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The Safavid Dynasty began in the early 16th century and was one of the most significant ruling dynasties of Iran. The shah, or king, ruled over Persia with almost absolute control. The shah ruled with religious authority, as a religious leader and a descendant of Muhammad. Though the shah ruled with absolute power, there were systems under Safavid rule that promoted the welfare of the people. The systems even allowed for democratic elections for some local institutions.