Bukhara History - Part 6

Bukhara after the Arabian conquest

In 625 AD, the Arabs captured Merv, which became the capital of Khorasan, i.e. all the eastern part of Caliphate. From the perspective of Merv the territory of the Central Asia between the rivers Amu Darya and Syr-Darya (Transoxiana) was called Maverannakhr (literally, "what is beyond the river"). Arabian raids across the Djeykhun (the Arab name for the Amu Darya) started soon after Merv was captured. It is a remarkable fact that the Muslim traditional records say that the first campaign.

Figures prior to dash indicate a year according to the calendar of Hijra, those (blowing a dash indicate a year acording to the Gregorian style to the Bukhara oasis was undertaken in 54 Hijra (674 A.D.). One should, however, notice that the famous orientalist V.V. Bartold, who was distinguished with a rare gift of criticism and astonishing intuition, doubted in the correctness of this date.1 Whatever the truth, the only man, who was able to establish the power of Arabs in Maverannakhr including the area downstream of the Zarafshan River, was Kuteiba b. Muslim, a vicegerent of Khorasan in 705-715.

Having vanquished Bukhara, Kuteiba concluded a treaty with Bukhar-Khudat in either 88/707 or 90/709, according to the various data. Clauses in this treaty obliged Bukhara to pay a yearly tribute of 210,000 dirkhems (silver coins); to give over to the conquerors half the houses within the capital's shakhristan,-and, to supply the conquerors with forage and fuel. Kuteiba founded the first Friday (congregational) mosque in Bukhara which was in the ark (citadel) of the city. Mot far from the citadel, he arranged a place for holiday prayers (musalla). The remarkable fact is that Kuteiba b. Muslim ordered Muslims to come to prayer on holidays bearing arms because of the risk of infidel attacks (though generally Moslems prayed unarmed). When he continued his conquests in Central Asia, Kuteiba used Bukhara military forces regularly, for example, in 712, during his Samarkand campaign.

Kuteiba retained the local dynasty in Bukhara, and enthroned Takhshada the Bukhar-Khudat who adopted Islam. However, the increasing popularity of the new religion dated from the period when Ashras b. Abdulla as-Sulami was appointed vice-regent in Khorasan (727-729). He promised not to tax Muslims, causing a mass conversion of the Soghdians to Islam. Because of this, tax income nearly ceased coming into the coffers. Ashras had to establish the previous practice of levying taxes, which caused the Soghdian uprising in 728. They returned to their previous religion, called upon the Turks for help, and regained almost the whole of Soghd, including the Bukhara oasis. The Arabs managed to recapture Bukhara a year later.

In 747, the anti-Omeyads, a powerful movement headed by Abu Muslim, was formed. This movement won a victory in 749 that established a new dynasty — the Abbasids — that rose to power in the Caliphate. Almost at once, as soon as the new dynasty was founded, Shariq b. Shaikh al-Makhri, supported by the Alids (i.e., the descendants of Ali, the fourth "righteous" caliph), rose up against the Abbasids. He gained the support of 300,000 partisans, and the Bukhara citizens generally supported him.

Abu Muslim sent a powerful army against Shariq under the command of Ziyad b. Salikh assisted by Bukhar-Khudat Kuteiba and some of the Bukhara aristocracy. They besieged Bukhara for more than a month. Finally, the city was set on fire; it burnt for three days, and prisoners of war were hung on the city gates. Despite taking an active part in suppressing the uprising, Bukhar-Khudat Kuteiba was accused and, consequently, found guilty of renouncing Islam. He was executed by Abu Muslim's order.

As for Abu Muslim, he was killed soon afterwards, in 755, when he was summoned to the court of the Caliph and treacherously murdered. In Central Asia, however, a good many of his successors were left, among whom was Khashim b. Khakim, nicknamed Mukanna. He proclaimed himself a prophet and an incarnation of God, found many partisans in Maver-annakhr and led a mass movement that covered the entirety of Soghdian by 776. In that year, Mukhanna's supporters rose in I4um-ichkat (i.e. in Bukhara itself). Bukhar-Khudat Bunyyat (a brother and successor of Kuteiba) supported Mukanna and was executed by the Arabs when the uprising was suppressed. Then, the old local dynasty, from which Buniyyat came, was stripped of political power, although it was not destroyed.

In 806-810, the entire region of Maveran-nakhr came under the rule of a mutinous emir, Rafi b. Lyais. He was supported actively by Soghdians. The Soghdians supported him because they were indignant about the extortion of the vice-regent of Khorasan and the levies he put on them. In 809 Caliph Harun ar-Rash-id sent a large army to besiege Bukhara. Ba-shir, Rafi b. Lyais's brother, led the defence of the city. In the end, the city was seized, and Bashir was captured and executed by the Caliph's order.

