ʿALAM KHAN ʿARAB-E ḴOZAYMA, AMIR, viceroy of the Afsharid state of Khorasan, 1161-68/1748-54. The son of Esmāʿīl Khan, one of Nāder Shah’s chief officers, ʿAlam Khan campaigned for Nāder Shah with his father at the head of the contingent of Ḵozayma Arabs (who had been settled in Khorasan since the 2nd/8th century). After Nāder’s death in 1160/1747, most of his heterogeneous army broke up when the Afghan corps (under Aḥmad Khan, later Shah) and the various tribal contingents from western Iran went home; thus ʿAlam Khan and the other local amirs with their Arab, Kurdish, and Sīstānī troops were the main, and finally the sole, military power in the province. In Šawwāl, 1161/October, 1748, to legitimize their authority, they placed on the throne Šāhroḵ, Nāder’s seventeen-year-old grandson by a daughter of the last Safavid shah. Two months later, Šāhroḵ felt his position challenged by the return to Mašhad of Mīr Sayyed Moḥammad, the popular and influential superintendent (motawallī) of the shrine; but his attempts to assassinate the sayyed misfired, and he alienated ʿAlam Khan and the other amirs by withholding their expected perquisites and demanding that they get rid of his rival. They reacted by persuading the sayyed to head a coup d’état, and on 20 Moḥarram 1163/31 December 1749 occupied the palace. Šāhroḵ was imprisoned, and two weeks later the sayyed was enthroned as Shah Solaymān II Ṣafawī, with ʿAlam Khan as his viceroy (wakīl al-dawla).
However, the new king’s policies of subsidizing his Safavid kinsmen, curtailing the customary requisitions and extortions during the inaugural tax amnesty, and breaking up Nāder’s hoard of jewels for sale, soon exasperated the Kurdish and Jalāyer amirs on the fringe on the junta (Moḥammad-Hāšem, Taḏkera-ye Āl-e Dāʾūd, fols. 110-11; Maṛʿašī, Maǰmaʿ al-tawārīḵ, p. 127). Presumably to insure against a counter-coup, ʿAlam Khan took advantage of the shah’s absence on a hunting trip to have Šāhroḵ blinded. Nevertheless the dissatisfied amirs, led by Yūsof-ʿAlī Khan Jalāyer, were encouraged by Šāhroḵ’s wife—who claimed that he had not really been blinded—to revolt and restore him to the throne on 11 Rabīʿ II 1163/17 February 1750. However, Yūsof-ʿAlī found it impossible to establish his authority with a blind shah and a dwindling treasury; he and his associates absconded with the remaining jewels from Nāder’s hoard towards Kalāt. ʿAlam Khan intercepted them and hauled them back to Mašhad and execution. Solaymān II refused to cooperate further, and ʿAlam Khan was obliged to reach a compromise with Šāhroḵ. Assaults on the other cities of Khorasan, notably Nīšāpūr (held by Bayāt tribesmen), and a marriage alliance with the Šādellū Kurds gave him a precarious control over the province (Golestāna, Moǰmal al-tawārīḵ, p. 66).
In 1164/late 1750 Aḥmad Shah Dorrānī of Afghanistan recaptured Herat and invaded Khorasan. Deserted by most of his allies, ʿAlam Khan retired to the fortress of Tūn (Ferdaws); however, stout resistance at Nīšāpūr and a severe winter forced the Afghans to retire. For the next three years, while Aḥmad Shah was occupied with conquests in India, ʿAlam Khan retained his hold over Khorasan mainly by force. In 1167/1754 he was again besieging Nīšāpūr when another incursion by Aḥmad Shah forced him to withdraw to defend Mašhad. Again his largely Kurdish army disintegrated, and ʿAlam Khan fled to Sabzavār (Ḥosaynī, Tārīḵ-eAḥmadšāhī, fols. 18b-20b); the Čamešgazak Kurds, who had suffered at ʿAlam Khan’s hands, joined Aḥmad’s forces to besiege Mašhad and, with the Afghan monarch’s backing, extradited ʿAlam Khan from Sabzavār and beheaded him (ibid., fols. 28a-30b). Soon after, on 16 Ṣafar 1168/2 December 1754, Mašhad came to terms with the Afghans, and remained effectively a protectorate of the Dorrānī empire for the next twenty years.
Maḥmūd Ḥosaynī, Tārīḵ-eAḥmadšāhī, British Library MS Or. 196, fols. 18-44.
Abu’l-Ḥasan Golestāna, Moǰmal al-tawārīḵ, ed. Modarres Rażavī, Tehran, 1344 Š./1965, pp. 43-68.
Mīrzā Aḥmad Ḵalīl Maṛʿašī, Maǰmaʿ al-tawārīḵ, ed. ʿA. Eqbāl, Tehran, 1328 Š./1949, pp. 110ff.
Moḥammad-Hāšem b. Sayyed Moḥammad Mīrzā, Taḏkera-ye Āl-e Dāʾūd, British Library MS Add. 23,527, fols. 92-121.
(J. R. Perry)
Originally Published: December 15, 1985
Last Updated: July 29, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 8, p. 795
J. R. Perry, “ʿALAM KHAN,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/8, p. 795; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/alam-khan-arab-e-kozayma-amir-viceroy-of-the-afsharid-state-of-khorasan-1161-68-1748-54 (accessed on 17 May 2014).