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  1. Salaam, My mother's father was an Uyghur Chinese man who was born and raised in Kashkar, China (Also known as Urumchi, China). My mother has always said that her father would tell her that they were the "decedents of the rightful ones." I'm not too sure what that means. My mother's side family are sunni, but she believes that her father and past generations may have been shias. What I'm curious to know is that is there any proof of shias in Urumchi, China? My grandfather told my mother that there was a time when certain muslims were killed for following a certain sect of Islam. Could it be possible that my mother's family afterall be decedents of shias, but converted to sunni to keep themselves safe?? I don't know was wondering if anyone else has any idea. JazakAllah Kheyr in advance
  2. Brief Biography: Ismail Safavi the First, known more formally as Abu l-Muzaffar bin Haydar as-Safavi, was born in Ardabil in Northwestern Iran on July 17, 1487. As an heir to the leadership of the Safaviyyah Sufi Order established by Shaykh Safi ad-Din Ardabili (1252-1334 CE), Ismail found himself as the official head of the order of his ancestors at the tender age of 7 years old. His family over the course of several years had earned the ire of the Aq-Qoyunlu, a prominent Turkish tribal federation in Anatolia. When Ismail was just barely a year old, his father Haydar Safavi was killed by the Shirvanshah king Furruk Yassar in battle. In 1494, the Aq-Qoyunlu would take the city of Ardabil, the ancestral home of the Safavi family, killing his brother, Ali Mirza, who had taken control of the Safavi Sufi Order upon Haydar's death, forcing young Ismail to seek refuge in Gilan among the Shi'ite leaders there, who along with the high ranking members of the Safaviyyah, provided Ismail with his education and training. At the age of 12, Ismail would come out of hiding and with the aid of the Turkmen devotees of the Safaviyyah, known collectively as the "Qizilbash" for the distinctive red head gear would conquer Azerbaijan from the Shirvanshah, avenging his father's death. In July 1501, he crowned himself Shah of Azerbaijan and by 1502 would also take the title of Shah of Iran, leading many more conquests until the whole of his territory included modern day Iran, parts of Iraq and Anatolia, as well as portions of present day Afghanistan. However, in spite of his successes, Shah Ismail eventually stretched his empire as far as he could and after suffering a critical defeat against the Ottomans at the Battle of Chaldiran on August 23, 1514, retreated from direct management of the Safavid state as well as leading his military campaigns, gradually succumbing to his alcoholism and eventually dying on May 23, 1524 at the young age of 36, possibly as a result of his heavy consumption. Upon his death, he was buried in his birthplace of Ardabil and succeeded by a dynasty which would last little over 200 years, reaching its high point under the reign of his successor Shah Abbas I (1571-1629 CE). Perhaps Shah Ismail and the Safavid dynasty's most everlasting achievement was the establishment of the first unified Iranian empire since the Arab conquest and the establishment of Twelver Shi'ism as the state religion of that empire. Being well versed in Shi'ite doctrine and the Sufism of his forefathers of the Safaviyyah, Ismail developed a talent for mystical poetry which he composed in both Persian and Azeri Turkish (although little remains of the former) under the pen-name "Khatai" or "sinner." Shortly after his death, many poems attributed to the first Twelver Shah of Iran were collected into several divans. Although a complete translated publishing of Khatai's work based on all the available manuscripts preserved since the Safavid era has yet to surface, some have undertaken the effort to translate some of the most essential of these poems for the purpose of gaining a window into the thoughts and personality of the man who converted Persia. Ismail I is an odd historical figure if not simply because in spite of the fact that his legacy is still felt in almost every corner of the Middle East and Central Asia today, he is simultaneously reviled, criticized and ignored by many, sometimes even by those who owe the most to him. Even Shi'ite intellectuals of the revolutionary variety in modern times such as Ali Shariati or, more recently, Hamid Algar have shared thoughts either on Ismail himself or the Safavid dynasty he established that are less than full of praise. Others see him as significant only for his conversion of Persia and little more than just another tyrant after that. However, strangely enough, Ismail's person and his poetry are fondly remembered by many Alevi/Alawites as well as the post-Islamic religion, the Ahl-i Haqq. One look at Ismail's poems certainly reveals a extreme sense of his self-importance, heavily influenced by Sufi ideas and Shi'ite messianism in which Ismail sees himself as the emissary of a new epoch and an