Shaikh Safi was a typical religious leader, a representative of Folk Islam far removed from the official theology, whose spokesmen viewed his career with grave suspicion. But in no other regard: for even his origins as a member of a respected family which had lived in Ardabll for generations, are by no means typical of the religious leaders of the time, who normally came from the lower classes. Although he was renowned for asceticism and piety, he displayed other qualities which for the most part accord ill with a propensity for the meditative existence of a recluse: self-confidence, enterprise, acquisitiveness and a militant activism. Shaikh Safi is portrayed as a paradoxical personality in which the miracle worker and man of God combined with a sober, practical politician and a cunning merchant.His teacher, Taj al-Dln Ibrahim GllanI, known as Shaikh Zahid (b. 615/1218, d. 700/1301),] a familiar figure in the history of Islamic religious orders, is said to have perceived his extraordinary gifts at their very first meeting and - according to the legend - to have realised even then that he was destined to become conqueror of the world. At all events, Shaikh Zahid allowed him to marry one of his daughters and appointed him as his successor. Round about 1300, perhaps while his spiritual leader was still alive, Shaikh SafI founded his own order in Ardabil, the Safaviyya. He never in fact conquered the world, but Shaikh Zahid's assessment of his other qualities proved accurate. As grand master of his order, as one of the holy men who in those days ruled alongside the political leaders, he achieved extraordinary success. Unless we are very much mistaken, his cell even became the focal point of a mass religious movement. He was friendly with the secular rulers and enjoyed remarkable esteem on their part; undoubtedly their attitude was determined by the size of his following and his influence over the people. He became the protector of the poor and the weak, while his convent at Ardabil became a refuge for the persecuted and the oppressed. In the last analysis he owed his popularity not merely to his reputation for sanctity, miracles and prophecies, but also to his political authority and to the wealth which he acquired in due course through the generous gifts of his supporters and admirers. His network of disciples and emissaries, so we are told, extended throughout the land from the Oxus to the Persian Gulf, from the Caucasus to Egypt. An emissary (khalifa) of his is even said to have risen to a position of influence in Ceylon (Source: The Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 6).