ʿAŻOD-AL-MOLK, ʿALĪ REŻĀ KHAN QĀJĀR, regent of Iran in 1327/1909-1328/1910. His father Mūsā Khan was a son of Solaymān Khan Qājār Eʿteżād-al-dawla and a first cousin of Mahd-e ʿOlyā, the mother of Nāṣer-al-dīn Shah. He was born circa 1263/1847, because he is said to have been 35 years old on 1 Ḏu’l-qaʿda 1298/1881 (Eʿtemād-al-salṭana, Rūz-nāma-ye ḵāṭerāt, p. 134).
Following the usual practice, he became a court page (ḡolām-bača) early in Nāṣer-al-dīn Shah’s reign. Allegedly he (with or without deliberate intent) transmitted information on harem affairs to the chief minister (ṣadr-e aʿẓam), Mīrzā Āqā Khan Nūrī, and warned the latter of the impending decision to dismiss him. When this came to light, ʿAlī Reżā Khan was bastinadoed and expelled from the private quarters (andarūn), but on the intervention of Mahd-e ʿOlyā, he was reinstated and later promoted to the rank of head page (ḡolām-bāšī) (ibid., p. 301 ). Being simple-hearted, uneducated, and very religious, he was considered trustworthy by the shah and gradually rose in favor. In his boyhood he massaged Nāṣer-al-dīn Shah’s feet, and as he was a skillful and tireless masseur, the shah spent much time with him and they became close friends. In 1283/1866, when the shah decided to send gilded bricks for the Ḥaram al-ʿAskarīyayn (tomb of Imam Ḥasan al- ʿAskarī and place of occultation of the Twelfth Imam Moḥammad al-Mahdī) at Samarra, Mahd-e ʿOlyā persuaded the shah to assign the task to ʿAlī Reżā Khan, who then proceeded to the holy places in Iraq while the shah departed on a visit to Khorasan. On the shah’s homeward journey, ʿAlī Reżā Khan rejoined the royal entourage at Fīrūz Kūh, and after the return to Tehran, he was honored with the title ʿażod-al-molk (the support of the state) in 1285/1868 (Eʿtemād-al-salṭana, Tārīḵ-emontaẓam-e nāṣerī III, p. 308).
It was probably in 1288/1871 that ʿAżod-al-molk was appointed controller (nāẓem) of the royal household after the transfer of Amīr Aṣlān Khan Majd-al-dawla, a maternal uncle of the shah and first cousin of ʿAżod-al-molk, to the governorship of Ḵūzestān (Montaẓam-e nāṣerī III, p. 319). He is mentioned as the superintendent (ḵān-e nāẓer) in 1299/1882 (Eʿtemād-al-salṭana, Ḵāṭerāt, p. 146). In Šawwāl, 1302/June-July, 1885, he was replaced in this position by Mahdī-qolī Khan Majd-al-dawla (Ḵāṭerāt, p. 424) but left in possession of two other offices which he also held at that time, namely those of keeper of the signet (mohrdār) (Montaẓam III, p. 309) and governor of Māzandarān, conferred on him in 1289/1872 and 1288/1871 respectively. He accompanied the shah on the latter’s visit to the holy places in Iraq and two journeys to Europe. In 1290/1873, he was appointed chief (īlḵānī) of the Qajar tribe (Montaẓam III, p. 332). He in effect became minister of justice on 9 Šaʿbān 1304/4 May 1887 (Ḵāṭerāt, p. 563). In 1305/1888 he held three offices in plurality: justice, the signet, and the Qajar chieftaincy (Ḵāṭerāt, p. 629). Consequently he was able to amass wealth, and being disinclined to extravagance, or according to some accounts inclined to stinginess, he grew steadily richer. He bought some large landed properties, one of which was Solaymānīya, formerly named Eṣfahānak, on the Dūlāb in the outskirts of Tehran, which he equipped with a new qanāt costing 14,000 tūmāns and renamed after his son Solaymān Mīrzā (Ḵāṭerāt, p. 292, cf. Bāmdād, Rejāl I, p. 352).
