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Thread: Safavids, Iran and Shi'ism1884 days old

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    Default Safavids, Iran and Shi'ism

    In this post, I would like to examine the history of the Safavid Empire and its importance to Iran. A lot of misinformation has been propagated by a lot of different groups. So I think it would interesting to examine the history of the most important Dynasty that ruled Iran after the Islamic conquest of Iran.

    To start things out, I will post a few paragraph on paper done by Bernard Lewis. He wrote a paper in 2001 and examined the history of Iran post Islamic conquest. Here are some excerpts.

    "For at least a millennium, Iran has been associated with Islam, and in the more recent centuries with Shi'ite Islam, which some have seen as an expression, a reappearance of the Persian national genius in an Islamic disguise. Some have gone even further-nineteenth-century European writers like Gobineau claimed to see the triumph of Shi'ism as the resurgence of the Aryanism of Iran against the Semitism of Islam. Such ideas are rather discredited nowadays, though they were popular at one time, and still have their adherents.The difficulty about such theories is that Shi'ism, like Islam itself, was brought to Iran by Arabs. The first Shi'ites in Iran-and for a long time this remained so-were Arabs. Shi'ism was reintroduced and imposed by the Safavids many centuries later, and they, I would remind you, were Turks. Until then Iran was a largely Sunni country. But no doubt that with the establishment of the Shi'ite Safavid state a new era began, one of a distinctively Iranian Shi'ite character.


    The accession of the Safavids marks a new era in Persian history and the establishment, for the first time in many centuries, of a unified dynastic state. The Safavids brought certain important new features. One I have already alluded to-unity. Under the first Arab conquerors the whole of Iran was under one rule, that of the Caliphs situated in Medina, then in Damascus, then in Baghdad.


    But with the break-up of the Caliphate, Iran broke up into its various regions, under local rulers of one kind or another. The Safavids for the first time created a united realm of Iran, more or less within its present frontiers-not just diverse regions, Pars and Khurasan and the rest of them, but a single realm with a single ruler. It has remained so ever since, in spite of the immense ethnic diversity which characterizes that country to the present day.


    If you look, for example, round the periphery, starting in the north-west, you have the Turkish-speaking Azarbaijanis. To the south of them are Kurds, to the south of them are more Turks, the Qashqais, to the south of them, in Khuzistan are Arabs, in the south-east the Baluchis and then the Turkmen. These form a periphery, all around the center, of peoples speaking different non-Persian languages. Nevertheless, the culture of the Persian language and the distinctive Shi'ite version of Islam helped to maintain the unity that was imposed by the Safavids and maintained by their successors.


    Shi'ism brought a second important feature, and that is differentiation from all the neighbors: from the Ottomans in the west, from the central Asian states in the north-east, from the Indian-Muslim states in the south-east. Practically all of these were Sunni states. True, Persian was used as a classical language, a literary language and even at times a diplomatic language by all three neighbors, the Ottomans, the Central Asians, and the Indians. But the crucial difference between the Sunni and Shi'ite realms remained.


    Another interesting development of the period, particularly under the late Safavids and their successors, is the emergence of the notion of Iran. I have been using the terms Persia and Persians, to speak of the land and the people, as was customary in Western languages until recently. The name Iran is ancient, but its current use is modern. We first find the word in ancient Persian inscriptions. In the inscription of Darius for example, in the ancient Persian language, he describes himself as King of the Aryans.


    Iran is the same word as Aryan; it means "noble" in the ancient languages of Iran and of India. The King was the King Aryanum, which is a genitive plural, King of the Aryans. It survives in the myths and sagas of the early medieval period, in the Shahnama and related stories of the great struggle between Iran and Turan; it reappears in the nineteenth century as the name of the country in common rather than official usage."
    Last edited by nk191919; 2012-09-25 at 15:03.

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    Yes, that's what I read about the Savafid empire and the Shiism too, it was the resurgence of Persian nationalism, as even if Persians have been important through the history of the Islamic civilization, they were not rulers but more administrators (Ibn Khaldun said that if the Abbasids didn't have Persians for one day, their empire will crumble, which should you give an idea ; even the scientists assumed to be Arabs, like Ibn Sina and all, were originally from the greater Iran.)

    So even if it isn't seen as Cyrus's Achaemenid empire, Persians, even the most secular ones, have a deep respect for the Safavids as they articulated an idea of Persian sovereignty.
    Concerning Shiism, I disagree with Bernard Lewis, I do believe that it's an "Iranian" product, and the one I consider the greatest specialist on the sect, Henry Corbin, thought the same and showed it in many ways... in fact, before Shiism as State-religion under the Safavids, there were already Iranian thinkers who tried to revive the region's ancient knowledge, one famous being the 12th-century "Sufi" Suhrawardi who, basically, made Zoroaster halal by trying to reconnect Zoroastrian teachings with (a liberal view of) Sufism.

