Islamic Period

Arab Conquest

After Prophet Muhammad’s death in 632 AD, Abu Bekr, his first successor and the first Caliph of the Muslims, tried to put an end to all the fights and disputes among the Muslims and reunite all the Muslim nations. In his attempts to spread Islam and bring all the nearby land under the Arabs’ control, the first sparkle of the Arab conquest of Persia was lit.

The second Muslim Caliph, Umar, set a campaign against Persia and after several battles, Yazdegerd III, the last Sassanid king who never had such a power as that of the previous king, khusrau II, fled to different districts of Iran and finally got killed by a miller. Having taken Mesopotamia, the Arabs occupied Ctesiphon, the capital of Sassanid dynasty in 637 and in some years, the Arabs pushed eastwards and the eastern parts of Persia were also occupied. The Sassanid Empire was totally toppled in Nahavand battle in 641 AD and the Umayyad dynasty, which was of a purely Arabic nature, was established in Persia. Because of peoples’ dissatisfaction of the situation through the battle years and the fair treatment of Islam toward them, the Persians who were mostly Zoroastrians gradually converted to Islam.

The Arabs tried to change the Iranian’s Persian way of life and impose their own manners, traditions, habits, politics, rules, etc. on the Iranians and they announced Arabic as the official language of the country. Iranians never accepted a totally Arabic culture and language; however, both Persians and Arabs adopted some customs and traditions of the other. So the two cultures got intermingled and a new Islamic Persian culture was founded.

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Saffarid Dynasty

Saffarid dynasty is named after its founder, Yaqub bin Laith Saffar. He was a coppersmith (Saffar) who was appointed the general of the Tahirid army, because of his braveries. This was a good opportunity for

him to capture Sistan in the southeast of Iran and through several battles and conquests he expanded his territories in the east and in the west and announced Zaranj, in Sistan, as his capital.Yaqub also seized khorasan and toppled the Taherid dynasty. In the west he captured Fars and moved on to khouzestan and towards Damascus, the capital of the Abbasid dynasty; but he was defeated by the caliph’s troops and withdrew to Sistan. However, he always remained a vassal of the Abbasid caliphs.

After his death in 878, the Saffarids almost lost their power. Yaqub’s brother and successor, Amr Bin Laith Saffar, who was less a revolter than Yaqub, was granted some provinces to rule while completely under the control of the Abbasid Caliph; but later, in 900 CE, their territory was limited to Sistan as a result of a defeat in a battle against Amir Ismaiil Samani, the founder of Samanid dynasty. From then on, the Saffarids remained the vassals of other Iranian dynasties with little ruling power.

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The Ziyarid

The Ziyarid Dynasty was established by Mardavij Ibn-e Zyar in 928. He started from northern provinces of Mazandaran and Gorgan and continued southwards to seize Isfahan and westwards to capture Hamedan. the dynasty was ended in 1043.

One of the most important historical sites of Iran is Gonbad-e GHabus(tower of Qabus) which is the tomb of Qabus Ibn-e Voshmgir, the Ziyarid king. The tomb has a significant cylindrical architecture and it is said that the body of the king had been hanging from the ceiling in a glass coffin.

The Iranian scientist, Abu Rayhan Biruni lived during this era and was supported by the Ziyarid king, Qabus.

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Samanid Dynasty

The Samanid period was the flourishing season of Iran after the Arab conquest. It was an entirely Persian dynasty, founded in 819 by Saman-Khoda, a Zoroastrian who converted to Islam. The Samanids knew

The Samanid kings and princes were wise and considerate and meanwhile quite faithful to the Abbasid Caliphs; however, they always tried to keep their independence in governing their own territory. Moreover, most of the ministers in the Samanid court were men of literature and high education.

In the time of Amir Ismail Samani, who conquered the Saffarids in Khorasan in 900 CE, the power of the Samanids was doubled because of his smart policies and justice. He extended the territory of his kingdom as far as Khorasan and Central Asia. The stability of the government caused high social security, hence the opportunity to improve the situation in every aspect. The country changed for better in culture, art, economy, and commerce, politics, science, architecture, agriculture, etc. there is still clear evidence of their astonishing progress in arts and architecture, seen especially in Bokhara, their main Capital.

The successors of Ismail did not follow his policies and therefore could not go on such firmly as he did. In Samanid period, the Turks of Iran found special positions in the court and as a result, the first sparkles of the Turk dynasties were lit. In 999, after 180 years of fruitful and glorious governing, the Samanid dynasty was overthrown by Karakhamids.

