Memories of Decline: Islamic Conquests of Sasanian Iran and Modern Historiography

The division created in the historiography of Iran between the pre- and (post-) Islamic Iran appears to be quite deep and unfordable. Based on a set of criteria dominated by the “Islamization” of the Iranian population, this division divides not only the scholarship into two distinct and disjointed groups, but also appears to be lying at the root of many socio-cultural trends as well. Issues such as loss of independence, loss of a national language, or mass conversion are provoked, creating images of a bluff that appears to become ever deeper.

While a nationalist reading of the entry of Islam to Iran considers it an end to a purely “Iranian” system, another side sympathetic to an Islamic view, considers it part of a universal history of salvation.

This talk will provide a glimpse of the opinions of the two camps and then attempts to present evidence from newer research in order to argue for a more nuanced view of the fall of the Sasanian Empire and the rise of Islam in the region to the east of Euphrates.

For more information please contact Rasmus Christian Elling (