Islam in Iran

Andrew A. Newman

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online April 2011 | | DOI:
Islam in Iran

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The terms “Persia” and “Persians” are seldom used in the early 21st century except in the United Kingdom or in reference to ancient, pre-Islamic Iran and Iranians, or in reference to “cultural” phenomena. “Iran” and “Iranians” are the terms used by Iranians themselves since at least 1935, when Reza Shah (d. 1941) ordered that “Iran” be used in all official correspondence. “Persia” and “Persians” have been revived in the post-1979 Iranian diasporic community. As to the Islamic conquest, although Sassanian and Muslim forces first clashed in 633, the Muslim defeat of Sassanian forces at Qadisiyyah in 636, southwest of modern-day Hilla and Kufa in Iraq, is generally understood to have been the decisive battle that opened the door to the Muslim conquest of Iran. The 642 battle of Nahavand, south of modern-day Hamadan, marked the final breakup of Sassanian military and political response to the invading forces. By 674 the Muslim armies had conquered Khurasan, Transoxiana, and Baluchistan. Both before this time and even afterwards Iranzamin (“The Land of Iran” or “Greater Iran”)—that is the sociocultural and, at different periods, the political region comprising the Iranian plateau, as well as the lands to the west, north, and east, especially into Central Asia and down into the Indian subcontinent—has always been home to many non-Iranian ethnic and non-Muslim groups. Even in the early 21st century the population of the Iranian nation-state comprises Persians (just over 50 percent) as well as Azeri Turks, Mazanderani elements, Kurds and Arabs, such tribes as Lurs, Baluch, Turkman, and Bakhtiari and such non-Iranian, non-Turkish elements as Georgians, Armenians, and Assyrians. Among the latter are many “Eastern” Christians, but there are also Protestant Christian Iranians, Jewish Iranians, Baha’is and some Zoroastrians. Over the centuries following Qadisiyyah until today, Iran may be said to have become Islamized but not Arabized. Iranzamin’s peoples increasingly accorded themselves and their affairs in reference to an Islamic religiocultural axis, even as a sense of Iranian-ness, which includes dimensions both of non-Arabness and a strong sense of pre-Islamic heritage non-Muslimness, has remained ever-present. This has remained the case even after the establishment of Twelver Shiʿi Islam as the polity’s national faith by the Safavid dynasty in the early 16th century and in the years following the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic.

Article.  7746 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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