embodiment of the spirit of Allah ÓÈÍÇäå æÊÚÇáì, Muhammad (pbuh) and Ali (as) from the realm of Pre-Eternity that to those perhaps not well versed or open to the ecstatic sayings of more famous figures such as Mansur al-Hallaj (as) would appear to border on incarnationism. On top of that, Ismail's purported behavior as a warrior can be described as frightening. In 1510, when Ismail's forces moved against Uzbek/Moghol ruler Muhammad Shaybani, it has been said that Ismail had Shaybani's body dismembered and hung in various parts of his empire and his skull coated in gold and bejeweled, which the young Shah Ismail kept as a drinking goblet which he would use during social gatherings. On top of this, during the initial phases of Safavid rule under Ismail, Sunnis and rival Sufi orders who refused to convert to Shi'ism are said to have had many of their places of worship destroyed and were forced to choose conversion, exile or death (though it's important to bear in mind some of the harsher accusations against Ismail which accuse him of excessive cruelty and religious blasphemy are mostly found in Ottoman records). During the initial phases of the Safavid revolution, as itinerant dervishes spread the word of Twelver Shi'ism and the excellence of the new Shah throughout the empire, Qizilbash warriors would parade through towns and villages shouting curses on the first three caliphs and anyone who didn't respond positively and join in the practice was suspect. It is also said that early Safavid society organized the public burning of effigies of the first three caliphs: Abu Bakr, Omar and Uthman. Some details on this period can be somewhat sketchy, but it is clear that Ismail made a serious impact when he arrived so suddenly on the political scene. Certainly for those in the Shi'ite community who find themselves more taken in by the ideals of Republicanism and/or Khomeini's doctrine of wilayat al-faqih or seek a more ecumenical relationship with Sunni Muslims, or even are turned off by anything associated with irfan or Sufism, Ismail's apparent radicalism is unsettling, and may present a kind of obstacle. Even today, the legacy of Ismail's conquests and policies sours the relations between Sunni and Shia Muslims as Sunni puritans and radicals invoke the memory of the Safavids in their verbal or even physical attacks on the Shi'ites to the point that "Safavid" has become a pejorative term used against Shi'ite Muslims. Among some Shi'ites, there almost appears a desire to forget Ismail, to think of him as inconsequential himself, but it is my opinion that we cannot just sweep Ismail under the rug because regardless of how we have come into Shi'ism, all of us live with his legacy every day. While we may wish to question Ismail's behavior or his more esoteric beliefs, it was his actions which ultimately allowed for the establishing of a fertile ground for Twelver Shi'ism to grow and develop beyond that of a marginal religious denomination into the majorly influential faith it is today and certainly many of our proud Iranian or Azeri brothers and sisters would be singing a different nationalist tune today, a more Sunnite one, were it not for the young Shah. I think also we have to address a very important matter which concerns Ismail as a historical figure but which also is part of the matter of our own religious self-identity, regardless of our own personal ethnic origins. We can't just act as though if Ismail Safavi hadn't come along and assisted in the conversion of these regions, they would have been converted all the same anyway as though Ismail being one of the chief vanguards of this process was merely an arbitrary part of the cosmic plan. Being religious individuals, and Shi'ites, we understand that this is not how the world works and that in fact all things happen one way or another according to Allah's will and permission as time progresses towards the end Allah has decreed. To reduce Ismail, whether one loves or despises him, to irrelevance in the course of the divine plan is simply dodge important questions. Regardless of whether we find Ismail a wholly agreeable historical figure, or even a good person, the fact remains that of all the individuals Allah could have utilized in his ultimate plan, it was Ismail and so I think a critical examination of Ismail's personality through his poetic writings can perhaps reveal what it was about him which Allah saw most fit for his purposes and in this process, we may possibly see what it is about ourselves, as Muslims and Shi'ites Allah finds most pleasing. Simply put, if we are to believe that Ismail's victories were ordained by God, that the conversion of Persia is Allah's will and was more pleasing to God than displeasing and that ultimately, in spite of whatever flaws of character we may perceive in Ismail, that he himself did more good in the name of God than he did bad as far as our fait is concerned, what does that tell us about the kinds of roles Allah has set in store for the rest of us Shia in the present day