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Nadir Shah and the Ja 'fari Madhhab Reconsidered Author(s): Ernest Tucker Source: Iranian Studies, Vol. 27, No. 1/4, Religion and Society in Islamic Iran during the Pre- Modern Era (1994), pp. 163-179 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of International Society for Iranian Studies Stable URL:

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Iranian Studies, volume 27, numbers 1-4, 1994


Nadir Shah and the Ja'fari Madhhab


I. Introduction

In less than twenty years, Nadir Shah built an empire across Iran,India, and Cen-

tral Asia. When he took

the throne on the Mughan steppe

in 1148/1736, Nadir

confronted the problem of how to legitimize his reign after two centuries of

Shi'i Safavid rule. He attemptedto solve this problem, in part, by challenging Iran's Twelver Shi'i identity.1

Nadir proposed to the Ottomans that Twelver Shi'ism be considered a fifth school of Sunni Islam, to be called the Ja'fari madhhab after the sixth Imam, Ja'faral-Sadiq.2 In exchange for Shi'i renunciationof such practicesas sabb (the ritual cursing of the first three caliphs), Nadir proposed that the Ottomans give this Ja'fari madhhab all the privileges enjoyed by the four Sunni schools, and that a fifth pillar be erected in the Ka'bah in Mecca to commemorate it. He asked that the Ottomansallow him to appointthe leader of the annual hajj cara- van from Iran. He stated that the legal opinions of Ja'far al-Sadiq would be con- sidered the cornerstone texts of this madhhab, parallel to the writings of the founders of the other schools. Nadir continued to promote this concept until nearly the end of his reign.

Several explanations have been offered for Nadir's introduction of the Ja'fari madhhab. It has been interpretedas a device to transformIran into a Sunni coun- try in order to counter the legacy of the Safavids, whose legitimacy had been based, in part, upon their role as defenders of Shi'ism. Some evidence points to its use as a tool to ease tensions between the Sunni Afghan and Shi'i Qizilbash partsof Nadir's army. The proposalclearly had an economic dimension, since it would have offered Nadir a way to control a greaterpart of the revenue of the lu- crativeIranian hajj trade.

To explore all these hypotheses fully is beyond the scope of this discussion. In- stead, it will focus on why and how the Ja'fari madhhab was depicted in quite

1. The terms "Shi'i" and "Shi'ism," as used in this essay, refer only to Twelver Shi'is and Twelver Shi'ism. 2. The phrase madhhab-i ja'farl has long been used to refer to Twelver Shi'ism.

Ja'far al-Sadiq is regardedby Shi'is as one of

the foremost scholars of fiqh (Islamic ju-

risprudence). See Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd ed., s.v. "DJA'FAR AL-SADIK."

164 Tucker

different ways for foreign and domestic consumption. Additionally,the reaction to it at home and abroadwill be examined to gauge its actual impact.

To the Ottomans,Nadir presentedthe Ja'fari madhhabas the elimination of vir- tually all distinct Shi'i practices, clearing the way for Iranian Shi'is to be ac- cepted completely as Sunnis. He anathematizedanti-Sunni activities such as the cursing of the first three caliphs, calling them Safavid innovations (bid'at-i safaviyah). He tried to transformthe Safavids from defenders of Shi'ism into corruptersof the true faith of Iran, which he claimed to be Sunnism. Nadir ex-

plained to the removed, this

Ottomansin official letters that after Safavid corruptionshad been madhhabwould differ from the four orthodoxSunni madhhabsno

more thanthey did from one another.

The domestic version of the Ja'farimadhhab also requiredthat Nadir's Shi'i sub- jects refrainfrom anti-Sunnidemonstrations associated with the Safavids. In re- turn, Nadir encouraged Shi'i rituals less highly charged with feeling against

Sunnis such as pilgrimage to the shrines of the Imams (ziydrat).3 Nadir's do- mestic religious policy redefined these n'tualsto be the fundamentaloutward ex- pressions of Shi'ism, in which he could play a principalrole, for example, as a patron of holy shrines. Although he prohibited Safavid-era ceremonies which openly attacked Sunnism, Nadir signaled, through the way he implementedhis

religious policy in Iran, that he

condoned dissimulation by Shi'is to maintain

inward belief in doctrines which Sunnis did not accept. In contrastto the way it

was presentedto the Ottomans,the domestic version of the Ja'farimadhhab was portrayedas preservingthe essential facets of Shi'ism, althoughwith the bound- aries redrawnbetween public and privatemanifestations of faith.

Such a dichotomy between the foreign and domestic versions of the Ja'fari pro-


reveals that it served several distinct purposes:it would have deprived the

Ottomansof a formal pretext for waging war against Iran and persecutingShi'is as religious rebels or infidels, while allowing Nadir to legitimize his status as a Sunni ruler in the broaderIslamic world. At the same time, it was designed to

establish Nadir's reputation in Iran as a defender of Shi'ism, but a Shi'ism stripped of Safavid associations-a necessary step in securing domestic accep- tance of his rule.

Nadir could not fully implement the Ja'fari madhhab either at home or abroad, yet the relatively mild reactionto it in both spheres is noteworthy. Considerable evidence suggests that domestic opposition to it cannot be blamed for Nadir's downfall. Greateranger eruptedat Nadir due to the execution of the Safavids at

the behest of his son, Riza Quli Mirza, than due to his attempt to impose new

religious ideas. Although the mands that they recognize the

Ottomanspersistently rejected Nadir's formal de- Ja'fari madhhab,they did conclude a peace treaty

  • 3. The Ja'fari madhhab excluded those aspects of Shi'i law

(fiqh) which were abhor-

rent to Sunnis, such as temporary marriage (mut'ah), but retained the details of the

systematic application of Shi'i jurisprudence (furui'at-ishar'iyah) that were not offen- sive to them.

Nadir Shahand the Ja'fari Madhhab 165

with him in 1159/1746 which embodied certain principles the proposal was de- signed to promote: they formally accepted Iran as part of the Sunni world and agreed to protectthe rights of Shi'i Iraniantravelers in Ottomanterritory. Given the radicaldeparture it representedfrom Safavid religious norms, the fact that the Ja'farimadhhab received only a slightly negative reception at home and contrib- uted somethingto the treatyof 1159/1746 indicates that it cannot be considereda total failure. In the end, though, Nadir's military adventurismand oppressive rule overshadowedits moderateimpact.

