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."