In his manners, ʿAżod-al-molk was affable and very dignified. People spoke of him as the “emperor of China” (ḵāqān-e Čīn) (ʿAbdallāh Mostawfī, Zendagānī-e man, 2nd ed., Tehran, 1341 Š./1962-1343 Š./1964, I, p. 134). One peculiar trait was his quickness to weep and ability to bring tears to his eyes at will (Eʿtemād-al-salṭana, Ḵāṭerāt, 1st ed., p. 134). These qualities, however, did not restrain him from beating men with intent to kill (ibid., pp. 184, 384). He was a habitual gambler (ibid., p. 317) and held gambling sessions at his house (ibid., p. 1209).
During the Tobacco protest of 1298-99/1891-92, ʿAżod-al-molk was one of the chief mediators between the shah and the ʿolamāʾ of Tehran. Because of his religiosity, he enjoyed the respect of the ʿolamāʾ and thus was a valuable asset to the desperate monarch. In Moẓaffar-al-dīn Shah’s reign, he enjoyed the monarch’s special respect (Ḵalīl Khan Ṯaqafī (Aʿlam-al-dawla), Maqālāt-e gūnāgūn, Tehran, 1322/1904-05, p. 155). His relations with Moḥammad ʿAlī Mīrzā were not cordial (ibid., p. 157). After coming to the throne, however, the new shah was in no position to do him any harm. During the constitutional revolutions, his house was occasionally the gathering place for moderate constitutionalists (Dawlatābādī, Ḥayāt-e Yaḥyā II, p. 244). Here, too, he was accepted as a mediator between the shah and the constitutionalists (ibid., p. 250) though he was sometimes heeded by the shah (Malekzāda, Tārīḵ-eenqelāb-e mašrūṭīyat III, p. 238). On one occasion when the shah angrily rejected his advice, he walked out of the royal presence and as an expression of his displeasure went straight to Solaymānīya (Dawlatābādī, op. cit., II, p. 261 ).
After the deposition of Moḥammad ʿAlī Shah on 28 Jomādā II 1327/16 July 1909, a regent had to be appointed because Aḥmad Shah was a minor. The choice fell on ʿAżod-al-molk. As a senior dignitary and the chief of the Qajar tribe, he enjoyed the respect of the constitutionalists and was in good relationship with the ʿolamāʾ. He served as regent for one year and three months until his death at the age of 65 (lunar years) on 17 Ramażān 1328/23 September 1910.
M. Ḥ. Eʿtemād-al-salṭana, Rūz-nāma-yeḵāṭerāt-e Eʿtemād-al-salṭana, ed.
Ī. Afšār, Tehran, 1345 Š./1966, passim, in particular the character sketch on p. 134.
Idem, Tārīḵ-emontaẓam-e nāṣerī, 3 vols., Tehran, 1300/1883, vol. 3. Bāmdād, Rejāl II, pp. 435-42.
A. Kasrawī, Tārīḵ-emašrūṭa-ye Īrān, repr. Tehran, 1340 Š./1961.
M. Malekzāda, Tārīḵ-eenqelāb-e mašrūṭīyat-e Īrān, 7 vols., Tehran, 1327 Š./1948.
Yaḥyā Dawlatābādī, Tārīḵ-emoʿāṣer yā ḥayāt-e Yaḥyā, 4 vols., Tehran, 1331 Š./1952 (vol. 2 on the struggle for constitutional government).
(Ḥ. Maḥbūbī Ardakānī)
Originally Published: December 15, 1988
Last Updated: August 18, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. III, Fasc. 3, pp. 271-272
Ḥ. Maḥbūbī Ardakānī, “ʿAŻOD-AL-MOLK, ʿALĪ REŻĀ KHAN,” Encyclopædia Iranica, III/3, pp. 271-272, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/azod-al-molk-ali-reza (accessed on 30 December 2012).