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Ta'ziya in tekyeh Dulat, the greatest tekyeh of Iran, painting by Kamal al-Mulk

Tekyeh (Persian: تِکیِه, Arabic: تَکیَّة: takiyya) in Iranian Shiite terminologies, refers to the place where mourning ceremonies of the religious leaders are held, particularly the mourning ceremonies of Imam al-Husayn (a) in Muharram as well as the ceremonies of ta'ziya. The word also refers to the place where Sufis congregate, the tomb of Sufi predecessors, the place where Sufis have a sojourn in their travels, and the free-of-charge caravan-serais or residences in cities of pilgrimage.


The word "tekyeh" and its cognates literally mean reliance, trust, being backed by something, and the like. The word became a terminology first in Turkish and Farsi and then in Arabic. The reason that such places —for the mourning ceremonies of Imams (a)— were called "tekyeh" was that the inhabitants of tekyehs (or "takaya" as its plural form) relied on the incomes of waqf (mortmain property) or the donations of philanthropists. The word is not Arabic; it cannot be found in old Arabic lexicons such as Ibn Faris, Ibn Manzur and Murtada al-Zubaydi.

Tekyeh is a place for the congregation of Sufis, the tomb of Sufi leaders, the residence of Sufis in their travels and a caravan-serai for pilgrims, and it is, particularly in Iran, a place for mourning ceremonies of religious leaders, especially Muharram ceremonies and Ta'ziya.

In Iran

In Iran, tekyeh has had a broad range of applications. In his Tarikh-i Kashan (The history of Kashan), 'Abd al-Rahim al-Zarrabi has mentioned that many centers have been built by Amir Buhlul al-Dunbali (d. 762/1360-1) to accommodate the poor and the Sufis, and he has called the centers "tekyeh". Mir Haydar al-Tuni (d. 830/1426-7), who was the leader of Haydariyya, a branch of Qalandariyya, built many tekyehs in different cities, and appointed a dervish, from his followers, in charge of those tekyehs. Nasrabadi has reported that Shah 'Abbas gave the "Baba" title of tekyeh Haydar in Isfahan to Baba Sultan al-Qumi, whose penname was Lawayi. This report suggests that there was a relation between the title "Baba" (a title of Qalandariyya and Haydariyya dervishes) and tekyeh; it might be that Haydari, Qalandari and Baktashi Khanqahs (places for the congregation of Sufis) were called "tekyeh" in Iran. There is also an explicit report to the effect that tekyeh is the Khanqah for Khaksariyya dervishes.

With the developments of some Sufi chains and the formation of Futuwwa, changes have been made in how tekyehs were administered and used, and when some sport activities were added to the ceremonies of tekyehs, they became bigger than before. In texts concerning the practice of Futuwwa, we can find certain conceptions regarding tekyeh. For example, in Futuwwat nama-i sultani, there is a short chapter on tekyeh, its practices, and the conditions for how it should be administered. According to Kashifi, in addition to being a place for the congregation of Sufis and Fatis, tekyehs are kinds of caravan-serais where travelers and Sufis rested. Even the word 'tekyeh' has Sufistic implications, such as trust, reliance, honesty, and support of dervishes and travelers.

In the Safavid Period

In the Safavid period, there were fully Sufistic tekyehs in Isfahan. According to Chardin, Iranians used to give the name "tekyeh" to the monasteries of dervishes, but the struggles among the Sufi sects, Haydari-Ni'mati quarrels and sometimes the negative policies of Safavid kings with respect to Sufis led to the destruction of tekyehs so that some of them became hangouts for hoodlums.

In Qajar period, tekyeh found a rather different notion —it denoted the tombs of the pious in Takht-i Pulad cemetery which was a place for worships. Such tekyehs were also found in some other areas of Isfahan; for example, tekyeh Walihiyya in Chaharbagh, which was Muhammad Kazim Walih's mausoleum —the well-known poet and a man of letter in Isfahan (d. 1229/1814).

