ḤAYĀTI TABRIZI, QĀSEM BEG (قاسم بیگ حیاتی تبریزی), sixteenth-century Persian historian whose chronicle, which he refers to just as Tāriḵ, spans the period between the formative years of the Ṣafaviya Sufi order under Shaikh Ṣafi-al-Din Esḥāq Ardabili (d. 735/1334) and the opening years of the reign of Shah Esmāʿil I (907-30/1501-24).

Life. Very little is known of Ḥayāti’s life and career. His name appears in an early 17th-century Safavid chronicle as a historian from Tabriz (Ḥosayni Qomi, p. 3). According to the Safavid prince Sām Mirzā (p. 242), Ḥayāti’s father was a deputy judge, but he did not take over this post and ended up as a poet, scribe, and calligrapher. Throughout his history, Ḥayāti never mentions his first name, but, based on an entry in an early 19th-century taḏkera, it can be established that his first name was Qāsem (ʿAẓimābādi, I/1, p. 459; Bhopali, p. 144). Ḥayāti’s studies seem to have been focused on Persian history and hagiography (siar). Apart from the Ṣafwat al-ṣafā, a biography of Shaikh Ṣafi-al-Din by Ebn Bazzāz, which he cites (Ḥayāti, fols. 41r, 44v) when dealing with Shaikh Ṣafi’s life and career, there is evidence to suggest that he also took inspiration from Mirḵˇānd’s (d. 902/1497) universal history, the Rawżat al-ṣafā.  In the prologue to his history, Ḥayāti briefly discusses the “benefits of history,” which is the title of a long introductory chapter in the first volume of Mirḵˇānd’s history: “Dar bayān-e fawāyed-e tāriḵ” (Mirḵˇānd, I, pp. 9-20; Ḥayāti, fols, 13r-15v).

Autobiographical references are rare in Ḥayāti’s history. In the prologue to his history, he calls himself “a servant battered by the arrows of outrageous times” (Ḥayāti, fol. 12v), which can be taken to imply that he worked as a senior bureaucrat at the court of Shah Ṭahmāsp (r. 930-84/1524-76) when compiling his chronicle in the spring of 961/1554. He then adds that initially it was Shah Ṭahmāsp who commissioned him to write a history of the early Safavids, but later on the Safavid monarch instructed Ḥayāti to dedicate the final version of his work to Princess Mehin Begum (d. 969/1562), a blood (aʿyāni) sister of Ṭahmāsp and, as Ḥayāti points out, the “oldest of Shah Esmāʿil’s sixteen daughters,” born in 925/1519 from Tājlu Begum Mawṣellu (d. 947/1540; Ḥayāti, fol. 75r). Early in the 1550s, Mehin Begum was made chief superintendent of religious endowments (awqāf), a position that made it possible for her to disburse generous amounts of cash as pension and gift among the Shiʿite clerics and descendants of the Prophet (sayyeds) in Iran, the shrine cities of Iraq, Lebanon, and the province of Qaṭif and its Bahrain salient (Ḥosayni Qomi, pp. 430-31; Bedlisi, II, pp. 217-18).

Ḥayāti seems to have had a bureaucratic career in the awqāf sector. His detailed account of the Safavid shrine complex in Ardabil suggests that he must have spent a stint of bureaucratic service in that city, where over the course of the first half of the 16th century several members of the Safavid royal family, including Mehin Begum’s mother, funded and supervised various construction projects for physical expansion of the Safavid shrine. There is also evidence that Ḥayāti was in the circle of friends and acquaintances of a number of Safavid princesses and their female relatives. When eulogizing Mehin Begum in the prologue to his history, he recommended her sisters and other female associates, or as he put it “the veiled inhabitants of the nook of intuition,” to study his history and get a good grasp of the life and times of “their renowned and distinguished ancestors” (Ḥayāti, fols. 15r-v). From Ḥayāti’s references to Shah Ṭahmāsp’s other siblings, it can also be assumed that he was close to Sām Mirzā.  Ḥayāti praised the Safavid prince for “his unwavering support and generous patronage of scholars and men of letters” and wrote with grief and sadness of the passing of his eldest son, Rostam Mirzā, who died of smallpox a few days after his wedding ceremony, which was held in Tabriz in 961/1554 (Ḥayāti, fols. 77r-v). At that time, Sām Mirzā worked as superintendent of the Safavid shrine complex in Ardabil (Ḥayāti, fol. 55r).

Work. A potentially unique manuscript of Ḥayāti’s history, which is bound in with large portions of the third volume of Ḡiāṯ-al-Din Ḵˇāndamir’s Tāriḵ-e ḥabib al-siar, is in the National Library of Iran in Tehran. In the library’s catalogue, this manuscript is misidentified as an anonymous, 17th-century history of Shah Esmāʿil, with no mention of additions from Ḵˇāndamir’s chronicle that make up two-thirds of the manuscript in its current binding (Darāyati, II, p. 717). While Ḥayāti has called his work simply Tāriḵ (Ḥayāti, fols. 12v, 16r), it is catalogued under the provisional title Tāriḵ-e Šāh Esmāʿil.

