Edited by  H. B. Paksoy

Table of Contents:

H. B. Paksoy "Ibadinov's Kuyas Ham Alav"
Peter B. Golden (Rutgers) "Codex Comanicus"
Richard Frye (Harvard) "Narshaki's The History of Bukhara"
Robert Dankoff (Chicago) "Adab Literature"
Uli Schamiloglu (Wisconsin-Madison) "Umdet ul Ahbar"
Kevin Krisciunas (Joint Astronomy Centre) "Ulug Beg's Zij"
Audrey Altstadt (UMass-Amherst) "Bakikhanli's Nasihatlar"
Edward J. Lazzerini (New Orleans) "Gaspirali's Tercuman"
David S. Thomas (Rhode Island) "Akcura's Uc Tarz-i Siyaset"

ISBN: 975-428-033-9
Library of Congress Card Catalog: DS329.4 .C46 1992
173 Pp. (paperback)  US$20 

ISIS Press

Isis Press
Semsibey Sokak 10
81210 Beylerbeyi Istanbul
Phone: +90 + 216 321 38 51
FAX: +90 + 216 321 86 66


Please refer to the printed version for the footnotes

The History of Bukhara by Narshaki
Richard N. Frye

     At the outset there are several general points to be made
about city chronicles in the Eastern Islamic World.  First, in
medieval times the books usually were presented, if not
commissioned by, a ruler, an amir, or to a minister of the
government, or occasionally even to a rich and influential
person.  The nineteenth and twentieth century city histories,
however, were not presented to anyone but for the most part were
written because of pride in the city or the desire to record or
to exalt the names of a few leading families in the town. 
Second, many local histories, both old and more recent, give
lists of visitors to ziyarets or local shrines while others are
in search of roots, the reconstruction of family lines and
identity relationships.  After the Mongol conquests, most city
histories concentrate on the 'ulama' or local religious leaders
and rarely do political or other figures appear in them.  From
all of this, the natural conclusion is that for the writers of
local chronicles, history simply meant biography.  One might even
go further in the suggestion that, just as in fine arts, we find
individual biography in the west, so collective biography is the
hallmark of the East.
     In the earlier Islamic history of the estern Islamic world,
however, we seem to find less interest in the 'ulama' and more in
general historical events as related to a local area.  The reason
for this seems obviousd; there were not many prominent Islamic
'ulama' in the first few centuries after the Arab conquest, and
it took a long time for local and Islamic interests to coalesce
with the complete dominance of the latter over the former, which
made anything pre or non-Islamic irrelevant to readers.  The book
under discussion in the present article is significant in being a
transition between histories, such as that of Tabari, recounting
historical events and the later histories, which, as remarked,
were really collective biographies.  Let us turn to the history
of Narshaki, which for its original time and place of composition
had to have been written in Arabic.  It is the outstanding
example of its kind which we have preserved, albeit not in its
original garb.
     The Persian translation of an original Arabic history of the
town of Bukhara is one of a genre of literature found in the
eastern part of the Islamic world, especially popular in Iran and
Central Asia.  The fact that it was emended several times and
translated is a good indication of its popularity.  The Arabic
text of Narshaki, however, because of information in it other
than concerning Muslim notables, seems to have been different
from similar histories of other towns, unless we suppose that the
epitomizer of his book, or the translato into Persian, added
entire sections or some information not found in the Arabic, thus
changing the original text.  In any case, in view of the many
manuscripts preserved of Narshaki's history, although most are
from the nineteenth century, we may presume that this book was
indeed well liked and deserving to be called a monument of
Central Asian literature for that reason.
     Who was Narshaki and what is the textual history and the
contents of his book?  And why was his workdiferent from
comparable books such as the histories of Nishapur and Isfahan?
Unfortunately, because of the paucity of sources, the first
question cannot be answered, but we may attempt to answer the
other two.
     The text which we have today has passed through several
rescensions and we maybegin with the original author.  Abu Bakr
Muhammad b. Ja'farNarshaki, from the village of Narshak in the
Bukhara oasis, wrote a history of Bukhara in Arabic which he
presented to the Samanid ruler Nuh b. Nasr either in 332/943 or
