Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar

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Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar
Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar-0a.jpg
Photograph published by G. G. Bain, 1907
Shah of Iran
Reign3 January 1907  – 16 July 1909
PredecessorMozaffar ad-Din Shah Qajar
SuccessorAhmad Shah Qajar
Prime Ministers
Born(1872-06-21)21 June 1872
Tabriz, Azerbaijan, Persia
Died5 April 1925(1925-04-05) (aged 52)
San Remo, Italy
SpouseMalekeh Jahan
IssueSee below
Mohmmad Ali Shah
FatherMozaffar ad-Din Shah Qajar
Mother Taj ol-Molouk (Umm al-Khakan)
ReligionShia Islam
TughraMohammad Ali Shah Qajar's signature

Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar (Persian: محمدعلی شاه قاجار; 21 June 1872 – 5 April 1925, San Remo, Italy), Shah of Iran from 8 January 1907 to 16 July 1909. He was the sixth shah of the Qajar Dynasty.


Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar was opposed to the Persian Constitution of 1906, which had been ratified during the reign of his father, Mozaffar ad-Din Shah Qajar. In 1907, Mohammad Ali dissolved the National Consultative Assembly and declared the Constitution abolished because it was contrary to Islamic law.[1] He bombarded the Majles (Persian parliament) with the military and political support of Russia and Britain.[2]

In July 1909, pro-Constitution forces marched from Persia's provinces to Tehran led by Sardar As'ad, Sepehdar A'zam, Sattar Khan, Bagher Khan and Yeprem Khan, deposed the Shah, and re-established the constitution. On 16 July 1909, the parliament voted to place Mohammad Ali Shah's 11-year-old son, Ahmad Shah on the throne. Mohammad Ali Shah abdicated following the new Constitutional Revolution and he has since been remembered as a symbol of dictatorship.

Having fled to Odessa, Russia (currently Ukraine), Mohammad Ali plotted his return to power. In 1911 he landed at Astarabad, Persia, but his forces were defeated.[1] Mohammad Ali Shah returned to Russia, then in 1920 to Constantinople (present day Istanbul) and later to San Remo, Italy, where he died on 5 April 1925 (bur. Shrine of Imam Husain, Karbala, Iraq). Every Shah of Persia since Mohammad Ali has died in exile.

His son and successor, Ahmad Shah Qajar was the last sovereign of the Qajar dynasty.[3]


Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar with Mirza Mohammad Ebrahim Khan, the Moavin al-Dowleh, and Company
A 2000 Dinar/2 Qiran coin of Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar era

Marriages and children[edit]


Mohammad Ali Shah had two wives:

  1. Robabeh Khanum "Malih-os-Saltaneh"
  2. Princess Zahra Qajar "Malekeh Jahan", daughter of Kamran Mirza "Nayeb-os-Saltaneh"


Mohammad Ali Shah had six sons and two daughters:

  1. Hossein Ali Mirza "E'tezad Saltaneh"
  2. Gholam Hossein Mirza (died in infancy)
  3. Sultan Ahmad Mirza (later Ahmad Shah Qajar)
  4. Mohammad Hassan Mirza
  5. Sultan Mahmoud Mirza
  6. Sultan Majid Mirza
  1. Khadijeh Khanum "Hazrat-e Ghodsieh"
  2. Assieh Khanum

List of prime ministers[edit]

Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar after deposal

The controversy over democracy[edit]

The fourth Qajar King, Naser al-Din Shah was assassinated by Mirza Reza Kermani, a follower of Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī, when he was visiting and praying in the Shah Abdul-Azim Shrine on 1 May 1896. At Mozaffar al-Din Shah's accession Persia faced a financial crisis, with annual governmental expenditures far in excess of revenues as a result of the policies of his father. During his reign, Mozzafar ad-Din attempted some reforms of the central treasury; however, the previous debt incurred by the Qajar court, owed to both England and Russia, significantly undermined this effort. He awarded William Knox D'Arcy, a British subject, the rights to oil in most of the country in 1901.[4] Widespread fears amongst the aristocracy, educated elites, and religious leaders about the concessions and foreign control resulted in some protests in 1906. The three main groups of the coalition seeking a constitution were the merchants, the ulama, and a small group of radical reformers. They shared the goal of ending royal corruption and ending dominance by foreign powers. These resulted in the Shah accepting a suggestion to create a Majles (National Consultative Assembly) in October 1906, by which the monarch's power was curtailed as he granted a constitution and parliament to the people. King Mozaffar ad-Din Shah signed the 1906 constitution shortly before his death. The members of newly formed parliament stayed constantly in touch with Akhund Khurasani and whenever legislative bills were discussed, he was telegraphed the details for a juristic opinion.[5] In a letter dated June 3, 1907, the parliament told Akhund about a group of anti-constitutionalists who were trying to undermine legitimacy of democracy in the name of religious law. The trio replied:[5][6]


