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Shah Tahmasp I, the second Safavid Emperor of Iran

Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
On 9th of the Islamic month of Rajab in 930 AH, the young 10-year old Shah Tahmasp I was crowned as the second Safavid Emperor of Iran, a week after the death of his father and founder of the Dynasty, Shah Ismael I. His reign of 54-years is the longest of any Muslim king of Iran, and was marked by foreign threats, primarily from the Ottomans in the west and the Uzbeks in the northeast. Upon adulthood, he was able to reassert his power and consolidate the dynasty against internal and external enemies.
Although he lost Iraq and parts of Anatolia to the Ottoman invaders, his pious nature made him avoid unnecessary shedding of Muslim blood. As a result, after thwarting Ottoman designs in the Caucasus, Shah Tahmasp concluded the Treaty of Amasya, with Sultan Sulaiman, resulting in a peace that lasted 30 years and led to the development of Iran. He continued his father’s policy of enlightening the people with the teachings of the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt, and assembled at his court in Qazvin leading ulema from all over Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, and Lebanon. As a descendant of the Prophet and head of the Safavid spiritual order tracing to Safi od-Din Ardebili, he was acknowledged as suzerain by the Shi’ite Muslim sultanates of the Deccan or South India.
Shah Tahmasp is also known for the reception he gave to the fugitive Mughal Emperor Humayun of Hindustan or Northern Subcontinent when the latter fled the seizure of power by the Afghan warlord, Sher Shah Suri. Humayun, whose father Babar, was a protégé of Shah Ismail Safavi, was treated as a royal guest, and besides military aid to recover his kingdom, was accompanied by a large retinue of Iranian noblemen, soldiers, and artists, which signaled an important development in Indo-Iranian relations, in all fields, such as art, architecture, language and literature. One of Shah Tahmasp's more lasting achievements was his encouragement of the Persian carpet industry on a national scale. He was an enthusiastic patron of the arts with a particular interest in the Persian miniature, especially book illustration. He had been trained in drawing himself, and had some talent. The most famous example of such work is the “Shahnama-e Shah Tahmaspi”, containing 250 miniatures by the leading court artists of the era.

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