Map of the Ghurid dynasty at its greatest extent under Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad
Lahore (1186-1215; winter)
|Common languages||Persian (court)|
|Amir Suri (first)|
|Ala al-Din Ali (last)|
The Ghurids or Ghorids (Persian: ; self-designation: ?, Shansab?n?) were a dynasty of Iranian descent from the Ghor region of present-day central Afghanistan, but the exact ethnic origin is uncertain. The dynasty converted to Sunni Islam from Buddhism, after the conquest of Ghor by the Ghaznavid sultan Mahmud of Ghazni in 1011. The dynasty overthrew the Ghaznavid Empire in 1186 when Sultan Mu'izz ad-Din Muhammad of Ghor conquered the last Ghaznavid capital of Lahore.
At their zenith, the Ghurid empire encompassed Khorasan in the west and reached northern India as far as Bengal in the east. Their first capital was Firozkoh in Mandesh, Ghor, which was later replaced by Herat, and finally Ghazni. Lahore was used as an additional capital in the late Ghurid period, especially during winters. The Ghurids were patrons of Persian culture and heritage.
Abu Ali ibn Muhammad (reigned 1011-1035) was the first Muslim king of the Ghurid dynasty to construct mosques and Islamic schools in Ghor.
In the 19th century some European scholars, such as Mountstuart Elphinstone, favoured the idea that the Ghurid dynasty relate to today's Pashtun people but this is generally rejected by modern scholarship and, as explained by Morgenstierne in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, is for "various reasons very improbable". Instead, the consensus in modern scholarship (incl. Morgenstierne, Bosworth, Dupree, Gibb, Ghirshman, Longworth Dames and others) holds that the dynasty was most likely of Tajik origin. Bosworth further points out that the actual name of the Ghurid family, ?l-e ?ansab (Persianized: ?ansab?n?), is the Arabic pronunciation of the originally Middle Persian name Wi?nasp.
The Ghurids' native language was apparently different from their court language Persian. Abu'l-Fadl Bayhaqi, the famous historian of the Ghaznavid era, wrote on page 117 in his book Tarikh-i Bayhaqi: "Sultan Mas'ud left for Ghoristan and sent his learned companion with two people from Ghor as interpreters between this person and the people of that region." However, like the Samanids and Ghaznavids, the Ghurids were great patrons of Persian literature, poetry, and culture, and promoted these in their courts as their own. Contemporary book writers refer to them as the "Persianized Ghurids".
There is nothing to confirm the recent surmise that the inhabitants of Ghor were originally Pashto-speaking, and claims of the existence of Pashto poetry (as in Pata Khazana) from the Ghurid period are unsubstantiated.
A certain Ghurid prince named Amir Banji, was the ruler of Ghor and ancestor of the medieval Ghurid rulers. His rule was legitimized by the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid. Before the mid-12th century, the Ghurids had been bound to the Ghaznavids and Seljuks for about 150 years. Beginning in the mid-12th century, Ghor expressed its independence from the Ghaznavid Empire. In 1149 the Ghaznavid ruler Bahram-Shah of Ghazna poisoned a local Ghurid leader, Qutb al-Din Muhammad, who had taken refuge in the city of Ghazni after having a quarrel with his brother Sayf al-Din Suri. In revenge, Sayf marched towards Ghazni and defeated Bahram-Shah. However, one later year, Bahram returned and scored a decisive victory against Sayf, who was shortly captured and crucified at Pul-i Yak Taq. Baha al-Din Sam I, another brother of Sayf, set out to avenge the death of his two brothers, but died of natural causes before he could reach Ghazni. Ala al-Din Husayn, one of the youngest of Sayf's brothers and newly crowned Ghurid king, also set out to avenge the death of his two brothers. He managed to defeat Bahram-Shah, and then had Ghazna sacked and burned and put the city into fire for seven days and seven nights. It earned him the title of Jah?ns?z, meaning "the world burner". The Ghaznavids retook the city with Seljuq help, but lost it to Oghuz Turks.
In 1152, Ala al-Din Husayn refused to pay tribute to the Seljuks and instead marched an army from Firozkoh but was defeated and captured at Nab by Sultan Ahmed Sanjar. Ala al-Din Husayn remained a prisoner for two years, until he was released in return for a heavy ransom to the Seljuqs. Meanwhile, a rival of Ala al-Din named Husayn ibn Nasir al-Din Muhammad al-Madini had seized Firozkoh, but was murdered at the right moment when Ala al-Din returned to reclaim his ancestral domain. Ala al-Din spent the rest of his reign in expanding the domains of his kingdom; he managed to conquer Garchistan, Tukharistan, and Bamiyan, and later gave Bamiyan and Tukharistan to Fakhr al-Din Masud, starting the Bamiyan branch of the Ghurids. Ala al-Din died in 1161, and was succeeded by his son Sayf al-Din Muhammad, who shortly died two years later in a battle.