Sufi tekyehs were still popular in Shiraz until Qajar period; for example, tekyehs of Chihil Tanan (the tomb of Bus'huq At'ima) and Haft Tanan.

In the subsequent centuries and even in Qajar period, the tombs of Persian poets, Sa'di and Hafiz, were also called tekyeh.

In late Safavid period and with the popularity of Shiism in Iran, the denotation of the word 'tekyeh' radically changed. Most tekyehs, with their extensive space for Sama' dancing ritual, were used for mourning ceremonies in Muharram. The change was more visible in central cities of Iran which had a long history of Shiism; for example, tekyeh Panakhl in Kashan at the entrance of its Bazar was a storage for the flags and banners of Muharram ceremonies. In Qazvin, the first capital city of Safavid dynasty, such tekyehs became popular in the era of Shah Tahmasp I (930-984/1524-1576). Tekyehs in this period became centers for a broad range of cultural activities; in addition to mourning ceremonies, some literary debates, rhetoric and poem citing ceremonies were held in tekyehs, especially in the nights of the Ramadan month. Such ceremonies were held in chambers of tekyeh that were decorated by revelers of the district, and rich people sponsored the candles and lights as well as cookies and syrups. Notwithstanding this, European tourists have described Iranian tekyehs in ways that are similar to coffee houses.

In Qajar Period

In Qajar period with the popularity of ta'ziya, tekyehs, as places for the mourning ceremonies of Imam al-Husayn (a), became so popular that Sufi residences were hardly known as tekyehs, and this is still the familiar notion of tekyeh for Iranians today. According to Sultanzada, in this period, any buildings that were made for, or were allocated to, the performance of ta'ziya were called tekyeh. The popularity of tekyehs was in its highest from Nasir al-Din Shah (1264-1313/1848-1896) to the Constitutionalist Revolution in Iran. According to some reports, there have been over 50 tekyehs in Tehran in this period, such as Aqa Bahram, Isma'il Bazzaz, Afsharha, Barbariha, Pahlawan Sharif, Chalhisar, Chihil Tan, Haji Wakil, Khuda Afarin, Khishtiha, Khalajha, Dabbaghkhana, Darkhungah, Rida Ghulikhan, Sadat Akhawi, Sarpulak, Sartakht, 'Abbasabad, Arabha, Udlajan, Qatirchiha, Qumiha, Kermaniha, Luti Alikhan, Malil Abad, Manuchehr Khan, Lurdazkhan, and Haft Tan. Some tekyehs in Tehran were more significant or prominent; for example, Sadat Akhawi where candles were lit in order for babies to grow more and each year when the baby grew more, they lit a longer candle, and the garden of this tekyeh was filled with a lot of long candles. Tekyeh 'Abbasabad or Mirza Aghasi was a place for governmental ta'ziyas. Tekyeh 'Izzat al-Dawla (Nasir al-Din Shah's sister) hosted ta'ziyas and it was specifically for woman participants. Tekyeh Duwlat was also important.


As their names suggest, their founders are usually guilds, people of other cities who reside in the capital city (Tehran), rich and influential people. They sometimes built a specific building for tekyehs and sometimes held mourning ceremonies and ta'ziya in their own houses in Muharram. This is why, houses of princes and rich people were built in a way that it could be adapted for ta'ziya and mourning ceremonies by raising tents over their yard.


Places were tekyehs were built usually on the main pathway, connecting two districts. The internal structure of tekyehs usually consisted of three parts:

  1. The yard, known as 'Abbasiyya, where ceremonies regarding 'Abbas (a) were held.
  2. The roofed space inside, called Husayniyya.
  3. Private rooms, known as Zaynabiyya.

Tekyehs that were not located on the main pathways, such as Rida Ghulikhan and Sartakht, were vacant throughout the year, sometimes filled by garbage, and were used as storage for grocery shoppers or places for drying onions, but for the mourning ceremonies of Imam al-Husayn (a), they were cleaned up and repaired by revelers (or Baba Shamals).

