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Tucker, Nadir Shah

Tucker, Nadir Shah

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International Society for Iranian Studies
Nadir Shah and the Ja 'fari Madhhab ReconsideredAuthor(s): Ernest TuckerSource:
Iranian Studies,
Vol. 27, No. 1/4, Religion and Society in Islamic Iran during the Pre-Modern Era (1994), pp. 163-179Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of International Society for Iranian StudiesStable URL:
Accessed: 05/12/2008 10:59
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 International Society for Iranian Studies
Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize,preserve and extend access to
 Iranian Studies.
Iranian Studies, volume 27,numbers1-4, 1994
ErnestTuckerNadir Shah and the Ja'fari MadhhabReconsidered
I.IntroductionIn less than twenty years, Nadir Shah built an empireacrossIran,India,and Cen-tralAsia. Whenhe tookthe throneonthe Mughan steppein1148/1736,Nadirconfrontedtheproblemofhowtolegitimizehis reignafter two centuries ofShi'iSafavidrule.Heattemptedo solvethisproblem,inpart, by challengingIran's Twelver Shi'i identity.1Nadir proposedto theOttomans thatTwelverShi'ismbe considereda fifth schoolof SunniIslam,tobe calledthe Ja'farimadhhabafter the sixthImam,Ja'faral-Sadiq.2 In exchangeforShi'i renunciation f such practicesas sabb (theritualcursing of the first three caliphs), NadirproposedthattheOttomans givethis Ja'fari madhhaballtheprivileges enjoyedbythefour Sunnischools,andthata fifth pillar be erected in the Ka'bahin Mecca to commemorate it. Heaskedthat theOttomansallow him toappointtheleader ofthe annualhajjcara-vanfrom Iran. He stated that the legal opinionsof Ja'far al-Sadiqwouldbe con-sideredthecornerstonetexts of thismadhhab, paralleltothewritingsofthefoundersoftheother schools. Nadircontinuedto promotethisconceptuntilnearlythe endof his reign.Severalexplanationshavebeen offeredforNadir's introductionof theJa'farimadhhab. It has been interpreted s a device totransform ran nto a Sunni coun-tryinordertocounter the legacyofthe Safavids,whose legitimacy had beenbased,inpart, upontheir roleasdefenders ofShi'ism. Someevidencepointstoitsuse as a tool toeasetensionsbetweentheSunni Afghan and Shi'i Qizilbashpartsof Nadir'army.Theproposalclearlyhad an economic dimension, since itwould have offered Nadiraway to control a greaterpart of the revenue of the lu-crativeIranianhajjtrade.To exploreallthese hypotheses fully is beyondthe scope of this discussion. In-stead,itwillfocus onwhyand how theJa'farimadhhab was depicted in quite
1.The terms "Shi'i"and"Shi'ism," as usedinthis essay, refer only to TwelverShi'is and Twelver Shi'ism.2.The phrase madhhab-ija'farl has long been used to refer to Twelver Shi'ism.Ja'far al-Sadiq is regardedby Shi'is as one oftheforemost scholars of fiqh(Islamic ju-risprudence). See Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v. "DJA'FAR AL-SADIK."
164Tuckerdifferentways forforeignand domesticconsumption.Additionally,hereactionto it at home and abroadwill be examinedto gauge its actualmpact.To the Ottomans,Nadir presentedhe Ja'farimadhhabasthe eliminationof vir-tually all distinctShi'i practices,clearingthe way for Iranian Shi'isto beac-ceptedcompletely as Sunnis.He anathematizednti-Sunniactivitiessuch as thecursingofthefirst three caliphs,callingthemSafavidinnovations(bid'at-isafaviyah).He tried to transformhe Safavidsfromdefendersof Shi'ismintocorruptersofthetruefaith of Iran, whichhe claimed tobe Sunnism.Nadir ex-plainedto theOttomansnofficiallettersthat after Safavid corruptionshad beenremoved, thismadhhabwould differfrom the fourorthodoxSunnimadhhabsnomore thantheydid fromoneanother.Thedomesticversion ofthe Ja'farimadhhabalsorequiredhatNadir's Shi'i sub-jectsrefrainrom anti-Sunnidemonstrationsssociated withtheSafavids.In re-turn,Nadir encouragedShi'irituals less highlychargedwith feeling againstSunnissuch aspilgrimagetotheshrinesofthe Imams(ziydrat).3 Nadir'sdo-mesticreligious policyredefinedthesen'tualso be thefundamental utwardex-pressionsof Shi'ism, inwhich he could playaprincipalrole,for example,as apatronof holyshrines. AlthoughheprohibitedSafavid-eraceremonieswhichopenlyattackedSunnism,Nadirsignaled,throughthewayheimplementedhisreligious policyinIran,that he condoneddissimulation byShi'isto maintaininwardbelief in doctrineswhich Sunnisdid notaccept.In contrast o thewayitwaspresentedothe Ottomans,he domesticversion of theJa'farimadhhabwasportrayedaspreservinghe essential facetsofShi'ism, althoughwiththe bound-ariesredrawnbetween public and privatemanifestationsf faith.Such adichotomybetweentheforeignanddomestic versionsof theJa'faripro-posalreveals thatitservedseveral distinctpurposes:twould havedeprivedtheOttomansof a formalpretextforwagingwaragainstIranandpersecutingShi'isasreligiousrebels orinfidels,whileallowingNadir tolegitimizehis status asaSunniruler in the broaderIslamicworld.At the sametime,it wasdesignedtoestablishNadir'sreputationin Iran asa defenderofShi'ism,but aShi'ismstrippedofSafavid associations-a necessarystepinsecuringdomesticaccep-tance ofhisrule.Nadircould notfully implementthe Ja'farimadhhabeither athome orabroad,yettherelativelymild reactionto it in bothspheressnoteworthy.Considerableevidencesuggeststhatdomesticoppositionto it cannotbe blamed for Nadir'sdownfall.GreaterangereruptedatNadirdue to the executionof the Safavidsatthe behestof hisson,RizaQuliMirza,than due to hisattempttoimposenewreligiousideas.Althoughthe OttomanspersistentlyrejectedNadir's formalde-mandsthattheyrecognizetheJa'farimadhhab, heydid concludeapeacetreaty
3.The Ja'farimadhhabexcludedthose aspectsof Shi'ilaw (fiqh)whichwereabhor-rentto Sunnis,such as temporarymarriage(mut'ah),butretained thedetailsofthesystematicapplicationof Shi'ijurisprudence(furui'at-ihar'iyah)thatwere notoffen-sive tothem.

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