Thursday, May 25, 2006

02. Arab Invasion to Moghol Invasion

02. Arab Invasion to Moghol Invasion

Following the Arab Invasion, at the time of Khalif Omar, the state power based on the tribal Arab aristocracy was formed in Iran. The power passed into the hands of the Omayid, and Iran became dependent on them. The Omayid rule signified total Arab domination of Iran. On the other hand, it served as a stimulus to popular uprisings as well as rebellions by Iranian feudals. Iranians played an effective role in the overthrow of the Omayid rule (133H.) and the bring into power of Abbasids. The rebellion of Abu Moslem Khorasani in this period is very well-known.

The Abbasid founded Baghdad near the ruins of Tisfun and made it the capital of their empire. During the Abbasid period, Iranians contributed significantly to the development of Islamic culture. The Abbasid Khalifs adopted governmental traditions of the Sasanid; Iranians, such as the famous House of Barmak, gained high rank and status in the government.

However, by the end of this period (early third century of Hijra) popular movements broke out all-over the Iranian soil. Also, a number of old feudal families began to regain their former positions as the disintegration of the Abbasid rule proceeded. The feudal princes that came into power and formed dynasties were of diverse origins:

1) The old feudal families in various regions of Iran; such as the Taheris in Khorasan (206-260 of Hijra), the Samanid in Middle Asia (204-390 H.), the Ziyaris in Gorgan (316-434 H.), the House of Booyeh (324-447 H.) in the west of Iran and Iraq (Euphrates), etc.

2) Rulers who arose from peasant movements and subsequently formed feudal states. Such are the Saffarid in Siestan (247-288 H.), the Alavis in Mazandaran and Gorgan (250-316 H.), Ismaiilis, etc.

3) Former turk slaves of the Abbasid or local courts; such as the Ghaznavi (351-432 H.) turks in Khorasan and Afghanistan, the Seljuk turks (430-530 H.) from Central Asia who wrested power from the Ghaznavis and set up a geographically extensive government in Iran, and the Khwarazmshahis in Central Asia (530-627 H.)

What was common to all these local governments was:

1) Their efforts to extend their domains in opposition to Arab Rule. The Deylamis, a ruling dynasty from the Caspian province of Gilan, conquer Baghdad, and the Seljukis advanced as far as Syria.

2) They were all served by Iranian dignitaries of government and culture, and used the same language- Dari, or modern Persian. The Ghaznavi court is famous for its encouragement of Persian literature, and the famous Shahnameh of Ferdowsi was composed in this period. It was apparently the consummation of efforts to revive the Persian language. Such efforts were centered in Khorasan.

In reality formation of these dynasties can be considered as expressing efforts by the various peoples of Iran to overthrow the Arab rule. The conquest of power by each new ethnic group meant rather the integration of the victor and the vanquished than the disappearance of the latter. In this way, the central government progressively became the representative of the feudals and chiefs of these peoples.
In this period of re-Iranianization, unlike the pre-Islamic times, centers of Iranian power and civilization shifted from the west (where the Arabs were still powerful) to the east and north.
It is noteworthy that even the devastating invasion by the moghols did not create any big changes in the ethnic composition of governments in Iran. The spatial and temporal continuity of what is commonly considered as "Persian" culture was retained and "Persian" acquired the connotation of "elite" rather than a strict ethnic meaning.

This is how Iran looked on the eve of the Moghol Invasion. In the next part I will discuss Moghols, the local nature of power in Kurdestan and the formation of Safavid dynasty.