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Islamic Central Asia

An Anthology of Historical Sources

Edited by Scott C. Levi and Ron Sela

Publication Year: 2009

Islamic Central Asia is the first English-language anthology of primary documents for the study of Central Asian history. Scott C. Levi and Ron Sela draw from a vast array of historical sources to illustrate important aspects of the social, cultural, political, and economic history of Islamic Central Asia. These documents—many newly translated and most not readily available for study—cover the period from the 7th-century Arab conquests to the 19th-century Russian colonial era and provide new insights into the history and significance of the region.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

This volume was produced with funds provided by the Ohio State University Department of History and College of Arts and Humanities, and the Indiana University Department of Central Eurasian Studies and Islamic Studies Program. We are especially grateful for the original contributions to this anthology made by Devin DeWeese, ...

Note on Translation and Transliteration, Map

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pp. xv-xvi

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pp. 1-4

This anthology is designed primarily to complement an introductory study of Central Asia’s history. In recent years, the awareness of Central Asia’s significance and unique history has grown rapidly among academics, policy makers, and the public. ...

Part 1. Central Asia in the Early Islamic Period, Seventh to Tenth Centuries

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pp. 7-10

Already by the middle of the seventh century ad, merely two decades after the installation of the first caliph, Abu Bakr, on the throne of the Muslim polity in Mecca, the armies of the Arab caliphate approached the banks of the Amu Darya River, a distance of more than 1,600 miles from their soon-to-be capital in Damascus. ...

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A. Central Asia and the Arab Conquests

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pp. 11-22

Ahmad ibn Yahya al-Baladhuri (d. 892), one of the leading Arab historians of the ninth century, probably spent most of his life in Baghdad, although he traveled and studied throughout the Middle East. He apparently enjoyed a high status at the caliph’s court, particularly during the reign of the ῾Abbasid caliphs al-Mutawakkil (d. 861) and al-Musta῾in (d. 866). ...

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B. Central Asia under the Samanids

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pp. 23-34

Narshakhi’s history of Bukhara is arguably the most important source for the social and political history of Central Asia in the early Islamic period. Unfortunately little is known about the author, Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Ja῾ far al-Narshakhi (c. 899–960), other than that he was from the village of Narshakh, near Bukhara, ...

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C. The Age of Learning

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pp. 35-44

Perhaps more than any other individual, the renowned scientist and philosopher Abu ῾Ali al-Husayn ibn Sina (980–1037) personifies the marvelous scholarly achievements of the medieval Islamic world. Ibn Sina was born in a small village near Bukhara, where his father, an adherent to the Isma῾ili sect of Islam, ...

Part 2. Encounter with the Turks

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pp. 47-50

One of the most consequential developments in the history of the Muslim world and particularly in the history of Central Asia was the influx of Turkic peoples into the region, and beyond. The Turkic encounter with, and subsequent integration into, the Muslim world occurred largely through the migrations— ...

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A. Turkic Peoples of the Steppe

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pp. 51-68

Inscriptions from the eighth century ad (probably from the 730s), were discovered near Lake Tsaidam, to the west of the river Orkhon in modern-day Mongolia, in 1889 by the Russian explorer N. M. Yadrinstev. The two monoliths, dedicated to the Turkic rulers Kul Tegin and his brother Bilge Qaghan, contain long inscriptions in Old Turkic, carved in runic script, as well as inscriptions in Chinese. ...

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B. Qarakhanids: The First Turkic Muslim State in Central Asia

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pp. 69-82

Mahmud al-Kashghari, an eleventh-century lexicographer, hailed from Barskhan on the southern shores of Lake Issïq-köl (modern-day Kyrgyzstan). His family seems to have been well connected with the Qarakhanid dynasty, and Kashghari traveled extensively in the Turkic lands before making his way to Baghdad, ...

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C. Central Asia in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries

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pp. 83-108

The Kitab al-Yamini is a chronicle of the early Ghaznavid rise to power during the reigns of Amir Sebuktegin (r. 977–97), a Turkic military slave of high rank during the final years of Samanid rule, and his son, the first independent Ghaznavid ruler, Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna (“Yamin al-Dawla,” r. 998–1030). ...

Part 3. The Mongol Empire

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pp. 111-114

The Mongol conqueror Chinggis Khan (more well known as Genghis Khan) was named Temujin when, probably in 1167, he was born in the pastoral-nomadic steppe to the north of China. When Temujin was just nine years old, a band of Tatars poisoned his father, Yisugei, and the remaining years of Temujin’s adolescence were extremely difficult. ...

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A. Temujin and the Rise of the Mongol Empire

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pp. 115-138

Possibly the most well-known literary work in Mongolian, the Secret History of the Mongols has been celebrated as the great written epic of the Mongols. Compiled probably around the middle of the thirteenth century by an anonymous author, the work seems to have been authored first in Uyghur-Mongolian script, ...

