Bukhara History - Part 12

Amir Temur epoch

The second half of the fifteenth century featured the rise of Amir Temur, who overcame the fierce resistance of the Mongolian nomadic aristocracy and united Central Asia into a single state with one economy. Amir Temur had much respect for Bukhara, as it was the native city of his mother, though the clergy of Bukhara tried to keep aloof from his active political and military affairs. During his reign the Namazgokh Mosque was reconstructed and the Chashma Ayub Mausoleum was rebuilt. The latter had been erected in 1383-1384 on the site of a popular old mazar(tomb) said to be the grave of the Prophet Job. The mausoleum was so named due to a well inside it which is said to have sprung up after the biblical prophet struck the place with his staff.

In Movember 1404 a Spanish diplomatic mission stopped in Bukhara on its way back from Samarkand where it had visited at the court of Temur. Rui Qonzales de Clavijo recorded:«Bukhara lies in a vast plain and is surrounded with an earthen ramp and a deep moat, full of water. In the one of its corners there is a fortress which is also made of earth, for there is no stone in this land...and a river flows near this fortress. The city has a significant suburb and there are large buildings in it. The city is rich in bread, meat, wine and other edible goods...The envoys stayed in this city for six days; there has been a heavy fall of snow while they have been there».

In the time of Temur and the Temurids Bukhara continued to be the second economic and cultural center of Maverannakhr. As regards its religious and spiritual influence, the city's dominant position rose even higher. It was in the fourteenth century that Bakhawud-din Nakshbandi (died in 1389), a famous member of the Makshbandi Sufi order, carried out his activities in Bukhara.

This direction of Sufism was most prominent in its protest against and protection of the masses against robbery and tyranny by both Mongolian and local feudal aristocracies. The Sufis were active in farming, crafts, trade, and other spheres of life. They preached goodness, compassion, and living only for fruits of one's own labour. Among its their common workers, the Sufis featured famous personages: Khodja Akhrar, for instance, a prominent reformer of that time; Alisher Navoi; Abdurakhman Djami; Zakhir ad-Din Babur and others.

In the first half of the fifteenth century the city had been canonized as a sacred capital and a Kitob-i Wua-zade, a guidebook on pilgrimage around the tombs of famous saints in Bukhara and its surroundings, had been compiled by Akhmed b. Mukhammad. Under the first Temurid rulers Bukhara enhanced its position as the spiritual and religious center, the second city in the state and a city competing with the capital.

After Amir Temur died and Khalil Sultan had risen to power in Samarkand, Ulughbek and Ibrahim Sultan, the sons of Shakhruh - who were pretenders to the throne and opposed the ruling power - arrived in Bukhara. The city was not inferior to Samarkand with respect to size. Princes and beks, first of all, visited the tomb of Ayub the Prophet (Chashma Ayub Mausoleum)34 built under Amir Temur, then stayed in the Bukhara Ark. The eastern wing of Ark with the eastern gates was occupied by Ulughbek and the western wing with the western gates by Ibrahim Sultan. This is the last time in history mention is made of the eastern gates in the Bukhara Ark; during this century the eastern gates were probably. During archaeological research on the upper levels of the Bukhara Ark, a narrow (2.5 meters long) paved path had been unearthed. It splits the Ark into two parts and led to the eastern gates of the citadel now blocked.35 Traces of significant architectural activity dating back to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were found southward from this pathway.

For the princes, Bukhara was of great interest for two reasons. It was the second center of Maverannakhr after Samarkand, and it was situated close to Khorasan from whence the assistance of Shakhruh was expected. However, they did not manage to stay there even for a month, because the garrison of Bukhara went over to Khalil Sultan and suddenly attacked the Ark. The princes fled and their property was plundered by the troops and Bukhara's citizens nevertheless, Shakhruh began to keep permanent relations with Mukhammad Parsa, the head of the Nakshbands in Bukhara, «to arrange the affairs of Muslims», i.e. to weaken the influence of Khalil Sultan and to promote Ulughbek to the throne of Maverannakhr. Shakhruh was able to pursue this because the sheikhs of Bukhara had strong influence on the thinking of its people and played a great role in political affairs of the state.

It is relevant to explain that supreme power was embodied by representatives of the aristocracy, sheikh al-islams or Bukhara's sadr-Djekhans, who belonged to the official elite of clergy. The Bukhara sadr-djekhans were occasionally official vicegerents to the secular rulers and also were the richest people of that time. That is why the style of life of these clerical high officials, who constantly violated or treated lightly the laws of shariat, tempted the believers. Sheikhs of the Sufi orders, particularly Nakshbands who were disinterested in power themselves, demanded strict observance of the shariat justice and order. They acted as protectors of the masses and exposed the tyranny inflicted by secular authorities and bureaucracy both official and secular.