A Destiny Realized: A Timeline of Afsharid Iran and Beyond

Hmm... as far as I know, the Ja'fari madhab was more open to Ijtihad than the other Sunni branches, so I could see the concept being applied to bridge the Sunni and Shia peoples of Iran together, though I have a feeling it will take some time (and a few cases of head-chopping) to really get the ball rolling. I have a feeling some of the Sunni and Shia Ulema would still what the other side does as an affront.

On Russia, ooooooh. So no Persian Siberia then?
 
My understanding is that in transliteration, apostrophes are usually used to indicate the letter 'ayn ع found in Arabic and Persian which is a glottal stop. As for why it's at the end of the word in the transliteration, I'm a bit confused on that too, so maybe the author could speak to that. The English wikipedia article transliterates it as Ja'fari with the apostrophe in the middle of the word, and the Arabic version is also titled الخعفريون with the ayn in the middle of the word, but perhaps it's different in Persian.
The 'ayn is in the same place in Arabic and Persian (and Ottoman Turkish for that matter). In Persian it is a glottal stop, in Arabic it is actually articulated as a guttural voiced fricative (well, that's the standard realization at least). I assume the final apostrophe is just a typo.
 
Brilliant! A few followup questions.

Economy? Wither this? Iraq is a nice addition and other posters have alluded to cotton-growing in Iraq and the potential of upper Mesopotamia. Is that fertile land for cash or food crops in this period? In addition, with the Tigris and Euphrates, is vertical integration of cottons in addition to silks possible? Could we see either competition with Indian cotton exports or a kind of trade in both raw and finished cottons? If waterpower milling in particular becomes a major thing(was it OTL) then obviously you have something that really only happened OTL in the US with a major industrialized cotton-growing country.

Military? Will Nader pursue further campaigns or is he going to focus on consolidation? Rationalization and improvement of the taxation system will have major effects on his treasury, especially if it means he can engage in military activity without raising or adding taxes.

Religion-where does this go?
Iraq is a land with great potential at this time but a combination of factors such as climate, poor governance and the dominance of tribal groups between the two rivers and beyond meant that up until this point in history, it hadn't really lived up to its potential. Taking on Indian markets (without the help of tariffs) would be something of an uphill struggle. A lot of the future success depends on whether the reduction of tribal violence as well as how the administration functions in the Iranian Empire. If we see a further consolidation of Mamluk power as in OTL, the development of Iraq may look very similar to OTL indeed.

Nader, according to most biographers had something of a lust for conquest. Judging from his character, he doesn't really seem like the type of ruler to think that he's done what he can and should settle down. I see Nader as trying to rack up conquests as long as he possibly can, which judging by the situation of Iran during his later rule in OTL may be something of a disaster, though he has had more success than OTL. Still, even an enlarged Iran would struggle to fund the wars of Nader, and I fear that continued efforts to conquer more and more territory would outstrip the ability of Iran to support him. Leading, of course, to disaster.
Yes, I confess I still don't quite understand this "Jafari' Madhab" and other aspects of Nader's religious settlement. This may partly be because I lack access to JSTOR and other such article platforms however and so I cannot read your recommended article unfortunately. I don't quite get Jafari' Madhab, is its "recognition" as a Sunni legalistic school and the thus achieved by default "restoration/reconversion" of Iran to the Sunni mould. How does this recognition fit into Shia attitudes towards the other three "Rashidun" Caliphs and how does this affect Sunni views on the Iranians? Are Sunnis now viewing the Iranian court elites as having returned but the common rabble as still being tainted by Shia?

I do feel you've been vague, though maybe this is the problems of just how "Arabic" Islamic theology is and how that translates to English along with spoilers.

Do you have any articles freely available by non JSTOR methods that are readable on Iran and Jafari' Madhab?

Also on another note, why is there an apostrophe at the end of Jajari', is it for the accentuation I assume? And I've heard that the word used for conversion in Arabic is closer to reversion, and something about people being born in the faith but then leaving it in the case of Atheists and other such non Muslims, does the move from Sunni to Shia still count as reversion then to the person opposed to such who is also Islamic? Ie, would a Sunni person call a Sunni turning to Shia a conversion or reversion? And is the same word used for other religions, would a Sunni/Shiite call a conversion from Lutheranism to Anglicanism conversion or reversion? Off topic, I know, but you seem to know a lot and I'd like to educate myself on this stuff while being entertained if possible.
The consensus on the Ja'fari Madhab seems to be that in strictly theological terms, it was ill defined. As it stood in OTL, it was more a foreign policy gimmick than a deep attempt at religious reform, though part of the side-effects was that it could be used as a weapon against the increasingly powerful clergy of Iran, who detested Nader for usurping the Safavids. In OTL, the idea was given up on after the Ottoman-Iranian War of 1743-46, though Nader's foreign policy success relative to OTL has enabled him to push through acceptance of the Ja'fari Madhab. This allows him to begin articulating what it actually is.

The Ja'fari Madhab as it stands is recognised as a Sunni Madhab by the Ottomans, but acceptance elsewhere may be slower in coming. Part of Nader's reforms in OTL was the banning of practices such as the cursing of the three "Rashidun" Caliphs. As for the Islamic Ulema itself, it will be relatively slower to ensure their acceptance of the Ja'fari Madhab as a genuine Sunni School, but the osmosis of practices and ideas may help this along in the future.

Some concepts are a bit difficult to understand, and the Ja'fari Madhab actually remains a controversy among Muslims today. I guess the main point I would stress was that Nader's policy was mainly focused on Ottoman recognition of the Ja'fari Madhab as a properly Sunni Madhab rather than a heretical Shi'a one, and that to do this he eliminated many practices associated with Shi'ism, such as passion plays and ritualistic self-harm at Ashura, as well as the cursing of Caliphs. Personally the impression I get is that deeper and more "theological" reform would take place through the ascendance of Akhbari Ja'fari scholars rather than the Usulis who had been ascendent in the late Safavid era.

