MAḴDUM ŠARIFI ŠIRĀZI (مخدوم شریفی شیرازی), Mirzā Moʿin-al-Din Ašraf (b. Shiraz, 947/1540-41; d. Mecca, Ḏu’l-ḥajja 995/October-November 1587), Sunni bureaucrat and polemicist; he held office as ṣadr or minister of religious affairs and endowments at the court of Shah Esmāʿil II Ṣafawi (r. 984-85/1576-77), and eventually fled to the Ottoman Empire, where he compiled al-Nawāqeż le-bonyān al-rawāfeż, a major anti-Shiʿi polemical volume.
Life. Mirzā Maḵdum was born in Shiraz into a prominent family of learned and landed notables, who claimed descent on the paternal side from the Prophet Moḥammad through relatives of the distinguished Timurid-era Sunni scholar, Mir Šarif-al-Din ʿAli b. Moḥammad Jorjāni (d. Shiraz, 816/1413). By Mirzā Maḵdum’s own testimony, his patrilineal ancestors were descendants of the Zaydi ruler of eastern Ṭabarestān, Abu Moḥammad Ḥasan b. Qāsem ʿAlawi (r. 304-16/916-28), also known as Dāʿi-e Ṣaḡir. He claims as well that successive generations of his ancestors had close marital ties with a number of religious and political grandees, including inter alia the Marʿaši sayyed rulers of Māzandarān, the Ilkhanid-era bureaucrat and historian, Rašid-al-Din Fażl-Allāh Hamadāni (d. 717/1318), and the Sarbadārid ruler of Khorasan, ʿAli Moʾayyad (d. 788/1386; Šarifi Širāzi, Ḏaḵira, fol. 220a; idem, Nawāqeż, fol. 170b).
From Mirzā Maḵdum’s own comments, we know that in 989/1581 he was 42 years old (Šarifi Širāzi, Ḏaḵirat, fol. 222b). Thus, his date of birth can be assigned to the year 947/1540-41, and not the year 951/1544-45 as suggested in secondary literature (Stanfield, p. 32). Under Shah Esmāʿil I (r. 907-30/1501-24), Mirzā Maḵdum’s paternal grandfather, Sayyed Šarif-al-Din ʿAli, acted as ṣadr, first during 914-16/1508-10 and then from 918/1512 until his death in the Battle of Čālderān in the summer of 920/1514 (Ḵˇāndamir, IV, pp. 500, 534, 547). In his capacity as ṣadr, Šarif-al-Din ʿAli is reported to have been actively involved in the persecution of Sunni Muslims in early Safavid Iran (Navāʾi, pp. 384-85). Mirzā Maḵdum’s mother was a granddaughter of Qāżi Jahān Sayfi Qazvini (d. 960/1553), a Sunni bureaucrat of sayyed descent who, under Shah Ṭahmāsp I (930-84/1524-76), served as grand vizier for about fifteen years (Šarifi Širāzi, Nawāqeż, fol. 171a; idem, Ḏaḵira, fol. 217b; Monajjem Yazdi, p. 40; Ḥosayni Qomi, p. 455; Eskandar Beg, pp. 148-49; tr. Savory, p. 237; Ḵātunābādi, p. 489). Mirzā Maḵdum’s own maternal grandfather, Mirzā Šaraf-e Jahān (d. 968/1561) was an accomplished calligrapher and poet (Ḥosayni Qomi, pp. 421–2; Eskandar Beg, p. 171; tr. Savory, pp. 267-68). In the 16th-century taḏkera literature, Mirzā Šaraf-e Jahān is ranked among the founding fathers of the so-called Woquʿ School (Maktab-e woquʿ) of poetic realism (Kāmi Qazvini, fols. 77b, 103a-108a; Sistāni, fol. 110a; Afšār, pp. 39-40; Sām Mirzā Ṣafawi, p. 24; Eqbāl Āštiāni, pp. 37-38; Walsh, p. 64, note 4). Mirzā Maḵdum’s father, Mir Šarif Širāzi was chief judge and kalāntar (local mayor) of Shiraz during the reign of Shah Ṭahmāsp. Highlighting his keen interest in composing lyrical poetry, the Safavid prince Sām Mirzā (p. 29) profiles Mir Šarif Širāzi as an ordinary religious scholar who had inadequate madrasa training. In 967/1559-60, Mir Šarif resided in Qazvin working as vizier of the province of ʿErāq-e ʿAjam (Ḥosayni Qomi, p. 409).
