Naser al-Din Shah Qajar

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Naser al-Din Shah Qajar
Zell'ollah (Shadow of God [on earth]) [1]
Qebleh-ye 'ālam (Pivot of the Universe) [1]
Islampanah (Refuge of Islam) [1]
Shah of Persia
Reign5 September 1848 – 1 May 1896
Predecessor Mohammad Shah Qajar
Successor Mozaffar ad-Din Shah Qajar
Regent Mahd-e Olia
Born(1831-07-16)16 July 1831
Tabriz, Persia
Died1 May 1896(1896-05-01) (aged 64)
Tehran, Persia
Burial2 May 1896
IssueSee below
Full name
Nasser al-Din Shah
Dynasty Qajar dynasty
Father Mohammad Shah Qajar
Mother Malek Jahan Khanom, Mahd-e Olia
Religion Shia Islam
Tughra Naser al-Din Shah stamp.jpg

Naser al-Din Shah Qajar [2] (16 July 1831 – 1 May 1896) (Persian : ناصرالدین‌شاه قاجار), also Nassereddin Shah Qajar, was the King of Persia from 5 September 1848 to 1 May 1896 when he was assassinated. He was the son of Mohammad Shah Qajar and Malek Jahān Khānom and the third longest reigning monarch in Iranian history after Shapur II of the Sassanid dynasty and Tahmasp I of the Safavid Dynasty. Nasser al-Din Shah had sovereign power for close to 50 years and was also the first modern Iranian monarch to formally visit Europe.

Persian language Western Iranian language

Persian, also known by its endonym Farsi, is one of the Western Iranian languages within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. It is a pluricentric language primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and some other regions which historically were Persianate societies and considered part of Greater Iran. It is written right to left in the Persian alphabet, a modified variant of the Arabic script.

King class of male monarch

King, or king regnant is the title given to a male monarch in a variety of contexts. The female equivalent is queen regnant, while the title of queen on its own usually refers to the consort of a king.

Qajar dynasty monarchy state of Iran from 1789 until 1925

The Qajar Empire, also referred to as Qajar Iran, officially the Sublime State of Persia, was the state ruled by the Qajar dynasty, an Iranian royal dynasty of Turkic origin, specifically from the Qajar tribe, from 1789 to 1925. The Qajar family took full control of Iran in 1794, deposing Lotf 'Ali Khan, the last Shah of the Zand dynasty, and re-asserted Iranian sovereignty over large parts of the Caucasus. In 1796, Mohammad Khan Qajar seized Mashhad with ease, putting an end to the Afsharid dynasty, and Mohammad Khan was formally crowned as Shah after his punitive campaign against Iran's Georgian subjects. In the Caucasus, the Qajar dynasty permanently lost many of Iran's integral areas to the Russians over the course of the 19th century, comprising modern-day Georgia, Dagestan, Azerbaijan and Armenia.



Effectiveness of his early rule

The state under Naser Al-Din was the recognized government of Iran but its authority was undermined by local tribal leaders. The religious and tribal chieftains held quite a bit of autonomy over their communities. Naser Al-Din was not effective in implementing his sovereignty over his people. Local groups had their own militias and oftentimes did not obey laws passed by the monarchy since they did not have the power to enforce them. The people followed the ulama's fatwas instead of state issued law. When Naser Al-Din took power, his army barely had 3,000 men which was significantly smaller than the armies under various tribal leaders. When the state needed a proper army, he would hire the local militias. [3] Prior to his reforms, Naser's government had very little power over their subjects and even during the reforms, they faced more scrutiny over their ability to implement those reforms successfully.

Diplomacy and wars

Naser al-Din was in Tabriz from Qajars tribe when he heard of his father's death in 1848 [ clarification needed ], and he ascended to the Sun Throne with the help of Amir Kabir.

Tabriz City in Iran

Tabriz (Persian: تبریز‎; is the most populated city in northwestern Iran, one of the historical capitals of Iran and the present capital of East Azerbaijan province. It is the sixth most populous city in Iran. Located in the Quru River valley, in Iran's historic Azerbaijan region, between long ridges of volcanic cones in the Sahand and Eynali mountains, Tabriz's elevation ranges between 1,350 and 1,600 metres above sea level. The valley opens up into a plain that gently slopes down to the eastern shores of Lake Urmia, 60 kilometres to the west. With cold winters and temperate summers, Tabriz is considered a summer resort. It was named World Carpet Weaving City by the World Crafts Council in October 2015 and Exemplary Tourist City of 2018 by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

