Karim Khan

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This article is about the Persian ruler. For other uses, see Karim Khan (disambiguation).
Karim Khan Zand
'Vakil e-Ra'aayaa وکیل الرّعایا
(Representative of the People)
Lion and Sun Emblem of Persia.svg
Karim Khan by Charles Heath.jpg
Vakil e-Ra'aayaa of Persia
Reign 1751 – 1 May/March 1779[1]
Predecessor Title Created
Successor Title Abolished[2]
Ruler of Persia
Reign 1765-1779 [3]
Predecessor Ismail III
Successor Mohammad Ali Khan
Born c. 1705
Died 1 May/March 1779[1]
Zand Palace, Shiraz
Burial Pars Museum, Shiraz
29°36′57.63″N 52°32′42″E / 29.6160083°N 52.54500°E / 29.6160083; 52.54500Coordinates: 29°36′57.63″N 52°32′42″E / 29.6160083°N 52.54500°E / 29.6160083; 52.54500
Issue Mohammad Ali Khan
Abol Fath Khan
Dynasty Zand dynasty
Father Inaq Khan
Mother Bay Agha
Religion Shia Islam[4]

Mohammad Karim Khan Zand (Lurish and Persian: کریم خان زند, also Romanized as Mohammad Karīm Khān-e Zand), was the founder of the Kurdish Zand Dynasty, ruling from 1751 to 1779. He ruled all of Iran except for Khorasan.[5] He also ruled over some Caucasian lands and occupied Basra for some years.

Family and early life[edit]

Karim Khan belonged to the Zand tribe, an Iranian tribe of Lak[5][6][7][8] or Lur[9] origin. Karim Khan was born in ca. 1705 somewhere in western Iran. In 1732, Nader Shah, who was the de facto ruler of the Safavid Empire, moved thousands of Bakhtiaris and several Zand families to Khorasan, Karim Khan and his family being one of them. Later in 1736, Nader Shah deposed the Safavid ruler Abbas III and assumed the throne for himself, thus starting the Afsharid dynasty. However, Nader Shah was later murdered in 1747 at the hands of his own men, which gave the Bakhtiaris under the leadership of Ali-Mardan Khan and the Zands under Karim Khan the opportunity to return to their former lands in western Iran.


Court of Karim Khan

Some time later, Karim Khan, Ali Mardan Khan and another Bakhtiari chieftain named Abulfath Khan Bakhtiari reached an agreement to divide the country among themselves and give the throne to the Safavid prince Ismail III. However, the cooperation ended after Ali Mardan Khan invaded Isfahan and killed Abulfath Khan. Subsequently, Karim Khan killed Ali Mardan Khan and gained control over all of Iran except Khorasan, which was ruled by Shahrokh, the grandson of Nader Shah. Nevertheless, Karim Khan did not adopt the title of Shah for himself, preferring the title, Vakil e-Ra'aayaa (Representative of the People).[5]

While Karim was ruler, Persia recovered from the devastation of 40 years of war, providing the war ravaged country with a renewed sense of tranquility, security, peace, and prosperity. During his reign, relations with Britain were restored, and he allowed the East India Company to have a trading post in southern Iran. He made Shiraz his capital and ordered the construction of several architectural projects there. Karim Khan later died in 1 March 1779, having been ill for six months, most likely due to tuberculosis.[5] He was buried three days later in the "Nazar Garden", now known as the Pars Museum.

Following Karim Khan's death, civil war broke out once more, and none of his descendants were able to rule the country as effectively as he had. The last of these descendants, Lotf Ali Khan, was killed by Qajar ruler Agha Mohammad Khan, who became the sole ruler of Iran.


To this day, he has a reputation as one of the most just and able rulers in Iranian history. A wealth of tales and anecdotes portray Karim Khan as a compassionate ruler, genuinely concerned with the welfare of his subjects. In the words of John Malcolm, "The happy reign of this excellent prince, as contrasted with those who preceded and followed him, affords the historian of Persia that kind of mixed pleasure and repose, which a traveler enjoys on arriving in a beautiful and fertile valley during an arduous journey over barren and rugged wastes. It is pleasing to recount the actions of a chief who, though born of an inferior rank, obtained power without crime, and who exercised it with a moderation that, for the times in which he lived, was as singular as his humanity and justice."[10] He is buried at Pars Museum of Shiraz.

In art[edit]

Karim Khan is the main character of a melodrama composed by the Italian musician Nicolò Gabrielli di Quercita. The work, entitled L'assedio di Sciraz (The siege of Shiraz) was first performed at La Scala theatre in Milan during Carnival 1840.


  1. ^ a b Yeroushalmi, David (2009). The Jews of Iran in the Nineteenth Century. Brill's Series in Jewish Studies 40. The Netherlands: Brill. pp. xxxix. ISBN 90-04-15288-1. 
  2. ^ From Encyclopedia Iranica's Zand dynasty Article: None of Karim Khan’s five successors formally adopted his title of ‘deputy’ (wakil), nor did they take that of ‘shah.’ The first three of them ruled nominally for one of Karim Khan’s sons, and the last two are referred to in Persian sources by a conventional imperial epithet or simply as ‘khan,’ but often as ‘the king’ by European observers
  3. ^ Soon after Nāder’s assassination in 1160/1747, Karim Khan led his people home. In alliance with ʿAli-Mardān Khan Baḵtiāri, he captured Isfahan in 1163/1750 and installed a Safavid puppet ruler, Shah Esmāʿil III (r. 1750-65, d. 1773). The next year, Karim Khan defeated a bid by ʿAli-Mardān Khan for sole power, and adopted his rival’s title of wakil-al-dowla (‘deputy of the state,’ or regent). After defeating three other contestants for power, he pacified most of western and central Persia from the Caspian littoral and Azerbaijan to Kerman and Lār (Ḡaffāri, pp. 42-199), and ruled at Shiraz from 1179/1765 until his death in 1193/1779.
  4. ^ Dabashi, Hamid (2011). Shi'ism: A Religion of Protest. Harvard University Press. pp. 164–165. ISBN 0-674-04945-4. 
  5. ^ a b c d Perry 2011, pp. 561–564.
  6. ^ A fourth pretender was Karim Khan, son of Aymak of the Zand, a section of Lak tribe, Sir Percy Molesworth Sykes, A History of Persi, Macmillan and co., limited, 1930, p. 277.
  7. ^ One of the contenders for power was Karim Khan Zand, a member of the Lak tribe near Shiraz, William Marsden, Stephen Album, Marsden's Numismata orientalia illustrata, Attic Books, 1977, ISBN 978-0-915018-16-1, p. 158.
  8. ^ Karim Khan, the founder of the Zand dynasty of Persia that succeeded the Afsharids, was himself born to a family of these Lak deportees (of the Zand tribe), Mehrdad R. Izady, The Kurds: A Concise Handbook, Taylor & Francis, 1992, ISBN 978-0-8448-1727-9, p. 12.
  9. ^ Muhammad Karim Khan, of the Zand clan of the Lur tribe, suc- ceeded in imposing his authority on parts of the defunct Safavid empire, David Yeroushalmi, The Jews of Iran in The Nineteenth Century: Aspects of History, Community, and Culture, BRILL, 2009, ISBN 978-90-04-15288-5, p. xxxix.
  10. ^ (John Malcolm, The History of Persia, 1829)


Karim Khan
Born: 1705 Died: 1779
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Nader Shah
Shah of Persia
Succeeded by
Mohammad Ali Khan