Shortly thereafter, he was appointed grand vizier, and, in 969/1562, was charged with the task of acting as temporary guardian of the Ottoman prince ʿAbd-Allāh, a grandson of Sultan Solaymān (Suleiman) the Magnificent (r. 926-74/1520-66), whose father, the “rebel” prince Bāyazid (Bayezid; d. 969/1562), had recently fled to Iran as a political fugitive along with his family and an army of his staunch supporters. Prince ʿAbd-Allāh was executed by Sultan Solaymān’s envoys in the summer of the same year together with his father and younger brothers (Turan, pp. 154-55). Mirzā Maḵdum’s father died in Qazvin four years later on 23 Ramażān 973/13 April 1566, and his remains were laid to rest inside the shrine of the third Shiʿi Imam Ḥosayn in Karbala. Mirzā Maḵdum’s mother, too, died later in the same year in Qazvin (Ḥosayni Qomi, pp. 409, 455-56; Šarifi Širāzi, Ḏaḵira, fol. 223b).
Mirzā Maḵdum completed his elementary and advanced studies in Shiraz and Kashan. He had studied neo-Platonic philosophy, mathematics, and natural sciences with Mir Taqi-al-Din Moḥammad Fārsi (fl. 957/1550), a locally prominent physician, astronomer, and mathematician, who had authored a medical handbook entitled Anis al-aṭebbāʾ fi’l-ṭeb (Šarifi Širāzi, Ḏaḵira, fol. 221b; Ḥāji Ḵalifa, I, col. 197; Modarres Tabrizi, I, p. 344; Qāsemlu, pp. 880-82). Mirzā Maḵdum’s paternal uncle, Mir Mortażā (d. 975/1567), who held office as ṣadr in Khorasan under Shah Ṭahmāsp, also taught him the basics of the Hadith, Arabic grammar and syntax, and theology (Šarifi Širāzi, Ḏaḵira, fol. 221b; Kāmi Qazvini, fol. 212a). Later on, Mirzā Maḵdum studied with the Kashan-based Shiʿi jurist, ʿAbd-al-ʿĀli b. ʿAli Karaki (d. 993/1585), presumably as a student of Shiʿi Hadith and jurisprudence. When in Kashan, Mirzā Maḵdum and Karaki had debates on the status of the first three Sunni caliphs as legitimate successors of the Prophet Moḥammad (Afandi Eṣfahāni, III, pp. 131-34; Abisaab, pp. 44-45). Their ideological differences notwithstanding, he praised Karaki for his offering to take him under his wing in the face of growing animosity on the part of those Shiʿi jurists and dignitaries of the Safavid regime who suspected Mirzā Maḵdum of being a Sunni Muslim (Šarifi Širāzi, Nawāqeż, fols. 94b-95a).
During his travels in the Hejaz as a hajj pilgrim in 973/1565-66, Mirzā Maḵdum had the opportunity to study parts of the Six Books of Sunni Hadith (al-kotob al-setta) with the Mecca-based Egyptian scholar, Šehāb-al-Din Abu’l-ʿAbbās Aḥmad b. Moḥammad Haytami (d. 973/1566), a Šāfeʿi scholar also known as Ebn Ḥajar Haytami Anṣāri and the author of a major anti-Shiʿi polemical work titled al-Ṣawāʿeq al-moḥreqa fi’l-radd ʿalā ahl al-bedʿ wa’l-zandaqa (Šarifi Širāzi, Ḏaḵira, fols. 221b-22a; Ebn ʿEmād Demašqi, X, pp. 541-43). Mirzā Maḵdum clarifies that the original copy of the ejāza (license, authorization) issued in his name by Ebn Ḥajar had been destroyed, together with his books and other belongings, by a mob of Shiʿi zealots, who attacked his house in Qazvin shortly after his flight to the Ottoman Empire in late 985/1577. Chronologically, Mirzā Maḵdum’s account of his studies with Ebn Ḥajar in Mecca is problematic, given the fact that Ebn Ḥajar had died in Rajab 973/February 1566, that is, some six months before the official beginning of the hajj season and the arrival of pilgrims in Mecca. Mirzā Maḵdum also states that, back in Safavid Iran, he had studied the basics of the Šāfeʿi jurisprudence “in underground circles” (dowayrāt taḥt al-ʿarż) without identifying his tutors and co-pupils (Šarifi Širāzi, Ḏaḵira, fol. 222a). Besides, during a short stay that he had in Yemen in 973/1566 on his way from India to Mecca as a hajj pilgrim, Mirzā Maḵdum had studied with the Šāfeʿi chief judge of Ṣanʿā, ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān b. Ziād Zobaydi (d. 975/1567), from whom he obtained an ejāza (Šarifi Širāzi, Nawāqeż, fol. 172a; Ebn ʿEmād Demašqi, II, p. 94).