The Qajars ; also spelled Kadjars, Kajars, Kadzhars, Cadzhars, Cadjars, Ghajars and so on) are a Turkic Oghuz tribe who lived variously, with other tribes, in the area that is now Armenia, Azerbaijan and northwestern Iran. With the advent of the Safavid era, they had split into several factions. These included the Ziyādoghlu (Ziādlu), associated with the area of Ganja and Yerevan, as well as the Qoyunlu (Qāvānlu), and Davālu (Devehlu) the latter two associated with the northern areas of contemporary Iran. The Qajars were one of the original Turkoman Qizilbash tribes that had supplied power to the Safavids since its earliest days. Numerous members of the Qajar tribe held prominent ranks in the Safavid state. In 1794, a Qajar chieftain, Agha Mohammed, member of the Qoyunlu branch of the Qajars, founded the Qajar dynasty which replaced the Zand dynasty in Iran. In the 1980s the Qajar population exceeded 15,000 people, most of whom lived in Iran. According to Olson et al., the Qajars are nowadays considered as a branch of the Azerbaijanis.

Naser al-Din had early reformist tendencies, but was dictatorial in his style of government. With his sanction, some Babis were killed after an attempt on his life. [4] This treatment continued under his prime minister Amir Kabir, who even ordered the execution of the Báb – regarded as a manifestation of God to Bábí's and Bahá'ís, and to historians as the founder of the Bábí religion.

Báb Iranian prophet and founder of the religion Bábism, venerated in the Baháí Faith

The Báb, born Siyyid `Alí Muhammad Shírází was the founder of Bábism, and one of the central figures of the Bahá'í Faith.

Bábism, also known as the Bayání Faith, is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion which professes that there is one incorporeal, unknown, and incomprehensible God who manifests his will in an unending series of theophanies, called Manifestations of God. It has no more than a few thousand adherents according to current estimates, most of whom are concentrated in Iran. It was founded by ‘Ali Muhammad Shirazi who first assumed the title of Báb (lit. "Gate") from which the religion gets its name, out of the belief that he was the gate to the Twelfth Imam. However throughout his ministry his titles and claims underwent much evolution as the Báb progressively outlined his teachings.

Baháí Faith Monotheistic religion

The Bahá'í Faith is a religion teaching the essential worth of all religions, and the unity and equality of all people. Established by Bahá'u'lláh in 1863, it initially grew in Persia and parts of the Middle East, where it has faced ongoing persecution since its inception. It is estimated to have between 5 and 8 million adherents, known as Bahá'ís, spread out into most of the world's countries and territories.

Unable to regain the territory in the Caucasus irrevocably lost to Russia in the early 19th century, Naser al-Din sought compensation by seizing Herāt, Afghanistan, in 1856. Great Britain regarded the move as a threat to British India and declared war on Persia, forcing the return of Herāt as well as Persia's recognition of the kingdom of Afghanistan. [5]

Caucasus region in Eurasia bordered on the south by Iran, on the southwest by Turkey, on the west by the Black Sea, on the east by the Caspian Sea, and on the north by Russia

The Caucasus or Caucasia is an area situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and occupied by Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. It is home to the Caucasus Mountains, including the Greater Caucasus mountain range, which has historically been considered a natural barrier between Eastern Europe and Western Asia.

The Russo-Persian Wars or Russo-Iranian Wars were a series of wars fought between the Russian Empire and the Persian Empire between the 17th and 19th centuries. As Russia grew in power, it started to contest the hegemony of Ottoman Turkey and Safavid Iran in the Black Sea region, Caspian Sea region, and most importantly, the Caucasus. All the Russo-Persian Wars therefore concerned the Caucasus region. Throughout its history, Transcaucasia and large parts of Dagestan were usually incorporated into the Iranian world. During the course of the 19th century, the Russian Empire conquered the territory from Qajar Iran. The most important of the Russo-Persian Wars were:

Russia transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia

Russia, officially the Russian Federation, is a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and North Asia. At 17,125,200 square kilometres (6,612,100 sq mi), Russia is by a considerable margin the largest country in the world by area, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, and the ninth most populous, with about 146.79 million people as of 2019, including Crimea. About 77% of the population live in the western, European part of the country. Russia's capital, Moscow, is one of the largest cities in the world and the second largest city in Europe; other major cities include Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod. Extending across the entirety of Northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe, Russia spans eleven time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It shares maritime borders with Japan by the Sea of Okhotsk and the U.S. state of Alaska across the Bering Strait. However, Russia recognises two more countries that border it, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which are internationally recognized as parts of Georgia.