I hope this has made it a little bit clearer.
My understanding is that in transliteration, apostrophes are usually used to indicate the letter 'ayn ع found in Arabic and Persian which is a glottal stop. As for why it's at the end of the word in the transliteration, I'm a bit confused on that too, so maybe the author could speak to that. The English wikipedia article transliterates it as Ja'fari with the apostrophe in the middle of the word, and the Arabic version is also titled الخعفريون with the ayn in the middle of the word, but perhaps it's different in Persian.
Not particularly. It would be more consistent with the transliteration for me to call it the Ja'fari Madhab and will try and adjust my spellings.
Nader Shah thought of himself as an Iranian? Did he not see himself as Turkic?

Or am I drastically overthinking a minor joke?
A bit of a joke on my part. Nader did view himself as Turkic (and emphasised this particularly when negotiating with the Ottomans and Mughals) but his primary identity was most probably Khorasani. Like much of the rest of the world, identities were tied to tribes or localities rather than "nations" as such at the time, and while Nader would not have seen himself as particularly Iranian, he nevertheless grew up in an Iranian environment, even if he was Afshar Turkic.
You've detailed the cavalry comparison, but what of Nader's infantry and their Russian counterparts? The difference between the european paper cartridge and the Iranian powder horn could have been something to catch Nader's interest.
The big difference in terms of infantry would be the muskets and bayonet, which if I'm not mistaken was common for Russian musketeers at the time but not really for the Iranians, whose musketeers were usually armed with swords. The reason for this was that Iranian muskets tended to be really, really heavy by European standards, and not really any good as a melee weapon. Iranian musketeers tended to rely more on the superior range of their guns which reportedly out-ranged contemporary European muskets, though the reload late was less than that of European troops. As cavalry would likely be king in any war so far away from both power's center of gravity, I supposed that cavalry would perhaps be the force with the most attention paid.
Are you sure it wasn't for their famed Armenian Wine?

Wonder if these religious developments in Islam will make it more open to incorporating western concepts when colonialism comes knocking in the future.
You'd think that wouldn't you, but Shah Sultan Hussein was a drunk and he despised religious minorities. ;)

If the Ulema remains relatively weak by the time that European colonialism may come knocking, it's likely to have a number of effects. The Ulama were in OTL a key force behind the Tobacco Protest of 1890-91, and managed to force the Shah into capitulation, revoking the monopoly given to Baron Reuters (yes, that Reuters). The Ulama could sometimes hold back progress, but could also adjust some of the more harmful effects of contact with the West. The emerging Akhbari-based Ulama has a wide gap to fill though, and it will be interesting to see how their societal role plays out in the coming decades.
Hmm... as far as I know, the Ja'fari madhab was more open to Ijtihad than the other Sunni branches, so I could see the concept being applied to bridge the Sunni and Shia peoples of Iran together, though I have a feeling it will take some time (and a few cases of head-chopping) to really get the ball rolling. I have a feeling some of the Sunni and Shia Ulema would still what the other side does as an affront.

On Russia, ooooooh. So no Persian Siberia then?
The Usuli Ja'faris were certainly more open to Ijtihad than many Sunni schools, though this was less true of the Akhbaris. There will undoubtedly be a great change in the theology of some Akhbari theologians and jurists as the movement becomes one more conforming to Sunni Islam, but certain elements will likely transfer over. A large shift like this, if the political situation holds, is going to change a lot theologically. I think that ultimately it will be the Ulama as a class in Iran and outside that will find it hardest to adjust to the new reality on the ground.

Unfortunately not, as cool as renewed Tatar states on the Volga would have been.
The 'ayn is in the same place in Arabic and Persian (and Ottoman Turkish for that matter). In Persian it is a glottal stop, in Arabic it is actually articulated as a guttural voiced fricative (well, that's the standard realization at least). I assume the final apostrophe is just a typo.
A typo that got rather a bit out of hand unfortunately...
 
Nader's Return to Central Asia
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Nader's Final Central Asian Campaign

Nader’s Campaign in Russia had been perhaps his least successful yet. In exchange for tens of thousands of dead and wounded troops, he secured only the border fortress of Kizliar, vague promises for the protection of Muslims within Russia, as well as a guarantee not to attack Muslim powers. For the people of Iran, who had been taxed heavily for the campaign, the failure to secure real benefits from victory contributed to a general growth of dissent. As the head of the Dutch East Indies operation in Iran reported. “In the markets, in the mosques, most voices are decidedly against the Shah. The disagreements amongst the people do not involve whether they are for or against the Shah, but who would be a suitable replacement. The Ulema favour restoring the Safavi, the merchants favour Reza Qoli, and others favour his nephew Ali”


Dissent was becoming ever more pressing within Iran. Still Nader could have salvaged his reputation amongst his people. Many of his advisors, including Muhammad Taqi Khan were advising a policy of peace, of allowing the country to recover after over a decade of Nader’s wars. However, Nader had in part discontinued the war with Russia because of rebellion in Central Asia, which was seen as a core area of Nader’s Empire, largely because of its proximity to its centre in Khorasan. The death of Abu ‘ul-Faiz had encouraged the more belligerent noblemen in Bukhara to revolt, which by 1753 had spread to Khiva [1]. Rumour had it that they were supported by the Khans of Badakhshan and Kokand, both of whom were increasingly worried about Iranian designs on their own Khanates. In 1753, Nader marched a force of over 100,000 men from Balkh up the Amu Darya River, taking the key cities of Bukhara and Samarkand in September and November respectively. While wintering here, he was joined by his sons Reza and Nasrollah, who attempted to persuade Nader to end his campaign here.


This had not been what Nader was planning however, and after formally annexing the Khanate of Bukhara into Iran, announced his intention to reduce both Badakhshan and Kokand to obedience too. Mirza Astrabadi reports that here, tensions particularly between Reza Qoli and Nader grew. Fearful of provoking too severe a reaction however, the rift between the two stopped growing until the February of 1754, when an envoy from Beijing announced that the Chinese Emperor had officially extended tributary status to the Khan of Kokand, thus bringing him under the protective umbrella of the Chinese. Nader perceived this as an insult, but was still too canny to immediately attack the Chinese Empire. Instead, he sent orders back to Iran for more conscripts, and began making diplomatic approaches to the small states of the Tarim Basin, as well as to the Dzungar Mongols whose clash with the Qianlong Emperor seemed increasingly inevitable. Far from winding down his war machine and consolidating his Empire, Nader Shah seemed determined to fight a war with the largest power on earth.


