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Arabicized form of Persian Gowzgān(ān), a district of eastern Khorasan in early Islamic times, now roughly corresponding to the northwest of modern Afghanistan.

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Volume XV, Fascicle 1, pp. 81-82

JOWZJĀN, the Arabicized form of the Persian Gowz-gān(ān), a district of what was in early Islamic times eastern Khorasan, now roughly corresponding to the northwest of modern Afghanistan, adjacent to the frontier with the southeastern fringe of the Turkmenistan Republic. Vladimir Minorsky surmised that the Persian name was not an ethnic designation but simply “[land of] walnuts [gowz], walnut trees” (Ḥodud al-ʿālam, tr., “Second series of addenda,” p. xxv).

Jowzjān was probably under the control of the Hephthalites (q.v.) before the arrival of the Arabs, and is notable as being one of the regions, together wit Rob (modern Ruy) to its east, in the upper valley of the Ḵolm River, from which there emanate the so-called “Bactrian documents” (actually also including some Arabic language ones, as well as Bactrian language ones), recently brought to light (Sims-Williams, pp. 1-7).

The region was known to the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Hiuen-Tsang as Hu-ši-kien and claimed by the Chinese emperors as, theoretically, part of their “Western Lands” (Markwart, pp. 80-81). The Arabs conquered the region of Gowzgān in 653-54, during the governorship of Khorasan and the East of ʿAbd-Allāh b. ʿĀmer, through the agency of Aḥnaf b. Qays’s general Aqraʿ b. Ḥābes Tamimi (Balāḏori, p. 407, Pers. tr., pp. 161-62; Ṭabari, I, pp. 2897-2902, tr., XV, pp. 102-6; Gibb, p. 15). The information of the early Muslim geographers does not allow us to define the boundaries of medieval Gowzgān very closely, but on the east it stretched towards Balḵ and Toḵārestān, in the north almost to the Oxus River, in the west to Marv al-Ruḏ and the Morḡāb, and in the south towards the upper Harirud River, abutting on Ḡarčestān and Ḡur (qq.v.). They mention it as a populous region, with fertile agricultural lands and several significant towns, including Yahudiya/Jahudān (modern Meymana; Ḥodud al-ʿālam, p. 97, tr. p. 107), Ošborqān/Šaburqān, Anbār (q.v., probably the modern Sar-e Pol), Fāryāb (q.v.), Andḵuḏò/Andḵuy (q.v.), and Kalān. Of these, Anbār was the winter residence of the reigning line of Farighunids, agriculturally rich and larger than Marv al-Ruḏ, whilst the princes had their summer capital at Gorzovān/Jorzovān (EsÂṭaḵri, pp. 270-71, tr. pp. 284-85; Ebn Ḥawqal, pp. 442-44, tr. pp. 428-29; Moqaddasi, p. 298; Ḥodud al-ʿālam, pp. 95-98, tr. pp. 104-11; Le Strange, p. 423).

This information can be considerably supplemented by that of the late-10th-century anonymous Ḥodud al-ʿālam (q.v.), whose author seems to have been a native of the province and who certainly wrote for the Farighunid amir, Abu’l-Ḥāreṯ Moḥammad b. Aḥmad (see ĀL-E FARĪḠŪN), hence it was natural that he should expatiate at some length on Gowzgān. It seems that the power of the Farighunids had made it a larger principality than it had been in earlier Islamic times. In early Islamic period the region had apparently been administratively a dependency of Toḵārestān and its Arab governors had resided at Anbār, whilst the local Iranian princes (given by Ebn Ḵordāḏbeh, p. 40, the title of Gowzgān-ḵodā) were at Yahudiya; but by the 10th century this distinction was no longer valid and the Farighunid princes now ruled from Anbār (see above) as vassals of the Samanids (q.v.). Their borders now extended as far north as the Oxus River, and on the south, the rulers of Ḡarčestān (i.e., the Šērs/Širs) and those of Ḡur (named by the author as the Ḡuršāhs) were in turn the Farighunids’ vassals. On the headwaters of the Morḡāb, their frontiers marched with “the ruler of Bost,” who must have controlled the eastern part of Ḡur and Zābolestān (q.v.). Arab nomads in the steppes along the Oxus, numbering 20,000 and described as especially rich, also paid tribute to the prince of Gowz-gān and had their chief nominated by the prince. The products of Gowzgān are enumerated as horses, felts, saddle-bags, and wood from the ḵonj tree (Ḥodud al-ʿālam, pp. 95-98, tr. pp. 105-8, comm. pp. 328-37, map at p. 329; see also Barthold’s Preface, pp. 4-7, and, Minorsky’s revised tr. and comm. in “Second series of addenda,” pp. xxi-xxxix, map at p. xxix, and Yate, p. 344).

