HISTORY OF AFGHANISTAN (642-1149)
Arab armies carrying the banner of Islam defeated the Sasanians in 642,
and then marched with confidence eastwards. On the western periphery of
the Afghan area the princes of Herat and Seistan gave way to rule by Arab
governors but in the east, in the mountains, cities submitted after some
The Samanid dynasty in 960 found itself torn between two military families, one of which was headed by the Turc general Alptigin, who had used his influence to conquer eastern territories and establish himself as a provincial governor at Ghazna (modern Ghazni in Afghanistan). When the Samanid Emir Abu ol-Hasan died in 961 and Alptigin's candidate was rejected by the court ministers, he retired from Khurasan (northeastern Iran) to Ghazna, where he ruled as a largely independent sovereign, thus starting the Ghaznavid dynasty in 962. Alptigin died soon after taking Ghazni, but his successors, particularly his slave, Sebuktigin (977-997), and Sebuktigin's son, the great Sultan Mahmud (998-1030), moved out to annex Kabul (977), Bost (978), Balkh (994), Herat (1000) and parts of western Persia. He was only 27 when Mahmud of Ghazna took the title Emir in deference to the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad who legitimized his rule. He also adopted the title Sultan, signaling clearly his independence from the Samanids. By diplomacy, he made a treaty with the Qarakhanids recognizing a boundary along the Oxus river that effectively split the territory of the Samanids. In 999, the Ghaznavids defeated the Samanids and the Qarakhanids captured Bukhara, the Samanid capital.
With his kingdom secure, and with encouragement from the Caliph, Mahmud turned his attentions eastward in 1001 AD, vowing to invade India once a year to bring the word of Allah to the Hindu kingdoms of India by fire and sword.
He carried the banner of Islam from Bukhara in what is now Uzbekistan, extended their influence into the Afghan area. The King Mahmud led many military expeditions into India. Mahmud launched a total of 17 campaigns into Indian between 1001 and 1026, annexing the Punjab, establishing a provincial governor at Lahore, and consolidating northeastern Indian before looking south. The Indian kingdoms of Nagarkot, Thanesar, Kannawj and Kalinjar were all conquered and left in the hands of Hindu vassals. With the tribute and plunder gained from his campaigns, he transformed Ghazna into one of the leading cities of Central Asia, patronizing scholars, establishing colleges, laying out gardens, and building mosques, palaces, and caravansaries.
In his last Indian campaign in 1024 AD, Mahmud reached the southern coast of Kathiawar along the Arabian Sea, where he sacked the city of Somnath and destroyed its famous Hindu temple to Shiva (whose mystical idol was apparently levitated by magnetic forces).
Mahmud returned home in 1026 and spent the last four years of his life contending with the influx of Oghuz Turc horse tribes and opportunistically seizing Rayy (1029 AD) and Hamadan from the distracted Buyid (Daylami) dynasty.
Ghazni played a centre role politically and culturally in Islamic
civilization. Until then unknown and insignificant, it became one of the
most brilliant capitals of the Islamic world. The Ghaznavids carried the
Central Asian architectural style to the eastern part of their empire.
In Bukhara, Merv and other places on the left bank of the Oxus, from Charjuy
to Sarakhs, one could still find some anonymous tombs of brick with the
dates falling within the Ghaznavid period.Great mosques and sumptuous
palaces, surrounded by carefully rended gardens, rose to be adorned with
the gold and gems of India. Here the era's most illustrious poets, artists,
architects, philosophers (Ibn Sina was born in Balkh in 1080), musicians,
historians, artists and craftsmen gathered under the keen patronage of
In 1030, Mahmud Ghazni dies,and the Ghaznavid dynasty began to fall apart after his death. The emptiness and ruins are even more apparent at Ghazni, victim of successive onslaughts, where only two minarets and the tomb of the great conqueror Sultan Mahmud still remain. From mounds of rubble at the feet of the minarets, however, Italian archaeologists, under the direction of Umberto Scerrato, have rescued impressive evidence of the splendor and glory that once radiated throughout the world from this great capital city.
Ghazni was ransacked by the Ghurids in 1149.
To be continued...