Born in Tehran to Reza Pahlavi and his second wife, Tadj ol-Molouk, Mohammad Reza was the eldest son of the first Shah of the Pahlavi dynasty, and the third of his eleven children. He was born with a twin sister, Ashraf Pahlavi. However, Mohammad Reza, Ashraf, Ali Reza, and their older half-sister, Fatemeh, were born as non-royals, as their father did not become Shah until 1925. Yet Reza Shah was always convinced that his sudden quirk of good fortune had commenced in 1919 with the birth of his son who was dubbed khoshghadam (bird of good omen)
That year British and Soviet forces violated Iranian neutrality and occupied Iran via military invasion, forcing Reza Shah to abdicate. His son, Prince Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, replaced his father on the throne on 16 September 1941. Subsequent to his succession as Shah, Iran became a major conduit for British and, later, American aid to the USSR during the war. This massive supply effort became known as the Persian Corridor, an involvement that would continue to grow until the successful revolution against the Iranian monarchy in 1979.
Much of the credit for orchestrating a smooth transition from Reza Shah to his son was due to the efforts of Mohammad Ali Foroughi. Suffering from angina pectoris, a frail Foroughi was summoned to the Palace and appointed Prime Minister when Reza Shah feared the end of the Pahlavi dynasty once the allies invaded Iran in 1941. When Reza Shah sought his assistance to ensure that the Allies would not put an end to the Pahlavi dynasty, Foroughi put aside his adverse personal sentiments for having been politically sidelined since 1935. The Crown Prince confided in amazement to the British Minister that Foroughi “hardly expected any son of Reza Shah to be a civilized human being” but Foroughi successfully derailed thoughts by the Allies to undertake a more drastic change in the political infrastructure of Iran.
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi is buried in the Al Rifa'i Mosque in Cairo, a mosque of great symbolic importance. The last royal rulers of two monarchies are buried there, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran and King Farouk of Egypt, his former brother-in-law. The tombs lie to the left of the entrance. Years earlier, his father and predecessor, Reza Shah Pahlavi had also initially been buried at the Al Rifa'i Mosque.