ʿABBĀS (II) [1982]

Safavid king of Iran (1052-77/1642-66).


ʿABBĀS II, king of Iran (1052-77/1642-66) of the Safavid dynasty. The son of Shah Ṣafī, he was born on 18 Jomādā II 1043/20 December 1633, and succeeded his father on 12 Ṣafar 1052/12 May 1642, when he was only eight and a half years old; he died on 26 Rabīʿ II 1077/25 September 1666.

ʿAbbās II was without doubt the most able and vigorous Safavid ruler after his grandfather ʿAbbās I, whom in many ways he resembled. Although he was so young at the time of his accession, from that moment he displayed great strength and determination. In 1055/1645, only three years after his accession, the vizier Sārū Taqī was assassinated by a group of Qezelbāš led by the qūṛčī-bāšī, one of the most powerful officers of state; a few days later, ʿAbbās II had all the assassins executed. Like ʿAbbās I, ʿAbbās II had a passion for justice, and complaints of malfeasance and oppression by officials were dealt with speedily and the guilty parties severely punished. For three days a week, ʿAbbās II presided over an official judicial tribunal (dīvān-e ʿadālat) which dealt with suits brought by both the military and civilians, and two additional days were devoted to the informal hearing of grievances from all parts of the empire.

ʿAbbās II implemented on a huge scale the conversion of provinces from mamālek (state property) to ḵāṣṣa (royal domain) status. This practice had been begun by Shah Ṭahmāsp, extended by ʿAbbās I (to pay the ḡolām regiments), and accelerated by Shah Ṣafī. Now most of the country was brought under the direct administration of the crown except in time of war, when ad hoc military governors were appointed to strategically important frontier provinces. This policy meant the further weakening and indeed the virtual disappearance of those Qezelbāš tribes which had figured so prominently in the early Safavid period. However, during the reign of ʿAbbās II, the frontiers of the Safavid empire remained intact. Kandahār, lost to the Mughals under Shah Ṣafī, was recaptured in 1057/1648, and three subsequent attempts by the emperor Awrangzēb to recover it were repulsed. On the northwest frontier, ʿAbbās II attempted to stabilize the area by resettling there tribes from Azerbaijan—a reversal of the “demilitarized zone” policy of ʿAbbās I.

ʿAbbās II was a builder, though not on the scale of ʿAbbās I. During his reign the Čehel Soyūn palace at Isfahan was built (1057/1647-48), the Mesǰed-e Shah and the Mesǰed-e Jomʿa were repaired, and a dam was constructed on the Zāyanda-rūd (1965/1654-55). Like his great-grandfather, ʿAbbās II was generally tolerant in religious matters and allowed members of Catholic orders considerable freedom of operation. A notable exception, however, was his treatment of the Jews. At the instigation of his vizier, Moḥammad Beg, he decreed that, not only Jews resident at Isfahan, but Jews throughout the empire should make public profession of their conversion to Islam and receive instruction on the Islamic faith. Some 100 thousand Jews are said to have outwardly embraced Islam but have continued to practice their religion in secret.



Chief primary sources are ʿEmād-al-dawla Mīrzā Moḥammad Ṭāher Vaḥīd Qazvīnī, ʿAbbāsnāma, ed. Ebrāhīm Dehgān, Arāk, 1329 Š./1950; and Valī-qolī Šāmlū, Qeṣaṣ al-ḵāqānī, Tehran, n.d. On ʿAbbās II’s treatment of the Jews, see Ḥabīb Lavī, Tāʾrīḵ-e yahūd-e Īrān, Tehran, 1960, III, pp. 291-416. For general bibliography, see Safavid Dynasty.

(R. M. Savory)

Originally Published: December 15, 1982

Last Updated: July 13, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 1, p. 76

R. M. Savory, “'Abbas (II),” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/1, p. 76; online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abbas-ii (accessed on 10 January 2014).