Around 963/1556 Mirzā Maḵdum left Shiraz to live with his parents in Qazvin. Later in the reign of Shah Ṭahmāsp, he managed to forge close ties with Shah Ṭahmāsp’s eldest daughter, Pariḵān Ḵānom, one of the most influential members of the royal family in court politics in the 1560s-70s. In 976/1569, the Safavid princess managed to persuade her father to appoint Mirzā Maḵdum chief judge of Fars, but internal family feuds in Shiraz forced him to step down from this post without further ado and return to Qazvin in the same year (Šarifi Širāzi, Ḏaḵira, fol. 224b). In Šaʿbān 984/November 1576, Pariḵān Ḵānom ordered Mirzā Maḵdum to supervise the re-enshrouding of Shah Ṭahmāsp’s remains and reburial service, which took place in a Shiʿi shrine outside Qazvin (Šarifi Širāzi, Nawāqeż, fols. 124a-b; Afoštaʾi Naṭanzi, pp. 34-35).
In Safavid historiography, Mirzā Maḵdum is portrayed as a close intimate of Shah Esmāʿil II since the day of his ascent to the throne on 27 Jomādā I 984/1 September 1576 (Ḥosayni Qomi, p. 633; Eskandar Beg, p. 214; tr. Savory, p. 319). Mirzā Maḵdum tells us that, shortly after Esmāʿil II’s ascent to the throne, he was made royal tutor and court astronomer (Šarifi Širāzi, Nawāqiż, fols. 79a, 117b). On 26 Rabiʿ I 985/13 June 1577, Mirzā Maḵdum was made ṣadr, sharing this post with the incumbent military judge, Mir ʿEnāyat-Allāh Naqib Eṣfahāni (Ḥosayni Qomi, p. 648; Eskandar Beg, pp. 148-49, 207; tr. Savory, pp. 237, 307-8). In his capacity as ṣadr, Mirzā Maḵdum played a key role in persuading Esmāʿil II to enforce a strict ban in Qazvin on the practice of tabarrā (lit. dissociation) or ritual public cursing of the Sunni caliphs, imams, and religious scholars (Šarifi Širāzi, Nawāqiż, fol. 79a; Monajjem Yazdi, pp. 34-35; Stanfield-Johnson, pp. 65-66; Hinz, pp. 77-88). He was also responsible for launching criminal investigation against a number of high-ranking Twelver Shiʿi clerics involved in the clampdown on Sunni notables of Qazvin under Shah Ṭahmāsp, punishing them with cutting their stipends, confiscating their landed properties in Qazvin, and putting a number of them under house arrest (Šarifi Širāzi, fols. 107a, 125b-26a; Eskandar Beg, pp. 213-15, tr. Savory, pp. 316-20; Monajjem Yazdi, pp. 40-41; Mazzaoui; Gholsorkhi).
