ḴORŠĀH B. QOBĀD ḤOSEYNI, NEẒĀM-AL-DIN (d. 25 Ḏo’l-Qaʿda 972/4 July 1565), a Hyderabad-based diplomat and historian of Iranian descent best known for his composition of a universal chronicle in Persian in the name of the Qoṭbšāhi ruler, Ebrāhim (r. 1550-80).
Little is known about Ḵoršāh’s life and career. Contemporary epistolary evidence (Ṭabāṭabāʾi Ḥasani, I, p. 290) suggests that he was related (aqvām) to the prominent Ismāʿili scholar, poet, and bureaucrat Šāh Ṭāher b. Rażi-al-din Ḵāndi Ḥoseyni (d. 1546), which can be taken to imply that like Šāh Ṭāher Ḵoršāh too had an Ismāʿili descent. Reading between the lines, one can also assume that Ḵoršāh’s family was from Ḵānd (also Ḵvānd, Ḵond), a rural district located midway between Qazvin and Solṭāniyeh, from whence the propaganda network of the Moḥammad-šāhi branch of the Ismāʿili daʿwa in Iran was led (Astarābādi, fol. 39b; ISMAʿILISM, iii. ISMAʿILI HISTORY). A number of the Ismāʿili Seyyed notables of Ḵānd are reported to have set up home in Solṭāniyeh in the latter part of the 15th century (Ḵoršāh, 2000, pp. 262-63). Perhaps Ḵoršāh and his immediate predecessors spent part of their lives in Solṭāniyeh during the early part of the 16th century.
Under the first Safavid monarch Esmāʿil I (r. 1501-24), Šāh Ṭāher attended the Safavid court for a while, but anti-Ismāʿili intrigues on the part of his enemies from among the Shiite clerics brought about his disgrace, forcing him to quit his job and move to Kashan. Early in Jomāda I 926/May 1520, Šāh Ṭāher fled along with his close relatives—presumably including either Ḵoršāh himself or his parents—from Kashan to the port city of Jerun (present-day Bandar ʿAbbās). According to an autobiographical note (Šāh Ṭāher, fol. 68b; cf. Ṭabāṭabāʾi Ḥasani, I, p. 254), shortly after arriving in Jerun, Šāh Ṭāher and his kinsmen were sailed to Goa, from whence they first made their way to Bijāpur and then to Ahmadnagar, where Šāh Ṭāher managed to settle into a prestigious bureaucratic career line at the court of Borhān Neẓāmšāh (r. 1509-52) (Astarābādi, fols. 39a-39b; Badāʾoni, p. 130; Šuštari, II, pp. 234-40; Ṣafavi, p. 29; Nahāvandi, II, pp. 413-14; Ṣafā, V/2, pp. 662-70; Golčin Maʿāni, I, pp. 791-802; Ahmad, p. 79; Sherwani, p. 421; Kazimi, p. 42; Shyam, pp. 63-66 and 80-83; Calmard, pp. 363-64).
It was no doubt Šāh Ṭāher’s political clout at the Neżāmšāhi court that helped Ḵoršāh build a successful bureaucratic career for himself in Ahmadnagar. Early in 1545, Borhān Neżāmšāh appointed Ḵoršāh as his envoy (ilči) to Safavid Iran. Šāh Ṭāher masterminded this diplomatic overture, which took place in response to a letter from Ṭahmāsp I dated Moḥarram 949/April-May 1542, in which Šāh Ṭāher had been invited to either make an official visit to Iran or send one of his sons to the Safavid court. Šāh Ṭāher accordingly arranged for his underage son Ḥeydar to travel to Iran (Ṭabāṭabāʾi Ḥasani, I, pp. 287-88). Ḵoršāh led this diplomatic mission, which was accredited to the Safavid court near the city of Rey in Rajab 952/September-October 1545. At that time, Ṭahmāsp I was busy with making preparations to stage a punitive campaign against Āqā Moḥammad Ruzafzun, the “unruly” governor of Māzandarān in Sāri (Ḵoršāh, 2000, p. 153; Novidi Širāzi, pp. 94-95). Ḵoršāh’s residence in Safavid Iran lasted for some twenty months (Rajab 952/September-October 1545 to Rabiʿ I 954/May 1547), of which he spent eighteen months as a companion of the shah at the Safavid court (Ḵoršāh, 2000, p. 154).
