This book is a sequel to Prof. Bosworth’s classic study of the origins and early history of the Ghaznavid empire, The Ghaznavids, their empire in Afghanistan and eastern Iran 994-1040. It carries on the story of this originally Turkish dynasty, based on Ghazna in eastern Afghanistan, after its sultans had lost the western Iranian provinces of their empire to the incoming Turkish steppe nomads of the Oghuz tribe, whose leaders then formed the Great Seljug state in the Middle East. The Ghaznavids survived, however, as a still powerful empire, comprising eastern Afghanistan, the panjab, Baluchistan and Sind, for almost a century and a half. Their court in Ghazna and then, at a later date, in Lahore, was a great centre for the beginning and the development of what was to be the Indo-Muslim culture and literature, for it was from the panjab at this time that the gradual process of the Islamisation of much of north western India began.
Prof. C.E. Bosworth F.B.A. is Emeritus Professor of Arabic Studies at the University of Manchester and a former President of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies. His many books cover the fields of the history of the Iranian world and Central Asia and the history, literature and culture of the Arab world
After my previous book, The Ghaznavids, their empire in Afghanistan and eastern Iran 994-1040, was published by the Edinburgh University Press in 1963, various people who had found the book useful asked me when I was going to write its sequel, carrying the history of this Turco-Iranian dynasty up to its demise in the last years of the 6th/12th century. Over a decade elapsed before I was able to turn to this project, but the present book now represents the fulfilment of this expressed wish.
A cursory glance shows that the present work, covering some 150 years of history, is perceptibly shorter than the previous one, covering less than half a century. The answer is, of course, that the sources for the middle and later Ghaznavids are infinitely sparser than those for the earlier period, an exposition of which filled pp. 7-24 of my earlier book. The triumvirate of authors, ‘Utbi, Gardizi and Baihaqi, provides for the earlier period a remarkably rich conspectus not only of military and high political affairs, the res gastae of the sultans and their commanders, but also of the day-to-day running of the machinery of state and more intimate, private lives of the monarchs; Baihaqi’s Mujalladat, in particular, are only rivalled by the Tajarib-ul-umam of his older contemporary Miskawaih as a detailed chronicle of the work of Muslim bureaucrats. Baihaqi carried his history-cum-journal of affairs up to the end of sultan Farrukh-Zad b. Mas ‘ud’s reign in 451/1059, and it is a matter of profound regret that the richness of detail and the sapient observation, which the latter volumes of the Mujalladat must have contained, are apparently lost to us, for the extant part of his work breaks off with sultan Mas ‘ud’s ill-starred departure for India in Rabi I 432/November 1040. To make matters worse, the final part of Gardizi’s more laconic but still valuable history, the Zain al-akhbar, which went up to ‘Abd ar-Rashid’s reign, sc. Till some time just after 440/1049, has also disappeared; his narrative breaks off at the victory of Maudud over Muhammad and the murders of his father in Rajab or Sha’ban/ March or April 1041.
Fortunately, something of the lost part of Baihaqi and perhaps of other lost sources seems to have been preserved in the final, historical chapter of the Persian author Ibn Baba al-Qashani’s adab work in Arabic, the Kitab Ra’s mal an-nadim. The closing section of this chapter deals with the Ghaznavids, carries the account of events up to the author’s own time and the accession of sultan Mas’ud III b.Ibrahim at the end of the 5th/11th century, and is especially detailed on the dark period of the 44os/1050s, the ‘time of troubles’, when the Ghaznavid state was racked by succession crises and by the usurpation of the slave commander Toghril. The whole text of the Ra’s mal an-nadim has now been critically edited by my former student Dr M.S.Badawi, but is so far unpublished; it has accordingly seemed to be worthwhile to give a translation with commentary of this section on the Ghaznavids. This forms Appendix A of the present book, pp. 132-55 below.
From the accession of sultan Ibrahim b. Mas’ud in 451/1059 onwards, the sources become yet scantier than for the preceding two decades. Juzjani’s Tabaqat-I Nasiri continues to be of some value, although his notices of the successive reigns are fairly brief. Ibn al-Athir’s Kamil likewise provides useful information, especially for Ghaznavid-Seljug relations, of particular significance in the reigns of Ibrahim and his grandson Bahram Shah; here too such Seljuq sources as Husaini’s Akhbar ad-daula as-saljuqiyya give supplementary material. Ibn al-Athir was further aware that the later Ghaznavid sultans continued to fulfil the dynasty’s historic mission by raiding the shrines and palaces of infidel India; but he had great difficulty, writing as he did in distant Iraq, in getting specific information and, in particular, details of places and dates. Hence his notice of Ibrahim’s Indian campaigns, discussed below in Ch.2, pp.61-3, is inserted in the events of the year 472/1079-80, but it is quite uncertain in which years of this sultan’s forty-year reign the campaigns actually fell, and the geographical location of the events is equally vague. Later persian and Indo-Muslim historians, like Mirkhwand in his Raudat as-safa’ and Firishta in his Gulshan-i Ibrahimi, largely utilized such sources as Juzjani and Ibn al-Athir for their sections on the later Ghaznavids empire, although, as noted below in Ch. 1, p.33, Firishta has occasional items of information that do not apparently appear in the earlier sources and whose origin is unknown.