Nader had some cause to be optimistic about a war with China. The likely areas of conflict, the Tarim Basin and Dzungar Khanate were closer to his own power base in Khorasan than they were to the Qing heartland of China. His forces had in the past ten years had fought two major world powers, the Ottomans and the Russians, and the Iranian army was recognised as far as Europe’s for its dynamism and quality. However, this was not to belie China’s own advantages in the effectiveness of her Bannermen forces, as well as her diverse range of nomadic allies, as well as the sheer scale of resources available to her. In addition to this, their hoped-for allies, the Dzungars were far weaker than initially estimated by the Iranians, and succumbed to Qing armies rapidly in the summer of 1755. The Iranians meanwhile were still attempting to secure control over the Syr Darya River, building forts in an attempt to bring the mostly-Kazakh locals to heel.


The Qing meanwhile were dealing with their own rebellions among the Khalkha Mongols, as well as attempting expansion into Kazakh lands. Iran and China were still not at war, though as their armies creeped through the steppes and valleys of Central Asia, it seemed that they would come to blows eventually. By 1756, Nader’s position in the Syr Dayra and Fergana was secure enough that he could send aid to Dzungar rebels, who were coordinating resistance against the Qing with the help of the Khalkha Mongols. By 1757, it appeared that with the help of around 20,000 Iranian troops, the Dzungars and Khalkha Mongols had succeeded somewhat in pushing back the Qing. They did not, however, reckon with the enormous effort that the Qianlong Emperor would devote to fighting the only serious great power rival the Qing now faced. Stretching Chinese logistical capabilities to the limit, over 100,000 Manchu Bannermen, Mongols and Chinese conscripts reinforced the overstretched Chinese forces in the area. The Chinese counter-offensive was about to begin.


Ghulja was taken once again in the April of 1758, and the Qing armies began the mass killing of all fighting-age Dzungar men. The Khalkha Mongols had been defeated by June, and Chinese forces had advanced as far as Bishkek. It was here that Iranian and Chinese forces faced off for the first time on the 21st of August, 1758. The Iranians, led by Nader, were outnumbered by some 2-1, but succeeded in holding off the Chinese for the day, in part due to their superior firearms, which outranged those of the Chinese. He was able to retire that night in good order, escaping the exhausted Chinese troops’ attempts at pursuit. Nader’s strategic situation was not necessarily poor at this point. Although he did not have the troops to counter-attack the Chinese, it is likely that he could have at least prevented an advance into the western half of Central Asia, thus securing Iranian rule in the region. Nader however, was never one to back down, and began drawing up orders to his governors at home to raise both men and taxes for the upcoming invasion of China.


[1] – Abu ‘Ul-Faiz was killed in 1747 in OTL, following Nader Shah’s assassination by Muhammad Rahim, whom Nader had sent to restore order to Bukhara. Muhammad Rahim’s attempts to found his own dynasty in Bukhara would flounder on the resistance of other Uzbek tribes.


* * * * * *

Kokand, August 1758


When he heard of his father’s intent to continue the war against the far-off Qianlong Emperor, Reza Qoli was more than simply displeased. Iran had already taken enough land to digest in the past few years of war, why ruin her with an expensive and impossible invasion of a distant land?


Reza noticed that he had been joined by his younger brother, Nasrollah. The two embraced each other, before sitting down next to each other. This conversation was not to be overheard.

“My father has told us that we will be going to war in China next year. He is preparing to raise taxes and implement conscription once again”

Nasrollah nodded. “This would be the last straw, I think. There would be no way of stopping rebellion after this. Can he not be persuaded?”

Reza shook his head, and looked into his brother’s eyes gravely. “He will not. He says to me ‘Timur planned to invade China. God has seen fit to open the gates for my own attempt, and would it not be a glorious thing to make the Emperor of China my subordinate?’ He is on the path to madness I tell you. He will be the ruin of Iran”


Nasrollah was unsure of how to react. He loved his father, and had been with him in India, during his war against the Turks, and even into Russia. He did, however, see his brother’s point. Since his failure to decisively defeat the Russians, he had become a man obsessed. His lust for conquest, for its own sake, had become insatiable.

Reza spoke again “There is only one way that this will end brother”

Nasrollah completed his brother’s chain of thought. “Either it happens now or later, yes?”


The two were still afraid to say the word out loud. Death. Nader had become an old man, almost seventy years of age. What is the future to a man like that? Seemingly, his concern had moved on from bequeathing a great kingdom to his son, and onto his own self-aggrandizement. Seemingly, the story of the shepherd’s son who rose to be the Shah was no longer one that fitted with his own self-image as the rightful leader of the Muslim World.


Reza rubbed the back of his neck as he spoke again. “I have heard from an officer, that there is a conspiracy amongst some of the Qajars to do away with our father. Naturally I would have normally reported this and had them executed, but with our circumstances the way they are…”

“You want to let them?!?”

“Keep your voice down!” Reza paused and collected himself. “You know I love our father. We have not always seen eye to eye, but I respect him even now as he stands on the brink of madness”

“What you’re talking about is treason. It’s more than treason, it’s the betrayal of family”. Nasrollah looked pleadingly at Reza. “I beg you, there has to be some other way”


Reza however, remained unmoved. “This has not been an easy conclusion for me to make. Sometimes though, we have to betray our principles for the greater good”.


* * * * * *

Iran’s Wild North? – The Conquest of Central Asia


Perhaps it was destiny that secured Nader Shah’s interest in Central Asia. His childhood had been marred in an incident in which he was taken by Turkmen slave raiders, likely from Marv. Although he had managed to escape, the incident seemed not to have escaped him. His reign would be marked by a number of campaigns against the Khanates of Central Asia, two of which were led by himself. Nader’s first real campaign in the area came after the initial successes of his son Reza Qoli. Nader made a vassal of the Khan of Bukhara, and executed the Khan of Khiva, annexing the region into Iran. On top of this, he brought the Marv Oasis back under Iranian control. Compared to the Safavids, for whom Central Asia was of little consequence, the area was key for the early Afsharids, both as a source of soldiers and grain as well as its proximity to the core region of Khorasan. By 1741, Iran’s capital had been moved to Mashhad, though the majority of the state apparatus was still located in Isfahan. Nader would spend much of the next decade campaigning in the Caucasus, Anatolia and Russia.


