Sasanian king Kobad, had married a beautiful maiden, who was a descendant of king Faridun. In due course, the queen gave birth to a beautiful boy who was named Khushru. Later he came to be known as Nosherwan Adel.
When Khushru was very young, and his father was still the king, a Syrian man named Mazdak came into Kobad’s court claiming to be a prophet. He had extreme Socialistic ideas. One of his most outrageous ideas was that property and women should be shared by all and there should not be individual right or affiliation to either, as these two give rise to the five vices jealousy, anger, revenge, need and lust. Kobad was highly influenced by Mazdak and appointed him his minister and treasurer. Mazdak made thousands of followers in a short time. Most of them were from the lowest rung of society.
Prince Khushru was not at all impressed by Mazdak and did not want to accept his teachings. Moreover, Mazdak also made a claim on Kobad’s queen, who was Khushru’s mother, which greatly infuriated Khushru. Mazdak complained to the king that his son was not accepting his teachings. On being summoned, Khushru told his father that he would prove Mazdak’s treachery and the hollowness of his teachings in six months. Khushru made several inquiries and prepared to meet Mazdak for an open debate in which he was defeated, his lies were exposed and he was sentenced to death along with his disciples.
Khushru becomes the king
Though Khushru was the fourth and youngest son of king Kobad, he was made the king as he was the wisest and the bravest. Due to his fairness and justice he was known by his two titles – Nosherwan “immortal” and Adel “just.”
His reign was one of the best in Iranian history. The beginning of the games of Chess and Back-gammon were during his reign. Bastan-nameh and Khuda-nameh, books of ancient history on which the Shahnameh was based, were written in his reign.
The justice of Nosherwan
The king announced to his subjects that he was accessible and available to everyone at all times. He sternly warned his officers of dire consequences if they harassed any of his subjects. People started feeling safe in his reign and the country started prospering.
When kings of India, China and Rome came to know about the peace and prosperity in Iran and the might of king Noshirwan, they dreaded him and sent taxes and gifts on time.
The early Sasanian kings used to tax 25 % of the production of the farmers. Noshirwan’s father Kobad had reduced the tax to 10%. Noshirwan abolished the 10% tax and started a new system of taxation which became quite popular.
He levied a very nominal tax based on the area of land tilled by the farmer. In orchards taxation was on the basis of number of trees. The taxes had to be paid in three installments every four months. If the crops failed due to natural reasons, the farmers did not have to pay the tax. He also established a separate ministry for taxation.
Farmers who had land but did not have the money to invest in sowing and cultivation, were given loans by the Agriculture Ministry to buy grains for sowing as well as equipment and cattle for tilling.
Once, king Nosherwan ordered his minister Babak to inspect the army. The following day, Babak asked the army to gather for inspection. However, after the army had gathered, he sent them back. He repeated this behavior on the second and third day too, saying that the assembly was incomplete.
The reason for doing this was that Babak expected the king to come for the inspection since the king being the commander was also a part of the army. The king who watched the proceedings from his palace, realized the reason of Babak’s behavior. The following day, he presented himself before the minister in full battle regalia along with the army. Like other soldiers, he submitted himself to tests of agility and reflexes. Then, on Babak’s command he also collected his wages along with the other soldiers.
After the inspection was over, Babak came to the king and apologized for treating him like a soldier. The king commended the minister and rewarded him for sticking to his duty.
Once the minister of wars told the king that he required more money to recruit new soldiers. The king realised that he had no budget for expenses on soldiers, and to get the money he would have to tax his subjects, which he did not want.
He devised an ingenious plan. He asked his ministers, noblemen and subjects to send their sons for free military training so that in times of war they could be of help and they would not feel helpless when attacked by enemies. They would learn to ride a horse and handle weapons. Everybody liked the idea and so Nosherwan had the biggest army, without having to pay the soldiers or tax the subjects.
King Nosherwan ruled for almost 50 years and died at the age of 89. His fairness and just endeared him to his subjects, and even today people remember him as the most just king of all times.