ŠAMS-AL-DIN MOḤAMMAD, Nezāri Ismaʿili imam (b. Rudbār, in the late 640s/1240s; d. Azerbaijan, ca. 710/1310-11).  He was the sole surviving son of Rokn-al-Din Ḵoršāh, the last lord of Alamut.  Few biographical details are available for Šams-al-Din, who had received the naṣṣ or designation to succeed to the Nezāri Ismaʿili imamate.  As a child, Šams-al-Din had witnessed the Mongol invasions that led to the destruction of the Nezāri state and fortress communities in Persia.  According to Nezāri tradition, the youthful Šams-al-Din was taken to a safe place by a group of Nezāri dignitaries during the final stages of the Nezāri-Mongol negotiations, shortly before Rokn-al-Din Ḵoršāh surrendered to the Mongols on 29 Šawwāl 654/19 November 1256.  He, thus, escaped the tragic fate of his family, who were all murdered by the Mongols.

Šams-al-Din Moḥammad succeeded to the Nezāri imamate in the late spring of 655/1257, after the execution of his father in Mongolia.  He evidently spent his entire life clandestinely in Azerbaijan, in Tabriz or its vicinity.  Indeed, certain allusions in the versified Safar-nāma of Nezāri Qohestāni (d. 720/1320), an early post-Alamut Nezāri Ismaʿili poet from Birjand, indicate that he evidently saw Šams-al-Din Moḥammad in 679/1280 in Tabriz, where the Nezāris had adopted the cover name of Eḵwān-al-Ṣafāʾ (see Nezāri Qohestāni, 2011, pp. 53-56; idem, 1992-94, I, pp. 105, 109).

In Azerbaijan, Šams-al-Din safeguarded his true identity by disguising himself as a Sufi and an embroiderer, whence his nickname of Zarduz.  By then, the Persian Nezāris who had escaped the Mongol massacres had begun to observe precautionary dissimulation (taqiya) on a massive scale as Sufis or Sunni Muslims.  They had also been deprived of the central leadership of their imams and their daʿwa headquarters, previously based at the fortress of Alamut.  However, it seems that a few Nezāri groups had established contact with Šams-al-Din.  In legendary accounts, and in oral traditions of the Nezāris, Šams-al-Din has been sometimes confused with Šams Tabrizi (Šehāb-al-Din Šāh Ḥosayni, p. 42; Fedāʾi Ḵorāsāni, p. 118; Ivanow, pp. 109-18), the spiritual guide of Mawlānā Jalāl-al-Din Rumi (d. 672/1273).

Šams-al-Din Moḥammad’s long imamate coincided with an obscure period in the early post-Alamut history of the Nezāri Ismaʿili community.  It was during his time that the Nezāris to some extent regrouped and renewed their activities in Rudbār, while Gerdkuh, the last Nezāri fortress in Qumes, finally surrendered to the Mongols in 669/1270.  Šams-al-Din Moḥammad, the progenitor of the subsequent Nezāri imams, died in Azarbaijan around 710/1310.  A dispute over his succession split the Nezāri Ismaʿilis and their line of imams into the rival Moʾmeni (or Moḥammad-šāhi) and Qāsem-šāhi factions.


Farhad Daftary, “Shams al-Dīn Muḥammad,” in EI2 IX, 1997, pp. 295-96. 

Idem, The Ismāʿīlīs: Their History and Doctrines, 2nd ed., Cambridge, 2007, pp. 385, 411-12, 413-14, 419. 

Moḥammad b. Zayn-al-ʿĀbedin Fedāʾi Ḵorāsāni, Ketāb hedāyat al-moʾmenin al-ṭālebin, ed. Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Semenov, Moscow, 1959, pp. 117-18.

Wladimir Ivanow, “Shums Tabrez of Multan,” in Professor Muḥammad Shafiʿ Presentation Volume, ed. Sayyid Muhammad Abdullah, Lahore, 1955, pp. 109-18. 

Nadia Eboo Jamal, Surviving the Mongols: Nizārī Quhistānī and the Continuity of Ismaili Tradition in Persia, London, 2002, pp. 124-35. 

Tazim R. Kassam, Songs of Wisdom and Circles of Dance: Hymns of the Satpanth Ismāʿīlī Muslim Saint, Pīr Shams, Albany, N.Y., pp. 75-116. 

Azim Nanji, The Nizārī Ismāʿīlī Tradition in the Indo-Pakistant Subcontinent, Delmar, N.Y., 1978, pp. 63-66. 

Ḥakim Saʿd-al-Din b. Šams-al-Din Nezārī Qohestāni, Diwān, ed. Maẓāher Moṣaffā, 2 vols., Tehran, 1992-94. 

Idem, Safar-nāma, ed. Chengiz G. A. Baybordi, Tehran, 2011. 

Šehāb-al-Din Šāh Ḥosayni, Ḵeṭābāt-e ʿālia, ed. H. Ojāqi, Bombay, 1963, p. 42. 

ʿĀref Tāmer, al-Imāma fe’l-Islām, Beirut, n.d. [1964], pp. 169-72, 196. 

Shafique N. Virani, The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, A Search for Salvation, Oxford, 2007, pp. 49-60, 77-83.

(Farhad Daftary)

Originally Published: April 25, 2015

Last Updated: April 25, 2015

Cite this entry:

Farhad Daftary, "ŠAMS-AL-DIN MOḤAMMAD," Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2015, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/shams-aldin-mohammad (accessed on 25 April 2015).