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The Iranian name of the family, Farīḡūn, may well be connected with that of the legendary Iranian figure Farīdūn/Afrīdūn; moreover the author of the Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, who seems to have lived and worked in Gūzgān, specifically says in his entry on the geography of Gūzgān that the malek of that region was a descendant of Afrīdūn.

A version of this article is available in print

Volume I, Fascicle 7, pp. 756-758

ĀL-E FARĪḠŪN, a minor Iranian dynasty of Gūzgān (Gūzgānān, Jūzǰān; in what is now northern Afghanistan) which flourished from some time before the beginning of the 4th/10th century until the incorporation of Gūzgān into the Ghaznavid empire in the early 5th/11th century. The Iranian name of the family, Farīḡūn, may well be connected with that of the legendary Iranian figure Farīdūn/Afrīdūn; moreover the author of the Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, who seems to have lived and worked in Gūzgān (see below), specifically says in his entry on the geography of Gūzgān that the malek of that region was a descendant of Afrīdūn (p. 95; tr. Minorsky, p. 106). Presenting less chronological difficulty is an equation of “Farīḡūn” with the dynastic name of the original family of Ḵᵛārazmšāhs, that of Afrīḡ, who ruled in Ḵᵛārazm from the early 4th century A.D. until 385/995 (See Āl-e Afrīḡ). The name is obviously a northeastern Iranian one, to be localized in the Oxus basin. The geographer Maqdesī (Moqaddasī; p. 347) mentions a place called Rebāṭ-e Afrīḡūn near Andḵūy in northern Gūzgān; conceivably, this had been founded by the eponymous Farīḡūn at some point in the 3rd/9th century.

Ṭabarī (under the years 90/709, 119/737, and 121/739) mentions that there was a line of local potentates in Gūzgān at the time of the Arab invasions of Ṭoḵārestān and Central Asia who become involved in the resistance of Ṭarḵān Nīzak against the Arab general Qotayba b. Moslem; some years later they aided Asad b. ʿAbdallāh Qasrī against the rebel al-Ḥāreṯ b. Sorayǰ. It is quite possible that these rulers were, like Nīzak himself, of Hephthalite stock. Ṭabarī merely calls the ruler of Gūzgān al-Jūzǰānī or al-Jūzǰān b. al-Jūzǰān, but Ebn Ḵordāḏbeh gives him the title of Gūzgān-ḵodāh (see Markwart, Ērānšahr, pp. 80-81, and M. A. Shaban, “Khurasan at the time of the Arab conquest,” Iran and Islam, in memory of the late Vladimir Minorsky, ed. C. E. Bosworth, Edinburgh 1971, p. 485). Unfortunately, we have no information to connect these magnates with the later Farighunids.

Out of the sporadic mentions in the Arabic geographers and historians, Markwart (Ērānšahr, p. 80, n. 4) constructed a genealogical list: Afrīḡūn, Aḥmad, Abu’l-Ḥāreṯ Moḥammad, Abū Naṣr Aḥmad. However, Markwart did not use the prime source for the dynasty’s history. ʿOtbī’s al-Taʾrīḵ al-Yamīnī, which contains many references to the Farighunids in its account of events in northern Khorasan, culminating in Maḥmūd of Ḡazna’s annexation of Gūzgān. But the confused nature of these references and the discrepancies in the names of the Gūzgān rulers do not allow us to construct with complete certainty a neat genealogical tree. This was recognized by D. M. Dunlop (“Farīghūnids,” EI2 II, pp. 798-800); Minorsky (Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, p. 175) also compiled a genealogical tree. In the light of the information and suggestions below, a tentative, amended genealogy may be offered in Table 1:

Table 1. Tentative geneology of the dynasty.Table 1. Tentative geneology of the dynasty.



Abu’l-Ḥāreṯ Moḥammad

Abu’l-Ḥāreṭ Aḥmad • daughter = Maḥmūd of Ḡazna • Farīḡūn

Abu’l-Naṣr Moḥammad

Ḥasan • daughter = Moḥammad b. Maḥmūd of Ḡazna

The first ruler mentioned in the sources is Aḥmad b. Farīḡūn, who together with the Banijurid or Abu Daʾudid amir of Balḵ and Ṭoḵārestān, responded eventually to the overwhelming military might of the Saffarid ʿAmr b. Layṯ ca. 287/900; Naršaḵī speaks of Aḥmad b. Farīḡūn as a potentate on the same level of authority as the Samanid amir in Transoxania (Tārīḵ-eBoḵārā, ed. Modarres Rażawī, Tehran, 1319 Š./1940, p. 102; tr. R. N. Frye, The History of Bukhara, Cambridge, Mass, 1954, p. 87). At the battle of the following year on the Oxus banks near Balḵ, ʿAmr was defeated by the Samanid Esmāʿīl b. Aḥmad; and his vast but transient military empire collapsed. Gūzgān must now have passed into the sphere of influence of the expanding Samanid empire, together with all the other upper Oxus principalities as far as eastern Afghanistan.

