Armenian sources from the 15th century provide distinctive viewpoints on the history of the Safaviyyih Sufi order before the foundation of the Safavid Empire. The history of T‘ovma of Metsop‘ suggests an earlier intermediate step in the militarization of the order, which scholars have typically viewed as an unprecedented development beginning after 1447, and ascribes to the Safavi shaykh the idea of taxing non-Muslims to encourage conversion to Islam. A second Armenian text, a previously unknown colophon, describes Haydar's attack on Shirvan in 1488 and the suffering of the Muslim and Christian sedentary population, as well as an episode of interreligious mockery. It is probably the earliest extant source to identify the Qizilbash by their distinctive red hats. Together, these sources suggest ways in which the Safaviyyih order's development was conditioned by the multireligious environment. They are examples of the value of non-Muslim sources even for late medieval Islamic history.
Author's note: Thanks to Michael Cook, Sholeh Quinn, Henry Shapiro, and the anonymous reviewers for providing useful feedback on earlier drafts of this article.
1 The standard overviews of Safavid history as a whole are Savory, Roger M., Iran under the Safavids (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980); Roemer, Hans R., “The Safavid Period,” in The Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 6, The Timurid and Safavid Periods, ed. Jackson, Peter and Lockhart, Laurence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 189–350 ; and Newman, Andrew J., Safavid Iran: Rebirth of a Persian Empire (London: I.B.Tauris, 2006). Though now somewhat old, the only monograph treatment of the Safaviyyih before 1501 remains Mazzaoui, Michel M., The Origins of the Ṣafawids: Šīʿism, Ṣūfism, and the Ġulāt (Wiesbaden: F. Steiner, 1972). A recent example of this standard summary is Rizvi, Kishwar, The Safavid Dynastic Shrine: Architecture, Religion and Power in Early Modern Iran (London: I.B.Tauris, 2011), 27–28 .
2 A detailed review of the scholarship on the genealogy and its development is provided by Morimoto, Kazuo, “The Earliest ʿAlid Genealogy for the Safavids: New Evidence for the Pre-Dynastic Claim to Sayyid Status,” Iranian Studies 43 (2010): 449–63.
3 Aubin, Jean, “Etudes safavides. I. Šāh Ismaʿil et les notables de l'Iraq persan,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 2 (1959): 42–43 .
4 Matthee, Rudi recently asked whether the Safavid Empire should be considered an empire, and Newman preferred to speak of the “Safavid project” rather than the “Safavid state.” Rudi Matthee, “Was Safavid Iran an Empire?,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 53 (2010): 233–65; Newman, Safavid Iran, 6, 8. By “empire” I merely mean a notion of territorial sovereignty, which the Safavid dynasty may be said to have possessed for the first time with Ismaʿil's conquests.
5 Roemer, “The Safavid Period,” 196.
6 Newman's emphasis on rulers’ discourses led him to begin his account of the Safavids with the poetry of Ismaʿil, with brief reference backward to the imperial projects of Timurids and Aqquyunlu. Ismaʿil's own progenitors figure in his story only insofar as they passed on a mixed heredity. Newman, Safavid Iran, 9–11, 13–15.
7 Savory, Iran under the Safavids, 22.
8 Allouche, Adel, The Origins and Development of the Ottoman–Ṣafavid Conflict (906–962/1500–1555) (Berlin: K. Schwarz Verlag, 1983), 48–50, 58–59, 61.
9 Aubin, Jean, “L'avènement des safavides reconsidéré (Etudes safavides III),” Moyen Orient & Océan Indien, XVIe–XIXe s. 5 (1988): 6–7, 9; Mitchell, Colin P., The Practice of Politics in Safavid Iran: Power, Religion and Rhetoric (New York: I.B.Tauris, 2009), 21–23 .
10 Anooshahr, Ali, “The Rise of the Safavids according to Their Old Veterans: Amini Haravi's Futuhat-e Shahi ,” Iranian Studies 48 (2015): 249–67.
