ṢADR, Arabic term (“chest, breast, bosom, foremost”; plur. ṣodur) used in the Iranian lands mainly to denote an outstanding person (scholar or otherwise); hence it was also applied as a personal title: (1) initially, for leading religious scholars in Transoxiania (Bosworth, “Ṣadr”); (2) later, also for high administrative dignitaries; (3) as of about 1380 until the end of the 18th century, for the head of the government-appointed religious establishment; and finally (4) for the grand vizier and other dignitaries under the Qajars. The office of ṣadr was known as ṣadārat

Samanids, Ghaznavids, and Saljuqs. Traditionally, scholars in Transoxiania had been the object of great respect and were given Persian honorifics such as dānešmand “wise, learned” or ostād “outstanding” (see Floor, “Ustādh”). As a consequence, it is not surprising that leading members of the religious institution in Transoxianian towns (e.g., Bukhara, Khojand, Samarqand), who also held functions such as raʾis “mayor” (see Bosworth, “Raʾīs”) and ḵaṭib “preacher"(Pedersen), were also honored with the title of ṣadr “pre-eminent.” In Bukhara, the title ṣadr-e jahān “foremost of the world” became hereditary in the 12th-13th-century Āl-e Borhān family. According to Ebn al-Aṯir (Beirut, XII, pp. 257-58; Faṣiḥ Aḥmad, II, p. 282), the high-handed manner of one of them, Moḥammad II b. Aḥmad b. ʿAbd-al-ʿAziz Borhān-al-Din, during the pilgrimage to Mecca in 1207, caused other pilgrims to refer to him as ṣadr Jahannam “foremost of Hell.” Because of their standing in the region, the leading religious personality of the day from the Borhān-al-Din clan would be referred to as ṣadr al-ṣodur (ṣadr of the ṣadrs; Barthold, Turkestan, pp. 15, 326, 353-55; Samʿāni, ed. Margoliouth, pp. 243-46; Naršaḵi, p. 4; tr. Frye, p. 4; for primary information on the family, see Čahār maqāla, notes, pp. 59-65). ʿAbd-alʿAziz Borhān-al-Din even had the title of ṣadr al-emām. These ṣadrs were in close contact with ruling houses, and their eponym, Borhān-al-Din ʿAbd-al-ʿAziz b. Māza, had married the sister of the Saljuqid Sultan Sanjar b. Malekšāh (d. 1157).

The Transoxianian ṣadr families were not only noteworthy for their leading role in religious affairs, but also because of their economic and political power. The latter, when exercised too bluntly and in opposition to the ruler, might lead to execution of the intrepid ṣadr, as in the case of the ṣadr Esmāʿil b. Abi Naṣr Ṣaffār, who was killed by the Qarakhanid Šams-al-Molk (r. 1068-80) in 1069, allegedly because he had “exhorted the Khān to carry out the ordinances of religion and restrained him from things forbidden” (Samʿāni, apud Barthold, Turkestan, p. 316). When the Borhān-al-Dins were ousted from their exalted position by a popular uprising, the family that took over their position also acquired the title of ṣadr-e jahān (Barthold, Turkestan, pp. 316, 320, 360, 379).

Under the Buyids, the term ṣadr does not occur among the titles of officeholders analyzed by Heribert Busse (1969, pp. 250-61). By the 11th century, however, under the Saljuqs and Ḵᵛārazmšāhs,the title of ṣadr was not only used to denote any leading religious scholar, but also to refer to high administrative dignitaries. Royal documents, for example, were addressed to ḵāns, maleks, viziers, ṣadrs, amirs, and other dignitaries. This wider use of “ṣadr” was common, not only in Transoxiania and Khorasan, but also in Azerbaijan (Horst, pp. 17, 100, 106, 110, 113, 166, 168; Minorsky, 1958, p. 117; Masʿud b. Nāmdār, foll. 66b, al-ṣadr al-kabir, 101b, ṣadr-al-Eslām wazir-al-moḥaqqeqin).