Ḥayāti is one of the earliest Safavid chroniclers to experiment with dynastic history as narrative framework. Contemporary fellow historians such as Ḵˇāndamir, Mir Yaḥyā Sayfi Qazvini, author of Lobb al-tawāriḵ, and Qāżi Aḥmad Ḡaffāri Qazvini, author of Tāriḵ-e jahānārā, all chronicled Safavid history as the closing chapter of their universal histories, juxtaposing Shah Esmāʿil and Shah Ṭahmāsp with a long line of dominantly non-Shiʿite households, rulers, and claimants to power.  When using dynastic framework, Ḥayāti followed the example of Ṣadr-al-Din Ebrāhim Amini Heravi’s history, wherein Shah Esmāʿil’s antecedents, rise to power, and military victories are chronicled as continuation of the history of the Prophet Moḥammad and the twelve Shiʿite imams, which is outlined and detailed in long introductory chapters. Both historians have the biography of the Prophet Moḥammad and the twelve Shiʿite imams as the starting point of their accounts of early Safavid history, but while Amini Haravi’s account opens with two long chapters (fatḥs) on the Prophet Moḥammad (Amini Haravi, folios 28v-105r), in Ḥayāti’s narrative, the twelve Shīʿite imams have received the lion’s share of attention.  Like Amini Haravi, however, Ḥayāti’s introductory chapters on Shiʿite imams close with remarks and claims concerning the impending return of the Hidden Imam, Moḥammad al-Mahdi.

Organizationally, Ḥayāti’s history can be divided into two parts. The first part, which outlines the history of the Ṣafaviya Sufi order (ṭariqa) in the 14th and 15th century, is structured into three sections (ḥadiqa “garden”). The second part, titled šoʿba-ye dovvom, deals with the early dynastic phase of Safavid history from the time of Shaikh Jonayd’s (d. 864/1460) assumption of the mantle of spiritual leadership (eršād) of the Ṣafaviya early in the 1450s up to Shah Esmāʿil’s invasion of Baghdad in 914/1508. Ḥayāti’s account of the twelve Shiʿite imams is larded with bāṭeni and ḥorufi/noqṭawi themes and tropes. All Shiʿite imams, according to Ḥayāti, were masters of hermeneutics (taʾwil), numerology, and the “science of letters” (Ḥayāti, fols. 18v-19r). It is likely that Ḥayāti associated with a group of Mahdist and Noqṭavi mystics and demagogues who, according to Fażli Beg Ḵuzāni Eṣfahāni, an early 17th-century Safavid chronicler, attended on a regular basis the occasional get-togethers of religious dignitaries at the court of Shah Ṭahmāsp in Tabriz and Qazvin (Ḵuzāni Eṣfahāni, p. 142).

The third ḥadiqa of the first part focuses on Shaikh Ṣafi and his successors.  In this section, almost all anecdotes are reproduced verbatim or in an abridged form from the Ṣafwat al-ṣafā. Ḥayati’s selective plagiarism of the Ṣafwat al-ṣafā concurred with Shah Ṭahmāsp’s bid to prepare an official version of Ebn Bazzāz’s controversial biography of Shaikh Ṣafi. Ḥayāti considered Ebn Bazzāz an untrustworthy source, finding fault with his inclusion of the name of the pro-Umayyad mystic, preacher, and jurist, Abu Saʿid Ḥasan Baṣri (d. 110/728) in the spiritual genealogy of the Ṣafaviya. According to Ḥayāti, Ebn Bazzāz’s claim that Baṣri had acted as a spiritual link between Shaikh Ṣafi and Imam ʿAli represented “one of many disgraceful qualities attributed rather unfairly in that book [the Ṣafvat al-ṣafā] to the Ṣafaviya spiritual leaders” (moršed; Ḥayāti, fols. 47v-48r).

Shah Esmāʿil’s rise to power and the early years of his reign are dealt with in the second part. Ḥayāti’s account of the reign of Shah Esmāʿil concludes with a section on his invasion of Baghdad in 914/1508. A partly obliterated colophon signed by the copyist, a certain ʿAli Khan b. ʿAli Beg, is added at the end of Ḥayāti’s account of the Safavid invasion of the province of Arabian Iraq.  Here the copyist states that “[the copying of] the book was finished (tammat al-ketāb) on 1 Šaʿbān 1039/16 March 1630 en route from Tabriz to Ardabil” (Ḥayāti, fol. 212r).

