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The Shamlu tribe (also: Shamloo, Shomloo, Chamlou; Persian: ایل شاملو) was one of the seven original and the most powerful Qizilbash tribes of Turcoman origin in Iran.

History of the Shamlu tribe[edit]

Pre-Safavid era[edit]

Among the Qizilbash, Turcoman tribes from Eastern Anatolia and Azerbaijan who had helped Shah Ismail I defeat the Aq Qoyunlu tribe were by far the most important - in number and influence. Therefore the name Kizilbash is usually applied to them only. Some of these greater Turcoman tribes were subdivided into as many as eight or nine clans and included the:

  • Ustādjlu
  • Rumlu
  • Shāmlu (the most powerful clan during the reign of Shah Ismail I.)
  • Dulghadir (Arabic: Dhu 'l-Kadar)
  • Afshār
  • Qājār
  • Takkalu

Other tribes, such as Turkman, Bahārlu, Qaramānlu, Warsāk or Bayāt were occasionally listed among these "seven great uymaqs". Some of these names consist of a place-name with addition of the Turkish suffix -lu, such as Shāmlu or Bahārlu. Other names are those of old Oghuz tribes such as Afshār, Dulghadir, or Bayāt, as mentioned by the medieval Uyghur historian Mahmoud Al-Kāshgharī. The origin of the name Ustādjlu, however, is unknown and possibly indicates a non-Turkic origin of the tribe.

The non-Turkic or non-Turkish-speaking Iranian tribes among the Kizilbash were called Tājiks by the Turcomans and included:

  • Tālish
  • Siāh-Kuh (Karādja-Dagh)
  • Lur tribes (for example the Zand)
  • certain Kurdish tribes
  • certain Persian families and clans

The rivalry between the Turkic clans and Persian nobles was a major problem in the Safavid kingdom and caused much trouble. As V. Minorsky put it, friction between these two groups was inevitable, because the Turcomans "were no party to the national Persian tradition". Shah Ismail tried to solve the problem by appointing Persian wakils as commanders of Kizilbash tribes. However, the Turcomans considered this an insult and brought about the death of 3 of the 5 Persians appointed to this office - an act, that later inspired the deprivation of the Turcomans by Shah Abbas I.

Safavid era[edit]

The Beginnings
In the 15th century, Ardabil was the center of an organization designed to keep the Safavid leadership in close touch with its murids in Azerbaijan, Iraq, eastern Anatolia, and elsewhere. The organization was controlled through the office of khalīfāt al-khulafā'ī who appointed representatives (khalīfa) in regions where Safavid propaganda was active. The khalīfa, in turn, had subordinates termed pira. Their presence in eastern Anatolia posed a serious threat to the Ottomans, because they encouraged the Shi'ite population of Asia Minor to revolt against the sultan.

In 1499, Ismail, the young leader of the Safavid order, left Lahijan for Ardabil to make his bid for power. By the summer of 1500, ca. 7,000 supporters from the local Turcoman tribes of Anatolia, Syria, and Iraq - collectively called "Kizilbash" by their enemies - rallied to his support. Leading his troops on a punitive campaign against the Shīrvanshāh (ruler of Shirvan), he sought revenge for the death of his father and his grandfather in Shīrvan. After defeating the Shīrvanshāh Farrukh Yassar, he moved south into Azarbaijan where his 7,000 Kizilbash warriors defeated a force of 30,000 Ak Koyunlu under Alwand Mirzā, and conquered Tabriz. This was the beginning of the Safavid state.

In the first decade of the 16th century, the Kizilbash expanded Safavid rule over the rest of Persia, as well as Baghdad and Iraq, formerly under Ak Koyunlu control. In 1510 Shah Ismail sent a large force of the Kizilbash to Transoxania to support the Timurid ruler Babur in his war against the Uzbeks. The Kizilbash defeated the Uzbeks and secured Samarqand for Babur. However, in 1512, an entire Kizilbash army was annihilated by the Uzbeks after Turcoman Kizilbash had mutinied against their Persian wakil and commander, Amir Nadjm. This heavy defeat put an end to Safavid expansion and influence in Transoxania and the northeastern frontiers of the kingdom remained vulnerable to nomad invasions.

The Battle of Chaldiran
Meanwhile, the Safavid da'wa (propaganda) continued in Ottoman areas - with great success. Even more alarming for the Ottomans was the successful conversion of Turcoman tribes in eastern Anatolia and Iraq, and the recruitment of these well experienced and feared fighters into the growing Safavid army. In order to stop the Safavid propaganda, Sultan Bayezid II deported large numbers of the Shi'ite population of Asia Minor to Morea. However, in 1507, Shah Ismail and the Kizilbash overran large areas of Kurdistan, defeating regional Ottoman forces. Only two years later in Central Asia, the Kizilbash defeated the Uzbeks at Merv, killing their leader Muhammad Shaybani and destroying his dynasty. His head was sent to the Ottoman sultan as a warning.

In 1511, an Alevi revolt known as "Shahkulu Uprising" broke out in Teke and was brutally suppressed by the Ottomans: 40,000 were massacred on the order of the sultan. Shah Ismail sought to turn the chaos within the Ottoman Empire to his advantage and invaded Anatolia. The Kizilbash defeated a large Ottoman army under Sinan Pasha. Shocked by this heavy defeat, Sultan Selim I (the new ruler of the Empire) decided to invade Persia with a force of 200,000 Ottomans and face the Kizilbash on their own soil. In addition, he ordered the persecution of Shiism and the massacre of all its adherents in the Ottoman Empire.