After a chronological gap of some decades, the sources mention Aḥmad’s son, Abu’l-Ḥāreṯ Moḥammad, who must have enjoyed an unusually long reign. One of his daughters married his youthful suzerain, the Samanid amir, Nūḥ b. Manṣūr, at some point shortly after the latter’s accession in 365/975-76 (Gardīzī, ed. Nazim, p. 48; ed. Ḥabībī, pp. 164-65); and in 372/982-83 he received the dedication of the geographical work, Ḥodūd al-ʿālam. Abu’l-Ḥāreṯ’s reign marks the apogee of Farighunid power and influence. The Ḥodūd al-ʿālam states that the chiefs of the adjoining regions of Ḡaṛčestān and Ḡūr all acknowledged his overlordship; such chiefs (mehtarān) as those of Rīvšārān in Ḡūr paid an annual tribute (moqāṭaʿa) to the Farighunid ruler, while for a district like Mānšān in Ḡūr the Farighunids sent out their own governor (kārdār). The Farighunids also controlled the numerous Arab nomads in the steppes of Gūzgān (on the lands sloping down to the left bank of the Oxus), drawing tribute from them and appointing their chiefs (pp. 95-97).

During the last decade of the 10th century the Farighunids became involved in the complex fighting in Khorasan between rival military commanders of the Samanids and their sovereigns; the confusion and declining central control speedily led to the downfall of the Samanid dynasty and the partition of their lands between the Ghaznavids and the Qarakhanids. The chief source is ʿOtbī’s Taʾrīḵ al-Yamīnī (copied by subsequent historians like Ebn al-Aṯīr, Rašīd-al-dīn, and Ebn Ḵaldūn); it has a special section on the Farighunids, headed Ḏekr Āl Farīḡūn (ed. with commentary by Shaikh Manīnī, Cairo, 1286/1869, II, pp. 101-5; ʿOtbī also mentions Abu’l-Ḥāreṯ Aḥmad b. Moḥammad in earlier passages regarding the warfare in Khorasan). Shortly after 380/990 Abu’l-Ḥāreṯ was deputed by the Samanid ruler to oppose Fāʾeq Ḵāṣṣa, the rebellious Turkish slave general of the Samanids, but his force was routed by Fāʾeq’s Turkish and Arab troops. By 385/995 the relations of the Farighunids began to impinge on the activities of Sebüktigin and his son Maḥmūd, recently appointed to command the Samanid army in Khorasan. In that year, Abu’l-Ḥāreṯ and his forces came together with those of Sebüktigin and Maḥmūd at Herat against the rebels Fāʾeq and Abū ʿAlī Sīmǰūrī. About this time the two families of Gūzgān and Ḡazna were united by a double marriage alliance; Maḥmūd married one of Abu’l-Ḥāreṯ’s daughters, and Maḥmūd’s sister was married to Abu’l-Ḥāreṯ’s son, Abū Naṣr Moḥammad. When Sebüktigin died in 387/997 and the succession in Ḡazna was disputed between his sons Maḥmūd and Esmāʿīl, Abu’l-Ḥāreṯ, tried to mediate between the two sides; after Maḥmūd had successfully crushed Esmāʿīl’s short-lived bid for the throne (388/998), he eventually, in 389/999, consigned Esmāʿīl to confinement under his father-in-law in Gūzgān (see Nazim, The Life and Times of Sulṭān Maḥmūd of Ghazna, Cambridge, 1931, p. 41). A difficult point is that Abu’l-Ḥāreṯ Moḥammad is never mentioned as such by ʿOtbī in these various mentions of the Farighunids, but only Abu’l-Ḥāreṯ Aḥmad b. Moḥammad. Dunlop has concluded, no doubt correctly (and pace Minorsky’s doubts, Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, p. 176), that Abu’l-Ḥāreṯ must have died or retired from power, apparently after a long reign, at some date shortly after 372/982-83, when the Ḥodūd al-ʿālam was dedicated to him. He must then have been succeeded by his son Aḥmad, who also had the patronymic Abu’l-Ḥāreṯ; this name may have become as characteristic of the Farighunids as that of Abū Dāʾūd of the neighboring Banijurids.

