Mohammad Shah Qajar
Also known as محمد شاه قاجار
Mohammad Shah Qajar
Born 1808
Tabriz, Persia
Died 1848
Tehran, Persia
Title Shahanshah of Persia
Years Active 1834-1848
Predecessor Fath-Ali Shah Qajar
Successor Naser al-Din Shah Qajar
Religion Shia Islam
Mohammad Shah Qajar (born Mohammad Mirza‎‎) (5 January 1808 – 5 September 1848) was king of Persia from the Qajar dynasty (23 October 1834 – 5 September 1848).


Mohammad Shah was son of Abbas Mirza, the crown prince and governor of Azerbaijan, who in turn was the son of Fat′h Ali Shah Qajar, the second Shah of the dynasty. At first, Abbas Mirza was the chosen heir to the Shah. However, after he died, the Shah chose Mohammad to be his heir. After the Shah's death, Ali Mirza, one of his many sons, tried to take the throne in opposition to Mohammad. His rule lasted for about 40 days. Nonetheless, he was quickly deposed at the hands of Mirza Abolghasem Ghaem Magham Farahani, and Mohammad was enthroned.


Politics and Military

After being the shah, Mohammad forgave his uncle Ali. A supporter of Mohammad, Khosrow Khan Gorji, was awarded with the governorship of Isfahan, while Farahani was awarded the position of chancellorship of Persia by Shah at the time of his inauguration. He was later betrayed and executed by the order of the Shah in 1835, at the instigation of Hajj Mirza Aghasi, who would become the Ghaem Magham's successor and who greatly influenced Mohammad's policies. One of his wives, Malek Jahan Khanom, Mahd-e Olia, later became a large influence on his successor, who was their son.

Ghaffari Kashani

Mirza Abolghasem Ghaem Magham Farahani

Unsuccessful Siege of Herat (1838)

Mohammad Shah also tried to capture Herat twice. To try to defeat the British, he sent an officer to the court of Louis-Philippe of France. In 1839, two French military instructors arrived at Tabriz to aid him. However, both attempts to capture the city were unsuccessful. Before the fall of the Persian Safavid Dynasty, Herat was part of the larger Khorasan area of the greater Persian Empire. In 1747, the Afghan Durrani Empire, broke from Persia during a grand council. After a few decades of chaos, Iran was reunited by the Qajars, who made an effort to reconquer Afghanistan. Starting in 1816, Qajar Dynasty managed to capture Herat, but retreated afterwards as there was no military advantage.

In August 1837, Eldred Pottinger (an Anglo-Indian explorer and diplomat) entered Herat in disguise. At this time, Herat was officially held by a Sadozai man named Kamran, though his vizier Yar Mohammed exercised the real political power. Soon there were rumors that a large Persian force, led by the Shah with Russian advisors, was advancing on Herat. Kamran hurried back to his capital and began strengthening its defenses. Pottinger presented himself to Kamran's Vizier, Yar Mohammed, and was accepted as an adviser.

The siege began in November 1837. Fighting was barbaric. Yar Mohammed paid for Persian heads, which were displayed on the ramparts. Pottinger thought this counter-productive since soldiers would stop to cut off heads rather than pursue the enemy. Around the New Year the Persians brought up a huge 8-inch cannon which fired half a dozen times and then collapsed. By January the Persian force reached 40,000 men, but the ring around the city was not complete. Fighting dragged on into the spring and early summer with neither side gaining an advantage. By June 7, 1838, Count Simonich had gained such influence with the Shah that McNeill felt forced to return to Teheran. Simonich cast aside his diplomatic role and took over management of the siege. When Simonich received word of his recall on June 22, his response was to order an immediate assault on the city. On June 24, 1838 the Persians attacked at five points but they only managed to breach the wall at the southeast corner. Fighting ebbed back and forth for an hour. According to Kaye both Pottinger and Yar Mohammed were at the breach encouraging the troops. When Yar Mohammed began to lose courage Pottinger physically drove him forward. Yar Mohammed then rushed like a madman to the hindmost troops and the whole body poured out of the breach and drove the Persians away from the wall.

Slave Trade

Towards the end of Mohammad Shah's short reign, British officials petitioned for a farman or decree against the slave trade. In 1846, the British Foreign Office sent Justin Sheil to Persia to negotiate with the Shah on the slave trade. At first the Shah refused to limit either slavery or the slave trade on the grounds that the Quran did not forbid it and he could not forbid something that the Quran deemed legal. Further the Shah asserted that banning the slave trade would reduce converts to Islam. However, in 1848, Mohammad Shah made a small concession and issued a farman banning the maritime trade of slaves.

Mohammad as Shah

Mohammad Shah

Cultural Trends

Mohammad fell into the influence of Russia and attempted to make reforms to modernize and increase contact with the West. This work was continued by his successor, Nasser-al-Din Shah Qajar, who became known as a very capable leader. These efforts to modernize the country brought about a great interest in photography. Other artwork during this time includes a number of small-scale paintings on lacquer.

During Mohammad's reign, the religious movement of Bâbism began to flourish for the first time. The Persian symbol of The Lion and Sunand a red, white, and green background became the flag at this time.


Mohammad was known to be somewhat sickly throughout his life, and he finally died at the age of 40 of gout.

Family Life

During his reign, Mohammad had 11 children to eight wives, and four more wives with whom he had no children. Seven of his children died in infancy, but among the more notable of the children were:

  • Prince Nasser al-Din Mirza, later Naser-al-Din Shah Qajar (16 July 1831 – 1 May 1896)
  • Prince Abbas Mirza Molkara (27 November 1839 – 14 April 1897)
  • Prince Mohammad Taqi Mirza Rokn ed-Dowleh (1840–1901)
  • Prince Abdol-samad Mirza Ezz ed-Dowleh Saloor (May 1843 – 1929)

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