    Have to say if you had to give the name of one people who won all with Islam, it would be the Iranians, the fact that the Mughal emperors of India made Farsi their language despite being Turco-Mongols (identified as the Turanians, enemies of the Iranians per excellence in the Shahnameh) should be an eloquent example of how the Persian culture shined through Islam.
    Even if nowadays, obviously, the mullahs don't really flatter such legacy.
    "... musical training can strongly protect the aging brain from a cognitive decay." (Claudio Brigati et al 2012)

    Mun tu shudam tu mun shudi,
    Mun tun shudam tu jaan shudi.
    Taa kas na goyad baad azeen,
    Mun deegaram tu deegari.

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    You are absolutely correct.The center of the Islamic world was under Turkish (Ottoman) and Persian (Safavid) states, both were shaped by Iranian culture. Bernard Lewis in the same paper explain that " In a sense, Iranian Islam is a second advent of Islam itself, a new Islam sometimes referred to as Islam-i Ajam. It was this Persian Islam, rather than the original Arab Islam, that was brought to new areas and new peoples: to the Turks, first in Central Asia and then in the Middle East in the country which came to be called Turkey, and of course to India. The Ottoman Turks brought a form of Iranian civilization to the walls of Vienna."

    ---------- Post Merged at 09:43 ----------

    The map below shows the greatest Extent of the Safavid Empire.


    Last edited by nk191919; 2012-09-25 at 16:09.

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    I don't want to nitpick, but I do like correct information.
    The Safavid paternal line was originally Kurdish (as was Suhrawardi), and indeed, thereafter it became Turkish.

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    This map shows the Ottoman, Safavid, & Mughal Empires





    ---------- Post Merged at 09:53 ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by Zert View Post
    I don't want to nitpick, but I do like correct information.
    The Safavid paternal line was originally Kurdish (as was Suhrawardi), and indeed, thereafter it became Turkish.
    Well they were Iranians. As you know Iran is a nation of many different people, and mixed marriage has been part and parcel of Iran since the beginning. Let's not argue about their ancestry. Needless to say they had a profound impact on all Iranians.

    ---------- Post Merged at 10:20 ----------

    Here are some Art work from this period:













































    Last edited by nk191919; 2012-09-25 at 16:42.

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    Safavids were as much Persian as Genghis Khan were. Please mate...I will post here how Shah Ismail saw Persians (whom were largely Sunni when he first came to rule and to him, infidels) and how he regarded himself.

    Kurdish origin? First of all, its only a theory that Safiaddin (founder of Safaviyya order) was a Kurd who supposedly "moved from Kurdistan" to Ardabil (while hes been refered to as a Turk in several manuscripts), and secondly its irrelevant, as later Safavi Sheikhs were already largely Turkoman by blood even if we were to take that theory, and native speakers of Azerbaijani language. Shah Ismail was the last to the line, Safiaddin lived 3 centuries before Shah Ismail. Read about Shah Ismail's father and grandfather, Shaykh Haydar and Shaykh Junayd respectively, and you will see what I'm talking about. Morover, Shah Ismail's grandfather through his mother side was Uzun Hasan. The Turkoman Oghuz origin of Shah Ismail is induspitable. Morover, he regarded himself as one aswell.

    Another point about Safavids is the Qizilbash, whom were only and only the Turkic tribes of Azerbaijan and Anatolia. Safavids is not only about its Safavi Sheikh line, but also the Qizilbash tribes. Qizilbash was basically a name given to Turkic-speaking populations in Azerbaijan, Anatolia and Iran who were followers of the Safavi Sheikhs, the term was given by Shaykh Haydar (father of Shah Ismail) to his followers, and means "Red Head", here is the explanation: "Shaykh Haydar was responsible for instructing his followers to adopt the scarlet headgear of 12 gores commemorating The Twelve Imams".

    Shah Ismail was also a poet in Azeri Turkish, and wrote 1400 verses. In comparision, he wrote only 50 verses in Persian. And as people might also know, the sole court and military language of Safavid Empire was Azerbaijani Turkish and NOT Persian. This explains both the background of dynasty and military.
    Last edited by Azeroglu; 2012-09-25 at 17:56.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Azeroglu View Post
    Safavids were as much Persian as Genghis Khan were. Please mate...I will post here how Shah Ismail saw Persians (whom were largely Sunni when he first came to rule and to him, infidels) and how he regarded himself.