اساس این مجلس محترم مقدس بر امور مذکور مبتنی است. بر هر مسلمی سعی و اهتمام در استحکام و تشیید این اساس قویم لازم، و اقدام در موجبات اختلال آن محاده و معانده با صاحب شریعت مطهره علی الصادع بها و آله الطاهرین افضل الصلاه و السلام، و خیانت به دولت قوی شوکت است.

الاحقر نجل المرحوم الحاج میرزا خلیل قدس سره محمد حسین، حررّہ الاحقر الجانی محمد کاظم الخراسانی، من الاحقر عبدالله المازندرانی[7]

“Because we are aware of the intended reasons for this institution, it is therefore incumbent on every Muslim to support its foundation, and those who try to defeat it, and their action against it, are considered contrary to shari‘a.”

— Mirza Husayn Tehrani, Muhammad Kazim Khurasani, Abdallah Mazandaran.
The trio: (left to right) Akhund Khurasani, Mirza Husayn Tehrani and Abdullah Mazandarani

At the dawn of the democratic movement, Sheikh Fadlullah Nouri, supported the sources of emulation in Najaf in their stance on constitutionalism and the belief that people must counter the autocratic regime in the best way, that is constitution of legislature and limiting the powers of the state; hence, once constitutional movement began, he made speeches and distributed tracts to insist on this important thing. However, when the new Shah, Muhammad Ali Shah Qajar, decided to role back democracy and establish his authority by military and foreign support, Shaikh Fazlullah sided with Kiing's court.[8]

Meanwhile, the new Shah had understood that he could not roll back the constitutional democracy by royalist ideology, and therefore he decided to use the religion card.[9] Nouri was a rich and high-ranking Qajar court official responsible for conducting marriages and contracts. He also handled wills of wealthy men and collected religious funds.[10] Nouri was opposed to the very foundations of the institution of parliament. He led a large group of followers and began a round-the-clock sit-in in the Shah Abdul Azim shrine on June 21, 1907 which lasted till September 16, 1907. He generalized the idea of religion as a complete code of life to push for his own agenda. He believed democracy will allow for “teaching of chemistry, physics and foreign languages”, that would result in spread of Atheism.[11] He bought a printing press and launched a newspaper of his own for propaganda purposes, “Ruznamih-i-Shaikh Fazlullah”, and published leaflets.[12] He believed that the ruler was accountable to no institution other than God and people have no right to limit the powers or question the conduct of the King. He declared that those who supported democratic form of government were faithless and corrupt, and apostates.[13] He hated the idea of female education and said that girls schools were brothels.[14] Alongside his vicious propaganda against women education, he also opposed allocation of funds for modern industry, modern ways of governance, equal rights for all citizens irrespective of their religion and freedom of press. He believed that people were cattle, but paradoxically, he wanted to “awaken the muslim brethren”.[15]

The anti-democracy clerics incited violence and one such cleric said that getting in the proximity of the parliament was a bigger sin than adultery, robbery and murder.[16] In Zanjan, Mulla Qurban Ali Zanjani mobilized a force of six hundred thugs who looted shops of pro-democracy merchants and took hold of the city for several days and killed the representative Sa'd al-Saltanih.[17] Nouri himself recruited mercenaries from criminal gangs to harass the supporters of democracy. On December 22, 1907, Nouri led a mob towards Tupkhanih Square and attacked merchants and looted stores.[18] Nouri's ties to the court of monarchy and landlords reinforced his fanaticism. He even contacted the Russian embassy for support and his men delivered sermons against democracy in mosques, resulting in chaos.[19] Akhund Khurasani was consulted on the matter and in a letter dated December 30, 1907, the three Marja's said:



چون نوری مخل آسائش و مفسد است، تصرفش در امور حرام است.

