Dehqans Role in Early Islamic Period of Iran

Dehqans, or the local landed gentry, who enjoyed great respect and prestige at the court of the Samanids, played an important role in Iran's political, social and cultural events during the early period of the Islamic rule. By their subtle and sensible behavior, on the one hand, and their selfless feats of bravery, on the other, they managed to deter the invading Arabs from committing further acts of destruction and bloodshed in Iran. Their love of their native language, mores and customs helped preserve the basic integrity of Iran's ancient cultural heritage and prevent the substitution of Arabic for the Persian language. Furthermore, it was their commitment to the preservation of the written and oral record of Iran's past and its fabled kings and heroes that ensured the survival of Iran's epic history.

In Early Islamic time some dehqans functioned almost as local rulers, especially in eastern Persia. The Arabs often consulted dehqans on political and social affair. In fact, in this period many important political figures of Eastern Persia were Dehqans. Apart from their political and social significance, dehqans played an important cultural role. Many participated in the courts of caliphs or governors, and after the establishment of the Persian dynasties in the east they served kings, princes, and amirs as learned men who were well informed about the history and culture of ancient Iran. The names of many learned persons and men of letters, including theologians, who were dehqans or descendants of dehqans, can be found in both Arabic and Persian sources. In fact, most of the credit for preservation of the stories in the national epic, the Shahnameh, pre-Islamic historical traditions, and the romances of ancient Iran belongs to the dehqans. However, with the development of the eqta' system of land grants from the 11th century and the decline of the landowning class, dehqans gradually lost their importance and the word came to mean simply a farmer.

Ahmad Tafazzoli
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