11 Social and cultural continuity are not mutually exclusive, of course. Aubin melded both in his proposal that the central personnel of the Safaviyyih, who had served under Shaykh Haydar, introduced Ismaʿil to Turkic poetry and mysticism. Aubin, “L'avènement,” 37.
12 Savory, Iran under the Safavids, 13.
13 Mazzaoui, Origins of the Ṣafawids, 56, 71.
14 Allouche, Ottoman-Ṣafavid Conflict, 63; Aubin, “Šāh Ismaʿil,” 45; Aubin, “L'avènement,” 4.
15 Newman, Safavid Iran, 24–25.
16 Roemer, “The Safavid Period,” 196–97.
17 Aubin, “Šāh Ismaʿil,” 55.
18 Roemer ascribed the term to a 1921 lecture by Franz Babinger. Roemer, “The Safavid Period,” 191; Hans R. Roemer, “The Successors of Tīmūr,” in The Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 6, The Timurid and Safavid Periods, 135. It was also used by, for example, Mazzaoui, Origins of the Ṣafawids, 56.
19 Rahimi, Babak, “Between Chieftaincy and Knighthood: A Comparative Study of Ottoman and Safavid Origins,” Thesis Eleven 76 (2004): 92–95 .
20 Surprisingly, Mazzaoui asserted the opposite, namely that claiming divinity hindered the prosecution of ghazā. Mazzaoui, Origins of the Ṣafawids, 77. He provided no reason for his assertion, however.
21 Babayan, Kathryn, “The Safavid Synthesis: From Qizilbash Islam to Imamite Shi‘ism,” Iranian Studies 27 (1994): 138, 140–41.
22 Mitchell, Politics in Safavid Iran, 20–22.
23 Mazzaoui, Origins of the Ṣafawids, 22–40, 58–71, 73.
24 Babayan, “Safavid Synthesis,” 145–46, 148–49.
25 Bashir, Shahzad, “After the Messiah: The Nūrbakhshiyyeh in Late Timurid and Early Safavid Times,” in Society and Culture in the Early Modern Middle East: Studies on Iran in the Safavid Period, ed. Newman, Andrew J. (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 296 .
26 The closest analogue in the scholarship seems to be the Mushaʿshaʿ movement in southern Iraq raiding Muslim pilgrim caravans. Mazzaoui, Origins of the Ṣafawids, 67.
27 Mazzaoui, Origins of the Ṣafawids, 73–76, 84; Savory, Iran under the Safavids, 16, 18; Allouche, Ottoman-Ṣafavid Conflict, 52; Roemer, “The Safavid Period,” 204, 208.
28 Mazzaoui, Origins of the Ṣafawids, 72–73.
29 Savory, Iran under the Safavids, 16, 18.
30 Roemer, “The Safavid Period,” 203–4.
31 Allouche, Ottoman–Ṣafavid Conflict, 49–50; Roemer, “The Safavid Period,” 208.
32 This point was demonstrated in greatest detail by Quinn, Sholeh A., Historical Writing during the Reign of Shah ʿAbbas: Ideology, Imitation, and Legitimacy in Safavid Chronicles (Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 2000), 63–91 .
33 Thus Mazzaoui cites a post-1501 chronicle to suggest that the Timurid princes would often “pay their respects to the chief of the Order” in Ardabil. Mazzaoui, Origins of the Ṣafawids, 57. It is noteworthy that while Mirkhwand recorded a number of visits by Timurids to Ardabil, his pre-1501 history nowhere mentioned paying respects to a Safavi shaykh.
34 Aubin, “Šāh Ismaʿil,” 46; Morimoto, “Earliest ʿAlid Genealogy,” 467. According to Allouche, one 17th-century source mentions Jaʿfar only for his learning, omitting to mention that he was leader of the Safaviyyih order. Allouche, Ottoman-Ṣafavid Conflict, 44n42.
35 Morimoto, “Earliest ʿAlid Genealogy,” 448, 468–69.
36 Aytberov, Temur, “The Newly Found Tomb-Stone of Sheikh Ḥaydar the Ṣafavid in Dagestan,” Iran and the Caucasus 13 (2009): 281–84.
37 Ṭihrani, Abu Bakr, Kitab-i Diyarbakriyyih, ed. Lugal, N. and Sümer, F. (Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu Basimevi, 1962), 467 .
38 ʿAli Yazdi, Sharaf al-Din, Zafarnama, ed. Sadiq, Saʿid Mir Muhammad and Navvabi, ʿAbd al-Husayn (Tehran: Kitabkhanah-i Muzih va Markaz-i Asnad-i Majlis-i Shura-yi Islami, 2008), 1:740, 750 ; Mirkhwand, Muhammad b. Khavandshah and Hidayat, Riza Quli Khan, Tarikh-i Rawzat al-Safaʾ (Tehran: Markazi-i Khayyam Piruz, 1960), 6:220, 225 . In the former passage, Mirkhwand does not name the ruler of “Ardabil,” and in the second, he merely gives the name as Shaykh ʿAli. An older edition of Yazdi reads “Ardabil,” but the fact that the place is a stage on Timur's journey from Kirkuk to Mosul makes a detour of 650 kilometers further east to Ardabil absurd. ʿAli Yazdi, Sharaf al-Din, The Zafarnamah, ed. Ilahdad, Muhammad, Bibliotheca Indica 100 (Calcutta: Thomas, 1887), 1:646–47, 661. This may be the origin of the tradition that Timur met the Safavi Shaykh Khwaja ʿAli, reported in later sources.
39 Khunji-Isfahani, Fazlullah b. Ruzbihan, Tarikh-i ʿAlam-ara-yi Amini, ed. Woods, John E., trans. Vladimir Minorsky (London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1992), 255–305 (Persian), 53–69 (English).
40 Roemer, “The Safavid Period,” 204, 208.
41 Morimoto, “Earliest ʿAlid Genealogy,” 465–68.
42 Aubin, “Šāh Ismaʿil,” 45–46; Mazzaoui, Origins of the Ṣafawids, 72, 74; Allouche, Ottoman–Ṣafavid Conflict, 38–39; Aubin, “L'avènement,” 101. Savory never mentions Jaʿfar at all. Savory, Iran under the Safavids, 16–17. Morimoto presents a more neutral discussion in which the Safaviyyih were divided into two factions, of which Shaykh Jaʿfar's was able to drive Junayd's from Ardabil. Morimoto, “Earliest ʿAlid Genealogy,” 464.
43 Aubin, “Šāh Ismaʿil,” 46–47; Morimoto, “Earliest ʿAlid Genealogy,” 464.
44 Khunji-Isfahani, Tarikh, 55 (English), 266 (Persian).
45 Morimoto, “Earliest ʿAlid Genealogy,” 469.
46 Roemer, “The Safavid Period,” 193.
47 Savory, Iran under the Safavids, 11–13.
48 Allouche, Ottoman-Ṣafavid Conflict, 36; Savory, Iran under the Safavids, 14–15.
49 Roemer, “The Safavid Period,” 203–4.
50 Aṛakʻel of Tabriz, The History of Vardapet Arak'el of Tabriz, trans. George A. Bournoutian (Costa Mesa, Calif.: Mazda Publishers, 2005), 452 ; Brosset, Marie-Félicité, Collection d'historiens arméniens (S.-Pétersbourg: Imprimerie de l'Académie impériale des sciences, 1874–76), 2:5. The two historians are not independent, as Zak'aria cites Aṛakʻel as his source for many of these details.
51 Aṛakʻel of Tabriz, History, 452; Brosset, Collection d'historiens arméniens, 2:6.
52 Woods, John E., The Aqquyunlu: Clan, Confederation, Empire, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 1999), 146 .
53 Aṛakʻel of Tabriz, History, 520.
54 Ibid., 452; Brosset, Collection d'historiens arméniens, 2:6. The tradition is also reported by Pseudo-Angiollelo. Grey, Charles, trans., A Narrative of Italian Travels in Persia in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (London: T. Richards, for the Hakluyt Society, 1873), 101 . Aubin, however, followed Bidlisi in accepting both Aght'amar and Istakhr as sequential places of imprisonment for the young Safavi leader. Bidlisi, Sharaf Khan, Scheref-nameh, ou Histoire des Kourdes, ed. Veliaminof-Zernof, V. (St.-Pétersbourg: Académie impériale des sciences, 1862), 2:133–34; Aubin, “L'avènement,” 105. I am grateful to the third anonymous reader for the references to Pseudo-Angiollelo and to Bidlisi.
