Meaning of SAFAVID DYNASTY in English


(15021736), Iranian dynasty whose establishment of Shi'ite Islam as the state religion of Iran was a major factor in the emergence of a unified national consciousness among the various ethnic and linguistic elements of the country. The Safavids were descended from Sheykh Safi od-Din (12531334) of Ardabil, head of the Sufi order of Safaviyeh (Safawiyah), but about 1399 exchanged their Sunnite affiliation for Shi'ism. The founder of the dynasty, Isma'il I, as head of the Sufis of Ardabil, won enough support from the local Turkmens and other disaffected heterodox tribes to enable him to capture Tabriz from the Ak Koyunlu (Turkish: White Sheep), an Uzbek Turkmen confederation, and in July 1501 Isma'il was enthroned as shah of Azerbaijan. By May of the next year he was shah of Iran. In the next 10 years he subjugated the greater part of Iran and annexed the Iraqi provinces of Baghdad and Mosul; despite the predominantly Sunnite character of this territory, he proclaimed Shi'ism the state religion. In August 1514, Isma'il was seriously defeated at Chaldiran by his Sunnite rival, the Ottoman sultan Selim I. Thereafter, the continuing struggle against the Sunnitesthe Ottomans in the west and the Uzbeks in the northeastcost the Safavids Kurdistan, Diyarbakir, and Baghdad; the Safavid capital had to be temporarily relocated at Esfahanpermanently by about the early 17th century. Iran weakened appreciably during the reign of Isma'il's eldest son, Shah Tahmasp I (152476), and persistent and unopposed Turkmen forays into the country increased under his incompetent successors. In 1588 'Abbas I was brought to the throne. Realizing the limits of his military strength, 'Abbas made peace with the Ottomans on unfavourable terms in 1590 and directed his onslaughts against the Uzbeks. Meeting with little success, 'Abbas engaged (1599) the English Sir Robert Sherley to direct a major army reform. Three bodies of troops were formed, all trained and armed in the European manner and paid out of the royal treasury: the ghulams (slaves), the tofangchis (musketeers), and the topchis (artillerymen). With his new army, 'Abbas defeated the Turks in 1603, forcing them to relinquish all the territory they had seized, and captured Baghdad. He also expelled (1602, 1622) the Portuguese traders who had seized the island of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf early in the 16th century. Shah 'Abbas' remarkable reign, with its striking military successes and efficient administrative system, raised Iran to the status of a great power. Trade with the West and industry expanded, communications improved; the capital, Esfahan, became the centre of Safavid architectural achievement, manifest in the mosques Masjid-i Shah and the Masjid-i Sheykh Lotfollah; and other monuments including the 'Ali Qapu, the Chehel Sotun, and the Meydan-i Shah. Despite the Safavid Shi'ite zeal, Christians were tolerated and several missions and churches were built. After the death of Shah 'Abbas I (1629) the Safavid dynasty lasted for about a century, but, except for an interlude during the reign of Shah 'Abbas II (164266), it was a period of decline. Esfahan fell to the Ghilzai Afghans of Qandahar in 1722; seven years later Shah Tahmasp II recovered Esfahan and ascended the throne, only to be deposed in 1732 by his Afsharid lieutenant Nader Qoli Beg (the future Nader Shah).

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