Post Invasion Movements
Among the lesser explored eras of the history of Iran is the period immediately following the Arab invasion. History books generally treat Iran as part of the Islamic History until the establishment of Iranian kingdoms in the fourth century AH (10th century AD). Due to the sheer vastness of the Sasanian Empire, the Islamic influence did not reach the corners of the country and could not change attitude and life style of the general Iranian public. In far away provinces of Khorasan, Transoxiana, Balkh (Bactria), Zarang (Zarangia), and Gorgan (Hircania) , the average folk just continued living in the way his ancestors had for thousands of years. Many accepted the new faith just to escape the extra religious tax. In everyday life, the situation for the local people was not much different from the Sasanian times. For example, the second caliph, Omar, ordered the same Sasanian taxes to be levied on the people.
In the first century AH, the young Islamic Empire was still deciding on the system that should be used to rule the occupied territories. In many cases, such as in Egypt or Iran, the already established systems were adopted and the new rulers preferred not to disturb the local status quo. Local officials were re-instated in their posts and the continued to run the country as they had done prior to the invasion. The newly appointed Muslim over-lords were ordered not to intervene in the local business and just make sure that the central government's share of the earnings is regularly paid. While presiding over the affairs, these new rulers started learning the ways and tricks of running their territories. Many of them adopted the local system and became as ruthless and abusive as their unpopular Sasanian or Roman predecessors. A case in Iran, that of Hajaj ibn Yousof, proved to be disastrous to the new empire. Hajaj, an Arab commander, was appointed as the over-lord of the former Sasanian territories by the Umayyad caliphs. Contrary to the instructions of the caliphs such as Abu Bakr or Ali to treat the natives respectfully, Hajaj and his governors started treating the local population like a defeated army. Heavy taxes were drawn, and the people were forced into labour and other humiliating ordeals such as name changing. Islamic laws required the non converted native population to pay a special "protection" tax called Jaziye. This tax was to be removed if people converted to Islam. Against this instruction, Hajaj continued to charge the tax even when people did convert to Islam. Hajaj was the also the first governor who clearly brought the Arab racial supremacy to the politics of ruling the new territories. It was in reaction to such policies that the first independence movements were initiated.
The early anti Arab protesters are too many to count. The last Sasanian Emperor, Yazdgerd III, himself can be counted as the first fighter against the Arab domination. Following the fall of Ctesiphon and the Battle of Nahavand, the emperor retreated to the land of his ancestors in Persia. The city of Istakhr, hometown of Ardeshir I, was the perfect place for the defeated emperor to start a resistance. Aided by his trusty advisor Farokhzad, Yazdgerd created a Second Court in Istakhr and continued to negotiate with the invading Arab armies (ca. 35 AH/656 AD). From there, he directed diplomatic and political initiations to stop the Arabs from further penetrating the country. For awhile, he was successful in keeping parts of Khuzistan and Persia from being taken over, but was eventually forced to flee for his life. He escaped to Khorasan and Sogdiana, hoping to reach China and ask for the help from his ally, the Emperor of China. His dreams were cut short when he was assassinated in Marv (Margiana) (ca. 70 AH/690 AD). Yazdgerd's Second Court survived him by about 15 years. Farokhzad called himself the king and issued coins and continued to negotiate with the Arabs. We are not sure of Farokhzad and the Second Courts' end, but it probably was eventually taken over by the Arabs.
Other independence movements were set up around the country by various
people. Each group had a different reason for their fight against the
Arabs. Some were loyal to the Sasanians and the Zoroastrian religion,
while others were Manicheans who wanted their own independent states. Yet some
others were just local strong people who viewed the situation as the best time
to carve out their own territories. Still the largest movements, like that
of Ostadsidh or Sandbad, belonged to the local uprisings
against the politics of Arab governors, such as their treatment of the local
population and their determination to brush away the Iranian cultural identity
in favour of a homogenous Islamic identity. These movements, although enjoying
considerable popularity, were eventually crushed by the central government.
