Ismail II

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For the 14th century Nasrid sultan of Granada, see Ismail II, Sultan of Granada.
Shah Ismail II
Shahanshah of Persia
Shah Ismayil II.jpg
Artwork of Ismail II
Reign 1576–77
Predecessor Tahmasp I
Successor Mohammad Khodabanda
Dynasty Safavid
Father Tahmasp I
Mother Sultanum Begum Mawsillu
Born 28 May 1537 [1]
Died 24 November 1577

Ismail II (Persian: شاه اسماعیل دوم‎‎), (28 May 1537[2]– 24 November 1577) was the third Safavid Shah of Iran, ruling from 1576 to 1577.

Early life[edit]

Ismail was the son of Shah Tahmasp I by an Iraqi Turkoman mother from the area of Mosul, Sultanum Begum Mawsillu.[3] In 1547, he was appointed governor of the province of Shirvan where he led several expeditions against the Ottomans. In 1556 he became governor of Khorasan but one of his father's leading courtiers, Masum Beg Safavi, convinced the shah that Ismail was plotting to overthrow him. Ismail spent the next 20 years in the prison at Qahqaheh Castle.[4]

On 18 October 1574, Tahmasp became ill—during his illness, he was close to dying two times, and he still hadn't chosen a successor. Thus the main chieftains of the Qizilbash arranged a meeting to discuss about who should be the successor. The Ustalju clan, and the Shaykhavand clan (which was related to the Safavid family) favored Haydar Mirza Safavi. The Georgians also supported him, since his mother was Georgian.

The Rumlu, Afshar, and the Qajar clan favored Ismail, who was still jailed in the Qahqaheh Castle. Tahmasp's favorite Circassian daughter Pari Khan Khanum also favored him.[5] While Tahmasp was still ill, those who supported Haydar Mirza, sent a message to the castellan of Qahqaheh Castle, named Khalifa Ansar Qaradghlu. They requested him to have Ismail killed. However, Pari Khan Khanum managed to find out about it and told Tahmasp about the plot. Tahmasp, who still had some feelings for Ismail due to the courage he used to have in the battles with the Ottoman Empire, sent a group of Afshar musketeers to the Qahqaheh Castle to protect him.[5] Two months later, Tahmasp recovered from the life-threatening illness he had. Two years later, on 14 May 1576, he died in Qazvin. Haydar Mirza was the only son who was with him when he died, and thus the following day, he announced himself as the new king. Normally, some Qizilbash tribes would guard the royal palace and take turns with other others—unfortunately for Haydar Mirza, on that day all the Qizilbash guards were either from the Rumlu, Afshar, Qajar, Bayat, or the Dorsaq tribe—all loyal supporters of Ismail.[5]

When Haydar Mirza found out about the dangerous position he was in, he took Pari Khan Khanum (who was also in the palace) "into custody as a precautionary measure" (Parsadust).[5] Pari Khan Khanum then "threw herself at her brother's feet in the presence of Haydar Mirza's mother", and tried to urge him to let her leave the palace, stating that she was the first to acknowledge his rule by making a prostrating to him—she vowed that she would attempt to persuade Ismail Mirza's supporters to change their mind, which included her full brother Suleiman Mirza and uncle Shamkhal Sultan. Haydar Mirza accepted her request, and gave her permission to leave the palace. However, after she left the palace, she broke her oath and gave Shamkhal the keys to the gate of the palace.[5]

When the supporters of Haydar Mirza found out about the threat their king was in, they hurried to his royal residence to save him. However, the palace guards, who disliked Haydar Mirza (although he had tried to win them to his side by making several promises) closed the entrances of the palace.[5] At the same time, the supporters of Ismail Mirza, entered the palace and went to its inner part. However, Haydar Mirza's supporters shortly managed to break through the gate, but did not reach there in time—Ismail Mirza's supporters found Haydar Mirza, dressed as a woman in the royal harem. He was immediately captured and beheaded.[6] His bloody head was then thrown down to Haydar Mirza's supporters, who stopped their resistance, which thus meant that Ismail Mirza could safely ascend the throne.[5] He was crowned on 22 August 1576.[7]


Ismail, in his campaigns in the Caucasus, brought another 30,000 Georgians and Circassians captives to Iran, further setting on the program of creating a new layer in Persian society, which was already initiated by his father Tahmasp I.[8]

Ismail's years in prison seem to have affected his mind. As well as executing members of the faction who had opposed him, he also turned on some of his own supporters. He killed or blinded five of his own brothers and four other Safavid princes, including Ibrahim Mirza, so they would be unable to take the throne from him.

Described as being a "Sunni in sympathy,"[9] he also implemented a pro-Sunni policy and began reversing the imposition of Shi'ism in Iran (which he ultimately sought to abolish)[10] and appointed Sunni-leaning ulema.[11] One belief is that the aim of his pro-Sunni measures was to strengthen his own internal and external political position by appealing to the still strong Sunni sympathies of the Persian population and to placate the Ottomans.[12] The Qizilbash began to regret their choice of shah and plotted to assassinate Ismail with the help of Pari Khan Khanum. Ismail died after consuming poisoned opium on 24 November 1577.[13]

Ismail was a poet, painter and calligrapher, who supported the arts.[14]


  • Prince Sultan Shoja al-din Mohammad Mirza (b. 16 October 1577 – d. 17 February 1578)
  • Princess Safieh Sultan Beygom (b. 1555 – d. 3 September 1617)
  • Princess Fakhr-i-Jahan Khanoum (b. 1577 – d. ?)
  • Princess Gowhar Sultan Khanoum (b. 1578 – d. 1618)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ismail II , Dr Manouchehr Parsadoost, ISBN 9643251063, 2003
  2. ^ Ismail II , Dr Manouchehr Parsadoost, ISBN 9643251063, 2003
  3. ^ Andrew J. Newman, Safavid Iran (IB Tauris, 2004) p. 42
  4. ^ Savory p. 68.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Parsadust 2009.
  6. ^ Blow 2009, p. 20.
  7. ^ Savory p. 69.
  8. ^ Oberling, Pierre, Georgians and Circassians in Iran, The Hague, 1963; pp.127-143
  9. ^ Sinor, Denis, ed. (1990). Aspects of Altaic Civilization III: Proceedings of the Thirtieth Meeting of the Permanent International Altaistic Conference, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, June 19-25, 1987. Psychology Press. p. 33. ISBN 9780700703807. 
  10. ^ Price, Massoume, ed. (1 Jan 2005). Iran's Diverse Peoples: A Reference Sourcebook (illustrated ed.). ABC-CLIO. p. 68. ISBN 9781576079935. 
  11. ^ Houchang Chehabi; Rula Abisaab (2006). Distant Relations: Iran and Lebanon in the Last 500 Years. I.B.Tauris. pp. 86–8. 
  12. ^ Andrew J Newman (11 Apr 2012). Safavid Iran: Rebirth of a Persian Empire. I.B.Tauris. p. 118. ISBN 9780857716613. 
  13. ^ Savory pp. 69–70
  14. ^ Andrew J Newman (11 Apr 2012). Safavid Iran: Rebirth of a Persian Empire. I.B.Tauris. p. 47. ISBN 9780857716613. 


Ismail II
Preceded by
Tahmasp I
Shah of Persia
Succeeded by
Mohammad Khodabanda