Friday, June 10, 2011

The Afrighids

The Afrighids (pre-Islamic times to 995 AD)  were a native Chorasmian dynasty who ruled over the ancient kingdom of Chorasmia from early in the 4th century AD. up until the end of the 10th century AD. They stayed in control after the Arab conquest of 712 AD and the subsequent period of Islamic conversion.


Silver drachm of Sawrshafan (Ca. 751-762 AD)



The kingdom was established by Avar (Hun) tribes possibly under Hephthalites influence. By the 4th Century AD  there was already large-scale agricultural exploitation of the lands lying along the banks of the Oxus river and in the Aral Sea delta with large estates fortified against incursions from the steppe and an extensive and complex system of irrigation canals (see S. P. Tolstov, Auf den Spuren der altchoresmischen Kultur, Berlin, 1953, pp. 207ff.)



Little is known about the first four centuries or so of the Afrighids’ rule. The first King, Afrig is said to have built the great fortress of Fil beside the Choresmian capital Kāt, 40km south of Toprak Kala (today near the site of the modern town of Beruni). It was undermined and swept away by changes in the flow of the Oxus (Amu Darya) in the 10th century AD nd only the vestiges of it could be seen in AD 994 when the great scientist and historical scholar Abu Rayhan Biruni a native of Kwarezm wrote in his book The Chronology Of Ancient Nations; which is the first definitive historical source on the Afrighids prior to Islam.

Bivasar, ca. 300-350 (Afrighid / Chorasmia)

Reduced Tetradrachm of King Brawik early 7th Century (Afrighid Dynasty)



Abu Rayhan Biruni mentions twenty-two rulers of the Afrighid dynasty who  ruled, mainly, in the pre-Islamic period .in total a span of 690 years. Whilst unlikely to be a complete list as on average each ruler would have had 31 years it is a chronicle of the most important rulers. According to Biruni the Afrighids ruled from 305 AD, through the Arab conquests under Qotayba b. Moslem in 93/712, up until their overthrow in 385/995 by the Ma'munids.



His list of the Afrighid kings of Khorezm in chronological order (see notes below for the list in the Chorasmian  language) :



01. AFRIG (ATHRIKH) 305 – 320

02. BAGRA (BUGRA) IBN AFRIG 320 – 340

03. SAKHKHASAK (ZAKASSAK) IBN BAGRA

04. AZKADJAMUK I (ASUKDJAMUK) IBN SAKHKHASAK

05. AZKADJAVAR I (ASUKDJAVAR) IBN AZKADJAMUK I 415 – 445

06. SAKHR I IBN AZKADJAVAR I

07. SHAUSH IBN SAKHR I

08. KHAMGARI (HUMKAR) IBN SHAUSH

09. BUZGAR (BUZKHAR) IBN KHAMGARI

10. ARSAMUKH (ARTHAMUKH) IBN BUZGAR contemporary of Prophet Muhammad

11. SAKHR II

12. SABRI

13. AZKADJAVAR II (ASUKDJAVAR) 710 – 712 opposed by KHURRAZAD 710 – 712

14. AZKADJAMUK II (ASUKDJAMUK) IBN AZKADJAVAR II

15. SAVSHAN

16. TURKASABATHA

17. AZKADJAVAR III (ASUKDJAVAR) – ‘ABDALLAH IBN TURKASABATHA

18. MANSUR IBN ‘ABDALLAH

19. IRAQ IBN MANSUR 898 – 921

20. MUHAMMAD IBN IRAQ 921 – 944

21. ‘ABDALLAH IBN ASHKAM 944 – 967

22. ABU SA’ID AHMAD IBN MUHAMMAD 967 – 995

23. ABU ‘ABDALLAH MUHAMMAD IBN AHMAD 995



Abu Rayhan Biruni states in the The Chronology Of Ancient Nations states that he believed that the main reason for this gap in information was that “ When Qutaibah bin Moslem under the command of Al-Hajjaj ibn Yūsuf was sent to Khwarazmia with a military expedition and conquered it for the second time, he swiftly killed whoever wrote in the Khwarazmian native language and knew of the Khwarazmian heritage, history, and culture. He then killed all their Zoroastrian priests and burned and wasted their books, until gradually the illiterate only remained, who knew nothing of writing, and hence the regions history was mostly forgotten.” (ED: sadly like most religious zealots the Arabs of the day much preferred ignorance to enlightenment)  



It has been suggested that the term 'Afrigh' is the Arabicized of 'Abriz' in Persian which translates as "where water flows" , a reference to the geography of Khwarazm and its abundant waters.



Ancient Khwarazm



Being well irrigated the rich agricultural region of the lower Oxus (Khwarazm) developed in isolation from other regions. Surrounded by all sides by steppe land and desert the delta was geographically isolated from other areas of civilization. This isolation allowed it to maintain its separate distinctive proto-Iranian language and culture up until the waves of Turkic- migrations in the 8th -10th centuries.   By the 10th century many parts of Central Asia had been settled by Turkic tribes.



