Safavid Dynasty - Genealogy – The Ancestors of The Safavids and Its Multi-cultural Identity

Genealogy – The Ancestors of The Safavids and Its Multi-cultural Identity

See also: Safavid dynasty family tree, Safaviyya, Safvat as-safa, Silsilat-al-nasab-i Safaviya, and Firuz Shah Zarin-Kolah

The Safavid Kings themselves claimed to be Seyyeds, family descendants of the prophet Muhammad, although many scholars have cast doubt on this claim. There seems now to be a consensus among scholars that the Safavid family hailed from Persian Kurdistan, and later moved to Azerbaijan, finally settling in the 5th/11th century at Ardabil. Traditional pre-1501 Safavid manuscripts trace the lineage of the Safavids to Kurdish dignitary, Firuz Shah Zarin-Kulah.

According to some historians, including Richard Frye, the Safavids were of Azeri (Turkish) origin:

The Turkish speakers of Azerbaijan are mainly descended from the earlier Iranian speakers, several pockets of whom still exist in the region. A massive migration of Oghuz Turks in the 11th and 12th centuries not only Turkified Azerbaijan but also Anatolia. Azeri Turks were the founders of Safavid dynasty.

Other historians, such as Vladimir Minorsky and Roger Savory, refute this idea:

From the evidence available at the present time, it is certain that the Safavid family was of indigineous Iranian stock, and not of Turkish ancestry as it is sometimes claimed. It is probable that the family originated in Persian Kurdistan, and later moved to Azerbaijan, where they adopted the Azari form of Turkish spoken there, and eventually settled in the small town of Ardabil sometimes during the eleventh century.

By the time of the establishment of the Safavid empire, the members of the family were native Turkish-speaking and Turkicized, and some of the Shahs composed poems in their native Turkish language. Concurrently, the Shahs themselves also supported Persian literature, poetry and art projects including the grand Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp, while members of the family and some Shahs composed Persian poetry as well. In terms of identity, it should be noted that the authority of the Safavids were religiously based and they based their legitimacy on being direct male descendants of the Ali, the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, and the first Shi'ite Imam.

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