The ancestor of Safavid kings, Sheikh Safi-ad-din Ardabili, was born in 650 AH in Ardabil. Being the 8th generation of Firuz-Shah Zarrin-Kolah, he was one of Sufi elders of the Ilkhanate dynasty. He has composed poems in Azeri and he was eponym of the Safavid dynasty and also, Safavid’s Khānegāh in Ardabil which had many followers over time. Ḥamdallāh Mustawfī Qazvīnī (died 750 AH), who lived in the same age as Sheikh Safi, wrote about him:” Sheikh Safi-ad-din Ardabili is alive and he is punctual and popular. Being by respected Mongols, he prevented them to harm people, which is great.” The rulers, such as Mahmud Ghazan Khan, Abu Sa'id Bahadur Khan and his wife, Amir Hossein and Amir Hasan Jalairid, Rashīd al-Dīn Faḍlullāh Hamadānī the vizier, and the other Influential courtiers, praised him and went to visit him. The head minister of Ghazan Khan, Rashīd al-Dīn, paid great attention to his prayers and intercessions. Sheikh Safi lived during the rule of Muhammad Khodabandeh Olcayto, who had a high opinion of him. The historians believed he was courageous, self-confident, hermetic, clean-handed, and frugal.
Sheikh Safi lived for 85 years. When he was young, he spent some years searching for Pir (spiritual guide). Being Sheikh Zahed Gilani’s student and follower, he strengthened their relationships with two marriages. He married to Fatemeh, his master’s daughter and Sheikh Safi’s daughter married to Sheikh Zahed’s son. After a while, he was chosen by Sheikh Zahed to succeed him and Sheikh, told him what to do in the future. After he passed away, Safi-ad-din called Sheikh Safi and became the leader of Zahedieh Mysticism and heir of Sheikh Zahed’s all material and spiritual heritage. Returning to Ardabil, he chose his son, Sadr-al-Din, as his successor and next leader, and also, changed Zahedieh Mysticism into Safavid Mysticism. He taught Sufism and trained followers. It is correct that practically, he was the founder of Safavid dynasty who develops Twelver and made it the official religion in Iran, but according to documents and historians, he was a Sunni Muslim.
He passed away on Moharram 12, 735 AH, after Morning Prayer in Ardabil and was buried in Khānegāh next day. Being located in Ardabil, his mausoleum is known as Sheikh Safi al-Din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble and it is one of the historical and ancient places in Ardabil.