in The Levant
Khanate (Persian: آل افراسیاب,
translit. Āl-i Afrāsiyāb, lit. 'House of Afrisyab') was a
Turkic dynasty that ruled in
Transoxania in Central Asia, ruled by a
dynasty known in literature as the Karakhanids (also spelt
Qarakhanids) or Ilek Khanids. Both the dynastic names of
Karakhanids and Ilek Khanids refer to royal titles with Kara Kağan
being the most important Turkish title up till the end of the
Central Asia and ruled it between
999–1211. Their arrival in
Transoxania signaled a definitive
shift from Iranian to Turkic predominance in Central Asia, yet the
Kara-khanids gradually assimilated the Perso-Arab Muslim culture,
while retaining some of their native Turkish culture.
Their capitals included Kashgar, Balasagun,
Uzgen and Samarkand. The
Khanate eventually split into two – the Eastern and Western
Khanates. They then came under the suzerainty of the Seljuks, followed
by the Kara-Khitans, before the dynasty was extinguished by the
Khwarezmians. Their history is reconstructed from fragmentary and
often contradictory written sources, as well as studies on their
2.1.1 Early history
2.1.2 Formation of the Kara-Khanid Khanate
2.2 Conquest of Transoxiana
2.3 Conquest of western Tarim Basin
2.4 Division of the Kara-Khanid Khanate
2.5 Seljuk suzerainty
Qara Khitai Invasion
5 Kara-Khanid dynasty
6 See also
The name of the royal clan is not actually known and the term
Karakhanid in English is artificial — it was derived from Qara Khan
or Qara Khaqan (Persian: قراخان, translit. Qarākhān,
the word "Kara" means "black" and also "courageous" from Old Turkic
𐰴𐰺𐰀), which was the foremost title of the rulers of the
dynasty, and was devised by European Orientalists in the 19th
century to describe both the dynasty and the Turks ruled by it.
Arabic Muslim sources called this dynasty al-Khaqaniya ("That of the
Khaqans") or al Muluk al-Khaniyya al-Atrak (The Khanal kings of the
Turks), while Persian sources often preferred the term Al-i Afrasiyab
(Persian: آل افراسیاب, translit. Āl-i Afrāsiyāb,
lit. 'House of Afrisyab') on the basis of the legendary kings of
pre-Islamic Transoxania, although they are also referred to as
Ilek Khanids or Ilak Khanids ( (Persian: ایلک خانیان,
translit. Ilak-Khānīyān) in Persian. Chinese sources refer
to them as Halahan or Heihan (Chinese: 黑汗, literally "Black Khan")
or Dashi (Chinese: 大食, a term for Arabs that extends to Muslims in
Khanate was a confederation formed some time in the
9th century by Karluks, Yagmas, Chigils, and other peoples living in
Tian Shan (modern Kyrgyzstan), and Western Xinjiang
See also: Timeline of the Karluks
Karluks were a nomadic people from the western
Altai Mountains who
moved to Zhetysu. In 742, the
Karluks were part of an alliance led by
Uyghurs that rebelled against the Göktürks. In
the realignment of power that followed, the
Karluks were elevated from
a tribe led by an el teber to one led by a yabghu, which was one of
the highest Turkic dignitaries and also implies membership in the
Ashina clan in whom the "heaven-mandated" right to rule resided. The
Uyghurs later allied themselves against the Basmyl, and
within two years they toppled the
Basmyl khagan. The Uyghur yabghu
became khagan and the Karluk leader yabghu. This arrangement lasted
less than a year. Hostilities between the Uyghur and Karluk forced the
Karluk to migrate westward into the western
By 766 the
Karluks had forced the submission of the
Turgesh and they
established their capital at
Suyab on the Chu River. The Karluk
confederation by now included the Chigil and Tukshi tribes who may
have been Türgesh tribes incorporated into the Karluk union. By the
mid-9th century, the Karluk confederation had gained control of the
sacred lands of the Western Türks after the destruction of the Uyghur
Khaganate by the
Old Kirghiz Control of sacred lands, together with
their affiliation with the
Ashina clan, allowed the Khaganate to be
passed on to the
Karluks along with domination of the steppes after
Khagan was killed in a revolt.