Nadiremployed the Ja'farimadhhab in two divergentand somewhatcontradictory systems of external and internal legitimation. The two versions of his idea can be regardedas complimentaryparts of Nadir's early modern attemptto define an Islamic universalism which looked to the past for the ideal of a united ummah, but also tried to find a way not to erase the divisions between Muslims, but to transcendthem in orderto reduce the effects of sectarianconflict on domestic and foreign politics.

II. SecondaryScholarship on the Ja fari Madhhab

Few scholars examine the

Ja'fari question at length. Laurence Lockhart,in his

biography of Nadir Shah, states that "Nadir's adoption of the term 'Ja'fari' to designate the fifth sect of the Sunnis which the Persian people were to form is

somewhat mystifying;

his action made the

word ambiguous." Lockhart con-

cludes that the Ja'fari proposal constituted "the substitutionof the Sunni for the

Shi'a religion."4

He notes that it may have been motivated by political consid-

erations,but does not addressthe possibility that it may have been framedin two

very differentways for foreign and domestic consumption.

  • A. E. Schmidt portraysNadir's religious policy as a political ploy and ascribes

the Iranian Shi'i ulama's willingness to go along with the council of Najaf to

their simple fear of Nadir. He concludes that "Withregard to the actualreconcil- iation of Sunnis and Shi'is, even within the area under Nadir's control, this staged event [the council of Najaf] ultimatelydid not producereal results."5 In a similar vein, Riza Sha'bani believes that the Ja'fari madhhab formed part of Nadir's "religiouspolitics." Sha'bani observes that Nadir adoptedan opportunis- tic approachto religious affairs, honoring Sunni and Shi'i symbols as his quest for power dictated.6

  • 4. Laurence Lockhart,Nadir

  • 5. A. E. Schmidt, "Iz istorii

Shah (London: Luzac,

1938), 279, 271.

Sunnitsko-Shiitskikh otnoshenii," in A. E. Schmidt and

  • E. K. Betger, eds., "'Iqd al-juman": V. V. Bartol'du Turkestanskiedruz'ya ucheniki i

pochitateli (Tashkent: Tipo-Litografiya Kazgiza, 1927), 105.

  • 6. Riza Sha'bani, "Siyasat-i madhhabi-yi Nadir Shah Afshar," Vahid 7 (1349

Sh./1970): 1132-56.

For another view that fundamentally agrees with Sha'bani's


about the political nature of Nadir's policy see Emine Giirsoy, "An Analysis of

166 Tucker

Two other authorsaddress the theological ramificaitonsof Nadir's actions more directly. B. S. Amoretti observes that since "to renounce the execration of the

three caliphs [i.e., sabb] is not, for a Shi'i, an indicator of theological aberra-

tion," Nadir's Mughan declarationcould be viewed

as the sign of the definitive

end of inter-Muslimjihad, with Shi'ism accepted, de facto if not de jure, as a fifth juridical school.7 Hamid Algar, in a general survey of religious trends in

twelfth/eighteenth-centuryIran, calls Nadir's Ja'fari madhhab"an unnaturalhy-

brid, a truncatedShi'ism that he [Nadir] sought to integrateinto the Sunni main-

stream of Islam."8 He focuses on how the

proposal, if viewed as a serious at-

tempt to reconcile Sunni and Shi'i theology, would have requiredabandoning in- tegral parts of the imamology of Twelver Shi'ism. Although cognizant of the questions which he and others raise, this article will attempt to explore how

Nadir used

the Ja'fari madhhab not simply as a political ruse, nor as a genuine


religious reconciliation, but as something between the two-a


promise designed to reduce the effects of

sectariandifference between Sunnis and

Shi'is as well as preservecertain aspects of Shi'ism throughrecourse to selective dissimulation.

III. The Beginningof the Ja fari Madhhab

The Ja'farimadhhab was not an issue duringthe first few years of Nadir's career. He appearsin chronicles and documentsas an unflaggingdevotee of the Safavids and Shi'ism from the beginning of his rise to power until his assumptionof the throne. When the Safavid Shah TahmasbII, son of Sultan Husayn, chose Nadir to be his deputy, Nadir assumedthe name TahmasbQuli ("slave of Tahmasb").

The first known diplomaticcontacts between Nadir and the Ottomansprovide ev-

idence of this loyalty. Nadir, as Tahmasb's deputy, sent a letter to the Ottoman sultan in the fall of 1142/1729, imploring him to help reestablishTahmasb over

"hereditarydomains long ruled by his fathersand grandfathers

the letter presenteda


In general,

.... strongcase for the ancestrallegitimacy of the Safavids.

Otherevidence confirms Nadir's Shi'i affiliations duringthe early 1140s/1730s. Nadir gave his first two children typically Shi'i names, Riza Quli and Murtaza


He proclaimed that he had achieved victory over the Ottomans in

1144/1731 under "the happy auspices of the House of Haydar ['Ali] and the

Twelve Holy Imams ....

This day is great with ruin to their enemies and with

joy to the sect of the Shi'ah, the discomfort of the evil-minded is the glory of

  • 7. B. S. Amoretti, "Religion in the Timurid and Safavid Periods," in Peter Jackson

and Laurence Lockhart, eds., The Cambridge History of Iran (Cambridge:Cambridge

University Press, 1986), 6:655.

  • 8. Hamid Algar, "Shi'ism and Iran in the Eighteenth Century," in Thomas Naff and

Roger Owen, eds., Studies in Eighteenth Century Islamic History (Carbondale:South-

ern Illinois University Press, 1977), 291.

  • 9. MuhammadRiza Nasiri, ed., Asnad va mukatabat-itcrikht-yi Iran, vol. 1: Dawrah-

yi AfshMrtyah(Tehran: Nima, 1364 Sh./1985), 206.

Nadir Shahand the Ja fari Madhhab 167

the followers of 'Ali."10 He endowed a waqf at the shrine of the eighth Imam, 'Ali Riza, in Mashhadto celebrate a victory over the Abdali Afghans. The deed

for this waqf is dated Muharram1145/June 1732,

and bears Nadir's personalseal

which employed an

unmistakablyShi'i formula: "Thereis no

exemplary youth

save 'Ali, no sword except Dhu'l-Fiqar. I am the rarityof the age, by the grace

of God, servantof the Twelve [Imams]." II Nadir thus made a clear declarationof

Shi'i faith less than four years before his accession to the throne.

