ḤOSAYN KHAN ŠĀMLU, b. ʿAbdi Beg Šāmlu, Safavid governor (d. 941/1535), brother of Durmeš Khan Šāmlu (q.v.) and a nephew of Shah Esmāʿil I, his father having married the shah’s sister (Ḥasan Rumlu, ed. and tr. Seddon, I, p. 238; tr., II, p. 263, n. 5). Upon the death of his brother Durmeš Khan, Ḥosayn Khan was appointed the governor of Herat in his place in 931/1524-25 (Ḥasan Rumlu, ed. and tr. Seddon, I, p. 189. Eskandar Beg, I, p. 52; tr. Savory, I, pp. 86-87), or 932/1525 (Dickson, p. 72). He also assumed the responsibilities of lala (guardian) of the young prince Sām Mirzā, the shah’s brother (Haneda, p. 91, n. 174, quoting Ḵvāndamir, fol. 124a; for details of Ḥosayn Khan’s administration of the province of Khurasan, see Dickson, pp. 74 ff.).

In 931/1525-26, and again in 932/1526-27, ʿObayd Khan Ozbeg launched major invasions of Khurasan (Dickson, pp. 79 ff.); and in 934/1527 he besieged Herat for seven months; but Ḥosayn Khan held out valiantly until the city was relieved by the arrival of the royal army (Ḥasan Rumlu, ed. and tr. Seddon, I, pp. 205 ff.). Ḥosayn Khan’s gallantry during the battle of Jām, at which Shah Ṭahmāsp won a major victory over the Uzbeks (on 10 Mo-ḥarram 935/24 September 1528, according to Dickson, p. 135), was rewarded by the shah by his appointment as the governor of Khurasan (Ḥasan Rumlu, ed. and tr. Seddon, I, p. 220) and also, it would appear, by his selection as lala of Sām Mirzā. However, after the shah and the royal army had marched back to ʿErāq-e ʿAjam in the following year ʿObayd Khan invaded Khurasan again and this time succeeded in forcing Ḥosayn Khan to surrender Herat (in Ṣafar 936/October 1529). Ḥosayn Khan was allowed to withdraw to Sistan, where he was welcomed by the local ruler, Malek Solṭān Maḥmud Kiāni. In gratitude, Ḥosayn Khan led his troops against a band of rebels and highwaymen beyond Zarah into Balučestān (Dickson, pp. 195-96), before making his way slowly back in the direction of Isfahan via Kerman and Shiraz.

