Fars II

History of an historic province, part 2


Fars II
by Nabil Rastani

“The deep red sunset and scent of orange blossom causes one to smile and deeply fall in love with this historical place.”
- 90 places to visit before you die book on Shiraz, Fars.

My interest on this matter occurred after I was reading an article on Fars during the late 19th century. After which I decided to research the history of Fars (Originally Pārs or Pars) to see what information I could gather, my findings were indeed interesting or at least in my view. This part of the article concentrates on Medieval Fars until the Islamic Revolution (651AD-1979).


The Sassanian Empire (224AD-651AD) was invaded by the Muslim Arabs during the reign of Caliph Omar and conquered Sassanian Iran in several epic battles. The King of the time Yazdgerd III was killed. This led to the end of the organised resistance and Iran fell to the invaders. Iran fell to he hands of the Rashidun Caliphate (khilāfa).

Rashidun Caliphate (623-661AD)

Under Omar Fars was captured by the Arabs, the Persians quickly gave in to the power of the Arab armies.Rashidun Empire stretched from West Africa to Central Asia. Fars became one of the major provinces of Rashidun Empire and cross roads between Central Asia and the Mediterranean. Fars contained vast industry just as it had during the Sassanian and Parthian eras. Uthman ibn Affan (579 –656) created the first Islamic navy and hired Persian marines, he also hired mercenaries from Iran namely the tough knight style “cataphracts” and professional infantry forces drawn from two provinces of Iran, Khorasan and Fars. As a whole it seems that Iranian culture, politics and military heavily influenced that of the Arab Rashidun’s. Apparently the Muslim Arabs used exactly the same coins minted by the Sassanians for around 70 years; these coins would have portrayed the last Sassanian king Yazdgerd III of Persia and possibly his consort.

Umayyad Caliphate (661–750)

The Rashidun Caliphate was disestablished by an army of led by Omar ibn Sa’ad at the Battle of Karbala and slew Husayn ibn Ali the odds were amazing, with the Ummayds army containing 4,000 men while the Rashidun army was only 72 strong and included a six month old child Ali al-Asghar. According to medieval and modern historians the Umayyad Caliphate was cruel, unkind and tyrannical rulers, even different religions view the Umayyads with negative views.

The view of Umayyads by Shiites is briefly expressed in the Shi’a book “Sulh al-Hasan”and is dim. Sunni opinions of the Umayyad dynasty after Muawiyah are also typically dim, viewing many of the rulers as sinners and the cause of great tribulation in the Ummah. In the Bahá'í Faith Abdu'l-Bahá asserts that the Umayyad dynasty was the "great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads" and that the Umayyads "rose against the religion of Prophet Muhammad and against the reality of Ali".

Fars itself fell into corruption under the Umayyads and despair with its local ruler and governors turning to claiming themselves as semi-independent rulers. Taxes heavily increased and people seemed to have turned to the crime. But the local garrisons crushed revolts with time. Umayyads seemed to have had no respect for Iranian peoples and numbers of Iranians in military service came to a grinding halt. During the mid 8th century tensions between Iranians and Arabs were rising to an all time peak with people ready to fight in organized revolts.

Abbasid Caliphate (750AD-1258)

Under the Abbasids the Muslim world flourished and this included Fars, many philosophers, artists, poets, scientists, mathematicians and scholars came from Fars. Abbasids rebuilt the province and modernized it heavily. New Mosques, roads, academies and bazaars were built up. Iran influenced the Abbasids heavily and much of the old texts and books was compiled together from the great academy of Gundishapur and were brought to Baghdad the centre of the Empire and Fars, where they was studied and further researched on it. It is well established that the Abbasid caliphs modeled their administration on that of the Sassanians Harun al-Rashid's son, Al Ma’mun (whose mother was Persian), is even quoted as saying: "The Persians ruled for a thousand years and did not need us Arabs even for a day. We have been ruling them for one or two centuries and cannot do without them for an hour."