Naser al-Din was the first modern Persian monarch to visit Europe in 1873 and then again in 1878 (when he saw a Royal Navy Fleet Review), and finally in 1889 and was reportedly amazed with the technology he saw. During his visit to the United Kingdom in 1873, Naser al-Din Shah was appointed by Queen Victoria a Knight of the Order of the Garter, the highest English order of chivalry. He was the first Persian monarch to be so honoured. His travel diary of his 1873 trip has been published in several languages, including Persian, German, French, and Dutch.

Order of the Garter Order of chivalry in England

The Order of the Garter is an order of chivalry founded by Edward III in 1348 and regarded as the most prestigious British order of chivalry in England and later the United Kingdom. It is dedicated to the image and arms of Saint George, England's patron saint.

Naser al-Din Shah by Abul Hasan Ghaffari, 1854 Naser al-Din Shah by Abul Hasan Ghaffari 1854.jpg
Naser al-Din Shah by Abul Hasan Ghaffari, 1854

In 1890 Naser al-Din met British major Gerald F. Talbot and signed a contract with him giving him the ownership of the Persian tobacco industry, but he later was forced to cancel the contract after Ayatollah Mirza Hassan Shirazi issued a fatwa that made farming, trading, and consuming tobacco haram (forbidden). Consuming tobacco from the newly monopolized 'Talbet' company represented foreign exploitation, so for that reason it was deemed immoral. It even affected the Shah's personal life as his wives did not allow him to smoke.

This was not the end of Naser al-Din's attempts to give concessions to Europeans; he later gave the ownership of Persian customs incomes to Paul Julius Reuter.[ citation needed ]

Naser al-Din Shah Qajar, King of Persia. Photography by Nadar Nasir ad-Din Nadar.jpg
Naser al-Din Shah Qajar, King of Persia. Photography by Nadar


Most of Naser al-Din's modernizing reforms happened during the prime ministership of Amir Kabir. He defeated various rebels in Iranian provinces, most notably in Khorasan, balanced the budget by introducing reforms to the tax system, curbed the power of the clergy in the judiciary, built some military factories, improved relations with other powers to curb British and Russian influence opened the first newspaper called Vaghaye-Ettefaghieh, embellished and modernized cities by building for example the Tehran Bazaar and most importantly opened the first Iranian school for upper education called the Dar ul-Funun where many Iranian intellectuals received their education. However Amir Kabir's reforms were unpopular with some people and Naser al-Din Shah first exiled him and then ordered his assassination.[ citation needed ] The Shah gradually lost interest for reform. However, he took some important measures such as introducing telegraphy and postal services and building roads. He also increased the size of the state's military and created a new group called the Persian Cossack Brigade [6] which was trained and armed by the Russians. He was the first Persian to be photographed and was a patron of photography who had himself photographed hundreds of times. His final prime minister was Ali Asghar Khan, who after the shah's assassination aided in securing the transfer of the throne to Mozaffar al-Din.

Although he was successful in introducing these western based reforms, he was not successful in gaining complete sovereignty over his people or getting them to accept these reforms. The school he opened, Dar al-Funun, had very small enrollment numbers. The restriction's defined by Sh'ia Islam on the shah's collection of the zakat led to those funds going straight into the coffers of the ulama. Therefore, the financial autonomy given to the ulama enabled them to remain structurally independent, keeping madrasahs open and supporting the students therein. [7] The ulama also maintained their authority to challenge state law. To fund these new institutions and building projects, Naser repeatedly used tax farming to increase state revenue. Unfortunately, tax collectors routinely abused their power and the government was viewed as corrupt and unable to protect them from abuse by the upper class. This anti-government sentiment increased the ulama's power over the people because they were able to provide them security. Keddie states in her book, Roots of Revolution: An Interpretive History of Modern Iran, that at the time "it was still considered a sign of greater status to be admitted to the ranks of the ulama than it was to become a member of the civil service." [8]

In 1852 Naser al-Din dismissed and executed Amir Kabir, the famous Persian reformer. With him, many believe, died the prospect of an independent Persia led by meritocracy rather than nepotism.

The Shah on his European tour, seated with British and Russian royalty in the Royal Albert Hall, London The Shah and the British Royal Family.jpg
The Shah on his European tour, seated with British and Russian royalty in the Royal Albert Hall, London

In the later years of his rule, however, Naser al-Din steadfastly refused to deal with the growing pressures for reforms. He also granted a series of concessionary rights to foreigners in return for large payments. In 1872, popular pressure forced him to withdraw one concession involving permission to construct such complexes as railways and irrigation works throughout Persia. In 1890, he granted a 50-year concession on the purchase, sale, and processing of all tobacco in the country, which led to a national boycott of tobacco and the withdrawal of the concession. This last incident is considered by many authorities to be the origin of modern Iranian nationalism.


