ḠAFFĀRI QAZVINI, AḤMAD (احمد غفاری قزوینی, b. Qazvin; d. Debal, Sindh, 975/1568), 16th-century Persian scribe and historian who authored two universal histories and dedicated them to Shah Ṭahmāsp Ṣafavi (r. 1524-76).     

Life.  Aḥmad Ḡaffāri came from a family of scholars and bureaucrats in Qazvin. They were descendants of the reputed Šāfeʿi Sunni jurist and scholar, Najm-al-Din ʿAbd al-Ḡaffār Qazvini (d. 665/1266), who had authored the al-Ḥāwi al-ṣaḡir fi’l-foruʿ, a widely used textbook of the Šāfeʿi jurisprudence (Ḥāji Ḵalifa, I, cols. 625-27; Modarres, III, p. 141; Algar).  Ḡaffāri’s paternal grandfather, ʿAbd-al-Ḡaffār, held the post of army judge (qāżi-e moʿaskar) under the Āq Qoyunlu, hence the nesba Ḡaffāri (Ḡaffāri, 1964, p. 253). Therefore, John E. Woods is wrong when he claims that the family’s nesba was Ḡefāri, suggesting that they claimed descent from Abu Ḏarr Ḡefāri, the reputed companion of the prophet Moḥammad (Woods, p. 291). According to a 16th-century taḏkera, Aḥmad Ḡaffāri’s father, Moḥammad (d. 932/1525), was a cousin of the influential late Āq Qoyunlu grand vizier, Qāżi ʿIsā b. Šokr-Allāh Sāvaji (d. 896/1491), and served as chief judge of Rayy under Shah Esmāʿil (r. 907-30/1501-24). Moḥammad Ḡaffāri, who composed poetry under pen name Weṣāli, is reported to have been paid an annual salary of twelve tumāns in his capacity as chief judge of Rayy (Ṣafavi, pp. 73-74).

Aḥmad Ḡaffāri settled into a scribal career under Shah Ṭahmāsp. He excelled in his job as a court scribe and eventually ended up working for Shah Ṭahmāsp’s younger brother, Prince Sām Mirzā (Ṣafavi, p. 74). It was during the years in service of Sām Mirzā that Ḡaffāri wrote the Tāriḵ-e negārestān and dedicated it to Shah Ṭahmāsp. Later in the reign of Shah Ṭahmāsp, Ḡaffāri traveled to the Hejaz as a hajj pilgrim. In 975/1568, he left Hejaz for Mughal India, but while on his way to Agra, he died in the port city of Debal in the province of Sindh located near modern Karachi, Pakistan (Rāzi, fol. 229v).            

Works. Tāriḵ-e negārestān. This is a universal history and consists of more than six hundred historical anecdotes highlighting the administrative skills and military feats of scores of kings, military conquerors, prophets, and high-ranking bureaucrats. Ḡaffāri finished it in Ramażān 959/September 1552 (Ḡaffāri, 1961, p. 350). The Tāriḵ-e negārestān concludes with an anecdote detailing the arrest and execution of the Timurid prince Abu Saʿid by the Āq Qoyunlu troops of Uzun Ḥasan (r. 857-82/1453-78) on 22 Rajab 873/5 February 1469. It is organized into the preface, more than six hundred historical anecdotes and tales, and a brief epilogue, wherein Ḡaffāri praises Shah Ṭahmāsp as precursor of the Hidden Imam, relating the Safavid monarch to the prophecy made in the Qorʾān that “the earth will be inherited by My righteous servants” (21:105).

The Tāriḵ-e negārestān was compiled with the objective of providing Shah Ṭahmāsp and other members of the Safavid royal family with an educational text on the lessons of history. In the preface, Ḡaffāri tells us that he decided to compose the Tāriḵ-e negārestān based solely on anecdotes and historical tales, so that his readers could have a better understanding of the rise and fall of dynasties without being obliged to get the drift of a dull, lengthy narrative line (Ḡaffāri, 1961, pp. 3-4). He also cites the titles of more than forty universal histories, court chronicles, local histories, and biographical dictionaries of poets as the primary sources on which the Tāriḵ-e negārestān is based.

In 976/1569, an illuminated and illustrated copy of the Tāriḵ-e negārestān was prepared in Iran. This decorated copy is now in the Walters Art Museum, and a description of it is available online (Walters Ms. W.598, History of Nigaristan). The Tāriḵ-e negārestān was first printed as a lithograph in Bombay in 1859. In the opening years of the 17th century, the Ottoman Sufi and religious scholar, Altıparmak Mehmed Efendi (d. 1033/1623-24), translated it into Turkish as Nüzhet-i cihan ve nâdire-i zaman. Two copies of Mehmed Efendi’s translation are now kept in the Süleymaniye Library and the Yenicami Library in Istanbul (Karaismailoğlu, p. 542). Another Turkish translation of the Tāriḵ-e negārestān was prepared in the 17th century by the Ottoman Šayḵ-al-eslām and poet Zekeriyyâzâde Yahyâ Efendi (d. 1053/1644; Kaya, p. 246). The Tāriḵ-e negārestān was one of the most popular titles in the field of history in pre-modern Iran. More than one hundred manuscripts of this volume are described and catalogued in various libraries in Iran (Darāyati, X, pp. 812-15).       