in 337/948.  Nothing is known about Narshaki except his
authorship of this one book.  In the month of May, 1128, a
certain Abu Nasr Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Nasr al-Qubavi translated
the book into Persian, since in his day people found it difficult
to read Arabic, and some of his friends requested him to make the
translation.  The translator continues that he omitted
unimportant items which would fatigue the reader. Then in 1178 or
1179 the work was abridged by Muhammad b. Zufar b. Umar and
presented to the ruler of Bukhara at the time, a Hanafi religious
leader called Ad al-Aziz b. Maze Bukhari with the title Sadr al-
Sudur. Finally, an unknown person added material relating to the
Mongol conquest of Bukhara, and, of course, he or others again
may have re-worked the text.
     There were other earlier histories of Bukhara and Narshaki
certainly made use of some of them, but it is not possible to
determine from whom and how much was borrowed either by him or
later persons.  The fact that his book was abridged and remade,
possibly throughout the centuries, shows a continuing interest in
the subject among the people of Central Asia.  The contents of
the book, one would guess, set it apart from other histories of
cities in the eastern Islamic world.  It is true that the first
section, however, on the judges (qazi) of Bukhara is like the
other histories of towns with lists of learned Muslims who lived
in the town.  Then, however, one of the redactors of Narshaki's
book apparently became tired or innovative, unlike the authors of
the histories of Isfahan, Nishapur, Qum, etc. and inserted an
interesting section on the origin of Bukhara from a book called
the Khaza'in al-ulum 'treasuries of the sciences' by Abu'l -Hasan
Abd al-Rahman Muh. al-Nishapuri.  This work contained interesting
information about the pre-Islamic history of Bukhara and it is
the source of most of the statements in Narshaki's book about
that era which makes his work different from others in this
genre.  Narshaki's book, then, because of these additions, can be
characterized as a work following a chronological pattern of
events, whereas other city histories are merely biographies or
simply lists of prominent Muslim leaders of scholars in the city. 
In Narshaki's work there is a section on various names, or
strictly speaking appellatives, given to the town of Bukhara.
     Although the rigin of the name of the city is not explained
in the chapter on the names of Bukhara, Narshaki does give
traditions about the merits of the city which, however, are found
in other sources as well.  There are tow suggestions about the
name of the city.  One is Bukhara is derived from an unattested
Bactrian word for vihara or Buddhist monastery *bohoro (written
boioro), since Bactria was the home of Iranian Buddhism.  Another
theory has the name derived from Sogdian (Christian) fwq'r,
meaning 'fortunate, blessed' which corresponds to Narshaki's
appellative fakhire 'glorious, distinguished.'  In this regard,
it should be mentioned that Bukhara never became a Buddhist
center as did Bactria, although the inhabitants of the oasis
probably were as tolerant of Buddhism as they were of other
religions.  Like Samarqand, the Bukharans were primarily traders
as well as famous craftsmen and weavers.  Especially famous in
the trade was the cloth known as Zandaniji, so named after the
village of Zandana in the Bukharan oasis where it was first
woven.  Narshaki says that this cloth was exported to Iraq, India
and elsewhere.
     To return tothe early history of Bukhara, Nishapuri says
that Bukhara originally was a swamp, but the (Zarafshan) river
brought sediments such that the wet areas became filled and dry. 
This accords well with the opinions of geologists, although the
agency of man in making irrigation canls and diverting water was
also important.  It would seem that early settlements in the
oasis of Bukhara developed around the houses, later villas or
castles, of principal landowners in various districts.  Nishapuri
says that Bukhara itself was late in development and other
villages existed prior to the rise of our city.  Baikand was the
center of the most important ruler (amir) called Abrui, or
Abarzi, who became tyrannical such that many prominent people of
the oasis migrated to the district of Talas or Taraz, where they
built a new town called Jamukat which is known to the medieval
geographers.  We also know that Sogdian colonies were created
elsewhere on trade routes to the east, so the information in the
history of Narshaki is quite plausible.  The name Abrui or
