The Safavid Empire ruled between 1502 and 1736. The Iranian dynasty was one of the most popular dynasties of the day as it established Shia Islam as the state religion. Non-muslims were converted and religion was no doubt a major unifying factor and cause of consciousness among linguistic and ethnic elements in the country.
The Safavid’s were the Sheykh Safia al Din descendants of Ardabil and head of Sufi of Safawiyyah. Around 1399, they exchanged their religious affiliation from Sunni to Shia Islam. Ismail, the founder of the Safavid Empire won the support of local Turkmens and heterodox tribesmen.
This enabled the leader to capture Tabriz from the Ak Koyunlu, an Uzbek Turkmen confederation in July 1501. Ismail was also enthroned as Shah and even so, his area of control was highly limited to Azerbaijan. His leadership grew with time to different Iraqi provinces including Mosul and Baghdad. With his leadership, he proclaimed Shi’ism as the entire state religion.
Ismail was however defeated in august 1514 by Chaldrian and Sunni rivals by the Ottoman Sultan Selim I. There was continuous struggle between the Uzbeks in northeast cost the Safavids Kurdistan, Baghdad, Diyarbakir and Ottomans in the west. Therefore the capital of Safavid had to be relocated temporarily to Esfahan and permanently in 17th century.
With time, Iraq weakened during the reign of Shah Tahmasp, the eldest son of Ismail. There were unopposed and persistent Turkmen forays forging ahead towards the country and it increased the number of competent successors for the dynasty. Abbas in 1588 was however brought to the throne. He realized his military strength limitations and decided to make peace with all the Ottomans.
Even though the terms were not favorable, he directed his energy and onslaughts against the Uzbeks. He also engaged Sir Robert Sherley to direct military army reforms. 3 army troops were formed as they were trained and armed in European manner. The troops were also paid out of their royal treasury including the artillery men, the slaves and the musketeers.
With the newly created army, Abbas become strong and defeated the Turks in 1603. This forced them to relinquish the territory, seized and captured Baghdad. He also expelled all Portuguese traders who had earlier seized Hormuz Island in the Persian Gulf in 16th century.
Abbas reign was also remarkable especially with his striking military success. It allowed for an efficient administrative system and raised the status quo of the empire. Trade between the west and the east as a result was enhanced and it expanded over time. Additionally, communications between the two sides improved.
The capital, Esfaham also grew and became the center of architectural achievement in Mosques Masjid I- Sheykh Loftolla, Masjid I-Shah and other monuments such as the Meydan I-Shah, Chehel Sotun and Ali-Qapu. Christians on the other hand was tolerated and as a result, many churches and mission centers were built.
Shah Abbas died in 1629 and after his death; the dynasty only lasted for a century. It was a period of decline for the dynasty and Esfahan fell to Ghilzai Afghans of Qandahar later in 1722. Shah Tahmasp II later recovered Esfahan and rose to the throne. Shah was in 1732 was deposed by Lieutenant Nadr Qoli Beg in 1732.
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