who live in the shadow and memory of this young Turk? Also, how do we, either consciously or unconsciously, continue to reflect the qualities of the first Safavid Shah? Not too long ago, I wrote a report for one of my classes dealing specifically with some of the similarities I felt existed between the Ayatollah Khomeini and his Safavid predecessor. Both were controversial figures, simultaneously venerated and despised in their own times. Both, as has been revealed, composed mystical poetry embedded with controversial gnostic ideas and themes drawn from the well of Sufi literature. Both were paradoxes of generosity and what critics might call cruel or aggressive behavior and rhetoric, thus making them rather controversial. And both helped to start and eventually take a dominant charge of critical moments of revolutionary social and political change which, for better or for worse, have altered the course of geo-politics in the Islamic world. Even though Khomeini was known to believe monarchies were unIslamic, there's no doubt in my mind that, upon close examination, he himself reflects many traits that almost feel as though they were spiritually passed down to him from Shah Ismail. Below I have gathered selections of Ismail's poetry as translated by V.Minorsky in his "The Poetry of Shah Ismail I," in the tenth volume of the Bulletin of the School of African Studies, University of London. All selections are translated from the earliest manuscripts of Shah Ismail aka "Khatai's" Divan in Azeri Turkish. Some of these are said to be written as Ismail himself was leading his forces against the Aq-Qoyunlu and the Ottomans, while in his late teens and early twenties. Terms such as "ghazi" are generally used to refer to those who join Ismail on his jihad, typically the Qizilbash to whom some of the poems are obviously addressed. While "Shah" is generally used to refer specifically to Ali (as) and the Imams. There are also references to the Safavi family's supposed lineage from Ali. Ismail could even be said to purposely conflate his father, Haydar Safavi, and Ali ibn Abi Talib who was also referred to by the same title when he speaks of avenging the "blood of Haydar" or refers to himself as Haydar's son, believing both "Haydar's" to equally be his sires in both a physical and spiritual sense. The third Mathnavi which I've posted makes many references to characters of the Shahnameh and is believed to have been written soon after Ismail's defeat at the Battle of Chaldiran, which account for the pleading nature of the poem in its prayers to God. Ismail employs many Turkish and Tajik/Persian literary themes in addition to tacit references to Greek ideas or figures (Ismail's mother, Martha, was in fact the child of a union between the daughter of the Greek emperor of Trebizond and the sultan of the Aq-Qoyunlu, Uzun Hasan, given to Ismail's father in marriage when Uzun protected the Safavids from his fellow tribesmen). Ismail himself was a mixed breed of Turk, Persian, Greek and possibly Arab descent. I have also posted, for good measure, a letter exchange between Shah Ismail I and Ottoman Sultan Selim I shortly before the ill-fated Battle of Chaldiran. --SAMPLES OF ISMAIL'S POETRY FROM THE EARLIEST MSS-- No.7 That Sultan of generosity is the Master of Reason; he is Sanctity and the light of the eyes. Should the ghazis put on their swords and arms, fear of danger will invade the soul of hypocrites Let Yazid's host be one hundred thousand, before it all the giaours and Marvans will be scattered The moon-faced Shah can be recognized by the taj on his head and the precious belt around his waist The one who does not find the way to the Mystery of Sanctity is a blind man and an ignorant fool. When the ghazis enter the arena, the "outsiders' will be utterly under their feet. Know for certain: Ali is the Sea of Truth (haqiqat), he is the eternal life of honour. The day the ghazis (preceded by the red pennons and banners don their red tak, will be the day of warning. Moawiya's host on seeing one ghazi will grow worse than that sheep at which a wolf clutches The akhis who recognize the Pir are true pearls; those whose word is but one art true men. In the path of the Shah, Khatai sacrifices his soul, to say nothing of the kingdom, property, gold, and silver. No.15 My name is Shah Ismail. I am God's mystery. I am the leader of all these ghazis. My mother is Fatima, my father is Ali; and eke I am the Pir of the Twelve Imams. I have recovered my father's bloof from Yazid, Be sure that I am of Haydarian essence. I am the lving Khider and Jesus, son of Mary. I am the Alexander of my contemporaries. Look you, Yazid, polytheist and the adept of the Accursed one, I am free from the Ka'ba of hypocrites. In me is Prophethood and the mysery of Holiness. I follow the path of Muhammad Mustafa. I have conquered the world at the point of my sword. I am the Qanbar of Murtada Ali. My sire is Safi, my father Haydar. Truly I am the Ja'far of the audacious I am a Husaynid and have curses for Yazid. I