Sayf al-Din Muhammad was succeeded by his cousin Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad, who was the son of Baha al-Din Sam I, and proved himself to be a capable king. Right after Ghiyath's ascension, he, with the aid of his loyal brother Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad, killed a rival Ghurid chief named Abu'l Abbas. Ghiyath then defeated his uncle Fakhr al-Din Masud who claimed the Ghurid throne and had allied with the Seljuq governor of Herat, and Balkh.
In 1173, Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad reconquered the city of Ghazna and assisted his Ghiyath in his contest with Khwarezmid Empire for the lordship of Khorasan. Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad captured Multan and Uch in 1175 and annexed the Ghaznavid principality of Lahore in 1186. He was alleged by contemporary historians to exact revenge for his great grandfather Muhammad ibn Suri. After the death of his brother Ghiyath in 1202, he became the successor of his empire and ruled until his assassination in 1206 near Jhelum by Khokhar tribesmen (in modern-day Pakistan).
A confused struggle then ensued among the remaining Gh?rid leaders, and the Khwarezmids were able to take over the Gh?rids' empire in about 1215. Though the Gh?rids' empire was short-lived, Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad's conquests strengthened the foundations of Muslim rule in India. On his death, the importance of Ghazni and Ghor dissipated, and they were replaced by Delhi as power centre in India during the rule of his Mamluk successors.
The Ghurids were great patrons of Persian culture and literature and lay the basis for a Persianized state in India. However, most of the literature produced during the Ghurid era has been lost. They also transferred Iranian architecture to India.
Out of the Ghurid state grew the Delhi Sultanate which established the Persian language as the official court language of the region - a status it retained until the late Mughal era in the 19th century.
Ruins of the Shah-i Mashhad madrasa (built in 1176)
|Titular Name(s)||Personal Name||Reign|
|9th-century - 10th-century|
||Muhammad ibn Suri
|10th-century - 1011|
||Abu Ali ibn Muhammad
||Abbas ibn Shith
|1035 - 1060|
||Muhammad ibn Abbas
|1060 - 1080|
||Qutb al-din Hasan
|1080 - 1100|
|Izz al-Din Husayn
||Sayf al-Din Suri
||Baha al-Din Sam I
|Ala al-Din Husayn
||Sayf al-Din Muhammad
||Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad
|Sultan Shah?b-ud-din Muhammad Ghori
|Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad
||Ghiyath al-Din Mahmud
||Baha al-Din Sam III
||Ala al-Din Atsiz
||Ala al-Din Ali
|Titular Name(s)||Personal Name||Reign|
||Fakhr al-Din Masud
||Shams al-Din Muhammad ibn Masud
||Abbas ibn Muhammad
|Baha al-Din Sam II
||Jalal al-Din Ali
|Muhammad ibn Suri|
|Abu Ali ibn Muhammad|
|Abbas ibn Shith|
|Muhammad ibn Abbas|
|Qutb al-din Hasan|
|Izz al-Din Husayn|
|Sayf al-Din Suri|
|Shuja al-Din Muhammad||Qutb al-Din Muhammad||Baha al-Din Sam I|
|Nasir al-Din Muhammad Kharnak||Ala al-Din Husayn|
|Fakhr al-Din Masud|
|Ala al-Din Ali|
|Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad|
|Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad|
|Shams al-Din Muhammad|
|Sayf al-Din Muhammad|
|Ala al-Din Atsiz|
|Abbas ibn Muhammad|
|Baha al-Din Sam II|
|Ghiyath al-Din Mahmud|
|Jalal al-Din Ali|
|Ala al-Din Muhammad|
|Baha al-Din Sam III|
|Amir Suri||9th Century|
|Muhammad ibn Suri||1007 - 1011|
|Abu Ali ibn Muhammad||1011 - 1035|
|Abbas ibn Shith||1035 - 1060|
|Muhammad ibn Abbas||1060 - 1080|
|Qutb al-din Hasan||1080 - 1100|
|Izz al-Din Husayn||1100 - 1146|
|Sayf al-Din Suri||1146 - 1149|
|Baha al-Din Sam I||1149|
|Ala al-Din Husayn||1149 - 1161|
|Sayf al-Din Muhammad||1161 - 1163|
|Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad||1163 - 1203|
|Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad||1172 - 1203|
|1203 - 1206|
|Ghiyath al-Din Mahmud||1206 - 1212|
|Baha al-Din Sam III||1212 - 1213|
|Ala al-Din Atsiz||1213 - 1214|
|Ala al-Din Ali||1214 - 1215|
"... there is no evidence for assuming that the inhabitants of Gh?r were originally Pashto-speaking (cf. Dames, in E I1). If we are to believe the Pa?a Khaz?na (see below, iii), the legendary Am?r Kar, grandson of Shansab, (8th century) was a Pashto poet, but this for various reasons is very improbable ..."