ŻIĀʾ-AL-SALṬANA, Šāh Begom (1799-1873), seventh daughter of Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah Qajar (r. 1797-1834), private secretary to him, calligrapher and poet. Her mother, Maryam Khanom, the shah’s thirty-ninth wife, was of Jewish origin and had previously been married to Āḡā Moḥammad Khan Qajar (Lesān-al-Molk, I, p. 555; Ḵāvari, II, p. 986; Ażod-al-Dawla, p. 33; Bāmdād, IV, p. 51). Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana had one full sister, Solṭān Begom, and four full brothers, Maḥmud Mirzā, Homāyun Mirzā, Aḥmad-ʿAli Mirzā and Jahānšāh Mirzā (see MARYAM KHANOM and FATH-ʿALI SHAH). Of Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana’s four full brothers, the eldest, Maḥmud Mirzā (1799-1835), was the most accomplished.

Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah doted on his seventh daughter, Šāh Begom. He paid particular attention to her education, gave her the title Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana, ‘light of the realm’ and had her raised by his mother, Āsia Khanom, the Mahd-e ‘Olyāʾ (Ḵāvari, II, p. 1012; Ażod-al-Dawla, p. 33). When Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah’s mother died, all her valuables, jewellery and cosmetics were given to Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana (Ḵāvari, II, p. 1012; Ażod-al-Dawla, p. 33). Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana acted as her father’s personal secretary, or Monši-al-mamālek-i andarun, and all his private letters were written in her hand (Ażod-al-Dawla, pp. 33 and 175; Lesān-al-Molk, I, p. 547; Ḵāvari, II, pp. 932 and 1012; Mošir Salimi, p. 308). She also controlled the signing and sealing of the royal decrees of the harem (farāmin-e andarun (Ḵāvari, II, p.1012; Mošir Salimi, p. 308; see also HAREM ii; ANDARUN; FARMĀN). She was intimately involved in the financial running of the harem and the distribution of monies to younger princes, and worked closely with the meticulous Golbadan Bāji Khanom, Ḵāzen-al-Dawla and her assistants, Ḵayr-al-Nesāʾ Khanom and Mirzā Maryam, in monitoring withdrawals of gold and jewelry from the royal treasury (Mošir Salimi, p. 308; Masʿud Anṣāri, pp. 23-24; Ażod-al-Dawla, pp. 31-32). Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana was often to be found in her father’s presence, whether in Tehran or when traveling outside of the capital (Ḵāvari, II, pp. 1011-12; Ażod-al-Dawla, p.34; Masʿud Anṣāri, p. 22). Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah decreed that Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana be given separate living quarters beyond the confines of the harem, with her own stables and farrāšḵāna, and her own ‘vizier’, Šaʿbān-ʿAli Khan (Ażod-al-Dawla, p. 33; Mošir Salimi, I, pp. 307-308). As the shah’s favorite daughter, every year Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana organized the festivities in the royal palace to celebrate her father’s birthday (Ażod-al-Dawla, p. 34). Just as she was trusted by her father, so Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana was respected by her brothers and sisters who were aware of the influence she had with the shah (Ḵāvari, II, p. 1013).

It was Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana who recited poems composed in praise of the shah sent to the court by contemporary poets, and it was she who recorded many of her father’s poems in writing (Ḵāvari, II, p. 1012; Ażod-al-Dawla, p. 34; Mošir Salimi, p. 308). Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah and ʿAbbās Mirzā both composed short poems in praise of Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana, who was an accomplished poet in her own right (Ażod-al-Dawla, pp. 34 and 124; Mošir Salimi, pp. 306-10; Bāmdād, IV, p. 78). Maḥmud Mirzā authored a number of significant anthologies of early Qajar poetry, including a lesser known work, Noql-e majles, an anthology of contemporary Qajar women’s poetry, which Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana asked him to write (Maḥmud, I, introd.; Golčin-e Maʿāni, Taḏkerahā., I, pp. 137-49, 728-36; II, pp. 392-93; for printed extracts from the Noql-e majles, see Mošir Salimi, pp. 257, 307-308).

Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana was also a skilled painter, musician and embroiderer, but it was as a calligrapher that Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana excelled (Ḵāvari, II, p. 1012; Ażod-al-Dawla, p. 33; Mošir Salimi, p. 308; Masʿud Anṣāri, p. 22). She was taught initially by her brother Maḥmud Mirzā, but was later tutored by Mirzā ʿAbbās Nuri (d. 1839, father of Mirzā Ḥosayn-ʿAli, B ahāʾ-Allāh) surnamed Mirzā Bozorg by the shah (Nuri, p. 207). It has been suggested that Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana married Mirzā ʿAbbās Nuri and then divorced him in a plot with Ḥāji Mirzā ʿAbbās Āqāsi to ruin him financially, although there is not sufficient evidence to support this claim (Nuri, pp. 207-208; Balyuzi 1980, pp. 14-18). Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana wrote a number of Qurʾans. One Qurʾan is now kept in the Qom Holy Shrine Museum (A żod-al-Dawla, p. 33; Mošir Salimi, p. 308; Bāmdād, IV, p. 76).

Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana had numerous suitors from among the Qajar nobility, and although she did not marry during her father’s lifetime, she was engaged briefly to her paternal cousin, Ḥosaynqoli Khan (see ḤOSAYNQOLI KHAN SARDĀR-E IRAVĀNI), son of Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah’s brother of the same name (Ḵāvari, II, pp. 1012-13 and 1158; Ażod-al-Dawla, p. 34; Eʿteẓād-al-Salṭana, p. 441). Upon her father’s death, she pleaded with her nephew, M oḥammad Shah, to be allowed to live out her days in celibacy, in her own quarters. The shah did not agree and instead forced her (by threat of execution) to marry (Masʿud Anṣāri, p. 24; Bāmdād, IV, p. 77). He suggested to his aunt she marry the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mirzā Masʿud Anṣāri Garmrudi (1790-1848), this she did in 1835 at the advanced age of thirty-seven (Ḵāvari, II, p. 1013; Ażod-al-Dawla, p. 34). As a sign of respect, Moḥammad Shah visited his aunt on the night of her wedding and all the princes accompanied her from the palace to Mirzā Masʿud’s house (Ażod-al-Dawla, p. 34). Ḥājji Mirzā Āqāsi and Mir Moḥammad Mahdi, Tehran’s emām-e jomʿa presided over the marriage, and negotiated a dowry of some 50,000 tomans (Ażod-al-Dawla, pp. 34-35; Masʿud Anṣāri, pp. 25-26). Mirzā Masʿud, son of Mirzā ʿAbd-al-Raḥim Anṣāri and cousin of Mirzā Saʿid Khan, Moʾtamen-al-Molk, was first appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs by Moḥammad Shah in 1835, a position he held until 1838 and once again from 1845 to 1848 (Eʿteẓād-al-Saltana, p. 441). He was the first Iranian official to master French, a distinction that gained him entry into the entourage of ʿAbbās Mirzā (Bāmdād, IV, pp. 75-76). Masʿud acted as translator and personal secretary to ʿAbbās Mirzā, and was an important member of the delegation headed by Ḵosrow Mirzā which was sent to Russia following the murder of the Russian Ambassador, Alexander Griboedov in Tehran in 1829. Mirzā Masʿud wrote a history of the life of ʿAbbās Mirzā, part of which was published together with Bahāʾ-al-Molk’s Safar-nāma-ye Ḵosrow Mirzā (pp. 1-3; see also Masʿud Anṣāri, pp. 12-15; Bāmdād, IV, p. 75; Amanat, pp. 76, 97, 100). Mirzā Masʿud died in 1848 and was buried in Najaf.

Mirzā Masʿud and Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana had four children, two daughters and two sons (Ḵāvari,. II, pp. 1150-51). Their elder son, Mirzā Ḥasan Khan, Nāyeb-al-Wezāra (1839-1906), worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran and was later appointed consul at Astrakhan and Erzurum (Momtaḥen-al-Dawla, p. 96; Masʿud Anṣāri, p. 2). His son, ʿAliqoli Khan, Mošāwer-al-Mamālek (1868-1940), was first appointed Persia’s Foreign Minister in 1916 (see ʿALI-QOLI KHAN). Mirzā Ḥasan’s younger brother, Mirzā Ḥosayn Khan, Meṣbāh-al-Salṭana (b. 1843), also worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran and was later posted to Bombay (Momtaḥen-al-Dawla, pp. 96-97).

Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana’s eldest daughter, Šahanšāh Begom, known as Āḡā Jān (ca. 1836-1917), married Mirzā Moḥammad Hāšem Qāẓi Ṭabāṭabāʾi (d. 1864) (Torābi Ṭáabāṭabāʾi, pp. 186-89, 202-207 and 411). Of their three daughters, the eldest, Āḡā Šahzāda (1850-ca. 1910), married Sayyed ʿAbd-Allāh Enteẓām-al-Salṭana (d. 1892), son of Mirzā Musā Wazir (1783-1865) and younger brother of Mirzā ʿIsā Wazir (d. 1892) (Bāmdād, II, p. 514; IV, p. 164). A few months prior to his death, Enteẓām-al-Salṭana was appointed Tehran’s chief of police (Bāmdād, II, pp. 282-3). Enteẓām-al-Salṭana’s grandsons, ʿAbd-Allāh (1895-1983) and Naṣr-Allāh (1899-1980) Enteẓām, rose high in the service of the Pahlavi state (see ENTEẒĀM, and NAṢR-ALLAH). Both Enteẓām-al-Salṭana and Āḡā Šahzāda were prominent members of the Tehran Bahāʾi community, and they succeeded in converting Šahanšāh Begom and her youngest daughter, ʿAḏrāʾ Khanom, known as Żiāʾ-al-Ḥajjiya (1861-1924), to the new religion (Balyuzi 1985, p. 173; Aṣdaq, p. 36; Brookshaw, pp. 21-22). Both Āḡā Šahzāda and her sister received numerous tablets (alwāḥ) from Bahāʾ-Allāh and his son, ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ (Bahāʾ-Allāh, pp. 235-300; Aṣdaq, pp. 13, 20, 36; Brookshaw, passim). Soon after converting (ca. 1884), Żiāʾ-al-Ḥājjiya married the prominent Bahāʾi (see BAHAI FAITH) teacher (moballeḡ) Ebn Aṣdaq (1850-1928).

After the birth of her children, Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana performed the pilgrimage to Mecca (ḥajj) and went on pilgrimage to the shrines of the Imams in Najaf, Karbalāʾ and Mashad (Ḵāvari, II, p. 1013; Ażod-al-Dawla, p. 195). During the reign of Moḥammad Shah, Żiāʾ-al-Salṭana appears to have retained some of her influence in the running of the royal treasury and was one of the shah’s few paternal aunts allowed to sit in his presence (Ażod-al-Dawla, pp. 192 and 248-49; Masʿud Anṣāri, p. 24). She died in 1873 aged 76 and was buried in a room of the house she owned in Karbalāʾ.


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(Dominic Parviz Brookshaw)

Originally Published: August 15, 2006

Last Updated: December 29, 2014

Cite this entry:

Dominic Parviz Brookshaw, “ŻIĀʾ-AL-SALṬANA,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2014, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/zia-al-saltana (accessed on 20 September 2016).