It was with the assassination of his vassal Abu ‘Ul-Faiz, as well as accompanying revolts and a lessening of pressure from other fronts that allowed Nader to intervene more decisively in Central Asia. This time, he aimed to totally subordinate the Amu Darya Basin to direct Iranian authority, formally annexing its fertile lands and cities. The populations of the region’s largest cities mostly spoke dialects of Persian, and could be integrated relatively easily into the bureaucratic framework of the Iranian state, and perhaps Nader felt that bringing more Turkic peoples under the rule of the Empire may have helped to soften the dominance of the Persian element with it [2]. This may well have carried over in a desire to dilute the politically unreliable Shi’a population of his Empire, whom were still felt to have anti-Afsharid tendencies. More Sunnis would be welcome for the Afsharids in the long run.


Less important seems to have been the consideration of the economic potential of the region. Although it was home to a number of major rivers and fertile areas, agriculture was inefficient. For areas such as Khiva, slave labour was relied upon to cultivate agricultural land. Techniques of irrigation were often even more primitive than found in Persia, and the few Europeans brave enough to visit the region remarked on its largely wasted potential. Mirza Astrabadi does not touch upon financial or economic considerations of his own history of the conquest of Central Asia, and what loot was gained from the campaigns was likely paltry when compared to the great hoards that had been secured from areas such as India and Anatolia. Indeed, Central Asia was probably the largest drain for Nader Shah outside of the Caucasus, a situation that was only exacerbated by the escalation of conflict in the region and the failed invasion of the Qing army in 1758.


[2] – Certainly there seems to be a consensus among scholars that Tajiks made up a majority of Central Asia’s urban population until the arrival of the Russians. Demographically it would seem that Central Asia in the 18th century wasn’t as totally Turkic as can sometimes be assumed, though they certainly made a large majority of the population.

* * * * * *

Author's Notes: Is Nader's luck finally running out? Certainly he has built up a lot of enemies over the years, but it is likely that some may be attracted by the prospect of a successful war in China. Considering the riches that Delhi held, how much more could be gained in Beijing? This may be unrealistic but it is likely that some of Nader's followers may well be motivated by that prospect. Familial treachery however could possibly far more damaging, and may result in fratricidal wars if it ever went further.

Iran's relative success in Central Asia and against China may well lead her down a very dangerous road.
 
You'd think that wouldn't you, but Shah Sultan Hussein was a drunk and he despised religious minorities. ;)

If the Ulema remains relatively weak by the time that European colonialism may come knocking, it's likely to have a number of effects. The Ulama were in OTL a key force behind the Tobacco Protest of 1890-91, and managed to force the Shah into capitulation, revoking the monopoly given to Baron Reuters (yes, that Reuters). The Ulama could sometimes hold back progress, but could also adjust some of the more harmful effects of contact with the West. The emerging Akhbari-based Ulama has a wide gap to fill though, and it will be interesting to see how their societal role plays out in the coming decades.

"Food and Beverages are beyond bias" A quote that can describe this.

It will probably take a couple of generations for this Akhbari Ulama to gain the strength and influence to stand up to the policies of future Shahs. Which will probably be enough time for Persia to exchange with European Colonial Powers that oppose Russia.
 
Kokand, August 1758

When he heard of his father’s intent to continue the war against the far-off Qianlong Emperor, Reza Qoli was more than simply displeased. Iran had already taken enough land to digest in the past few years of war, why ruin her with an expensive and impossible invasion of a distant land?


Reza noticed that he had been joined by his younger brother, Nasrollah. The two embraced each other, before sitting down next to each other. This conversation was not to be overheard.

“My father has told us that we will be going to war in China next year. He is preparing to raise taxes and implement conscription once again”

Nasrollah nodded. “This would be the last straw, I think. There would be no way of stopping rebellion after this. Can he not be persuaded?”

Reza shook his head, and looked into his brother’s eyes gravely. “He will not. He says to me ‘Timur planned to invade China. God has seen fit to open the gates for my own attempt, and would it not be a glorious thing to make the Emperor of China my subordinate?’ He is on the path to madness I tell you. He will be the ruin of Iran”


Nasrollah was unsure of how to react. He loved his father, and had been with him in India, during his war against the Turks, and even into Russia. He did, however, see his brother’s point. Since his failure to decisively defeat the Russians, he had become a man obsessed. His lust for conquest, for its own sake, had become insatiable.

Reza spoke again “There is only one way that this will end brother”

Nasrollah completed his brother’s chain of thought. “Either it happens now or later, yes?”


The two were still afraid to say the word out loud. Death. Nader had become an old man, almost seventy years of age. What is the future to a man like that? Seemingly, his concern had moved on from bequeathing a great kingdom to his son, and onto his own self-aggrandizement. Seemingly, the story of the shepherd’s son who rose to be the Shah was no longer one that fitted with his own self-image as the rightful leader of the Muslim World.


Reza rubbed the back of his neck as he spoke again. “I have heard from an officer, that there is a conspiracy amongst some of the Qajars to do away with our father. Naturally I would have normally reported this and had them executed, but with our circumstances the way they are…”

“You want to let them?!?”

“Keep your voice down!” Reza paused and collected himself. “You know I love our father. We have not always seen eye to eye, but I respect him even now as he stands on the brink of madness”

“What you’re talking about is treason. It’s more than treason, it’s the betrayal of family”. Nasrollah looked pleadingly at Reza. “I beg you, there has to be some other way”


Reza however, remained unmoved. “This has not been an easy conclusion for me to make. Sometimes though, we have to betray our principles for the greater good”.

Seeing a planned overthrow with mixed feelings by it's perpetrators is a nice change of pace for once
 

Deleted member 67076

Nader's probably going to get assassinated in a Palace Coup imo.
 
Interesting use of the destruction of the Dzungars, in terms of the painting used that is.

Will Khorosan and its environs become the new heart of this alternate Iran?
 
Timur 2: Chinese Boogaloo seems to be shaping up... well. :eek:

Did any of the Dzungars manage to escape into Afsharid territory? Troublesome as they are, they deserve a better fate than what happened IOTL. Besides that, what the the views of the Qianlong Empreor on Iran ITTL (if he had any at all)?
 
If Afsharid Iran expanded into Central Asia, they might thwarted the Russians' expansion in the region. Which is the big plus for the Persians. But the Afsharids might have to compete with the Russian bear (and perhaps the Chinese), not unlike the Great Game.
 