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The Ghaznavid

Ghaznavid Dynasty established in 963 by Alptigin was the first Turkish dynasty in Iran who ruled Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of northern and north western India. The capital of this dynasty was Ghazni in present day Afghanistan. It was during this era when Islam was introduced to India through

In the last years of the Samanid dynasty, Alptigin, one of the commanders from a Turkic tribe gradually achieved power and started increasing the territories under his command and of course still they were under the rule of the Samanids but were starting to act independently and finally were overthrown by them. As they had originated in Ghazni, they named the dynasty as Ghaznavid. Although the Ghaznavid were Turkic people, they were very much under the influence of the Persian Samanids and hardly can we consider them as Turks. They even supported Persian literature and poets to an acceptable extends.

The most important and famous king of the Ghaznavid was Mahmud who attacked India 17 times and captured vast areas in north and northwest of India and Islamized the Hindu part of India. But after the death of Mahmud in 1030, his successors lost most parts of the territory to another Turkic group named the Seljuqs and the dynasty ended in 1187.

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The Seljuks

The Seljuk dynasty was established in 985 by a Turk tribe outside Iran in the north. The founder of this dynasty was Seljuk who first settled in south central Kazakhstan.under rule of Togrul beg they started immigrating to Khorasan and since then the reign of the Seljuks started in Iran.

The Seljuks entered Khorasan province and some lands and cities including Merv, Neishabur, Balkh and finally, they captured Ghazni, the capital of the Ghaznavid dynasty in 1037.the Ghaznavids were defeated in the battle of Dandanaqan and left the territories to the Seljuks.

This period was a flourishing time for Persian literature, art, and science. Nezam Al-Molk, the great Iranian scientist was the vizier of Malek Shah and the kings very well supported the poets and scientists. Omar Khayyam (the astronomer) and Ghazali (the philosopher) were two other famous people of this era.
They founded many schools the most important of which was Nezamiyeh University in Baghdad. The culmination of Seljuk dynasty was during the reign of Malek Shah. When he died in 1092, the empire started to decline because of the quarrels and oppositions for the throne. So it led to the split of the territory and the dynasty did not last longer than 1153 when different groups and tribes attacked from different regions and ended this great empire.

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The Khwarazmid

The khwarazmid empire was another Turkic empire who seized the power from the Seljuks and ruled Iran in the 11th century. The founder of the empire was Anush Tigin. The capital of the empire was Urgench and it was at the end of this dynasty that the Mongol invasion occurred.

In the beginning, Nush Tigin was one of the slaves of the Seljuk kings and later, because of his wisdom and efficiency, became the chief of Khwarazm in Khorasan.

After Nush Tigin, his son Qotb Al- Din Muhammad became the ruler of Khwarazm. His Son, Otsoz was also recognized by the Seljuk king as the ruler of Khwarazm but they were all under the control of the Seljuks and could not act independently. Later because of the quarrels for the throne of the Seljuk kingship, the Khwarazm rulers found the opportunity to expand their territory and announce themselves as “Khwaramshah “that means the king of Khwarazm. Later, under the rule of Ala Ad-din Tekesh, they took all the Seljuk lands and became the dominant dynasty in Iran, though they were all under the rule and control of the Abbasid Caliphates in Iraq.

After Ala Ad-din Tekesh, his Son Mohammad was announced as Sultan Mohammad Khwarazmshah. At this time Chengiz, the Mongol king sent a group of traders to Iran who was killed by a town chief. Chengiz wanted Sultan Mohammad to surrender the person to him to be judged and killed; but the Khwarzmi king ignored his request and it lit a sparkle for the Mongol invasion in 1231 when the Mongols destroyed the whole country and culture of Iran and ruined whatever there was of art, literature and science.

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Safavid Dynasty

The Safavid dynasty was the greatest Iranian empire after the Arab conquest, ruled Iran for about 200 years (1502-1722) and was named after a branch of Islam religion -Safavieh- that was founded by sheikh Safi al-Din in Ardabil. They were the first dynasty to announce Shi’ism as the official religion of the state.

In Safavid period the unity of all the provinces of Iran was regained. Their origin is subject to doubt and debate among the historians but is said to be Azerbaijani, Kurdish, Greek and maybe even Arab race; however, their official language was Azerbaijani though Persian was also used for many purposes.

