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MURAD MIRZA (915-920/1509-1514), 36TH IMAM

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"Ali Shah, surnamed Shah Murad or Murad Mirza lived in Anjudan. He had also retained his close relations with Shah Ismail cemented by his father. His mode of living, his dress and food were characterized by a rare simplicity.

The Ottoman sultan Salim (1512-1520) began his long march to northern Azerbaijan after putting 40,000 Shi'as to death in his dominions. He reached the plain of Chaldiran and the outbreak of war occurred in 920/1514. He inflicted a defeat to Shah Ismail. The Ottoman firepower, consisting of 200 cannon and 100 mortars was brought into play with devastating effect. After suffering heavy casualties, the Safavid artilleries were forced to break off the engagement. When Shah Ismail left the battlefield, sultan Salim did not pursue him. Later, he marched to Tabriz, the Safavid capital, which he occupied in 922/1517. Caterino Zeno, the Venetian ambassador writes in Travels in Persia (p. 61) that, "If the Turk had been beaten in the battle of Chaldiran, the power of Ismail would have become greater than that of Tamerlane, as by the fame alone of such a victory he would have made himself absolute lord of the East." Later, the Mamluks of Syria and Egypt similarly remained wedded to their cavalry, and were also defeated by the Ottomans.

The effect of the Safavid defeat at Chaldiran was the loss of the province of Diyar Bakr, which was annexed to the Ottoman empire in 921/1516. Shah Ismail went into mourning after his defeat. During the remaining ten years of his reign, he never once led his troops into action in person. He did not devote his attention to the affairs of the state as in the past. On the contrary, he seems to have tried to drown his sorrows by wine. His abdication of his responsibilities in regard to the personal direction of the affairs of state gave certain officials the opportunity to increase their own power. The clash between the Kizilbash and the Iranian soldiers began to be a threat to the Safavid kingdom.

Kizilbash were the Turkomans, who were distinguished for wearing red pointed caps, which they had begun to wear in the time of Shaikh Hyder (1456-1488), the father of Shah Ismail; and thus they became known as Kizil-Bash (red heads), and in its Iranian form, Qizilbash, or Red Heads. They shaved their beards but let their moustaches grow. The Kizilbash constituted the backbone of the Safavid army. It seems probable on that juncture that Shah Ismail had generated a close tie with the Ismaili Imams in Anjudan, and granted them the title of Amir al-Umra. There is one another reason that the Ismailis had joined the Safavid army in Khorasan, who had repulsed the aggressive advance of the Uzbeks in 916/1510. Shah Ismail had most possibly planned to seek the martial aids from the Khorasani Ismaili warriors to crush the uprising in his military if required. He therefore, maintained cordial relation with the Imams of Anjudan. Shah Ismail however died in 930/1524.

It is said that the Muharram was an ideal month for the Ismaili pilgrims visiting Anjudan. They carried usually a small dummy taziya (replica of Imam Hussain's tomb), and placed it in front of the caravan and passed through the teeth of the bitterest and aggressive places in the Shi'ite garbs. They put the taziya at the entrance of Anjudan, and took it again while leaving the town.

Imam Murad Mirza appointed Bawa Yasir, known as Bawa Sir as a vakil for India. He came in Sind and deputed his sons Alauddin or A'as al-Din and Jamar al-Din in Punjab to make survey for his mission. When he visited Iran with religious dues by way of Baluchistan, his servant secretly informed the local people, who plundered and killed him. Later, the people repented and built his shrine in the village of Kechh, near Makran. Bawa Yasir left behind three sons, Jamr al-Din, Alauddin or A'as al-Din and Daud.

Imam Murad Mirza died in 920/1514 in Anjudan and was succeeded by his son Zulfikar Ali.