However, he

offered hints of a change in religious policy as early as 1146/1734, when he sent a message to the Ottomans that he would order the names of the first four caliphs to be recited in the khutbah and have the phrase "'Ali is the deputy of God" taken out.12

By 1148/1736 Nadir felt that he had achieved enough prestige through military victories to take the thronehimself. He assemblednomadic and sedentaryleaders

from all parts of the Safavid empire into a vast encampment on the plain of Mughan. When he asked them to choose either him or one of the Safavids to rule the country, they declared him their sovereign. In a speech outlining the conditions under which he would accept the throne, Nadir introducedthe Ja'fari madhhab concept as part of a peace proposal to the Ottomans. This proposal consisted of five principles: (1) recognition of the Ja'fari madhhab as a fifth

school of Sunni Islam; (2) erection of a pillar in

the Ka'bah to commemorateit;

(3) appointmentof an Iranian hajj caravanleader; (4) exchange of permanentam- bassadorsbetween himself and the Ottomansultan; and (5) exchange of war pris- oners and prohibition of buying and selling them. He stated that in return for Ottomanacceptance of these principles, Shi'i practicesobjectionable to the Sun- nis such as the cursing of the first three caliphs and denial of their legitimacy (sabb and rafd) would be prohibitedin Iran. Nadir's speech condemned certain followers of Shah Isma'il I for introducingthese practicesin Iran:

The leaderpraised by the world, Shah Isma'il Safavi, may God make his earthpleasant and may He make heavenhis abode,in the beginningof his

rule,for the good of his state(bina bar salaih-idawlat-i khud) ...


and promotedShi'ism. In additionto that,sabb and rafd, which are empty

actions and sources of corruption,began to be


pronouncedby the tongues

and mouthsof the masses and the underclass. stainedwith the bloodof chaos anddisorder.13

and the soil

of Iranwas

Nadir tried to portraysabb and rafd as innovations of Isma'il's followers which had turnedIran away from the path of Muslim unity, althoughhe was careful not

  • 10. Lockhart, Nadir Shah, 60.

  • 11. "La-fata' illa 'Ali, la sayfah illa

Dhu'l-Fiqar, Nadir-i

'asram zi luff-i haqq,

ghulam-i hasht u char" (Riza Sha'bani, Tarikh-i ijtima'-yi Iran dar 'asr-i Afshari-yah,

  • 2 vols. [Tehran: Khushah, 1365 Sh./1986], 1:375).

    • 12. Willem Floor, Hukumat-iNadir Shah (Tehran:Tus, 1368 Sh./1989), 73.

    • 13. Mirza Muhammad Mahdi Khan Astarabadi, Tarikh-i jahangusha-yi Nadirl, ed.

Sayyid 'Abdullah Anvar (Tehran: Bahman, 1341 Sh./1962), 269.

168 Tucker

to depict the introductionof Shi'ism itself in such a negative light.'4

Immediatelyafter his coronation,Nadir sent an embassy to the Ottomansto pre- sent his proposals. His emissaries carriedletters reiteratingand intensifying the

message of his coronation speech. Addressing

the Ottoman ruler Mahmud I,

Nadir claimed that "afterthe appearanceof Shah Isma'il

words issued from

him steeped in

[to arise] among the groups of Muslims."'15In his letter to the Ottomangrand

vizier, he

announced, "We [Nadir] stated [at Mughan] that these useless affairs

[Iran's foreign wars] resulted from the corruptfanaticism of the Safavid dynasty

and were against the sayings of

[Muhammad]. . .

and the GreatCompanions."16

In his letters to the Ottomans,Nadir chastised Isma'il and the Safavids far more

directly than in his coronationspeech for Iran's currentwoes.

The Ja'farimadhhab, as presentedin these letters, was designed not only to exco- riate the Safavids, but also to convince the Ottomansthat Iran had "returned"to Sunnism. Nadir assertedto Mahmudthat before the Safavids, "we [the Iranians] had been favored, as the people of the sunnah, to follow in the path of the Prophet." He called Sunnism "the clear faith which has been inheritedby the

people of Iran."'17

In response, the Ottomanslauded Nadir's attemptto bring Iranback to the Sunni fold, but totally rebuffed any idea of creating a Ja'fari madhhab. Sultan Mah- mud's reply commendedNadir for removingthe innovationsand corruptpractices that had arisen during the reign of the Safavids.18 Nevertheless, it rejected the


proposals concerning the Ja'fari madhhab as contraryto both Islamic law

  • 14. Such popular manifestations of piety as sabb, in addition to affirming distinc-

tive aspects of Shi'i belief, also helped mobilize public sentiment in favor of the Safavids as defenders of Twelver Shi'ism. Thus, elimination of such rituals would mark not just a change in the expression of religious identity in Iran, but also the end

of a potent symbol of dynastic and political allegiance. Given that the Safavids themselves, though, had agreed to refrain from sabb in two peace agreements with the Ottomans, in 998/1590 and 1049/1639, Nadir's proposal to eradicate it signaled less of a departure from actual Safavid precedent, at least in the foreign sphere, than his criticism of them in this speech would suggest. See R. K. Ramazani, The Foreign Policy of Iran, 1500-1941 (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1966),

18-19; I. H. Uzunqarqili,


Osmanli tarihi, 8 vols. (Ankara:Turk Tarih Kurumu, 1983),

Some theologians, such as Shaykh Yusuf al-Bahrani, a prominent Akhbari

Shi'i scholar from Bahrayn who spent part of his career in Shiraz in the early

1150s/late 1730s, even argued that Shi'i doctrine forbade sabb. See Etan Kohlberg, "Aspects of Akhbari Thought in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries," in Ne- hemia Levtzion and John Voll, eds., Eighteenth-Century Renewal and Reform in Islam (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1987), 148.

  • 15. Nasiri, Asndd va mukatabat, 82.

  • 16. Ibid., 88.

  • 17. Koca Ragib Pa~a, "Tahkikve

KutuiphanesiYeni Yazmalari 763,

tevfik," in Inlaat-i Ragib PaEa, MS Topkapi Sarayi


Nadir Shahand the Ja fari Madhhab 169

and the strategicinterests of the Ottomanstate.19

For the Ottomansto have accepted Nadir's proposals would have requiredthem to set aside centuries of traditionand to rethink their complex relationshipwith the rulers of Mecca, neither of which they were preparedto do in the uncertain atmosphereof the 1140s/1730s following the PatronaHalil revolt of 1142/1730.