During the 9th century southern
Central Asia was under the rule of the
Samanids, while the Central Asian steppe was dominated by Turkic
nomads such as the Pechenegs, the Oghuz Turks, and the Karluks. The
domain of the
Karluks reached as far north as the Irtysh and the Kimek
confederation, with encampments extending to the Chi and Ili rivers,
where the Chigil and Tukshi tribes lived, and east to the Ferghana
valley and beyond. The area to the south and east of the
inhabited by the Yagma. The Karluk center in the 9th and 10th
centuries appears to have been at
Balasagun on the Chu River. In the
late 9th century the
Samanids marched into the steppes and captured
Taraz, one of the headquarters of the Karluk khagan, and a large
church was transformed into a mosque.
Formation of the Kara-Khanid Khanate
Tomb of Sultan Satuk Bughra Khan, the first Muslim khan, in Artush,
During the 9th century, the Karluk confederation (including the
Türgesh descended Chigil and Tukshi tribes) and the Yaghma, possible
descendants of the Toquz Oghuz, joined force and formed the first
Karluk-Karakhanid khaganate. The
Chigils appear to have formed the
nucleus of the Karakhanid army. The date of its foundation and the
name of its first khan is uncertain, but according to one
reconstruction, the first Karakhanid ruler was Bilge Kul Qadir
Khan. The rulers of the Karakhanids were likely to be from the
Chigil and Yaghma tribes – the Eastern
Khagan bore the title Arslan
Qara Khaqan (Arslan "lion" was the totem of the Chigil) and the
Khagan the title Bughra Qara Khaqan (Bughra "male camel" was
the totem of the Yaghma). The names of animals were a regular element
in the Turkish titles of the Karakhanids: thus Aslan (lion), Bughra
(camel), Toghan (falcon), Böri (wolf), and Toghrul or Toghrïl (a
bird of prey). Under the Khagans were four rulers with the titles
Arslan Ilig, Bughra Ilig, Arslan
Tegin and Bughra Tegin. The
titles of the members of the dynasty changed with their changing
position, normally upwards, in the dynastic hierarchy.
In the mid-10th century the Kara-Khanids converted to
adopted Muslim names and honorifics, but retained Turkic regnal titles
such as Khan, Khagan, Ilek (Ilig) and Tegin. Later they
adopted Arab titles sultan and sultān al-salātīn (sultan of
sultans). According to the Ottoman historian known as Munajjim-bashi,
a Karakhanid prince named
Sultan Satuq Bughra Khan
Sultan Satuq Bughra Khan was the first of
the khans to convert. After conversion, he obtained a fatwa which
permitted him in effect to kill his presumably still pagan father,
after which he conquered
Kashgar (of the old Shule Kingdom). Later
in 960, according to Muslim historians Ibn Miskawaih and Ibn al-Athir,
there was a mass conversion of the Turks (reportedly "200,000 tents of
the Turks"), circumstantial evidence suggests these were the
Conquest of Transoxiana
The grandson of Satuk Bughra Khan, Hasan (or Harun) b. Sulayman
(title: Bughra Khan) attacked the
Samanids in the late 10th century.
Between 990-992, Hasan took Isfijab, Ferghana, Ilaq, Samarkand, and
Samanid capital Bukhara. However, Hasan Bughra Khan died in
992 due to an illness, and the
Samanids returned to Bukhara.
Hasan's cousin Ali b. Musa (title: Kara Khan or Arslan Khan) resumed
the campaign against the Samanids, and by 999 Ali's son Nasr had taken
Chach, Samarkand, and Bukhara. The
Samanid domains were divided
between the Ghaznavids, who gained Khorasan and Afghanistan, and the
Karakhanids, who received Transoxiana. The
Oxus River thus became the
boundary between the two rival empires.
The Karakhanid state was divided into appanages, as was common of
Mongol nomads. The Karakhanid appanages were associated
with four principal urban centers,
Balasagun (then the capital of the
Karakhanid state) in Zhetysu,
Kashgar in Xinjiang,
Uzgen in Fergana,
Samarkand in Transoxiana. The dynasty's original domains of
Zhetysu and Kasgar and their khans retained an implicit seniority over
those who ruled in Transoxiana and Fergana. The four sons of Ali
(Ahmad, Nasr, Mansur, Muhammad) each held their own independent
appanage within the Karakhanid state. Nasr, the conqueror of
Transoxiana, held the large central area of Transoxiana (
Fergana (Uzgen) and other areas, although after his death
his appanage was further divided.
