Abbas I (978-1038 H) عباس الأول

Abbas I (978-1038 H) عباس الأول

Above: The Shah Mosque of Isfahan.

Shah of the Safawi (Safawid) Empire, sometimes referred to as Abbas the Great, who, born of a Georgian mother, in Herat (today’s Afghanistan), climbed the throne at the age of 16 and reigned for full 43 years. Faced with various threats, he created a new armed force – called Ghulaman-e-Khaassah Shareefah – from the Georgian prisoners who had converted to Islam. They become a permanent feature of the Safawi Empire. In order to avoid fighting at every front, Abbas entered into peace-treaty in 998 H with the `Uthmanis and gave away control of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kurdistan and other areas. Then he raised an army of 50,000, introducing into it canons in large numbers and using it in the north-eastern front occupied by the Uzbeks. However, he suffered defeat there and turned his attention to Azerbaijan and surrounding areas in 1014 H, and inflicted defeat on the `Uthmani army. He also captured Kurdistan. In 1016 H he brought Bahrayn under Safawi control, ousting out the Portuguese. He also wrested control of Hormuz from the Portuguese with the help of the British and developed trade through (Port) Bandar Abbas which was named after him. He was ultimately able to defeat the Uzbeks also near Herat. Although he was in good terms with Akbar and Jahangir of the Moghul period, he was able to annex Kandahar (now in Afghanistan).

On the north-western front, failing to win alliance between the Safawi Empire and European states against the `Uthmanis, he had to sign a peace treaty with the `Uthmani’s once again in 1027 H. Yet, by 1033 H he again resorted to war and wrenched control of Baghdad and surrounding regions. Actually, the `Uthmanis could have gone much deeper into Europe, but for the Safawi attacks from the south. Every time they made some advance in Europe, the `Uthmanis had to cut troops there to reinforce against Safawi attacks. Ultimately however, they took back Baghdad from the Safawis.

Above : The courtyard of the Shah Mosque.
Above : The courtyard of the Shah Mosque.
Above: The gardens of the Shah Mosque, Isfahan

He enjoyed absolute power over his subjects, of a kind unknown to Sunni Muslim rulers of any time, because he was (as a ruler of a theocracy) “Murshid-e-Kamil” (the perfect leader) who could not go wrong. That he revolted against his own father, blinded him, his two brothers, and one of his own sons, and executed another, all on various charges of treason etc., were not acts that could be censured by the masses, among whom he mingled well-enough, nor by the elites for fear of his ruthlessness.

He was an able administrator and builder: building palaces, roads, caravansarays, bridges, colleges and Mosque in several cities, especially in Isfahan, his capital, which he turned into a city whose beauty earned it the appellation in the 17th century as “Isfahan nisf-e-Jehan” meaning Isfahan is half of the world. It is still a beautiful, calm and serene city. With the help of an Englishman he modernized his army, massively introducing canon and muskets.

As was common in those days, which many think were golden days of history, large populations were forced to move, en masse, from one region to another without any mercy. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced at all the border-regions of the conquered territories which extended from the Euphrates to Indus valley.