On the 20 August 1514 (1st Rajab 920 A.H.), the two armies met at Chaldiran in Azarbaijan. The Ottomans outnumbered the Kizilbash two to one (according to other sources: three to one) and had artillery and handguns. The Kizilbash were heavily defeated,[15] and many high-ranking Kizilbash amirs as well as three influential figures of the ulamā were killed.

The defeat destroyed Shah Ismail's belief in his invincibility and his divine status. It also fundamentally altered the relationship between the murshid-e kāmil and his murids.

Shah Abbas's Reforms[edit]

In 1588, Shah Abbas I came to power. He appointed the Governor of Herat and his former guardian and tutor, Alī Quli Khān Shāmlū (also known as Hājī Alī Qizilbāsh Mazandarānī) the chief of all the armed forces. Later on, events of the past, including the role of the Turcomans in the succession struggles after the death of his father, and the counterbalancing influence of traditional Ithnāʻashari Shia Sayeds, made him determined to end the dominance of the untrustworthy Turcoman chiefs in Persia. In order to weaken the Turcomans - the important militant elite of the Safavid kingdom - Shah Abbas raised a standing army from the ranks of the ghilman who were usually ethnic Armenians and Georgians. The new army would be loyal to the king personally and not to clan-chiefs anymore.

Post-Safavid era[edit]

Heydar Gholi Khan Ghiaï-e Chamlou I
Heydar Gholi Khan Ghiaï-e Chamlou II

List of the Khans of Shamlu[edit]

  • Ahmad Sultan Shamlu
  • Abdu Beg Shamlu ( Father in law of Ismail I )
  • Husein Khan Shamlu ( The most powerful qizilbash Khan, executed by Shah Tahmasp in 1534)
  • Hossein Khan Shamlu ( Governor of Lors Pushtkuh- Province of Lorestan )
  • Hasan Khan Shamlu
  • Mirza Vali Khan Shamlu (Governor)
  • Ali Gholi Khan Shamlu (aka Haji Ali Qizilbash Mazandarani Governor of Khorassan in 1576 and chief of the armies under Shah Abbas I en 1588 )[1]
  • JĀNI BEG KHAN BIGDELI SHĀMLU(d. 1645), ishik-āqāsi-bāshi (master of ceremony) and qurchi-bāshi (head of the tribal guards) under the Safavid Shah Ṣafi I (r. 1629-42) and Shah ʿAbbās II (r. 1642-66).[2]
  • Sinan Khan Shamlu (Ambassador of Shah AbbasI to Emperor Rudolph II of Habsburg)
  • Muhamad Gholi Khan Bigdili-e Shamlu
  • Dormish Khan Shamlu (Brother in law of Shah Ismail I and Governor of Isfahan )
  • Murteza Gulu Khan Shamlu-Ardabili (invented a style of calligraphy called "Shikasta Nastaʿlīq")
  • Abbas Gholi Khan Shamlu-Shahsevan (Governor of Herat, 1812)
  • Mu'min Khan Shamlu (1699–1707, Grand Vizier )[3]
  • Mohammed Zaman Khan Shamlu (1711)
  • Muhamad Ali Khan Bigdili-e Shamlu (c.1722, Grand Vizier )[2]
  • Zaynal Khan Shamlu
  • Murshid Gholi Khan Ustajlu-e Shamlu
  • Heydar Gholi Khan Ghiaï-e Chamlou I
  • Mirza Ali Akbar Khan Ghiaï-e Chamlou
  • Manouchehr Ghiaie-e Shamloo (Governor of Tehran)
  • Heydar Gholi Khan Ghiaï-e Chamlou II (Architect and Aide de Camp of the Impériale Court of Iran under Emperor Mohammad Reza Pahlavi)[4]
  • Farhad Khan Ghiaï-e Chamlou( 1957 )[4]


  • Yves Bomati and Houchang Nahavandi,Shah Abbas, Emperor of Persia,1587-1629, 2017, ed. Ketab Corporation, Los Angeles, ISBN 978-1595845672, English translation by Azizeh Azodi.
  • Roman Ghirshman, Persia El reino immortal, Londres, 1971, p. 141
  • J.P. Roux, " Histoire des Turcs", Paris, 1984, pp. 253–54
  • David Morgan. "Shah Isma'il and the Establishment of Shi'ism"chpt. 12 of his Medieval Persia: 1040-1797, Longman, New York, 1988, pp. 112–123.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Indo-Persian Travels in the Age of Discoveries, 1400–1800, Muzaffar Alam, University of Chicago Mars 2007, ISBN 978-0-521-78041-4
  2. ^ a b Matthee, Rudi. "JĀNI BEG KHAN BIGDELI ŠĀMLU". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  3. ^ "Safavid Iran: Rebirth of a Persian Empire", Andrew J. Newman,Edt. I. B. Tauris 30 Mars, 2006, p.105 ISBN 1-86064-667-0
  4. ^ a b Architecture Mediterraneenne, No 55, "From father to son, a dynasty of builders", Marseille, 2001, pp. 130-60

External links[edit]