محمد حسین (نجل) میرزا خلیل، محمد کاظم خراسانی، عبدالله مازندرانی[21]

“Because Nouri is causing trouble and sedition, his interfering in any affair is forbidden.”

— Mirza Husayn Tehrani, Muhammad Kazim Khurasani, Abdallah Mazandaran.

However, Nouri continued his activities and a few weeks later Akhund Khurasani and his fellow Marja's argued for his expulsion from Tehran:[22]


رفع اغتشاشات حادثه و تبعید نوری را عاجلاً اعلام.

الداعی محمد حسین نجل المرحوم میرزا خلیل، الداعی محمد کاظم الخراسانی، عبدالله المازندرانی[23]

“Restore peace and expel Nouri as quickly as possible.”

— Mirza Husayn Tehrani, Muhammad Kazim Khurasani, Abdallah Mazandaran.

Mirza Ali Aqa Tabrizi, the enlightened Thiqa tul-islam from Tabriz, opposed Nuri saying that only the opinion of the sources of emulation is worthy of consideration in the matters of faith.[24] He wrote:

He who wins his own soul, protects his religion, is against following his desires and is obedient to the command of his Master; that is the person whom the people should take as their model.[25]

Thiqa tul-Islam Tabrizi(Persian: ثقة الاسلام میرزا علی آقا تبریزی; January 19, 1861 - December 31, 1911)


Let us consider the idea that the constitution is against Sharia law: all oppositions of this kind are in vain because the hujjaj al-islam of the atabat, who are today the models (marja') and the refuge (malija) of all Shiites, have issued clear fatwas that uphold the necessity of the Constitution. Aside from their words, they have also shown this by their actions. They see in Constitution the support for splendour of Islam.[25]

He firmly opposed the idea of a supervisory committee of Tehran's clerics censoring the conduct of the parliament, and said that:

this delicate subject shall be submitted to the atabat, . . . we don't have the right to entrust government to a group of four or five mullahs from Tehran.[25]

As far as Nouri's argument was concerned, Akhund Khurasani refuted it in a light tone by saying that he supported the “parliament at Baharistan Square”, questioning the legitimacy of Nouri's assembly at Shah Abdul Azim shrine and their right to decide for the people.[26] Responding to a question about Nouri's arguments, Akhund Muhammad Kazim Khurasani said:[27]

Persian: سلطنت مشروعه آن است کہ متصدی امور عامه ی ناس و رتق و فتق کارهای قاطبه ی مسلمین و فیصل کافه ی مهام به دست ‏شخص معصوم و موید و منصوب و منصوص و مأمور مِن الله باشد مانند انبیاء و اولیاء و مثل خلافت ‏امیرالمومنین و ایام ظهور و رجعت حضرت حجت، و اگر حاکم مطلق معصوم نباشد، آن سلطنت غیرمشروعه است، ‏چنان‌ کہ در زمان غیبت است و سلطنت غیرمشروعه دو قسم است، عادله، نظیر مشروطه کہ مباشر امور عامه، عقلا و متدینین ‏باشند و ظالمه و جابره است، مثل آنکه حاکم مطلق یک نفر مطلق‌ العنان خودسر باشد. البته به صریح حکم عقل و به فصیح ‏منصوصات شرع «غیر مشروعه ی عادله» مقدم است بر «غیرمشروعه ی جابره». و به تجربه و تدقیقات صحیحه و غور ‏رسی‌ های شافیه مبرهن شده که نُه عشر تعدیات دوره ی استبداد در دوره ی مشروطیت کمتر می‌شود و دفع افسد و اقبح به ‏فاسد و به قبیح واجب است.[28]

English: “According to Shia doctrine, only the infallible Imam has the right to govern, to run the affairs of the people, to solve the problems of the Muslim society and to make important decisions. As it was in the time of the prophets or in the time of the caliphate of the commander of the faithful, and as it will be in the time of the reappearance and return of the Mahdi. If the absolute guardianship is not with the infallible then it will be a non-islamic government. Since this is a time of occultation, there can be two types of non-islamic regimes: the first is a just democracy in which the affairs of the people are in the hands of faithful and educated men, and the second is a government of tyranny in which a dictator has absolute powers. Therefore, both in the eyes of the Sharia and reason what is just prevails over the unjust. From human experience and careful reflection it has become clear that democracy reduces the tyranny of state and it is obligatory to give precedence to the lesser evil.”

