The Safavid Empire, created by Safi al-Din, was one of the most significant Islamic empires, founded in 1501. The Safavid empire was often known to be the start of the modern Iranian history.
The Safavid empire began by having a religious perspective. After 1501, the Safavid Empire obtained military and state features. The kings of Safavid, known as shahs, ruled and formed the second best Islamic Empires. The Safavid Empire was different from Ottoman and Mughal Empire because they were legally Shi’ite, in the case that Shia branch of Islam had different beliefs compared to other Islamic categories. Religious disagreement between the Safavids and a separate branch of Islam known as Sunni led to hostility and problematic issues. The Safavid Empire developed in 1501, lived the shortest among the other two empires, where it suffered in the hands of the invading Afghans, leading to the Safavid Empire destruction and as a result, changing Persian nationalism ever since.There are many reasons to why some kings in Safavid were unworthy of ruling the country which being young and insane as a leader was one of them.
Ismail Shah died in 1524. The Shah’s son, Tahmasp I, took over his father’s throne at the age of ten. The new Shah was young and less mature which lead to many struggles between some Qizilbash and individuals who were competing to earn the Shah’s advisory positions; In the case that it could lead to influencing the Safavid Empire.
For the first decade of the new Shah’s governing, he made an effort to prevent Uzbeks to dominate Khurasan, and he tried to stop Ottomans from taking over Tabriz. In 1555, an unexpected Ottoman invasion happened to Baghdad, where the Safavid army was struggling in the east fighting back the Uzbeks; Therefore, it led the Ottoman to take over Baghdad and remained in their power for over 100 years. After having continuous attacks between the two empires, they finally signed what is called “The Treaty of Amasya” in 1555, which kept peace among them for the following 25 years.
Tahmasp governed the country for 52 years. The Shah’s government was seen more in a political perspective, as a ruler, rather than being seen as a moral condition. During Tahmasp governing, the Safavid further began military actions within a new area called the Caucasus Mountains, located in North of Persian kingdom.
Their military operations led to numerous attacks approaching the Georgians and the Christian Armenians. A lot of prisoners from this area were imported back to Persia, where it had a tremendous impact on their ethnic diversity of a government made of Persians and Turks. Women who were transported from the Caucasus to the “Shah’s harem,” also known as kings mention, happened to encourage their sons into areas of leadership, and men who changed their religion to Islam were trained to have positions in court. In 1576, Tahmasp was replaced by his son, Ismail II. According to many historians, Ismail II was an insane person. He tried to change the Safavid empire from Shi’ite to Sunnism, due to unclear intentions he killed many members of his family and their followers, and as a result, after a year ruling the empire he was assassinated. The next person who takes over the throne was Muhammad I. He was blind, and as a result of his inability his son, a 16-year-old boy called Abbas took over the throne in 1587.
Similar to Ottoman Empire ruled by Suleyman I, the Safavid empire governed by Abbas was also referred to as “Abbas The Great” reached the peak during his period of governing. His task at first was to restore the weak Safavid Empire, which had fallen into puzzle pieces and it is vanishing after Tahmasp died in 1576. Qazilbash revolution was weakening the military, and the Ottomans and Uzbeks were taking advantage of the situation to capture Tabriz, Herat and other areas surrounding those cities. Due to having incapable Shah’s between Ismail II and Muhammad, therefore, the appropriate respect and loyalty towards the Shahs had faded away. As a result, Abbas had to restore power and change the empire to bring it back to its initial state, back to the Islamic world.
There are many reasons to why Safavid empire was at war with Ottoman and Mughal Empire which religious different, weak market trades and violating a peace agreement were a part of it. Abbas started by focusing his attention towards fixing the military matters by attempting to take back the lands that were taken away and to start a war with Uzbeks.He ordered to show his power to Uzbeks; Abbas settled a disgracing peace deal in 1590 with the Ottomans. After having a long battle at the east, the Uzbek Khan lost and died in 1598, where the Safavid were able to take back Herat and steady the eastern boundary.
After reconquering Herat, Abbas deceived the Ottomans and reconquered Tabriz in 1629. He rescued Baghdad of Ottoman control after a century in 1623. By the time Abbas died in 1629, the Safavid Empire had delivered to the frontiers first settled for it by Ismail I. Abbas also made new settlements with foreign powers concerning business. By the moment Abbas took over the throne, the Portuguese had set their bases on the lands of Hurmuz and Bahrain where they turned trades from the old overland roads over Persia to Portuguese established sea paths into the Indian Ocean tracks.
Although the English continually traded through Persia and Russia where they wanted to avoid passing through the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, the Persian market became weak by regularly losing trades. As the English East India corporation was formed in 1600, the Safavid saw a rebirth to use their lands as trade paths. The East Indian company ruined the Portuguese trading monopoly, and by 1616 they made a settlement with Safavids to trade foreign cloth for Persian silk.
In 1622, the English cooperated with Abbas to reconquer Hurmuz from the Portuguese. Since Abbas did not have a navy to take back the city, he was not able to take any actions towards the thread that was made to his Southern coast areas earlier than that. These trading relationships draw the Safavids towards European affairs, either as an ally against the Ottoman Empire or as goods from India. After Shah Abbas passed away in 1629, his son named Shah Safi I, governed the country from 1629 to 1642, is famous for his ruthlessness, stayed on the throne.