Ḥosayn Khan halted at Shiraz, unwilling to proceed toward Isfahan, despite a royal summons to do so, because of the uncertain political climate at the court, where Čuha Solṭān Takkalu, one of a triumvirate of qezelbāš amirswho had wrested political power from the young Ṭah-māsp in 931/1525, had just triumphed over his fellow triumvirs and had thus made himself de facto ruler of the state (Savory, 1987, V, pp. 67-68). On receiving a royal safe-conduct, however, he joined the shah, who was encamped at his summer quarters (yeylāq) at Gandoman near Isfahan, “and was distinguished among his peers and equals by the abundance of royal favor and affection” (Ḵᵛoršāh b. Qobād Ḥosayni, Tāriḵ-e Ilči-e Neẓām-šāh, B.L. Ms. Or. 153, fol. 470a). Čuha Sultan determined to rid himself of this new challenge to his authority and made plans to murder Ḥosayn Khan at a banquet; but the latter, forewarned of the plot, decided to pre-empt these plans and led a band from the Šāmlu tribe to Čuha’s tent at nightfall. Čuha fled, pursued by Ḥosayn Khan’s men, and a skirmish took place in the royal tent, two arrows actually striking Shah Ṭahmāsp’s crown. The royal guard, consisting of members of the Ḏu’l-Qadar tribe, sided with the Šāmlus, and Čuha Sultan was mortally wounded (Savory, 1987, V, p. 69). The conflict between rival qezel-bāš tribes continued for several days, pitting the Takkalus against the combined forces of the Ostājlus, Rumlus, Ḏu’l-Qadars, and Afšārs. Finally, the shah exerted his authority and ordered the general massacre of that “misguided tribe” (ān ṭāyefa-ye gomrāh, Ḥasan Rumlu, ed. and tr. Seddon, I, p. 236). This event is dated to 937/1530-31 by the appropriate chronogram āfat-e takkalu (“the Takkalu disaster”). The shah then appointed Ḥosayn Khan Šāmlu as amir-al-omarāʾ (Ḥasan Rumlu, ed. and tr. Seddon, I, p. 238) and wakil-e šāh-e din-panāh (Ḥasan Rumlu, ed. and tr. Seddon, I, p. 253; on the confusion in this period of Safavid history between the “bureaucratic” wakil, or wazir, and the “military” wakil, or amir-al-omarāʾ,see Savory, 1987, V, p. 72), thus initiating three years of Šāmlu hegemony following the four years of Takkalu dominance. According to the Tāriḵ-e Ilči-e Neẓām-šāh, Ḥosayn Khan was elected amir-al-omarāʾ by the consensus of the qezelbāš chiefs and the arkān-e dawlat, or principal officers of the state, who subsequently informed the shah of their decision (fol. 471a). Although ʿAbd-Allāh Khan Ostājlu seems to have been appointed joint-amir-al-omarāʾ (Ḥasan Rumlu, ed. and tr. Seddon, I, p. 238), the latter, “did not figure prominently in political affairs, and spent most of his life in Širvān” (of which province he was governor; Ḥasan Rumlu, ed. and tr. Seddon, I, p. 433). As a further mark of royal favor, the shah appointed Ḥosayn Khan Šāmlu lala of his own son Moḥammad Mirzā, who was born in 938/1531(Ḥasan Rumlu, ed. and tr. Seddon, I, p. 496). Ḥosayn Khan, however, did not draw the obvious conclusions from the fate of Čuha Sultan, but proceeded to repeat the latter’s mistakes, appointing members of the Šāmlu tribe to provincial governorships and fatally underestimating the shah’s new determination to rule de facto as well as de jure. Ḥosayn Khan angered the shah by arresting and putting to death the joint-wazir Mir Jaʿfar Sāvaji; he aroused the shah’s suspicions that he was plotting to overthrow him and put his brother Sām Mirzā on the throne, and there were even rumors that he intended to defect to the Ottomans. In 940/1533, Shah Ṭahmāsp had Ḥosayn Khan summarily put to death(Ḥasan Rumlu, ed. and tr. Seddon, I, p. 253; the Tāriḵ-e qezelbāši, fol. 5a, states that he was executed in 941/1534-35). This marked the end of a decade of qezelbāš inter-tribal factionalism, and the reassertion of royal authority. 


Eskandar Beg, Tāriḵ-e ʿālam-ārā-ye ʿabbāsi, ed. Iraj Afšār, I, Tehran, 1955; tr. Roger M. Savory, as History of Shah ʿAbbas the Great, Boulder, Colo., 1978.

M. B. Dickson, “Shah Tahmasp and the Uzbeks (The duel for Khurasan with ʿUbayd Khan: 930-946/1524-1540),” unpublished Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 1958.

Masashi Haneda, Le Châh et les Qizilbāš. Le Système militaire safavide, Berlin, 1987.

Ḵvāndamir, Ganj-nāma-ye šāh Esmāʿil wa šāh Ṭah-māsp, British Library Ms. No. 2939.

Ḥasan Rumlu, Aḥsan al-tawāriḵ, ed. and tr. C. N. Seddon, as A Chronicle of the Early Safawids, being the Aḥsanuʾt-Tawārīkh of Ḥasan-i-Rūmlū, I, Persian text, Baroda, 1931; II, translation, Baroda, 1934.

Roger M. Savory, Studies on the History of Safavid Iran, Variorum Reprints, London, 1987.

Tāriḵ-e Qezelbāši, Ketābḵāna-ye Melli-ye Malek Ms. No. 13778-6284.

(Roger M. Savory)

Originally Published: December 15, 2004

Last Updated: March 23, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XII, Fasc. 5, pp. 514-515

Cite this entry:

Roger M. Savory, “ḤOSAYN KHAN ŠĀMLU,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, XII/5, pp. 514-515, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/hosayn-khan-samlu (accessed on 30 December 2012).