During 635-641 A.D., Iran became the target of the Muslim Arabs who were conquering the neighboring lands. In a series of battles such as Al-Qādisiyyah, Al-Mada’in, and Nahavand, Iran was defeated by the Arabs during the Sassanid Empire. As the Arabs advanced across Iran, the Sassanid Empire got gradually closer to demise as the local rulers and peasants were not satisfied with the empire system and the existing economic and social gaps and therefore, they made a compromise with Arabs with no war and serious resistance.
After the advent of Islam, for two centuries, Iran experienced one of the most sensitive periods of its history. Arabs entrance to the country and the encounter of their cultural, social, and economic structures with locals’, influenced significantly the country which can be observed in today’s history as well. It is worth mentioning that the Arabs did not insist that the Iranian should convert to Islam but the Iranians gradually converted to it by themselves and the fire temples in central and southern areas of this land were burning during several centuries.
The fertile lands, huge wealth, and Iran’s suitable geographical location appealed to be the main motivations for the Arabs who were searching for a place to immigrate. The culture of these two nations was gradually blended and the Iranian-Islamic culture emerged accordingly. One of the biggest impacts of Arab immigration was the development of urbanism, a tendency that began during the Sassanid Empire but was expanded and flourished in the Islamic era.
The First Two Centuries of Islam
The first two centuries after the advent of Islam in Iran is known by the slow conversion of locals to Islam, numerous political and religious movements and the lack of an independent government. In Umayyad time, Iranians did not experience appropriate economic and cultural conditions which were mainly because of the Arab racism who felt superior against the Iranians. Such led to the establishment of anti-Umayyad movements.
In this time, many Shiite elites and holy figures of the country immigrated to various parts especially to the impassable land of Tabaristan to escape from the Umayyad rulers. This is one of the reasons behind the existence of numerous holy shrines scattered all over in Iran.
In 749 A.D., the Umayyad ruling over the Islamic lands came to its end by the rebellion of Abu Muslim and Abbasid Caliphs. During the Abbasid caliphs and rulers, Iranians who were good at administrative positions found their way in the court of the rulers. Having power and influence in the court led drastically to the condition improvement of the Iranians. At the same time, there were some movements against Abbasid Caliphate such as political independence which were all suppressed.
The Abbasid’s golden age was during the governance of Harun Al-Rashid. After Harun, Abbasid became weaker and the Caliphs had to hand over some parts of Iran to their agents to provide the needed funding of their courts. One of these parts was the Great Khorasan that included the Sistan region as well.
Finally, in the ninth century and after two centuries of silence, the first semi-independent government was established entitled the Tahirid dynasty (821-873 A.D.). Although it was a short dynasty in length, it paved the way for the upcoming dynasties to gain power with the main goal of freedom.
Iran After the Tahirid Dynasty
After the overthrow of Tahirid Dynasty, 15 dynasties came to the throne, each of which with a significant role in the culture, civilization and socio-political system in Iran. During some of these dynasties such as Samanid (819-999) and Timurid (1370-1507), art and culture were highly flourished.
A Focus on architecture was made in Ilkhanate (1256-1335) and Safavid (1501-1736) Empires. From Safavid time, Shia (one of the two main branches of Islam) became for the first time the official religion of the country. During the Qajar Dynasty (1796-1925), the first instances of the country’s encounter with modernity were formed, on the other hand, Iran was influenced by the Constitutional Revolution as well, which happened under the effect of European Revolutions.
However, modernity (e.g., road construction) reached its peak in the Pahlavi Dynasty (1925-1979). In a religious-based country, insistence on modern elements that are not defined well for its followers can lead to the dissatisfaction of the people and religious figures. Such resulted in the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran.