Childhood & Early Life
He was born Nader Qoli Beyg, either on August 6, 1698, or on November 22, 1688, in Kobhan/Dastgerd in the Khorasan province, Iran, into a family belonging to the Turkish nomadic tribe of Afshars. The tribe was loyal to the Safavid rulers. His father, Emam Qoli, earned a living by making and selling sheepskin caps and coats. Emam died when Nader was still a child.
At 13, Nader supported himself and his mother by collecting and selling firewood in the market. In 1704, a plundering gang of Uzbek tartars raided the Khorasan province, killing many and taking away several, including Nader and his mother, as slaves. His mother died in captivity, while he managed to escape. He returned to Khorasan in 1708.
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There are different versions regarding the events that happened after Nader’s escape. Some references state that he became a soldier and made rapid progress in the army of a chieftain. It is believed he became a rebel later and formed an army of his own. Another version states that he initially stole for a living and then worked for a Baig, who soon grew unhappy with Nader. Nader then killed the Baig and ran away with his daughter in the hills, where he gathered an army of his own.
A third version states that Nader initially worked for Malek Mahmud, the local Afghan governor of Mashhad, only to rebel later and build his own army.
At the time, the ruling Safavid dynasty of Iran was waning. When the Afghans invaded during 1719, the reigning Shah, Sultan Husayn, could not fight them off. In 1722, Sultan Husayn was defeated by the Afghan leader Mahmud Hotaki/Mahmoud Ghilzai, in the Battle of Gulnabad, and the Afghans besieged the Safavid capital of Isfahan. Some references state that the Afghans massacred the Isfahan people, while others state that the citizens starved to death due to the siege.
After Sultan Husain’s abdication, his son, Shah Tahmasp II, became the ruler. In the beginning, Nader joined the Afghans to drive away the Uzbeks. However, later, he went to work for the Safavid heir Tahmasp II. Nader found out that his army-commander, Fateh Ali Khan (also spelled as Fath Ali Khan), was betraying the Shah and brought this to the notice of the Shah. Soon, Nader was made the chief-of-army in his place. Nader then declared himself the “Tahmasp Qoli” (the “Servant of Tahmasp”).
The Afghan ruler Mahmud Hotaki/Mahmoud Ghilzai was assassinated by his own men in 1725. Following this, his cousin, Ashraf, became the “Shah of Afghans.” Nader led many campaigns against the Afghans. He first removed them from Khorasan. He then recaptured Mashhad in 1726 and fought and won against the Afghans in Herat.
Nader achieved a resounding win against the “Shah of Afghans,” Ashraf, in the Battle of Damghan in September 1729. He secured another win at Murchakhort (in November). Shah Tahmasp made Nader the governor of many provinces and also got his sister married to Nader.
During the Safavid dynasty’s decline, the Ottoman Turks and the Russians had captured parts of Iran/Persia (the ‘Russo-Ottoman Treaty of Constantinople,’ 1724). Nader charged against the Ottomans in 1730 and won back major portions of the land that were earlier seized by the Ottomans. He also spent more than a year controlling the uprising of the Abdali Afghans in Khorasan.
While Nader was away at the battle, Shah Tahmasp, who wanted to emphasize his power, attacked the Ottomans to get back Yerevan. However, he lost the battle and also the territories of Georgia and Armenia. He also lost the territories that Nader had won back. Upset with this, Nader made Tahmasp step down and declared his infant son, Abbas III, the “Shah,” with Nader himself as his regent.
Between 1730 and 1735, during the Ottoman-Persian war, Nader conquered all the lost territories and drove away the Ottomans and the Russians from Persia. The only battle that he could not win was the battle to capture Baghdad, in which the Ottoman general Pasha subjugated Nader’s army. Later, Nader overpowered Pasha and killed him. He also won a major battle at Baghavard.
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By then, Nader had all the power and decided to declare himself the “Shah.” On March 8, 1736, Nader was crowned the “Shah of Iran.”
Although, reportedly, Nader was not particularly religious, during his reign, he unsuccessfully tried to bring the Shia and Sunni factions together. He probably did this because his army had soldiers from both the sects, and he wanted to maintain a peaceful and large army.
The Mughal Empire in India was on the decline. Nader’s enemies, the Afghans, were hiding in India. Thus, Nader charged on the Indian Empire in 1738–1739. In an excellently thought-out military attack, he led a small troop through the narrow Khyber Pass and startled the army of the governor of Peshawar, conquering their large forces. After conquering Ghazni, Lahore, Kabul, Peshawar, and Sindh, on February 13, 1739, he took on the large army of Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah at the Battle of Karnal.
Nader massacred thousands of Indians. He was furious because his 900 men were killed by Indians after a rumor of Nader’s assassination. He plundered the rich treasures of the Mughals and reportedly took away 700 million rupees, the famous be-jeweled ‘Peacock Throne,’ and innumerable jewels, including the precious ‘Koh-i-Noor’ diamond. He took away hundreds of elephants and thousands of camels and horses, too.
It is believed, after the loot, He did not collect any taxes from the Persian subjects for 3 years. The money also funded his campaigns against the Ottomans. Before his return from India, Nader’s son killed Tahmasp II and his sons in 1740. Subsequently, Nader conquered Transoxania. He also built a navy for Iran. In 1743, he conquered Oman.
Later, Nader began suffering from serious health issues. It became difficult for his subjects to tolerate his greedy and cruel ways. He levied heavy taxes to pay for his large army. Those who did not pay taxes had to face the death penalty. With his selfish, greedy ways, he was not concerned about the welfare of his country.
After a failed assassination attempt, he became suspicious and paranoid. He suspected that his eldest son had tried to assassinate him. Thus, he had him blinded. Following this, he began executing his court nobles who had witnessed the blinding of his son, one by one. Nader became increasingly cruel and mercilessly killed those who revolted.
Nader went to Khorasan in 1747, to suppress the revolt of the Kurds. Because of his cruel, paranoid attitude, his own officers were afraid to be around him. A group of his commandos conspired and attacked him when he was sleeping. He managed to kill two of them before they assassinated him.
Not much is known about Nader’s personal life, except that he had married four times and had five sons and 15 grandsons.