After short stops in Rey, Savādkuh, and Solṭāniyeh, from March to December 1546 Ḵoršāh accompanied Ṭahmāsp I first in Qazvin and then on his way to Armenia and Georgia on the occasion of military campaigns against the rebellious Safavid prince Alqāṣ Mirzā and local rulers of Kakheti and Kartli in Georgia (Rumlu, pp. 407-408; Ḵuzāni Eṣfahāni, fols. 129b-30b, 132a-33a; Posch, pp. 46-49; GEORGIA, ii. HISTORY OF IRANIAN-GEORGIAN RELATIONS). In his narrative, Ḵoršāh makes references to his short stays in Ujān (present-day Bostānābād), a famous summer campsite on the foot of the mount Sahand, as well as in Naḵjavān, Čoḵur-e Saʿd (Yerevan), and Georgia (Ḵoršāh, 2000, pp. 156-58). Ḵoršāh’s residence at the Safavid court, to say nothing of his family background, helped him get a first-hand knowledge of the realities of political life in Iran. During his time in Safavid Iran he made friends with local bureaucrats and powerbrokers in Māzandarān and Gilān (Ḵoršāh, 2000, pp. 242, 220-21, 255). The Safavid grand vizier Qāżi Jahān Seyfi-Qazvini (d. 1553) and descendants of the former Safavid ṣadr Mir Jamāl-al-din Astarābādi (d. 1525), whom Šāh Ṭāher asked to supervise his underage son at the royal college (Šāh Ṭāher, fols. 16a-b, 30a-31b), were also among Ḵoršāh’s close friends in Qazvin. In Rabiʿ I 954/May 1547, Ḵoršāh left Iran in the company of the Safavid envoy to the courts of the Shiite rulers of Hyderabad, Bijāpur, and Dowlatābād in the Deccan, the newly appointed royal couturier (qayčāji) Naqāwat al-omarāʾ Adham Beg b. Div Solṭān Rumlu (Ṭabāṭabāʾi Ḥasani, I, p. 290-91; Ḵuzāni Eṣfahāni, fol. 134a).
Studies on Ḵoršāh’s chronicle (Rieu, I, p. 107; Dānešpažuh, p. 964; Minorsky, pp. 50-51; Islam, p. 239; Monzavi, VI, p. 4103; Jalāli, p. 104; Rāzpuš, p. 416) commonly claim that he had spent “nineteen years” of his life in Safavid Iran before returning to Ahmadnagar in 1563-64, where he finished his universal chronicle. The first scholar to come up with this unfounded claim was Charles Rieu, whose conclusion is based on folio 45a of the British Library Ms. Add. 23,513, the point at which the second discourse (goftār) of the first chapter of the chronicle begins. Providing no textual evidence, Rieu just states that in 1563-64 Ḵoršāh “still” resided at the Safavid court. However, a close study of the unpublished parts of Ḵoršāh’s chronicle, based on a different manuscript, indicates that no reference at all has been made throughout the first chapter of the chronicle to either the dates in question or Ḵoršāh’s long residence in Safavid Iran. There are at least three references to the year 1563-64 in the sixth chapter of the chronicle (Ḵoršāh, 2000, pp. 115, 118, 186), but none hints at the author’s residence in Iran at that date. It should be noted that, when dealing with the arrival of a Safavid envoy at the court of the Qoṭbšāhi ruler Homāyun sub anno 1547-48, Ḵoršāh (2000, p. 115) makes it clear that at that time he lived in Ahmadnagar. And there is no evidence to suggest that Ḵoršāh did quit Ahmadnagar after 1547-48, the year in which Šāh Ṭāher’s son Šāh Ḥeydar returned hurriedly from Iran to the Deccan to succeed his father Šāh Ṭāher as spiritual leader of the Ismāʿili community in Ahmadnagar (Ṭabāṭabāʾi Ḥasani, I, pp. 338-39; cf. Dickson, Appendix II, p. li; Roemer, p. 170; Calmard, p. 365). As mentioned above, Šāh Ḥeydar had been sent to Iran by his father to complete his studies at the Safavid royal colleges in Tabriz and Qazvin. According to an alumnus of this institution, it had been founded to educate provincial notables and their male descendants in the field of Shiite theology (Bedlisi, I, pp. 449-50).