Il-khanids. Under the Il-khanids and Jalayerids, the title continued to be accorded to both religious and secular officials. In general, the term ṣadr was used to indicate all dignitaries (Naḵjavāni, II, pp. 12, 13, 17, 38, 78, 85, etc.). The term ṣadr-eaʿẓam was used to address the malek-al-tojjār “principal merchant” (see Gilbar; see also CITIES iii., p. 620), the scribe (kāteb) of the divān or central administration, the vizier, the nawwāb, the wakil-e ḵāṣṣa, and all aʿāẓem or high-ranking dignitaries (Naḵjavāni, I/2, pp. 326, 366, 461, 498). In fact, the term was in such common use that there was great variation in its application (see Table 1).

The honorific ṣadr-e jahān also reappeared, such as in case of Ṣadr-al-Din Aḥmad Ḵāledi Zanjāni, the vizier to several Il-khanids (Ḥabib al-siar III, pp. 129, 135-38, 140, 145-48, 151, 165; Ḵᵛāndamir, pp. 305-12; Ahari, pp. 144-45). The author of the Marḡub al-qolub, Noqawāt al-sādāt, also had the honorific ṣadr-e jahān (Aubin, 1982, p. 213). A leading Mughal official sent to the Uzbeks in 1586/87 also wore the title of Mir Ṣadr-e Jahān (Riazul Islam, II, pp. 212, 214). The term ṣadr was also used to show respect to past great scholars such as Ṣadr-al-Šariʿa Boḵāri (d. 1346/47; ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Samarqandi, I, p. 96; Hedāyat, Rawżat al-ṣafā IV, p. 661, VIII, p. 155; Aubin, 1982, p. 96). The title of ṣadr remained an honorific for important dignitaries until about 1370 (Herrmann, pp. 278-95).

Timurids. At the end of the 14th century, the term ṣadr had acquired a distinct character, denoting the most important religious official in the state, while the qāżi’l-qożāt (chief judge) took second place. The first known appointment of such a ṣadr dates from 1380 for the city of Herat and its districts (Herrmann, pp. 287 f.). The position of ṣadr was one found only in the Persian culture area (e.g, Persia, Central Asia, Mughal India). Under the Timurids as well as under the Qara Qoyunlus and Āq Qoyunlus (q.v.), the ṣadr had become the most important, government-appointed, religious official (Hinz, pp. 115, 134; Minorsky, 1939, pp. 150, 153, 161; Barthold, 1935, p. 153; Herrmann, p. 281; Yazdi, pp. 128, 1234, 171). As such, the ṣadr was the head of all religious offices (manāṣeb-e šariʿat), as well as the person responsible for all pious endowments (mawqufāt). It was therefore stressed that the ṣadr should be a descendant of the Prophet (sayyed), a leading scholar of exemplary behavior, and an experienced administrator. Under the Timurids, the ṣadr was to see to it that pious endowments, both state and private ones, prospered, which also meant that the buildings had to be well looked after. He also was in charge of appointing all kinds of personnel who were needed to manage and operate mosques, madrasas, and the like, such as sayyeds, jurists (foqohāʾ), and Sufi shaikhs, as well as to take care of the poor, the needy, and the orphans. These functions were, furthermore, often shared by more than one person. In addition to a central government ṣadr, there were also provincial ṣadrs under the Timurids, who were not necessarily subordinate to their colleague in the capital city. Ṣáadrs also could have more than one function, sometimes even combining it with that of qāżi or judge(see JUDICIARY; Herrmann, pp. 280-82; ʿAbd-Allāh Morvārid, comm., pp. 144-46; Aubin, 1956, pp. 18, n., 68, 70, n., 72, n.).

