Nader Shah

Nader Shah
Nader Shah
Shahanshah of Persia
Coat of arms of Persia (16th century - 1907).png

Nader Shah's portrait from the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Reign 1736–1747
Born August 6, 1688(1688-08-06)
Died June 19, 1747(1747-06-19) (aged 48)
Predecessor Abbas III
Successor Adil Shah

Nāder Shāh Afshār (Persian: نادر شاه افشار; also known as Nāder Qoli Beg - نادر قلی بیگ or Tahmāsp Qoli Khān - تهماسپ قلی خان) (November, 1688[1] or August 6, 1698[2] – June 19, 1747) ruled as Shah of Iran (1736–47) and was the founder of the Afsharid dynasty. Because of his military genius, some historians have described him as the Napoleon of Persia[3] or the Second Alexander.[4] Nader Shah was a member of the Turkic Afshar tribe of northern Persia,[5] which had supplied military power to the Safavid state since the time of Shah Ismail I.[6]

Nader rose to power during a period of anarchy in Iran after a rebellion by the Hotaki Afghans had overthrown the weak Persian Shah Sultan Husayn, and both the Ottomans and the Russians had seized Persian territory for themselves. Nader reunited the Persian realm and removed the invaders. He became so powerful that he decided to depose the last members of the Safavid dynasty, which had ruled Iran for over 200 years, and become shah himself in 1736. His campaigns created a great empire that briefly encompassed what is now Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, parts of the Caucasus region, parts of Central Asia, and Oman but his military spending had a ruinous effect on the Persian economy.[1]

Nader idolized Genghis Khan and Timur, the previous conquerors from Central Asia. He imitated their military prowess and—especially later in his reign—their cruelty. His victories briefly made him the Middle East's most powerful sovereign, but his empire quickly disintegrated after he was assassinated in 1747. Nader Shah has been described as "the last great Asian military conqueror".[7] He is credited for restoring Iranian power as an eminence between the Ottomans and the Mughals.[8][9][10][11]


Early life

Nader Shah was born in Dastgerd[12] into the Qereqlu clan of the Afshars, a semi-nomadic Qizilbash tribe in Khorasan, a province in the north-east of the Persian Empire.[13] His father Emamqoli, a poor shepherd [1] or Coat-maker (poostinduz in Persian language ),[14] died while Nader was still a child. According to legends, Nader and his mother were carried off as slaves by marauding Uzbek or Turkmen tribesmen, but Nader managed to escape. He joined a band of brigands while still a boy and eventually became their leader. Under the patronage of Afshar chieftains, he rose through the ranks to become a powerful military figure. Nader married the two daughters of Baba Ali Beg, a local chief.[1]

Fall of the Safavid dynasty

Nader grew up during the final years of the Safavid dynasty which had ruled Persia since 1502. At its peak, under such figures as Abbas the Great, Safavid Persia had been a powerful empire, but by the early 18th century the state was in serious decline and the reigning shah, Sultan Husayn, was a weak ruler. When Sultan Husayn attempted to quell a rebellion by the Ghilzai Afghans in Kandahar, the governor he sent was killed. Under their leader Mahmud Hotaki, the rebellious Afghans moved westwards against the shah himself and in 1722 they defeated a vastly superior force at the Battle of Gulnabad and then besieged the capital, Isfahan.[15] After the shah failed to escape to rally a relief force elsewhere, the city was starved into submission and Sultan Husayn abdicated, handing power to Mahmud. In Khorasan, Nader at first submitted to the local Afghan governor of Mashhad, Malek Mahmud, but then rebelled and built up his own small army. Sultan Husayn's son had declared himself Shah Tahmasp II, but found little support and fled to the Qajar tribe, who offered to back him. Meanwhile, Persia's imperial rivals, the Ottomans and the Russians, took advantage of the chaos in the country to seize territory for themselves.[16]

