Isma'il I (July 17, 1487 - May 23, 1524), was the founder and first shah of the Persian Safavid dynasty which survived in Iran until 1736. He reigned as Shah Isma'il I in Iran 1501 - 1524.
A descendant of the Sufi Shaikh Safi Al-Din (1252-1334) of Ardebil, Isma'il Safavi was the last in line of hereditary Grand Masters of the Safaviyeh Sufi order, prior to its accent to a ruling dynasty. As a young boy of only a one year old, he had lost his father Haydar, Sufi Grand Master and belligerent leader of a swelling Shi'a Islam community in northwestern Iran who was killed in battle. As legend has it, infant Isma'il went into hiding for several years. With his followers, he finally returned to Tabriz, vowing to make Shi'a Islam the official religion of Iran.
Ismail found overwhelming acclaim among the people of northern Iran as well as large parts of Ottoman Empire Anatolia. Centuries of Sunni or pagan oppression by rulers of Mongolian origin lent fertile ground for new teachings. In 1501, Isma'il I proclaimed himself Shah, choosing Tabriz, in Iran's northernmost province Azerbaijan, as his capital.
In 1510 Isma'il I moved against Sunni Uzbeg tribe. In battle he defeated and killed Uzbek ruler Muhammad Shaybani.
In 1514 Selim I, Sultan of Ottoman Empire and Sunni Caliph, attacked Isma'il's Kingdom, fearing Shi'a Islam might spread further across Ottoman Empire realms. The armies of Sultan Selim I and Shah Isma'il met in battle of Chaldiran (1514) (in modern-day Iran) and fought a decisive battle. Despite Iranian efforts to prevail, the Ottomans proved supreme on the battlefield, due to their early possession of artillery and black powder muskets. In contrast, the Iranian troops fought valiantly with conventional arms such as lances, swords, maces and bows. Altrough Selim I enters on September 7 in Tabriz, he soon return in Anatolia because of unrest in his troops. Sultan Selim I also took Ismail's favorite wife hostage, demanding huge concessions for her release. Ismail refused to cede to the Ottoman demands, and is said to have died of a broken heart in 1524 at the early age of thirty-six, never having seen his beloved spouse again.
Ismail's reign was marked by enormous conquests, shaping the map of Iran up to the present day. Baghdad and the holy Shi'a shrines of Najaf نجف and Karbalā' كربلاء were seized from the Ottoman Turks, lost and reconquered again.