Nosaḵ-e jahānārā. This is a universal history that chronicles the history of Abrahamic prophets and pre-Islamic and Islamic dynasties of Iran, Mesopotamia, Greece, Yemen, and Central Asia, up until the reign of Shah Ṭahmāsp. It is organized into three parts (nosḵa). The first part deals with the prophets. The second part is about the pre-Islamic Iranian (ʿajam) and the non-Iranian (ḡayr-e ʿajam) Islamic-era dynasties of Iran and its neighboring lands. In the last part, Ḡaffāri focuses his narrative on the Safavids. The closing part has an annalistic framework, wherein Ḡaffāri chronicles each year’s events separately.   

Besides its historiographical value as a primary source on the history of local dynasties of Iran, the special importance of Ḡaffāri’s chronicle lies in its coverage of the Āq Qoyunlu and the early Safavids. He narrates a detailed account of the Āq Qoyunlu period, providing the dates of all major events during the years leading up to Shah Esmāʿil’s rise to power. When dealing with the early Āq Qoyunlu, Ḡaffāri draws primarily on Abu Bakr Ṭehrāni’s Ketāb-e Diyārbakriya, and concerning the late Āq Qoyunlu, he uses details supplied by his father and grandfather, who both worked for the Āq Qoyunlu and early Safavid bureaucracies (Woods, p. 222). 

A good deal of Ḡaffari’s account of the lives and times of Shaikh Ṣafi-al-Din Esḥāq Ardabili (d. 735/1334) and his immediate successors is based on the Ṣafwat-al-ṣafā, a biography by Ebn Bazzāz Ardabili of Shaikh Ṣafi-al-Din, the founder of the Ṣafaviya Sufi order. His account of Jonayd, a patrilineal descendant of Shaikh Ṣafi-al-Din, and his son Ḥaydar is garbled and, given what we know about their careers as military chiefs and spiritual leaders of the Ṣafaviya Sufi order from Ḥayāti Tabrizi’s chronicle, the Nosaḵ-e jahānārā suffers from major historical gaps and narrative inconsistences. Ḡaffāri’s account of the first two Safavid monarchs ends sub anno 972/1564-65. Ḡaffāri’s chronicle was first published in Tehran in 1964 under a new title as the Tāriḵ-e jahānārā.          




Moṣṭafā b. ʿAbd-Allāh Ḥāji Ḵalifa, Kašf al-ẓonun, ed. M. Şerefettin Yaltkaya and Rifat Kilsili Bilge, 2 vols., Istanbul, 1941-43.

Aḥmad Ḡaffāri Qazvini, Tāriḵ-e jahānārā, Tehran, 1964.

Idem, Tāriḵ-e negārestān, lithograph edition, Bombay 1859; ed. Mortażā Modarres Gilāni, Tehran, 1962; tr. Altıparmak Mehmed Efendi as Nüzhet-i cihan ve nâdire-i zaman, MS 773 Reîsülküttâb Mustafa Efendi, Süleymanye Library; MS 907, Yenicami, Istanbul.

Amin b. Aḥmad Rāzi, Haft eqlim, MS 9059, Majles Library, Tehran.

Sām Mirzā Ṣafavi, Taḏkera-ye toḥfa-ye Sāmi, ed. Moḥammad-Ḥasan Waḥid Dastgerdi, Tehran, 1936.

Studies and catalogues. 

Hamid Algar, “al-Ḳazwīnī,” in EI2 IV, 1978, pp. 864-65. 

Moṣṭafā Darāyati, Fehrestvāra-ye dastnevešthā-ye Irān, 12 vols., Tehran, 2010. 

Adnan Karaismailoğlu, “Altıparmak Mehmed Efendi,” in TDV İslâm Ansiklopedisi II, 1998, p. 452. 

B. A. Kaya, “Zekeriyyâzâde Yahyâ Efendi,” in TDV İslâm Ansiklopedisi XLIII, 2013, pp. 245-46.

Moḥammad-ʿAli Modarres, Rayḥānat al-adab, 8 vols. in 4, Tehran, 1995. 

John E. Woods, The Aqquyunlu: Clan, Confederation, Empire, Salt Lake City, 1999.

(Kioumars Ghereghlou)

Originally Published: June 28, 2016

Last Updated: June 28, 2016

Cite this entry:

Kioumars Ghereghlou, “ḠAFFĀRI QAZVINI, AḤMAD,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2016, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ghaffari-qazvini (accessed on 28 June 2016).