ABSTRACT

In 1501 aboy-king, hereditary sheikh of the Safavid dervishes mobilized his forces in Azerbaijan and conquered the old Mongol capital of Tabriz, unearthing and desecrating the bones of his Ak Koyunlu (White-Sheep) Turkmen predecessors and cursing the names of the Sunni caliphs from the pulpits of the city. Thus came Ismail Safavi to power, avenging the deaths of his brother and father at the hands of Ak Koyunlu rulers.1 Within ten years, he had conquered Baghdad, united Iran under his sway, and begun the process, often forcible, of conversion of his heretofore Sunni populace to Shi‘ism. Ismail taunted the Mamluk sultan in Cairo, warning him that the seal of his title to hegemony in the Muslim world, possession of the holy cities of M ecca and Med ina, would soon be lost. As further testament to his claims to uni­ versal Islamic sovereignty, in 1510 Ismail sent to Ottoman sultan Bayezid II (ruled 1481-1512) in Istanbul, a gift: the head of the defeated Central Asian Uzbek monarch, Shaibani Khan. Ultim­ ately, Bayezid's son Selim I (ruled 1512-1520) would succeed in deposing the Mamluks and establishing Ottoman hegemony in Mecca, but first he had to contend with Ismail Safavi.