The origin of the Safavids

The Safavid family was active in making ground to emerge as a new power in Iran, tracing descent from Musa Kazim. The prominent head at that time was Shaikh Safi, or Safiuddin Abul Fath Ishaq Ardabili (1252-1334), who founded a Sufi order, known after him as the Safaviya at Ardabil in Azerbaijan. He died in 735/1334 and his order was continued by his son, Sadruddin Musa (1334-1391), and then by another son, Khwaja Ali (1391-1427). They deeply influenced most of the Mongol rulers and amirs. Ibrahim (1427-1447), the son of Khwaja Ali also continued the Sufi order founded by Shaikh Safi, but Junayd (1447-1460), the son of Ibrahim acquired some political power and introduced the doctrines of the Twelvers at the time of his death in 1460. He fought several times with the rulers of Kara-Koyunlu, but was killed at Shirwan. His followers continued to gain religious and political leads in Iran. Junayd's son married to Martha, a Greek princess, who bore Sultan Ali, Ibrahim and Ismail. His another son, Hyder (1460-1478) was killed, and other sons were arrested. Thus, only Ismail was survived, because Sultan Ali was also killed and Ibrahim had died very soon. Hence, the events continued to boost the rising of the Safavids during the time of Ismail. Gilan was the centre of the Safavid family. Ismail collected a small force and occupied Baku and Shamakha. He defeated Alwand, the prince of Ak-Kuyunlu dynasty, and captured Tabriz. He also inflicted defeat to the Mongolian ruler and was proclaimed as Shah Ismail and founded the Safavid dynasty in 905/1500 in Iran.

Nuruddin Shah, the younger brother of Gharib Mirza is said to have built a small village near Anjudan after his name, called Nurabad. He also built a defensive post and few small buildings. He erected a Sufi khanqah (cloister) of Abbas Shahi tradition for the local Sufis.

The Ismailis had continued their flocking at Anjudan, where Gharib Mirza confessed their offerings and blessed them with written guidances, bearing his signature and seal. It has since become a tradition in India to celebrate the day of rejoice with great pomp by commonalty and gentry alike when the pilgrims returned unscathed to their homeland.

While examining the traditions congealed around the adherents, it appears that the Ismaili history abounds with the instances of great sacrifices of the daring devotees. For illustration, a best-known Syrian tradition relates a touching anecdote that once a caravan embarked from Khwabi for Anjudan to see Gharib Mirza. At that time, the Safavids were emerging in Iran, therefore, the routes were insecure and the time was not ideal for travellers. When Gharib Mirza knew about the arriving caravan from Syria, he decided to send them back. The time was so critical that no messenger could carry any written order with him. Gharib Mirza at once sought the service of a fidai, who was made lain on the ground without a shirt. Imam got his official orders carved by a dagger on backside of his body with the help of a servant, addressing the Syrian Ismailis to return back at once. The heated copper seal of the Imam was stamped at the concluding part. The young fidai tolerated the pain patiently, and put on a black shirt. He spurred his horse at full gallop for an errand being fraught with danger and gave an ostensible impression of an ordinary man to the people. He succeeded to reach the caravan, whom he transmitted the Imam's orders verbally at first. When he was asked its veracity, he took off his shirt, stuck with the congealed blood, and turned around and made them read the orders of the Imam carved on his backside that, "la ta'tu hazi'his sanh wa lakin fis sanh'til qadema la bud'd alaikum an ta'tu" i.e., "you do not come this year, and come next year." Looking the fidai who displayed a rare prodigies example of valour at great risk, tears welled up in their eyes and returned back soon with sad hearts.

Abu Ishaq Kohistani was a learned dai around this period. His name was Ibrahim, was from the district of Mominabad-i Kohistan in the province of Birjand. Nothing is known about his activities. He was however a writer, and it appears from his writings that he had studied the accessible literature of Alamut period. His famous work, "Haft Bab-i Bu Ishaq" deals the recognition of the Imam with philosophical arguments on Ismaili tariqah. His another work, "Tarikh-i Kohistan" is not traceable.

It is related that Gharib Mirza mastered the botanical field, and with his knowledge, the village of Anjudan was turned into a fertile tract. He mostly passed his whole life in Anjudan, and died in 902/1496. In Anjudan, near the mausoleum of Imam Mustansir billah II, there exists an old burial ground in the garden, the middle of which stands the mausoleum of Gharib Mirza. The wooden box (sanduq) contains Sura Yasin of Holy Koran. In one place, it is clearly written:- "This is the wooden box (sanduq) of Shah Mustansir billah (i.e., Gharib Mirza), the son of Shah Abdus Salam. Written on the 10th of Muharram, 904/August 29, 1498." From this one can conclude that this wooden box was erected about two years after the death of Imam Gharib Mirza.

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