Naser al-Din was assassinated by Mirza Reza Kermani, a follower of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, when he was visiting and praying in the shrine of Shah-Abdol-Azim. It is said that the revolver used to assassinate him was old and rusty, and had he worn a thicker overcoat, or been shot from a longer range, he would have survived the attempt on his life. [9] Shortly before his death, he is reported to have said "I will rule you differently if I survive!" The assassin was prosecuted by the defence minister, Nazm ol-Dowleh.

Naser al-Din was buried in the Shah-Abdol-Azim shrine, in Rayy near Tehran, where he was assassinated. His funeral took place six months after his death. A British diplomat who spoke with some who had been present, Charles Hardinge, commented "... the corpse was conveyed on a very high funeral car and was 'high' in more ways than one" [10] (see picture below 'The Shah's funeral'). His one-piece marble tombstone, bearing his full effigy, is now kept in the Golestan Palace Museum in Tehran.

Artistic and literary interests

The Shah in a uniform studded with diamonds from the treasury of the Persian emperors. Often he wore the famous square Darya-ye Noor. Nasser-ed-Din Shah.jpg
The Shah in a uniform studded with diamonds from the treasury of the Persian emperors. Often he wore the famous square Darya-ye Noor.

Naser al-Din Shah was very interested in painting and photography. He was a talented painter and, even though he had not been trained, was an expert in pen and ink drawing. Several of his pen and ink drawings survive. He was one of the first photographers in Persia and was a patron of the art. He established a photography studio in Golestan Palace. [11]

Naser al-Din was also a poet. 200 couplets of his were recorded in the preface of Majma'ul Fusahā, a work by Reza-Qoli Khan Hedayat about poets of the Qajar period. He was interested in history and geography and had many books on these topics in his library. He also knew French and English, but was not fluent in either tongue. [12]

Hekāyāt Pir o Javān (حکایت پیر و جوان; "The Tale of the Old and the Young") was attributed to him by many; it was one of the first Persian stories written in modern European style. [13]

He also wrote the book Diary of H.M. the Shah of Persia during his tour through Europe in A.D. 1873.



Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar Enthroned, One of 274 Vintage Photographs - Antoin Sevruguin. Brooklyn Museum. Brooklyn Museum - Mozaffar al-Din Shah Enthroned One of 274 Vintage Photographs - Antoin Sevruguin.jpg
Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar Enthroned, One of 274 Vintage Photographs - Antoin Sevruguin. Brooklyn Museum.



List of Premiers

Fictional depictions

See also

10 Francs (2 Tomans) stamp issued between 1882 and 1884. 1882 Iran Yv40.jpg
10 Francs (2 Tomans) stamp issued between 1882 and 1884.


  1. 1 2 3 Amanat, Abbas (1997), Pivot of the Universe: Nasir Al-Din Shah Qajar and the Iranian Monarchy, 1831-1896, Comparative studies on Muslim societies, I.B.Tauris, p. 10, ISBN   9781860640971
  2. Naser al-Din is pronounced as Nāser-ad'din, and less formally as Nāser-ed'din.
  3. William Cleveland, A History of the Modern Middle East, 5th edition (Westview, 2012) pg.100
  4. Abbas Amanat. Pivot of the universe: Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar and the Iranian Monarchy, pp. 204–218.
  5. Article from Encyclopædia Britannica
  6. William Cleveland, A History of the Modern Middle East, 5th edition (Westview, 2012) pg.103
  7. Cleveland, William L. "A History of the Modern Middle East" (Westview Press, 2013) pg 104
  8. William Cleveland, A History of the Modern Middle East, 5th edition (Westview, 2012) pg 104
  9. Mo'ayeri p.105
  10. "Old Diplomacy" (1947), by Lord Hardinge of Penshurst, p. 63
  11. Tahmasbpoor, Mohammad-Reza (2008). Nāser-od-din, the Photographer King. Tehran: Nashr-e Tarikh-e Iran. ISBN   964-6082-16-5
  12. Mo'ayeri p.30
  13. Mansuri, Kurosh(2006). Hekāyāte Pir Va Javān. Tehran: Motale'at Tarikh. ISBN   964-6357-69-5
  14. Wm. A. Shaw, The Knights of England, Volume I (London, 1906) page 65
  15. Children of Naser al-Din Shah
  16. Zi'a es-Saltaneh married Seyed Zeyn-ol-Abedin Emam Jome'eh. Her daughter, Zia Ashraf Emami married Mohammad Mosaddegh
  17. Mo'ayeri pp.16–17

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Naser al-Din Shah Qajar
Born: July 16 1831 Died: May 1 1896
Iranian royalty
Preceded by
Mohammad Shah Qajar
Shah of Persia
Succeeded by
Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar