AREA AND POPULATION — RELIGION 859
Area and Population. According to the latest and most trustworthy estimates, the country — extending for about 700 miles from north to south, and for 900 miles from east to west — contains an area of 628,000 square miles. A vast portion of this area is an absolute desert, and the population is everywhere so scanty as not to exceed, on the average, twelve inhabitants to the square mile. According to the latest estimates, based on personal observation of travellers and statistics of the Persian Home Office, the popu- lation of Persia numbered in 1881 : —
Inhabitants of cities 1,963,800
Population belonging to wandering tribes . . 1,909,800
Inhabitants of villages and country districts . . 3,780,000
Total population .... 7,653,600
The population in 1897 is estimated at about 9,000,000. The number of Europeans residing in Persia does not exceed 800.
The principal cities of Persia are: — Teheran, with 210,000 ; Tabriz, with 180,000; Ispahan, with 80,000; Meshed, with 60,000; Barfurush, with 50,000; Kerman, Yezd, each with 40,000 to 45,000 ; Hamadan, Shiraz, Kazvin, Kom, Kashan, Pesht, each ^vith 25,000 to 30,000 inhabitants. Of the nomads 260,000 are Arabs, 720,000 Turks, 675,000 Kurds and Leks, 20,700 Baluchis and Gipsies, 234,000 Lurs.
Of the population about 8 millions belong to the Shia'h faith, 800,000 Sunnis, 9,000 Parsis (Guebres), 25,000 Jews, 45,000 Armenians, and 25,000 Nestorians.
The ^Mahometans of Persia are mostly of the sect called Shia'h, differing to some extent in religious doctrine, and more in historical belief, from the inhabitants of the Turkish Empire, who are called Sunni. The Persian priest- hood (Ulema) is very powerful, and works steadily against all progress. Any person capable of reading the Koran and interpreting its laws may act as a priest (Mulla). As soon as such a priest l^ecomes known for his just interpreta- tion of the divine law, and for his knowledge of the traditions and articles of faith, he is called a Mujtahid, a chiel" iniest. There are many ^lujtahids in Persia, sometimes several in one town ; there are, however, only four or five whose decisions are accepted as final. The highest authority, the chief priest of all, is the Mujtahid ' who resides at Kerljela, near Baghdad, and some con- sider him the vicegerent of the Prophet, the representative of the Imam. The Shall and the Government have no voice in the matter of appointing the Mujtahids, but the 8heikh-el-Islam, chief judge, and the Imam-i-Jum'ah, chief of the great moscpie (Ma.sjed-i-Jam'ah) of a city, arc appointed by Govern- ment. Under the Imam-i-.Tum'ah are the pish nenuiz or khatib (leader of puVilie prayers and reader of the Khutbeh, the Fiiday oration), the nui'azzin (crier for prayers), and sometimes the Mutavalli (guardian of the mo.sque) this latter, as well as the mu'azzin, need not necessarily be a priest. Alj
1 The la.st holder of this office died on February 20, 1S95 ; no successor has yet been appointed.