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History

The Safavid Emperors of Iran

Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz

The defeat of the Uzbek occupation army by Shah Tahmasb I

On 15th of the Islamic month of Moharram in 935 AH, the Iranian forces of the teenaged 14-year old Safavid king, Shah Tahmasb I, defeated the Uzbek occupation army at Jam in Khorasan and drove back the invaders from Iranian soil. To the Safavid dynasty, which ruled around 230 years, goes the credit for unifying Iran as a nation state on the basis of adherence to the school of the Prophet's Ahl al-Bayt.

Shah Abbas I, the greatest ruler of the Safavid dynasty of Iran

On January 19, 1629 AD, Shah Abbas I, regarded as the greatest ruler of the Safavid dynasty of Iran, passed away at the age of 58. The son of Shah Mohammad Khodabanda, he ascended the throne as a 16-year youth during troubled times, when the country was rife with discord between the different factions of the Qizilbash army, who killed his elder brother Hamza Mirza and mother Queen Khair on-Nisa Begum Mahd-e Olya – descended from Imam Zain al-Abedin (AS), the 4th Infallible Heir of the Prophet (SAWA).

Meanwhile, Iran's enemies, the Ottomans and the Uzbeks, exploited the political chaos to seize territory in the west and northeast. Abbas soon reduced the influence of the Qizilbash in the administrative and military affairs, executed the killers of his mother and brother, and reformed the army, enabling him to fight the Ottomans and Uzbeks and retake Iran's lost provinces.

He decisively defeated the Ottomans in several battles in the Caucasus, in Anatolia and in Iraq, where he rebuilt on a grand scale the shrines of the Infallible Imams in Najaf, Karbala, and Kazemain. He drove back the Uzbeks from the northern and western parts of Khorasan, and in fulfillment of a vow walked on foot from his new capital Isfahan to distant Mashhad, where he rebuilt the shrine of Imam Reza (AS), the 8th Infallible Heir of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA).

He also liberated Iranian territories from the Portuguese invaders in the Persian Gulf and from the Mughals of India in what is now Afghanistan. Shah Abbas I was a great builder and moved his capital from Qazvin to Isfahan, which he adorned with beautiful mosques, such as Masjid Sheikh Lotfollah and the largest one named after, and which is now called Masjid-e Imam. He also built the Aali Qapu Palace and the world famous Naqsh-e Jahan Square, to the extent that Isfahan came to be known as “Nisf-e Jahan” (Half the World).

He patronized poets and painters, resulting in the birth of the Isfahan School that created some of the finest arts in Iranian history, by such illustrious painters as Reza Abbasi and others. He respected religious figures, and during his era some of the greatest ulema and philosophers of Iran, such as Shaikh Baha od-Din Ameli, Mir Baqer Damad and Mullah Sadra Shirazi flourished.

During his 42-year reign, Shah Abbas also promoted commerce, trade and diplomacy, establishing relations with European powers to keep the Ottomans in check, and strengthening ties with the Shi'ite Muslim sultanates of Haiderabad-Deccan and Bijapur in south India, where the name of the Safavid Emperor was recited in the Friday Prayer sermons. At the same time he maintained friendly relations with the Mughal Emperor Jahangir of Hindustan (North India). He was succeeded by his grandson, Shah Safi.

During his 42-year rule, he reduced the influence of the Qizilbash in the administrative and military affairs, and reformed the army, enabling him to fight the Ottoman and Uzbek occupiers to liberate Iran's lost provinces. He decisively defeated the Ottomans in several battles in the Caucasus, in Anatolia and in Iraq, where he rebuilt on a grand scale the shrines of the Infallible Imams in Najaf, Karbala, and Kazemain.

He drove the Uzbeks from the northern and western parts of Khorasan, and in fulfillment of a vow walked on foot from his new capital Isfahan to distant Mashhad, where he rebuilt the shrine of Imam Reza (AS), the 8th Infallible Heir of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA). He also liberated Iranian territories from the Portuguese invaders in the Persian Gulf including Bahrain, and from the Mughals of India in what is now Afghanistan. was a great builder and moved his capital from Qazvin to Isfahan, which he adorned with beautiful mosques and other edifices including the the world famous Naqsh-e Jahan Square, to the extent that the city came to be known as Nisf-e Jahan (Half the World). He patronized poets and painters, resulting in the birth of the Isfahan School that created some of the finest arts in Iranian history.

