BEDLĪSĪ, ŠARAF-AL-DĪN KHAN B. ŠAMS-AL-DĪN B. ŠARAF BEG (949-1012/1543-1603-04?), chief of the Rūzagī tribe of Kurds, whose traditional center was the town of Bedlīs (q.v.) in eastern Anatolia (25 km southwest of the west shore of Lake Van) and author of the Šaraf-nāma, a history of the Kurds in Persian which includes a short autobiographical sketch (ed. Vélïaminof-Zernof, I, pp. 437-59).
His career is a good example of the vicissitudes which befell the Kurds after the rise of the rival empires of the Ottomans and the Safavids early in the 10th/16th century. Faced with the aggressive frontier policies of these two great powers, Kurdish leaders made tactical switches of allegiance in the hope of avoiding entrapment between the two millstones. Šaraf-al-Dīn’s grandfather Šaraf Beg supplied the Ottomans with detailed intelligence reports on events in Safavid territory (see Bacqué-Grammont and Adle), but his father Šams-al-Dīn went over to the Safavid camp because the Ottoman sultan Solaymān (926-74/1520-66) decided after the Iraq campaign of 940-42/1533-35 to assign Bedlīs, the Rūzagī tribe’s seat, to the intriguer Olāma Beg Takkalū (d. 955/1548) and to offer the Malatya district to Šams-al-Dīn instead. Together with 400 tribal followers, Šams-al-Dīn was welcomed by Shah Ṭahmāsb I (930-84/1524-76), who honored him with the title khan and put him successively in charge of the districts of Sarāb, Marāḡa, Damāvand, and Karahrūd.
Šams-al-Dīn married the daughter of Amīr Khan Mowṣellū, then governor of Dīārbakr, and she gave birth to Šaraf-al-Dīn on 20 Ḏu’l-qaʿda 949/25 February 1543 at Karahrūd (near Qom) in the house of the judges descended from the famous Qāżī Šorayḥ (for Qāżī Šorayḥ see Ebn Ḵallekān, ed. ʿAbbās, II, no. 290). It was there that Šaraf-al-Dīn received his first schooling and became interested in scholarship and literature. When he reached the age of nine, Shah Ṭahmāsb enabled him to acquire a broader education in the classes for Safavid princes at the court at Qazvīn. His father Šams-al-Dīn voluntarily resigned in 961/1563, having become melancholic and opium-addicted in exile. At the request of the Rūzagī tribe, Šaraf-al-Dīn, then twelve years old, was nominally appointed its chief, but he was sent to Šīrvān to live under the tutelage of Shaikh Amīr Belbāsī, and when this tutor (lala) died, he was passed on to Moḥammadī Beg, the governor of Hamadān, whose daughter he married.
After earning distinction in the Gīlān campaign in 975/1567, Šaraf-al-Dīn was selected to serve as governor in partnership with certain Qezelbāš amirs (Ḥasan Rūmlū, ed. Seddon, I, p. 440). Unlike the Qezelbāš, Šaraf-al-Dīn was well regarded by the people of Gīlān. Its climate, however, enervated him and his Kurds, and he therefore went back to the court at Qazvīn. When quarrels of Qezelbāš amirs made court life unpleasant, he moved to Šīrvān. Having been summoned for the enthronement of Shah Esmāʿīl II, he returned to Qazvīn in 984/1576; so too did his reclusive father, who met his sons and fellow-tribesmen again on this occasion and shortly afterwards died.
Shah Esmāʿīl II appointed Šaraf-al-Dīn amīr-al-omarāʾ of all the Kurds of Iran with the task of voicing their concerns at the royal court. Before long some Qezelbāš amirs began to intrigue against him and Shah Esmāʿīl II, now wishing to be rid of his presence, made him governor of Naḵjavān in Azerbaijan. Šaraf-al-Dīn took this as a good omen, because he was nearer to his ancestral home and able to make contact with the Kurdish princes of Van and Hakkārī. Through their mediation a meeting between him and the Ottoman general Ḵosrow Pasha was arranged in 986/1578. He was received with honor and rewarded with the governorship of Bedlīs, so long the fief of his ancestors.