Abarzi, however, is not found elsewhere and one can only
speculate that he was an Hephthalite chief with a name similar to
Warz or Varaz which seems to have been a family or tribal name as
reported in other Islamic sources.  
     Narshaki then gives a list of the rulers of Bukhara
beginning with Bidun who died in 680 and was succeeded by his
widow called by the common title khatun.  She in turn was
followed by her son Tugashada about 707 or 709 who was murdered
by two nobles of Bukhara in 739.  Then his son Qutaiba, named
after the famous Arab general, ruled from 739 to 750 when he was
killed by the order of Abu Muslim. His brother Sakan then ruled
until about 757 when another brother Bunyat held the rule until
782 or 783.  After him we have no information until we find the
last lord of Bukhara called Abu Ishaq Ibrahim b. Khalid b. Bunyat
II who died in 913.  This account of the native dynasts of a
district is unique in city histories of the Islamic world. 
Unfortunately, no coins with the names of these rulers exist, and
it is possible that Narshaki is correct in claiming that pure
silver coins were first struck in Bukhara during the caliphate of
Abu Bakr (632-634), and they were probably those local coins with
the bust of a ruler wearing a crown similar to that of Bahram V
of Sasanian Iran who ruled in the fifth century.  This does not
necessarily mean that the Bukharan coins were minted at the time,
of or shortly after, the reign of Bahram.  The fame of this
ruler, and possibly also his military campaigns in Central Asia,
may have been enough to persuade later rulers of Bukhara to
emulate him by copying his coins.  The continuation of one kind
of coinage from the fifth to the tenth century, which is the
generally accepted view of the span of currency of the Bukharan
coins, would be most unusual, however, and even if we accepted
Narshaki's statement and consider the length of use of the coins
to be only from the seventh to the tenth century, this length of
time also is rarely found elsewhere.  For the Bukharan legend on
the coins remained the same for a very long period, until finally
Arabic replaced the local language probably toward the end of the
ninth century. The Bukharan legend was read by W.B. Henning as
UwB k' w' or 'Bukharan King, emperor.'  The last word, however,
could be read as k/B w/n since the distinction betwen B and k as
well as w and n is difficult to discern.  Furthermore, the
contention that the legend  in time changed from k'w' to k'y, a
Sogdian reflex of the Sasanian title, which was written kdy in
Pahlavi, but pronounced kay, is difficult to accept.  Also, I
find it unlikely that Narshaki or his informant, according to
Henning, misread the last word on the coins as kana and thereby
created a ruler of Bukhara by that name who began the minting of
these coins.  Compared with coins elsewhere one would expect a
proper name after the title on the coins with not unusual
degeneration of that name in later coins of the same type.  I
suggest that the information given by Narshaki about pre-Islamic
Bukhara was not all fantasy, and the story of the minting of
coins could be substantially correct.  Further evidence is needed
to accept or refute this theory, of course, and such data is
unlikely to appear.  Whether fact or fantasy Narshaki book is
unusual in giving such detailed information about pre-Islamic
     Another chapter on the villages in the Bukharan oasis is
noteworthy for various items of information about them.  For
example, in describing the village of Ramitin, he says that the
people of Bukhara have special songs or dirges about the death of
Siyavush, and his statement prompted the art historians to
identify one of the wall paintings uncovered at Penjikent to the
east of Samarkand as depicting people mourning over Siyavush. 
Not only villages but also the wall  surrounding the oasis of
Bukhara, as well as the wall around the city proper, receive
detailed notices.  Even in these chapters, Narshaki's book
reveals features not found in other histories of cities written
before the Mongol conquests.
     Although other sources, especially Tabari, gives accounts of
the Arab invasion and conquest of the oasis of Bukhara,
Narshaki's book is the most detailed, as is his account of the
religious rebellion of the followers of Muqanna' after the
establishment f the Abbasid Khaliphate, most likely because
people in his village of Narshak preserved stories about Muqanna'
who had received support in this village.  Likewise, the account
of the Shi'ite uprising in Bukhara at the fall of the Umayyads,