Safavids. Under the Safavids, the ṣadr was the most important religious state official. The role of ṣadr under the Safavids was limited to managing the properties, finances, and staff of the religious endowments, and distributing its largesse to the various entitlement holders (ulama, sayyeds, theology students [ṭollāb], the poor), but with the additional task of being chief judicial officer for the religious courts. Although he was the head of the religious institution, the ṣadr was not independent of the Safavid military-political establishment. In fact, he was part of it, even participating in military campaigns. Like other high-ranking state officials under the early Safavids, the ṣadr held the rank of amir. The last amir ṣadr who held office died in 1525. Whether this marked a change in Safavid policy from expansionism toward consolidation, as Roger Savory has it, is unlikely. For we neither observe a change in the function nor in the powers of the ṣadr after that period (Savory, 1960, 1961, 1964).

Savory (1961) concludes that the Safavid religious institution was already independent of the Safavid political system, to which it was nominally subordinate, because the ṣadr had been given the exclusive charge of all matter concerning soyurḡāls (hereditary fiefs exempt from taxation, mostly bestowed upon members of the religious class; see also Mirzā Rafiʿā, 2002, comm., pp. 255-56 and n. 95). Evidence of actual practice, however, does not bear out such a conclusion; besides, the term soyurḡāl used in the text that Savory referred to only concerns waqf property (Savory, 1961, p. 79, n. 10; for more details, see Floor, 1999, p. 60). Nor was the ṣadr the chief protagonist to promote Shiʿism. Some of the early ṣadrs were often Sunnis in disguise. For instance, Mir ʿAbd-al-Bāqi (ṣadr in 1512-13) was the shaikh of the Ne ʿmat-Allāhi order; and Sayyed ʿAbd-Allāh (ṣadr in 1515), was the shaikh of the Ḏahabiya order. Both orders were, to begin with, Sunnite, with friendly leanings towards Shiʿism (Aubin, 1988, p. 92). Therefore, these appointments were of a purely political nature to bolster the Safavid’s regime’s position, in southwestern Persia, and also to get general political support after the defeat in the battle of Čālderān against the Ottomans in 1514 (Aubin, 1988, p. 116).

Provincial ṣadrs also existed under the Safavids, during at least the first nine decades of the 16th century. For example, Amir Ḡiāṯ-al-Din Moḥammad b. Yusof, the ṣadr ofṬahmāsb Mirzā, was ṣadr and governor of Khorasan in 1518 (Ḥabib al-siar IV, p. 576). In 1523, the appointment of the ṣadr of Herat is mentioned (Montaẓáer-e Ṣāḥeb, ed., pp. 612, 618). The ṣadr of Šakki and Šarvān was appointed in Ramażān 957/September 1550, just after that region’s conquest. The local population was ordered to pay the ḵoms and zakāt to him, while the qāżis, the moḥtaseb (market inspector and supervisor of public moral), and the m otaṣaddis (managers of royal gardens and palaces) were appointed and dismissed by him (Musavi, 1977, doc. 1; Todua and Shams, eds., II, p. 254). Khan Aḥmad (see GILĀN v.), the local ruler of Gilān, also appointed as ṣadr a certain ʿAbd-al-Razzāq, who was sent to the Safavid court in 975/1567-68 to express remorse for Khan’s Aḥmad’s behavior (Eskandar Beg, I, p. 112; tr. Savory, I, p. 185). In 1582, Mir ʿAlāʾ-al-Molk Nabi Marʿaši, after having been qāżi-ʿaskar (military judge; see Mirzā Rafiʿā, 2002, comm., pp. 278 ff. with further references), was appointed ṣadr of Gilān, with a soyurḡāl of 20 tomans (Qāżi Aḥmad Qomi, II, p. 724; Eskandar Beg I, p. 146; tr. Savory, I, p. 234, also giving an appreciation of his standing in society; Wāleh Eṣfahāni, p. 415).