Just wanted to say, I am immensely pleased to discover this thread. Nassirismo your efforts are heroic! Thread subscribed.

I too have wondered what would have been if the Persian Empire had endured in the 18th century and beyond. A strong Persia might have led the Islamic world, preventing perhaps the worst part of European colonialism and leaving the Muslim countries in a far healthier state than they are today. In many ways the actual world we see around us is a dystopian nightmare scenario.

Imagine a strong, prosperous and advanced modern Iran, whose territory encompasses most of present day Afghanistan and Iraq. It would be a superpower of the region, a kind of USA of the East, which could form a vital counterpoint to the influence of Russia and America. A permanent member of the UN Security Council, such an Iran could be a voice for the Muslim world and a much needed source of prosperity, wisdom and stability in the world.
 
Imagine a strong, prosperous and advanced modern Iran, whose territory encompasses most of present day Afghanistan and Iraq. It would be a superpower of the region, a kind of USA of the East, which could form a vital counterpoint to the influence of Russia and America. A permanent member of the UN Security Council, such an Iran could be a voice for the Muslim world and a much needed source of prosperity, wisdom and stability in the world.

I am actually envisioning political movements developing to create a Federalized Islamic World, as an answer to the European Union.
 
First off, there will be a bit of a break of 2 1/2 weeks from tomorrow as I will be in Malaysia and won't have access to a computer. Rest assured that things will rev right back up in February.
"Food and Beverages are beyond bias" A quote that can describe this.

It will probably take a couple of generations for this Akhbari Ulama to gain the strength and influence to stand up to the policies of future Shahs. Which will probably be enough time for Persia to exchange with European Colonial Powers that oppose Russia.
Indeed, the whole power dynamic between the clergy and the rulers of Iran is likely to be affected, which will probably leave the mercantile and artisanal "Bazaar Classes" as the main check on the Shah's power in the future. This will likely have a very interesting impact on Iran's development in the future.
That oddly sounds to my ears like Timur's last venture.
Though of course, unlike Timur Nader has a great amount of gunpowder troops. On the other hand, issues such as distance and terrain still exist, and although Nader has campaigned on some of the most difficult terrain in the world, the challenges that a campaign against China would throw up may well be insurmountable.
Seeing a planned overthrow with mixed feelings by it's perpetrators is a nice change of pace for once
Well, Reza and Nasrollah are increasingly concerned about their own future after Nader (and with good reason, both were killed in Kalat-i-Naderi by Adil Shah in OTL after Nader's assassination). For them, this is a more important concern than military glory in China (that may well go wrong).
Nader's probably going to get assassinated in a Palace Coup imo.
He did have a habit of pushing things too far in OTL. Of course, the fact that he isn't suffering from various mental illnesses has staved things off but various aspects of his personality such as his ambitions were always likely to push some people off the edge.
Interesting use of the destruction of the Dzungars, in terms of the painting used that is.

Will Khorosan and its environs become the new heart of this alternate Iran?
Well, with a different power dynamic in the region, the Dzungars may well escape the fate of genocide that they suffered in OTL. It could be a big turning point in their history, and there are unsurprisingly few images of a Sino-Iranian war out there...

Khorasan is likely to be the new heart of Iran. In OTL, Nader clearly intended his Empire to be ruled from Mashhad and Kalat-i-Naderi, a task made easier by the depopulation of Isfahan. Realistically, although Khorasan isn't the most fertile region of Iran, it is in a relatively good position vis-a-vis Nader's new acquisitions in what is in OTL Eastern Afghanistan and Central Asia. It is Nader's homeland, and is well placed to control trade crossing from various parts of the Empire. Ironically, Mashhad is also a pretty important place for Shi'a Muslims, being the location of the shrine of Imam Reza, though Nader's religious reforms did not discourage pilgrimage to Shi'a shrines, and indeed ensured that free passage for pilgrims was a stipulation of his treaty with the Ottomans in OTL.
Timur 2: Chinese Boogaloo seems to be shaping up... well. :eek:

Did any of the Dzungars manage to escape into Afsharid territory? Troublesome as they are, they deserve a better fate than what happened IOTL. Besides that, what the the views of the Qianlong Empreor on Iran ITTL (if he had any at all)?
The Dzungars are likely to escape, and the Afshars may find them to be useful as a people who owe their continued existence to the Afshars. Though Iran may find them to be a handful...

My own knowledge of the Chinese side is not as good as it should be perhaps. The Cambridge History of Iran notes that rumours entered Iran that the Emperor of China viewed Nader's success with apprehension in OTL, so with a Nader who was in power longer and managed to rack up more military successes would likely make the Qianlong Emperor nervous indeed.
If Afsharid Iran expanded into Central Asia, they might thwarted the Russians' expansion in the region. Which is the big plus for the Persians. But the Afsharids might have to compete with the Russian bear (and perhaps the Chinese), not unlike the Great Game.
Almost certainly the Russians would have a much harder time expanding into Central Asia if presented with a major power as opposed to weak Khanates. This is likely to change Russia's expansionist priorities later on but may leave Iran with a dangerous enemy.
Just wanted to say, I am immensely pleased to discover this thread. Nassirismo your efforts are heroic! Thread subscribed.

I too have wondered what would have been if the Persian Empire had endured in the 18th century and beyond. A strong Persia might have led the Islamic world, preventing perhaps the worst part of European colonialism and leaving the Muslim countries in a far healthier state than they are today. In many ways the actual world we see around us is a dystopian nightmare scenario.

Imagine a strong, prosperous and advanced modern Iran, whose territory encompasses most of present day Afghanistan and Iraq. It would be a superpower of the region, a kind of USA of the East, which could form a vital counterpoint to the influence of Russia and America. A permanent member of the UN Security Council, such an Iran could be a voice for the Muslim world and a much needed source of prosperity, wisdom and stability in the world.
Many thanks!

Nader seemed to have ambitions for Iran to be a leader of the Islamic world in OTL, though there seems to be no mention of whether he desired the title of Caliph, which was largely irrelevant by this point in history. Certainly a strong, centralised Iranian state is likely to be something of a model for Islamic states ITTL which will greatly affect things going into the 19th century.

