the Seventeenth Century, vol. 2, pp. 92-98.). Another Siamese trade mission was in Iran in 1680/81 (Hutchinson, p. 11 n. 2, and pp. 127-28.). A letter by the Apostolic Vicar and titular bishop François "of Caesaropolis," a French missionary based in Isfahan, to his sovereign Louis XIV, dated 20 January 1683, also refers to a Siamese embassy which was present during that year at the Safavid court (Du Mans, ed Schefer, p. 339). Engelbert Kaempfer, too, who visited Iran prior to his sojourns in Siam and subsequently Japan, reports in July 1684 of (another?) Siamese embassy present at the shah's court at the Ba@g@-e Sa¿da@ba@d, referring to a "native-born Persian" as the leader of the Siamese delegation (Kaempfer, Am Hofe, p. 199). This individual was most probably the Hajji Salim Ma@zandara@ni referred to by Ebn Moháammad Ebra@him (

Ibn Muhammad Ibrahim, The Ship of Solayman, tr. O'Kane, pp. 20, 104, 105; see also Aubin, "Les Persans", pp. 121-22). The Iranian embassy of 1685/86 to Ayutthaya (of which Ebn Moháammad Ebra@him was a member) was thus rather a return visit, responding to the Siamese mission to Isfahan of 1684 and thus not to the earlier Siamese visit of 1669.

Ayutthaya's development as a major trading power in the 2nd half of the 15th century resulted in an influx of foreign merchants, many of whom were to stay permanently. This necessitated the introduction of maritime laws and of clearly marked responsibilities for officials dealing with foreigners (Breazeale, "Thai Maritime Trade and the Ministry Responsible," in idem, ed., From Japan to Arabia, pp. 1-54). A similar situation prevailed with other states on the Indian Ocean rim such as Malacca on the Malay Peninsula and Masulipatam, where officials with the Persian title æa@bandar were to be found (Subrahmanyam, "Iranians Abroad" p. 345; Barbara Watson Andaya, "Malacca"). The maritime relations of Ayutthaya were the responsibility of a minister known in Thai as Phra Khlang, rendered by Breazeale (loc. cit., p. 5) as 'Ministry of External Relations and Maritime Trading Affairs'. The title Phra Khlang became known to European traders of the time under various corrupted forms such as 'Berklam' or 'Barcalon' (Kaempfer, A Description, p. 39; Smithies, ed. and tr., The Chevalier de Chaumont, p. 111). This ministry was organized in four main departments: the "Department of General Administration, Appeals and Records;" the "Department of Western Maritime Affairs;" the "Department of Eastern Maritime Affairs and Crown Junks," and the "Department of Royal Warehouses." The "Department of Western Maritime Affairs" was concerned with the Indian Ocean trade and was called in Thai Krom Tha Khwa (literally: the Harbor Department of the Right). At court, the official in charge of it sat to the right of the king, higher than his colleague of the "Eastern Department" who sat to the left of the monarch and who was regarded as lower in rank. The holder of the "Western Department" was usually a Muslim. The Iranian Shaikh Ahámad, whom we shall consider below, was in charge of the Krom Tha Khwa. Apparently, the Krom Tha Khwa department also had various territorial responsibilities, in particular with regard to the Siamese Indian Ocean ports on the west coast of the peninsula. The power of the "Western Department," which was larger and more complex than its "Eastern" counterpart, declined towards the later 18th century. Leonard Andaya has referred to the office of Phra Klang as "king's merchant" and noticed apparent similarities between the Malek al-Tujja@r ('king of merchants', see Marcinkowski, Mirza Rafi'a's Dastur al-Muluk, quick-reference) in Iran and comparable offices in the Southeast Asian trading world, such as that of æa@hbandar (L. Andaya, "Ayutthaya", p. 127).
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TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- Tehran's Ambassador to Bangkok Mohsen Pakaein said the roots of Iran-Thailand cultural ties date back 400 years to the time when Sheikh Ahmad Qomi, an Iranian scholar, traveled to Ayutthaya and later was appointed to a very high position in the Thais Court.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with FNA to mark the commemoration day of Sheikh Ahmad Qomi who, the envoy said, had played a very important role in the strengthening of ties between Iran and Thailand, Pakaein said the most renowned reign of Ayutthaya (previous capital of Thailand) was that of King Prasartthong, who introduced great changes in the Thai society.

"Sheikh Ahmad Qomi came in this period, which saw several Muslims holding important posts in the Thais Court, the army, navy and civil service," he said, adding, "As a result, Ayutthaya became a place where mosques were located near Buddhist temples and many Muslims married Buddhists. These persons became the ancestors of many respected Thai families , for example, the Bunnag, Singhaseni, Siphen, Chularat and Bunyaratklalin families."

The diplomat further underlined the crucial role of cultural interactions in creating mutual understanding and friendship between two peoples.

"The Persian influence over Ayutthaya also cover architecture, arts, food and sweets," he said.

"The arches in the old buildings in present-day Ayutthaya are Islamic pointed arches. Bricks are laid so that the weight is transferred down to the walls on both sides. This type of arch can be seen in the front gate of King Narai's Palace in Lop Buri, and at Wat Worachettharam temple in Ayutthaya. The pagoda at Wat Yai Chaimongkol temple in Ayutthaya was also built in the style of the Persian dome," he added.

According to the Iranian ambassador to Bangkok, Persian influence is also discernible in the Thai vocabulary.

"Modern Thai does contain several words of Persian origin which are in current use, such as the Thai words for kulaap ('rose', from Persian golaab), or kalam plii ('cabbage', from Persian kalam(," he concluded.

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