Other Applications

In urban life, particularly for tradesmen, tekyehs were so important that in addition to holding religious ceremonies, they were places for negotiating economical and commercial problems. Part of their costs were paid by residents of the district in cash or by donating necessary stuff. And part of them was paid by incomes of Mawqufat (mortmain properties) such as shops and timchas.

In the north of Tehran and Shemiranat, there were tekyehs with attractive architectures, some of which are still there. One of these is tekyeh Niavaran or tekyeh Hisar Bu 'Ali which is well-known for Muhammad Mudabbir's and Muhammad Arzhangi's paintings and the octagonal throne in its middle, the other well-known tekyeh is tekyeh Imamzada Qasim with Gullar Aqasi's graffiti.

Other Cities of Iran

In the two northern provinces of Iran, Gilan and Mazandaran, there are many tekyehs with particular architectures and materials built in the Qajar period. Melgunov, a Russian tourist, has pointed to 36 tekyehs in Rasht in 1275/1858-9. There are some old and beautiful tekyehs in Rudsar, Lahijan, and Langarud. In Mazandaran, there are quadrangle tekyehs usually with earthen ceilings and a rectangular floor in both cities and villages; for example, tekyeh Muqri Kula in Bandpey in Babol, tekyeh Kulah Bast Pazuwar in Babolsar, and tekyeh Firuz Kula in Amol. Some of these tekyehs are decorated with pictures of flowers and animals; for example, tekyeh Quran Talar in Babol Kenar in Qaemshahr.

Sometimes a Saqqakhana (water house) was built near tekyehs; for example, the reticular wooden tekyeh Yalw Saqakhana near Nour River in Mazandaran. In the city of Sari, tekyeh was an inseparable part of each district. Mazandaran has 1135 tekyehs, where there are 1807 tekyehs in Iran.

Tekyeh Mu'awin al-Mulk, Kirmanshah

Other historically important tekyehs in Iran include Pahna and Nasar tekyehs in Semnan and tekyeh 'Azakhana and tekyeh Wazir in Kerman. One of the most glorious tekyehs in Iran, especially with respect to its portraits and pictures, is tekyeh Mu'awin al-Mulk in Kermanshah.

In Yazd province, tekyehs are considerable with respect to their connections with other urban spaces and their old religious style of architecture. Unlike tekyeh Duwlat in Tehran and like tekyehs in the north of Iran, tekyehs in the Yazd providence, such as tekyeh Shah Wali in Taft and tekyeh Amir Chakhmaq in the city of Yazd, have quadrangular or octagonal floors. Tekyeh Amir Chakhmaq has a minaret and a two-floor arch which is a paradigm of other tekyehs in the city.

Tekyeh Amir Chakhmaq, Yazd

The distribution and number of tekyehs in Iran is so great that the name of some villages and areas have been associated with the word 'tekyeh'.


A considerable feature of tekyehs in Mazandaran is that there are buildings called "saqanafar" besides some of them. Saqanafar (also known as Saqi Nafar, Saqqanapar, Saqqatalar) is a simple quadrangular building on wooden pillars, with a ladder or stairs (nafar or napar in Mazani dialect refers to such a building). These buildings are influenced by the traditional architecture of Mazandaran, reflecting a simple agricultural style of life. The writings on some of these suggest that they have been built in Qajar period. These buildings have mainly been vowed for the sake of Abu l-Fadl al-'Abbas (a). One such building is Saqanafar Kija tekyeh in Babol with portraits of soldiers carrying warfare and musical instruments and scenes of rural life, with pictures of plants and calligraphies on its walls.

Temporary Tekyehs

In addition to permanent tekyehs, there are innumerably many temporary tekyehs raised in the ten days of Muharram in cities and villages of Iran. "Tekyeh-raising" on the streets is done with enclosing very small areas, hanging some portraits and cloths inscribed by prayers, Hadiths and elegies (the best-known of which is Muhtasham Kashani's Elegy), and carpeting the floor. Such temporary tekyehs, relative to the economic power of the residents of the district, provide visitors with flags and dishes. Mourning processions stay in front of, or inside, these temporary tekyehs for some moments. Residents of the district distribute food, drinks and tea among people. In the last decade, such tekyehs were mostly raised by young people, though old people also contribute by managing and cleaning the tekyehs.

