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The Safaviyya (Persian: صفویه) was a Sufi order founded by the Kurdish[1][2][3] mystic Sheikh Safi-ad-din Ardabili (1252–1334). It held a prominent place in the society and politics of northwestern Iran in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, but today it is best known for having given rise to the Safavid dynasty.

Safī al-Din grew up in Ardabil but left it, for lack of adequate teachers, and travelled to Shiraz and then Gilan. In Gilan, he became the disciple of Sheikh Zahid, leader of the Zahidī Sufi order. He eventually became Sheikh Zahid's chief disciple and married his daughter. Upon Sheikh Zahid's death, the Zahidiyya came under Safī ad-Din's leadership and was renamed the Safaviyya.

Safī al-Din's importance is attested in two letters by Rashid al-Din. In one, Rashid al-Din pledges an annual offering of foodstuffs. In the other, Rashid al-Din writes to his son, the governor of Ardabil, advising him to show proper consideration to the sheikh.[4]

After Safī al-Din's death, leadership of the order passed to his son Sadr al-Dīn Mūsā, and subsequently passed down from father to son. In the mid-fifteenth century, the Safaviyya changed in character and became militant under Shaykh Junayd and Shaykh Haydar, launching jihads against the Christians of Georgia. Haydar's grandson, Ismail, further altered the nature of the order when he founded the Safavid empire in 1501 and proclaimed Twelver Shi'ism the state religion.

See also


  1. Newman, Andrew J., Safavid Iran: Rebirth of a Persian Empire, (I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2006), 152.
  2. R.M. Savory. Ebn Bazzaz. Encyclopædia Iranica
  3. V. Minorsky, "The Poetry of Shāh Ismā‘īl I," Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 10/4 (1942): 1006–53.
  4. G. E. Browne, Literary History of Persia, vol. 4, 33–4.