The ban on the tabarrā, the mistreatment of high-ranking Shiʿi clerics, the removal of the name of the first Shiʿi Imam from the face of newly minted coins, and disbursement of generous amounts of cash among Sunni notables of Qazvin and Shiraz eventually prompted a series of public protests in Qazvin led by Amir Khan Mawṣellu, Esmāʿil II’s maternal uncle who held the post of wakil (deputy) of the shah (Jonābādi, pp. 576, 586; Tatavi and Qazvini, VIII, pp. 5922-28). The mounting pressures on Esmaʿil II ultimately forced him to oust Mirzā Maḵdum from the post of ṣadr (Eskandar Beg, p. 217, tr. Savory, p. 323). Mirzā Maḵdum chided Esmāʿil II for his ineptitude, blaming him for his incarceration in Eṣṭaḵr Castle in Fars and subsequent flight to the Ottoman Empire. Elsewhere, he states that Esmāʿil II had ordered his imprisonment with the objective of saving him from being killed at the hands of his opponents in Qazvin, led by the grand vizier, Mirzā Salmān Jāberi Eṣfahāni (d. 991/1583), whom Mirzā Maḵdum accused of ordering the murder of his paternal cousin in 985/1577 (Šarifi Širāzi, Nawāqeż, fol. 144b). Following the death of Esmāʿil II, Pariḵān Ḵānom arranged for Mirzā Maḵdum’s release from prison. As soon as she got the word that a group of Shiʿi clerics and their followers in Qazvin had mobbed Mirzā Maḵdum’s house and destroyed his family library, she helped him flee from Qazvin first to Šahr-e Zur, the seat of the Ardalān rulers of eastern Kurdistan, and then to Āmed, the capital city of the province of Diyarbakir (Šarifi Širāzi, Nawāqeż, fols. 5a-6a, 112a-b, 144b, 160b; idem, Ḏaḵira, fol. 226a; Burini, II, pp. 52-53).
In exile, Mirzā Maḵdum was recruited by the professorial/judicial (ʿelmiya) services of the Ottoman bureaucracy, working for several years as a college professor, judge, and naqib al-ašrāf (marshal the Prophet’s descendants) in eastern Anatolia, Belād-al-Šām, Baghdad, and the Hejaz. He then converted to Ḥanafi school of Sunni jurisprudence, a move that was intended to facilitate his career mobility in the professorial/judicial services of the Ottoman bureaucracy (Šarifi Širāzi, Nawāqeż, fol. 145a; idem, Ḏaḵira, fol. 222a). In late 986/early 1579, Mīrzā Maḵdum was made Ḥanafi chief judge of Amed, the capital city of the province of Diyarbakir, and a year later he served as Ḥanafi chief judge of Baghdad and Tripoli (Nevʿizāda ʿAṭāʾi, pp. 270, 413). In Šawwāl 988/November-December 1580, he was transferred to Medina as a judge and from then on spent much of the remaining years of his life in the Hejaz. Mirzā Maḵdum spent the year 994/1585-86 in Istanbul serving as the ṣadr of Rumeli and chief judge of Istanbul. But within a few months, he was dismissed from this post and went back to Mecca, where he acted as naqib al-ašrāf under the patronage of the Sharifs of Mecca. Mirzā Maḵdum died in Mecca in Ḏu’l-ḥajja 995/October-November 1587 (Nevʿizāda ʿAṭāʾi, pp. 298, 417, 431, 436; Burini, II, pp. 53-55).
Works. During his years in the Ottoman Empire, Mirzā Maḵdum published one book, a number of short commentaries on the fatwās (authoritative ruling on questions regarding Islamic jurisprudence) issued by the distinguished Ottoman Ḥanafi mofti (one who issues fatwā) Abu’l-Soʿud Moḥammad (Mehmed Ebüssuûd) ʿEmādi Efendi (d. 981/1573-74), a treatise entitled al-Anmuḏaj al-morādḵāni on Arabic syntax, and a volume of collected nine short treatises entitled Ḏaḵirat a-ʿoqbā fi ḏamm al-donyā (Šarifi Širāzi, Ḏaḵira, fols. 222a-b). A potentially unique autograph copy of this latter volume is held in the Nuruosmaniye Library in Istanbul (Nuruosmaniye Kütüphanesinde, p. 135; Ḥāji Ḵalifa, I, col. 823; Brockelmann, II, p. 443).