Zhetysu and Chach and
became the head of the dynasty after the death of Ali. The brothers
Ahmad and Nasr conducted different policies towards the
the south – while
Ahmad tried to form alliance with
Ghazna, Nasr attempted to expand unsuccessfully into the territory of
Ahmad was succeeded by Mansur, and after the death of Mansur, the
Hasan Bughra Khan branch of the Karakhanids became dominant. Hasan's
sons Muhammad Toghan Khan II, and Yusuf Kadir Khan who held Kashgar,
became in turn the head of the Karakhanid dynasty. The two families,
i.e. the descendents of Ali Arslan Khan and Hasan Bughra Khan, would
eventually split the Karakhanid
Khanate in two.
In 1017–1018, the Karakhanids repelled an attack by a large mass of
nomadic Turkish tribes in what was described in Muslim sources as a
Conquest of western Tarim Basin
Part of a series on the
History of Xinjiang
Kingdom of Khotan
Western Turkic Khaganate
Kingdom of Qocho
Republic of China
People's Republic of China
The Islamic conquest of the Buddhist cities east of
Kashgar began when
the Turkic Karakhanid Satuq Bughra Khan converted to
Islam in 934 and
then captured Kashgar. Satuq Bughra Khan and his son directed
endeavors to proselytize
Islam among the Turks and engage in military
conquests. In the mid-10th century, Satuq's son Musa began to put
pressure on Khotan, and a long period of war between
Khotan ensued. Satok Bughra Khan's nephew or grandson Ali Arslan
was said to have been killed by Buddhists during the war; during
the reign of
Ahmad b. Ali, the Karakhanids also engaged in wars
against the non-Muslims to the east and northeast.
Muslim accounts tell the tale of the four imams from Mada'in city
(possibly in modern-day Iraq) who travelled to help Yusuf Qadir Khan,
the Qarakhanid leader, in his conquest of Khotan, Yarkand, and
Kashgar. The "infidels" were said to have been driven towards Khotan,
however the four Imams were killed. In 1006, Yusuf Kadr Khan of
Kashgar conquered the Kingdom of Khotan, ending Khotan's existence as
an independent state. The conquest of the western Tarim Basin
which includes Khotan and
Kashgar is significant in the eventual
Turkification and Islamification of the entire Tarim Basin, and modern
Uyghurs identify with the Karakhanids even though the name "Uyghur"
was taken from the
Uyghur Empire and the Buddhist Qocho
Division of the Kara-Khanid Khanate
Early in the 11th century the unity of the Karakhanid dynasty was
fractured by frequent internal warfare that eventually resulted in the
formation of two independent Karakhanid states. A son of Hasan Bughra
Khan, Ali Tegin, seized control of
Bukhara and other towns. He
expanded his territory further after the death of Mansur. he son of
Nasr, Böritigin, later waged war against the sons of Ali Tegin, and
won control of large part of Transoxania, and made
capital. In 1041, another son of Nasr b. Ali, Muhammad 'Ayn ad-Dawlah
(reigned 1041–52) took over the administration of the western branch
of the family that eventually led to a formal separation of the
Khara-Khanid Khanate. Ibrahim Tamghach Khan was considered by Muslim
historians as a great ruler, and he brought some stability to Western
Karakhanids by limiting the appanage system that caused much of the
internal strife in the Kara-Khanid Khanate.
The Hasan family remained in control of the Eastern Khanate. The
Khanate had its capital at Balasaghun and later Kashgar. The
Zhetysu areas became the border between the two states and
were frequently contested. When the two states were formed, Fergana
fell into realm of the Eastern Khanate, but was later captured by
Ibrahim and became part of Western Khanate.
In 1040, the
Seljuk Turks defeated the
Ghaznavids at the Battle of
Dandanaqan and entered Iran. Conflict with the Karakhanids broke out
and initially the Karakhanids were able to withstand the Seljuk
aggression, even briefly taking control of Seljuk towns in Greater
Khorasan. the Karakhanids, however, developed serious conflicts with
the religious classes (the ulama). In 1089, during the reign of
Ahmad b. Khidr, at the request of the ulama of
Seljuks entered and took control of Samarkand,
together with the domains belonging to the Western Khanate. The
Khanate became a vassal of the
Seljuks for half a
century, and the rulers of the Western
Khanate were largely whomever
Seljuks chose to place on the throne.
Ahmad b. Khidr was returned
to power by the Seljuks, but in 1095, the ulama accused
heresy and managed to secure his execution.
The Karakhanids of
Kashgar also declared their submission following a
Seljuk campaign into Talas and Zhetysu, but the Eastern
Khanate was a
Seljuk vassal for only a short time. At the beginning of the 12th
century they invaded Transoxiana and even occupied the Seljuk town of
Termez for a time.
