This opening chapter is the compelling story of Sheikh Ahmad Qomi, one of the most remarkable men in the history of Siam. A man who, though a migrant, rose to the heights of power, authority and responsibility in the service of six kings to become Siam's most distinguished statesman of his time. A man whose descendants like wise served the Kings of Siam with distinction, from the beginning of the 17th century right up to the present.

Perhaps it is best to being this story at the beginning, the very beginning, when Sheikh Ahmad Qomi made his de?but in Siam.

It was during the last decade of the reign of King Somdej Naresuan Maharaj, more commonly known as King Naresuan the Great (1590 - 1605); known as the Great because ha had defeated the Burmese and reestablished his country's independence in 1590 - it had been a vassal state of Burma for fifteen years. Most probably at the turn of the century (when the 16th gave way to the 17th), a sleek Persian ship sailed silently up the tranquil Chao Phya River from the Gulf of Siam after a most hazardous long voyage. On board, and in charge of the exepedition, was one Sheikh Ahmad Qomi. He was as astute and rescourceful fellow with an acute understanding of human nature and fluent in a number of languages. He was well respected by his friends and followers alike and was most probably in his early thirties.

He was accompanied by his younger brother Mohamudh Said, a skilled navigator and most probably in his late twenties. They were quite close and were sharing an adventure of great expectation, little realizing the incredible future in store for them and for their descendants - but we are getting ahead of our story. Also on board was a retinue of Sheikh Ahmad Qomi's fellowers.

Their ship dropped anchor near Fort Pom Petr in the district of Dai Koo, located at the confluence of the rivers Pa Sak and Chao Phya. The district itself consists of a three kilometre long strip of land on both banks of the Chao Phya River. While the western bank was sparsely populated, the eastern bank of Krung Sri Ayudhya, more popularly known as Ayudhya, was sporadically dotted with Buddhist temples and a cosmopolitan community of a adventurous foreingners, from mariners to mercenaries and from traders to gamblers. They were seeking, in this exotic land, fame and fortune but none rose to the heights of Sheikh Ahmad Qomi. In fact it was a certain action on part of a large group from this community and Sheikh Ahmad Qomi's response to it, that further moved him up the ladder of power and greatness but again we are getting ahead of our story.

This was the period of foreign impact. Though the Portuguese were the first to establish cantact in 1551, it was not until the reign of King Naresuan the Great that the impact gained more momentum. The Dutch came in 1608, followed by the British in 1612 as well as others including Persians in the person of Sheikh Ahmad Qomi.

It must be admitted here that primary material is somewhat fragmentary. This is due primarily to the destruction of Krung Sri Ayudhya by the Burmese in 1767. During the sacking and burning, the archives and ancient scriptures were destroyed. We do have, however, certain records, dairies etc., from various temples and from certain personages from the Royal Family and noble families that were in their personal possession at that time. Though somewhat sketchy and incomplete, they do give us an indication of what occurred during this period of Sheikh Ahmad Qomi's rise to power and influence. This is further supplemented by historical records of the elders of the Mosque (Kuti Chao Sen) in Ayudhya and verified from Persia (Iran).

We know that Sheikh Ahmad Qomi was born in the famous Islamic centre of Tainajahar in Qom, Persia.

His early years were spent in study, especially in the study of the Qoran., the Muslim holy book, which contains the verses recited by the Prophet Mohamudh as coming from Allah - the world of God as revealed to Mohamudh and mediated through the angel Gabriel. Ahmad's title of Sheikh meant more than the customary Head of an Arab tribal family or Elder. It meant he was a learned and qualified student of the Qoran, and a person deemed fit by the elders, deserving respect and honour. In recognition of his ability and learning, he was assigned a twofold mission to Siam. One was to bring Islam of the Ja'Fari 12 Imam Sect or Shi-ite Teachings of Islam (known in Siam as Chao Sen Sect), and the other was to open a Trading Post.

From King Naresuan the Great, he received official permission to stake out two suitable sites for his residence, religious and trading quarters.

It must be mentioned that Siam has always shown the most liberal and enlightened attitude to peoples of all races, religions and nationalities.
Sheikh Ahmad Qomi came to Siam, in part, to gain converts. This was accepted by the King: a policy much more liberal and enlightened than was experienced in the so

called advance European civilization at that time where religious persecution and religion wars were the norm.

Having settled in Siam, he enthusiastically embarked upon developing his Islamic mission and his trading post. Within a decade, due to his tireless efforts, the Chao Sen Sect was firmly established and the trading mission prospered. While becoming somewhat prosperous on the way, he gained a reputation of being an honest and trust - worthy merchant. It was during this period that he married a lovely upcountry young lady by the name of Ob Chuay who bore him two sons and a daughter. The eldest son, was named Chuen, the second one died before reaching his teens while his daughter was named Chi. Thus the first branch of his family came into exsistance.

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