Fall of the Hotaki dynasty

Tomb of Nader Shah, a tourist attraction in Mashhad

Tahmasp and the Qajar leader Fath Ali Khan (the ancestor of Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar) contacted Nader and asked him to join their cause and drive the Ghilzai Afghans out of Khorasan. He agreed and thus became a figure of national importance. When Nader discovered that Fath Ali Khan was in treacherous correspondence with Malek Mahmud and revealed this to the shah, Tahmasp executed him and made Nader the chief of his army instead. Nader subsequently took on the title Tahmasp Qoli (Servant of Tahmasp). In late 1726, Nader recaptured Mashhad.[17]

Nader chose not to march directly on Isfahan. First, in May 1729, he defeated the Abdali Afghans near Herat. Many of the Abdali Afghans subsequently joined his army. The new shah of the Ghilzai Afghans, Ashraf, decided to move against Nader but in September 1729, Nader defeated him at the Battle of Damghan and again, decisively, in November at Murchakhort. Ashraf fled and Nader finally entered Isfahan, handing it over to Tahmasp in December. The citizens' rejoicing was cut short when Nader plundered them to pay his army. Tahmasp made Nader governor over many eastern provinces, including his native Khorasan, and married him to his sister. Nader pursued and defeated Ashraf, who was murdered by his own followers.[18] In 1738 Nader Shah besieged and destroyed the last Hotaki seat of power at Kandahar. He built a new city near Kandahar, which he named "Naderabad".[1]

Ottoman campaign

Painting of Nader Shah

In the spring of 1730, Nader attacked the Ottomans and regained most of the territory lost during the recent chaos. At the same time, the Abdali Afghans rebelled and besieged Mashhad, forcing Nader to suspend his campaign and save his brother, Ebrahim. It took Nader fourteen months to defeat the Abdali Afghans.

Relations between Nader and the Shah had declined as the latter grew jealous of his general's military successes. While Nader was absent in the east, Tahmasp tried to assert himself by launching a foolhardy campaign to recapture Yerevan. He ended up losing all of Nader's recent gains to the Ottomans, and signed a treaty ceding Georgia and Armenia in exchange for Tabriz. Nader saw that the moment had come to ease Tahmasp from power. He denounced the treaty, seeking popular support for a war against the Ottomans. In Isfahan, Nader got Tahmasp drunk then showed him to the courtiers asking if a man in such a state was fit to rule. In 1732 he forced Tahmasp to abdicate in favor of the Shah's baby son, Abbas III, to whom Nader became regent.

Nader decided he could win back the territory in Armenia and Georgia by seizing Ottoman Baghdad and then offering it in exchange for the lost provinces, but his plan went badly amiss when his army was routed by the Ottoman general Topal Osman Pasha near the city in 1733. Nader decided he needed to regain the initiative as soon as possible to save his position because revolts were already breaking out in Persia. He faced Topal again with a larger force and defeated and killed him. He then besieged Baghdad, as well as Ganja in the northern provinces, earning a Russian alliance against the Ottomans. Nader scored a great victory over a superior Ottoman force at Baghavard and by the summer of 1735, Persian Armenia and Georgia were his again. In March 1735, he signed a treaty with the Russians in Ganja by which the latter agreed to withdraw all of their troops from Persian territory.[19][20]

Nader becomes shah

In January 1736, Nader held a qoroltai (a grand meeting in the tradition of Genghis Khan and Timur) on the Moghan plain in Azerbaijan. The leading political and religious figures attended. Nader suggested he should be proclaimed the new shah in place of the young Abbas III. Everyone agreed, many—if not most—enthusiastically, the rest fearing Nader's anger if they showed support for the deposed Safavids. Nader was crowned Shah of Iran on March 8, 1736, a date his astrologers had chosen as being especially propitious.[21]

Religious policy

Nader Shah and two of his sons on the reverse side of Nader Shah's Sword

The Safavids had introduced Shi'a Islam as the state religion of Iran. Nader was probably brought up as a Shi'a [13] but later espoused the Sunni[22] faith as he gained power and began to push into the Ottoman and Mughal Empires. He believed that Safavid Shi'ism had intensified the conflict with the Sunni Ottoman Empire. His army was a mix of Shi'a and Sunni and included his own Qizilbash as well as Uzbeks, Afghans and others. He wanted Persia to adopt a form of religion that would be more acceptable to Sunnis and suggested Persia should adopt a form of Shi'ism he called "Ja'fari" in honour of the sixth Shi'a imam Ja'far al-Sadiq. He banned certain Shi'a practices which were particularly offensive to Sunnis, such as the cursing of the first three caliphs. Personally, Nader is said to have been indifferent towards religion and the French Jesuit who served as his personal physician reported that it was difficult to know which religion he followed and that many who knew him best said that he had none.[23] Nader hoped that "Ja'farism" would be accepted as a fifth school (mazhab) of Sunni Islam and that the Ottomans would allow its adherents to go on the hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca, which was within their territory. In the subsequent peace negotiations, the Ottomans refused to acknowledge Ja'farism as a fifth mazhab but they did allow Persian pilgrims to go on the hajj. Nader was interested in gaining rights for Persians to go on the hajj in part because of revenues from the pilgrimage trade.[1] Nader's other primary aim in his religious reforms was to weaken the Safavids further since Shi'a Islam had always been a major element in support for the dynasty. He had the chief mullah of Persia strangled after he was heard expressing support for the Safavids. Among his reforms was the introduction of what came to be known as the kolah-e Naderi. This was a hat with four peaks which symbolised the first four caliphs.[1][21]

Invasion of India

In 1738, Nader Shah conquered Kandahar, the last outpost of the Hotaki dynasty. His thoughts now turned to the Mughul Empire of India. This once powerful Muslim state was falling apart as the nobles became increasingly disobedient and the Hindu Marathas made inroads on its territory from the south-west. Its ruler Muhammad Shah was powerless to reverse this disintegration. Nader asked for Afghan rebels to be handed over, but the Mughal emperor refused. Nader used the pretext of his Afghan enemies taking refuge in India to cross the border and capture Ghazni, Kabul, Peshawar, Sindh and Lahore. He then advanced deeper into India crossing the river Indus before the end of year.

Afsharid forces negotiate with a Mughal Nawab.

He defeated the Mughal army at the huge Battle of Karnal on 13 February, 1739. After this victory, Nader captured Mohammad Shah and entered with him into Delhi.[10] When a rumour broke out that Nader had been assassinated, some of the Indians attacked and killed Persian troops. Nader reacted by ordering his soldiers to plunder the city. During the course of one day (March 22) 20,000 to 30,000 Indians were killed by the Persian troops, forcing Mohammad Shah to beg for mercy.[24].

In response, Nader Shah agreed to withdraw, but Mohammad Shah paid the consequence in handing over the keys of his royal treasury, and losing even the Peacock Throne to the Persian emperor. The Peacock Throne thereafter served as a symbol of Persian imperial might. Among a trove of other fabulous jewels, Nader also gained the Koh-i-Noor and Darya-ye Noor diamonds (Koh-i-Noor means "Mountain of Light" in Persian, Darya-ye Noor means "Sea of Light"). The Persian troops left Delhi at the beginning of May 1739. Nader's soldiers also took with them thousands of elephants, horses and camels, loaded with the booty they had collected. The plunder seized from India was so rich that Nader stopped taxation in Iran for a period of three years following his return.[25]

After India

A map of the extent of Nader Shah's empire

The Indian campaign was the zenith of Nader's career. Afterwards he became increasingly despotic as his health declined markedly. Nader had left his son Reza Qoli Mirza to rule Persia in his absence. Reza had behaved highhandedly and somewhat cruelly but he had kept the peace in Persia. Having heard rumours that his father had died, he had made preparations for assuming the crown. These included the murder of the former shah Tahmasp and his family, including the nine-year old Abbas III. On hearing the news, Reza's wife, who was Tahmasp's sister, committed suicide. Nader was not impressed with his son's waywardness and reprimanded him, but he took him on his expedition to conquer territory in Transoxiana. In 1740 he conquered Khanate of Khiva. After the Persians had forced the Uzbek khanate of Bokhara to submit, Nader wanted Reza to marry the khan's elder daughter because she was a descendant of his hero Genghis Khan, but Reza flatly refused and Nader married the girl himself. Nader also conquered Khwarezm on this expedition into Central Asia.

Nader now decided to punish Daghestan for the death of his brother Ebrahim Qoli on a campaign a few years earlier. In 1741, while Nader was passing through the forest of Mazanderan on his way to fight the Daghestanis, an assassin took a shot at him but Nader was only lightly wounded. He began to suspect his son was behind the attempt and confined him to Tehran. Nader's increasing ill health made his temper ever worse. Perhaps it was his illness that made Nader lose the initiative in his war against the Lezgin tribes of Daghestan. Frustratingly for him, they resorted to guerrilla warfare and the Persians could make little headway against them. Nader accused his son of being behind the assassination attempt in Mazanderan. Reza angrily protested his innocence, but Nader had him blinded as punishment, although he immediately regretted it. Soon afterwards, Nader started executing the nobles who had witnessed his son's blinding. In his last years, Nader became increasingly paranoid, ordering the assassination of large numbers of suspected enemies.

With the wealth he gained, Nader started to build a Persian navy. With lumber from Mazandaran, he built ships in Bushehr. He also purchased thirty ships in India.[1] He recaptured the island of Bahrain from the Arabs. In 1743 he conquered Oman and its main capital the city of Muscat. In 1743 Nader started another war against the Ottoman Empire. Despite having a huge army at his disposal, in this campaign Nader showed little of his former military brilliance. It ended in 1746 with the signing of a peace treaty, in which the Ottomans agreed to let Nader occupy Najaf.[26]

"Battle of Karnal" paining by adel adili

Domestic policies

Nader Shah's dagger with a small portion of his jewelry. Now part of the Iranian Crown Jewels.

Nader changed the Iranian coinage system. He minted silver coins, called Naderi, that were equal to the Mughal rupee.[1] Nader discontinued the policy of paying soldiers based on land tenure.[1] Like the late Safavids he resettled tribes. Nader Shah transformed the Shahsevan, a nomadic group living around Azerbaijan whose name literally means "shah lover", into a tribal confederacy which defended Iran against the Ottomans and Russians.[27][28] In addition, he increased the number of soldiers under his command and reduced the number of soldiers under tribal and provincial control.[1] His reforms may have strengthened the country, but they did little to improve Iran's suffering economy.[1]

Death and legacy

A Western view of Nader in his later years from a book by Jonas Hanway (1753). The background shows a tower of skulls.[29]

Nader became crueller and crueller as a result of his illness and his desire to extort more and more tax money to pay for his military campaigns. More and more revolts broke out and Nader crushed them ruthlessly, building towers from his victims’ skulls in imitation of his hero Timur. In 1747, Nader set off for Khorasan where he intended to punish Kurdish rebels. Some of his officers feared he was about to execute them and plotted against him. Nader Shah was assassinated on 19 June 1747, at Fathabad in Khorasan. He was surprised in his sleep by Salah Bey, captain of the guards, and stabbed with a sword. Nader was able to kill two of the assassins before he died.[30][31]

After his death, he was succeeded by his nephew Ali Qoli, who renamed himself Adil Shah ("righteous king"). Adil Shah was probably involved in the assassination plot.[19] Adil Shah was deposed within a year. During the struggle between Adil Shah, his brother Ibrahim Khan and Nader's grandson Shah Rukh almost all provincial governors declared independence, established their own states, and the entire Empire of Nader Shah fell into anarchy. Finally, Karim Khan founded the Zand dynasty and became ruler of Iran by 1760, while Ahmad Shah Durrani had already proclaimed independence in the east, marking the foundation of modern Afghanistan.

Nader Shah's tomb was designed by Hooshang Seyhoon.

Nader Shah was well known to the European public of the time. In 1768, Christian VII of Denmark commissioned Sir William Jones to translate a Persian language biography of Nader Shah written by his Minister Mirza Mehdi Khan Astarabadi into French.[32] It was published in 1770 as Histoire de Nadir Chah.[33] Nader's Indian campaign alerted the British East India Company to the extreme weakness of the Mughal Empire and the possibility of expanding to fill the power vacuum. Without Nader, "eventual British [in India] would have come later and in a different form, perhaps never at all - with important global effects".[34]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Ernest Tucker (March 29, 2006). "Nāder Shāh 1736-47". Encyclopædia Iranica. 
  2. ^ Nader's exact date of birth is unknown but August 6 is the "likeliest" according to Axworthy p.17 (and note) and The Cambridge History of Iran (Vol. 7 p.3); other biographers favour 1688.
  3. ^ Axworthy p.xvii
  4. ^ Biography of Nadir Shah Afshar "The Persian Napoleon" (1688-1747)
  5. ^ Michael Axworthy's biography of Nader, The Sword of Persia (I.B. Tauris, 2006), p.17-19: "His father was of lowly but respectable status, a herdsman of the Afshar tribe ... The Qereqlu Afshars to whom Nader's father belonged were a semi-nomadic Turcoman tribe settled in Khorasan in north-eastern Iran ... The tribes of Khorasan were for the most part ethnically distinct from the Persian-speaking population, speaking Turkic or Kurdish languages. Nader's mother tongue was a dialect of the language group spoken by the Turkic tribes of Iran and Central Asia, and he would have quickly learned Persian, the language of high culture and the cities as he grew older. But the Turkic language was always his preferred everyday speech, unless he was dealing with someone who knew only Persian."
  6. ^ Stephen Erdely and Valentin A. Riasanovski. The Uralic and Altaic Series, Routledge, 1997, ISBN 0700703802, p. 102
  7. ^ Cambridge History of Iran Vol.7, p.59
  8. ^ Vali Nasr, "The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future" (New York 2006)
  9. ^ "Nadir Shah". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 2010-09-24. 
  10. ^ a b "AN OUTLINE OF THE HISTORY OF PERSIA DURING THE LAST TWO CENTURIES (A.D. 1722-1922)". Edward G. Browne. London: Packard Humanities Institute. p. 33. Retrieved 2010-09-24. 
  11. ^ Durand, Sir Henry Mortimer (1908). Nadir Shah. A. Constable and co. ltd. pp. 352. Retrieved 2010-09-24. 
  12. ^ Axworthy p.18
  13. ^ a b Axworthy p.34
  14. ^ Rustamottavarikh
  15. ^ "AN OUTLINE OF THE HISTORY OF PERSIA DURING THE LAST TWO CENTURIES (A.D. 1722-1922)". Edward G. Browne. London: Packard Humanities Institute. p. 30. Retrieved 2010-09-24. 
  16. ^ This section: Axworthy pp.17-56
  17. ^ Axworthy pp.57-74
  18. ^ Axworthy pp.75-116
  19. ^ a b Elton L. Daniel, "The History of Iran" (Greenwood Press 2000) p.94
  20. ^ Lawrence Lockhart Nadir Shah (London, 1938)
  21. ^ a b This section: Axworthy pp.137-174
  22. ^ Mattair, Thomas R. (2008). Global security watch--Iran: a reference handbook. ABC-CLIO. p. 3. ISBN 027599483X, 9780275994839. Retrieved 2010-09-24. 
  23. ^ Axworthy p.168
  24. ^ Axworthy p.8
  25. ^ This section: Axworthy pp.1-16, 175-210
  26. ^ This section: Axworthy pp.175-274
  27. ^ Floor, Willem. Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 119, No. 3. (Jul. - Sep., 1999), pp. 543. Book review of Richard Tapper's Frontier Nomads of Iran: A Political and Social History of the Shahsevan.
  28. ^ Daniel, Elton L. The History of Iran. Greenwood Publishing Group: 2000. p. 90.
  29. ^ Axworthy p,273
  30. ^ History of Iran: Afsharid Dynasty (Nader Shah)
  31. ^ Axworthy pp.243-286
  32. ^ Sir William Jones (174... - Online Information article about Sir William jones (174
  33. ^ Axworthy p.330
  34. ^ Axworthy p.xvi