It is worth mentioning that the Tarikh-i Alfi (the Millennial History) was compiled in India by several authors at the request of Mughal emperor Akbar in 1000/1592, whose one part was chronicled by Jafar Beg Asif Khan (d. 1021/1612), describing a rebellion hatched by a certain Murad in 982/1575 and the domineering of the Ismailis in Anjudan by Shah Tahmasp (d. 984/1576). More detail of the same episode is described under the year 981/1574 by the Safavid historian, Qadi Mir Ahmad Munshi al-Qummi (d. after 1015/1606) in his Khulasat al-Tawarikh (1:582-4). Both sources relate that a certain Murad had numerous followers also in India, sending him large sums of money from Sind and Makran. Murad was engaged in political turmoil outside Anjudan, having acquired supporters in Kashan and elsewhere in Central Iran. Being alarmed by his activity, early in 981/1574, Shah Tahmasp ordered the Kizilbash governor of Hamadan, Amir Khan Mawsil'lu, to take field against Anjudan and arrest Murad. Amir Khan executed a bulk of the Ismailis in Anjudan and its locality and took much booty from them, but Murad, who was stayed at a fortress in the district of Kamara near Anjudan, managed to escape. Soon afterwards, Murad had been arrested and imprisoned near the royal quarters. In Jamada II, 981/October, 1573, Murad escaped from prison with the help of Muhammad Muqim, a high Safavid official who had come under Murad's influence. Murad fled to the vicinity of Kandhar, getting help on the way from his followers in Fars, Makran and Sind. A few months later, he was arrested in Afghanistan by the Safavid guards. He was brought before Shah Tahmasp, who had him executed along with Muhammad Muqim.

Farhad Daftary identifies above certain Murad with Imam Murad Mirza (d. 920/1514). The most important aspect of the story, which deserves serious treatment is the stark difference between these two persons for about 60 years. Secondly, it is neither warranted in the Ismaili traditions, nor there is a single example, connoting the Imams to have involved in the political arena while living in Anjudan, and therefore, the alleged rebellion of the Imam Murad Mirza is highly doubtful. Thirdly, it would be absurd to believe that Imam Murad Mirza had vainly stirred up a revolt with handful supporters and fled, putting behind his followers into the millstone of cruelty in Anjudan. Fourthly, the remittance of religious dues to the Imams by the Indian followers was a practice in vogue, which can be incorporated to suit the notion of any anecdote for the Ismailis. Fifthly, the above story places the rebellion in 982/1575, which is veritably the period of Imam Khalilullah Ali (957-993/1550-1585), the last Imam of Anjudan era. We would, however, venture the opinion that the whole story embodies elegance and rhetoric rather than a factual picture, and that Mirza in the story was in reality the leader of the Nuqtawiya sect in the time of Imam Khalilullah. He mustered handful supporters for engineering a ground of rebellion against the Safavids. The followers of the Nuqtawiya were inhabited in the vicinity of Anjudan, and their uprising under their leader, Murad cannot be attributed to the Ismailis. It seems unlikely that Imam Murad Mirza was that of a rebellious Murad.

It must be added that several extremist movements with Shi'ite tendencies sprouted in Iran. For instance, the Hurufi movement was founded by a certain Fazalullah Astrabadi (740-796/1340-1394) in about 780/1378. His followers became known as Hurufis due to emphasizing the hidden meaning of the letters (huruf). Anatolia was the main foothold of the Hurufism. Later, the Hurufism vanished in Iran, and several petty groups split off from it, notably the Nuqtawiya. It was founded by Mahmud (d. 831/1428) around 800/1398, who was the disciple of Fazalullah Astrabadi in Gilan. Mahmud taught to his followers the significance of the point (nuqta) as the building brick of his symbolical system. Thus, his group became known as the Nuqtawiya (pointism) and his followers as the People of the Point (ahl-i-nuqta). The Nuqtawiya gradually found their foothold in the Caspian region and the villages of Qazwin, Kashan, Ispahan and Shiraz. Mahmud died in 831/1428 on the border of Azerbaijan and Arran. His followers however continued his mission in Iran and India.

Our sources as cited above also relate a revolt under the year 983/1576 by the followers of Mahmud against the Safavids in the village surrounding the city of Kashan. This major revolt occurred in conjunction with an uprising in Anjudan led by the Nuqtawiya leader, called Murad. Tarikh-i Alfi admits specifically that the revolt stirred in Anjudan by Murad was that of the Nuqtawiya order.

We also find a vogue tendency in the Iranian sources to conflate the Hurufis and Nuqtawiya wrongly with the Ismailis. The instance of an Ismaili poet, Kassim Amiri is ample in this context, who was lynched in 999/1591. He is considered erroneously as the follower of the Nuqtawism in the Iranian sources. Ahmad bin Nasrullah Qadizada Tatawi, whose father had taken part in suppressing the Kashan revolt, was vague about the connection between the two revolts, suggesting explicitly that the followers of Mahmud were collaborating with the Ismailis of Anjudan, vide Nuqtawiyan ya Pisikhaniyan (Tehran, 1941, p. 36) by Sadik Kiya. The balance of argument tends to show in concluding this critique that Imam Murad Mirza had nothing to do with the above rebellion of the Nuqtawiya.

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