Allahverdi Khan (Persian: اللّه وردی خان, Georgian: ალავერდი-ხანი) (ca. 1560 – June 3, 1613) was an Iranian general and statesman of Georgian origin who, initially a ghulām ("military slave"), rose to high office in the Safavid state.
Allahverdi was born a Christian Georgian, surnamed Undiladze, and, like many of his compatriots and fellow Christian Armenians and Circassians, was taken prisoner in the course of one of the Caucasian campaigns of Shah Abbas I of Persia and converted to Islam to be trained for service in the ghulam army, a special military structure consisting of Christian captives and created by Abbas I to counterpoise the power of the Turkic Kizilbash, which constituted the nucleus of the Safavid military aristocracy.
In 1589, he took part in the assassination of the powerful minister (wakil) and kingmaker Morshed-Kholi Khan Ostaglu, who was secretly condemned to death by Shah Abbas. As a result, he was made sultan and a governor of Jorpadagan near Isfahan, the Safavid capital. He then rapidly rose to higher offices and was appointed commander of the ghulam army, thus becoming one of the five principal officers in the Safavid administration by 1595/6. In the same year, Abbas appointed him the governor of Fars, a move that made him the fist ghulam to attain equal status with the Kizilbash emirs. This act also meant that the large provinces would no longer be administered by semi-autonomous and frequently self-minded Kizilbash emirs, but by officers appointed directly by the shah.
In 1596/7, he was transferred to the governorship of Kohgiluyeh. In August 1598, Allahverdi Khan, as a sardar-e-lashkar (commander-in-chief), was instrumental in recovering Herat from the Uzbek tribes and shortly after this victory was ordered by the shah to put a powerful Kizilbash emir Farhad Khan Qaramanlu to death. This act turned Allahverdi Khan into the most powerful man in the Persian Empire after the shah. From 1600 onwards, counseled by the English gentleman of fortune, Sir Robert Sherley, he reorganized the army and strengthened it by increasing the number of ghulam troops from 4,000 to 25,000.
Allahverdi Khan led the Persian armies in a number of successful campaigns on both the eastern and the western frontiers of the Safavid empire, including the 1601-2 conquest of Bahrain.
Allahverdi Khan presided over construction of several public buildings and charitable foundations. The Pol-e Sio-Seh bridge across the Zayandeh River built by the architect Mir Jamal al-Din Muhammad Jabiri in Isfahan under Allahverdi Khan's patronage still bears the general's name. Allahverdi Khan is furthermore credited with several other building works, such as a large double dam near Sarab; a fortification around a village in Fars; a large qaysariyya, or royal market, in Lar, which impressed the Spanish envoy García de Silva Figueroa; and a stately house near Nahavand for Abbas I. Allahverdi Khan also initiated the construction of a large theological college, Madrasa Khan, in Shiraz as a teaching base for the Islamic scholar Mulla Sadra. The project would be completed by his son Imam Quli Khan.
Allahverdi Khan's own tomb in Mashhad, adjacent to the Imam Reza shrine, reflects his standing and status in the Safavid empire. It is an elegant two-storied octagonal structure with marble slabs and tiles sheathing the interior, the construction of which was oversaw by Allahverdi Khan himself.
- Shah ʹAbbas & the arts of Isfahan, by Anthony Welch, pg. 17
- Babaie, Sussan (2004). Slaves of the Shah: New Elites of Safavid Iran. I.B.Tauris. pp. 92–94. ISBN 1860647219.