Academic journal article Asian Culture and History

The Explanatory Comparison of Religious Policies in Central Governments of Safavid and Qajar Dynasties (1521.1925-AD)

Academic journal article Asian Culture and History

The Explanatory Comparison of Religious Policies in Central Governments of Safavid and Qajar Dynasties (1521.1925-AD)

Article excerpt


The attempt is made in this article to analyze and compare the religious policies of the two Safavid and Qajar dynasties' governments with respect to Sunnite sect. In these eras the related policies differed although the official religion of both regimes was Shiism: The Safavid central government's confronting policies against Sunnite, the Sunnite elites' long-term appointments to high state ranks by Qajar Kings and these policies were more consistent in Qajar than Safavid era. Here the approaches of both the dynasties are categorized in four parameters: confronting, excommunication, discrimination and moderation. In Safavid era the first three parameters were more apparent while the fourth parameter is more evident in Qajar era.

Keywords: Sunnite, central government, Safavid, Qajar

1. Introduction

Here the attempt is made to compare the Safavid and Qajar dynasties' religious policies regarding Sunnite sect. The main question here is addressed as: During the ruling of Safavid and Qajar dynasties what was their central governments' attitude towards the Sunnite sect?

The hypothesis here emphasizes on the fact that both dynasties accepted the Shiism as being an official sect of the state while adopting different approaches and methods towards Sunnism. These differences revolve on the following three axis: during Safavid ruling the tendency of government is more confronting in principle and practice towards the Sunnite sect while in Qajar era the central government restrains its conduct regarding religious confrontations; during Qajar ruling the Sunnite sect elite occupied high long-term official possissions in the court and the proportionate religion policy sustainability in Qajar era compared to Safavid is distinctive.

In Safavid era the presence of Sunnitee officials in the central government is two-fold: first, the era before Shah Abbas era when Kurdish Sunnite officials presence in the central government is evident and their number reaches its peak during the short-lived Shah Ismail the second's ruling; the second covers the beginning of Shah-Abbas the first's era to the end of Safavid era where the Sunnite officials presence was low in the government.

During the Qajar era that had the experiences of, Afshar and Zand dynasties specially Nadir Shah Afshar's religious revisionist policies, the persistence on Shiites slogans was evident while the sensitivity towards Sonnies was not as tense as Safavid era and less concern is directed towards Sonnies elite presence in the government. In this respect the proportional sustainability of Qajar era can be considered as an outstanding trait.

Another obvious difference in Qajar and Safavid was the reformist approach of the Qajar governance towards Safavid methods in their interaction with the Sunnitees. In Qajar era the harsh interaction among the authorities was not outstanding in some Shiite ceremonial events disregarding the Sunnite faith is not promoted by the government but measures were adopted to restrict any insult towards Sunnite sect. Despite all these the bitter look towards the Sunnites, something inherited from Safavid era, is evident among the mass of the people.

Unlike Safavid in Qajar era, a Sunnite government official could openly reveal his religion, even at the highest levels; Aziz Khan Mukri is a sample, a Kurdish official who kept office for a long time.

2. Approaches

The stablishment of Safavid dynasty and the legitimacy of Shiite sect coincided. At this point the Shiite faith is not spread enough to cover the whole country and the ruling dynasty faced problems in promoting Shiite even having human resources, management, and clergies etc. at its disposal.

The political conditions of the region consisted of two Sunnite, the Ottoman Empire in the west and Uzbeks in the east, in a sense exposing the Shiite Safavid to a risk.

The Sunnite issue, regarding the formation of Qajar dynasty is different from that of Safavid. …

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