Qara Khitai Invasion
The restored mausoleum of
Ayshah bibi near Taraz.
Qara Khitai host which invaded
Central Asia was composed of
remnants from the defunct
Liao dynasty which was annihilated by the
Jurchens in 1125. The Khitan noble
Yelu Dashi recruited warriors from
various tribes and formed a great host which moved westward to rebuild
the Khitan nation. Yelu occupied
Balasagun on the Chu River, then
defeated the Western Karakhanids in
Khujand in 1137. In 1141 Qara
Khitai became the dominant force in the region after they dealt a
devastating blow to the Seljuk Sultan
Ahmad Sanjar at the Battle of
Qatwan near Samarkand. Several military commanders of Karakhanid
lineages such as the father of Osman of
Khwarezm fled from Karakhanid
lands in the wake of the
Qara Khitai invasion.
Despite losing to the Qara Khitai, the Karakhanid dynasty remained in
power as their vassals. The
Qara Khitai themselves stayed at Zhetysu
near Balasagun, and allowed some of the Karakhanids to continue to
rule as their tax collectors in
Samarkand and Kashgar. Under the Qara
Khitai the Karakhanids functioned as administrators for sedentary
Muslim populations. While the
Qara Khitai were Buddhists ruling over a
largely Muslim population, they were considered fair-minded rulers
whose reign was marked by religious tolerance. Islamic religious
life continued uninterrupted and Islamic authority persevered under
the Qara Khitai.
Kashgar became a Nestorian metropolitan see and
Christian gravestones in the Chu valley appeared beginning in this
period. However, Kuchlug, a Naiman who usurped the throne of the
Qara Khitai Dynasty, instituted anti-Islamic policies on the local
populations under his rule.
The decline of the
Seljuks following their defeat by the Qara Khitans
allowed the Khwarazmian dynasty, then a vassal of the Qara Khitai, to
expand into former Seljuk territory. In 1207, the citizens of Bukhara
revolted against the sadrs (leaders of the religious classes), which
'Ala' ad-Din Muhammad
'Ala' ad-Din Muhammad used as a pretext to conquer
Bukhara. Muhammad then formed an alliance with the Western Karakhanid
ruler Uthman (who later married Muhammad's daughter) against the Qara
Khitai. In 1210, the
Samarkand after the Qara
Khitai retreated to deal with the rebellion from the Naiman Kuchlug,
who had seized the Qara Khitans' treasury at Uzgen. The
Khwarezm-Shah then defeated the
Qara Khitai near Talas. Muhammad and
Kuchlug had, apparently, agreed to divide up the Qara Khitan's
empire. In 1212, the population of
Samarkand staged a revolt
against the Khwarezmians, a revolt which Uthman supported, and
massacred them. The
Khwarezm-Shah returned, recaptured
executed Uthman. He demanded the submission of all leading
Karakhanids, and finally extinguished the Western Karakhanid state.
Kuchlug seized the throne of the Qara Khitai. Earlier that
same year the last of the Karakhanids in the Eastern Karakhanid state
was killed in a revolt in Kashgar, putting an end to Eastern
Karakhanid state. In 1218,
Kuchlug was killed by the
and the territories of the
Qara Khitai were annexed. The destruction
of the Khwarezmian Empire soon followed.
11th–12th-century Karakhanid mausolea in Uzgen, Kyrgyzstan.
The takeover by the Karakhanids did not change the essentially Iranian
character of Central Asia, though it set into motion a demographic and
ethnolinguistic shift. During the Karakhanid era, the local population
began using Turkic in speech – initially the shift was linguistic
with the local people adopting the Turkic language. While Central
Asia became Turkicized over the centuries, culturally the Turks came
close to being Persianized or, in certain respects, Arabicized.
Nevertheless, the official or court language used in
Kashgar and other
Karakhanid centers, referred to as "Khaqani" (royal), remained Turkic.
The language was partly based on dialects spoken by the Turkic tribes
that made up the Karakhanids and possessed qualities of linear descent
from Kök and Uyghur Turkic. The Turkic script was also used for all
documents and correspondence of the khaqans, according to Dīwānu
Kalyan minaret in Bukhara
The Dīwānu l-Luġat al-Turk (Dictionary of Languages of the Turks)
was written by a prominent Karakhanid historian,
who may have lived for some time in
Kashgar at the Karakhanid court.
