The History of Islamic Civilization During the Safavid Dynasty in Persia

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The Safavid Dynasty existed between the years 1501 AD to 1736 AD, originating from a religious order movement in Ardabil, a city in Azerbaijan, in the western region of Iran. The name "Safavid" itself is derived from its founder, Safi Ad-Din (1252 AD - 1334 AD). Safi Ad-Din, a wealthy individual, chose the Sufi path as his way of life. He was a descendant of the 7th Shia Imam, Imam Musa Al-Kazim. Safi Ad-Din's teacher, known as Tajuddin Ibrahim Zahidi or Zahid Al-Gilani, bestowed his daughter in marriage to Safi Ad-Din due to his dedication and achievements in Sufism.

Initially, the movement was purely religious, but over time, it evolved into a political-religious movement. This shift was driven by their commitment to eradicating heresy and wrongdoing, leading them to enter the political arena to establish power and justice according to their Shia Twelver beliefs.

The leaders of the Safavid Dynasty involved in religious activities successively included Safi Ad-Din, Sadr Ad-Din, Khawajah Ali, and Ibrahim ibn Khawajah Ali. Those who initiated political involvement were Junaid, Haidar, and Ismail. The Safavid movement had a significant influence in Persia and Syria, with central leaders referred to as "Syaikh" and regional representatives as "Khalafah."

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Known for their fanaticism, the Safavids opposed all other schools of thought, accepting only the Twelver Shia doctrine. They formed the Qizilbash forces and propagated the Twelver Shia doctrine through radical and revolutionary means. They were renowned for their Mahdi movement, aiming to establish justice while awaiting the appearance of Imam Al-Mahdi Al-Muntazar as the upholder of truth.

Period of Safavid Advancement

A. Sultan Ismail (1501 AD - 1524 AD)

Sultan Ismail successfully expanded his power by eliminating the remnants of the AQ Qoyunlu in Hamadan, taking control of the Caspian provinces in Nazandaran, Gurgan, and Yazd. Within ten years, he dominated the entire Persian region. However, he faced defeat by the Ottoman Empire in the Battle of Chaldiran near Tabriz in 1514 AD due to the Ottoman military's superiority.

B. Shah Abbas I (1588 AD - 1629 AD)

During his reign, Shah Abbas I implemented measures for the restoration of the Safavid state, which was in a dire condition. His first step was to diminish the influence of the Qizilbash forces within the Safavid Dynasty. Shah Abbas I formed a new army called the Ghullam, comprised of enslaved prisoners of war from Georgia, Armenia, and Circassia, obtained during Sultan Tahmasp I's rule.

The second step involved making a peace agreement with the Ottoman Turks, wherein Shah Abbas I had to cede control over the territories of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and parts of Luristan. This allowed him to restore internal security by eliminating Qizilbash dominance and external peace by resolving conflicts with the Ottoman Empire.

Period of Safavid Decline

The Safavid Dynasty experienced decline due to internal and external factors. Internally, power struggles within the royal family weakened the sultans' ability to pass on their rule harmoniously. Externally, continuous conflicts with the Ottoman Empire, fueled by the ideological differences between Sunni Ottoman and Shia Safavid beliefs, contributed to the decline. This prolonged enmity persisted except during the reign of Sultan Abbas I, when a temporary peace was achieved.

Mushpih Kawakibil Hijaj, Shariavest Writer.