Looking into the future, international relations are likely to be transformed compared to OTL, something that wasn't quite done in the last iteration of the timeline. Stronger and more centralised Islamic states will likely be better for the region than what we got in OTL, when the Middle East largely stagnated compared to Europe, due in part to its weakened governments who were unable to stand up to Europe and in the case of Iran, unable to stand up to internal tribal forces.
I am actually envisioning political movements developing to create a Federalized Islamic World, as an answer to the European Union.
Nader's ambitions for Iran's place in the Islamic world, as well as Islamic notions of statecraft and a "community of nations" as it were would have been likely to change the Islamic world politically if he had survived. Who is to say what will happen in the future, but the state of the Ummah is going to be very different.
 
The Middle East - 1747 to 1758
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The Ottoman Empire in the wake of the "Eastern Catastrophe"

As the threat of a siege of Istanbul by the Iranians receded, the hapless Sultan Mahmud now had to face his own subjects, as rumblings of discontent were palpable, most dangerously in Istanbul itself and Edirne. The Janissaries in Istanbul stayed loyal as an uprising aimed at the misrule of the government was put down, but in Edirne the Janissaries joined the rioters, and soon enough the city was under control of the rebels. The rebel leaders began to articulate demands, including the deposition of the Sultan and his replacement, a resumption of the war with Iran to regain lost territory, and a more serious approach to administering justice within the Empire. Sultan Mahmud raised an army to take Edirne back from the rebels, but a setback near the city saw support for him evaporate, and he was assassinated by his own guards in the Topkapi Palace on the 26th of October, 1756.


With Mahmud dead, his brother Osman III was acclaimed as Sultan, but as in the Edirne event of 1703, the rebels were not quick to demobilize, and disorder prevailed on the streets of Istanbul. The eldest son of Ahmed III, Mehmed was almost murdered in an attempted purge of royal princes, and fled the city [1]. This disorder at the centre was matched in the provinces, as some regional governors used the disorder to solidify their own position. In Egypt, the Bey was forced to step down by local troops and subsequently fled the region. For a while, it appeared as though the Empire was beginning to fall apart, though order was eventually restored. The prince Mehmed had escaped to the Crimea, where he was able to request help from the Khan. With the aid of the Tatars, as well as troops who joined his army along the way, Mehmed arrived at Istanbul on the February of 1758. Having secured the support of many notables in Rumelia, he was able to enter Istanbul without much in the way of resistance, and subsequently had his uncle strangled in his harem.


The new Sultan Mehmed V did not have an enviable position despite his relatively bloodless triumph. The weakness of the Ottoman State, as well as its army had been painfully illustrated in the wars against Nader Shah. The regional interests and governors had proved themselves to be unreliable, whether it was the turncoat Ahmad Pasha in Iraq, or the governors of North Africa who refused to aid the Sultan prior to Ankara. The army had proved ill-disciplined and ineffective in comparison to the far more professional Iranians. The idea of reform within the Ottoman Empire had not been a new one, and as early as the reign of Osman II (r. 1618-1622) the reformation of the Ottoman Empire had been sought after by some in the court, and the reign of Mehmed’s father, Ahmed III, had seen some attempt at centralisation and reform. While not a man of great administrative ability, Mehmed did recognise the need for a strengthening of the centre at the expense of the provinces, as well as the modification if not eradication of various institutions within the Empire.


By the middle of the 18th century, attempts by the Ottoman Empire had tended to flounder in the past, either on palace intrigues or opposition from entrenched interest groups. The financial situation had begun to deteriorate since the mid-17th century, and by the 18th century had become so grave that it was reported that the palace silverware had to be melted down to pay off the Janissaries at the beginning of Ahmed III’s reign [2]. The disorder that had been fairly common in the provinces had since made its journey to the heart of the Empire, with three Sultans overthrown in under 20 years. In short, there was adequate justification for the increasingly common viewpoint that the Ottoman Empire was “The worst-governed realm in all Europe”. The enormous losses suffered to the Iranians in the Treaty of Bursa, which rivalled those of Karlowitz in 1699, were yet more evidence that something was rotten in the Empire, and that it would take more than the tinkering of previous, more traditionally oriented reform, to set things right.


By 1750, Sultan Mehmed was secure enough in his throne to set to the task of repairing his Empire. The figure who was most suited to assist was Koca Ragıp Pasha, the former governor of Egypt. Ragıp Pasha, besides being an accomplished poet, maintained a significant interest in administration gained during his time as a scribe. He had also observed trends both within Europe and Iran, and approved of the consolidation of power with the central state, especially in a financial context. To impose the same kind of central control that monarchs such as Nader Shah or Louis XIV had done however could not be achieved overnight, especially in an empire as large as the Ottoman’s, and the Ottoman path to centralising reforms would be a long one, with a number of steps. The first of these steps would be the balancing of the budget, initially through the reduction of palace expenditures and enforcing regulations of tax farmers. Ragıp Pasha also attempted to restore the value of Ottoman coinage to encourage trade.


By 1754, the financial situation of the Empire had been partially restored, and he was able to form a new army corps, the Nişancılar, or “Marksmen”. These were troops modelled on the Iranian Jazāyerchis, armed with a heavy musket capable of firing further than contemporary European muskets, but considerably heavier and without the bayonet for fending off cavalry charges. Unlike the Janissaries, the Nişancılar were expected to live on-barracks, were forbidden to marry, as well as forbidden from the commercial enterprise and association with civilians that the Janissaries had become famous for, and were subject to a much harsher discipline [3]. Whilst still not approaching the inhuman discipline that characterised armies such as Prussia’s this nevertheless marked a far different approach on the part of the Ottomans to military sciences. As well as greater effectiveness on the field, it was also hoped by Ragıp Pasha that the Nişancılar would be more politically reliable. In the context of previous rebellions and betrayals on the part of the Janissaries, as well as what was considered to be their extortion of the state through their accession payments, this would have been a key consideration indeed.


And, it did arouse the suspicions of the Janissaries. Rumblings of discontent were usually softened by the relatively small size of the Nişancılar corps, some 12,000 overall, as well as by targeted bribes to Janissary officers. Internal disquiet during the initial military reforms was kept to a minimum, and administrative reforms were limited in their geographical scope, often attempting to work alongside the local ulema to ensure that they would not oppose measures from the central government. Despite initial successes with the reform programme, the Ottoman Empire was vulnerable, and an attack from any one of their rivals could have led to disaster. With the advent of a general war in Europe however, and internal conflicts in Iran, it appeared that for the time being the Ottoman Empire had breathing space for further internal consolidation.


