GOWHAR-ŠĀD ĀḠĀ, wife of Sultan Šāhroḵ b. Timur (r. 811-50/1409-47) and daughter of Ḡiāṯ-al-Din Tarḵān, a ranking amir under Timur. Ḡiāṯ-al-Din, who traced his honorary title, Tarḵān, from a grant received by his ancestor, Qešleq, from Čengiz Khan (q.v.), had married two more daughters into Timur’s family (Manz, p. 186, n. 31). Gowhar-šād bore Šāhroḵ three daughters (Maryam Solṭān, Saʿādat Solṭān, and Qutluḡ Torkān Āḡā; Moʿezz al-ansāb, fol. 137) and three sons (Uluḡ Beg, Bāysonḡor, and Moḥammad Juki; Maṭlaʿ-e saʿdayn, ed. Šafiʿ, II/1, p. 199, II/2, p. 852; Abu Bakr Ṭehrāni, p. 292).

Gowhar-šād ranked below Šāhroḵ’s Chinggisid wife, Malekat Āḡā, but was closer to Šāhroḵ and more active politically. She was conspicuous at weddings, funerals, and religious holidays, and had close relations to many of Šāhroḵ’s amirs, among whom her brothers were prominent. Gowhar-šād also had some influence in the administration of her son Bāysonḡor (e.g., Ḥabib al-siar, Tehran, III, p. 600). As a major patron of architecture, she commissioned the building of the shrine mosque in Mašhad (Masjed-e Jameʿ-e Gowhar-šād, comp. 821/1418), supported by a pious foundation (waqf) she established in 829/1426 (Ṣaniʿ-al-Dawla, II, pp. 153-57). She also had a madrasa and mosque complex built in Herat from 820/1417 to 841/1437-38; the madrasa became the mausoleum for the line of Šāhroḵ. Her architect was Qewām-al-Din Meʿmār Širāzi, the most famous architect of the time (Faṣiḥ, III, p. 234; Ḥabib al-siar, Tehran, IV, pp. 14-15; O’Kane, pp. 120-26, 167-73).

Although Gowhar-šād was exceptionally powerful, her activities were within Timurid norms. Her favoritism towards her grandson, ʿAlāʾ-al-Dawla b. Baysonḡor (q.v.), however, caused a good deal of resentment. When Šāhroḵ was ill in 848/1444-45, she made Amir Aḥmad Firuzšāh swear allegiance to ʿAlāʾ-al-Dawla, and according to some (Maṭlaʿ-e saʿdayn, ed. Šafiʿ, II, pp. 837, 852; Dawlatšāh, ed. Browne, p. 405) also prevented Šāhroḵ from giving appropriate responsibility to his other descendants. Sources state that it was also due to Gowhar-šād’s persuasion that Šāhroḵ, in spite of his advanced age, left Herat in that year to punish the rebellious Sol-ṭān Moḥammad b. Bāysonḡor and later to execute his supporters among the clergy (Maṭlaʿ-e saʿdayn, ed. Šafiʿ, II/2, p. 837; Ḥabib al-siar, Tehran, III, pp. 634-35; Dawlatšāh, ed. Browne, p. 339).

On Šāhroḵ’s death in 850/1447, Gowhar-šād took the first steps to maintain order. She and her relatives, the Tarḵān emirs, were active in the succession struggle which followed, promoting the interests of ʿAlāʾ-al-Dawla and his son Ebrāhim. Shortly after Šāhroḵ’s death, ʿAbd-al-Laṭif b. Uluḡ Beg (q.v.) took Gowhar-šād and her relatives prisoner. On 13 Ṣafar 851/30 April 1447, ʿAlāʾ-al-Dowla rescued them and made ʿAbd-al-Laṭif publicly repent his action (Maṭlaʿ-e saʿdayn, ed. Šafiʿ, II/2, pp. 879-91; Ḥabib al-siar, Tehran, III, pp. 636-39; Abu Bakr Ṭehrāni, pp. 298-99). In 861, Gowhar-šād, with several amirs including Tarḵāns, attempted mediation among the competing princes. This threatened the predominance of the amirs of Shah Maḥmud b. Abu’l-Qāsem Bābor, who ruled Herat. Thereupon, Shah Maḥmud’s chief amir, Šir Ḥāji, murdered most of the Tarḵān amirs. Shortly after this, news arrived that ʿAlāʾ-al-Dawla was moving against Herat, and Shah Maḥmud and his amirs left the city. Gowhar-šād put Qāżi Qoṭb-al-Din Aḥmad Emāmi in charge of the city’s defense, which submitted to Ebrāhim without resistance on 7 Rajab 861/31 May 1457 (Maṭlaʿ-e saʿdayn, ed. Šafiʿ, II/2, pp. 1127-30; Ḥabib al-siar IV, pp. 63-65).

On 26 Šaʿbān 861/19 July 1457, the Timurid ruler Sultan Abu Saʿid conquered Herat. He treated Gowhar-šād well, but when he was informed that she was sharing information with Ebrāhim b. ʿAlāʾ-al-Dowla, and that the powerful Šir Ḥāji, fearing for his own life as the murderer of Tarḵān amirs, would not serve him while Gowhar-šād was alive, he had her executed on 9 Ramażān 861/31 July 1457 (Maṭlaʿ-e saʿdayn, ed. Šafiʿ, II/2, pp. 1143-44; Ḥabib al-siar, Tehran, IV, pp. 67-69).

Except for Dawlatšāh Samarqandi, Timurid historians mention Gowhar-šād with respect and condemn her execution. On 22 Rajab 873/5 February 1469, Uzun Ḥasan Āq Qoyunlu handed over Sultan Abu Saʿid to Gowhar-šād’s great-grandson, Yādgār Moḥammad, who killed him (Abu Bakr Ṭehrāni, p. 491).



Abu Bakr Ṭehrāni, Ketāb-e Diārbakriya, ed. Necatı Lugal and Faruk Sümer, 2 vols., Ankara, 1962-64, pp. 296-97, 316-18.

Shiro Ando, Timuridische Emire nach dem Muʿizz al-ansāb: Untersuchung zur Stammesaristokratie Zentralasiens im 14. und 15. Jahrjundert, Berlin, 1992.

Aḥmad Faṣiḥ Ḵᵛāfi, Mojmal-e faṣiḥi, ed. Maḥmud Farroḵ, 3 vols., Mašhad, 1339-41 Š./1960-62, III, p. 275.

Lisa Golombek and Donald Wilber, The Timurid Architecture of Iran and Turan, 2 vols., Princeton, 1988.

Moʿezz al-ansāb fi šajarāt al-ansāb, Bibliotèque Nationale, ms. 67.

B. O’Kane, Timurid Architecture in Khurasan, 1987.

Beatrice Forbes Manz, The Rise and Rule of Tamerlane, Cambridge, 1989.

Kāẓem Modir Šānači, “Gowhar-šād,” Nāma-ye Āstān-e qods 8/3, 1348 Š./1969, pp. 89-109.

Idem, “Malaka-ye Herāt Gowhar-šād,” Āriānā 28/2, 1349 Š./1970, pp. 8-24.

Moḥammad-Ḥasan Khan Ṣaniʿ-al-Dawla (Eʿtemād-al-Salṭana), Maṭlaʿ al-šams, 3 vols., Tehran, 1301-03/1883-85, II, pp. 20-21; repr. 3 vols. in one, Tehran, 2535 = 1353 Š./1974.

(Beatrice Forbes Manz)

Originally Published: December 15, 2002

Last Updated: February 17, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XI, Fasc. 2, pp. 180-181