— Muhammad Kazim Khurasani

As “sanctioned by sacred law and religion”, Akhund believes, a theocratic government can only be formed by the infallible Imam.[29][30] Nouri interpreted Sharia in a self-serving and shallow way, unlike Akhund Khurasani who, as a well received source of emulation, viewed the adherence to religion in a society beyond one person or one interpretation.[31] While Nouri confused Sharia with written constitution of a modern society, Akhund Khurasani understood the difference and the function of the two.[32]

Kazim Yazdi: the apolitical Marja of Najaf at times of democratic revolution

Nouri tried to get support from Ayatullah Kazim Yazdi, another prominent Marja of Najaf. He was apolitical, and therefore during the Iranian Constitutional Revolution, he stayed neutral most of the times and seldom issued any political statement.[33] Contrary to Akhund Khorasani, he thought that Usulism did not offer the liberty to support constitutional politics. In his view, politics was beyond his expertise and therefore he avoided taking part in it. [34] While Akhund Khorasani was an eminent Marja' in Najaf, many imitators prayed behind Kazim Yazdi too, as his lesson on rulings (figh) was famous.[35] In other words both Mohammad Kazem and Khorasani had constituted a great Shia school in Najaf although they had different views in politics at the same time.[36] However, he was not fully supportive of Fazlullah Nouri and Muhammad Ali Shah, therefore, when parliament asked him to review the final draft of constitution, he suggested some changes and signed the document.[37] He said that modern industries were permissible unless explicitly prohibited by Sharia.[38] He also agreed with teaching of modern sciences, and added that the state should not intervene the centers of religious learning (Hawza). He wasn't against formation of organizations and societies that do not create chaos, and in this regard there was no difference between religious and non-religious organizations.[38] In law-making, unlike Nouri, he separated the religious (Sharia) and public law (Urfiya). His opinion was that the personal and family matters should be settled in religious courts by jurists, and the governmental affaris and matters of state should be taken care of by modern judiciary. Parliament added article 71 and 72 into the constitution based on his opinions.[39] Ayatullah Yazdi said that as long as modern constitution did not force people to do what was forbidden by Sharia and refrain from religious duties, there was no reason to oppose democratic rule and the government had the right to prosecute wrong doers.[40] The Revolutional Tribunal declared him guilty of incited mobs against the constitutionalists and issuing fatwas declaring parliamentary leaders "apostates", "atheists," "secret Freemasons" and koffar al-harbi (warlike pagans) whose blood ought to be shed by the faithful.[41][42]


Shaykh Ibrahim Zanjani was head of the tribunal who sentenced Fazlullah Nouri to death.[43]