Before the  8th century AD there had only been sporadic and ineffectual Arab raids on the fringes of Ḵhorezm from the directions of Khorasan and Transoxania. But in A.D 712 the Arab governor of Khorasan, Qotayba b. Moslem Baheli was able to intervene in internal Khwarazmian politics when the Afrighid shah was embroiled with his brother Khorrazad in a civil war. Once Khwarezm was conquered by the Arab Umayyads it came vaguely under Muslim suzerainty, but it was not until the end of the eight century or the beginning of the 9th century that an Afrighid Shah was first converted to Islam appearing with the popular convert’s name of ʿAbdallah (slave of God).



The Arab invasions lead to much destruction as Biruni notes. However once the Arabs withdrew, the Shahs recovered power in Chorasmia and in time the stipulated tribute lapsed, and the population reverted to their ancestral faith Zoroastrianism. The Shahs continued to join with the princes and merchants of Soghd in resisting the Arabs, seeking to call in help from their Turkic neighbors’.
But again by the early 10th century, the Samanids once again had brought Khorezm into tributary status.



Ibn Fadlan who was sent by the Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad as an ambassador to the Kings of the Bulgars in AD 921, went first to Bukhara to pay his respect to the Amir before proceeding to Khoresm and crossing through the Ustsurt Desert to the Volga (A. Z. V. Togan, Ibn Fadlāns Reisebericht, AKM 24/3, Leipzig, 1939, sec. 4). He visited Khoresm during the reign of Shah Mohammad b.Erāq. (His nephew, Abū Nasr Mansūr b. Alī b. Erāq, was to be Bīrūnī’s teacher and a celebrated scholar of Ḵhoresm at the time of the Maʾmunids.) Shah Mohammad acknowledged to Ibn Fadlan the superior rights of al-Amīr al-Aǰall, the Samanid ruler (Togan, op. cit., secs. 4-14). In fact, the Shahs seem to have been little disturbed in Khorezm, except when they were injudicious enough to shelter Samanid rebels. As Samanid authority weakened towards the end of the 10th century AD, the Shahs were able to extend their authority across the Qara Qom Desert and over the frontier towns and outposts of northern Khorasan.



In AD 995 the Afrighids of Kath were violently overthrown by their neighbors the Turkic Ma'munids from Gurganj. The end of the Afrighids came suddenly, and as the result of an internal convulsion and change in the balance of power within Khorezm. In the course of the tenth century, the local family of the Ma'munids who were based in Gurganj, on the left bank of the Oxus (Amu Darya) grew in economic and political importance situated as it was at the terminus of trade routes across the steppes to south Russia. So when in AD 995 the Ma’munids attacked and captured Kāt, killed the last Afrighid, Shah Abū bAbdallāh Mohammad, they themselves assumed the historic title of Khwarazm-Shah.



Briefly once again the area was under Samanid suzerainty, before it passed to Mahmud of Ghazna in 1017. From then on, Turco-Mongolian invasions and long rule by Turco-Mongol dynasties supplanted the Iranian character of the region although the title of Khwarezm-Shah was maintained well up to the 15th century.



Notes: 

Name of the rulers given by the native Chorasmian speaker Biruni.

1) ʾfrḡ, Āfrīḡ.

2) bḡrh

3) sḵḵsk

4)ʾskǰmwk

5) ʾzkʾǰwʾr

6) sḵr [I]

7) sʾwšš, Sāvoš (Syavash)

8) ḵʾmkry/ḵʾnkry

9) bwzkʾr

10) ʾrṯmwḵ, Arṯamūḵ (mentioned also in coins)

11) sḵr

12) sbry

13) ʾzkʾǰwʾr [II].

14) ʾskǰmwk [II].

15) šʾwšfr.

16) trksbʾṯh

17) ʿAbdallāh.

18) Manṣūr.

19) ʿErāq.

20) Moḥammad.

21) Aḥmad.

22) Abū ʿAbdallāh Moḥammad, killed in 995.



Silver Drachma of Azkatsvar-Abdallah. AD. 770-800. (The first Islamic Khwarazm Shar)


Only consonants of the pre-Islamic names are known with long vowels, since in Arabic script, the short vowels are not written and diacritic signs are used to clarify when required. After the conversion of 'Abdallah, all the names expect possibly 'Eraq are Arabic and their pronunciation is known. Unfortunately, the manuscripts that have also come down have also suffered some corruption due to scribal errors, since the names were incomprehensible for most non-natives. Biruni himself utilizes the extra letters of Chorasmian which were not used in Arabic writings. Much more is known about the dynasty in the Islamic era after the beginning of the 8th Century and their conversion to Islam.



Sources:

C.Clifford. E.Bosworth, The New Islamic Dynasties: A Chronological and Genealogical Manual, Columbia University, 1996.

Al-biruni. The Chronology Of Ancient Nations, trans. Eduard Sachau. London: Elibron Classics, 2005

H. A. R. Gibb, The Arab conquests in Central Asia, London, 1923

L. Massignon, "Al-Biruni et la valuer internationale de la science arabe" in Al-Biruni Commemoration Volume, (Calcutta, 1951).

E. Sachau, “Zur Geschichte und Chronologie von Khwārizm,” Sb. Wien. Ak. Wiss., Phil. Hist.