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The Ghrid Empire:

Warfare, Kingship, and Political Legitimacy in


Eastern Iran and Northern India

Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree of Master of Arts in the


Department of Middle Eastern and African History, Tel Aviv University

by
Michael P. ONeal
michael.p.oneal@gmail.com
Advisor: Professor Moshe Gammer
June 2013

2013 by Michael P. ONeal


All rights reserved.

In memory of Professor Moshe Gammer

Contents
Abstract
Preface & Acknowledgments
Technicalities

v
vii
ix

INTRODUCTION: Themes and Structure

PART I: Political and Military History


CHAPTER 1: The Study of Ghrid History: Sources and Historiography
1.1 Sources for Ghrid History
1.2 Historiography: Interpretations of Ghrid History

9
9
22

CHAPTER 2: Historical Overview I: The Rise of the Shansabnids


2.1 The Early History of Ghr
2.2 The Ghaznavid Conquest and Conversion to Islam
2.3 Ghaznavid Decline and Shansabnid Expansion

31
33
43
48

CHAPTER 3: Historical Overview II: The Zenith of the Ghrid Empire


3.1 Expansion to the East and the Conquests in India
3.2 The Struggle for Khursn
3.3 Dissolution of the Empire

58
59
86
100

PART II: Warfare, Kingship, and Ghaz


CHAPTER 4: The Ghrids at War: The Army and Its Components
4.1 Ethic Components: Ghrs, Turks, Khalaj, Iranians, and Indians
4.2 Infantry and Cavalry, Weapons and Armor
4.3 Elephants and Castles

105
108
134
147

CHAPTER 5: The Ghrids and Perso-Arabic Islamic Kingship


5.1 Clan Politics and the Appanage System
5.2 Ghrid Absolutism and Royal Justice
5.3 The Karrmiyya, the Ismls, and the anaf and Shfi madhhabs
5.4 Ghrid Titulature and Symbols of Sovereignty
5.5 Indic Forms of Kingship under Muizz al-Dn

154
155
160
172
177
182

CHAPTER 6: The Ghrids and the Ghz Thesis


6.1 Witteks Ghz Thesis Revisited
6.2 Ghaz and Jihd: The Concept of Holy War in the Ghrid Sources
6.3 Early Ghrid Expansion: A Revival of Ghaz Ideology?
6.4 The Legacy of Muizz al-Dn: Ghaz on Two Frontiers
6.5 Who Were the Ghrids Ghzs?
6.6 The Title Ghz

190
192
195
200
208
217
221

CONCLUSIONS: Warfare, Ghaz, and Political Legitimacy

228

Appendix A
Appendix B

233
237

Appendix C
Appendix D
Bibliography

Glossary of Selected Terms


Selected Maps
Map 1: Ghr and Surrounding Areas (ca. 9501200)
Map 2: Central Asia and India in the Ghrid Era (ca. 1200)
Genealogical Chart of the Ghrid Dynasty
A Chronology of Ghurid Titulature, Laqabs, and Epithets

241
243
255

Abstract

The Shansabnid dynasty of Ghr (ca. 545612/11501216) emerged from the mountains of
Afghanistan to become a world power stretching from the Oxus River in Central Asia to the Ganges
delta in Bengal. This study seeks to answer a central question in the Ghrid expansion: How did the
Ghrid sultans seek to legitimate their rule and thus mobilize military support in the creation of
their empire? It is commonly assumed that the ideology of ghaz played a central role in this
process, but this thesis has not yet been systematically analyzed. The Ghrids claims about their
actions are reconstructed through an analysis of epigraphy, numismatics, historical chronicles, and
other literary works. A special emphasis is placed on those works produced under Ghrid patronage
or by authors living under Ghrid rule. The analysis suggests that the promotion of ghaz was a late
development incidental to the ongoing wars of conquest. On the contrary, situated within the highly
fractured religious and political milieu of the eastern Iranian world and becoming in time rulers of
all of northern India, the Ghrids required multiple strategies of political legitimation that varied in
time and place: besides the image of the Muslim warrior-king, the Ghrid rulers also projected
themselves and appeared to their followers as Ghr chieftains, as traditional Perso-Arabic Islamic
rulers, and as Indian rjas. This thesis contributes both to the debate over the meaning and
importance of ghaz in Islamic history and to a growing body of recent research on the Ghrids
which is enriching our knowledge of the various forms of political legitimacy in the medieval Muslim
world.