This did not stop Iranian peoples in rebelling against Abbasid rule.Babak Khorramdin (798—838) Babaks philosophy was to bring back the political glory of the Sassanians The Khorramdin rebellion of Babak spread to the Western and Central parts of Iran and lasted more than twenty years before it was defeated. This included the movement reaching northern Fars, and it was here that fierce rebellions occurred against the Abbasid armed forces. Around 30 years after the death of Babak Khorramdin, the Saffarid Dynasty of Sistan that began to take control of most of Pakistan, Afghanistan, South east Turkmenistan and Southern Iran.

Saffarid Dynasty (861-1003)

The Saffarid Empire was very aggressive; they overthrew the Tahirid dynasty and annexed Khorasan in 873. They nearly reached Baghdad but then suffered defeat, Fars itself was a loosely semi-independent province with local peoples claiming themselves as “sultans”. The inhabits however had to pay tribute to the Saffarids Kings.

Buyid Dynasty (923-1055)

The Buyids or Āl-e Buye where originally the inhabitants of Gilān and direct descendents of the Sassanians and their imperial storm troopers, the Dailamites. The Buyids penetrated as far south as the Persian Gulf. The Buyid attacked and captured Baghdad. Their success came from their military organization, based on the Sassanian armies. Heavy cavalry such as Cataphracts, heavy archers, Dailamite infantry and armored war elephants as well as Turkic cavalry. They were broken down into effectively organized divisions and regiments.

The Buyid Kings were divided into amirs; these were the amirs of Rey, Iraq and Fars. Fars was one of the main centers of the Buyids and provided the administrative backbone of the Buyids, effectively the Fars of Khosrau I with Buyid building new cities, town and farm land from which the Buyids could make swift movements of armed forces. Interestingly unlike their ancestors the Buyids were Shia, and build vast mosques to commemorate the conquest of their homeland. The crushing tax on the peasants was relived from them and this thus subsequently made the Buyids very popular amongst the lower class people. The famous Vakil Bazaar of Shiraz was founded by the Buyids in the 11th century, and was completed mainly by the Atabaks of Fars.

Ghaznavids (975-1187)

The Ghaznavids were Turkic peoples who ruled over Iran, Transoxania, and the northern parts of the Indian subcontinent. The Ghaznavid state was centered in Ghazni, a city in present Afghanistan. The Ghaznavids admired Persian art and language and even hired Ferdowsi to compile information on pre-Islamic Iranian history.
The wealth brought back from the Ghaznavid expeditions from India to Ghazni was enormous, with this wealth was used to make magnificent Palaces and Mosques throughout their eastern provinces. Many Persian architects and labors served the king, a large quantity of these workers came from Fars. Enormous constructions were also made throughout Fars as well.

Including interestingly large quantities of Mosques. Influence from the east also came to Fars and the rest of Iran as well, with Buddhism and Hinduism coming to Iran especially under the reign of “Sultan” Mahmud of Ghazni (971 - 1030).

Seljuq Turkic Empire (1037-1194)

Little is actually known about Fars under the Seliuq Empire; however we do know the rulers of Fars were the “Seljuq sultans of Hamadan”. The rulers of western Persia, who maintained a very loose grip on the Abbasids of Baghdad. Several Turkish emirs gained a strong level of influence in the region, such as the Eldiduzids. Also it seems that Persian carpets made across Iran were mass produced during the reign of the Seljuq Turks.

Khwarezmian dynasty (1077-1231)

The Khwarezmian dynasty was founded by Persianate vassal of the Seljuq Empire and grew to become the most powerful Empire of Central Asia. The Khwarezmian Sultans ruled over Fars and made it one of the major bases against attacks from the west namely from the Zingirds and remaining Abbasids. However the great threat did not come from the west, but from the east the Mongol led by their ruthless and cruel ruler Genghis Khan (Činggis Qaγan). Genghis Khan united the Mongol tribes and swiftly attacked the Jin and Song Dynasties of China. Genghis Khan was famed for his barbaric deeds such as pillaging homes and raping women. The Khan moved with his army to the borders of the Khwarezmian Empire in 1218, and rather than simply attacking Genghis offered them a truce and trade rights and a message greeting him as his equal: "you rule the rising sun and I the setting sun".