When dealing with the history of the Safavid shrine complex in Ardabil, Ḥayāti’s history shines new light on the names, dates, and locations of a number of buildings added to the core of the shrine during the course of the 14th, 15th, and early part of the 16th century (Ḥayāti, fols. 50v-52v). His account also contains a list of those bureaucratic authorities who acted as superintendent (tawliat) of the shrine during the period in question (Ḥayāti, fols. 54r-v). Ḥayāti Tabrizi has the distinction of being remarkably detailed about Shaikh Ṣafi’s own family as well as his immediate descendants. In Ḥayāti’s history, Jonayd (d. 1460) and his son Ḥaydar (d. 1488) emerge as the real founders of the Safavid dynasty. Throughout his narrative, he calls Jonayd “shah,” giving him the royal konya Abu’l-Fatḥ. Similarly, Ḥaydar bears the epithet Šojāʿ-al-Din (Ḥayāti, fols. 73r, 78v, passim). Both leaders are cast in the role of military heroes and conquerors on a par with the Qarā Qoyunlu and Aq Qoyunlu rulers of Azerbaijan and Diyarbakir. Time-honored rivalries between the dominantly nomadic population of mountainous Ṭāleš and the dominantly agriculturalist landed notables of the plains of Saliān and Šervān, on the one hand, and the Qarā Qoyunlu-Aq Qoyunlu wars in Azerbaijan, on the other, constitute the backdrop against which Ḥayāti chronicles Ḥaydar’s rise and fall.

Ḥayāti’s history contains as well a detailed account of Esmāʿil’s escape from Ardabil, which, as he points out, is based on personal testimonies of a number of those Sufi fighters who either personally witnessed those events or took part in escorting Esmāʿil on his way from Ardabil to Lāhijān (Ḥayāti, fol. 126v). The late 16th-century Safavid historian Ḥasan Beg Rumlu has plagiarized verbatim large portions of Ḥayāti’s account of Shah Esmāʿil’s ascent to the throne without citing him as his primary source (Rumlu, pp. 13-22, 48-53; Ḥayāti, fols. 123v-128r, 138v-142r). Ḥayāti’s history also sheds new light on Shah Esmāʿil’s military campaigns in central Iran. New details are provided in his history concerning the Safavid conquest of Kashan, Kerman, Damavand, Astrabad, Isfahan, and Yazd. In its contours, Ḥayāti’s account of the Safavid invasion of Baghdad overlaps the writings of Amini Heravi and Ḵˇāndamir on the same event. Nonetheless, additional details can be found in Ḥayāti’s history with regard to Shah Esmāʿil’s friendly relations with a number of Arab Shiʿite tribes in the province of Arabian Iraq such as the Banu Mozāḥem, the Banu Mosāʿed, and the Banu ʿIsā clans of sayyed notables of Karbala.

Ḥayāti’s history closes with a brief section on the early phase of Shah Esmāʿil’s invasion of Khuzestan. Emphasis is given to friendly relations between the Safavid monarch and the governor of Šuštar, Fayyāż b. Moḥammad Naṣr-Allāh, and his vizier, Mir Šojāʿ-al-Din Asad-Allāh Šuštari, and the way rivalries between the court of Šuštar and the Moshaʿshaʿids of Khuzestan helped the Safavids to bring the province under their effective political control (Ḥayāti, fols. 210v-212r; cf. Šuštari, fols. 10v-11r).    



Ṣadr-al-Din Ebrāhim Amini Heravi, Fotuḥāt-e šāhi, MS 9006, Majles Library, Tehran; partial edition by Moḥammad-Reżā Naṣiri, Tehran 2004.

Ḥosayn-qoli ʿAẓimābādi, Taḏkera-ye neštar-e ʿešq, ed. Kamāl Ḥāj Sayyed Javādi, 2 vols. in 4, Tehran, 2012. 

Šaraf Khan Bedlisi, Šaraf-nāma, ed. Vladimir V. Zérnof, 2 vols., St. Petersburg, 1860‒62. 

ʿAli Ḥasan Khan Bhopali, Ṣobḥ-e golšan, Old Delhi, 1878. 

M. Darāyati, Fehrest-e dastneveštahā-ye Irān, 12 vols., Tehran, 2010. 

Qāsem Beg Ḥayāti Tabrizi, Tāriḵ, MS 15776, National Library of Iran, Tehran.

Aḥmad Ḥosayni Qomi, Ḵolāṣat al-tawāriḵ, ed. Eḥsān Ešrāqi, Tehran, 2004. 

Fażli Beg Ḵuzāni Eṣfahāni, A Chronicle of the Reign of Shah ʿAbbas: Volume 3 of the Afżal al-tavārīkh, ed. Kioumars Ghereghlou, Cambridge, 2015. 

Moḥammad Mirḵvānd, Tāriḵ-e rawżat al-ṣafā, ed. ʿA. Parviz and M. J. Maškur, 11 vols., Tehran, 1959-72. 

Ḥasan Beg Rumlu, Aḥsan al-tawāriḵ, ed. ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Navāʾi, Tehran, 1979. 

Sām Mirzā Ṣafavi, Taḏkera-ye toḥfa-ye Sāmi, ed. Rokn-al-Din Homāyun Farroḵ, Tehran, 1968.

Nur-al-Din Moḥammad Šuštari, Tāriḵ-e Mošaʿšaʿiān, MS 8934 (Majles Library, Tehran).

(Kioumars Ghereghlou)

Originally Published: June 28, 2016

Last Updated: June 28, 2016

Cite this entry:

Kioumars Ghereghlou, “ḤAYĀTI TABRIZI, QĀSEM BEG,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2016, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/hayati-tabrizi (accessed on 28 June 2016).