Sayyid Jamāl ad-Dīn al-Afghānī (Asadābādī)

I was feeling a little under the weather last night but we still managed to have a good, productive rehearsal. Things are going well in general but we are having a little difficulty finding our costumes and some of the props.

For the past few weeks I was doing research about Seyed Jamāl ad-Dīn, Mirza Reza’s mentor. Although he does not make an appearance in the play, his presence is felt very strongly. He is repeatedly mentioned by both Mirza Reza and the Interrogator and it is obvious that Mirza Reza is quite devoted and completely mesmerized by him.

The most interesting discovery for me was learning the Seyed Jamal Ad-Din dies, from cancer, less than a year after the assassination of Nasser al-Din Shah and the execution of Mirza Reza. As I mentioned, since his presence is quite strong in the play and it is obvious that Mirza Reza is very much affected by him, Seyed Jamal’s own condition is of utmost importance. For me, knowing about his physical condition was very helpful in recreating the vision that Mirza Reza might have had of him inside his own head. The clerk of the court writes in his final conclusion, after the interrogation session, that Mirza Reza is extremely devoted to Seyed Jamal Ad-din and considers this strong devotion to be the number one reason behind the assassination. Was Mirza Reza aware of this sickness? What was the condition of Seyed Jamal when Mirza Reza left Istanbul and traveled back to Iran? I have been thinking about all these questions these past few weeks!

The stuff about his chosen name Afghani and his claim of being from Afghanistan, although he is most certainly from the village Asadabad near Hamedan in Iran, were interesting too. The historian in me totally came out and overshadowed the theater maker! I was fascinated by this piece of history and for couple of days was only reading about Seyed Jamal, his background and his writings!

Going back to the play, however, this fact is never mentioned in the text of the interrogation. There is no implication that Seyed Jamal can be anything other than Iranian. In fact Mirza Reza constantly refers to Iran as the “homeland” of Seyed Jamal and Mirza Reza’s own comments are quite patriotic and nationalistic. Perhaps his claim was not taken seriously or was considered to be symbolic.

A square named after Seyed Jamal Asadabadi in Tehran