Tabaristan, also known as Tapuria, was the name of the former historic region in the southern coasts of Caspian Sea roughly in the location of the northern and southern slopes of Elburz range in Iran. The region roughly corresponded to the modern Iranian provinces of Mazandaran, Gilan, Golestan, northern Semnan, and a little part of Turkmenistan.
The Gilaki and Mazanderani people (or Tabari) are an Iranic people whose homeland is the north of Iran, (in the past Gilan and all of Mazanderan were known as Tabaristan). Along Gilakis the Mazanderani comprise one of the Iranian Caspian people, closely related to Persians, inhabiting the southern coastal region of the Caspian Sea, part of historical region that was known as Tabaristan. The Elburz mountains marks the southern limit of the Mazanderani peoples. In antiquity, Gilan was a province of Persia known as Daylam (sometimes Daylaman, Dailam or Delam).
Mazanderan, comprehends the largest and widest portion of the low plain along the shores of the Caspian Sea. It is one of the most fertile provinces of the Persian empire, whether the mountains or the plains are considered. Travellers passing through the forests of Mazanderan, pass through thickets of sweetbriar and honeysuckle; and are surrounded with acacias, oaks, lindens, and chestnut trees. The summits of the mountains are crowned with cedars, cypresses, and various species of pines. So beautiful is this district, that in the hyperbolical language of the orientals it is styled, Belad-al-Irem, or, the Land of the Terrestrial Paradise. Unlike the rest of Persia, Mazanderan is watered by numerous rivers, or mountain torrents, all running from the mountains to the sea.
In the year 651 CE, during the caliphate of Uthman ibn Affan, S’ad Ibn Abi Waqqas, the governor of Kufa and Hassan Ibn Ali Ibn Abi Talib (many Iranian Shias are ignorant of the fact that he participated in the conquest of the oppressive Sassanid empire) first conquered the coasts of Tabarestan. For the next two hundred years, Tabaristan maintained an existence independent of the Umayyad Caliphate which supplanted the Persian Empire in the early seventh century, but was temporarily absorbed into the Abbasid Caliphate.
Before the Safavid onslaught 500 years ago, the majority of Tabaristanis were either Sunni and Zaydi Shias (mildest form of Shi’ism) i.e. at best the only form of Tashayyu’ (Shi’ism) was a very mild form of Zaydism which is considered more Sunni than Shi’ite to Twelver Rafidi Shi’ism. There is still a small Sunni community thriving in Mazanderan (Tabaristan) and particularly in Gilan which still has a notable Sunni Shafi’i community (in the Talysh region) but in the past was a Hanbali stronghold.
Notable Muslim scholars from Gilan (Jilan) and Mazanderan (Tabaristan):
– Shaykh Abd Al-Qadir Gilani (Al-Jilani in Arabic) Al-Hassani Al-Husseini (1078-1166). One of the greatest scholars of the Ahl Al-Sunnah, a Hanbali jurist. He was of Arab origin (Qurashi, Hashimi, Alawi, Fatimi (on his father’s side he descends from Al-Hassan, and on his mother’s side he descends from Al-Hussein, Allah be well-pleased with them).
Imam as-Sam‘aani (may Allah have mercy) said of him: ‘Abdul-Qaadir was one of the people of Jilan, the imam and shaykh of the Hanbalis of his time, a scholar, righteous, religiously committed, charitable; he remembered Allah a great deal (dhikr), was always deep in thought and was quick to weep.
– Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Omar Ibn Al-Hussein Al-Taymi Al-Bakri Al-Tabaristani Fakhr Al-Din Al-Razi. He was born in 1149 in Ray (today, a southern suburb of Tehran, Iran), and died in 1209 in Herat (in today’s Afghanistan) but his family were originally from Amol, in modern-day Mazandaran province of Iran (ancient Tabaristan). He
– Abu Jafar Muhammad Ibn Jarir Al-Tabari (838–923), was a Mazanderani historian and theologian (the most famous and widely-influential person called Al-Tabari) and many more …