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SADR. Originally an Arabic honorific, sadr has been used informally since at least the tenth century to denote a prominent member of the `ulama’ (community of religious scholars). It became a more institutionalized title in the late eleventh century, particularly in Islamic Central Asia and Iran. The title became hereditary in certain influential learned families, hence the survival of Sadr as a surname, particularly among Twelver Shi’i Muslims. The title, however, was not originally confined to Shi’i scholars; indeed, it seems to have first emerged in Sunni Hanafi circles, as in, for example, the Al-i Burhan family of Bukhara whose leader was first invested under the Seljuks (c .1105) with the title sadr alsudur (chief sadr)-a position with religious, fiscal, and political aspects.

Sadr as an official religious or political title occurs with significant variation according to regime and period, particularly in late medieval and early modern Iran, India, and Turkey. In early Mughal India, qadis (judges) often held the title of sadr, while the sadr alsudur, initially the chief spokesman of the `ulama’ was the chief qadi and head of the judiciary, often with extraordinary powers. The emperor Akbar’s appointment of six provincial sadrs (c.1581) was probably an attempt to curb the centralized authority of the sadr al-sudur. In Iran, the sadr, already an important religious dignitary under the fifteenth-century Timurid dynasty, was made a political appointee by the first Safavid ruler, Isma`il I (r. 1502-1524), with the double aim of ensuring legitimacy for the new regime and controlling the religious establishment. Thus the sadr’s political influence under the early Safavids was soon curtailed and his role eventually limited to supervision of the waqfs (religious endowments), with some juridical duties. The saddrah (office of sadr) was further weakened by its division into two positions around 1666 that were subordinate to the newly created divdnbagi to whose decisions the two sadrs gave religious sanction. Eventually the sadr’s role in the Safavid polity was eclipsed by that of shaykh al-Islam and the new position of the mullabashi (chief mullah).

Meanwhile, under the nineteenth-century Ottoman Tanzimat (period of reform), the two kazasker (chief judges), who had already come under the jurisdiction of the grand mufti of Istanbul, were given the titles of sadn Rumeli and sadri Anadolu, while other chief qddis were also known by the title of sadr. The title sadr was by no means limited to religious dignitaries, since the chief minister in Safavid and Qajar Iran and in Ottoman Turkey held the title of sadn azam (grand vizier).

The decline of the saddrah as an influential religious institution in Mughal India, Safavid Iran, and Ottoman Turkey, reflects the policies of Muslim rulers. Such rulers sought the legitimacy flowing from the religious establishment, they transformed the `utama’ into official functionaries deprived of economic independence and the respect and support of their less-worldly colleagues and the wider Muslim community. This might explain the eventual rise of independent and more “authentic” `ulama’ (e.g., mujtahids in Iran) capable of criticizing the rulers.


Jackson, Peter, and Laurence Lockhart, eds. The Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 6, The Timurid and Safavid Periods. Cambridge, 1986. See chapter 6 and the index.

Lambton, Ann K. S. “Mahkama: 3. Iran.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed., vol. 6, pp. I I-22. Leiden, 1960-.

Savory, Roger Mervyn. Iran under the Safavids. Cambridge, 198o. Shaw, Stanford J., and Ezel Kural Shaw. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. 2 vols. Cambridge, 1976-19’77.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/sadr/

  • writerPosted On: July 22, 2017
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