Therefore they congratulatedNadir on

his assumption of the throne of Iran and

agreed to accord him full legitimacy as the sovereign of that country, but only if

he would

embrace Sunni Islam as defined by the Ottomans,which emphatically

did not include a madhhabbased on the teachingsof Ja'faral-Sadiq. This attitude towards Nadir's proposals would define the official Ottoman position on the Ja'fari madhhabuntil the end of his reign, and the Ottomansonly signed a peace

treaty when Nadir appearedto accept Sunni Islam unconditionallyin 1159/1746 (see below).

In contrast, coins, seals, and documents of Nadir's court show that Nadir pre- sented the Ja'fari proposal to his own subjects as an appeal to dissimulation which, while allowing for reconciliation with the Sunni world, would leave the

foundationsof Shi'ism, as

Nadir defined them, undisturbed. In a majority-Sunni

ummah, selective their inner beliefs

dissimulation would permit Nadir's Shi'i subjects to maintain while outwardlyseeking concord with Sunnis.

Nadir's coronationspeech itself exemplified this phenomenon. He assertedthat

Isma'il I had introduced Shi'ism "for the good of his state," even though in his

letters to

the Ottomanshe describedIsma'il's supportof Shi'ism as the source of

corruptionin Iran. In his speech, Nadir blamed the introductionof sabb on an ignorant rabble, in contrast to his letters to the Ottomans, in which he charges

Isma'il himself with propagatingsabb. Although the difference in emphasis is

subtle, when addressing a domestic audience

Nadir moderatedhis rhetoricjust

enough to indicate that his true intention was to focus criticism on certain anti-

Sunni rituals, not Shi'ism as a whole, while in letters to the Ottomans, he

The Ja'farimadhhab was represented,in a document sent to the ulama of


than an


picted Iran as an essentially Sunni country that had been corrupted by



soon after the Mughan coronationin 1149/1736, as nothing more or less

attempt to keep peace between Sunnis and Shi'is. The document announced a ban on reciting any special blessing upon 'Ali and justified this prohibition by asserting that it caused enmity between Nadir's Sunni and Shi'i subjects. It specified, though, that 'Ali would continue to be revered as one specially beloved by God, implicitly arguingfor abandonmentof an outwardritual in orderto fos- ter harmonious relations with Sunnis while allowing for the preservation of inwardfaith in 'Ali's exalted status.20

  • 19. Ibid., 156r.

  • 20. See the text of this document in Muhammad Husayn Quddusi, Nddirndmah

(Mashhad: Chapkhanah-yi Khurasan, 1339 Sh./1960), 540.

170 Tucker

Nadir's post- 1148/1736 coins and seals adoptedanother sort of dissimulationby

avoiding obvious

references to either Sunni or Shi'i symbols. Nadir neither in-

cluded the names of the first four caliphs on his coins-a

device often employed

by Islamic rulers who wished to emphasize their Sunni orientation-nor men- tioned any of the Imams on them, as the Safavids had done.21 Instead,he chose

a motto for his post-coronationcoins and seals that avoided any specific sectarian references:"When the seal of state and religion had been displaced,God gave or- der to Iranin the name of Nadir."22

As a matterof policy, Nadir suppressedaspects of Shi'ism which connotedovert hostility to Sunnism. However, he not only did not prohibit outward signs of

Shi'i devotion which he did not perceive as inimical to Sunnis, he actually pro-

moted them.

In fact, one of the staunchest anti-Nadir chroniclers of the

twelfth/eighteenthcentury, Shaykh Muhammad'Ali Hazin, recordedthat Nadir had the shrine of Imam Riza decorated and repairedin honor of his coronation, revealing that Nadir was careful to display at least one sign of Shi'i piety in the wake of his removal of the Safavids from power.23

After assuming the throne, Nadir kept up his role as patronof the shrines of var- ious Imams, continuing to pay for the improvementof the mausoleum of Imam Riza. He issued afirmdn appointinga new custodian from among the ulama of Mashhad for that shrine in 1154/1742.24 Nadir also financed the renovationof

the dome of the shrine of 'Ali in Najaf after his invasion

of Iraqin 1156/1743.25

Such veneration of holy shrines constituted an essential expression of Shi'i de- votion but was not highly objectionable to the Sunnis, at least in its outward


IV. The Council of Najaf

Soon after establishing himself on the throne at Mughan,Nadir embarkedon an

expedition which culminatedin his conquest of

India in 1151/1739, a feat com-

municated to the Ottomans through an embassy that brought them lavish gifts from the Mughal treasury.26Even after such largesse, the Ottomansdid not re

  • 21. See, for

example, the coinage of

Mahmud and Ashraf, the Sunni Ghalzay Afghan

monarchs of Iran, in H. L. Rabino, Coins, Medals and Seals of the Shahs of Iran

(London: n.p., 1910), 48-50.

  • 22. "Nigiln-idawlat u din raftah buidchun az ja/bi-nam-i Nadir Iramnqarar dad khudac

  • 1148 [17361" (ibid., 52).


See MuhammadMalayiri's summary of Hazin's account in Nadir Shaih(Tehran:

Intisharat-i Bunyad, 1357 Sh./1978), 153.


'Abd al-Husayn Nava'i, ed., Na-dir Sha-h va bdzmandagainash: hamra-h bd

namahha-yi sal.tanatziva asnad-i siyasc va iddri

(Tehran: Intisharat-i Zarrin, 1368





Lockhart, Nadir Shah, 197, 233, n. 1. Nadir also visited the tomb of Abu Hani-

fah during his

1156/1743 Iraqi campaign, perhaps as a gesture to both the Ottomans

and his Sunni followers.


For a list of the gifts he sent them, see Nava'i, Nadir Shah, 303-4.

Nadir Shahand the Ja 'fari Madhhab 171

consider their rejection of the Ja'fari madhhab concept. When they finally de- cided to go to war against Nadir in 1155/1742, their Shaykh al-Islam issued a fatwa condemning the Ja'fari madhhab as a heretical innovation.27 To counter this rejection, Nadir summoned ulama from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia to the shrine city of Najaf during his 1156/1743 invasion of Iraq to a for- mal council to ratify the Ja'farimadhhab idea.

'Abdullahal-Suwaydi, a Shafi'i 'alim from a prominentBaghdad family sent by the Ottomangovernor of Baghdadto observe this event, wrote the most compre- hensive eyewitness account of it.28 His work confirms the dual nature of the Ja'fari proposal, showing how Nadir simultaneouslypursued the divergent goals of its foreign and domestic versions at this meeting.