Shah Safi I was the head of the Safavid shahs who asked for his face to be carved in the mansion gardens. Shah Safi I, assassinated possible rivals by taking advantage of the government as well as some of his family members due to the fear of losing his throne. He killed many managers, and counselors that were under his father’s trust during his late father’s period of having the throne. The massive influence of Mirza Tagi, also known as Saru Taqi who was the Grand Vezir (chancellor) at the Safavid Empire, allowed the government to be governed smoothly without noticing the Shah’s absence. There was a friendship agreement between the Safavid and Ottomans on may 17th, 1639, which displayed a settlement between the and to an end to their conflict battles for over a century.
The agreement forced Shah Safavi I to finally give up Baghdad to Ottomans in 1638 and preferably gave Yerevan in the southern Caucasus to Iran. The era of Shah Abbas II, who ruled from 1642 to 1667, was the last utterly acceptable period of control by a Safavid shah. Shah Abbas II considered an active role in government issues. Following his rule, Iran regained, and some of Persia’s reputation in the eyes of the outside world returned.
He raised the religious right of the state by improving crown lands and often negotiated in provincial affairs on the side of the provincials, but with peace on the frontiers, the army decreased in size and quality. Abbas II held to the idea that the Safavid king was spiritual and unique. He discussed openly with components of the Shi’a religious establishment who had started to explain the concept in the absence of the hidden Imam Zaman (twelfth Shi’a Imam), true temporary power truly belonged to the mujtahid, who deserved emulation by the followers. Safavid Shi’ism had not changed leadership as a foundation but instead understood the nation as a theocracy. The olama, moral leaders, reproved the shahs, questioned the moral authority of their power and demanded that the mujtahids have a higher demand to control. In 1667, after the death of Shah Abbas II, deterioration introduced in a repeated way when Shah Safi II took over the throne. Shah Safi II was not a responsible leader, and after he took over the crown the food costs rose, where starvation and illnesses spread throughout the country.
When Shah Safi confronted a problem, he would leave them to the grand vezir to cope with different nations affair, whereas he would run into the harem to party. Shah Sultan Hossein, who governed the country from 1694 to 1722, has been defined as the most inefficient shah of Safavids. He was comparable to some others who had obtained power by accident of birth. Indifferent to matters of state, Shah Sultan Hossein completely brought Safavid Empire to its unexpected and surprising end. He was of a religious nature and mainly influenced by the Shi’a religious establishment.
At their demand, he issued orders banning the consumption of alcohol and forbidding Sufism in Esfahan. In 1694 Shah Sultan Hossein elected Mohammad Baqir Majlesi, the essential member of Shi’a religious corporation, to the current position of “Mulla Bashi” which means the top mulla. Majlesi wrote, “Bihar al-Anwar” where it means the oceans of light, a general work committed to the maintenance of the prophet Mohammad’s speeches and actions. He dedicated himself to the generation of a legalistic form of Shi’ism and the elimination of Sufism and Sunni Islam in Iran.
Under his leadership, especially Shi’a favorite routines, such as crying for the martyred third Shi’a Imam Hossein, Ashora, were inspired, as were wayfarings to the tombs of holy Shi’a people. Majlesi’s orders also involved the murder of non-Muslims in Iran, including Jews, and Christians. Unchecked by the Safavid management, Majlesi and the Shi’a ministry developed with risen power and freedom from the ruling power in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The military base of the Safavid Empire had also weakened, making this even further exposed and unsafe to attack, which turned out to be from the east. In 1722, Afghan intruders under Mahmoud who was a former Safavid slave in Afghanistan took over Esfahan and assassinated Shah Sultan Hossein. The sudden Afghan attack was destructive and harmful to Iran. On the other hand, the Ottomans gained an interest of the chaos and the breaking apart of the Safavid kingdom, where they used the chance to make a surprise attack from the west, where they destroyed Western Persia as far as Hamadan, while the Russian caught lands throughout the Caspian ocean. The two governments established a peaceful settlement on dividing Iran’s Northwestern provinces.
Nader Khan also is known as Nader Qoli was a skilled officer from the Turk society of Afshar, he was from northern Khorasan. Nader Khan gathered an army and attempted to cooperate the nation under his command. After taking action, Nader Khan finally took over the government of Iran under his control. Nader Khan acknowledged Sultan Hossein’s son, Tahmasp II, who had fled the Afghans, and he was the Safavid Shah till 1732. Then Tahmasp’s son, Abbas III was the Safavid Shah unto 1736, where he proclaimed himself shah.
Nader Khan suspended the Afghans by 1730 and freed the country from them. In 1730, he was able to obtain authority over the northwestern regions of Iran from the control of Ottomans. In 1735, he had the properties held by Russians returned.To sum up, The Safavid empire collapsed because of having unworthy and young rulers, the religious differences with other realms and worthy leaders passing away. There were alot of unworthy leaders that ruled the empire for their own gains. The Safavid empire was competing against two other empires that were stronger than them.
Leaders who have build the empire passed away and were replace with unhonorable leaders. In my opinion, the Safavid empire could have last it much longer than it did because it was ruled by unworthy leaders who became kings due to the accident of birth and only ordered the country just for their gains, not what it was good for the country.