In the Ottoman Realm

In the Islamic world, the word 'tekyeh' was first used to denote the residence of Sufis, resembling places such as Rubat, Zawiya, Khanqah, Duwayra, and Langar. Sufi tekyehs were popular in the Ottoman realm since the 8th/14th century, involving a godly, monastic style of life in which I'tikaf was practiced.

In central Ottoman provinces, Anatolia and Rom Ili, the words 'Zawiya' and 'Takka' (that is, 'tekyeh') were commonly used. For example, in his Hada'iq al-haqa'iq fi takmila al-shaqa'iq (10th/16th century), 'Ata'i has mentioned a mosque and a Khanqah as Bazargan tekyeh Si and Zawiya 'Ali Baba in Rom Ili, also called Durmish tekyeh or Baktashi tekyeh Si. Uliya Chalabi often uses the word 'tekyeh' when he mentions some dervish residences in small and big Ottoman cities. Pirzada Na'ini, who visited Istanbul in 13th/19th centuries, points to the number and popularity of tekyehs in the city, talking about tens of tekyehs belonging to Sufi sects such as Baktashiyya, Mawlawiyya, Qadiriyya, Naqshbandiyya, Rifa'iyya, Khalwatiyya, Jalawatiyya, Chashtiyya, Shadhiliyya, Sha'ya'iyya, Badawiyya, and Gulshaniyya. For example, the Mawlawiyya sect possessed 6 tekyehs of its own, in which weekly Sama' rituals were practiced and it was funded by the incomes of its properties (Mawqufa).

In 1303/1886, Ataturk restricted the activities of tekyehs and their influence. Many tekyehs, in particular Baktashi tekyehs, were moved to Albania, but when a communist regime took over Albania, their activities diminished in this country as well. Since 1990s, when the regime fell, the tekyehs were revived.

Today in Albania as well as in Greece, where Brotherhood (or Fraternity) Groups are still active, the word 'Takka' is used to denote the tombs of prominent Sufis. It is noteworthy that in Turkey today, Sama' rituals of Mawlawi Sufis are held in order to attract tourists, though it is a violation of Turkey's 1303/1886 law.


In the Ottoman realm, tekyehs usually consisted of the following:

  1. House of Sama' or House of Tawhid (the place for recitation of God)
  2. Turbat (the tomb of shaykh)
  3. Haram (seraglio of shaykh's family)
  4. Salamliq (dining and sitting rooms for dervishes and guests)
  5. Kitchen
  6. A mosque or an adytum.

However, there were differences between tekyehs, given the intellectual attitudes of Sufis. For example, in Baktashi tekyehs, Houses of Sama' or Recitation were decorated with tableaus in which names of Shiite Imams (a) were inscribed. People other than the followers of the sect were forbidden to go to these houses.

Pirzada Na'ini has described different parts of tekyehs in the Ottoman realm. They contained Houses of Sama', Houses of Recitation of God, numerous rooms for accommodation (of dervishes and pilgrims), and kitchens (to feed dervishes). There was, he says, a hierarchy among the servants of tekyehs from cleaning and cooking to Baba-hood (or shaykh-hood). It seems that tekyehs in the Ottoman realm had one or more of the following features:

  1. Affiliation with the Ottoman government or Turkish dervishes.
  2. A relatively big space and a fund by properties dedicated to them (Mawqufat).

However, there were no such connections between tekyehs and governments in Eastern lands.

In Arabic Territories

In the Arabic territories of the Ottoman realm, there were many tekyehs that were both residences of Sufis and places for wayfarers who could not afford their way back home (Ibn al-Sabil). For example, in 923/1517-8, Sultan Salim had founded a tekyeh in Damascus when he resided there, and the tekyeh is important for its Ottoman architecture within an Arabic land.

