Great Tabaristan – The land that used to produce beacons of Knowledge

A map of northern Iran, ancient Tabaristan.

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.

Mount Damavand, a potentially active volcano, is a stratovolcano which is the highest peak in Iran and the Middle East as well as the second highest volcano in Asia. The mountain is located near the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, in Damavand county, Tehran Province, 66 kilometres (41 miles) northeast of the city of Tehran (northern parts of Tehran are historically parts of Mazandaran/Tabaristan)

Rasht province of Gilan.

A forest and waterfall in Mazandaran (Tabaristan).

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.

Shaikh Hafez Towhid Quraishi, a Sunni scholar from the Gilan province of Iran, the Imam of the ‘Imam Shafi’i Masjid’ in Sholoqun village, Gilan province, was active in preaching Sunni beliefs. He was arrested by security forces in August 2014 and taken to an unknown location. One of his relatives, who did not want to be named, said that Shaykh Hafiz was arrested “because he used to preach Sunni teachings and defend Sunni beliefs during his sermons and speeches.”

Farooq A’zam (Omar, may Allah be pleased with him) Masjid in Asalem, Gilan, Iran. The Gilan province, previously a Hanbali stronghold (with a Shafi’i minority) has still a notable Sunni minority despite the Safavid onslaught 500 years ago. Today the Sunnis in Gilan are followers of the Shafi’i school of thought, particularly in the Talish province.

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 …