In the following ten years Šaraf-al-Dīn took part on the Ottoman side in several campaigns. The Muş district, in addition to Bedlīs, was assigned to him after the successful expedition into Georgia in 991/1583. In 1005/1597 he transferred his official functions to his son Šams-al-Dīn. Thereafter he lived in retirement at Bedlīs, devoting himself to his historical studies.
The Šaraf-nāma consists of two correlated parts: 1. History of the Kurds, arranged under tribal territories and dynasties and drawn from numerous Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish works, as well as eyewitnesses’ reports; Šaraf-al-Dīn’s autobiography is in this part. 2. History of the Ottoman sultans and the contemporary kings of Iran and Turan, chronologically arranged and extending from 689/1290 to 1005/1596; also included are mentions and sometimes brief character sketches of important men of learning.
On the manuscripts and translations of the Šaraf-nāma see Storey, I/1, pp. 366-69; M. T. Bursalı, Osmanlı müellifleri, Istanbul, 1333/1914, II, p. 72.
Editions of the Šaraf-nāma: V. Vélïaminof-Zernof, Scherefnameh ou histoire des Kourdes, par Scheref, Prince des Bidlis, St. Petersburg, vol. 1: history of the Kurds, 1860, vol. 2: history of the Ottomans, 1962; repr. of vol. 1 (ed. M.-ʿA. ʿAwnī), Cairo, 1931; M. ʿAbbāsī, ed., Šaraf-nāma. Tārīḵ-emofaṣṣal-e Kordestān taʾlīf-e Amīr Šaraf Ḵān Bedlīsī, Tehran, 1343 Š./1964-65.
Arabic translations; M. J. Rojbayani, Baghdad, 1372/1953 (with notes and commentary); M.-ʿA. ʿAwnī and Yaḥyāʾ Ḵaššāb, Cairo, 1958-62, 2 vols. French translation: F.-B. Charmoy, Cheref-nâmah ou fastes de la nation kurde, 2 vols., St. Petersburg, 1868-75.
German partial translations: H. Barb, “Über die Kurden-Chronik von Scheref,” Sb. der Akademie der Wissenschaften Wien 10, 1853, pp. 258-76; “Geschichtliche Skizze der 33 verschiedenen kurdischen Fürstengeschlechter,” ibid., 12, 1857, pp, 3-28; “Geschichte der 5 Kurden-Dynastien,” ibid., 28, 1858, pp. 3-54; “Geschichte von weiteren Kurden-Dynastien,” ibid., 31, 1859; “Geschichte der kurdischen Fürstenherrschaft von Bidlis,” ibid., 32, 1859, pp. 145-250 (with autobiography).
Russian translation: E. I. Vasil’eva, vol. 1, Pamyatniki pis’mennosti Vostoka 21, Moscow, 1967.
See also J.-L. Bacqué-Grammont and C. Adle, “Quatre lettres de Šeref Beg de Bitlîs (1516-1520).
Ētudes turco-safavides XI,” Der Islam 63, 1986, pp. 90-118.
B. Kütükoğlu, “Şeref Han,” in İA XI.
V. Minorsky, “Kürtler,” in İA XI, and “Kurd” and “Kurdistān,” in EI2 V, pp. 458ff.
S. Naficy, “Bidlīsī, Sharaf al-Dīn Khan,” in EI2 I, pp. 1208-09.
Wolkow, “Notice sur l’ouvrage persan intitulé Scheref Namé,” JA 8, 1826, pp. 291-98.
Originally Published: December 15, 1989
Last Updated: December 15, 1989
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Vol. IV, Fasc. 1, pp. 76-77