They formed scattered underground identities and waited for their moment to
Meanwhile, the now powerless Sasanian nobility were also trying to gain their share of the territories and states. The remaining members of the Seven Families of the Sasanian court each tried to establish their power in different corners of the country. This struggle generally resulted in founding of petty states in the former Sasanian territories, especially in the stretch of land between Alborz Mountains and the Caspian Sea. The people of this area, known as Deylaman and Tabarestan (parts of the former Sasanian province of Padhashkhargar) were famous for their bravery and fighting qualities. They refused to surrender to the Arab occupiers and kept the Zoroastrian faith and their loyalty to the Sasanians. These qualities, plus the natural defence barrier of the Alborz Mts,. made Deylaman and Tabarestan the perfect place for the princes and nobles of the Sasanian Empire to create their new kingdoms.
The earliest of the principalities was actually created when Yazdgerd III was still alive. Marashi mentions in his History of Tabarestan that Gil Gilanshah established his rule over Tabarestan at the time when Yazdgerd was in Persia, looking for fresh forces to fight the Arabs. Gil was a distant cousin of Khosro II Aparviz and a famed warrior. His father was the commander of the Army that invaded Yemen under Khosro I Anusheravan. Gil himself was in the army that succeeded in the short-lived occupation of Egypt, just prior to the rise of Islam. Gil had just been installed as the governor of Deylaman when the news of the Qadesiye and fall of Ctesiphon shocked the empire.
Gil and His Successors: Dabuyh and Padhuspanis in Tabarestan and Deylaman
Gil Gilanshah continued ruling the Tabarestan and Deylaman provinces, and upon his death, his son, Dabuyh, replaced him. Dabuyh created the first strong kingdom in Iran after the Arab invasion. His influence was spread throughout the Tabarestan, Kohestan, Royan, and even parts of Ray and western Khorasan. Although Dabuyh’s dynasty became extinct in about 120 years, it was nonetheless a successful attempt by a Sasanian nobleman to create an independent kingdom.
After Dabuyh, Deylaman fell into the hands of the descendants of Padhuspan, Dabuyh’s younger brother and the governor of Royan. Padhuspani kings, the descendants of Padhuspan, later converted to Islam, but kept their autonomy in at least parts of their territories for over 800 years. The last Padhuspani king, Espahbodh of Shemiran, was removed by Shah Abbas I in the 10th century AH (16th AD). Padhuspani kings ruled under different dynasty names, and their territories sometimes shrunk to a fortification. Still their greatest achievement was their patronage of arts and their attempt to keep the Sasanian legacy alive. Many historians, musicians, and other intellectuals flourished in the courts of Padhuspani kings. Padhuspanis did their best to ensure a peaceful, yet independent co-existence with their neighbours, and although they became Muslims, a little observation of their lives shows the conservation of Sasanian patterns.
Bavandis and Qarens
Another small kingdom around the Caspian Sea was the kingdom of Bavandis. Bav, son of Shapuhr and grand nephew of Khosro I, fled Ctesiphon and took refuge in Tabarestan. With his status as a Sasanian prince and the support of other refugee nobles, Bav established his rule in Tabarestan and Kohestan. The descendants of Bav stretched their territory to include parts of Shemiran, Qazvin, and even Taleshan, clashing at times with their Padhuspani cousins. The Bavandi dynasty, much like the Padhuspanis, continued to rule in at least parts of their territories for 800 years. Their identity as the true Sasanian princes helped them maintain their power. At times, even when other local rulers were stronger than Bavandi rulers, they paid homage and tribute to the Bavandis and pretended to get their authority from them. In the Alavi movement, Bavandi kings, still fairly powerful in Deylaman, played a pivotal role.
Similar to Bavandi and Padhuspanis, another Sasanian strong family, this time Karen or Qaren family, claimed a small territory in the former province of Padheshkhargar. Qarens were members of one of the Seven Families and one of their ancestors had been awarded the governorship of Padheshkhargar during the time of Khosro I. After the extinction of the Sasanian Empire, Qarens continued to rule their territories and at times were forced to give up parts of it to the Bavandi and Padhuspanis. Although never as strong as afore mentioned dynasties, Qarens had an important presence in the Caspian territories, and it was a Qaren prince, Mazyar, who formed and led one of the most successful anti-Arab initiatives of the early periods.