Patterns of the Safavid Legitimacy: Spiritualizing the Power


Pembroke College, Cambridge, England


Tue, 04/11/2017 - 12:00am to Sat, 11/26/2022 - 6:21am


The CMES Student Travel Award

Seyede Pouye Khoshkhoosani, Ph.D candidate in the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies
Symposia Iranica’s Third Biennial Conference on Iranian Studies


Authority in Islamic culture was conveyed as being both imperial and theocratic. While the caliph or Sulṭān was known as the “shadow of God on Earth”, his person was believed to be the repository of ultimate power, which was represented according to specific geographic and historical criteria. The ruler’s right-guised authority was formulated through judicial, military, and artistic means, all which were constructed by the community of clerics, historians, poets, painters, and court architects. 

By analyzing the verbal representation of power in different Safavid cultural-political products, including coins, social orders and khutbas, I unpack the cluster of Safavid ideologies. I demonstrate patterns and expressions, which enacted in various ideological discourses (Persianate-, Turkish, and Alavid system of rulership) were aimed to spiritualize the Safavid kingship institute. The kings were presented as the (regular/ or worthless) persons with religious responsibility and empty from any worldly purposes. Their only responsibility was dominating Shi‘ism. Dedication to this spiritual goal (and being empty from any) made the Safavid kings the spiritual leaders. My study also concludes that these ideologies were not matched with each other across different sources systematically or simultaneously. Not all the sources emphasized the concepts of the Turkish and Persianate kingship; however, most of the sources accentuated the humbleness of the Safavid persons, for example devotion to Shi‘i Imams by comparing the king to a dog or the barefoot pilgrimage to the assumed “shi‘i” places.