Mirzā Maḵdum’s only book-length ‘publication,’ al-Nawāqeż le-bonyān al-rawāfeż, is a polemical volume, in which he harshly criticizes Twelver Shiʿi clerics in Safavid Iran for their sectarian bigotry, religious misdeeds, and moral corruption. The contents and importance of this work have been discussed in bio-bibliographical literature as well as in modern scholarship in anti-Safavid polemics (e.g., Brockelmann, II, p. 442; Eberhard, pp. 56-60). In the prologue to the Nawāqeż, Mirzā Maḵdum states that it was with the objective of “luring readers with forthright temperament to Sunni faith and making them dislike the path of rafż and heterodoxy” that he embarked on composing this polemical volume in 987/1579-80 (Šarifi Širāzi, Nawāqeż, fols. 4b, 10a). The Nawāqeż is structured into introduction, three chapters (faṣl), and a prologue. In the prologue, Mirzā Maḵdum details his flight from Safavid Iran to the Ottoman Empire in the winter of 985-86/1578 as well as his meetings with the Ottoman authorities, including grand vizier, Ḵˇāja Saʿd-al-Din (Hoca Sâdeddin) Efendi (d. 1599), and military judge of Rumeli, Čivizāda Moḥammad (Çivizâde Mehmed) Efendi (d. 995/1587; Šarifi Širāzi, Nawāqeż, fols. 2a-10a). The introduction lays out the “true meanings of belief and Islam.” Here, Mirzā Maḵdum finds fault with Twelver Shiʿi scholars’ interpretation of imān (faith, belief), chiding them for turning a blind eye to the Prophet Moḥammad’s companions, whom he considered as “true believers” in Islam (Šarifi Širāzi, Nawāqeż, fol. 10a).
The first two chapters explain the merits (fażāʾel) and attributes of the Prophet Moḥammad’s companions and his household (ahl al-bayt). The third chapter opens with comments on the legitimacy of the first three caliphs and closes with a section titled kašf al-maqāl, wherein Mirzā Maḵdum details the wrongdoings (hafawāt) of Twelver Shiʿi clerics in Safavid Iran. The Nawāqeż is packed with interesting details about religious and political trends and events in early Safavid Iran. It sheds new light on issues such as the ritual public cursing of the Sunni caliphs, imams, religious scholars, and mystics as practiced under Shah Ṭahmāsp; Esmāʿil II’s suppression of the tabarrā enforcers in Qazvin; the popularity of limited-term marriage (moṭʿa) among the Safavid clerics; the Bābā Šojāʿ-al-Dīn festival, which was held with considerable pomp and fanfare in Kashan under Shah Ṭahmāsp, in commemoration of the Iranian killer of the second caliph, ʿOmar b. al-Ḵaṭṭāb; and Esmāʿil II’s decision to kill almost all male descendants of Shah Esmāʿil I and Shah Ṭahmāsp (Šarifi Širāzi, fols. 92b, 97b, 101b-04a, 107a, 128a-b). Early in the 17th century, the India-based Iranian Shiʿi scholar, Sayyed Nur-al-Din Šuštari, wrote a response to the Nawāqeż, titled Maṣāʾeb al-nawāṣeb, in which he tries to contradict and invalidate Mirzā Maḵdum’s claims about non-Islamic nature of Twelver Shiʿism as well as the “sins” committed by the Shiʿi clerics in Safavid Iran.
Mirzā ʿAbd-Allāh Afandi Eṣfahāni, Riāż al-ʿolamāʾ wa ḥayāż al-fożalāʾ, ed. A. Ḥosayni, 7 vols., Qom 1981-94.
Ṣādeqi Beg Afšār, Taḏkera-ye Majmaʿ al-ḵawāṣṣ, tr. ʿA.-R. Ḵayyāmpur, Tabriz, 1948.
Maḥmud b. Hedāyat-Allāh Āfoštaʾi Naṭanzi, Noqāwat al-āṯār fi ḏekr al-aḵyār, ed. E. Ešrāqi, Tehran, 1971.
Ebn ʿEmād Demašqi, Šaḏarāt al-ḏahab fi aḵbār man ḏahab, ed. ʿA.-Q. Arnāʾuṭ and M. Arnāʾuṭ, 10 vols., Damascus 1988-93.
Ḥāji Ḵalifa Moṣṭafā b. ʿAbd-Allāh, Kašf al-żunun ʿan asāmi al-kotob wa’l-funun, ed. Ş. M. Yaltkaya and K. R. Bilge, 2 vols., Istanbul 1941-43.
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Originally Published: October 19, 2016
Last Updated: February 19, 2019Cite this entry:
Kioumars Ghereghlou, “MAḴDUM ŠARIFI ŠIRĀZI,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2016, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/makhdum-shirazi (accessed on 20 October 2016).