The Safavids also continued the Timurid practice of having more than one person hold the function of ṣadr. From 1503 onwards, the function of the central ṣadr was intermittently held jointly by two persons, who were referred to as partners (šarik) or as half-ṣadr (nim-ṣadr); and, as of 1509, the function was always held by sayyeds (Qāżi Aḥmad Qomi, I, p. 296). In 970/1562-63, Shah Ṭahmāsb I (r. 1524-76) divided the jurisdiction of the function into two parts, thus formalizing the usually split function of the ṣadārat office. He appointed one ṣadr for the ḵāṣṣa (crown) and another for the mamālek (state) lands. They were referred to as ṣadr-e ʿāmma and ṣadr-e ḵāṣṣa or as ṣadral-mamālek and ṣadr-e divān (Ḡaffari Qazvini, p. 308). Thus the alleged split of the function in 1606 attributed to Shah ʿAbbās I (r. 1588-1629), or to Shah Solaymān (r. 1666-94) around 1672, was neither correct nor a sign of the weakening of the function of the ṣadr, as Savory and Röhrborn have it. Minorsky, too, was mistaken to state that Solaymān separated the offices into ḵāṣṣa and ʿāmma jurisdictions, as was Kaempfer, who says that this happened in 1670 (Taḏkerat al-moluk, ed. Minorsky, p. 111; Kaempfer, p. 98; Röhrborn, p. 117). The new formal division reflected a territorial, administrative concern, not a religious one, for the jurisdiction of each ṣadr was the same in his own territory. The territorial division between the two ṣadrs changed over time (Floor, 2000b).

It would seem that the ṣadr-e ḵāṣṣa was higher in rank in the second half of the 17th century. Jean Chardin maintained that the ṣadr-e ḵāṣṣa was the more important one of the two and called him the “le grand pontife,” similar to the mofti of the Ottomans, and that he was in charge of the finances of the “church” (Chardin, ed. Langlès, VI, pp. 51, 46). In terms of social standing, however, the distinction between the two ṣadrs was not so clear-cut. The ṣadrs were both entitled nawwāb, and they both sometimes married Safavid princesses. At official functions, both ṣadrs were treated with equal deference (Taḏkerat al-moluk, ed. Minorsky, p. 111; Sanson, p. 13; Kaempfer, pp. 97-98). During the last 100 years of Safavid rule the function was shared between three families that were all related to the Safavids. (For a list of all the holders of the office of ṣadr during the Safavid period see Floor, 2000b.)

One person might hold both functions at the same time, which, as has been already shown, also occurred before the formal division of the function (Kaempfer, p. 98; Taḏkerat al-moluk, ed. Minorsky, pp. 42, 111). It could also happen that the ṣadr-e ḵāṣṣa was qāzi-ʿaskaror nāʾeb-e ṣadr-e mamālek at the same time, as was the case during 1696-1705 (Mirzā Rafiʿā, 1967-68, pp. 64-66; ed. Afšār, pp. 492-93; Ḏabiḥi and Sotuda, pp. 58, 66). It probably could also be the other way around, which may explain why Sanson (p. 15) refers to the ṣadr-e mamālek as the deputy of the ṣadr-e ḵāṣṣa. Sometimes the shah did not appoint a ṣadr at all for a number of years. This happened towards the end of the reign of Shah ʿAbbās II (r. 1642-66; Chardin, ed. Langlès, IX, p. 515). Also, from 1680 onwards, Shah Solaymān took charge of the office of ṣadr-e ḵāṣṣa himself for a number of years, when he had the previous officeholder imprisoned for alleged lèse-majesté (Kaempfer, pp. 98, 104; Kroell, p. 46). The ṣadr was always a religious scholar and, as of 915/1509-10, always a sayyed. This was a departure from pre-Safavid practice, when very few ṣadrs were sayyeds (Herrmann, p. 281).

Judicial tasks. Together with the divānbegi the ṣadr-e mamālek and the ṣadr-e ḵāṣṣa sat in judgement on religious law disputes (Mirzā Rafiʿā, 1968-69, pp. 64-65, 87; ed. Afšār, pp. 492-93, 517; Taḏkerat al-moluk, ed. Minorsky, pp. 42, 111). The role of the divānbegi in judging cases and executing verdicts was preponderant, and gradually the ṣadrs hardly attended the court’s sessions anymore. This subordination of the religious (šarʿi) courts shows the continuation of the practice applied by Muslim states to limit the powers of the ulama (Olearius, p. 674; Modarresi Ṭabāṭabāʾi; Floor, 2000a). Provincial state officials also wanted to make inroads on the prerogatives of the ṣadr, but they were ordered to respect him and not to interfere in his affairs or the execution of his functions (Musavi, 1977, doc. 2).