Foolishly the Khwarezmian sultan of the time Muhammad II killed the Mongol messenger and sent his head back to Genghis Khan. In his full rage Genghis Khan marched an army of 200,000 and met Muhammad II. Muhammad II army was easily crushed and the Mongols moved into Iran killing “over a million Iranian citizens” and raping and wounding countless more, Muhammad II was killed in a lagoon off the coast of Caspian.

Mongol Empire and the Timurids Dynasty (1218-1501)

By the death of Genghis Khan in 1227 the Mongol Empire stretched from the Pacific Ocean to Poland and the Mediterranean Sea. The largest Empire ever seen was created, but as quickly as it had appeared it dissolved into calamity with Genghis Khans many sons fighting for his vast Empire. The Ilkhanate Empire was established in Fars and was founded by Hulagu Khan. Very little is known about Fars under Mongol rule. Under the Timurids Fars was actually a heavily centralized and important province with Timurs consort even visiting and paying homage to the tomb of Ibn Khafif and Hafez.

Safavid Empire (1501-1736)

After nearly 350 years of Mongol and Turkic rule Iran finally tasted the sweet fruit of freedom, the first Safavid Shah Ismail I defeated the Timurid rulers and local governors and by 1510 he reunited Iran. In 1514 the Ottoman Turkish Empire moved troops to Tabriz, the capital of Iran and attacked it. At the Battle of Chaldiran 80,000 Iranian warriors went up against 212,000 Turkish troops (including cannons and guns) and in a fierce battle the Iranian fought valiantly but in the end was crushed. Ismail was able to flee with his life. According to some accounts after the battle Ismail never smiled again in his life.

Shah Abbas (1571-1629) was an intelligent and courageous ruler that recaptured all of the lost Northern provinces and occupying Armenia, Georgia, Iraq (including Baghdad) and Bahrain. Shah Abbas created a powerful garrison force in Fars and begun reconstruction of much of the destroyed building during Mongol occupation. Many laborers including 300 Chinese potters producing glazed tile buildings, and hundreds of others produced metalwork, miniature paintings, calligraphy, glasswork, tile work, and pottery. Astronomers and scientists flourished in Fars.
Fars began to build industry once again with merchants and labourers gathering raw materials such as silk, fruits, tea, glass, jade, spices and timber together to be disrupted across Iran. The Bandar-Abbas was used to import and export goods which were then sent to the capital, Isfahan. The path their cut through Fars, and thanks to this the province as a whole became very rich and prosperous.

Afsharid Dynasty (1736-1750)

After the fall of the Safavids, Fars suffered a period of decline, worsened by the raids of the Afghans and the rebellion of its governor against Nader Shah; the latter sent troops to suppress the revolt. The city was besieged for many months and eventually sacked. At the time of Nader Shah's murder in 1747, most of the historical buildings of the city were damaged or ruined, and its population fell to 50,000, one-quarter of that during the 16th century.

Zand Dynasty (1750-1796)

Shiraz and Fars soon returned to prosperity under the rule of Karim Khan Zand, who made Shiraz his capital in 1762. Employed more than 12,000 workers, he constructed a royal district with a fortress, many administrative buildings, a mosque the Qur'an Gate was repaired and one of the finest covered bazaars in Iran was build. He had a moat built around the city, constructed an irrigation and drainage system, and rebuilt the city walls. However, Karim Khan's heirs failed to secure his gains. When Agha Mohammad Khan, the founder of the Qajar dynasty, eventually came to power, he wreaked his revenge on Shiraz by destroying the city fortification and moving the national capital to Tihran.

