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Ismaili History 731 - NURUDDIN ALI (922-957/1516-1550)

His name was Nur-Dahr (the light of the faith), and was also known as Nur-Dahr Khalilullah. His name however in the official list of the Imams appears as Nuruddin Ali. According to another tradition, he was also called Nizar Ali Shah. He mostly resided in Anjudan, and betrothed to a Safavid lady.

Shah Ismail, the founder of the Safavids in Iran died in 930/1524, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Tahmasp, who was ten years and three months old. The Kizilbash took over control of the state and usurped the authority of the new king for a decade. In 940/1533, Shah Tahmasp executed Hussain Khan Shamlu, the most powerful Kizilbash leader, and took over the power. The civil war in Iran had critically paralysed the state and given an unexpected opportunity to the two most formidable enemies of the Safavid state, the Ottoman Turks in the west and the Uzbeks in the east, to strike deep into Safavid territory. Between 1524 and 1538, the Uzbeks, led by the vigorous and martial Obaidullah Khan, launched five major invasions on Khorasan. Even more dangerous were the four full-scale invasions of Iran between 1533 and 1553 by the Ottomans, then at the height of their power under the great sultan Suleman (900-974/1494-1566), known as The Lawgiver, and to the West as The Magnificent. The remarkable thing is not that the Safavids suffered serious losses of territory as a result of these onslaughts, but that they were not overwhelmed. Shah Tahmasp, struggling against discord and disloyalty and treachery in high places, both on the part of Kizilbash chiefs and on the part of his own brothers, managed to hold the Safavid state together for more then half a century.

The Ottoman sultan Suleman launched his incursion in Azerbaijan in 940/1533 against the Safavids. At this critical juncture, a heavy snowfall blanketed the plain of Sultaniyya, where the Ottomans were encamped, and many Turkish soldiers perished from exposure. Sultan Suleman, unable to return on the route by which he had come, because no supplies were to be had in Azerbaijan, and was forced to withdraw through Kurdistan. He however occupied Baghdad. The second round of the Ottoman offensive opened the following year, and was directed by sultan Suleman from Baghdad. A number of engagements were fought at various points between Kurdistan and the Armenian highlands. The third Ottoman inroad occurred in 955/1548, and like the first, was on a massive scale. Shah Tahmasp made his usual preparations to meet the new onslaught. He had the entire area between Tabriz and the Ottoman frontier laid waste, so that no trace of grain or blade of grass remained. The Ottomans once again occupied Tabriz, but their forces soon began to suffer acutely from lack of provisions. When their pack-animals began to die like flies, sultan Suleman again beat the retreat. Shah Tahmasp had already transferred his capital from Tabriz to Qazwin. The fourth and last onslaught by the Ottomans during the reign of sultan Suleman was conducted in 960/1553. Peace was finally signed at Amasya in 962/1555, and Iran obtained a much needed respite from Ottoman inroads.

The Mughal dynasty was begun by Babar, a Chaghatai Turk who originally sought to establish his own state in his native Central Asia. Blocked in Central Asia by the Uzbeks, he established himself in Kabul, and invaded India in 932/1526 from his base in Afghanistan. He thus founded the Mughal empire, and died in 937/1530. He was succeeded by Humayun, who had been repelled by Sher Shah Suri (947-952/1540-1545). Humayun had to take refuge in Iran with Shah Tahmasp. With the aids of Shah Tahmasp, Humayun finally restored his Indian domains after 15 years. Shah Tahmasp spread his influence in India, and tied his relation with Burhan Nizam Shah and Shah Tahir Hussain of Ahmadnagar.

The Ismailis had mostly joined the Safavid army in Khorasan, some of them held high posts. The Safavid retained their relation with the Imam. Nuruddin Ali however advised his followers to be very watchful, because Shah Tahmasp was a man of great cruelty.

Like his father, Nuruddin Ali also used to visit different villages to see and guide his followers. It is related that in Dizbad, once the Ismaili women assembled in a house to weave cotton with Khaki Khorasani, who was yet a boy. Nuruddin Ali happened to come there and entered the room to see his followers. He then went out and mounted his horse. Khaki Khorasani urged the Imam reverently to take him along, but the Imam said, 'When you will be able to pass a comb through your beard, then I will take you with me.' The child made the gesture to touch his beardless face. Nuruddin Ali however took him along, and rode together towards the end of the village, where today from a rock, gushes a spring of Nohesar. They had an intimate conversation, and in the course of which the Imam advised his young disciple to work on the path of God if he would like to achieve his goal for salvation. This incident marked the outset of the poetical and missionary career of Khaki Khorasani.

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