55 Aubin, “L'avènement,” 71–73.
56 Hakobyan, V. A., Manr zhamanakagrutʻyunner, XIII-XVIII dd. (Erevan: Haykakan S. S. R. Gitutʻyunneri Akademiayi Hratarakchʻutʻyun, 1951), 1:126. This chronicle is noteworthy for containing an earlier use of a calque of Qizilbash than found in the Persian literature studied by Bashir, Shahzad, “The Origins and Rhetorical Evolution of the Term Qizilbāsh in Persianate Literature,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 57 (2014): 364–91.
57 For arguments regarding the identification of the shaykh mentioned by T‘ovma, see the comments following the translation.
58 Minorsky, Vladimir, “Thomas of Metsop’ on the Timurid-Turkman Wars,” in Professor Muḥammad Shafīʿ Presentation Volume, ed. Abdullah, S. M. (Lahore: Majlis-i Armughan-i ʿIlmi, 1955), 169–70. Minorsky's article was referenced only in passing by Aubin, “Šāh Ismaʿil,” 45n2; Mazzaoui, Origins of the Ṣafawids, 56n1; Allouche, Ottoman–Ṣafavid Conflict, 43; Roemer, “The Safavid Period,” 200.
59 The phrase is Mazzaoui's, but the sentiment was already expressed by Aubin and later echoed by Savory. Aubin, “Šāh Ismaʿil,” 42–43; Mazzaoui, Origins of the Ṣafawids, 56, 71; Savory, Iran under the Safavids, 16. Allouche moved immediately from Khwaja ʿAli's death to Ibrahim's, while Roemer only mentioned Ibrahim in light of the passage translated here. Allouche, Ottoman–Ṣafavid Conflict, 38; Roemer, “The Safavid Period,” 200.
60 For the period 1300–1500, these colophons have been edited by Khach‘ikyan, L. S., Tasnch‘orrord dari hayeren dzeṛhagreri hishatakaranner (Yerevan: Haykakan S. S. R. Gitut‘yunneri Akademiayi Hratarakch’ut‘yun, 1950); and Khach‘ikyan, L. S., Tasnhingerord dari hayeren dzeṛhagreri hishatakaranner (Yerevan: Haykakan S. S. R. Gitut‘yunneri Akademiayi Hratarakch’ut‘yun, 1955–67). Sanjian translated a selection of these from the period 1300–1480 for Middle Eastern historians. Sanjian, Avedis K., trans., Colophons of Armenian Manuscripts, 1301–1480 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1969).
61 This point was made by Sinclair, Thomas A., “The Use of the Colophons and Minor Chronicles in the Writing of Armenian and Turkish History,” Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies 10 (2000): 45–53 .
62 The text reports events from the Mediterranean coastline to Shirvan, which suggests that the scribe who composed it was close to a major travel route. The Aparanits‘ monastery mentioned in the text is a plausible, though not certain, location, and in any event that monastery is not itself located. See n. 93 below.
63 Sargisean, Barsegh, Mayr tsʻutsʻak hayerēn dzeṛagratsʻ Matenadaranin Mkhitʻareantsʻ i Venetik (Venice: S. Ghazar, 1924), 2:1159–60.
64 P‘irghalemean's copy is Yerevan Matenadaran 6273. My only access to it has been through the copy made at Khach‘ikyan, Tasnhingerord, 3:107–8. It is unclear to me whether P‘irghalemean's copy was made in Muş from the original, or whether it might have been made from Nerses Sargsean's earlier copy.
65 He cited Yerevan Matenadaran 2748 and Armenian Cultural Museum, fonds G. Akhverdian, ms. 6. To that list may be added Yerevan Matenadaran 991, ff. 250b–251a (dated 1721). What Khach‘ikyan records as an “alternate ending,” however, is already found at the end of the text in Sargisean's catalogue.