Invariably titled the Tāriḵ-e ilči-e Neẓām Šāh, the Tāriḵ-e Qoṭbšāhiyeh, the Tāriḵ-e Qoṭbi, and/or the Ḵolāṣat al-tavāriḵ, Ḵoršāh’s chronicle is a general history of major pre-Islamic and Islamic dynasties of Iran, Central Asia, Asia Minor, Arabia, Iraq, and India. The chronicle is organized into preamble (dibāčeh), introduction (moqaddameh), and seven chapters (maqāleh)—obviously a testimony to the author’s belief in seven historical cycles as an integral part of the Ismāʿili religious worldview (Ḵoršāh, fols. 3b-4b; Nišāburi-Kanturi, III, no. 1330, p. 94; Storey-Bregel, I, pp. 406-7; Monzavi, VI, p. 4103; Dariāyati, IV, p. 931; Rieu, I, p. 107; Meredith-Owens, p. 14; Marshall 1967, no. 924, p. 262; idem 1996, p. 109). The preamble opens with the verses written in praise of ʿAli b. Abi Ṭāleb, the first Shiite imam. Then, Ḵoršāh points out that he aims to compose a universal history “free from bombast, digression, and verbosity” (Ḵoršāh, fols. 2b-3a). The myth of genesis along with the history of Abrahamic prophets from Adam to Noah is illuminated and discussed in the introduction (fols. 4b-14b).
The first chapter (Ḵoršāh, fols. 14b-98a) details the history of a number of pre-Islamic kings and conquerors. Central to Ḵoršāh’s narrative in this first chapter are the Pišdādi kings of Iran, whom he treats as political heirs to the Abrahamic prophets. The lives and times of scores of Iranian mythical and historical rulers, the great Abrahamic prophets, and the ancient Greek philosophers are outlined in the first chapter. Drawing predominantly from Ferdowsi’s Shāhnāmeh as well as from Ṭabari’s chronicle, the first chapter does mainly follow a topical line of historical representation, but toward the end of it, Ḵoršāh narrows his focus on dynastic history of the Sāsānids, thus shifting to a chronological narrative line with special reference to the events and trends in Iran. The second chapter (Ḵoršāh, fols. 98a-152b) is devoted to the life of the Prophet Moḥammad and the reign of the first three rightly guided caliphs. This is followed by twelve biographical sections on the Shiite imams from ʿAli b. Abi Ṭāleb to Mahdi, wherein Ḵoršāh makes occasional references to the reigns of their adversaries from among the Omayyad and ʿAbbasid caliphs. Entries on the Shiite imams often close with remarks on the migration and resettlement of their descendants in various parts of Iran, extending more or less on the writings of the 15th-century genealogist and historian Jamāl al-din Aḥmad b. ʿAli al-Mohannā also known as Ebn ʿAnba al-Aṣḡar (d. 1425). Interestingly, there is no mention of Ṭahmāsb I’s “Seyyed” ancestors throughout the biographical section (fols. 141a-42b) dedicated to the life of the seventh Shiite imam Musā al-Kāẓem, from whom the Safavids claimed descent. The third chapter (fols. 152b-252a) tells about the ruling dynasties of Iran from the Ṭāherids to the downfall of the caliphate in the mid-13th century. The fourth chapter (fols. 252a ff.) deals with the history of Genghis Khan and his successors in Iran and Central Asia.
The history of the Timurid and Uzbek khans of Central Asia and Khorasan is outlined in the fourth chapter. The fifth chapter, as sketched out by Rieu (I, p. 109), is about the Timurids from the advent of Tamerlane to the year 1562-63, when a last attempt by the Timurid prince Mirān Mobārakšāh to recapture Samarqand was thwarted by the Uzbeks (Ḵoršāh, 1965). The sixth chapter of the chronicle explores the dynastic histories of the Turkmen rulers (Qara qoyunlu and Aq qoyunlu), the Safavids, local dynasties of Māzandarān, Gilān, and Shirvān, and the Ottomans. The closing chapter details the history of the Qoṭbšāhi rulers of Delhi, the Afghan dynasty of Delhi, the Ḵalajis of Bengal and Mandu, and five ruling dynasties of Gujarat.
