Sultan Hosein

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Hosayn (1705)
Hosayn (1721, British Museum )

Sultan Hosein also known as Sultan Hosayn or Schāh Soltān Hoseyn (* 1668 ; † 1726 ) was the last Safavid Shah of Iran . He ruled from 1694 until it was overthrown by Afghan rebels in 1722. During his reign, the Safavid dynasty, which ruled Iran from the beginning of the 16th century, fell apart.

Early rule

When his father Safi II (also known as Suleiman I) was lying on his deathbed, he asked his court eunuchs which of his two sons they would choose as successors. He said that if they want peace and quiet they should choose the elder Sultan Hosein, but if they want the kingdom even stronger they should choose the younger son Abbas. They chose to be hosein. He had a reputation for being comfortable and had little interest in political affairs. His nickname was Yachschidir (Turkish: Yaḫšidir - "(Very) good!"), This is the answer he is said to have always given when he had to decide on questions of the state.

The young Shah was a devout Muslim and one of his first activities was to give power to the leading cleric Muhammad Bāqir al-Majlisī . A series of measures against Sufi orders were introduced and the prohibition of alcohol and opium was introduced, as well as restrictions on the conduct of women in public. The provincial governors were ordered to apply Sharia law .

Soon, however, the power of Muhammad Bāqir al-Majlisī changed in favor of Sultan Hosein's great-aunt Maryam Begum. Under their influence, Hosein became an alcoholic and paid less and less attention to politics.

Revolts against Sultan Hosein

Sultan Hosein's rule was relatively calm until he faced a major uprising in the east of the country, today's Afghanistan. The Afghans were divided into two large tribal confederations, the Ghilzai and the Durrani . In 1709 the Ghilzai rebelled in Kandahar under their leader Mir Wais Hotak and broke away from the Safavid supremacy. In 1716 the Durrani followed them in Herat and Safavid punitive expeditions against them failed. But later the Durrani fought against the Ghilzai and were defeated by them under the new leader Mahmud , son of the Mir Wais.

In the meantime, Sultan Hosein was confronted with other rebellions resulting from his religious policy. The revival of Shi'aism by Muhammad Bāqir al-Majlisī and his successor and grandson Mullah Mohammed Hosein led to growing intolerance towards Sunnis , Jews and Christians (especially Armenians ). The Shah also passed a law that the Zoroastrians should be forcibly converted. From 1717 to 1720 the Sunnis from Kurdistan and Shirvan rebelled . In Shirvan, the rebels called for their Sunni companions, the Ottoman Turks and Lesgians , to help them. When the Lesgians took the capital of Shirvan Şamaxı in 1721 , they massacred the Shiite inhabitants and the governor.

Riots broke out elsewhere as well. Arab pirates attacked the islands in the Persian Gulf and epidemics broke out in the northwestern provinces.

The siege of Isfahan

Even so, the main threat came from the Ghilzai. In 1722 Mahmud and his army marched west with the capital, Isfahan , in mind. Rather than waiting and resisting a siege on the city that the small Afghan army would not win, Sultan Hosein marched out of the city to meet Mahmud's forces at Golnabad. Here the royal army was defeated on March 8th and fled back to Isfahan. The Shah was advised to flee to the provinces and raise more soldiers there, but he decided to stay in the capital, which was now completely surrounded by the Afghans. The siege lasted from March to October 1722. Since he had no artillery, Mahmud was forced to besiege the city for a long time in order to subdue the Persians through hunger. Sultan Hosein's command during the siege showed his usual lack of determination and the loyalty of his provincial governors wavered in the face of such incompetence. Protests against him broke out in Isfahan and his son Tahmasp II was made co-gentleman. In June, Tahmasp managed to flee the city to raise an army in the provinces, but the plan was barely implemented. In the end, hunger and disease forced Isfahan to give up. The siege is said to have killed 80,000 people. On October 23, Sultan Hosein abdicated and recognized Mahmud as the new Shah of Iran. Mahmud founded the Hotaki dynasty.

Captivity and death

At first Mahmud treated Sultan Hosein with consideration, but as he became more and more unstable, he began to distrust the old Shah. In February 1725, Mahmud believed a rumor that one of Hosein's sons Safi Mirza had fled, and so he ordered the deaths of all other Safavid princes. When Sultan Hosein tried to stop this massacre, he was injured but was able to save two of his children. Mahmud went mad and died on April 25, 1725.

Mahmud's successor Ashraf Khan treated the deposed Shah with consideration. In return, Hosein gave him one of his daughters as a wife. This marriage more legitimized Ashraf's rule in the eyes of the subjects. But Aschraf was involved in a war against the Ottoman Empire, which challenged his claim to the throne. In the autumn of 1726, the Ottoman governor of Baghdad Ahmad Pasha marched towards Isfahan, giving Aschraf a sign that he would reinstate the rightful ruler. Ashraf then had Sultan Hosein executed and sent his head to the Ottomans with a message.

Individual evidence

  1. Axworthy pp. 29-30
  2. Cambridge History of Iran Vol. 6 pp. 311-312
  3. Axworthy pp. 30-31
  4. Axworthy pp. 36-40
  5. Axworthy pp. 40-42
  6. Axworthy pp. 44-55
  7. Axworthy pp. 64-67
  8. Axworthy pp. 86-88