THIS PAGE CONTAINS INFORMATION ON THE AFSHAR PERIOD

(Prepared by Maziar Behrooz)

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The Khorshid (sun) palace was to become Nader Shah
 Afshar's final resting place
(SEE MORE PICTURES OF MASHHAD & SURROUNDINGS )   

Afshar Shahs:
Nader  1737-1747
Ali Qoli 1747-1748
Ebrahim 1748-1749
Shahrokh 1749-1796
 
A portraits of young Nader Qoli (shah)
Afshar

Nader Shah Afshar (1737-1747)

Nader Qoli was born to a poor family among the Afshar (Qizilbash)  tribe.  By 1725 he had enlisted in Tahmasp II's (son of the captive deposed Safavid Shah Sultan Hosein) army to fight the Afghan occupation. By Oct 1726 he replaced the commander of Tahmasp's army, Fath Ali Khan Qajar, by assassinating him.


Nader Shah Afshar

Dec. 1726 Mashhad fell to Tahmasp/Nader army.
1729 Herat was captured; Aug-Nov.. 1729, Ashraf's (the Afghan ruler) army was sent to Khorasan and defeated by Nader. 
Nov.. 1729, battle of Murchekhur, Ashraf's army defeated near Isfahan.
 Nov.. 13, Isfahan captured.
 Aug 12, 1730,
Tabriz captured and then the Caucasus. 
Jan. 1732, the Ottomans captured Iravan and Tabriz from Tahmasp. 
Aug. 1732 Nader entered Isfahan and demanded the shah's abdication; he was replaced by his infant son Abbas III.


Nader Shah 

In 1733, Nader set out for Baghdad in order to avenge Tahmasp's defeat and also to provide for his army.
Nader's  army was mostly tribal and was rapidly growing in numbers; it was made up of Shi'i tribal forces (Bakhtiyaris, Azaris, Hazaras) as well as, increasingly, of Sunni tribes (Afghans; Turkmans) which Nader found to be better fighters; these tribes were hungry and looked for spoils of foreign conquests; hence, throughout his tenure, booty and spoils of war became a paramount goal of Nader's conquests at the expense of constructive policies.  Nader was constantly in search of provisions for his large army; his war with the Ottomans was only partially successful; he failed to capture Iraq (Basra and Baghdad) at great cost.  The main shortcoming of his military was lack of effective artillery.
But by 1735 the Caucasus
, (all the way to Ganjeh) was secured against the Ottomans and the Russians. 
On March 8, 1736 in Mughan plain, he declared himself the shah of the Afshar empire, and proclaimed the Ja'fari madhhab as the fifth
school of Islam and asked the Ottomans to recognize it. Nader made Mashhad  his capital.


Nader Shah's mausoleum in Mashhad-Iran

 Nader's religious policy was pragmatic in nature; he was not a religious man himself; but his grand army was increasingly relying on Sunni tribal soldiery for its man power while his domain was mostly Shi'i; hence, Nader's religious policy was to attempt to undo the Safavid period by lessening the appeal of Shi'ism and the Shi'i ulama; in this venture he was ultimately unsuccessful; upon his coronation, he asked the Ottoman sultan and his Sunni ulama to accept Shi'ism as the fifth school of Islam (a fifth pillar to be erected at the Ka'ba), a Shi'i amir al-hajj to be named by the shah, provide protection for Shi'i Iranian pilgrims and for Shi'as in the Sultan's domain (no more enslavement of Shi'a heretics); in return, the shah would put a stop to cursing the first three caliphs by Shi'is in Iran (a common practice since the early Safavid period and very much insulting to the Sunnis), and a lasting peace treaty with the Ottoman empire (permanent ambassador exchange); Nadir's first attempt at getting the desired recognition failed as Sunni ulama resisted the whole idea; he attempted another try in 1743, when on Dec 12, by his order the ulama of Iran, Afghanistan, Bukhara and Atabat gathered in the holy city of Najaf; Ahmad Pasha, the Ottoman governor of Baghdad, sent Abdullah ibn Husain al-Suwaidi, a staunch Sunni alim, and Nader asked him to act as judge; soon all the present ulama signed a document which was sealed by al-Suwaidi; accordingly, the religious policy of Shah Isma'il and his successors was deplored, the legitimacy of the first three caliphs was recognized, as was also the true descent of Ja'far al-Sadiq from the Prophet, lastly the right of Iranians as to belonging to the Ja'fari madhhab was affirmed; Nader added this document to the peace settlement he proposed to the Porte; apparently, it was ignored, as before, by the Ottomans.  To provide for his army and lessen its burden on the population, Nader soon began his campaign against the Mughal empire of North India.

Feb. 1737, an 80,0000 man army was dispatched to capture Qandahar, which was captured in March, with much difficulty, which suggested a lack of modern siege and artillery techniques; it was made a base for further attacks.
1738, Ghazneh and Kabul captured.
1739, Lahor was captured.
March 1739, Delhi was conquered and Mughal emperor Mohammad Shah was captured; Delhi was sacked and the loot was so large that Nader exempted the Iranian population from taxes for three years. 
April 1739, Nader asked for the hand of the emperor's daughter for his younger son Nasr Allah.
1740 Balkh captured by Nader's son Reza Qoli.
Oct.1740 Bukhara defeated.
Nov.1740 Khiva defeated, its ruler captured and killed.
By 1740, Nader needed more money for his navy (Persian Gulf) and numerous other military campaigns, so he took back the tax exemption and asked the people to pay the back taxes as well.
March 1741, on his way to Azarbaijan, an attempt was made on his life (May 1741), Nader's mind disorder was growing at this point, he suspected his eldest son Reza Qoli, who he had blinded.
Aug 1741, Nader'ss 150,000 man army entered Daghistan and captured Darband (Oct) but was otherwise unsuccessful in subduing the mountaineers.
1743 the Ottomans rejected the recognition of the Ja'fari madhhab; Nader attacked Kirkuk in August with a 300,000 man army and captured it.
 


A 1748 European map of Afshar Iran

Nader Shah  was assassinated in July 1747 and his army immediately disintegrated; one of his generals, Ahmad Khan Abdali (Ahmad Shah Dorrani) created the Afghan state for the first time.  Nader re-established the Safavid territory (centered on Mashhad rather than Isfahan) but his empire disintegrated immediately after his death.  His successors only managed to hold on greater Khorasan (eastern Iran).  The last Afshar shah, Shahrokh a grandson of Nader, was captured and killed in 1796 by Agha Mohammad Khan the fist of Qajar shahs.

Read more on this period:

Durand, Mortimer. Nadir Shah
Fraser, James. The History of Nadir Shah
Lockhart, Laurence. Nadir Shah