RELIGIOUS DIFFERENCES IN THE GUNPOWDER EMPIRES
March 4, 2018
The Gunpowder Empires of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals shared some common characteristics, but were set apart by many others. The major differences in political, cultural, and social statuses between these empires revolved around the diverse religious influences that existed in and around each state. Though Islam was the official religion in all three of the gunpowder empires, the range of monotheistic Sunni Muslims, monotheistic Shi’ite Muslims, and polytheistic Hindus, along with other less dominant religious influences, create major distinctions that set each empire apart from the others.
The Ottoman Empire was a powerful empire which is best known for its strong, ruthless military and quickly expanding frontiers. Because of their location and reach across diverse lands, the Ottomans were subject to much more outside religious influence than the other empires were. They conquered many Christian enemy lands, as well as neighboring Muslim territories. From these lands, Christian prisoners of war were taken, converted to Islam, then turned into soldiers. Though the Ottomans were officially Sunni Muslims, there is evidence that other religions were present and influential in the sociocultural status of the empire.
The Safavid Empire of Iran stands apart from the other two gunpowder empires most notably because of its devotion to Shi’ite Islam. This sect of Islam believes that Ali should have been Muhammad’s direct successor. Because of the intense rivalry between the Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims, declaring the empire to be Shi’ite created deep divisions between the Safav...