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New Findings on 7th Century Arab Invasion of Iran


30 July 2004



Iranian archaeologists have unearthed some architectural remains in Ilam Province that they believe could shed more light on the arrival of Islam in Iran following the Arabs’ 7th-century invasion.

During the 9th season of excavation in Dareh-Shahr, west of Iran, the archaeological team discovered more sections of an ancient ruined city, named Seimareh. “We have so far excavated four sections of the city, partly revealing passageways and alleys,” said Simin Lakpour, head of the excavation team.

“In the first season, we could dig out a mansion and a mosque-looking structure in downtown, though its northern façade is completely ruined. We managed to unearth its southern façade,” she added.

Lakpour believes this 120-hectare city was most probably built during the early days of the Islam arrival in Iran. Seimareh could have been ruined in a quake, burying intact artifacts which all bear features of the Sassanid and Islamic arts.

Seimareh was discovered in 1983 and since 1996 the archaeological works are led by Lakpour, who intends to start the 10th season excavation soon.

Arabs defeated the Byzantine army at Damascus in 635 and then began their conquest of Iran. In 637, the Arab forces occupied the Sasanid capital of Ctesiphon in Khvarvaran province (which they renamed Madain in modern Iraq), and in 641-42 they defeated the Sasanid Imperial army at Nahavand. After that, Iran lay open to the invaders.

It was not until around 650, however, that resistance in Iran was quelled. Force conversion to Islam, which offered advantages, was rapid among the urban population but slower among the peasantry and the dihqans. The Arabs gave Iranians three options: to espouse Islam and, at least in theory, rank pari passu with Muslims, to pay the poll tax and enjoy security and freedom of religion, or death. In these battles the victorious Arab army collected considerable booty, seized Iranian women as concubines, and their children as slaves. It seems that at the beginning, political dominance rather than conversion into Islam was the goal of the Arabs.

Although the conquerors, especially the Umayyads (the Muslim rulers who succeeded Muhammad from 661-750), tended to stress the primacy of Arabs among Muslims, the Iranians were gradually integrated into the new community. The Arab conquerors adopted the Sasanid coinage system and many Iranian traditions as well as administrative practices, including the office of vizier, or minister, and the divan, a bureau or register for controlling state revenue and expenditure that became a characteristic of administration throughout Muslim lands. Later caliphs adopted Iranian court ceremonial practices and the trappings of Sasanid monarchy, to the extend that Yazid claimed to be descendant of Imperial Iranian family.


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