For example, al-Suwaydi noted that on the way to Najaf, Nadir visited several shrines, including the tomb of the ninth Imam, Muhammadal-Jawad, and that he was holding the council at the shrine of 'Ali.29 In a private audience with al- Suwaydi,Nadir told him that he had convened the council because

in my realmthere are two areas,Afghanistan and Turkistan,in which they call the Iraniansinfidels. Infidelityis loathsomeand it is not appropriate that there should be in my domainsone people who call anotherinfidels.

Now I makeyou my representativeto go andremove all of the chargesof in-


and witness this in front of the three groupswith whateveris re-

quired. You will reporteverything that you see andhear to me andrelay your account to Ahmad Khan [Ahmet Pasha, the Ottomangovernor of Bagh-


Through his visits to holy sites on the road to Najaf, Nadir emphasized his commitmentto certain parts of Shi'i tradition. At the same time, his remarksto al-Suwaydi indicated that he wanted to end the Sunni labeling of Shi'is as infi-

dels in his

own domains. Finally, by using al-Suwaydi, an Ottoman cleric, to



agreementon his religious ideas, Nadir could also addressthe foreign


of the Ja'fariproposal by having an Ottoman 'dlim certify that it was in-

deed a shift to Sunnism.

The council of Najaf, however, was not an occasion to harmonizethese different aspects of the Ja'fari madhhab,but to establish them as distinct but related parts of Nadir's religious policy. Al-Suwaydi quickly graspedthat the real purposeof the meeting was not to produce a true reconciliation between Sunnism and Shi'ism. He portrayedNadir's chief religious official, the Mullabashi 'Ali Ak- bar, as a man not interestedin the nuances of theological discussion. Curiously, the only real debate occurredover whom the prophetMuhammad had designated as his successor, a dispute that Nadir would seem to have made irrelevantby his

  • 27. Istanbul, Muhimme defteri 142: 227, 243.

Ba?bakanlik Arivi,

  • 28. 'Abdullah b. Husayn al-Suwaydi, al-Hujaj al-qat'iyah

li-ittifdq al-firaq al-

Islcmi-yah (Cairo: al-Matba'ah al-Halabiyah, 1905).

  • 29. Ibid., 5.

172 Tucker

ban on cursing the first three caliphs. In discussions with al-Suwaydi, Mulla-

bashi went to some lengths to prove that Muhammadhad designated 'Ali to be his successor, citing two ahaldith which the Ottoman observer summarily re- jected as weak traditions. 'Ali Akbar then quoted a Qur'anicverse-"Your pro-

tectors are God, his Apostle, and those who pray, give alms, and bow

down be-

fore God"-and

stated that

most people believed that


referred to 'Ali.31

When al-Suwaydi disagreed with his interpretation,'Ali

Akbar complained that

perhapsbecause his own Arabic was not very good, al-Suwaydi had not under-

stood what he was trying to say. This was the clearly had been put on for show.

end of any formal debate, which

The real purpose of the meeting became clear

when Nadir Shah assembled the

ulama and invited al-Suwaydito witness the signing of a documentby the clerics

of Iran, Afghanistan, and Transoxianawhich would confirm the removal of all

the mukaffirdt,the specific practices, such as sabb, which led to the denuncia-

tion of Shi'is as infidels.

They gathered under a canopy that had been con-

structedover the tomb of 'Ali, a gesture calculated to heighten the impact of the


After they had assembled, the Mullabashi asked the Sunnis to explain why they declared the Shi'is infidels. He did not appeal to fine points of theology, but re- cited a litany of Sunni authorities'opinions:

We have not been declared infidels, even by Abu Hanifah. He said in his Jami' al-usul that Islam encompasses five madhhabs, the fifth being the imdmi madhhab, and knowledgeable scholars consider the imdmi madhhab

to be one of the Islamic sects ....

Abu Hanifah, in the Fiqh al-akbar, says

that the ahl al-qiblah must not be declared infidels. The author of the Sharh

hidayat al-fiqh al-Hanafi wa'l-sahih said that al-imdmiyah was an Islamic sect, yet your authorities who followed [them] have declared us infidels and our authorities who followed have declared you infidels.33

Reverting to basic theology, the qad1 of Bukhara,Hadi Khwajah,pointed out, "We declare you infidels because you curse the two shaykhs" [Abu Bakr and 'Umar]. The Mullabashiresponded, "We have stopped this practice." The qddi observed that a person could not simply repentfrom this cursing and added,"We also declare you infidels because of your disparagementof the Companions of the Prophet." The Mullabashireplied, "All of the Companionsare just."

When the qddi-asserted, "You practicetemporary marriage" (mut'ah), 'Ali Akbar answered, "It is forbiddenand only ignorantpeople accept it."34 The qddi next

  • 31. Ibid., 17, quoting Qur'an 5:58.

  • 32. Al-Suwaydi, al-Hujaj al-qat'iyah, 18-20.

Al-Suwaydi included a detailed list of

the participants, who represented the major ulama of Iran, Afghanistan, and Trans- oxiana. Of the Iranianparticipants, only one, Sayyid Ahmad of Ardalan, was a Sunni.

Like al-Suwaydi, he was a Shafi'i.

  • 33. Ibid., 19-20.

  • 34. Ibid., 19.

Nadir Shahand the Ja'fari Madhhab 173

chargedthat the Shi'is preferred'Ali to the othercaliphs and believed thathe was

the successor of Muhammad. The Mullabashi responded, "The most


human being after Muhammadis Abu Bakr, followed by 'Umar, then and then 'Ali. Theircaliphates occurred in that order."35


The qa-dithen asked what authoritythe Iranianswere relying on for their theo- logical interpretations. The Mullabashi replied that they followed al-Ash'ari.36 As the Mullabashibegan to recite the ways in which the Iranianshad conformed to Sunni practice, the qadi of Bukharakept repeatingunder his breath, "cursing the two shaykhs [i.e., Abu Bakr and 'Umar] is unbelief (kufr)."37 Al-Suwaydi explained that the qadi's intention was to emphasize that the sin of cursing the first three caliphs could not be expiated according to the Hanafi madhhab, and since most of these Iranianshad cursed these caliphs at one time, they could not now be forgiven.

