Wednesday, 15 July 2020 19:32

The Integrity of Iran from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf



  This article examines the concept of Iranshahr to address whether the universities of Iran and the world can use the science of history in a practical way to examine the provisions of international agreements between Iran and other countries. It argues that how such kinds of agreements can have significant impacts on the territorial, political, economic, and cultural integrity of Iran and consequently face the countries around Iran and even the rest of the world with serious challenges.

Iranshahr is one of the key concepts that has always been able to pass Iran through the passage of history safely and put Iran on the right path. The Arab invasion of Iran and the fall of the Sassanid Empire (224-651) was one of those pivotal times that posed a serious challenge to Iran. With the fall of the Sassanid Empire, Iran becomes part of the Islamic territories, but Iranian geographers and historians, writers and poets, and all those intellectuals who we know today as scholars of humanities kept alive the concept of Iranshahr to uphold Iran’s geographical and cultural integrity. Their relentless efforts to record documents and produce knowledge in the context of Iranian culture led to the preservation and continuation of this identity, and after more than two centuries of rules of the Umayyads (661-750) and Abbasids (750-1258), Persian gradually became the language of science and written communication in Iran. The works of poets such as Rudaki Samarqandi (d. 941), Shahid Balkhi (d.935), Rabe's Balkhi (born 856), and the historical books such as the translation of the Tarikh-e Tabari by Abu Ali Bal’ami in 963 and the Tarikh-e Sistan by an anonymous author (1053) were some of the great ​​Persian works that Iranian scholars wrote in this period. It can be said that the concept of Iranshahr and the attention of thinkers to its two-thousand-year historical background played an important role in the revival of the Persian language in the tenth century.

Of course, the help of Iranian princes and their support for thinkers played an important role in reviving the concept of Iranshahr. The dominance of pre-Islamic Iranian thought first manifested itself in the form of new Islamic uprisings and sects, including the uprisings of Abu Moslim-e Khorasani (718-755) and Babak-e Khorramdin (798-838), until the time when the Taherids (820-865), the Samanids (988-998), and the Saffarids (861-1008) were established in Iran. The Samanid kings in Bukhara and the Saffarids in Sistan were revitalizing the concept of Iranshahr while Iran had already experienced the discriminative rules of the Umayyads and the Abbasids.

In the fourth century, the idea of​​Iranshahr took a more serious form in the works of writers, poets, geographers, and historians and was used in their works with a lot of repetition and continuity. Although each of these thinkers lived under the shadow of a different government, the concept of Iranshahr was so prominent and deep that they could not ignore it and saw their territory as one part of the pre-Islamic map of Iranshahr. The best example of these poets was Ferdowsi (d.1020), who rightly revived not only the Persian language but also the idea of ​​Iranshahr more strongly than before; His masterpiece the Shahnameh was written in the time that the Turk emirs of Ghaznavids (977-1186)  gradually replaced the Iranian Samanid princes and the Buyyads (932-1055) and the Ziyarids (931-1043), but the concept of Iranshahr continued to reflect in the works of Iranian thinkers and bureaucrats. The poets of the Ghaznavid court and then the Saljuq court explicitly wrote about Iranshahr and once again spoke of the map of Iran, the map that introduced Iran not as part of the  Abbasid caliphate but within the framework of pre-ancient Persian Empires. When historians of the Ghaznavid period introduced Sultan Mahmud as the Persian king or Khwaja Nezam-al-Molk (d.1092), the vizier of the Saljuq dynasty drew the Iranshahr model for the rule of the Saljuq sultan in his work, the Siyasatnama, they intended to realize the concept of Iranshahr with the help of Turk actors; These continuous efforts caused the Ghaznavid, the Saljuq (1039-1193), and then the Khwarazmshahid (1077-1231) dynasties, to become the next chapters of the Iranian dynasties. In this time,  Iran was also bureaucratically and administratively independent of the Abbasid caliphate and the Ghaznavids, the Saljuqs, and the Khwarazmshahids like previous Iranian local dynasties introduced themselves as the heirs of pre-Islamic mythological and historical kingdoms from the Achaemenid (550 BC-330 BC) to Sassanid periods. Therefore, the concept of Iranshahr was able to revive the geographical map of pre-Islamic Iran.

The efforts of Iranian bureaucrats and thinkers during the tenth to thirteenth centuries came to fruition; The Persian language became the language of science and culture of Greater Iran. During this period, the Persian language played the role of international language in large parts of the Islamic world. Although in the early thirteenth century, with the rise of the Mongols, the Iranian world had once again fallen into the abyss of decline in thought and science, the concept of Iranshahr and the Persian language continued to survive in the works of thinkers and Bureaucrats. A clear example was a poet like Molana Jalal al-Din Balkhi, known as Rumi, whose family left their hometown in Balkh due to the Mongol invasion to live comfortably under the Saljuqs of Rome (1077-1308), but still lived in the shadow of Iranian culture and civilization and their written heritage belonged to the cultural realm of Iranshahr.

The concept of Iranshahr throughout the Mongol, Timurid (1370-1507), and Safavid (1501-1736) periods preserved the integrity of Iran and even transferred Iranian culture to other lands. Throughout the Timurid and Safavid periods, Persian was the language of culture, science and communication not only in Iran but also in India under the rule of the Mughals of India (1526-1857), Central Asia under the rule of the Uzbeks, and Asia Minor under the Ottomans who replaced the Saljuqs of Rome.

The main custodians of the concept of Iranshahr throughout Medieval times were Iranian bureaucrats and humanities thinkers, but unfortunately at times in history when Iran was faced with a shortage of these skilled people and ignoring the concept of Iranshahr and the integrity of Iran, some parts of Iran were separated.  This issue showed itself especially during the rule of Qajar (1789-1925). The Iranian bureaucrats' neglect of the new world equations and what was going on in the world outside the borders of Iran between the colonial states of Russia and Britain, caused a significant part of Iranian territory in the Caucasus to be separated from Iran. This neglect continued throughout the Qajar period, and as a result, parts of Central Asia and Afghanistan, which historically belonged to Iranshahr and the Iranian culture were separated.

The modern era, which was defined in some way by the establishment of important organizations, shaped new institutions in Iran. The most important of these institutions was the university, which created a scientific and specialized atmosphere for Iranian scholars to get acquainted with the best scientific and cultural achievements in the world. In addition, it played an important role in producing new science in Iran during the 20th century. The most important advantage of the university was its independence from political structures. According to its charter, the university must be independent of political institutions in order to be able to act impartially and scientifically in the face of what is happening in society.

Now, considering the historic moment of today, that some international agreements are supposed to be concluded between Iran and China on the one hand and between Iran and Russia and other countries around the Caspian Sea, on the other hand, the university needs to play its role and, as an independent institution, raise basic questions. Given that these agreements may jeopardize Iran's territorial, political, economic, and cultural integrity in the short term and possibly in the long term, can the university hold the relevant political authorities and institutions accountable to provide accurate, transparent, and documented answers for its questions? Relying on thousands of historical and geographical documents, can the university challenge the content of these agreements and force the authorities to guarantee the integrity of Iran and the interests of the Iranian people? Can the university play its historical role in defending the concept of Iranshahr?

Maryam Kamali

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