[1] – The real life Prince Mehmed, the older brother of OTL’s Mustafa III, was murdered in 1756

[2] – True story. This did come straight after Karlowitz though, so it was not the best of times for the Ottoman Empire.

[3] – Many of these reforms mirror those implemented successfully by Selim III on the Ottoman artillery corps later on in the 18th century in OTL.


* * * * * *

The Rise of the Wahabbi Movement in Central Arabia

As Nader’s armies marched through Anatolia in triumph, great changes were taking place in the deserts of Central Arabia. The forces of Muhammad Ibn Saud, energised by the arrival of the increasingly infamous theologian Muhammad Ibn Abd-al Wahhab, began a campaign of raids and conquest which would result in the formation of what is known to history as the “Saudi State”, but which is more correctly known as the Emirate of Diriyah. The tactics used by the warriors loyal to Ibn Saud did not differ from any other groups in Central Arabia at the time, though what was different was the religious inspiration that they received from Ibn Abd-al Wahhab. One of the principle tenants of Wahhabism were a greatly widened view of what constituted “Mukaffir”, an act which constituted disbelief in Islam. To those who followed Abd-al Wahhab’s teachings, they were the only true Muslims in a sea of disbelief, which gave a tremendous amount of motivation to the followers of Muhammad Ibn Saud, while allowing them to loot fellow Muslims.


With the Ottoman capitulation to Nader Shah in 1747, and the subsequent recognition of the Jafari’ Madhab as the fifth recognised school of Jurisprudence, the feeling among Abd-al Wahhab’s followers was that the Ottomans had abdicated their leadership of the Muslim world through the craven act. Amongst all other religious groups, none were despised more than the Shi’a, and the Wahhabis were not convinced that the conversion of Iran to Sunni Islam was anything more than a show of “Taqiyah”, or dissimulation. While still now powerful enough to present a threat to the Ottoman Empire, the Wahhabis began to see increasing amounts of success against their foes in Central Arabia. By the late 1750s, the forces of Ibn Saud had conquered the oasis town of Riyadh, which represented a big step in their efforts to dominate Central Arabia [4]. They were not yet on the radars of either the Ottoman Empire or Iran, but their success would soon change that.


[4] – In OTL this was not achieved until later on in the 18th century. The seeming abdication of leadership to the heretic Iranians on the part of the Ottomans has acted as a motivating force for the Saudis, and is enabling them to see success sooner.

* * * * * *

Author's Notes - A good first look at the ripples that are coming from Nader's success. The Ottomans are likely to have some difficult times ahead of them, and desperately need to start bringing together their fractured realm if they are to survive the upcoming storms. However, there is an appropriate model in Nader's Iran that did not exist in OTL, which may help along reform movements. Whether this will be enough to stave off the growing threat of Russia is questionable however.

As mentioned previously, I will be travelling tomorrow to Malaysia and will in all likelihood be unable to use a computer. It is likely that I won't be able to post an update until the beginning of February, so don't hold your breath!
 
what was different was the religious inspiration that they received from Ibn Abd-al Wahhab. One of the principle tenants of Wahhabism were a greatly widened view of what constituted “Mukaffir”, an act which constituted disbelief in Islam. To those who followed Abd-al Wahhab’s teachings, they were the only true Muslims in a sea of disbelief, which gave a tremendous amount of motivation to the followers of Muhammad Ibn Saud, while allowing them to loot fellow Muslims.

And THIS is why Wahhabism is the most dangerous branch of Islam out their
 
So I'm back from Malaysia! I suppose it is time to get back to the timeline in earnest.
It seems the ottomans are in for a difficult Journey
It certainly won't be easy. In order to meet the challenge of the Iranians, as well as the growing threat from Christian Europe and from Russia especially, the Ottoman Empire has to reverse the decentralisation of the 16th and 17th centuries. With such a large, sprawling empire, and with so much of it controlled by local notables, this will be difficult without the forces that were at play in Iran. Nevertheless, if the Ottomans can buy time for internal reforms, they may well make it through.
And THIS is why Wahhabism is the most dangerous branch of Islam out their
Well, it's complicated. Non-Wahhabis are as capable of bigotry and violent as Wahhabis themselves, but I'm not convinced that Wahhabi influence is a good thing where it can be found.
 
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Political Change in India Following Karnal

Karnal was the great watershed event of the 18th century in India. Although it did not mark the beginning of the Mughal Empire’s decline, it did mark the point at which the decline of the once-mighty Empire could no longer be ignored by any of the powers in India. Within just a few short years, the political landscape of India would forever be transformed by forces that were unleashed in the wake of Karnal.


Of course, it would be wrong to ascribe the causes of Mughal decline to a single battle. The problems of the Mughals had been in evidence long before Karnal itself, and indeed some of the symptoms of decline were painfully displayed by the battle. After the death of Aurangzeb, whose forceful administration had kept the Empire together but whose campaigns strained it greatly, the Mughals faced challenges in the face of the rising Maratha Confederacy in the Deccan, as well as an increasing tendency of decentralisation which mirrored in a superficial fashion trends in the Ottoman Empire in the west. After 1720, the Mughal Empire was well on the way to being more of a decentralised network of regional powers, paying only token tribute to Delhi. When presented with a vigorous and unified Iranian State, the divided Mughals crumbled and Delhi itself was occupied for some time by the forces of the Iranian Shah.


The Maratha threat to the Mughals began to heighten further following Karnal. The great Peshwa Bajirao had died soon after the Mughals had been smashed, but this did not seem to impede the spread of Maratha influence. The Marathas successfully expanded their rule in Orissa, but were defeated by the Nawab of Bengal, Alivardi Khan and were kept out of the region for the time being. Subsequent attempts to raid Bengal and Bihar, despite doing so with the acquiescence of the Mughal Emperor, floundered on Alivardi’s determined opposition. It would not be until 1751 that a truce was negotiated between the Marathas and the Nawab of Bengal that saw Bihar confirmed as a possession of Alivardi, and confirmed Mughal rule in Orissa. The Marathas had secured some concessions, as well as tribute from Bengal, but in return Bengal had been secured from the terror of Maratha raids. In the Deccan too, the Marathas saw some success including a victory over the French during the Second Carnatic War.