He respected religious figures, and during his era some of the greatest ulema and philosophers of Iran, such as Shaikh Baha od-Din Ameli, Mir Baqer Damad and Mullah Sadra Shirazi flourished. He also promoted commerce, trade and diplomacy, establishing relations with European powers to keep the Ottomans in check, and strengthening ties with the Shi'ite Muslim sultanates of Haiderabad-Deccan and Bijapur in south India, where the name of the Safavid Emperor was recited in the Friday Prayer sermons. At the same time he maintained friendly relations with the Mughal Emperor Jahangir of Hindustan (North India).

Shah Safi Safavi

On January 28, 1629 AD, coronation of 18-year old Sam Mirza as Shah Safi took place, as the 6th ruler of the Safavid Empire, a day after the death of his grandfather, Shah Abbas II. He was the son of Mohammed Baqir Mirza, the eldest son of Shah Abbas I, and his Georgian wife, Dilaram Khanum. An efficient ruler, he ruthlessly eliminated anyone he regarded as a threat to his power, and paid little attention to the business of government and had no cultural or intellectual interests, preferring to spend his time in his addiction to opium. He, however, abhorred tobacco smoke like his grandfather, going as far as to have those caught smoking tobacco in public severely killed.
The dominant political figure of Safi's 13-year reign was Saru Taqi, appointed grand vizier in 1634. Taqi was incorruptible and highly efficient at raising revenues for the state. Iran's foreign enemies took opportunity to exploit Safi's perceived weakness. The Ottomans made incursions in the west in 1630 and 1634 (briefly occupying Revan and Tabriz) and in 1638 they succeeded in seizing Baghdad from Iran.

Nevertheless, the Treaty of Zuhab which ensued in 1639 put an end to all further wars between the Safavids and the Ottomans. Apart from the Ottoman attacks, Iran was troubled by the Uzbeks and Turkmens in the northeast and lost Qandahar in what is now Afghanistan to the Mughal Empire of the Subcontinent in 1638.

Shah Abbas II, the Safavid Emperor of Iran

On 31st of December 1632, the Safavid Emperor of Iran, Shah Abbas II, was born. He became king on 15 May 1642 on the death of his father Shah Safi. His rule was relatively peaceful and was free of any Ottoman attack. In 1648 he managed to retake Qandahar in what is now Afghanistan, and hold it against attacks by Mughal India. The early death of this capable ruler was a great blow to Iran.
On October 26, 1666, the Safavid Emperor of Iran, Shah Abbas II, died in Khosru-Abad near Damghan at the age of 34 after a reign of 24 years. His rule was relatively peaceful and was free of any Ottoman attack. In 1648 he managed to retake Qandahar in what is now Afghanistan, and hold it against attacks by Mughal India. The early death of this capable ruler was a great blow to Iran.

Shah Sultan Hussain Safavi

On 22nd of the Islamic month of Moharram in 1140 AH, Shah Sultan Hussain, the 9th and virtually the last powerful ruler of the Safavid Empire, was brutally martyred in detention in Isfahan by the Afghan rebel, Ashraf, a year after he usurped power by killing his cousin Mahmoud Hotaki, who four years earlier had dethroned and imprisoned the Iranian monarch. Nader Qoli Afshar – who would later seize power from Shah Tahmasp II and declare himself Nader Shah – ended Ashraf’s 4-year reign of terror by defeating him and driving him out of Iran. Shah Sultan Hussain (the son and successor of Shah Sulayman Safavi), ruled Iran, the Caucasus and western Afghanistan for 29 years.

Groomed by the famous Islamic scholar, Allamah Mohammad Baqer Majlisi, he was a peace-loving monarch of scholarly pursuits, who misread the dangers of the Afghan rebellion and failed to decisively crush it when he had adequate power. As a result he lost his throne and his life, thereby bringing the curtain down on two-and-a-quarter centuries of glorious rule by the Safavids to whom Iran is indebted for its religious identity, national unity, and cultural affinity.