In the preamble, Ḵoršāh clarifies that since young age he had always thought of using his knowledge of Islamic history and historiography as a basis for the composition of a universal history. As it appears from the text of his narrative, Ḵoršāh had been working on various drafts of his chronicle for some two decades from October 1545—i.e., about a month after his arrival in Iran—and the days leading up to his demise (Ḵoršāh, 2000, pp. 115, 118, 153, 156, 158, 186, 265). So far as the Safavid history is concerned, Ḵoršāh’s chronicle is rated as “an independent source” authored by “a stranger” at the Safavid court (Dickson, Appendix II, p. li; Calmard, p. 366). However, a careful study of the contents of the Safavid section of the sixth chapter of his chronicle indicates that much of it (Ḵoršāh, 2000, pp. 1, 8, 19, 27, 48, 51, 63, 67-68, 81, 212) is but a reproduction of relevant sections of the works of the two early Safavid chroniclers, Ḡiāṯ-al-din Ḵvāndmir (d. 1536) and Yaḥyā b. ʿAbd-al-Laṭif Seyfi Qazvini (d. 1542). Ḵoršāh’s narrative on the Safavids is also laden with extensive quotes from a number of contemporary Safavid poets, including Arjāsb Omidi Ṭehrāni (d. 1519), a protégé of the Safavid grand viziers Yār Aḥmad Ḵuzāni Eṣfahāni and Mirzā Šāh-Ḥoseyn Eṣfahāni, and Mir Qāsem Qāsemi Gonābādi (d. 1574), the poet laureate at the court of Ṭahmāsp I (for quotes from Omidi Ṭehrāni’s divān see Ḵoršāh, 2000, p. 56, 62/Omidi Tehrāni, fol. 66a; for quotes from Qāsemi Gonābādi, see Ḵoršāh, 2000, pp. 4, 9-10, 12, 15-16, 19, 21, 24, 26, 35, 52, 58-59, 61/Qāsemi Gonābādi, pp. 180 [vv. 884-86], 196-97 [vv. 1204, 1214-15, 1217], 202 [vv. 1319-21], 212 [vv. 1510, 1516], 237 [vv. 2015-16], 250 [vv. 2254-55, 2261], 242 [v. 2121], 284 [vv. 2916-18, 2923], 286 [vv. 2956-57, 2961-62], 302 [vv. 3272-73, 3275], 325 [v. 3700], 331 [3815, 3817-19], 336 [vv. 3923-24, 3927], 339 [v. 3974], 340 [vv. 3986-87]). Few poems attributed to Šāh Ṭāher and Ṭahmāsp I also appear here and there in Ḵoršāh’s account (Ḵoršāh, 2000, pp. 80, 126, 200). As regards the reign of the first Safavid monarch, Ḵorşāh (2000, pp. 62, 77) also takes advantage of personal recollections of Šāh Ṭāher as well as Ṭahmāsp I. When it comes to the reign of Ṭahmāsp I, Ḵoršāh relies on two major sources, the first being the memoirs (taḏkereh or vāredāt-e aḥvāl) of Ṭahmāsp I, and the other the eyewitness narratives provided by bureaucratic authorities and provincial landed notables in Safavid Iran (Ḵoršāh, 2000, pp. 115, 121, 127-28, 160, 180). State archives in Iran and the Deccan constitute another major source on which Ḵoršāh’s chronicle is based. The full text or abridged versions of at least eleven letters are reproduced throughout Ḵoršāh’s chronicle (Ḵoršāh, 2000, pp. 38-46, 88-89, 115-17, 118, 120-21, 136, 147-48, 162-63, 165-66, 179, 194-96).
Ḵoršāh’s chronicle has only partially been published. Charles Schefer published parts of the chronicle in his Chrestomathie persane (II, pp. 56-104). These parts are about the Shirvānšāhids, local rulers of Bieh-Pas (Rašt) and Bieh-Piš (Lāhijān) regions of Gilān, the Marʿaši Seyyeds of Māzandarān and their immediate successors under Esmāʿil I, and the Seyyed rulers of Hezār-Jarib in eastern Māzandarān. The fifth chapter of the chronicle on the Timurids was published in 1965 in New Delhi. In 2000, an edited version of parts of the sixth and seventh chapters of the Tāriḵ-e ilči-e Neẓāmšāh was brought out in Tehran.
Ḵoršāh b. Qobād Ḥoseyni, Ḵolāṣat al-tavāriḵ, Ms. 5239, the Majles Library, Tehran [incomplete in fine].
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Originally Published: October 18, 2013
Last Updated: April 30, 2015Cite this entry:
Kioumars Ghereghlou, "ḴORŠĀH B. QOBĀD ḤOSEYNI, NEẒĀM-AL-DIN," Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2015, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/korsad-b-qobad (accessed on 30 April 2015).