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Qom, also transliterated from Farsi as Ghom, is the headquarters of the Iranian clerical establishment and a city holy to Shi'a Islam. Located in Qom Province, it is the seventh largest city in Iran, and on the Tehran-Qom-Esfahan-Shiraz highway in central Iran, 125 km from Tehran.[1]

Qom is situated in a semiarid interior basin of central Iran along the Qom River, which flows down from the Zagros Mountains, through Qom, and into the large Darya-e Namak salt marsh to the city's east. Qom is bordered to the east by the western edge of the Dasht-e-Kavir (Great Salt Desert). The city depends on both ground and subterranean water sources, the latter derived from channels known as qanats.[2] The area is seismically active and earthquakes are a problem:[3]

  • oldest measured: 4.8 magnitude, 1970
  • most recent: 2.7 magnitude, 2003
  • most intense: 5.8 magnitude, 1980

The province is not friendly to agriculture, having dry salty soil in the lowlands and some mountains. There are substantial metallic and nonmetallic metal resources, as well as manufacturing and handicrafts.

Carpets are a noted handicraft industry, the making of which began in this area in the 20th century. The carpets are also sold under the names Ghome, Gom, Qum, Kum and Qom. Carpets from Ghom are known for their fine workmanship with pile in wool or silk. They are often manufactured with high knot density and have varied patterns, borrowed from different areas in Iran. Sometimes details are tied in silk.

Religious significance

Qom is considered a holy city because it is the site of a sacred shrine honoring a sister of the eighth Imam of the faith. In 816, Fatima, the sister of Reza the Eighth Imam, died and was buried in Qom; a shrine was erected, and the city began to develop as a major Shi'ite pilgrimage site. Some pilgrims visit the site seeking cures.[4]

It also has the highest concentration of Shi'a theologians, with something of a rivalry with Najaf and Karbala in Iraq. Qom's seminary rose to prominence under the leadership of of Grand Ayatollah Abd al-Karim Ha’eri Yazdi in the 1920s, eclipsing the traditional Iraqi Hawza (seminaries). Grand Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini was one of his students, and remained in Qom after Yasdi's death in 1978.

Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani was born in Iran, and studied in Qom between 1947 and 1952. As an example of how clerics move among the key Shi'a cities, Moqtada al-Sadr came here for advanced study.

Religious governance

The Assembly of Experts is based in Qom. Eighty-six Council of Guardian-approved candidates are elected by the public to eight-year terms on the assembly. The Assembly’s prime responsibilities are to elect a new Supreme Leader from its membership upon the death or impeachment of the Supreme Leader, and to impeach the Supreme Leader if it determines him to be unqualified. Like the Council of Guardians, the Assembly of Experts is rarely involved in decision-making, though most members of the Assembly hold other positions in Iran’s decision-making structure.

It was the site of a meeting, "Iran: dialogue on Islam and international humanitarian law in Qom", with the International Committee of the Red Cross in 2000.[4]


  1. Qom State, National Geographic Database of Iran
  2. Qom (Ghom), Globalsecurity
  3. Qom State Province Earthquake, National Geographic Database of Iran
  4. 4.0 4.1 Iran: dialogue on Islam and international humanitarian law in Qom, International Committee of the Red Cross, 1 December 2006