Childhood & Youth

Hadj Nemat was born within an Ahl-e Haqq milieu in which an individual's social identity and status were determined by his degree of devotion to the order's rites and rituals. His birthplace of Jeyhounabad, a remote village that was a considerable distance from the central region, was located in the Dinevar area that comprises a part of the province of Kermanshah. In 1834-35, his ancestors migrated from the western part of Kurdistan and settled in that region during the reign of Mohammad Shah Qajar; hence, the name "Jeyhounabadi," which means "from the village of Jeyhounabad."

As one of the small landowners, his family was among the most respected in the area, recognized for its nobility, knowledge, courageousness, and chivalry. Available sources establish that the family governed the affairs of the village and its surrounding areas, settling disputes and quarrels between locals and neighboring farmers and defending the community against the hostilities of insurgents. That is why Hadj Nemat was able to receive an education like his father and uncle and enter government service, an option that was beyond the reach of ordinary locals.

The name "Nematollah" (God's grace) was given to him because his birth coincided with the end of a difficult famine in 1870-71 that caused numerous deaths. Hadj Nemat was around seven years old when he lost his father; three years later he would lose his mother as well. In keeping with the local custom of the time, his paternal uncle assumed guardianship of him and his brother and sister. Although his uncle tried to raise them as his own, Hadj Nemat in his later autobiographical writings would complain about the pain of being orphaned and alone during his childhood.

I was but a seven-year-old
When life's bitterness took hold

At ten, my mother also passed away
And the pain of the heavens took sway

With my uncle I was brought to stay
Untold suffering colored my days

There is no greater misery for any child
Than the death of his parents and its trials

Whoever has been orphaned knows full well
If it is better being an orphan or being in hell

Perhaps this experience helps to explain the constant care and attention that he rendered throughout his life to orphans and those who had no one, a point that is reflected in his teachings as well.

While living with his paternal uncle, Mirza Gholam Ali, Hadj Nemat continued pursuing his education and personal studies. His integrity and aptitude in the handling of various affairs led his uncle to eventually entrust him with the management of his estate. Around the age of 26, Hadj Nemat's merit, aptitude, and literary skills were such that his uncle—who had always taken a special interest in him—introduced him to government officials in order to launch Hadj Nemat's career in the civil service. In the beginning, he served as an assistant to the Vakil-al-Dowleh or district attorney in Dinevar for two years. However, as a result of his strictness in ensuring that the affairs of peasants were properly tended to, he was discharged from his position. Later, on account of his merit he was appointed as an assistant to Azam-al-Dowleh, the governor of the province of Kermanshah. During this post, he was occasionally dispatched as the Governor's deputy on various missions around Kermanshah.

Around the year 1901, Hadj Nemat underwent a spiritual transformational experience that led him to relinquish all his governmental and administrative posts. He even resigned from the management of his uncle's estate and, in a deliberate and sweeping turnaround, abruptly renounced the material world to adopt a simple and ascetic lifestyle. One can surmise that given his considerable means and aptitude, as well as his array of inherent qualities for success, he might well have attained the post of governor or minister had he continued in government service and the administration of lands. Yet the powerful effects of his mystical illumination made him renounce all of that so he could fulfill his spiritual mission.