66 The two passages are translated from Metsop‘ets‘i, T‘ovma, Patmagrut‘yun, ed. Khach‘ikyan, Levon (Yerevan: Magaghat, 1999), 207–8, 215–16. A different translation was given earlier in Metsop‘ets‘i, T‘ovma, T‘ovma Metsobets‘i's History of Tamerlane and His Successors, trans. Robert Bedrosian (New York: Sources of the Armenian Tradition, 1987), 99–100, 103–4.
67 Minorsky's translation “cruel governor” is too specific for the Armenian ch‘ar aṛajnord. Minorsky, “Thomas of Metsop’,” 169.
68 In the translation, Arabic and Persian terms are given according to their transliteration directly from their source languages, rather than transliterated from Armenian.
69 The question asks about anyone “from the ancient kings to the present.” Minorsky's translation restricted the query to how well Jahanshah compared to the ancient kings, while Bedrosian's excluded the “ancient kings” from consideration. Ibid., 170; Metsop'ets'i, History, 103.
70 Minorsky's translation omits this sentence.
71 Minorsky's translation inserts “us” as the direct object of the evil actions, but that is not present or implicit in the Armenian. Minorsky, “Thomas of Metsop’,” 170.
72 Bedrosian's translation attaches the seven-year duration to the preceding clause. Metsop‘ets‘i, History, 103.
73 Bedrosian's translation makes this conditional, whereas the Armenian implies it has happened. Ibid., 104.
74 Persian kund, “stupid man, blockhead, dolt.” Bedrosian translated the term bald, while Minorsky omitted the precise insults. Minorsky, “Thomas of Metsop’,” 170; Metsop‘ets‘i, History, 104.
75 The original text, kachal, is not an Armenian word. It probably represents the Persian kachal, meaning bald, scarred, or crooked. Bedrosian transliterated the term without translation.
76 Minorsky did not include this sentence as part of the shaykh's speech. Minorsky, “Thomas of Metsop’,” 170.
77 Bedrosian replaced “this entire people” with “all peoples.” Metsop‘ets‘i, History, 104.
78 The Armenian term aṛajnord also signifies religious leaders rather than political or military governors.
79 Savory, Roger, “A 15th-Century Ṣafavid Propagandist at Harāt,” in American Oriental Society, Middle West Branch, Semi-Centennial Volume, ed. Sinor, Denis (Bloomington, Ind.: International Affairs Center, 1969), 189–97. Matti Moosa also mentioned a Safavi dāʿī in Aleppo before 1460, although his note does not point to any relevant evidence for the assertion. Moosa, Matti, Extremist Shiites: The Ghulat Sects (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1987), 29–30 .
80 Aubin, “L'avènement,” 101–2.
81 In contrast, Allouche called attention to a passage of Aşıkpaşazade in which Shaykh Ibrahim's son Junayd favorably compared his own companions to those of Muhammad. Allouche, Ottoman–Ṣafavid Conflict, 165. Morimoto, however, called attention to the absence of this passage from most editions of the Turkish author, raising the question of when the passage was composed. Morimoto, “Earliest ʿAlid Genealogy,” 462.
82 Savory, Roger M., “Relations between the Safavid State and Its Non-Muslim Minorities,” Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 14 (2003): 435 .
83 Mudarrisi-Tabatabaʾi, Husayn, Farmanha-yi Turkumanan-i Qara Quyunlu va Aq Quyunlu (Qum: Chapkhanah-i Hikmat, 1973), 36, 53, 56–58 . While the surviving firmans all postdate the 1440 campaign, the earliest cites the Jalayirid ruler Shaykh Uvays, suggesting that the practice may have been continuous from an earlier date.
84 In Armenian, the Persian term tājik was used to refer to all Muslims, including for example the Ottoman sultans.
85 This is the standard Armenian way to refer to the Timurid Empire. It is unclear what precisely is being referred to here.