In the opening years of the 11th century, Gowzgān was incorporated into the Ghaznavid Empire (see ĀL-E FARĪḠŪN). Its history now forms part of the general history of the region of northern Afghanistan under the Ghaznavids, Saljuqs, Ghurids, Il-khanids, and Timurids. In the 13th century it produced the historian of the Ghurids, Menhāj-e Serāj Jowzjāni (q.v.). The name was still used in the 14th century, and Ḥamd-Allāh Mostawfi mentions its towns as Yahuda, Fāryāb, and Šoburqān (p. 155, tr., p. 153), but thereafter the name gradually dropped out of use until it was revived in the 20th century as the name of a province of Afghanistan after the 1964 administrative re-ordering, with Šebarḡān as its chef-lieu (Dupree, map at p. 157).


Ludwig Adamec, ed., Historical and Political Gazetteer of Afghanistan IV: Mazar-i-Sharif and North-Central Afghanistan, Graz, 1979, pp. 276-77, 380-405, 532-39.

Abu’l-ʿAbbās Aḥmad b. Yaḥyā Balāḏori, Ketāb fotuḥ al-boldān, ed. Michaël Jan de Goeje, Leiden, 1968; partly tr. Āḏartāš Āḏarnuš as Fotuḥ al-boldān, bakš-e marbuṭ ba Irān, 2nd ed., Tehran, 1985.

W. Barthold, Turkestan down to the Mongol Invasion, London, 1968; tr. P. H. Hitti and F. C. Murgotten as The Origins of the Islamic State, New York, 1916.

Louis Dupree, Afghanistan, Princeton, 1973.

Ebn Ḥawqal, Ketāb ṣurat al-arż, ed. Johannes Hendrik Kramers, Leiden, 1938, repr., 1967; tr. Johannes Hendrik Kramers and Gaston Wiet as Configuration de la terre, 2 vols., Beirut and Paris, 1964-65.

Ebn Ḵordāḏ-beh, Ketāb al-masālek wa’l-mamālek, ed., Michaël Jan De Goeje, Leiden, 1967.

Abu Esḥāq Ebrāhim Eṣṭaḵri, Ketāb masālek al-mamālek, ed., Michaël Jan De Goeje, Leiden, 1967; tr. Moḥammad b. Asʿad Tostari as Masālek wa mamālek, ed. Iraj Afšār, Tehran, 1974.

Hamilton A. R. Gibb, The Arab Conquests in Central Asia, London, 1923, pp. 15-17. R. Hartmann, art. “Djūzdjān,” in EI2 II, pp. 608-9.

Ḥodud al-ʿālam, ed. Manučehr Sotuda, Tehran, 1962; tr. Vladimir Minorsky as The Regions of the World, 2nd ed., London, 1970.

Guy Le Strange, The Lands of the Eastern Caliphate, Cambridge, 1905, repr., London, 1966.

Josef Markwart (Marquart), Ērānšahr nach der Geographie des Ps. Moses Xorenacʿi, Berlin, 1901; repr., Wiesbaden, 1970.

Abu ʿAbd-Allāh Moḥammad Moqaddasi (Maqdesi), Aḥsan al-taqāsim fi maʿrefat al-aqālim, ed. Michaël Jan De Goeje, Leiden, 1906, repr., 1967.

Ḥamd-Allāh Mostawfi, Nozhat al-qolub, ed. and tr. Guy Le Strange as The Geographical Part of the Nuzhat-al-qulūb, 2 vols., Leiden and London, 1915-19.

N. Sims-Williams, “Recent Discoveries in the Bactrian Language and Their Historical Significance,” Society for the Preservation of Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage, Library Series 4, Kabul, 2004, pp. 1-7.

Moḥammad b. Jarir Ṭabari, Taʾriḵ al-rosol wa’l-moluk, ed. Michaël J. de Goeje et al., 3 vols. in 15, Leiden, 1964; tr. by various scholars as The History of al-Ṭabari; vol. XV: tr. R. Stephen Humphreys as The Crisis of the Early Caliphate. The Reign of ʿUthmān, Albany, New York, 1990, pp. 102-6.

Charles Edward Yate, Northern Afghanistan, or Letters from the Afghan Boundary Commission, London, 1888, pp. 334-52.

Cite this page
C. Edmund Bosworth, “JOWZJĀN”, in: Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, © Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. Consulted online on 16 July 2024 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2330-4804_EIRO_COM_4074>
First published online: 2020
First print edition: 20090615

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