Perhaps the most important area of expansion for the Marathas was north into the heartland of the Mughal Empire. Disputes between landowners or governors frequently turned violent, and the Marathas were often willing to aid one side in exchange for something. Full-blown Civil War in 1753 saw a Maratha nominee placed on the Mughal throne, and plundered Delhi, causing far more damage in terms of life than Nader Shah had done. With the area firmly under Maratha domination by the mid-1750s, it appeared as though it had been the Marathas who had profited most from the shattering of Mughal power in the wake of Nader Shah’s invasion [1]. Although the Mughals still ruled a large area formally, the Empire was now in the hands of the Marathas, and the tribute that had earlier gone to Delhi now went south to Pune. Although by the 1760s the Marathas had run into resistance in nearly every direction, it seemed as though a consolidation of her resources would allow her to overcome her opponents one by one.


Bengal too was transformed by the effects of Karnal. The Nawab of Bengal, Alivardi Khan, began withholding tribute payments to the Mughal Emperor in the 1740s, and took his own increasingly independent line when dealing with foreign powers. Although the Nawab took a great amount of legitimacy from the titles of, and his supposed association with the Mughal Empire, Bengal was a province of the Empire only in name by this point. The Nawab successfully prevented the Marathas from raiding Bengal in force, and signed a treaty with them recognizing his own authority in Bihar. Whereas much of the rest of India seemed chaotic, Bengal was something of an oasis of calm. Bengal was undergoing an economic boom, as her many waterways and trade links with Europeans gave rise to an increasingly sophisticated economy. Bengal was developing a “National Market”, where various parts of the country specialised in different products, though cotton goods were where Bengal made much of its money. Exports of these cotton goods led to a favourable balance of payment for Bengal, further aiding the marketization of the Bengali economy.


Despite the increasing economic strength of Bengal however, the country remained uneducated, seen by poorer parts of the Islamic world as “backward” on account of its lax religiosity. Its cities were unimpressive to travellers, made up largely of one-story mud brick buildings, and its literacy rates were very low indeed. The administration of Bengal was still done mostly in the Persian language, and the persecution of Shi’ism in Iran itself saw an influx of educated Iranians who attempted to make their fortunes in Bengal. Thus, although Bengal was increasingly successful economically, it was still a long way from being a modern state.


In the Punjab too, the disintegration of the Mughal Empire encouraged dynastic politics. When Zakariya Khan, who had submitted to Nader Shah rather than fight him during his invasion, died his sons took his place. By 1747, succession struggles had led to Shah Nawaz Khan becoming the unquestioned authority in the Punjab, despite the oppositions of the Mughal Vizier [2]. In the face of succession struggles however, as well as fears of Iranian ambitions, Sikhs had become an increasing threat in the rural areas of the Punjab. In 1754, Fatehabad was occupied by the Sikhs, becoming a centre for their burgeoning state. Without support from the centre, Shah Nawaz Khan struggled to defeat the growing insurgency. By 1758, the Sikhs plundered outlying areas of Lahore, and it was now wondered whether they would eventually overcome the governor and establish their own polity in the Punjab.


Last but not least, the position of the European powers became an increasingly important factor in Indian politics. The French and British came to blows in India in the 1740s, as a continuation of warfare in Europe rather than due to local factors. However, local considerations for the two powers soon became paramount, and the Second Carnatic War was fought as a proxy war, with the British and French supporting different sides in a war of succession. Some British Nabobs such as Clive dreamed of greater glory and territorial control in India with the downfall of the Mughal Empire. An opportunity seemed to present itself in Bengal, when complex manoeuvring on the part of the British, the French and Siraj-ud Dowla, the new Nawab of Bengal, had led to the notorious “Black Hole of Calcutta” which saw over a hundred British prisoners die in Bengali custody. Despite concerns among many in Bengal about Siraj-ud Dowla’s leadership, he was able to defeat the British at Plassey with the help of the French, scuppering British hopes for influence in the region [3].


The main effect of Karnal on India appears to have been the encouragement of an existing tendency toward decentralisation. Although the Marathas came close to filling the power vacuum that had been left in the wake of Karnal, they could not in the end subdue governors who were far from the imperial centre of Delhi. Having created the vacuum, the Iranians seemed content to concentrate elsewhere, and did little to fill the gap that they had created on the subcontinent. It seemed as if there would be no great successor to the Mughals, and that the decentralisation of the subcontinent would be made permanent by the events of Nader’s invasion of the Mughal Empire and their subsequent collapse.


[1] – Maratha dominance in Delhi and its surroundings has come slightly earlier, namely due to the lack of challenge from the Afghans, who in OTL periodically invaded Northern India. Since those Afghans are fighting elsewhere in TTL, a key challenger of the Marathas is absent.


[2] – In OTL, it was significantly more complicated. Ahmed Shah Durrani was invited into the province to help restore Mughal control. Shah Nawaz Khan was defeated by Ahmed Shah, who in turn fought and killed the Mughal Vizier, whose son subsequently became the governor of Lahore and Multan (which were separate administrative divisions, though often ruled together).


[3] – Plassey was a “damned close-run thing” in OTL, made especially clear in The Seven Years War: Global Views which is a highly interesting collection of essays on a number of different aspects to the war. There were a number of considerations in OTL that affected Siraj-ud Dowla’s actions such as the threat of the Afghans that are absent in TTL. Therefore, the changed outcome of Plassey seems to be a fairly obvious butterfly.

* * * * * *

Author's Notes - The defeat of Karnal has hollowed out the Mughal Empire hand has strengthened centrifugal forces within the Mughal Empire. However, as in OTL, this has not led to anarchy but the strengthening of regional governors. Without the Afghan presence (Iran's priorities lay elsewhere for the time being) changes in India are already apparent. The big sticking point will be a Bengal that remains free from British rule, something that will completely transform India's future in both the short and long term. The role of the Sikhs in the Punjab will be interesting in the absence of the Afghans as well, and we may see the Sikhs form their own state earlier than in OTL. Such an action, however, may prove to be the perfect spur to an Iranian return to the region.
 
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