am Khatai, a servant of the Shah's. No. 18 O, fighters in the path of God, say: "Allah, Allah! I am the faith of the Shah (Ali). Come to meet (me), prostrate yourselves. I am the faith of the Shah. In flying I am a parakeet, I am the leader of a mighty army, a companion of Sufis. Wherever you sow me, I will grow; whenever you call me, I will come up. I shall catch the Sufis by the hand. I was on the gibbet with Mansur; with Abraham in the fire, and with Moses on Sinai Come from the eve, celebrate the New Year, join the King. With discernment come to know the King. O ghazis, prostrate yourselves. I wear a red crown, my charger is grey, I (lead a) mighty army. I have the virutes of the Prophet Joseph (i.e. am beautiful). I am Khatai, my charger is sorrel; my words are sweeter than sugar, I have the essence of Murtada Ali. I am the faith of the Shah. No. 22 Know for certain that Khatai is of divine nature, that he is related to Muhammad Mustafa He is issued from Safi, he is the scion of Junayd and Haydar, he is related to Ali Murtada. For the love of Hasan he has entered the arena, for he is related to Husayn of Kerbela. [He posseses the qualities of the other Imams.] He is like a beggar at the gate of Mahdi, Master of the Time. My name is Vali Shah Ismail; my surname is Khatai No. 30 Do not think, o moon-face one, that my sould remains to me after thou has gone. My sould has gone after you and (only) the impotent body remains to me. Since thou hast quitted my side, o peace of my heart, only (dream) of my joining you keeps watch over my heart. Although the flower garden of thy beatuy has gone from my eyes, in my heart grows the stately poplar of thy sunny forms. Let that Peri-like idol be hidden from my looks, the moon in the sky is for me a symbol of (her) face. From the moment this sick-hearted Khatai became separated from thee, the musk of thy fragrant tresses has remained with me as a perfume-spreader. No. 92 There is a commandment in God's book: know for certain that it decrees blood for blood. May my head be a sacrifice on the path of the Guide of Truth: there many hundred like me (ready to) destroy their lives. (O Khatai) thou hast a hand: (how) thoroughly has though defeated Yazid; mayst thou be ruler of the world as long as the world exists. The blood of Shah Haydar is still (unavenged); Yazid still awaits a crushing defeat. Truly in the path of love sincerity is wanted. Go away, thou accursed denier, there is a doubt in thee! I call thee denier: thou dost not see that the Companions of Truth (Ahl-i Haqq) possess evidence clearer than the Sun. Treading this path in the state of impurity, how canst thou deny the word: there is some blood unavenged. Go, o zephyr, it is hight time (for you) to represent to the Shah in what state I am. Rise and march, o Khatai, make a journey; for (thy) paternal home is in the twon of Ardabil. No. 101 From Pre-Eternity the Shah is our Sultan, our pir and murshid, our soul. Having pronounced the name of the Shah we have walked along this path. We are Husayni, to-day is our period. We are slaves of the Imam, in all sincerity. Our token is to be martyrs and ghazis. Our path is narrow, narrower than anything. This time our fundamental rule is to give our heads away. I am Khatai. From Pre-Eternity I am the Myster of Haydar. He who does not recognize him as Truth (Haqq) is a stranger to us. No.102 In the arena of love, he who risks his head and life, sports wantonly with his eyes, eye-lashes, and eye-brows before the Beloved. On the path of the King of Men there are many people, but praise to the head which opposes a thousand heads! Let him be an intimate friend of the Shah, who is ready topart with his head and life. Do not think that a common farrash would (be allowed) to flirt in the presence of the Beloved. On the day of battle many give up their heads and lives; but should someone self-willed (bashinda) stay behind, the qulbash (corporal?) will make him play! O Khatai, do not grieve if all have become your enemies. A challenger always flings bricks and stones from afar. No. 103 Should my beauty sit with corssed legs, gorans will be roused in the world; should he rise and sit down, the ordeal of the end of the world will burst out. Let all the people of Shirvan rush to Tabris, the Persian ('Ajam) kingdom will but ask: when is the Last Day to come? As he arrives, the streets and homes of the will cease to exists, however many Turcomans may turn out from Baghdad. if (my Beauty) comes out of the palace, the tomb (sin) will engulf the stock of the world and a Guide to the tariqat, old and young (at the same time), will suddenly appear. Since in Pre-Eternity Khatai had contemplated the certainty of this issue, the signs of Noah have appeared in him and the Flood is to burst out. No. 123 Thy numerous arrows have pierced my breast, which is burning with fire. They came in multitudes, they arrows, they did not pour water (summadi) where water was needed. You would think that fledelings are flying with scream. Every moment, as thy