In response, Mulla Hamzah, an Afghan

delegate, asked the qadi if he could pro-

duce evidence that anyone present had cursed the first

three caliphs. The qddi

confessed that he had none,

and on this inconclusive note the Mullabashideclared

the theological discussion to be over.38 The delegates then signed a document

reiteratingNadir's prohibitionon sabb and restatingmost of the proposalshe had made to the Ottomansin 1148/1736.39

At first glance, the document appearsto have accepted the legitimacy of the first

four caliphs-one

of the bedrock foundations of Sunni doctrine. Abu Bakr,

'Umar, and even 'Uthman, were duly accorded their Sunni honorific titles and salutations.40 More careful examination, however, reveals importantambigui- ties. A good example can be found in its citation of what 'Ali was reportedto

have said about the first two caliphs. His words can be interpretedeither to mean "they were two just and righteous leaders, [ruling] according to the truth [i.e., God] and dying according to the truth[i.e., God]" or "they were two unjust and tyrannical leaders, [ruling] against truth, and dying against truth."'41This

  • 35. This statement contradicted 'Ali Akbar's earlier assertions about

Ibid., 20.

Muhammad's designation of 'Ali

as his successor (see above).

  • 36. Moojan Momen observes that the Akhbari school of Shi'i



adopted an "almost-Ash'ari" approach to theology, so 'Ali Akbar's statement might

be evidence of an Akhbari orientation among some of Nadir's ulama. See Momen, An Introduction to Shi'i Islam (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), 222.

  • 37. Al-Suwaydi, al-Hujaj al-qat'iyah, 21.

  • 38. Ibid., 20-21.

  • 39. A more complete Persian version of the

Ibid., 23-5.

Najaf document appears in

Mahdi Khan, Tdrikh, 388-94.

Another complete version of the text can be found in

'Abbas Iqbal, "Vasiqah-yi ittihad-i Islam-i Nadiri," Yddgar 6 (1326 Sh./1947): 43-


  • 40. Al-Suwaydi, al-Hujaj al-qat'iyah, 22; Mahdi Khan, Tdrikh, 392; Iqbal, "Vasi-

qah," 52.

  • 41. "Humd imaman 'adilan qasitan kana 'ala al-haqq, wa mdta 'ala al-haqq" (al-

Suwaydi, al-Hujaj al-qat'lyah, 23). See also Mahdi Khan, Tdrikh, 393; lqbal, "Vas- iqah," 52.

174 Tucker

particularphrase is a well-attesteddouble entendrein Arabic lexicography.42Ju- dicious use of such ambiguity provided the only way for the two divergent ver- sions of the Ja'fari madhhab to coexist. Sunnis could sign the Najaf document interpreting'Ali's words as praise for the first two caliphs. Shi'is could sign it interpretingthem, inwardly of course, as blame. By employing such multiva- lent phrases,the documentassured that both could preservetheir fundamentalbe- liefs, the Sunnis openly and the Shi'is throughdissimulative interpretation.

Because it appearedto him to representa conversion to Sunni belief on the part

of Nadir's ulama,al-Suwaydi signed the documentand describedthe whole event as "a time witnessed as one of the curiosities of the world, which broughtjoy

and happiness to

the Sunnis. Nothing like it has occurredthrough the ages. No

wedding feast or holiday celebrationcan be comparedto it. Praise be to God for Al-Suwaydi was clearly glad to welcome the Iraniansto the Sunni fold,


however suspicious he might have been of what had actuallytranspired in Najaf.

After the signing ceremony he noted that Nadir's soldiers suddenly were over-

flowing with praise for the first three caliphs and all the Companions of the Prophet. Although suspicious of their sincerity, al-Suwaydi recorded their ap-

parentlyunabashed expressions of Sunni piety. After invoking the names of


first four caliphs and the Ottoman sultan, the Mullabashi offered a blessing for Nadir Shah and led a ritualprayer.44 Al-Suwaydi became more suspicious when he realized that this prayer did not conform to any of the four Sunni madhhabs and complainedabout it to Nadir. Nadir replied that he should ignore minor dis- crepanciesin the prayerand focus instead on how he was to inform Ahmet Pasha that the conflicts between Sunnism and Shi'ism had been resolved by the ratifi- cation of the Najaf document.

This admonitiondid not satisfy al-Suwaydi, who confrontedthe Mullabashiand asked him why the Iranianshad prayed in such an unorthodoxway. The Mulla- bashi explained that the Iraniansfollowed the madhhab of Ja'far al-Sadiq-the first mention of the Imam in al-Suwaydi's account. Al-Suwaydi retortedthat if that were so, then they could do almost anything, since Ja'far excused almost

any activity on the pretext of ritual dissimulation (taqiyah).45


asked several 'alims how they could act on the basis of his sayings. The Mulla-

bashi responded,"Our madhhab is such

that if a person is competent to perform

ijtihad (independentjudicial reasoning), he should do so accordingto the words of Ja'far."46 Ultimately, al-Suwaydi was alarmed to discover that the entire council of Najaf might have been a gigantic exercise in taqiyah, in which case

  • 42. It is said that the same words were used by a woman to insult the Umayyad gov-

ernor of Iraq, al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf (41-95/661-714), but that she was spared when he

interpretedthem with their positive meaning. Al-qasitun was also used to refer to the

followers of Mu'awiyah at the battle of Siffin (37/657).

See E. W. Lane, Arabic-

English Lexicon, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 1984), 1975, 2523.

  • 43. Al-Suwaydi, al-Hujaj al-qat'iyah, 24.

  • 44. Ibid., 27.

  • 45. Ibid., 28.

  • 46. Ibid.

Nadir Shah and the Ja 'fari Madhhab 175

the agreementhe had signed would have been of doubtful validity, if not totally

meaningless in

his eyes.

As depicted by

al-Suwaydi,the council of Najaf broughttogether various partsof

Nadir's religious vision. To al-Suwaydi, as official representativeof the Otto-

mans, the Ja'fari madhhab was presented emphatically as a returnto


To the Iranianparticipants it was offered not as an attemptto resolve longstand- ing theological quarrels, but as a formula to defuse the power that those dis- agreementshad to create sectarianstrife. It appealed implicitly to dissimulation as a way to protectthose aspects of Shi'i belief and practiceto which al-Suwaydi

and the Sunnis raised objections. Finally, since it was signed

at Najaf, it under-

scored Nadir's commitmentto promotethe venerationof Shi'i holy shrines.

The juxtaposition of the foreign and domestic versions of the Ja'fari proposal at the council of Najaf so thoroughlydisconcerted al-Suwaydi that he decided to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca immediately upon returningto Baghdad, perhaps to cleanse his soul of the uncertaintiesproduced by this experience. Although al- Suwaydi appearsto have been delighted to see the Iraniansdeclare that they were giving up heretical practices, he remained suspicious that the Ja'fari madhhab might be a trick. His confusion reflected the actual natureof the Ja'fari madh- hab-a compromise designed not to reconcile, but to set aside sectarian differ- ences.