  • Michael Axworthy, The Sword of Persia: Nader Shah, from Tribal Warrior to Conquering Tyrant Hardcover 348 pages (26 July 2006) Publisher: I.B. Tauris Language: English ISBN 1-85043-706-8
  • The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 7 (Cambridge University Press, 1968)

Additional reading

  • Lawrence Lockhart Nadir Shah (London, 1938)
  • Ernest Tucker, Nadir Shah's Quest for Legitimacy in Post-Safavid Iran Hardcover 150 pages (4 October 2006) Publisher: University Press of Florida Language: English ISBN 0-8130-2964-3
  • Michael Axworthy, Iran: Empire of the Mind: A History from Zoroaster to the Present Day (Paperback) ISBN 014103629X Publisher Penguin 6 November 2008

External links

Preceded by
Abbas III
King of Persia
Succeeded by
Adel Shah Afshar

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • NĀDER SHAH — NĀDER SHAH, Persian king of the Turkish speaking tribe of Afshār, originating from the northeastern region of Iran, who according to reliable sources acted as the head of a band of highway robbers and later became the king of Iran (1736–47).… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • NADER SHAH — N DER SH H (1688 1747) sh h de Perse (1736 1747) Roi de Perse. N der était un chef de la tribu turkmène des Afsh r du groupe des Qizilbash qui avait contribué à la venue au pouvoir des Séfévides. Une partie de la tribu était établie au Khor s n… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Nader Shah — Nâdir Shâh Nâdir Shâh …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Nader Shah's Sword — Picture of Nader shah and two of his sons on the reverse side of Nader Shah s Sword This, according to legend, is Nader Shah s All Conquering Sword though the inscription on the blade attributes it to Fathali Shah. The sword is not visible in any …   Wikipedia

  • Nader Shah Khan — König Mohammed Nadir Schah Mohammed Nadir Schah (* 10. April 1883; † 8. November 1933 in Kabul) war von 1929 bis zu seiner Ermordung König von Afghanistan. Nadir Schah war unter Amanullah Khan Kriegsminister gewesen und spielte eine große Rolle… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Nader — ([nɑːder]) is an Arabic given name and means Rare , Unique and surname and may refer to: Contents 1 Given name 2 Surname 3 Other uses 4 See also …   Wikipedia

  • Nader Naderpour — (6 June 1929 – 18 February 2000) was an Iranian born poet. Among many Iranian poets who shaped up the New Persian Poetry or New Poetry (in Persian: Sher e Know), Ali Esfandiari, aka Nima Yooshij, Parviz Natel Khanlari, Nader Naderpor, Forough… …   Wikipedia

  • Shah Rukh of Persia — Shahrokh Shah Afshar (Persian: شاهرخ, c. 1730 ndash; 1796) was a king of Afsharid dynasty and a contemporary of Zand kings. He reigned until 1796. [citebook|title=Advanced History of Medieval India|author=Shiri Ram Bakshi|year= 1995|id=ISBN… …   Wikipedia

  • Shah Ahmad Marashi — Ahmad Shah Marashi was a Safavid Iranian Shah 1726 ndash;1728 that succeeded Shah Tahmasp II, while the Shah was in the northern provinces fighting with Nader Shah Afshar against the Russians and the Ottomans. Ahmad Shah Marashi was born as Mirza …   Wikipedia

  • Nader Jahanbani — king of Iran (left) General Nader Jahanbani (right) …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”