arrows leave the bow, they make me groan. On the square of my breast they have formed an army in fighting array. Thou art my king over the land (yurt) where they arrows are arayed in review. I am dying of that pain, and the groans of my suffering have annihilated my hear; they flying arrows have no even left my soul in my body. Now wonder you make a lattice of Khatai's breast, for thy arrows pierce armour, coats of mail, and shields of steel. No. 168 It is I who have come now for this epoch (var. "to this world"). I have set myself in motion and have entered a soul (manifested myself in a soul). I am intoxicated with love for the Shah and dazzled by him. As a lover I have come to (my) family (home). By God, I was sorely longing for the Shah! Thanks to God, I have now come to the sanctuary. I shall uproot Yazid and the heretics, a-buring I have come to the source of light. By the Shah's comman I had come in Pre-Eternity. Do not be troubled, for now I have come again. From Pre-Eternity I am in love with the "Twelve Shahs" (Imams) but now I have come to this shop (i.e. this mundane world). (Like) Solomon's ring and the staff of Moses I have come to the world, as Noah (during) the Flood. Muhammad's miracles, the Shah's (sword) Dhul-Fiqar are signs in my have. Here I have come. I shall exterminate outsiders from the world. I am Khatai, I have come to serve as a proof (of Truth). No. 194 Lo, my truly Beloved is now Sultan in the world. If my friend accept my soul, to-day it is his sacrifice. O man, if thou hast brains, give not thy heart to the world; he who does so, shows his ignorance on the path. Those who do not recognize Ali as Truth (Haqq) are absolute unbelievers. They have no creed, no faith and are not Muslims. If you capture one heart, for you it will amount to a hundred. If you destroy one heart, one hundred Mekkas will lie in ruins. O Khatai, life is a boon (to profit by): know thyself. To-morrow we shall die, but to-day life is still a guest in your body. No. 195 To-day I have come to the world as a Master. Know truly that I am Haydar's son. I am Faridun, Khosrau, Jamshid, and Zohak. I am Zal's son (Rustam) and Alexander. The mystery of Anal-Haqq ('I am the Truth') is hidden in this my heart. I am the Absolute Truth and what I say is Truth. I belong to the religion of the "Adherents of the Vali (i.e. Ali)" and on the Shah's path I am a guide to every one who says: "I am a Muslim." My sign is the "Crown of Happiness". I am the signet-ring on Solomon's finger. Muhammad is made of light, 'Ali of Mystery. I am a pearl in the sea of Absolute Reality I am Khatai, the Shah's slave full of shortcomings. At thy gate I am the smallest and the last (servant. No. 204 I am God's eye; come now, o blind man gone astray, to behold Truth. I am that Absolute Doer of whome they speak. Sun and Moon are in my power. My being is God's House, know it for certain. Prostration before me is incumbent on thee, in the morn and even. Know for certain that with the People of Recognition (ahl-i iqrar) Heaven and Earth are all Truth. Do not stray! The garden of Sanctity has produced a (or one) fruit. How can it be plucked by a short-handed one? If you wish to join Truth to Truth, (here is) God who has reached the stage of Mim (maqam-i mim). The one of pure connections considers his own person. Suddenly, Khatai has come by a treasure. No. 211 A flower has blossomed on the tree, and is now come to be a companion to the Shah. In Pre-Eternity it was the Mystery of the Shah, and now it has come to be a companion of his Mystery. No one can become a Qizil-bash, until his heart (yuragi instead of yuzumi) is a-burning and his breast a-bleading like a ruby. In the time of the mystery of kuntu kanzan he was the Light of Muhammad, and now he has manifested himself to the world crowned with a red crown. His name is Ismail, he is homoousian (one) with the Prince of the Faithful (Ali); on seeing him the outsider would prefer to turn to stone. Mathnavi No. 3 In the name of God, Living and Bountiful, for His is might and His nature is old. It is He who exalts the "Nine Heavens" and purifies the face of the earth He produces the storm like unto Simoom; by the wind of the Day of Resurrection, he softens stones to wax. He makes some superior to others, some is suspense and some lowly; Some like Solomon, some like ants, some vilified and some strong. He makes some superior to the whole world, and some a refuge to men. He makes some lords of the world, and while He treats some as flowers, he creates others as thorns. He makes some (sit on) the throne and (wear) a crown; he makes others needy of half-a-farthing. He makes some awful like Rustam, and others less than a small hair (muchak?); Some endowed with courage (lit. liver), others without courage and carrion-like. To some He gives swords and good horses, while He checkmates others on their carpet. He creates some (as if) to stand (lit. fall) as Alexander's wall, and some as if to flee like deserters (or "like swift stallions") God is the Creator of