The ṣadr was in charge of judicial affairs related to religious (šarʿi) law and as such had the sole right to appoint and dismiss judges (qāżis), moḥtasebs, motawallis and other religious officials (Taḏkerat al-moluk, ed. Minorsky, p. 42; Mirzā Rafiʿā, 1968-69, pp. 64-65; ed. Afšār, pp. 492-93; Musavi, 1977, docs. 1, 2; Kaempfer, p. 114; Chardin, ed. Langlès, VI, pp. 49-50). Only in the appointment of judges did the ṣadr share responsibility. The ṣadr had the right to appoint the “chief judges” (qāżi-e koll),while the šayḵ-al-Eslām only appointed the “district judges” (qāżi-e jozw). The ṣadr-e ḵāṣṣa also appointed his deputy or nāʾeb-eṣadr, who assisted him in the management of all ṣadārat-related affairs (Bāfqi, III, pp. 371, 376; Bardsiri, p. 262), and the ṣadr-e ḵāṣṣa’s main provincial deputy was the modarres (Sanson, p. 141). Röhrborn, therefore, is hardly justified in his conclusion that the modarres was, rather, the provincial representative of the ṣadr-e mamālek and that the nāʾeb-e ṣadr was the provincial representative of the ṣadr-e ḵāṣṣa (Röhrborn, p. 69; Taḏkerat al-moluk, ed. Minorsky, p. 42; Chardin, ed. Langlès, VI, p. 62; Mofaḵḵam, doc. 6; Fragner, doc. 8; see further, Floor, 2000b, p. 469).

As overseer of the religious judiciary the ṣadr was called upon to examine the esteḥqāq (legal inheritance rights) of heirs to a soyurḡāl (Jahānpur, doc. 13; Puturidze, no. 29; Ḏabiḥi and Sotuda, docs. 18-19, 32, 37; see also Richard, II, pp. 121-22, 325). He also had to approve changes in aspects of a soyurḡāl deed (Ḏabiḥi and Sotuda, doc. 37). In both these cases the term soyurḡāl was used as a synonym for waqf. His role with regard to religious matters also extended itself to non-Muslims, including members of the European Christian clergy residing in Persia. For example, when the Carmelite monks were granted a certain privilege, the decree was witnessed and sealed by the ṣadr (Mofaḵḵam, pp. 155, 158). Non-Muslims often turned to the ṣadrs’ court in case of conflicts about non-Muslim endowments and property. In addition, the ṣadr also gave to a Christian, who reverted from Islam to his old religion, which the Persians allowed, “an Authentick Certificate for Safety sake, in which he calls them by the name of Apostat” (Chardin, 1927, p. 185; Papaziyan, doc 3; Taḏkerat al-moluk, ed. Minorsky, p. 111). Although the office of ṣadr was not a theological one charged with the preservation of the tenets of Shiʿite Islam, the ṣadr’s court had the exclusive authority to deal with religious personnel. This was not abnormal, because, similarly, army personnel were judged by their chief commander rather than by the divānbegi and his secular (ʿorfi) court (“Moullahs, or Mahometan Priests, are to sue or to be su’d in this Court,” Sanson, p. 144).