Unlike the Omeyads, the Abbasids relied to a larger extent on the Caliphate's eastern domains and the people from there. However, the need to reinvolve the local, non-Arab, nobility in the ruling class was a lesson the Abbasids learnt slowly. Permanent outbreaks of rebellion were a direct result and forced their hand. One of these local nobles was Takhir b. Khusayn, a native of Pushang (Bushandj) — a town near Herat. In 196/811-812 he took up arms against a rebellious vice-regent of Akh-vaz (a region in the south-west of Iran). At least two of the three best generals came from Bukhara: Takhir and Bukhar-Khudat Ab-bas. The second Bukhara-Khudat, Mukhammad b. Akhmad (Buniyyat's grandson), held a high position of military commander of the troops and suppressed the Babek's uprising (816-837).

Takhir Khusayn was appointed a vice-regent of Khorasan. He was the first to establish the Takhirid Dynasty (821-873) which reigned in Khorasan and Maverannakhr. In 874, Khusan b. Takhir, the last Takhirid, invaded the Burhkara oasis from Khorezm and seized the city after a five-days siege. A large part of the city was burnt because of his warriors' looting; the infuriated citizens forced Khusayn to flee. Soon after this, Ismail b. Akhmad became a ruler of Bukhara. This famous emir of the Samanid House embodied the beginning of a new age in the history of both Bukhara and the whole of Central Asia.

The Arabian conquest appeared at a crucial moment in the history of Central Asia, including Bukhara. It was accompanied by plunder, fires, destruction, death, or slavery for many Soghdians, as was normal during any conquest. But, to make it worse, it was a long-lasting conquest.

This conquest imported a new religion - Islam - to Soghd, which had never had political nor confessional unity before. Islam rooted itself more and more deeply in Soghd irrespective of the resistance and hostility the natives displayed to this religion. By the late ninth century, an overwhelming majority of the Soghdians had adopted Islam. Islam began to play a key role in nearly the whole social life. At the same time, many pre-lslam-ic traditions remained valid for peoples, and some traditions have survived until today.

A connecting link between the Islamic period and pre-lslamic epoch in Bukhara is coinage. After the Arabs' conquest, the mintage of silver coins, according to the Bukhar-Khudat samples, continued with the only one difference: these coins were renamed dirkhems, instead of drachmas, and represented Arabian legends (normally, short ones - or two words) along with Soghdian and Pekhlevi ones. The ninth-tenth century manuscripts describe three types of coins: musayyabi dirkhems, mukhamtnads, and gitrifi. In E.A. Davydovi-ch's expert opinion musayyabi dirkhems were high-grade three-layer coins of nine or ten types, including those with inscriptions "al-Makhdf'.n Eventually, the principal currency consisted of gitrifi dirkhems. Payment of the religious duty (kharadj) was made in these coins and amounted about 1,200,000 dirkhems in the early ninth century.

In this period, other types of coins circulated in Bukhara along with gitrifi. It is common to consider the Bukhara felses (copper coins) the first coins of a purely Muslim type that were minted in 138/755-756 in Bukhara . However, there was a group of felses minted in 133-36/750-754 on behalf of Abu Muslim (written as Abdurakhman Muslim in coin legends) without a mint mark. Since many felses have been found in the Burhkara oasis, these finds give reason to believe that Bukhara was one, if not the only, place where these coins were minted. Whether or not this was true, mintage of the Islamic copper coins dates back to about the mid-eighth century. The most ancient Islamic dirkhems (silver coins) of Bukhara are dated 184/800. Unlike the Bukhar-Khudat's or bukhardatoid coins, the Islamic ones were of monoepigraphic type, i.e., bearing only inscriptions in the Arabic, created using the Kufi script. (That is why they used to be called the Kufi coins.) Similar coins bore excerpts from the Quran, the symbol of faith (Kalima, or shahada), name of a caliph and/or other persons, issue data that represented a coin name, mint mark, and a date (in letters).

