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Daily Archives: August 4, 2014

The Conversion of Iran to Twelver Shi’ism: A Preliminary Historical Overview

One of the most significant transformations that occurred in Islamic history, the legacy of which is apparent even in our own day, was undoubtedly the formal conversion of Iran to Shi‘ism during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Although there have been other instances throughout Islamic history of rulers seeking to bring about religious uniformity for political reasons—the Almohads in Iberia and North Africa being prime examples; the example of Malikism in al-Andalus is another—the case of the Safavids in Iran is perhaps the only example where such a conversion of territory was largely successful, in terms of both the scale of the project and its permanence. The end result was that an entire region of the Islamic world was placed under the exclusive dominion of a single sect, Twelver Shi‘ism, at the expense of other forms of Islam (Sunnism and Zaydi Shi‘ism). (more…)