Abu’l-Ḥāret Aḥmad apparently died ca. 390/1000; by that time, with the triumph of Maḥmūd of Ḡazna and the disintegration of the Samanid amirate, Gūzgān and other former dependencies like Ğaṛčestān, Čaḡānīān and Ḵottal were being brought into the Ghaznavid imperial orbit. He was succeeded by his son Abu’l-Naṣr (?) Aḥmad (ʿOtbī has “Abu’l-Naṣr Aḥmad b. Moḥammad;” possibly we should read “Abu’l-Naṣr Moḥammad b. Aḥmad,” as does Nazim, Life and Times, pp. 153, 178); the latter continued to rule in Gūzgān under Ghaznavid suzerainty until his death in 401/1010-11. It is just possible that the Farīḡūn b. Moḥammad (ʿOtbī, I, p. 343) who was sent by Sultan Maḥmūd in 394/1004 or 395/1005 against the fugitive last Samanid, Esmāʿīl al-Montaṣer, ruled in Gūzgān during an interim between the reigns of Abu’l-Ḥāret Aḥmad and Abu’l-Naṣr Moḥammad; he was presumably a brother of the former prince, but nothing further is known of him. During these years, Abu’l-Naṣr enjoyed Maḥmūd’s close confidence. In 398/1008 he fought in the center of the Ghaznavid line at the battle on the plain of Katar near Balḵ against the Qarakhanid invaders of Khorasan, the Ilig Naṣr b. ʿAlī and Qadïr Khan Yūsof (Nazim, Life and Times, p. 50). The next winter, he accompanied Maḥmūd on his Indian campaigns against the fortress of Bhīmnagar. It was at some point in Abu’l-Naṣr’s reign that one of his daughters was married to Maḥmūd’s son Moḥammad, whom the sultan was later to designate his heir but who was to have his rights set aside by his more forceful brother, Masʿūd.

The Ghaznavid historian Bayhaqī (p. 112) mentions a last Farighunid, Ḥasan; he is described as the young son of the amir of Gūzgān, a youthful companion of the two princes Moḥammad and Masʿūd. With Abu’l-Naṣr’s death, Gūzgān became totally absorbed into the Ghaznavid empire; and if Ḥasan was a son of Abu’l-Naṣr’s, his claims to succeed in Gūzgān must have been set aside. Instead, Maḥmūd entrusted the governorship of the province to the prince Moḥammad, who already had connections there through his marriage to a Farighunid princess; and Moḥammad ruled Gūzgān with justice and benevolence for the rest of his father’s sultanate. Thereafter, we hear no more of the Farighunid dynasty. One may note that no coins of the Farighunids are known to have been minted.

At this time, when the renaissance of New Persian learning and literature was beginning to blossom in the eastern Iranian lands, the Gūzgānī rulers appear to have been of considerable cultural significance, as were such parallel lines as the Samanids, the Maʾmunid Ḵᵛārazmšāhs, and the Ziyarids. ʿOtbī is very laudatory about the personal qualities of Abu’l-Ḥāret Aḥmad, “the outstanding figure of the dynasty, the very pupil of that eye, the adornment of that region and the glittering embroidery on that fine garment” (Yamīnī II, p. 101). Two of the outstanding poets and stylists of the day, Badīʿ-al-zamān Hamadānī and Abu’l-Fatḥ Bostī, addressed poems to the Farighunids; and if the Ottoman historian Monaǰǰembāšī is to be believed, the Abū ʿAbdallāh Moḥammad Ḵᵛārazmī who wrote his encyclopedia of the sciences, the Mafātīḥ al-ʿolūm for a vizier of the Samanid Nūḥ b. Manṣūr (son-in-law of Abu’l-Ḥāret Moḥammad), had connections with the Farighunids.

The link with the Farighunids is certain with regard to the valuable geographical work, Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, which is one of the earliest monuments of New Persian prose. The author began his book in 372/982-83 for Abu’l-Ḥāret Moḥammad and, not surprisingly, devotes special attention to the geography of Gūzgānān and northern Afghanistan (see Barthold’s preface, pp. 4-7; Minorsky, “Ibn Farighun and the Ḥodūd al-ʿālam,” A Locust’s Leg: Studies in Honour of S. H. Taqizadeh, London, 1971, pp. 189-96). Less obviously to be connected with the Farighunids, but quite possibly having some link with them, is the author of an early Arabic encyclopedia of the science, the Jawāmeʿ al-ʿolūm. This was written in the middle years of the 4th/10th century for the Muhtajid amir of Čaḡānīān, Abū ʿAlī Aḥmad b. Moḥammad, a northern neighbor of the Farighunids (see Āl-e Moḥtāǰ). The author was one Šaʿyā or Isaiah b. Farīḡūn, who it has been suggested, was ascion of the Farighunid ruling dynasty (Dunlop, “The Ğawāmiʿ al-ʿulūm of Ibn Farīġūn,” 60. doğum yılı münasebetiyle Zeki Velidi Togan’s armağan, Istanbul, 1955, pp. 348-53; and Minorsky, “Ibn Farighun,” pp. 189-91, 194-95).


There exists no monograph devoted to the dynasty, but of special value are Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, tr. Minorsky, pp. 4-7, 173-78, and EI2 II, pp. 798-800.

A brief resume of the dynasty’s history is given in Nazim, Sulṭān Maḥmūd, appendix C, pp. 177-78.

Cite this page
C. Edmund Bosworth, “ĀL-E FARĪḠŪN”, in: Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, © Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. Consulted online on 22 July 2024 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2330-4804_EIRO_COM_5048>
First published online: 2020
First print edition: 19841215

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