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B. Islamic Central Asia under Mongol Rule

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pp. 139-158

Rashid al-Din (1247–1318) was born into a Jewish family in the city of Hamadan, in western Iran, just a few years before the Mongol prince Hülegü (r. 1256–65) led a conquering force into the Middle East. Rashid al-Din’s father and grandfather were both employed at the Mongol court, and, after being trained as a physician, he too was awarded a position at the court of Abaqa (r. 1265–82), ...

Part 4. Timur and the Timurids

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pp. 161-164

In the middle of the fourteenth century, the Chaghatayids remained a significant power in Moghulistan but their influence had waned in the western stretches of the ulus. In Transoxiana political authority had gradually, and temporarily, shifted from the Chaghatayid Mongols to local Turkic Muslim tribal leaders. ...

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A. Timur’s Rise and Rule

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pp. 165-180

Ahmed ibn ῾Arabshah (1392–1450) was born in Damascus, a magnificent city that had flourished as capital of the Dar al-Islam during the Umayyad Caliphate (661–750) and, at the time of Ibn ῾Arabshah’s birth, had enjoyed nearly a century and a half of peace and prosperity under the Mamluks. But while Ibn ῾Arabshah was just a boy, Timur invaded Syria and laid Damascus to waste. ...

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B. Central Asia in the Fifteenth Century

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pp. 181-196

Ghiyath al-Din Khwandamir (1475–1535), a historian of the Timurids, owed much of his career to the political standing of his father, Khoja Humam al-Din Muhammad, a minister to the Timurid ruler of Samarqand. Thanks to the instruction given to him by his maternal uncle, the great historian Mirkhwand, ...

Part 5. Central Asia in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

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pp. 199-202

The sixteenth century witnessed the last great nomadic migration in Central Asia as much of the steppe population, referred to by the designation “Uzbek,” made its way to the sedentary regions. Led by descendants of Chinggis Khan, the newcomers conquered the lands of Khorezm and Mawarannahr and established their control over much of Central Asia. ...

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A. The Shïbanids and Central Asian Society in the Sixteenth Century

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pp. 203-226

This source is a general history from the Creation down to the year 1525, written in Turkic by ῾Abdallah b. Muhammad b. Ali Nasrallahi for the ruler of Tashkent, Sultan Muhammad, who was a cousin of Shïbani Khan and a son of Söyünch Khoja (Söyünjük) Khan. The author, of whom we have little information, seems to have been an official serving the Timurids in the city of Balkh, ...

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B. Central Asia in the Seventeenth Century

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pp. 227-240

Abu’l-Ghazi Bahadur Khan, ruler of Khiva from 1644–66, was the son of ῾Arab Muhammad Khan and a descendant of Chinggis Khan. Having quarreled with his brother Isfandiyar, Abu’l-Ghazi fled to Tashkent, where he lived with the Qazaqs for two years, before attempting to retake Khiva for himself. ...

Part 6. Central Asia in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

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pp. 243-246

The people of Central Asia have long benefited from their position at the center of the Eurasian landmass. Throughout much of their history, Central Asians have enjoyed bilateral commercial relations with the neighboring civilizations of China, Russia, the Middle East, and India. ...

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A. The Age of Transition

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pp. 247-264

In the beginning of the eighteenth century, a corpus of extensive fictional biographies of Timur emerged and began circulating in the oasis realms of Central Asia. These manuscripts, written in prose in Persian and in Chaghatay Turkic, survived in numerous renderings in manuscript form, retelling a fantastic life story of Timur, ...

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B. The Uzbek Tribal Dynasties

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pp. 265-280

Tuhfat al-khani (The khan’s gift), also known as the Tarikh-i Muhammad Rahim Khani, describes the growing influence of the Manghïts on the Ashtarkhanid court and their official seizure of power in the year 1756. Under Muhammad Rahim Khan the Manghïts became the rulers of the khanate de jure and not only de facto. ...

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C. The “Great Game” to Russian Rule

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pp. 281-306

Alexander Burnes (1805–41) traveled from India to Bukhara in 1832, as the Anglo-Russian colonial contest for Central Asia (the “Great Game”) was gaining momentum. In Bukhara, Burnes attended numerous official meetings, and he appears to have gotten along quite well with the Qoshbegi (grand vizier). ...


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pp. 307-308


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pp. 309-318

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About the Authors

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p. 338-338

Scott C. Levi is Assistant Professor of Central Asian History in the Department of History at the Ohio State University. His publications include The Indian Diaspora in Central Asia and Its Trade, 1550–1900 and the edited volume India and Central Asia: Commerce and Culture, 1500–1800. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780253013590
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253353856

Page Count: 338
Illustrations: 1 map
Publication Year: 2009