If I don’t pass the exemption exam this Saturday and get out of my junior comp class, I am going to cry.
Portrait of Shah Ismail I of Iran (b. 1487 r. 1501-1524) - unknown Venetian artist, c. early 17th century. Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
A pivotal figure in the history of the Islamic world, Ismail I founded the Safavid dynasty and initiated the conversion of Iran to Twelver Shia Islam. Ismail’s father, Shaykh Haydar, was the head of the militant and extremist heterodox Shia Safaviyya order, and claimed to be a descendant of Ali.
In 1488, Ismail’s father died in battle against the forces of the Shirvanshah. When Ismail was just seven, in 1494, he inherited the leadership of the Safaviyya when his older brother was killed by the Ak Koyunlu sultan, and was forced to go into hiding.
At the age of 13, in 1500, Ismail came out of hiding, gathered his supporters, and avenged his father, attacking, defeating, and killing the Shirvanshah, Farrukh Yassar, and most of his nobility. Thus began an enormous and rapid sweep of conquest through the region that fulfilled messianic expectations; Ismail declared himself the Mahdi and a reincarnation of Ali. By the age of 23 in 1510, he had conquered all of Iran.
Ismail imposed Shiism as the mandatory religion for the entire nation, forcibly converting Sunnis, demolishing Sunni mosques, destroying the tombs of the Abbasid Caliphs, and instating the ritual and compulsory cursing of the first three Sunni Caliphs as usurpers. Despite these extreme policies, he ended up promoting normative Twelver Shiism, rather than the messianic heterodox Shiism of the Safaviyya.