Shah Muhammad Khudābanda

Sultan Mohammed Shah
Shahanshah of Persia
Coin minted during the reign of Mohammed Khodabanda
Reign 11 February 1578 – October 1587
Full name Mohammed Khodabanda
Born 1532
Died 1595 or 1596 (Aged 63 or 64)
Predecessor Ismail II
Successor Abbas I
Consort Khayr al-Nisa Begum
Issue Hamza, Abu Talib, Abbas I
Dynasty Safavid
Father Tahmasp I
Mother Sultanum Begum Mawsillu
Religious beliefs Twelver Shi'a Islam

Mohammed Khodābande or Khudābanda, also known as Mohammed Shah or Sultan Mohammed (Persian: شاه محمد خدابنده‎, born 1532; died 1595 or 1596)[1] was Shah of Persia from 1578 until his overthrow in 1587 by his son Abbas I. He was the fourth Safavid Shah of Iran and succeeded his brother, Ismail II. Khodabanda was the son of Shah Tahmasp I by a Turcoman mother, Sultanum Begum Mawsillu,[2] and grandson of Ismail I, founder of the Safavid Dynasty.

After the death of his father in 1576 Mohammed was passed over in favour of his younger brother Ismail II. Mohammed suffered from an eye affliction that rendered him nearly blind, and so in accordance with Persian Royal culture could not contend for the throne.[3] However, following Ismail II's short and bloody reign Mohammed emerged as the only heir, and so with the backing of the Qizilbash tribes became Shah in 1578.

Mohammed's reign was marked by a continued weakness of the crown and tribal infighting as part of the second civil war of the Safavid era.[4] An important figure in the early years of Mohammed's reign was his wife Khayr Al-Nisa Begum, who helped secure her husband's reign.[3] However her efforts to consolidate central power brought about opposition from the powerful Qizilbash tribes, who had her murdered in 1579. Mohammed has been described as "a man of refined tastes but weak character".[1] As a result Mohammed's reign was characterised by factionalism, with major tribes aligning themselves with Mohammed's sons and future heirs. This internal chaos allowed foreign powers, especially the Ottoman Empire, to make territorial gains, including the conquest of the old capital of Tabriz in 1585. Mohammed was finally overthrown in a coup in favour of his son Shah Abbas I.

Initial power struggle

Mohammed succeeded to the throne of Persia on the death of his younger brother Ismail II. Ismail had attempted to kill or blind all the royal Safavid princes but he was assassinated before the order to execute Mohammed and four of his young sons could be carried out. Mohammed's eyesight was so poor he was nearly blind but the Qizilbash army factions who controlled the succession to the throne had no other viable candidate to turn to and they proclaimed him shah at Qazvin on 11 February 1578.[5][6]

Mohammed was mild-tempered compared to his brother, but he was also weak-willed. His sister, Pari Khan Khanum, who had conspired with the Qizilbash to assassinate Ismail, believed she would easily be able to dominate him. However, when she fell out with the Grand Vizier Mirza Salman, he left Qazvin for Shiraz, where the shah and his ruthless and ambitious wife Khayr al-Nisa Begum (known by the title Mahd-i Ulya) were staying and turned them against Pari Khan Khanum. On their return to Qazvin they had her strangled.[7][8]

Mahd-i Ulya now took personal control of Iran and began to promote the career of her elder son, Hamza Mirza (she cared little for her younger son Abbas Mirza). But she antagonised the Qizilbash who eventually asked the shah to remove her from power. When she refused to concede to their demands, a group of Qizilbash conspirators burst into the harem and strangled her on 26 July 1579.[9][10]

Conflict over succession

The Qizilbash factions increasingly came to dominate Iran. In 1583 they forced the shah to hand over his vizier, Mirza Salman, for execution. The young Hamza Mirza took over the reins of state but on 6 December 1586 he too was murdered in mysterious circumstances.[11]

Foreign threats

Foreign powers took advantage of the factional discord in Iran court to seize territory for themselves. Uzbek bands attempted to invade north-east Iran before being repulsed by the governor of Mashhad. The most important event of Mohammed’s reign was the war with the Ottomans. In 1578, the Ottoman sultan Murad III began a war with Safavid Iran which was to last until 1590. In the first attack, the sultan's vizier Lala Mustafa Pasha invaded Georgia and Shirvan. Another Ottoman army under the leadership of Osman Pasha and Ferhat Pasha crossed into Iran and captured Tabriz in 1585. Sultan Mohammed sent Hamza Mirza to fight the Ottomans but the young prince was murdered during this campaign and the city remained in Ottoman hands for 20 years.[12][13]

End of reign

When the Uzbeks launched a large-scale invasion of Khorasan, the leader of the Ustalju Qizilbash faction in the province, Murshid Quli Khan, decided the time was right to overthrow the shah and replace him with Mohammed's son Abbas Mirza, who was Murshid's ward. Murshid and Abbas rode to Qazvin where the prince was proclaimed the new ruler of Iran in October 1587. Mohammed made no attempt to challenge the coup and accepted his dethronement.

Final years

He lived in the capital for a time but was then apparently banished to the prison of Alamut, although Iskandar Beg Munshi records him dying in Qazvin some time between 21 July 1595 and 10 July 1596.[14][15]

Art and culture

Mohammed was also a poet who wrote verse under the pen name "Fahmi".[6]



  • Roger Savory Iran Under the Safavids (Cambridge University Press)

See also

Mohammed Khodabanda
Preceded by
Isma'il II
Shah of Persia
Succeeded by
Abbas I
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