Abu'l-Fazl Muhammad ibn Husayn Bayhaqi
|Died||September 21, 1077 (aged approximately 81-82)|
Educated in the major cultural center of Nishapur, and employed at the court of the famous Ghaznavid Sultan Mahmud, Bayhaqi was a highly cultured man, whose magnum opus--the Tarikh-i Bayhaqi, is seen as the most reliable source of valid information about the Ghaznavid era, which was written in an exquisite and vivid Persian prose that would become an ideal model for several eras.
Bayhaqi is praised by modern scholars for his frankness, precision, and elegant style in his book, which he had spent 22 years to write, finishing it in thirty volumes, of which however only five volumes and half of the sixth exist today. Julie Scott Meisami places Bayhaqi among the historians of the Islamic Golden Age.
Bayhaqi was born in the village of Harethabad in Bayhaq in the Khorasan Province, then under the rule of the declining Samanid emirate; in 998, the Ghaznavid ruler Mahmud of Ghazni (r. 998-1030) declared independence from the Samanids, and eventually divided the Samanid state with the Karakhanids, ending the Samanid dynasty. In his youth Bayhaqi studied in the major cultural center of Nishapur, and later in 1020/1 joined the secretariat (d?v?n-e res?lat) of Mahmud, where he worked as an assistant and pupil under the chief secretary Abu Nasr Mushkan for 19 years.
After Mushkan's death in 1039/40, Mas'ud I (r. 1030-1040) appointed Bayhaqi as minister to Abu Sahl Zawzani, who had succeeded Muskhan as the chief secretary of the empire. Muskhan substantially urged the Sultan that Bayhaqi should be his successor, and the Persian vizier Ahmad Shirazi had also commended Bayhaqi in the Sultan's attendance. Bayhaqi (who was at that time 46 years old) was supposedly told by Mas'ud I that he was too young to be appointed the new chief secretary.
Zawzani was not as accomplished in the management of the secretariat as his predecessor had been, and his methods were completely dissimilar. Furthermore, Bayhaqi was often a victim of his bad temper, which made the latter send a secret letter of relinquishment of his responsibility to the Sultan, who, however, heartened Bayhaqi to continue serving in his post, whilst ordering his vizier to inform that Zawzani should behave properly towards Bayhaqi at the secretariat. This he did, however; Mas'ud I died shortly afterwards being deserted by his army after a disastrous defeat against the Seljuq Turks, who then conquered Khorasan. Mas'ud's death made Zawzani resume his bad treatment of Bayhaqi once more. Bayhaqi experienced several problems after Mas'ud I's death, probably partly due to his own failings, which he himself often recognizes.
During the reign of Abd al-Rashid (r. 1049-1052) Bayhaqi was finally selected as the chief secretary. He was, however, after a short period removed from the post. According to Ibn Funduq, he was jailed by the judge (q) of Ghazni on the complaint of having failed to meet the unpaid obligatory fee to a wife, but according to Aufi, the reason behind his imprisonment was due to the ploys of his enemies. A slave named Tuman (or Nuyan) was afterwards ordered by the Sultan to seize Bayhaqi's possessions.
In 1052, the rebellious slave-soldier (ghulam) Toghrul seized Ghazni, had Abd al-Rashid killed, and had the sultan's men jailed in a stronghold, where Bayhaqi was also moved. However, Toghrul's reign lasted only 15 days; he was defeated and killed by Ghaznavid loyalists, who put Farrukh-zad (r. 1053-1059) on the throne. Bayhaqi was then released from imprisonment.
According to Ibn Funduq, Bayhaqi served as secretary under Farrukh-zad and at the end of the latter's reign withdrew from bureaucratic life and settled in Ghazni, where he started to write the Tarikh-i Bayhaqi. However, judging from Bayhaqi's few comments in his book on Farrukh-zad's rule, it appears that he did not take part in Farrukh-zad's court. Indeed, he evidently reports that during those years he was occupied on writing his history.
According to the A?b?r al-dawla al-salj?q?ya (Chronicles of the Seljuq state), Bayhaqi formulated the peace treaty between the Seljuqs and Ghaznavids in 1058. He accordingly may have been called back to work after his dishonor and imprisonment during the rule of Abd al-Rashid. Anyhow the information of the Tarikh-i Bayhaqi evidently show that Bayhaqi in his old age, until his death in 1077, had committed himself completely to the writing of the book. His tomb is located in his birthplace, Harethabad.