and its suppression at the order of Abu Muslim is detailed and
reveals the support given to the Abbasids by the local ruler of
Bukhara against the Shi'ites who probably represented the lower
classes in the city.  From Narshaki's book one may infer that the
local aristocracy supported the Islamic government, first in
Damascus then in Bagdad, upholding order against the lower
classes who seem to have been prone to join disident Shi'ite and
heretical  movements.  On several occasions Turks are mentioned
as supporting the rebels or heretics, which indicates both an
infiltration into the countryside of Turkish nomads as well as
their opposition to the local government.  The migration of
Turkish tribes southward which bean in pre-Islamic times probably
continued in the ISlamic period on a small scale untilthe fall of
the Samanids when large groups of Turks spread into the Near
East.  The process was greatly accelerated under the Seljuks and
then the Mongols.
     The last part of the book tells of the rise of the Samanids
followed by sections on each of the rulers, although the text
becomes less detailed with later rulers of the dynasty.  It is
nonetheless a prime source on the history of the Samanids.  The
main value of the book, however, lies in the bits of scattered
information related to Bukhara from the Arab conquests into the
tenth century of our era.  Items of interest include the
statement that new converts to Islam did not have to learn Arabic
but made their prostrations to commands in Sogdian, and they read
the Quran in Persian!  Tis remark may be a throwback from a later
reference to interlinear Persian translations of the Quran, or it
possibly might refer to early translation of part of the Quran
into Persian by missionaries seeking to convert.  It is not
inconceivable that translations of parts of the Quran were made
into Persian, or even into Sogdian soon after the Arab conquests
in Central Asia and posibly first here rather than in Iran
proper.  The statement that Qutaiba bribed the people of Bukhara
to come to the Friday prayers is also not unexpected and a
welcome source regarding conversions to Islam.  In short, the
text of Narshaki contains many nuggets of information of interest
to various specialists; it is indeed a unique source, especially
for the early Islamic history of Central Asia.
     Narshaki's book also served as a source as well as a model
for later histories of Bukhara and elsewhere.  For example, the
later book Tarikh-e Mullazade by a certain Mu'in al-Fukara,
written in the first part of the ninth/fifteenth century, made
use of Narshaki's work, which is called Akhbar-e Bukhara by the
author of Mullazade, although the latter book is concerned with
the shrines of prominent Muslim judges and eligious scholars in
the city, as well as being full of Arabic quotations to show the
author's competence in that language.  This book is a parallel to
the popular counterpart of the history of Samarqand called
Qandiyya, and it is difficult to determine whether the book on
Samarqand served as a model for the Mullazade or the reverse.  In
any case, none of the later histories of cities has the same kind
of information Narshaki's as history, although his remarks on the
learned Muslim scholars of Bukhara are prerunners of the inflated
and adorned accounts of later writers who do not hesitate to
sprinkle their remarks with Arbic words and phrases, which is
characteristic of post-Mongol Persian literature.
     Narshaki's work can be regarded as the earliest preserved
city history in the Persian language, the beginning of a genre
which continued to be popular in Central Asia until the ninetenth
century even when Uzbeks, Turkmen, Kazaks, Kirgiz and Uighurs
dominated the scene.  The Persian language continued to be the
medium through which histories not only of cities but also of
dynasties and rulers became known to the world.  In any study of
Muslim Central Asia the books written in Persian are the basic
sources for the history and culture of that part of the world.
     It should be remembered that, where today Turkish-speaking
peoples and tribes roam or settled, before the eleventh centuty
various Iranian-speaking peoples, such as the Bacrians,
Khwarazmians, Sogdians and the widely spread Skas, dominated the
landscape.  Their cultural heritage persisted and the Turks mixed
with the Iranians.  As the eleventh-century author Mahmudd al-
Kashgari in his Turkish dictionary said tasiz Turk bolmas, bassiz
bork bolmas, 'there is no Turk without an Iranian, [as] no cap
without a head [to hold it].'

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