Qajar Dynasty (1796- 1925)

Although lowered to the rank of a provincial capital, Shiraz maintained a level of prosperity as a result of the continuing importance of the trade route to the Persian Gulf. Its governorship was a royal prerogative throughout the Qajar dynasty. Many of the famous gardens, buildings and residences built during the nineteenth century, contribute to the actual outlook of the city. The city was divided into sections, this caused slums and ghettos to raise in different areas of the cities many, Shiraz.
The Shah Fath Ali Shah and his son began deploying troops and militia forces in Fars, and used it as a major fortified base against the Ottoman Turks. Fath Ali Shah handed over the governorship of Fars in 1797 and 1798 to two Qajar notables, and, in the following year, to his nine year-old son, Husayn-Ali Mirza with the title Farmanfarma and with Cerag Ali Khan Navai as his mentor and vizier. Husayn Ali Mirza served in the office for over 36 years until the death of his father in 1834 when he claimed the throne and had his name read in the koalas and coins were struck in his name.

The main function of governors and viziers was to collect the designated tax revenue from the subjects with the assistance of khans and kalantars and transfer it to the Shah’s treasury and also to maintain law and order in the region. Next to Azerbaijan, Fars collected the highest revenue among various provinces and districts of Persia. For instance, in the last decades of the 19th and early decades of the 20th centuries the total revenue of Fars was about 6.7 mil.

The British ascendency in southern Persia came after two ill-fated expeditions to Herāt, first by Mohammad Shah in 1834 and later by Naser-al-Din Shah in 1857. The British swiftly reacted by occupying karg Island in 1834 and Busehr and Mohammara (later Korramshahr) in 1857 and forcing the Persian army to retreat from Herat. In the Anglo-Persian war of 1856-57 the tribal forces in the Bushehr area, consisting of Qasqi riflemen and Ahmad Khan Tangestani and his men, marched against the British occupation forces
Shiraz is the birthplace of the founder of the Bábi Faith, the Báb (Siyyid `Ali-Muhammad, 1819-1850). In this city, on the evening of 22 May 1844, he first declared his mission as the bearer of a new divine revelation and knowledge, and the Mahdi for this reason Shiraz is a holy city for Bábis and Baha’is alike.

Pahlavi Dynasty

The years 1921-78 saw the development of a modern centralized nation-state in Persia, rapid population growth, and urbanization, establishment and growth of a national system of education, expansion of transportation, and economic development. In this period, the central government established its tight control over the local government and launched several military campaigns against autonomous tribal enclaves throughout the country. Dominated by tribes, Fars became the scene of the most severe clashes between the government army and tribal warriors in 1929, 1945, and 1963.

The 1930s saw the beginnings of urban development in Fars and more specifically, in Shiraz: the establishment of an electric plant in 1930, construction of government buildings and schools in the 1930s, the opening of a spinning factory in 1936 and a textile factory in 1937, as well as reconstruction of the tomb of Hafez in 1936-38.

Following the occupation of Persia by Allied forces in September 1941 and the forced abdication of Reża Shah, Fars became, once again, an arena for international and local power struggles. Mohammed-Naser Khan escaped from Tehran with his younger brother Khosrau Khan, hastened back to his tribal stronghold in Firuzabad, and proclaimed himself ilkain of the Qasqai confederacy. With the return of Ebrahim Khan Qawām-al-Molk to Shiraz by the British, Mohammad-Naser Khan threw his lot with the Germans. As early as spring of 1942, Naser Khan contacted the German secret agent in Tehran, Berthold Schulze-Holthus, and persuaded him to move to the Qasqai headquarters in Firuzabad as his military advisor. In September of the same year an airstrip was built at Farrasband with the help of another German agent, Konstantin Hummel, for delivery of weapons to the Qasqais by Germans.