Where the historical chronicles fail, we can only fall back on ancillary disciplines like archaeology and numismatics and on literary sources such as the adab literature collections of anecdotes and poetry. Apart from the valuable work of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Afghanistan in excavating and describing the palace of Mas‘ud III at Ghazna, the archaeological evidence on the later Ghaznavids, whether in Afghanistan or in northern India, is virtually non-existent. Nor do we have extant such a rich series of coins for the middle and later Ghaznavid sultans as for the earlier ones. From Maudud’s reign onwards, minting in the shrunken Ghaznavid empire was concentrated on Ghazna for Afghanistan and Lahore for India, whereas under the earlier rulers there had been a rich variety of provincial mints operating in Afghanistan and Khurasan. Moreover, certain of the comparatively ephemeral sultans, such as Mas’ud II b. Maudud, ‘Ali b. Mas’ud and Shir-Zad b.Mas’ud III, either did not reign long enough to mint their own coins or else coins issued by them have not come down to us.
The literary sources are more illuminating. The anecdote collections, such as Fakhr-I Mudabbir Mubarak Shah’s Adab al-harb wa-sh-shaja’s and ‘Aufi’s jawami’ al-hikayat, present stereotypes of sultans like Ibrahim and Bahram Shah, in their justice and beneficence. The poetry, however, is of first-rate importance as corroborative material for the more strictly historical sources. Much of this verse has clearly been lost, for the names of many poets, together with exiguous specimens of their verses, are known only to us from the Persian and Indo-Muslim tadhkirat ash-shu ‘ara’ literature and the literary anthologies. But we have reasonably complete diwans of such great poets as ‘Uthman Mukhtari, Abu I-Faraj Runi, Sana’i and Sayyid Hasan; these writers were attached to the court circles of the sultans, and sometimes accompanied them on their Indian raids, so that their verses provide details about certain episodes and campaigns otherwise little known or wholly unknown. The value of this poetry for the historian has been demonstrated by the Indian scholars Gulam Mustafa Khan in respect of one particular poet, Sayyid Hasan Ghaznavi, in his monograph A history of Bahram Shah of Ghaznin, and I have endeavoured to follow his path with reference to the other poets and their verses. Much of this poetry is nevertheless difficult, and more often allusive than specific in its historical references; I feel certain that a native Iranian scholar, thoroughly saturated in the lore and literature of his own culture, will be able to extract further items of information.
It remains to attempt a brief estimate of the historical significance of the period and dynasty under review in this book. We are dealing with the middle age and decay of the Ghaznavids. The great days of the dynasty, when it rose to its peak of power under Mahmud and Mas’ud, had passed by the middle years of the 5th/11th century, and the ascendant, dominating power in the Iranian east was now that of another Turkish dynasty, the rulers of the Seljuq family and their Turkmen followers. The Ghaznavids had to abandon Khurasan and the western half of modern Afghanistan to the Seljuqs, and apart from occasional outbreaks of irredentist aggression when the Seljuqs appeared temporarily to be in difficulties, the sultans coming after Maudud generally acquiesced in what came to be the status quo, a state of rough equilibrium between the two empires. India, however, was left as the special war-ground of the Ghaznavids. The raids of the middle and later sultans are singularly ill-documented from the Islamic side, and the allusiveness and chronological vagueness of the native Indian sources here provide no complementary dimension of source material; but it is clear that pressure was substantially maintained on the Indian princes, who nevertheless resisted fiercely and were never really overwhelmed by Ghaznavid arms. Hence, although the temple treasures of India continued to be brought back to Ghazna for the beautification of palaces and gardens there, and although the flow of bullion continued to keep the economy of the Ghaznavid empire buoyant and its currency of high quality, there were no major gains of territory beyond the eastern fringes of the Panjab and that region of the Ganges-Jumna Doab which is contained today in the western half of Uttar Pradesh. The lasting successes of Muslim arms in northern India were to be the work of the Ghurids and their slave commanders in the late 6th/12th and the 7th /13th centuries.
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