all, He is cognizant of everybody's affairs. Has He not created five fingers to a narrow hand so that each of them should know its way? Were all the world equal, how would the affairs of the world be successful? Surely there is a difference between slave-girls and a man; Heaven and Earth are no equal. A man must know his perfection and do what work he can do. A mouse must know his perfection and do what work he can do. A mouse in the desert say: "I am wicked," but when it is confronted (with an enemy) it loses its way. Do not believe such pretensions before you have scanned them, do not lean on the wall of of an unmanly person. God (Haqq) is the Helper in this world; in bad days he shares the sorrow of his slaves. A brave bef (bag-igit) will conquer all lands: all Asia Minor (Rum), China, Khorasan, and Syria. Is he a man, he who marches with an army against a (single) man? Is an army (necessary) to crush an enemy? In a fight, lads (aran) would crush one single man, but in an army the beg becomes the leader of mean (ar-sarvari). I am he who will fight a crocodile, and wage war with the tiger and the panther. I am such that should I meet Afrasiyab, I will smite his head with my mace and stun him. I am he who will march without fear against the foe; do not be afraid that on looking (at him) I shall show hesitancy. I shall smash the fortess of Khaybar with my fist; shall I ever fear cannon and guns? I shall conquer Asia Minor and Syria, and then think of the Franks. Should Afrasiyab be my foe, I shall take it for a dishonour to come to blows with him. Should something happen to you in a fight, turn not your back, run not with shouts towards your companion. A pity! Would that there were a suitable occasion, that (the foe) should see a man better than himself! A pity! Would that Isfandiyar existed now, that I might spare neither his throne, nor his kingdom, nor his country. A pity! Would that Afrasiyab were there, that I might answer (his challenge) with my sword. A pity! Would that Give lived nowadays, that I might to him like a male div. A pity! Would that Zal were alive now, that he might see what a struggle is like. A pity! Would that the hero Sohrab were now in existence! He would not be striking with his sword in his hand. A pity that (on the battlefield) I am tied to females, that I encounter but effeminates and cowards. A pity, that there is no longer a price for a man, for a hero breaking through the enemy line, for a male lion. Neither Rustam nor Bijan are my opponents, a female wanted to command me. I wish there were a great fight that I might encounter the foe face to face. They would know that a Man has born of a moth; every one would that a Man has been born of a mother; every one would hear news of his talents (ardam). "A hero eats his bread in a manly way." This was said by the best of the braves. How can one eat bread without labor; every piece of bread is in a dragon's mouth. Go and annihilate the dragon, snatch that bread from his mouth. O God, sharpen my sword that it should smite the foe seeking my life. Exalt my sire through my hand, let my sire run at the envious. Let not the foe spit into my facem but rather at my dead body. Let thrity thousand men be my enemies, and each one of them be Rustam-like. When I make up my mind to take the field, let them come and let me fight them alone. Let met smit them all with the sword so that they should their designs and their attack. Are the braves annoyed by death? Shall I keep (this) bag of ungnawed bones? Nobody says to the one devoid of energy: "This is a Man"; better is death for a liar lacking ardour. Do not associate me with cowards, who, in the eyes of a Man, are less than females. Lengthen my sword that I reach the enemy and scatter before me his array and his right flank. Even for an Isfandiyar I shall make the field too narrow; no lion or panther will stand my blows. O Lord, show me Thy friendliness and, though the foe be a Rustam, I will smash him. O God, accept my prayer for my need, my supplication at Thy gate, and my appeal to Thee, Through the merits of my Prophet who is the Miracle of Speech, and of Ali, who is the Perfect Imam. They did not turn away their faces, but on this path made sacrifice of their beings. Pray, let me work havoc in (the) ranks (of the foe), for only by the sword can the foe be abashed. THE EXCHANGE BETWEEN SELIM I and ISMAIL I: --SULTAN SELIM'S LETTER-- LETTER FROM SELIM TO ISMAIL, 1514: “It is from Solomon: ‘In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. Do not exalt yourselves above me, but come to me in all submission.’” (Qur’an 27: 30-31) God’s blessings upon the best of his creatures, Muhammad, his family, and his companions all. “And now We have revealed this Scripture truly blessed. Observe it and keep from evil, so that you may find mercy. (Qur’an 6: 156) This missive, which is stamped with the seal of victory and which—like inspiration descending from the heavens—is witness to the verse “We do not punish a nation until We have sent forth a