In the period from 1963 to 1978 Fars was brought still more firmly under the control of the central government with the proliferation of its civilian and military agencies, and the tribal areas came under the tight control of the security forces. Rapid population growth and urbanization (the population of Shiraz rose from 170,000 in 1956 to 425,000 in 1976; see Fars), and expansion of communication, transportation, and education also induced radical changes in the social and economic conditions of Fars.The construction of several military bases in the province and the establishment of central command of the Third Army, covering the southern provinces, and the strategic command of the Imperial Air Force in Shiraz brought to Fars a large amount of state development funds as well as current budget. Furthermore, construction of a new airport, the start of regular daily flights to Shiraz, and the expansion of the tourist industry in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which were to facilitate the extravagant and controversial celebration at Persepolis in 1971 of the 25th century of the formation of the Persian empire as well as the organization of the annual international art festivals in Shiraz, also contributed to the development of the city. They made the Shiraz-Persepolis area one of the major points of tourist attraction in Persia. Fars joined the 1977-79 Revolution on 6-7 May 1978; in connection with the commemoration of the fortieth day of mourning for the martyrs of Yazd, clashes took place between students and the police on the campus of Pahlavi University. On 11 August an urban riot left several dead and scores wounded in Shiraz. In the fall and winter of 1978-79 Shiraz and other major cities of Fars followed the revolutionary course in the country by mobilizing sporadic urban riots, demonstrations and strikes leading to the fall of 25 centuries of Monarchy and establishment of the Islamic Republic.


Encyclopedia Britannica Ī. Afšār, Yādgārhā-ye Yazd, 2 vols., Tehran, 1348-54 Š./1969-75. J. Aubin, “La ruine de Sîrâf et les routes du Golfe Persique au XIe et XIIe siècles,” Cahier des civilisations médiévales 2/3, 1959a, pp. 295-301. Idem, “Etudes Safavides I: Shah Esmāīl et les notables de l’Iraq Persian,” JESHO 2, 1959b, pp. 37-81. Idem, “Les Sunnites du Larestan et la chute des Safavides,” REI, 1965. Idem, “La survie de Shīlāu et la route du Khunj-ō-Fāl,” Iran 7, 1969a, pp. 21-37. Idem, “L’Ethnogénèse des Qaraunas,” Turcica I, 1969b. Fatḥ b. Alī Bondārī, Tarī dawlat āl Saljūq, Cairo 1318/1900. H. C. Bowen, The Life and Times of Alī b. Īsā, Cambridge, 1928. J. M. Cook, The Persian Empire, London, 1983. J. M. Fiey, “Dioceses syriens orientaux du golfe persique,” Memorial Mgr Gabriel Khouri-Sarkis, Louvain, 1969. Idem, “Les communautés syriaques en Iran des premiers siècles à 1552,”A. Eqbāl Āštīānī, Tehran, 1327 Š./1988. M.-A. Jamālzāda, Ganj-e Šāyagān, Berlin, 1335/1917. N. Jāmī, Gozašta čerā-e rāh-e āyanda ast, Tehran, 1361 Š./1982.F. Kazemzadeh, Russia and Britain in Persia, 1864-1914: A Study of Imperialism, New Haven, 1968. A. K. S. Lambton, “Persian Trade Under the Early Qajars,” in D. S. Richards, ed., Islam and the Trade of Asia: a Colloqium, Oxford, 1970, pp. 215-44, repr. in idem, Qājār Persia, Austin, Tex., 1987, pp. 108-39. Idem, “The Case of Hājjī Nūr al-Dīn, 1823-47: A Study in Land Tenure,” in BSO(A)S 30/1, 1967, pp. 54-72, repr. in Idem, Qājār Persia, Austin, 1987, pp. 140-63. Lorimer, Gazetteer. E. Lorini, La Persia: Economica Contemporanea e la sua Questione Monetaria, Rome, 1900. Ḥosaynqolī Khan Neẓām-al-Salṭana Māfī, āerāt wa asnād I, M. Etteḥādīya et. al., eds., Tehran, 1362 Š./1983. D. von Mikusch, Wassmuss, der deutsche Lawrence, Berlin, 1938. V. Monteil, Les Tribus du Fars et la sédentarisation des nomades, Paris, 1966. M. Moṣaddeq, āerāt o taallomāt-e Moaddeq, ed. Ī. Afšār, 1365 Š./1986. Idem, Taqrīrāt-e Moaddeq dar zendān (yaddāšt šoda tawasso-e Jalīl Bozorgmehr), ed. Ī. Afšār, Tehran, 1359 Š./1980. P. Oberling, The Qashqā’i Nomads of Fārs, The Hague, 1974. J. Outram, Persian Campaign in 1857,


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