86 The battle of Ağaçayırı (16 August 1488) in the Mamluk–Ottoman war of 1485–91 may be in view though an earlier engagement might be possible. Har-El, Shai, Struggle for Domination in the Middle East: The Ottoman–Mamluk War, 1485–91 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1995), 177–91.
87 Compare the terms qizil qalpāq and surkh-kulāh used by Khunji-Isfahani. Bashir, “The Term Qizilbāsh,” 374; Allouche, Ottoman–Ṣafavid Conflict, 51n66.
88 Sargisean's text omits “themselves.” Sargisean, Matenadaranin Mkhitʻareantsʻ, 2:1159.
89 Sargisean read “am marveling.” Ibid.
90 I am uncertain of the meaning of the Armenian word t‘aghseay, though it may be a misspelling of t‘agheay, which means “made of felt.”
91 Arab. qumāsh.
92 Sargisean's text omits the word “struck.” Sargisean, Matenadaranin Mkhitʻareantsʻ, 2:1160.
93 The location of this event is unclear. The monastery of Aparanits‘ may be related to a village of the same name, which is mentioned in a 1420 colophon as the hometown of a scribe. The scribe's surname was Mokats‘i, i.e., from Mokk‘, a large town slightly south of Lake Van. Khach‘ikyan, Tasnhingerord, 3:353. On the other hand, Terjan (mentioned toward the end of the colophon) is a region located between Erzincan and Erzurum, far to the northwest of Lake Van. Sanjian, Colophons, 399, s.v. Derjan. I have found no other reference to the region of Koter or the village of Atabuk‘.
94 Persian gunāh.
95 Sargisean omits “wine.” Sargisean, Matenadaranin Mkhitʻareantsʻ, 2:1160.
96 I am unsure of the meaning of the word hayanots‘. Perhaps compare Persian hayn, “quiet, ease”; haynat, “convenience, ease”; and haynūna, “quiet men.”
97 Since Haydar died in his third raid, it may be that the date of 1486 for his first raid should be preferred over the date 1483. According to Minorsky, Hinz gave dates of 1483, 1487, and 1488 for Haydar's three raids, although a report of a raid in 1486 was included by Minorsky as referring to the second raid. Khunji-Isfahani, Tarikh, 99–100 (English). That document should perhaps be assigned to the first raid. Allouche followed Khunji-Isfahani in dating the three raids to 1486, 1487, and 1488. Allouche, Ottoman–Ṣafavid Conflict, 52–53; Khunji-Isfahani, Tarikh, 59–60 (English). Alternatively, it is possible that Haydar led more than three expeditions.
98 Anooshahr, “Old Veterans,” 252.
99 The label “Son of God” for Haydar was coupled with the Safaviyyih calling his father Junayd “God,” according to Khunji-Isfahani, Tarikh, 57–58 (English).
100 Ibid., 62–63 (English).
101 Ibid., 61 (English).
102 Ibid., 280–81, 286 (Persian), 61–62, 64 (English).
103 Sanjian, Colophons, 268, 285.
104 The chronicler remarked twice on the fact that an Aqquyunlu general did not allow his army to destroy agriculture in his campaign in 1485–87. Hebraeus, Gregory Abu al-Faraj Bar, The Chronography of Gregory Abû’l Faraj, the Son of Aaron, the Hebrew Physician, Commonly Known as Bar Hebraeus, trans. E. A. Wallis Budge (London: Oxford Univ. Press, H. Milford, 1932), 2:xlix–l.
105 Khunji-Isfahani, Tarikh, 288 (Persian), 64–65 (English).
106 See n. 93 for the uncertainty of the location.
107 See, for example, Savory, “Non-Muslim Minorities”; Aslanian, Sebouh David, From the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean: The Global Trade Networks of Armenian Merchants from New Julfa (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2011).
108 For example, Roemer, “The Safavid Period,” 227; and Newman, Safavid Iran, 15–17. Roemer only mentioned the Armenian population in a brief reference to the deportations under Shah ʿAbbas I which relocated a few thousand to Isfahan. Roemer, “The Safavid Period,” 271–72.
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