  • V. The End of the Ja'fari Madhhab


the end, despite al-Suwaydi's approval of the Najaf agreement, Nadir made

peace with

the Ottomansonly after a long series of militarycampaigns and after

he abandoned his call for a Ja'fari madhhab and a pillar in the Ka'bah. In

1159/1746, he signed a treaty with them that ostensibly recognized the conver-

sion of Iran to Sunnism and definitively prohibitedthe ritual cursing of the first

three caliphs

in his empire.

However, an

appendixto the treatyimplied that Iranianswould continue to make

pilgrimages to the shrine cities ('atabdt-i 'dliydt)of Iraq. It specifically admon- ished Ottomanofficials from Baghdad not to seize the propertyof Iranianswho were visiting those places.47 In fact, Nadir's treaty with the Ottomans appears to have been the first Iranian-Ottomanagreement that explicitly secured the rights of Iranianpilgrims in Ottoman territory. The guaranteeof protection for Iraniansvisiting the tombs of the Shi'i Imams, hardly budding converts to Sun- nism, recalled Nadir's own devotion to the holy shrines. This agreement sig- naled the end of conflict between the Ottomansand Nadir and clearedthe way for them to establish formal relations.


agreementachieved a basic goal that the Ja'fari madhhab concept had been

  • 47. Mahdi Khan, Tdrikh, 418.

176 Tucker

designed to promote: the formal recognition of a Sunni frameworkfor interna-

tional relations which

would also maintainessential facets of Shi'ism as defined

by Nadir.

Moreover, subsequent Iranian-Ottoman accords, such as the

1238/1823 Treaty of Erzurum,relied heavily on the 1159/1746 agreement-an enduringlegacy of

the frameworkestablished by Nadir's tenureon the throne.48

Unfortunatelyfor Nadir, this success in foreign affairs coincided with the com- plete disintegration of his regime at home; he was assassinated by his own

troops only a few months after making peace with the Ottomans.

Nadir's deathsignaled the definitive abandonmentof the Ja'farimadhhab concept. His grandson Shahrukh, who emerged as his successor after 1163/1750, cast himself explicitly as a staunchdefender of orthodoxTwelver Shi'ism.49

In the domestic sphere, despite the constantrebellions in various parts of Iranin the latteryears of Nadir's reign which culminatedin his assassination,resistance to Nadir's religious innovationsappears to have remaineda less importantfactor


domestic unrestthan anger over his displacementof the

rary accounts clearly distinguished between the effects of

Safavids. Contempo- Nadir's deposition of

the Safavids and the impactof his Ja'farimadhhab concept.

An early example is the account of Arutin Efendi, an OttomanArmenian musi- cian who traveled extensively through Iran in 1151-53/1738-40. His work is

importantbecause he talked with many minor Iranianofficials,

offering a win-

dow, however cloudy, on the perceptions and opinions of some of Nadir's sub-


Arutin Efendi harshly criticized Nadir's assumption of

the throne and

dwelt on Nadir's complicity in the murder of Shah Tahmasp II, which he re-

garded as a criminal act.50 He did not even mention the Ja'fari madhhab, but offered a revealing anecdoteconcerning Nadir's approachto religion. According

to Arutin Efendi, Nadir Shah, soon

after his coronationat Mughan, sent out her-

alds on four successive days. On the first day, the herald proclaimed that the

shah was Sunni (charyari), on the second day, that he was tribal Shi'i

(qizilbash), on the third, that he was

Armenian (i.e., Christian), and on the

fourth, that he was Jewish. When asked his motives for such actions, Nadir said

that he was trying to prevent intercommunalstrife by holding out the chance that each community could claim him as its own. Nadir warned that all the

communities should treat each

other with friendship, otherwise he would


their heads off like meat."51 Such a story, however fanciful, suggests that Nadir's principalreligious goal may have been perceived, at least by some of his

subjects, not to have been the suppressionof Shi'ism but the unequivocal impo

  • 48. For the text of the Treaty of Erzurum,which in fact explicitly stated that its basis

was the 1159/1746

treaty, see J. C. Hurewitz, The Middle East and North Africa in

World Politics, 3 vols.

(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975), 1:219-21.

  • 49. Shahrukh's coins, which resumed the Safavid practice of in-

See, for example,

cluding the names of the Twelve Imams (Rabino, Coins, 55-6).

  • 50. TanburiArutin Efendi, Tahmas Kulu Han'in Tevarihi, ed. Esat Uras (Ankara:Turk

Tarih KurumuBasimevi, 1942), 43-6.

  • 51. Ibid., 44.

Nadir Shahand the Ja fian Madhhab 177

sition of religious tolerance among them.

One of the most important Persian chroniclers of Nadir's reign, Muhammad Kazim Marvi, did not even mention the Ja'fari madhhab concept until he de- scribed the 1156/1743 council of Najaf (see above), seven years after Nadir's coronation. MuhammadKazim simply noted that even after Nadir forbade the open performanceof ta'ziyah or any commemorationof the battle of Karbala, faithful Shi'is continued to hold these ceremonies in private-virtually the only

referenceto the effects

of Nadir's religious changes.52 In contrast,a large partof

the work attemptedto show how Nadir's reign was doomed because of his re-

sponsibility for the deposition and eventual execution of Tahmasp II and his

sons.53 Marvi criticized manifestationsof Shi'ism tinguish the Safavid line.

Nadir less for his attempt to transform the outward than for his perceived complicity in attemptingto ex-

A similar approachcan be discerned in one of the latest contemporaryaccounts of Nadir, the Sefaretname-i Kesriyeli Ahmet PaEa, the narrativeof an Ottoman embassy sent to congratulate Nadir on the successful conclusion of the 1159/1746 peace treatywhich instead witnessed the turmoilthat engulfed Iranat the time of Nadir's death.54 Its author,Kirimli Rahim Efendi, a noted Ottoman poet and the official scribe of the embassy, interviewed several of Nadir's senior commanders who had fled to Ottoman territory.55His account reveals that an inability to establish political legitimacy dogged Nadir to his death more than problemsand questions surroundinghis religious policies.

