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Specialized Safavid Museum to be Launched in Ardebil

Source: Iranian Cultural Heritage News Agency

The first specialized museum on the Safavid era (1501-1722) and on the history of Shiite Islam in Iran is planned to be founded in the northwestern province of Ardebil, near the shrine of Sheik Safi al-Din Ardebili, founder of a militant Sufi order.

"Since the shrine is in itself a Safavid cultural complex, we have decided to design and found a new specialized museum next to it," said Karim Hajizadeh, provincial head of Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization.

The museum would exhibit artifacts and documents on the history of the dynasty and, more importantly, that of Shiite Islam in Iran, where it was proclaimed as the official religion in the 16th century.

The first large, lasting Shiite state was the Safavid state in Iran. The Safavids were originally a Turkish Sufi order; Sufism is a mystical branch of Sunni Islam. The leaders of this movement, the tariqa, passed on this leadership through hereditary means. The Safavids, then, were a kind of hereditary mystical spiritual authority. In the fifteenth century, the Safavids converted to Shi'ism and evolved a militant theology that demanded the supremacy of Shi'ism through force of arms. These militant Safavids claimed to be the direct descendants of the seventh Imam. As their influence grew, they converted many Turks in Iran, Syria, and Anatolia.

In the year 1500, Ismail the thirteen-year-old son of a killed Safavid leader, Sheikh Heydar, set out to conquer territories and avenge death of his father. In January 1502, Ismail defeated the army of Alvand Beig of Aq Qoyunlu, ruler of Azerbaijan, and seized Tabriz and made this city his capital. Safavids went on and conquered rest of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Khorasan. They became the strongest force in Iran, and their leader, Ismail, now fifteen, was declared Shah (King) on 11 March 1502.

In 1507 Portuguese invaded Persian Gulf and captured Hormuz Island. It became a naval base and trade outpost, which lasted more than a hundred years. Shah Ismail with the lack of navy reluctantly accepted this European presence. In the mean time, Safavids extended their rule by capturing Baghdad and Iraq in 1508. Later on after defeating the Uzbeks and killing their leader, Mohammad Sheybani, nicknamed Sheibak Khan, in a battle near Marv on December 1510, Shah Ismail absorbed the vast province of Khorasan into his state as well as Marv, Herat and Qandahar. But Uzbeks remained a formidable rival to the Safavids domination of Northern Khorasan throughout 16th century.

Safavid males used to wear red headgear. They had great devotion for their leader as a religious leader and perfect guide as well as a military chieftain, and they viewed their leaders position as rightly passed from father to son according to the Shiite tradition.

... Payvand News - 7/30/04 ... --

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