messenger to forewarn them.” (Qur’an 17: 15) has been graciously issued by our most glorious majesty—we who are the Caliph of God Most High in this world, far and wide; the proof of the verse “that which profits men remains on the earth” (Qur’an 13: 17) the Solomon of Splendor, the Alexander of eminence; haloed in victory, Faridun triumphant; slayer of the wicked and the infidel, guardian of the noble and the pious; the warrior in the Path, the defender of the Faith; the champion, the conqueror; the lion, son and grandson of the lion; standard-bearer of justice and righteousness, Sultan Selim Shah son of Sultan Bâyezid, son of Sultan Mehmet Khan —and is addressed to the ruler of the kingdom of the Persians, the possessor of the land of tyranny and perversion, the captain of the vicious, the chief of the malicious, the usurping Darius of the time, the malevolent Zahhak of the age, the peer of Cain, Prince Isma‘il. As the Pen of Destiny has drawn up the rescript “You bestow sovereignty on whom You will” (Qur’an 3: 26) in our sublime name and has signed it with the verse “The blessings God bestows on men none can withhold” (Qur’an 35: 2), it is manifest in the Court of Glory and the Presence of Deity that we, the instrument of Divine Will, shall hold in force upon the earth both the commandments and prohibitions of Divine Law as well as the provisions of royal proclamations. “Such is the grace of God: He bestows it on whom He will.” (Qur’an 57: 21). It has been heard repeatedly that you have subjected the upright community of Muhammad (Prayers and salutations upon its founder!) to your devious will, that you have undermined the firm foundation of the Faith, that you have unfurled the banner of oppression in the cause of aggression, that you no longer uphold the commandments and prohibitions of the Divine Law, that you have incited your abominable Shi‘i faction to unsanctified sexual union and to the shedding of innocent blood, that—like they “Who listen to falsehood and practice what is unlawful” (Qur’an 5: 42)—you have given ear to idle deceitful words and have partaken of that which is forbidden: He has laid waste to mosques, as it is said, Constructing idol temples in their stead, that you have rent the noble fabric of Islam with the hand of tyranny, and that you have called the Glorious Qur’an the myths of the Ancients. The rumor of these abominations has caused your name to become like that of Harith deceived by Satan. Indeed, as both the legal rulings of distinguished religious scholars who base their opinion on reason and tradition alike and the consensus of the Sunni community agree that the ancient obligation of extirpation, extermination, and expulsion of evil innovation must be the aim of our exalted aspiration, for “Religious zeal is a victory for the Faith of God the Beneficent:” then, in accordance with the words of the Prophet (Peace upon him!) “Whosoever introduces evil innovation into our order must be expelled” and “Whosoever does anything against our order must be expelled,” action has become necessary and exigent. Thus, when the Divine Decree of Eternal Destiny commended the eradication of the infamously wicked infidels into our capable hands, we set out for their lands like ineluctable fate itself to enforce the order “Do no leave a single unbeliever on the earth.” Qur’an 71: 26) If God Almighty wills, the lightning of our conquering sword shall uproot the untamed bramble grown to great heights in the path of the refulgent Divine Law and shall cast them down upon the dust of abjectness to be trampled under the hooves of our legions, for “They abase the mightiest of its inhabitants and these will do the same” (Qur’an 27: 34); the thunder of our avenging mace shall dash out the muddled brains of the enemies of the Faith as rations for the lionhearted ghazis. “The wrongdoers will realize what a reversal they shall have.” (Qur’an 26: 227) When I draw my keen-edged weapon from its sheath, Then shall I raise up doomsday on the earth; Then shall I roast the hearts of lion-hearted men, And toast the morning with a goblet of their blood. My crow-fletched shaft will fix the eagle in his flight; And my bare blade will shake the orb of day. Ask of the sun about the dazzle of my rein; Inquire of Mars about the brilliance of my arms. Although you wear a Sufi crown , I bear a trenchant sword, And he who holds the sword will soon possess the crown. O Mighty Fortune, pray grant this my single wish: Please let me take both crown and power from the foe. But “Religion is Counsel.” Therefore, should you turn the face of submission toward our angelic threshold—the refuge of the noble, the qibla of felicity, and the Ka‘ba of certainty —and lift the hand of oppression from the heads of your subjects bowed by oppression and sedition, take up a course of repentance and become like one blameless, return to the sublime straight path of the Sunna of Muhammad (Prayers and salutations upon him and God’s satisfaction upon his immaculate family and his rightly-guided companions all!)