    .
    Who said Persian. Are you confused?

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    I didn't meant you, but enkidu.

    Also, yes the above is a good article overall, but lets also look at a different perspective. There was a very, very huge difference between Shah Ismail and Shah Abbas's mindsets and way of rule, the above article is certainly not looking at it through Shah Ismail's policy and toughts.

    David Morgan. "Shah Isma'il and the Establishment of Shi'ism"

    chpt. 12 of his Medieval Persia: 1040-1797, Longman, New York, 1988, pp. 112-123.
    The Formation of the Safawid Empire

    "Safawid rule over Persia is conventionally dated from Shah Isma'ils capture of Tabriz in the aftermath of his victory over the Aq-Qoyunlu ruler Alwand at Sharur in 907/1501. But there was still a very long way to go before Isma'il could be regarded as anything more than a potential successor to the Aq-Qoyunlu in Azarbayjan. Nor, for some years, was the geographical shape of the new state by any means clear. It may be that Isma'il's expectation was that he would be able to set up an essentially Turkmen empire after the Aq-Qoyunlu pattern, consisting of eastern Anatolia, Azarbayjan, western Persia and Iraq. After all, the military following on which he depended was Turkmen in composition, he had fixed his capital at Tabriz, the now traditional Turkmen centre on the periphery of Persia proper, and he may have seen himself as in some sense the legitimate successor to his Aq-Qoyunlu grandfather, Uzun Hasan.

    The direction of Isma'ill's early campaigns certainly suggested that it was the Turkmen heritage he was primarily interested in."


    http://coursesa.matrix.msu.edu/~fish...gs/morgan.html

    You can read the rest of article aswell, its very intersting and informative. And explains the policy and toughts of Shah Ismail. Somehow I don't see much of it when other scholars talks about Safavids, they jump to late Safavid era, Shah Abbas and Isfahan, ignoring Shah Ismail, Tabriz and Azerbaijan.

    There is a very big difference between Shah Ismail and Shah Abbas eras. So one has to make this distinction when talking about Safavids.
    Last edited by Azeroglu; 2012-09-25 at 17:50.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Azeroglu View Post
    Safavids were as much Persian as Genghis Khan were. Please mate...I will post here how Shah Ismail saw Persians (whom were largely Sunni when he first came to rule and to him, infidels) and how he regarded himself.
    I think a lot of confusing occurs in English Language, because often times Iran and Persia or Iranian Culture and Persian Culture are used for the same thing. In Iran, Iranians refer to themselves as Iranian irregardless of their Ethnicity, and their Culture as Iranian culture . I think people of Azerbaijan must understand that sometimes the English language creates this confusion. So please be aware of that.

    Please share with us more about the Safavids, so we can all learn from each other.

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    What's not to understand about "was originally Kurdish (as was Suhrawardi), and indeed, thereafter it became Turkish."?
    Anyway, it has been established, that the paternal line was Kurdish:

    EBN BAZZĀZ, DARVĪŠ TAWAKKOLĪ b. Esmāʿīl b. Ḥājī Ardabīlī, author of the Ṣafwat al-ṣafāʾ, a biography of Shaikh Ṣafī-al-Dīn Esḥāq Ardabīlī (d. 935/1334), founder of the Safavid order of Sufis and the eponym of the Safavid dynasty. Ebn Bazzāz was a desciple of Shaikh Ṣadr-al-Dīn Ardabīlī (d. 794/1391-92), the son and successor of Shaikh Ṣafī-al-Dīn. The work, also entitled al-Mawāheb al-sanīya fī manāqeb al-Ṣafawīya, deals mainly with Shaikh Ṣafī-al-Dīn’s miracles and sayings and contains little of a biographical nature (see Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia IV, pp. 38-39, for a list of its contents). Ebn Bazzāz completed this voluminous work (over 800 folios) around 759/1358, only twenty-four years after the death of Shaikh Ṣafī-al-Dīn. It is written in a straightforward style, without much rhetorical embellishment. Ideologically-motivated alterations were already present in a manuscript dated 914/1508, during the reign of Shah Esmāʿīl I (Aya Sofya 2123; Togan). Shah Ṭahmāsb (930-84/1524-76) ordered Mīr Abu’l-Fatḥ Ḥosaynī to produce a revised edition of the Ṣafwat al-ṣafāʾ. This official version contains textual changes designed to obscure the Kurdish origins of the Safavid family and to vindicate their claim to descent from the Imams.
    From Encyclopediae Iranica.

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