Safavid Empire was the most significant ruling dynasties of Persia-modern Iran- and is considered the start of modern Persian history. They ruled the greatest Persian empires after Muslim conquest of Persia. The Islamic Empire had the strength and ability to challenge Ottomans in the West and Mughals in the East.
- The empire lasted from 1501 through to 1722
- It covered Iran, parts of Georgia and Turkey
- The Empire was a theocracy
- State of religion in the Safavid Empire was Shi’a Islam
- Other forms of Islam and religions were suppressed
- The economic strength of the Empire came from its strategic location which was on trade routes
- Iran was made the center of architecture, philosophy, poetry and art as a result of the Empire
- Isfahan, the capital is the most beautiful city in the world
- The key figures in the empire were Isma’il I and Abbas I
- The decline of the empire was as a result of corruption and complacency.
Origin of the Empire
The founders of the empire were the Safavids, a Sufi order that dates back to Safi al Din (1252-1334. Safi al-Din converted to Shi’ism and became a Persian nationalist. Safavid brotherhood was initially a religious group and over the centuries that followed, it became stronger attracting political marriages and local warlords. In the 15th century, it became a military group as well as a religious one.
Many people were attracted by the allegiance the brotherhood had to Ali and the ‘Hidden Imam’. Also, during the 15th century, the brotherhood became military aggressive thus waging a Jihad (Islamic holy war) against parts of what is currently known as Georgia and Turkey. The Empire dates back to the rule of Shah Islmail (who ruled from 1501 to 1524). In 1501, the Shahs declared independence when Ottomans outlawed Shi’a Islam within their territory.
Safavid Empire was strengthened through the important Shi’a soldiers from Ottoman army fleeing persecution. When Safavids came into power, Shah Ismail was proclaimed the ruler. By 1510, the Empire had already conquered the entire region of Iran.
The most important decisions made by the Safavid Empire when it came into power was declaring the state religion as Shi’ism. At that time, the religion was completely new to the Iranian culture but the Safavids launched a vigorous campaign that was aimed at converting what was predominantly a population of Sunni by persuasion and at times, they even used force. The Sunni Ulama which was a religious council of wise men was forced to flee and those who stayed were killed.
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