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Shah Ismail Ibn Sheikh Haydar bin Sheikh Safawi (July 17, 1487 - May 23, 1524), was a Shah of Iran and the founder of the Safavid Empire, which survived until 1736. Shah Ismail started his campaign in Azerbaijan in 1502, and had re-unified all of Iran by 1509. He was a Shia Muslim from Ardabil in Northwestern Iran and reigned as Shah Isma'il I of Iran from 1502 to 1524. He played a key role in the rise of the Twelver branch of Shia Islam over the formerly dominant Ismaili. Ismail also, is the man who converted Iran from the Sunni to the Shi’i sect of Islam. ####Shah Ismail was also a prolific poet who, under the pen name Khata'i, contributed greatly to the literary development of the Azerbaijani language.
Life and political history
He was a descendant of the Sufi saint Safi-ad-din Ardabili (1252-1334). As such, Ismail was the last in line of hereditary Grand Masters of the Safaviyeh Sufi order, prior to his ascent to a ruling dynasty. Ismail found significant support among the people of Azerbaijan as well as some parts of the Ottoman Empire, mainly in eastern Anatolia. Ismail's advent to power was due to Turkoman tribes of Anatolia and Azerbaijan, who formed the most important part of the Qizilbash movement. Centuries of Sunni rule followed by non-Muslim Mongol hegemony lent fertile ground for new teachings. In 1501, Ismail I proclaimed himself Shah, choosing Tabriz, in Iran's northernmost province of Azerbaijan, as his capital. In that year he also defeated the Aq Qoyunlu (White Sheep Turks). In 1510 Ismail I moved against the Sunni Uzbeg tribe. In battle near the city of Merv, some 17,000 Qizilbash warriors ambushed and defeated a superior Uzbek force numbering 28,000. The Uzbek ruler, Muhammad Shaybani, was caught and killed. In 1514, Selim I, the Sunni Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, attacked Ismā'il's kingdom to stop the spread of Shiism into Ottoman dominions. Selim I defeated Ismail at the battle of Chaldiran in 1514. Ismail's army was more mobile and their soldiers were better prepared but the Ottomans prevailed due in large part to their efficient modern army, and possession of artillery, black powder and muskets. Ismā'il was wounded and almost captured in battle. Ismā'il's reign was marked by enormous conquests, shaping the map of Iran up to the present day. Baghdad and the holy Shi'a shrines of Najaf and Karbala were seized from the Ottoman Turks, lost and reconquered again.
Ismāil's greatest legacy was establishing an enduring empire which lasted over 200 years. Even after the fall of Safavids in 1722, their cultural and political influence endured through the era of Afsharid, Zand, Qajar, and Pahlavi dynasties into the modern Islamic Republic of Iran, where Shi’a Islam is still the official religion as it was during the Safavids.
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