In the early ninth century, the Samanids came to power, having replaced the Takhirids. According to different sources, the Samanid aristocratic family came from Samarkand or Termez, or from the region of Balkh. Bukhara was not among the domains of Maverannakhr granted to the grandsons of Saman-khudat — the predecessor of this family — in 819. Only fifty years later, the twenty-five-year old great-grandson of Saman-khudat, Ismail. Akhmad, established his hold over Bukhara, having exiled Khusayn from the city. Ismail's power grew. By 892 he had conquered the entire Maverannakhr and completed his victorious campaign to Taraz (present-day Zhambyl in South Kazakhstan). The next year, Ismail's military actions beyond Djeykhun (the Amu Darya) were equally successful. By 902 he had occupied the lands of West Afghanistan, and East and Central Iran. In this the way the vast state of the Samanids was founded. This state existed until the late tenth century with almost all its original territory. Bukhara - Is-mail was most fond of it among all his cities - became the capital of a great empire for the first time in its history. Data of manuscripts, including Narshakhi's History of Bukhara written in 332/943-944, leave us in no doubt about the fact that it was Ismail b. Akhmad who selected Bukhara for the Sama-nid capital, nevertheless, none of the Ismail's coins minted in Bukhara have survived, whereas his Samanid dinars (golden coins), dirkhems and felses are known widely and found in large excavations. The Samanid felses used to be found frequently during archaeological excavations. These felses were current until the first quarter of the eleventh century. It appears that Ismail never used the very important and prestigious right of every sovereign ruler to mint coins in his own name. From the time when he came to power in Maverannakhr, he minted his coins only in Samarkand. Taking into consideration that Samarkand exceeded Bukhara in both size and richness14, then, one may assume that under Ismail Samarkand functioned as an official capital in some way, while Bukhara was the actual capital. So, the coinage expressed Samarkand's status as the official capital. After Is-mail's reign, regular coinage was implemented in Bukhara which became then, apparently, an official capital of the Samanid state.

For both the population of Bukhara and the settled population throughout Maverannakhr the most important thing was security from raiders. Ismail managed to stop the raids of nomads who previously had frequently invaded the Central Asian oases. Before Ismail's reign, the Bukhara oasis was encircled with a long wall for protection. It took a lot of resources to keep the wall in good condition. Ismail b. Akhmad had radically changed the situation and was able to proclaim with deserved pride: "While I am alive, I am the wall of Bukhara."

None of Ismail's descendants and successors could match his talents and power, though during the first decades after Ismail's death (907) the Samanids continued to rule. Even so, the state began to decline. The leaders of the gulams — Turkic guardsmen recruited from among the slave population — achieved a great influence. Akhmad, the son and successor of Ismail, was killed by insurgent gulams. In about 930, Abu Bakr Isfakhani began an uprising against Hasr b. Akhmad, a grandson of Ismail. The government troops managed to set free three brothers of Hasr who were confined in the citadel. One of these brothers, Yakhya was declared emir. The insurgents were routed and the uprising was suppressed.

By the end of his reign, Hasr had adopted Shiism, and his Turkic guardsmen plotted against him. Mukh, Nasr's son, uncovered the plot, made his father abdicate and massacred the Shiites in Bukhara and all over the country (942). There were two other noteworthy events during the reign of Dasr — fires in 929 and 937; Narshakhi mentions that the last fire destroyed all the buildings north from the Sha-khrud stream.

During the reign of Nukh (943-954) dynastic feuds continued to trouble Bukhara; in 947, the capital was seized by Ibrahim b. Akhmad, Nukh's uncle, with support by a rebellious vice-regent of Khorasan. But Ibrahim b. Akhmad possessed Bukhara for only a short period. By the end of Mansur b. Hukh's reign, the real power was held by the Turkic guard leaders. In 961 after the sudden death of Mansur, Bukhara was submerged in riots, during which insurgents plundered and burnt down the palace.

By the end of the century the Samanid state had completed its decline, and the mutinous military commanders did not obey the king. In 992, a ruler of the Turkic dynasty — the Karakhanids — Bugra-khan Kharun (Khasan) b. Musa invaded Soghd. He easily vanquished two Turkic military commanders, including one Faik, who was suspected of treachery, and came to the capital of the Samanids. After several months circumstances forced Bugra-khan to leave Maverannakhr, enabling the Samanid emir Hukh b. Mansur to come back to Bukhara. Some years later another Karakha-nid, riasr b. AH, led troops to attack the Samanids' domains again. In 997 he reached Samarkand and seized Bukhara with Faik's support. Emir Mansur b. Mukh was out of Bukhara at the time. Soon, Faik concluded peace with Mansur, but in 999 he turned on him and blinded Mansur and handed him over to Abdulmalik, Mansur's brother. In the same year nasr the Karakhanid occupied the capital of the Samanids without striking a blow: Abdulmalik had not enough military forces, and the citizens of Bukhara refused to support him. The irony of fate is that the last Samanid bore the name of Ismail, like the founder of the dynasty. The last Samanid struggled against the Karakhanids for some years more. At times he achieved significant successes and even captured Bukhara several times, but finally he died in 1005.