They started their political activities in Ardabil where they had settled since the 5th century. The founder of the dynasty was shah Ismail who believed in Shi’ism. Having established the Safavid dynasty, he started to expand his domain and after about 10 years had seized almost all of Iran and the neighboring lands.

The most remarkable and renowned figure of the Safavid Empire was shah Abbas I who ascended the throne in 1587.he put an end to the several battles between themselves and the Ottomans. Through several wars, he recaptured the lands that the previous kings had lost to the enemies. In a battle with the Kurdish tribes, he removed a group of Kurds to Khorasan the descendants of whom are still living there. The ruling time of shah Abbas I was one of the most prosperous periods in Iran history. He died in 1629 and this was the beginning f the decline of the Safavid Empire.

Because of the inefficiency of shah sultan Hussein, the Afghans entered Iran and captured Isfahan, the capital of the Safavids. Sultan Hussein’s successors had even less power than he himself and he can be considered as the last king of the Safavid dynasty.

During the Safavid Empire, the international commerce had a considerable growth. Literature also gained a new spirit and flourished. Several of Safavid kings wrote poems both in Persian and Azerbaijani. The samples of the Safavids’ magnificent buildings can be seen in Isfahan, the heartland of Islamic architecture.

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Zand Dynasty

The founder of the dynasty, Karim khan, has always been remembered as one of the most popular kings of Iran. By struggling the heirs of the Afsharid dynasty, and defending the heirs of the Safavid dynasty, gradually he obtained the required power and established the Zand dynasty in 1750.

The origin of the Zands was a tribe of the Lor race of Iran, named as Zand. Karim Khan never entitled himself as the king, but always knew himself the regent or advocate of the Iranian people. His time was the era of prosperity and the destructions and declines of the previous decades were compensated. He announced Shiraz his capital and made it the center of commerce, art, and culture the clear evidence of which are still quite obvious in the present day Shiraz.

Karim khan took back some of the occupied lands of Iran but did not go on territory expansion. For instance, he left Khorasan in the hands of the Afsharid princes, though showing no respect towards them. Although his domain was not as large as other great figures of Iranian dynasties, he ruled his kingdom with appropriate care, policy and wisdom, rarely seen in Iran history.

Among his successors, Lotf Ali Khan had a good reputation, though, for most of his ruling period, he was involved in wars, especially against the Qajars. Finally, he was killed by the Qajars in 1794 and this was the end of the Zand dynasty.

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Qajar dynasty

The Qajars were a Turkmen tribe the leader of which was Agha Mohammad Khan. After Karim Khan Zand’s death in 1779, Agha Mohammad Khan started his efforts to reunify all the provinces of Iran which were acting independently under the rule of local governors.

Defeating all his rivals, Agha Mohammad Khan established the Qajar dynasty in1795and set Tehran as the capital of his kingdom.

The Qajar period was the beginning of the foreign influence in the internal affairs of the country. Foreign governments, especially Russia, Britain and France rivaled excessively for Iran. As a result of the different contracts and treaties, such as Golestan and Turkmanchai, Iran lost several provinces and granted the foreigners so many privileges.

One of the most important turning points in the history of Iran was the constitutional revolution that happened in 1906 and was led by the clergymen and the merchants in the time of Mozaffar a-din shah’s ruling. As a result the first Majlis (parliament) of Iran was founded so that the people’s representatives could observe and supervise the government’s policies and activities. With the help of Russia, the next successor to the throne, Mohammad Ali shah revoked the parliament but despite the many barriers and through widespread revolts, people reopened it and continued the constitution.

The most famous and successful of the Qajar kings was Naser a-Din Shah. He and his consultant, Mirza Taghi Khan Amir Kabir, who had helped him ascend the throne, started a multilateral reformation to change the disastrous situation of the country. The most important of Amir Kabir’s works, was the foundation of the first modern university of Iran, Dar al-Fonoon, with Iranian, French and Russian instructors in order to impart the modern techniques and knowledge of the day to the Iranian students.
World War I (1914-1918) broke out in the time of Ahmad Shah, the last, the youngest and the weakest Qajar king. During the war, though neutral, Iran was occupied by the British and Russian forces and suffered aggressions and violations until Reza Khan, a military figure, was established the dictator of Iran by a coup in 1921 and later n 1925 he was chosen the first king (Shah) of the Pahlavi dynasty.

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Pahlavi Dynasty

The Pahlavi dynasty was founded by a brave military officer, Reza Khan, in 1925. In Pahlavi period, Iran underwent different changes. The international connections and consequently the influence of the western countries got even more than in Qajar period.

