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Ismaili History 744 - SAYED ALI (1038-1071/1628-1660)

Sayed Ali was born most probably in Shahr-i Babak, where he passed his early life with his mother. He also came in Kahek after his father's arrival from Khorasan. He was also known as Shah Ataullah II among the Nimatullahi Sufi order. He was a popular figure as an amir in Shahr-i Babak and Kirman among the elites. He is also known as Rais al-Kirman (Lord of Kirman), an honour which ultimately promoted him to the governorship of Kirman. He was also a leading landlord, and had acquired many lands in Shahr-i Babak and Sirjan. He built many streets in Kirman, known after his name, none of them existed during the Qajarids period.
Shah Abbas I was on the verge of death when he had no son to succeed him. He died in 1038/1629, and was succeeded by his grandson, Sam Safi, known as Shah Safi. Sir John Chardin, who was visiting Iran in 1077/1666 had remarked in his 'Voyages du Chevalier Chardin en Perse' (Paris, 1811, 3rd vol., p. 291) that: 'D_s que ce grand et bon prince eut cess? de vivre, la Perse cessa de prosp?rer, i.e., 'When this great prince (Shah Abbas) ceased to live, Persia ceased to prosper.' Under Shah Safi, the conversion of 'state' to 'crown' provinces was extended. His vizir Sadru Taqi put forward an argument which the new king found attractive, since the Safavid state was now relatively secure from its external enemies, he said, there was no point in allowing a large part of Safavid territory to remain in the hands of Kizilbash governors, who remitted little to the royal treasury. Thus, the provinces of Qazwin, Gilan, Mazandaran, Yazd, Kirman, Khorasan and Azerbaijan were all brought under the administration of the crown except in time of war, when Kizilbash governors were reappointed.

Shah Safi died at the early age of 32 years, as he was making preparations for an expedition to recover Kandhar from the Mughals. There seems to be general agreement that he was addicted to opium, and, according to some, was prescribed alcoholic drinks by his physicians to counteract the evil effects of the opium. He was succeeded by his son, Abbas II, who came to the throne in 1052/1642 at the age of eight and a half. As already mentioned, the system of converting 'state' to 'crown' provinces was carried on by Shah Abbas II on a large scale, with the result that almost the whole country was brought under the direct administration of the crown except in time of war, when adhoc military governors were appointed to strategically important frontier provinces. Ann K.S. Lambton writes in 'Landlord and Peasant in Persia' (London, 1953, p. 108) that, 'Shah Abbas II, continuing his father, Shah Shafi's policy, abolished provincial governments in the interior of the kingdom wherever there was no danger of war, as in Qazwin, Gilan, Mazandaran, Yazd, Kirman, Khurasan and Azarbayjan'. We may be well assured that the Ismailis in these provinces, had acquired respite in the absence of political turmoil. Shah Abbas II managed to preserve the frontier of the empire intact, and even recaptured Kandhar from the Mughals in 1058/1648 and repulsed three subsequent attempts by the emperor Aurengzeb to recover it.

The Mughal emperors in India at that time were Jahangir (1605-1627) and Shah Jehan (1627-1658). Jahangir invaded Kandhar and included it in Mughal dominion, but it was re-occupied by Shah Abbas II in 1648, resulting a dispute between Iran and India.

Captain William Hawkins was the first English to have visited the court of Jahangir in 1608 and took permission of trade facility and the opening of a factory in Surat. Sir Thomas Roe arrived in India in 1617 for opening other new factories. The entry of the British gradually in India resulted their political ambition. Having secured a sound foothold, the British began interfering in the internal affairs of the state under one pretext or another. Ultimately, because of their cleverness, superior military strategy and latest weapons, they wiped off all the forces contending for supremacy on the Indian soil and became the undisputed masters of the sub-continent for one century and half.

Heretofore, we have discussed that Shah Abbas I had attempted to incorporate the Sufi elements in the administrative structure in 1588, and as a result, many Kizilbash embraced Sufism in Iran. The Ismaili dais began to preach in the cloak of Sufis, and there are certain indications that many Kizilbash had privily come under the yoke of Ismailism in the time of Imam Nizar. Thus, Imam Sayed Ali also assumed among them the Turkish sounding name, Sayed Abul Hasan Beg.

The liberal policy towards the Sufism declined in Iran with the death of Shah Abbas in 1038/1629. The Sufis began to be persecuted and killed, and their khanqahs (cloisters) were demolished. Roger Savory writes in 'Iran under the Safavids' (New York, 1980, p. 237) that, 'After the death of Shah Abbas I, the status of the Sufis continued to decline, and in the 17th century, less than two hundred years after, Sufi zeal and devotion had brought the Safavids to power, the mujtahid Mohammad Bakir Majlisi denounced Sufism as the foul and hellish growth.' The Sufis were searched from all corners and scourged to death as an act of religious services. The Nimatullahi Sufi order was also not spared, and before the massacre of the Ismailis, known as Ataullahis in Khorasan and Kirman, Imam Sayed Ali ordered them to join the royal army at once, which avoided the danger of massacre. It is known that a small regiment of Ataullahis in the Safavid army, was also created in Khorasan and Kirman.


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