Nouri allied himself with the new Shah, Mohammad Ali Shah, who, with the assistance of Russian troops staged a coup against the Majlis (parliament) in 1907. In 1909, however, constitutionalists marched onto Tehran (the capital of Iran). Nouri was arrested, tried and found guilty of "sowing corruption and sedition on earth,"[42] and in July 1909, Nouri was hanged as a traitor.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Donzel, Emeri "van" (1994). Islamic Desk Reference. pp. 285–286. ISBN 90-04-09738-4.
  2. ^ "گزارشی از سمینار 'سده انقلاب مشروطیت ایران' در لندن". BBC Persian. 24 July 2006. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  3. ^ Soltan Ali Mirza Kadjar, 'Mohammad Ali Shah: The Man and the King', in: Qajar Studies. Travellers and Diplomats in the Qajar Era. Journal of the International Qajar Studies Association, volume VII, 2007.
  4. ^ Cleveland, William L.; Bunton, Martin (2013). A history of the modern Middle East (Fifth ed.). Boulder, CO: Westview Press. p. 132. ISBN 9780813348339.
  5. ^ a b Farzaneh 2015, pp. 173–174.
  6. ^ Bayat, Mangol (1991). Iran's first revolution: Shi'ism and the constitutional revolution of 1905-1909. Studies in Middle Eastern history. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 181. ISBN 9780195068221. OCLC 1051306470. Retrieved 30 April 2022.
  7. ^ محسن کدیور، ”سیاست نامه خراسانی“، ص۱۶۹، طبع دوم، تہران سنه ۲۰۰۸ء
  8. ^ Arjomand, Said Amir (16 November 1989). The Turban for the Crown: The Islamic Revolution in Iran. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 50–52. ISBN 978-0-19-504258-0.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  9. ^ Arjomand, Said Amir (16 November 1989). The Turban for the Crown: The Islamic Revolution in Iran. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 48–49. ISBN 978-0-19-504258-0.
  10. ^ Farzaneh 2015, pp. 195.
  11. ^ Farzaneh 2015, pp. 196.
  12. ^ Farzaneh 2015, pp. 197.
  13. ^ Farzaneh 2015, pp. 198.
  14. ^ Farzaneh 2015, pp. 199.
  15. ^ Arjomand, Said Amir (16 November 1989). The Turban for the Crown: The Islamic Revolution in Iran. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-19-504258-0.
  16. ^ Farzaneh 2015, pp. 193.
  17. ^ Farzaneh 2015, pp. 160.
  18. ^ Farzaneh 2015, p. 205.
  19. ^ Bayat, Mangol (1991). “Iran's First Revolution: Shi'ism and the Constitutional Revolution of 1905-1909”. Studies in Middle Eastern History. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 182. ISBN 978-0-19-506822-1.
  20. ^ Farzaneh, Mateo Mohammad (2015). “The Iranian Constitutional Revolution and the Clerical Leadership of Khurasani”. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press. p. 212. ISBN 978-0-8156-5311-0.
  21. ^ محسن کدیور، ”سیاست نامه خراسانی“، ص۱۷۷، طبع دوم، تہران سنه ۲۰۰۸ء
  22. ^ Hermann, Denis (1 May 2013). “Akhund Khurasani and the Iranian Constitutional Movement”. Middle Eastern Studies. 49 (3): p. 437. doi:10.1080/00263206.2013.783828. ISSN 0026-3206.
  23. ^ محسن کدیور، ”سیاست نامه خراسانی“، ص١٨٠، طبع دوم، تہران سنه ۲۰۰۸ء
  24. ^ Hermann 2013, p. 438.
  25. ^ a b c Hermann 2013, p. 439.
  26. ^ Farzaneh, Mateo Mohammad (2015). “The Iranian Constitutional Revolution and the Clerical Leadership of Khurasani”. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press. p. 203. ISBN 978-0-8156-5311-0.
  27. ^ Farzaneh 2015, pp. 162.
  28. ^ محسن کدیور، ”سیاست نامه خراسانی“، ص ۲۱۴-۲۱۵، طبع دوم، تہران سنه ۲۰۰۸ء
  29. ^ Hermann 2013, pp. 434.
  30. ^ آخوند خراسانی، حاشیة المکاسب، ص 92 تا 96، وزارت ثقافت وارشاد اسلامی، تہران، ۱۴۰۶ ہجری قمری
  31. ^ Farzaneh 2015, pp. 200.
  32. ^ Farzaneh 2015, pp. 201.
  33. ^ Arjomand, Said Amir (16 November 1989). The Turban for the Crown: The Islamic Revolution in Iran. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-19-504258-0.
  34. ^ Farzaneh 2015, p. 214.
  35. ^ Mottahedeh, R. (2014). The Mantle of the Prophet. Oneworld Publications. ISBN 9781780747385. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  36. ^ Hann, G.; Dabrowska, K.; Greaves, T.T. (2015). Iraq: The ancient sites and Iraqi Kurdistan. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 292. ISBN 9781841624884. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  37. ^ Farzaneh 2015, p. 215.
  38. ^ a b Farzaneh 2015, p. 216.
  39. ^ Farzaneh 2015, p. 217.
  40. ^ Farzaneh 2015, p. 218.
  41. ^ Taheri, Amir, The Spirit of Allah by Amir Adler and Adler (1985), pp. 45–6
  42. ^ a b Abrahamian, Ervand, Tortured Confessions by Ervand Abrahamian, University of California Press, 1999 p. 24
  43. ^ Hermann 2013, p. 440.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar
Born: 21 June 1872 Died: 5 April 1925
Iranian royalty
Preceded by Shah of Iran
Succeeded by