Reza Shah and his son and successor, Mohammad Reza shah, wanted to make a Europe out of Iran, while the majority could not stand the sudden changes that were mostly in contrast with their religious beliefs. Although Reza Shah did so much for improvement, modernization, and construction of iron, his cruelty and dictatorship raised the public anger and dissatisfaction.

During World War II, although Iran was declared as neutral by Reza Shah, it did not remain safe from the invasions of Britain and Russia. Reza Shah tried to eliminate the influence of Britain and Russia in Iran, but as they had already gained enough dominance in the domestic affairs of Iran, the sent him to exile and made his son the Shah (king) of Iran in 1941. Mohammad Reza shah was just a puppet king and despite his father, he had no power by himself. As he succeeded the throne, a nationalistic lawyer, Mohammad Mosaddeq, who had been a minister before Reza shah’s sovereignty, joined the parliament and started his efforts to nationalize the oil company which was then the absolute monopoly of Britain, granted to them in Qajar period. Finally, in 1951 he could force Shah to declare the nationalization of the petroleum industry and afterward, Mosaddeq was appointed the prime minister. Mosaddeq was a political activist all during Mohammad Reza’s sovereignty; but by the plots of the foreign elements, he was recognized as patricide. Consequently, he was trialed and imprisoned and finally died in 1967.

One of the policies of Mohammad Reza shah was the increase of connections with the US that led to more foreign interference in affairs of Iran and obviously this was not welcomed by the majority and the Majlis. Shah decided to repeal the Majlis to avoid oppositions and to repress the internal rebels he had already instituted the organization of national security and intelligence (SAVAK), supported by CIA and Israel’s Mossad.

One of the most important events during the Pahlavi dynasty was the white revolution in 1963. It was a social and economic program suggested by shah and objected by the most popular clerical figure in the history of Iran, Ruhollah Khomeini. Shah arrested Khomeini but was forced to free him from prison because of the worldwide reaction that it brought about. Since then, Ruhollah Khomeini was exiled several times, several massacres happened by the order of shah, and the ever increasing cruelty of Shah and SAVAK (the security and information organization) pushed the country towards a revolution that was led by Imam Khomeini. The sparkles of the revolution were let from the very beginning of Pahlavi dynasty as a result of public dissatisfaction. After Shah left Iran under the public pressure, the revolution was gloriously concluded and the Islamic republic of Iran was established.

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Islamic Revolution

The majority of Iranians were not happy with the Pahlavi dynasty. Mohammad Reza’s total submission to US and his anti-Islamic policies raised the anger and dissatisfaction of the population and gradually the objections led to a civil war, controlled and leaded by the clerical figure Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who was then in exile under the shah’s command. Though far away, Ayatollah Khomeini controlled the situation quite sagaciously and his orders and commands were fulfilled in Iran right away.

After several months of war between people and the army, the shah was forced to leave Iran in January 16, 1979 and within two weeks Khomeini came back to Iran with the warm welcome of millions of


Some months later, in a referendum, more than 99% of Iranians approved to the establishment of an Islamic republic and Khomeini was accepted as the head and leader of the country as well as the supreme spiritual and religious leader(Ayatollah).

In the newly established republic, the constitution was revised and all the principles were set according to Islamic codes. So in the new system, the basis of every decision, whether political, economic, etc., must be Islam.

In the late 1980, Iraq attacked Iran and 8 years of war followed. During the war, Iraq was supported by different countries especially by the US that equipped her with weapons. Finally in 1988 the war ended with the interference of the UN.

The first president of the Islamic republic was Bani Sadr who was removed by Ayatollah Khomeini in less than a year. Rajaii was elected president but was killed by terrorists after several months and Hojattoleslam Seyyed Ali Khameneii was elected president. In 1989

Ayatollah Khomeini passed away and Khameneii replaced him as the supreme spiritual leader and the head of the Islamic republic and Hojatoleslam Hashemi Rafsenjani was elected president. He served as the president for two periods of four years (the utmost period of time for presidency in Iran’s constitution) and then, Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami was elected president in 1997. He also was the president for 8 years.

In 2005 Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad was elected president of Iran whose policies have turned the attention of the world towards the Middle East in general and Iran in particular.

Several years before and after the Islamic revolution different political parties were active in the country, involved in terrors and sabotages. Many political and clerical personalities of Iran were killed by such groups, some of which are still active outside Iran.

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