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Nourmamadchoev, Nourmamadcho (2015) The Ismāʿīlīs of Badakhshan: History, Politics and Religion from 1500 to 1750. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis concentrates on the history, politics and religion of Badakhshan in a broader perspective and the place of the Ismāʿīlī minority in this setting. It analyses the political, religious, and cultural life of the region within the wider historical context of Central Asia and the Persianate world from 905/1500 to 1163/1750. Its main focus is the scattered Ismāʿīlī communities in Badakhshan and the Pamir principalities. The thesis addresses the question of impact of politics on religion and religious communities, particularly the Shīʿa and Ismāʿīlī minority groups in Badakhshan. Part One, The Geography and People of Badakhshan, includes Chapter 1, which describes the geography of the region and its ethnic composition. It seeks to discuss the complexity of the geographical and political borders through the prism of the nineteenth century “Great Game” and apply it to medieval and pre-modern Islamic societies. Thus, it contextualises the overall presentation and conceptualises the interrelations between geography, politics and religion. Part Two is entitled The Political History of Badakhshan; it comprises Chapters 2, 3 and 4. Chapter 2, The Mīrs and Shāhs of Badakhshan: the Politics of Rule, explores the origin and rule of the local dynasty of mīrs and shāhs of Badakhshan. It will explore the reigns of the local mīrs and shāhs and seek to find the link between the rulers from the time of Nāṣir-i Khusraw (second half of the eleventh century) to the execution of the last local ruler of Badakhshan by the Tīmūrids in the second half of the fifteenth century. An attempt will be made to give the name and when possible the genealogy of local rulers during this period. Given the fragmentary nature of the available information, the discussion in this chapter will be more speculative than conclusive. Chapter 3, The Political History of Badakhshan from 1500 to 1658, discusses the change of political control over the region from the local rulers to the invading powers, such as the Tīmūrids, the Shaybānids and later on the Tūqāy-Tīmūrids. I have made an attempt to demonstrate the relationship between the last Tīmūrids and Mughals, their struggle for retaining control over Mā warā al-nahr, and the place of Badakhshan in the broader context of political discourse in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. The chapter also explores and analyses the role and influence of the Mughal Emperors on the religious and political life of Badakhshan. Chapter 4, The Rule of the Yāribeg Khānid Dynasty in Badakhshan, is a new chapter in the history of Badakhshan. It charts the rise of Mīr Yāribeg Khān, and the establishment in power of the Yāribeg Khānid (or Yārid) dynasty that brought relative peace to the region. Despite the fact that the descendants of Mīr Yāribeg Khān ruled Badakhshan for over two centuries, our discussion ends with the succession disputes that became the cause of disorder and internal conflict in the region, particularly with the accession to power of Mīrzā Nabāt who ruled the region from 1149/1737 to 1160/1742. Part Three, Ismāʿīlism in Badakhshan, is devoted to the study of the religious composition of the region and comprises Chapters 5, 6, 7 and 8. Chapter 5, The Daʿwat-i Nāṣir: the Ismāʿīlī Mission in Badakhshan examines the spread of Ismāʿīlī teaching in Badakhshan and the Pamir principalities. This chapter also investigates the activity of the Ismāʿīlī daʿwa in the region and the adjoining territories. It will explore the limits of myth and legend and the transition to historical presentation through the figure of Nāṣir-i Khusraw, also referred to as Pīr Shāh Nāṣir, who is considered the founder of the local Ismāʿīlī communities. In line with the historical representation, this chapter will define such concepts as the daʿwat-i Nāṣir and the dīn-i panjtanī, two distinctive terms used by the Ismāʿīlīs of Badakhshan to identify their religious persuasion and later their allegiance to the Ismāʿīlī cause. Chapter 6, Schism and its Effect on the Daʿwat-i Nāṣir, investigates the continuation of the Ismāʿīlī tradition in the post-Alamūt period, particularly after the split between the Muḥammad-Shāhīs and the Qāsim-Shāhī Nizārīs, which saw the local Ismāʿīlīs choosing to follow the line of the Muḥammad-Shāhī Imams. The theme of this chapter is to explore and investigate the transition from one branch of Nizārī Ismāʿīlism, namely the Nizārī Muḥammad-Shāhī line, to another, the Nizārī Qāsim- Shāhī line of Imams. Chapter 7, The Role of Pīrs: Religious Authority among the Ismāʿīlīs of the Pamir, delves into the most complex theme of the activity of the Ismāʿīlī daʿwa in Badakhshan and the Pamir principalities. The discussion revolves around elaborating on the notion of the pīr and the institution of pīrship among the Badakhshani Ismāʿīlīs. The aim of this chapter is to analyse the arrival of the four darvīshes and place them in a proper or approximate historical epoch. I shall concentrate on the figure of Shāh Khāmūsh and his arrival in Shughnān. This Chapter will also explore the activity of ancillary figures in the retinues of pīrs, such as hādī, rāhī and khalīfa who played a crucial role in the preservation of the Ismāʿīlī tradition. Chapter 8, the last chapter in the thesis, will discuss the tradition of Charāgh-rawshan. The focus of this chapter is the text of Charāgh-nāma, which will be deconstructed and a detailed analysis on the text will be given. I shall explore and analyse the general Islamic origin of the relevant ritual, as conveyed through verses from the Qurʾān. The succeeding sections will probe the amalgamation of Ṣūfī texts with the text of the Charāgh-nāma. They will also explore the influence of Twelver Shīʿism on this particular text and related ritual practice. This section will conclude with an attempt to differentiate between the Ismāʿīlī and non-Ismāʿīlī elements, which sometimes overlap, within the text of the Charāgh-nāma. The Afterword summarises some of the findings of this study and provides a tentative periodization of the political history of Badakhshan. I shall also pose some questions for future studies of the Ismāʿīlīs of Badakhshan both from the historical and from contemporary perspectives.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Konrad Hirschler
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2022 17:24

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