The ṣadr as administrator of endowments. Because of the ṣadr’s identification with the management of the pious endowments, he also was known as ṣadr-e mawqufāt (Roemer, p. 146; Chardin, ed. Langlès VI, p. 50). The administration and control of all so-called tafwiżiwaqf property (royal pious endowments), which were endowments granted from ḵāṣṣa property dedicated to the memory of the Fourteen Immaculate Ones (Čahārdah maʿṣum), was in the hands of the ṣadr-e ḵāṣṣa as the head of the divān–al-ṣadāra (Mirzā Rafiʿā, 1968-69, p. 64; ed. Afšār, p. 492). The term tafwiżi (lit. “delegated”) referred to a category of endowments of which the Safavid monarch himself was the nominal superintendent (motawalli) and of which he delegated his authority, in this case to the ṣadr-e ḵāṣṣa as the head of the divān al-ṣadāra (Mirzā Rafiʿā, 1968-69, pp. 64-65; ed. Afšār, pp. 492-93; 2002, comm., pp. 262-63, 601; Taḏkerat al-moluk, ed. Minorsky, p. 42).

The total value of the waqf properties was estimated by Father Raphaël Du Mans at 25,000 tomans, although according to some, he noted, it amounted to 100,000 tomans (Richard, II, p. 323). According to Chardin, the revenues of the ṣadr-e ḵāṣṣa alone amounted to as much as 200,000 tomans (Chardin, ed. Langlès, IX, p. 562; for a discussion of these rather too high estimates of the value of waqf property, see McChesney, pp. 186-87; see also Waḥid Qazvini, p. 223, who mentions an annual revenue of 14,000 tomans). Thus, control over the waqf properties held considerable attraction for the political and religious elites, and the ṣadr appointments often had little to do with religion. For example, the wakils, or vicegerents did their utmost to have their own man chosen, given the economic importance of the function (see e.g., Aubin, 1988, p. 116). At times, the function was even sold to the highest bidder, for it is reported that Mir Ḡiāṯ-al-Din Moḥammad Mir(-e) Mirān Eṣfahāni paid a large amount of money for the ṣadārat (Qāżi Aḥmad Qomi, I, pp. 561, 564). The ṣadr of Herat paid a large bribe (rešwa) to become ṣadr (Montaẓer-e Ṣāḥeb, ed., pp. 612, 618). The function of ṣadr offered substantial opportunity for the accumulation of wealth; and, therefore, it comes as no surprise that those ṣadrs who were dismissed for untoward behavior had to pay heavy fines. Despite the scope for enriching himself, the ṣadr also received various fees for his upkeep. He was, for example, entitled to the rasm al-ṣadāra, which only he was permitted to collect (Qāżi Aḥmad Qomi, I, p. 392). Because the ṣadr also was responsible for the collection of the religious taxes, viz. the zakāt and ḵoms, he received a fee for this trouble as well (Musavi, 1977, doc. 1). In late Safavid times, the ṣadr-e ḵāṣṣa also received an annual sum as madad-e maʿāš (a supplementary subvention; see Floor, 1999, pp. 63 f.; Mirzā Rafiʿā, 1968-69, pp. 65-66, ed. Afšār, p. 493, tr., pp. 76, 588).

Afsharids, Zands, Qajars. The function of head of the religious establishment continued to exist under the Afsharids and Zands, but with a much reduced role presaging its demise (Ṣefatgol, pp. 431-49; Roschanzamir, p, 157). There were also scholars who were honored with titles such as ṣadr-al-ḥokamāʾ and ṣadr-al-motaʾallehin (Hedāyat, Rawżat al-ṣafā VIII, pp. 584-85). The function was abolished in the early Qajar period, probably due to the breakdown of the earlier centralized system and the rise of the role of the mojtaheds (see EJTEHĀD). The early meaning of the title, that is, an outstanding, pre-eminent person, was used in the Qajar period until the end of the dynasty as a prefix to many of the titles awarded to dignitaries (Solaymāni, pp. 95-99). The most important of these titles was that of ṣadr-e aʿẓam, which was given for the first time in 1809 to Mirzā Šafiʿ Māzandarāni, the grand vizier of Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah (r. 1797-1834), “following the rule (qānun) of the Ottoman empire” (Fasāʾi, ed. Rastgār, I, p. 701; see also Athar Ali, “Ṣadr-ı Aʿẓam,” EI ² ).



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July 27, 2005

(Willem Floor)

Originally Published: July 20, 2005

Last Updated: July 20, 2005