Nader Shah Afshar (1688–1747)

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Nader Shah Afshar was the ruler of Iran from 1736 until 1747. Born Nader-qoli Beg of the Afshar Turkmen in northeastern Iran in 1688, he rose to power by espousing the cause of Tahmasb Mirza, scion of the Safavid dynasty who had escaped from the invading Afghans. Under the name of Tahmasb-qoli Khan, Nader led an Iranian army to victory over the Afghans in 1729. In 1732 he had Tahmasb deposed and replaced by his infant son ˓Abbas, with himself as regent. Having recovered the border territories occupied by Ottoman Turkey and Russia, in 1736 he engineered his own election as king, under the name of Nader Shah.

Nader signed a treaty with the Ottomans, proposing that the Iranians renounce Shi˓ism (a major cause of enmity with the Turks, as champions of Sunni Islam) if the Turks agreed to recognize their Ja˓fari madhhab (school of religious law) as a fifth rite of Sunni law. This compromise was likely seen by Nader as a stepping-stone to a larger Asiatic empire, as his enrichment of the Shi˓ite shrine in his capital of Mashhad was calculated to win support at home. The Turks were unconvinced, and the religious clauses were never ratified. In 1739 Nader invaded India, defeated the Mughal army, and sacked Delhi; he returned by way of Central Asia, subduing Bukhara and Khiva. His son Reza-qoli Mirza, viceroy in Iran during the Indian campaign, was accused of ordering a failed assassination of his father, and blinded.

Exorbitant requisitions for his renewed campaigns provoked widespread rebellions. Nader became increasingly paranoid and cruelly punished all opposition, erecting towers of severed heads in his wake. His reliance on (Sunni) Afghan and Uzbek troops alienated his own (Shi˓ite) Afshar and Qajar officers, who in 1747 assassinated him in his camp in Khorasan. His army disintegrated; he was succeeded briefly by a nephew, ˓Adel Shah, then by his grandson Shahrokh Shah (1748–1796), but their rule did not extend much beyond Mashhad.

See alsoAbbas I, Shah ; Madhhab .


Lockhart, Laurence. Nadir Shah: A Critical Study Based MainlyUpon Contemporary Sources. London: Luzac, 1938.

Tucker, Ernest S. "Nadir Shah and the Ja'fari Madhhab Reconsidered." Iranian Studies 27 (1994): 163–179.

John R. Perry