In Palestine, some tekyehs were built by Haseki Sultan, the wife of Sultan Suleiman Kanuni, in 959/1552; and Fatima Khatun in 974/1566-7. To these tekyehs many properties were dedicated (waqf) in Jerusalem al-Quds (Bayt al-Maqdis), Safed, Gaza, Homs, Aleppo (Halab), and Damascus. In 995/1587, Karbik, Jerusalem's governor, built a tekyeh for Mawlawi Sufis in Sa'diya, whose shaykh was appointed by leaders of the sect in Konya and it was visited by the well-known Sufi, 'Abd al-Ghani al-Nablusi, in 1101/1690. Uliya Chalabi has pointed to different tekyehs in Nablus, Hebron (al-Khalil), Henin and other cities in Palestine.

In the Ottoman period, many buildings that were built for similar purposes as to those of tekyehs, began to be called tekyehs, for example, tekyeh Sayyiduna al-Khalil from the Mamalik period that used to be called Samat-u Sayyiduna al-Khalil. tekyeh Bani Musa was built by al-Zahir Baybras in the 7th/13th century between Jerusalem al-Quds and Jericho, and tekyeh Uyun al-Tujjar in Tabariyya was originally a caravan-serai that was built in 843/1439-40 and was repaired by Uthman Sanan Pasha (d. 1004/1596).

Tekyehs in Syria, Iraq and Palestine usually functioned as caravan-serais and as places for Sama' rituals and Sufi music. For example, in the secret tekyeh of Saqati in Jerziyem mountain, Def and drum were played until morning.

Ottoman kings built tekyehs in other areas of Syria, the most glorious and the best-known of which is tekyeh Sultan Salim in Damascus and tekyeh Mawlawiyya in Tripoli of Lebanon (known as al-Derwishiyya). It has been reported that the Damascus tekyeh functioned as a caravan-serai.

Tekyehs were also popular in Iraq. Pirzada Na'ini has pointed to some of them, including tekyeh Baktashi in Najaf that hosted pilgrims of Imam 'Ali (a) and a great tekyeh near the Holy Shrine of Imam al-Husayn (a) whose resident dervishes were in charge of lighting the Shrine.

There are old tekyehs in Cairo with a lot of incomes from properties dedicated to them, including Mawlawi tekyehs (founded in 715-721/1316-1322), Baktashiya or tekyeh 'Abd Allah al-Mughawiri (d. 857/1453), al-Julshani (or Gulshani) associated with al-Qadiriyya sect (founded in 926-931/1520-1525), al-Sulaymaniyya (founded in 950/1544), al-Dama, Qasr al-'Ayn, Uzbek, Bukharaiyya, Sayyida al-Ruqayya, Sayyida al-Nafisa, and Hassan b. Ilyas al-Rumi. Cairo tekyehs were mostly associated with Iranian and Turkish Sufis. In Egypt, the main distinction between Khanqah and tekyeh (made after the Ottoman period) is that the latter contains tombs of dervishes. Furthermore, tekyehs were accompanied by small mosques and water houses (Saqqakhana).

In Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, tekyehs were very similar to coffee houses. In early 13th/9th century, Elphinstone has talked about tekyehs in Ghazni and Kabul where people spend their time smoking hubble-bubble and hashish and its shaykh was called 'Faqir' (the poor).

In India

The word 'tekyeh' is rarely used in religious texts of India. In Lahore, some tombs are called 'tekyeh'. Such tekyehs are usually surrounded by a not so high brick wall, made of chalk and raw brick. The activities and ceremonies in some of these tekyehs are funded by agricultural incomes of some farms that have been dedicated to the tekyehs by some governors or believers. There is a suspicious quote from Gaboriau according to which tekyehs in India were small places for the worshiping rituals of Sufis. In Some Persian texts about India, tekyehs have been referred to. In his description of Karam Valley (Parachinar), Sarhadi has talked about hundreds of Husayniyyas and tekyehs in villages. However, the term 'tekyeh' is not common in India; indeed it has been used in writings influenced by Persian literature.

See Also


  • The material for this article is mainly taken from تکیه in Farsi Wikishia.