—for “My companions are like the stars: whomever you choose to follow, you will be guided aright.” —and consider your lands and their people a part of the well-protected Ottoman state, then shall you be granted our royal favor and our imperial condescension. He whose face touches the dust of my threshold in submission Will be enveloped in the shadow of my favor and my justice. How great the happiness of him who complies with this! On the other hand, if your evil and seditious habits have become ingrained in your nature, then that which has become essential can never again be accidental. Of what avail are sermons to the black-hearted? Then, with the support and assistance of God, I will crown the head of every gallows tree with the head of a crown-wearing Sufi and clear that faction from the face of the earth—“God’s followers are sure to triumph” (Qur’an 5: 56); I will break the oppressors’ grip with the power of the miraculous white hand of Moses, for “The Hand of God is above their hands.” (Qur’an 48: 10) Let them remove the cotton of negligence from the ears of their intelligence and, with their shrouds on their shoulders, prepare themselves for “That which you are threatened with is sure to come.” Qur’an 6: 134) The triumphant troops “As firm as a mighty edifice” (Qur’an 61: 4) crying out like fate evoked “When their hour is come, not for one moment shall they hold it back, nor can they go before it” (Qur’an 7: 34) and maneuvering in accordance with “Put them to death wherever you find them” (Qur’an 4: 89), will wreak ruin upon you and drive you from that land. “Such being the will of God before and after, and on that day the believers will rejoice in God’s help.” (Qur’an 30: 4) “Thus were the evil-doers annihilated. Praise be to God, Lord of the Universe.” (Qur’an 6: 45) --SHAH ISMAIL'S RESPONSE-- LETTER FROM ISMAIL TO SELIM, 1514: May his godly majesty, the refuge of Islam, the might of the kingdom, he upon whom God looks with favor, the champion of the sultanate and of the state, the hero of the faith and of the earth, Sultan Selim Shah (God grant him immortal state and eternal happiness!) accept this affectionate greeting and this friendly letter, considering it a token of our good will. Now to begin: Your honored letters have arrived one after another, for “No sooner has a thing doubled than it has tripled.” Their contents, although indicative of hostility, are stated with boldness and vigor. The latter gives us much enjoyment and pleasure, but we are ignorant of the reason for the former. In the time of your late blessed father (May God enlighten his proof!) when our royal troops passed through the lands of Rum to chastise the impudence of ‘Ala’ al-Dawla Dhu’l-Qadr, concord and friendship was shown on both sides. Moreover, when your majesty was governor at Trebizond there existed perfect mutual understanding. Thus, now, the cause of your resentment and displeasure yet remains unknown. If political necessity has compelled you on this course, then may your problems be soon resolved. Dispute may fire words to such a heat That ancient houses be consumed in flames. The intention of our inaction in this regard is twofold: (1) Most of the inhabitants of the land of Rum are followers of our forefathers (May God the All-Forgiving King have mercy upon them!). (2) We have always loved the ghazi-titled Ottoman house and we do not wish the outbreak of sedition and turmoil once again as in the time of Timur. Why should we then take umbrage at these provocations? We shall not. The mutual hostility of kings is verily an ancient rite. Should one embrace the bride of worldly rule too close, His lips will kiss those of the radiant sword. Nevertheless, there is no cause for improper words: indeed, those vain, heretical imputations are the mere fabrications of the opium-clouded minds of certain secretaries and scribes. We therefore think that our delayed reply was not completely without cause for we have now dispatched our honored personal companion and servant Shah Quli Aqa (May he be sustained!) with a golden casket stamped with the royal seal and filled with a special concoction for their use should they deem it necessary. May he soon arrive, so that with assistance from Above, the mysteries concealed behind the veil of fate might be disclosed. Keeping in view that regrets are of no avail in the end, one should always exercise free judgment and not be bound solely by the words of others. At this writing we were engaged upon the hunt near Isfahan. We now prepare provisions and our troops for the coming campaign and in all friendship we say, “Do what you will.” Bitter experience has taught that in this world of trial He who falls upon the house of ‘Ali always falls. Kindly give our ambassador leave to travel unmolested for “No soul shall bear another’s burden.” (Qur’an 6: 164; 53: 38) When war becomes inevitable, hesitation and delay must be set aside, and one must think on that which is to come. Farewell.
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