The Iran Safavid Empire and Shi’ism

The Iran Safavid Empire was founded in 1501 by Ismail. It originated from a sunni sufi religious brotherhood that was founded by members of the safavid family. Ismail took over the brotherhood when his brother, the prior leader of the order, died. He had an imperialist attitude and eventually turned the order into an imperial institution, invading the city of Tabriz in 1501 and declaring himself the king, thus marking the beginning of the Safavid Empire.

He then declared the twelver shi’ism as the official religion of the state and enforced it by awarding the death penalty to anyone who wouldn’t convert. He brought in shia religious scholars and experts from other arab states to validate his authority. In addition, he claimed to have descended from the seventh imam.

He organized a series of military campaigns to capture lands in Anatolia, Iraq and eastern iran. The Safavids then fought a war with the ottoman forces which they lost as their archers were no match for the ottomans’ gunpowder.

After Ismail’s death, Shah Abbass took over as king and enacted policies that allowed the Safavids to flourish. He also established a strong military who numbered almost 37,000 troops. During his rule, the Safavid empire flourished and the capital Isfahan was known to be the greatest city on earth at that time. He established the empire in such a way that even after his death, the empire survived for more than a century in relative peace and harmony.