He wrote this first comprehensive dictionary of
Turkic languages in
Arabic for the Caliphs of Baghdad in 1072–76. Another famous
Karakhanid writer was Yusuf Balasaghuni, who wrote
Kutadgu Bilig (The
Wisdom of Felicity), the only known literary work written in Turkic
from the Karakhanid period.
Kutadgu Bilig is a form of advice
literature known as mirrors for princes. The Turkic identity is
evident in both of these pieces of work, but they also showed the
influences of Persian and Islamic culture. However, the court
culture of the Karakhanids remained almost entirely Persian. The
two last western khaqans also wrote poetry in Persian.
Islam and its civilization flourished under the Karakhanids. The
earliest example of madrasas in
Central Asia was founded in Samarkand
by Ibrahim Tamghach Khan. Ibrahim also founded a hospital to care for
sick as well as providing shelter for the poor. His son Nasr Shams
al-Mulk built ribats for the caravanserais on the route between
Bukhara and Samarkand, as well as a palace near Bukhara. Some of the
buildings constructed by the Karakhanids still survive today,
Kalyan minaret built by Mohammad Aslan Khan beside the
main mosque in Bukhara, and three mausolea in Uzgend. The early
Karakhanid rulers, as nomads, lived not in the city but in an army
encampment outside the capital, and while by the time of Ibrahim the
Karakhanids still maintained a nomadic tradition, their extensive
religious and civil constructions showed that the culture and
traditions of the settled population of Transoxiana had become
Kara-Khanid is arguably the most enduring cultural heritage among
coexisting cultures in
Central Asia from the 9th to the 13th
centuries. The Karluk-Uyghur dialect spoken by the nomadic tribes and
turkified sedentary populations under Kara-Khanid rule formed two
major branches of the Turkic language family, the Chagatay and the
Kypchak. The Kara-Khanid cultural model that combined nomadic Turkic
culture with Islamic, sedentary institutions spread east into former
Kara-Khoja and Tangut territories and west and south into the
subcontinent, Khorasan (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Northern Iran),
Golden Horde territories (Tataristan), and Turkey. The Chagatay,
Timurid, and Uzbek states and societies inherited most of the cultures
of the Kara-Khanids and the
Khwarezmians without much interruption.
Bilge Kul Qadir Khan (840–893)
Bazir Arslan Khan (893–920)
Oghulcak Khan (893–940)
Satuk Bughra Khan 920–958, in 932 adopted Islam, in 940 took
power over Karluks
Musa Bughra Khan 956–958
Suleyman Arslan Khan 958–970
970–998 Ali Arslan Khan – Great Qaghan
Ahmad Arslan Qara Khan, son of 1
1017–1024 Mansur Arslan Khan, son of 1
1024–1026 Muhammad Toghan Khan, son of Hasan b. Sulayman
1026–32 Yusuf Qadir Khan, son of Hasan b. Sulayman
Ali Tigin Bughra Khan
Ali Tigin Bughra Khan – Great Qaghan in Samarkand, son
of Hasan b. Sulayman
Ebu Shuca Sulayman 1034–1042
Muhammad Arslan Qara Khan c. 1042–c. 1052
Tamghach Khan Ibrahim
Tamghach Khan Ibrahim (also known as Böritigin) c. 1052–1068
Nasr Shams al-Mulk 1068–1080: married Aisha, daughter of Alp
Ya'qub Qadir Khan 1089–1095
Sulayman Qadir Tamghach 1097
Mahmud Arslan Khan 1097–1099
Jibrail Arslan Khan 1099–1102
Muhammad Arslan Khan 1102–1129
Ahmad Qadir Khan 1129–1130
Hasan Jalal ad-Dunya 1130–1132
Ibrahim Rukn ad-Dunya 1132
Ibrahim Tabghach Khan 1141–1156
Ali Chaghri Khan 1156–1161
Mas'ud Tabghach Khan 1161–1171
Muhammad Tabghach Khan 1171–1178
Ibrahim Arslan Khan 1178–1204
Uthman Ulugh Sultan 1204–1212
Ebu Shuca Sulayman 1042–1056
Muhammad bin Yusuph 1056–1057
İbrahim bin Muhammad Khan 1057–1059
Ebu Ali el-Hasan 1075–1102
Ahmad Khan 1102–1128
Muhammad bin İbrahim 1158–?
Yusuph bin Muhammad ?–1205
Ebul Feth Muhammad 1205–1211
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