RahimEfendi summarizesthese commanders'principal criticism of Nadir:

Aside from the fact that NadirShah, in origin,was not of the dynastiesof

kings or sultans and that it was therefore impossible for the people of Iran to obey him, it can be concluded that they would not be loyal to his sons ei- ther. He was seized with the evil idea that no one should remain to oppose his sons after him. Since [Nadir's] army was composed of Uzbeks, Afghans, Afshars, and Qajars, and because he had no need for Iraniansin the army, he got rid of the Iranians in the army, each under a different pretext, and he fined prosperous peasants into poverty, neglecting the noble saying, "a government endures despite [the ruler's] unbelief, but it does not continue in spite of [the ruler's] oppression."56

  • 52. Muhammad Kazim Marvi, Thrikh-i 'alam-drd-yi Nddirf, ed. Muhammad Amin

Riyahi, 3 vols.(Tehran: Naqsh-i Jahan, 1364 Sh./1985), 982.

  • 53. For an analysis of Marvi's view of Nadir's relationship to the Safavids, see

Ernest Tucker, "Explaining Nadir Shah: Kingship and Royal Legitimacy in Muham- mad Kazim Marvi's Tarikh-i 'alam-a-ra--yiNddiri," Iranian Studies 26, nos. 1-2



  • 54. Kirimli Rahim Efendi, Sefaretname-i Kesriyeli Ahmet Paza, MS Topkapi Sarayi

Kutuphanesi Hazinesi 1635.

  • 55. For a recent Persian translation and discussion of this work, see Muhammad

Amin Riyahi, Safdratnamahha-yi Iran (Tehran:Tus, 1368 Sh./1989), 205-42.

  • 56. Rahim Efendi, Sefaretname, 44r-44v.

178 Tucker

He suggested that Nadir's biggest problem was his lack of legitimacy and op- pressive rule, not the taint of impiety that his religious proposals might have


The relative indifference with which these diverse sources treated

Nadir's religious ideas, in contrast to their severe criticism of his treatmentof the last Safavids, suggests that the Ja'fari proposal itself may have been per-

ceived within Nadir's realm as less threateningthan and quite distinct from his

depositionand eliminationof

the precedingdynasty.

Interestingly, the chronicles of Safavid loyalists of the late 12th/18th and early

13th/19th century condemned Nadir as a tyrant, but did strongly for the Ja'farimadhhab idea as might be expected.

not upbraid him as For example, Khalil

Mar'ashi Safavi, one of the most ardent Safavid loyalists of the post-Nadirpe- riod, although bitterly critical of Nadir for executing prominentShi'i clerics in the latterpart of his reign, describedhis ban on public Shi'i ceremonies after the

Mughan coronationas a relatively benign imposition.57

The Fawa 'id al-Safavlyah, a pro-Safavid chronicle written around 1211/1796, confined its discussion of Nadir's religiosity to a single anecdote. It seems that when Nadir came to Najaf (presumablyin 1156/1743), his companionstold him that wine which was broughtto Najaf would turn to vinegar, but he did not be- lieve them. When he commandedsome Armeniansto bring wine into Najaf, all of it turnedto vinegar when it entered the city. Thus, Nadir decided to gild the dome of the shrine of 'Ali in Najaf.58 While this tale did not exactly celebrate Nadir, it also did not depict him as a destroyerof Shi'ism.

As far as Nadir's reputationamong later Shi'i clergy goes, a 13th/19th century Shi'i biographicaldictionary, the Rawdaktal-jannat, mentioned Nadir's attempt to have a fifth pillar erected in the Ka'bah as the last in a long series of efforts by Shi'i rulers to gain acceptance in the Sunni world. It noted that Nadir was willing to give up sabb, but that Sunni rulers did not accept his offer and, there- fore, "the Imamites [Twelver Shi'is] did not change their practices."59The work criticized Sunni refusalof Nadir's proposalinstead of the proposalitself.

VI. Conclusions

The Ja'farimadhhab concept can be easily regardedas ephemeral. Hamid Algar

shows how it flew in the face of long-establishedShi'i traditions. He notes that

to abandonpublic

Shi'i rituals such as sabb meant giving up practices that had

  • 57. Mirza Khalil Mar'ashi Safavi, Majma' al-tawarikh, ed. 'Abbas Iqbal (Tehran:

Tahuri, 1362 Sh./1984), 84.

  • 58. Abu'l-Hasan Qazvini, Fawad'idal-Safaviyah, ed. Maryam Mir-Ahmadi (Tehran:

Mu'assasah-yi Mutala'at va Tahqiqat-i Farhangi, 1367 Sh./1988), 153-4.

  • 59. Muhammad Baqir b. Zayn al-'Abidin al-Khwansari,Rawdat al-janndt (Tehran:

Nadir Shah and the Ja fari Madhhab


become integral partsof Shi'ism by the twelfth/eighteenthcentury.60

However, Nadir did lowed existing Shi'i

not worry about how practice. Instead, he

consistently the Ja'fari madhhab fol- sought a basis for reconciliation with

the greaterSunni world which at the same time discardedpublic religious cere-

monies closely associated with

the Safavids. In compensationfor the hindrances

imposed by the Ja'fari proposal, Nadir took some pains to defend those facets of Shi'ism which did not impede his quest for legitimacy. He called, ultimately, for selective dissimulationin order to present the Ja'farimadhhab concept to his Shi'i subjects as a minor sacrifice for the greater glory of his empire and the peace of the Muslim ummah which also preserved essential facets of Shi'ism, albeit in an alteredform.

Although he did not succeed in establishing the Ja'fari madhhab at home or abroad,it is significant that the spirit of his proposal was embodied in the treaty that he signed with Ottomansin 11]59/1746and that, according to contemporary sources, anger over his religious innovations was less a factor in populardiscon- tent with his reign than his oppressive administrationand his deposition of the

Safavids. Nadir's failure to attractthe supportof either the

Ottomansor his sub-

jects for his proposal, though, testifies to the immense power of Twelver Shi'i

orthodoxyin Iranas it had developed by the end of the Safavid period.

With his focus on Ja'far al-Sadiq, Nadir evoked the Muslim community of the 2nd/8th century-an era in which enmity between Sunnis and Shi'is had not yet been fully exploited to legitimize conflict between Islamic empires. At the same time, in its breathtakinginnovation, Nadir's Ja'fari madhhab idea also looked

forward to later proposals for

bringing the Muslim world together, anticipating

subsequentattempts to forge a unified Islamic bloc based as much on recognition of common political interestsas on reconciliationof religious differences.

ErnestTucker, History Department,U.S. Naval Academy

  • 60. Algar, "Shi'ism and Iran," 298.