Income and Expenditures of the Imam Reza Shrine 1885 C.E

This was an interesting table I came across while reading an essay titled The Economic Rule of the Ulama in Qajar Persia by Willem Floor (the paper can be found in the book The Most Learned of the Shi’a).

The essay is quite thorough and details out the social and economic structure of the society during the Qajar rule. It outlines the size of the religious class, what their professions were and even discusses the influence of the Sayyids (descendants of the Prophet Muhammad [pbuh]) in terms of their financial stability. It discusses the notion of many fake-Sayyids that existed in order to take advantage of the reverene and pecuniary benefits that were paid to the Sayyids, by presenting themselves as Sayyids in communities that did not know them. It even goes as far to state that in order to further legitimize their fake titles, they would go and fabricate family trees in cities such as Samarrah – and would therefore be referred to as Samarra Sayyids.

Under the section of What the Money Was Spent On, it discusses the different areas of expenses and the table above (I typed it out on Excel and took a screenshot of it for an easier read) has been used to illustrate how the religious class distributed its revenues. In the essay, this is what the author writes regarding the table (the numbering of the footnotes is altered by me):

We therefore focus on the budget of the Imam Reza shrine at Mashhad to illustrate how the religious class distributed its revenues (Table 4.2).

According to the manager of the Imam Reza shrine, the revenues and expenditures in 1306/1885 were, respectively, 59,260 and 52,140 tomans. His nonaggregated, nonaudited budget is conservative, because it does not show income, for example, from rice, vegetable oil, nuts, beans, and so on.[1] The expenditure pattern shows that salaries constituted the highest expense category (46%), followed by the costs of lighting, the kitchen, and the library (34%).

As to expenditures on personnel, the shrine of Imam Reza employed as many as 2,000 persons in 1889,[2] of which there were “some 20 mujtahids or chief priests, and the same number of superior Shrine officials.”[3] The largest share of the revenue went to these 40 people, for most of the rank-and-file servants either received no pay, or received very little money, or only grain for their support.[4]


[1] Mu’taman, Rahnama-yi, p. 364; the tax of 1,000 tomans levied on the endowments of the Mashhad shrine probably is the same as the expenditure for the robes of honor that were sent to court. Curzon, Persia, vol. 2, p. 489.

[2] Curzon, Persia, vol. 1, p. 163; for the staffing at the Qom shrine see Fraser, Narrative, p. 456; for Mashhad-i Qali near Qom, see Houtum-Schindler, Eastern Irak, p. 88n.

[3] Adamec, Gazetteer, vol. 2, p. 476.

[4] Fraser, Narrative, p. 141.

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