Thursday, June 30, 2011

Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran by Michael Axworthy

Chapter 4 - Shi'ism and the Safavids

  • "The great schisms of the Christian church, between East and Wast, and later between Catholic and Protestant, came centuries after the time of Christ. But the great schism in Islam that still divides Muslims today, between Sunni and Shi'a, originated in the earliest days of the faith....Comparisons with the Christian schisms do not really work." - 125
  • 656 AD: Ali becomes the fourth caliph; "Shi'a Muslims believe that Mohammad nominated Ali as his successor" - 126
  • "The Shi'a saw themselves as the underdogs, the dispossessed....A deep inclination to sympathy and compassion for the oppressed -- and a tendency to see them as naturally more righteous than the rich and powerful -- has persisted in popular Shi'ism right through to the present day....Shi'a Muslims saw themselves as a more or less persecuted minority within states [Umayyad and Abassid] run by and for Sunni Muslims." -127
  • "Some Sufi shaykhs were learned hermits, wedded to poverty and contemplation. But others were less contemplative and more proselytizing, more ghuluww (extreme), more inclined to the realization of divine purposes in the world through worldly acts, and more ambivalent about violence." - 131
  • 1501 AD: "Esma'il and his Qezelbash ['red-headed', referring to their red hats] followers conquered Tabriz (the old Seljuk capital)" and Esma'il declares himself shah of the Safavids and institutes Twelver Shi'ism as the Safavid religion - 131-2
  • "The new army [under Abbas the Great] was largely organized around the introduction...of gunpowder weapons, including up-to-date cannon and a corps of musketeers. Many features of it echoed Ottoman practice -- the musketeers were designed to be the equals of the redoubtable Ottoman janissaries." - 135
  • 1616 AD: English East India Company acquires the right to trade in Persia - 135
  • 1639 AD: Treaty of Zohab "fixed the Ottoman/Persian boundary in its present-day position between Iran and Iraq" - 141
  • "As Shah Soleiman's reign drew to a close, the Safavid regime looked strong but had been seriously weakened. Its monuments looked splendid, but the intellectual world of Persia, once distinguished for its tolerance and vision, was now led by narrower, smaller minds." - 144

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