abstract | v

Preface & Acknowledgments

This study arose out of what seemed like a simple question when I first formulated it: in what ways,
or to what extent, is the paradigm of Paul Witteks famous ghz thesis on the rise of the Ottomans
applicable to another time and place in the Muslim world, sc. the Ghrid Empire, whose raison dtre
has been portrayed by many scholars as the conquest of northern India? Witteks thesis has of
course been the subject of both criticism and defense over the three-quarters of a century since it
was first proposed, with some of the most significant contributions to the debate arising in the last
two decades. When Linda Darling suggested that a comparative context was needed to frame the
debate properly, the Ghrids appeared to me as an obvious candidate for such a treatment. Professor
Darlings challenge thus seemed like a good idea for a masters thesis, i.e. a first attempt at
demonstrating sufficient mastery over a body of secondary literature.
And yet it soon became apparent to me that I had begun a much greater undertaking than I
had initially anticipated. The types of evidence adduced in the debate over the rise of the
Ottomansthe structure of society, the makeup of military forces, the role of popular and orthodox
religions, the dynastic claims and official titulature of the rulers, to name but a feware not easily
collected in the case of the Ghrids and have not been subjected to systematic analysis. The paucity
of our sources, literary and otherwise, has been a persistent culprit in this regard. Afghanistans
inaccessible terrain and unstable political conditions have for more than three decades prevented indepth study of the Ghrid heartlands, which doubtless hold many important archaeological clues yet
to be uncovered. Furthermore, the great geographical expanse of the empire and the multiplicity of
traditions within its bounds present particular challenges of their own. The sheer scale of the skills
necessary for success in Ghrid studies is indeed dauntingand well beyond what I have been able
to acquire in preparing this thesis. The well-tooled scholar needs proficiency in a number of Islamic,
Western, and Indic languages, expertise in numismatics and epigraphy, archaeological and arthistorical competence, deep knowledge of historical geography from the Iranian plateau to Bengal,
methodological sophistication, and a broad and sensitive historical understanding of the preceding
and succeeding periods in Iran, Central Asia, and India. Given these daunting challenges it is hardly
surprising that the Ghrids still await the masterly synthesis they surely deserve. Needless to say,

preface & acknowledgments | vii

this thesis is not that synthesis but merely a halting, first attempt to come to grips with a small
selection of source materials on a difficult subject.
This thesis is dedicated to the memory of Professor Moshe Gammer, who served as my
advisor up until his untimely death just weeks before I submitted the final version. Professor
Gammer was everything one could seek in an advisor; besides his keen interest in my work and his
gentle encouragement, he also provided me the opportunity to use this research as a platform to
meet many other scholars. The very model of humane and refined scholarship, he is sorely missed.
In the course of writing I have naturally and joyfully incurred a number of other debts.
Professor Michal Biran, Dr. Yehoshua Frenkel, and Professor Ron Sela all read or heard early
versions of parts of this research and provided much needed and greatly appreciated criticism. A
special word of thanks is owed to Professor Linda Darling, who not only provided the intellectual
impetus for this entire study, but also graciously read and commented on early portions of my
research. I must also express my heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Douglas Streusand, a mentor who
introduced me to the delightful complexity and variety of Islamic history, who first showed me the
allure and importance of the eastern Persian lands, and who, by his example and encouragement, has
been an intellectual beacon ever since. Tremendous assistance has been provided by the staff of the
Library of Congress and the British Library. I am especially grateful for the cheerful patience and
helpfulness shown to a demanding patron by the Interlibrary Loan department of the Sourasky
Central Library at Tel Aviv University. Finally, what I owe to the great number of scholars who have
enriched the study of the eastern Islamic lands and northern India in the medieval period will be
readily apparent in the following pages. Here I must make particular mention of two scholars whom
I have never had the good fortune to meet but without whom this thesis simply could not have been
written. Professors C. Edmund Bosworth and Peter Jackson have provided models of erudition and
careful scholarship to which I can only aspire, and doubtless much of what may be creditable in this
study is simply a result of my following in their paths.
Despite having such illustrious guides, I recognize that there are likely many errors and
shortcomings in this thesis for which I alone am responsible. I hope one day to have the
circumstances to enable me to revisit this whole endeavor. In the meantime, I welcome any
comments or criticisms which my work undoubtedly deserves.

viii | preface & acknowledgments

Bibliography
This Bibliography contains a listing of all items consulted in the preparation of this thesis. To avoid
overly cumbersome footnotes, many journal names and all primary literary sources are abbreviated
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abbreviation. Translations into languages other than English are indicated by Fr. for French and Ger.
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AEMA
ASI
BGA
BSO[A]S
CAJ
CHIr 4
CHIr 5
CHIn 4:1
CHIn 5
EI1
EI2
EI3
EIn
EIr
EW
HCCA 4:1
HJAS
HPL 10
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Iran: JBIPS
IS
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A Comprehensive History of India, vol. 4, pt. 1, (AD 9851206)
A Comprehensive History of India, vol. 5, The Delhi Sultanat
Encyclopedia of Islam, 1st ed.
Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd ed.
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Encyclopaedia Iranica, Online Edition
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Charles Melville, ed., Persian Historiography, vol. 10 of A History of Persian Literature
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International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
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The Islamic Quarterly
Iran: Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies
Iranian Studies
Journal Asiatique
Journal of the American Oriental Society
Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal
Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
Journal of Near Eastern Studies
Journal of the Numismatic Society of India
Journal of Persianate Studies
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society
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