The Fereighunids

A Scholastic Family of Local Afghan Rulers


Abdul Hai Habibi


At the time of the rise of Islam in Afghanistan several families ruled over local areas of Afghanistan. Historians of the Islamic period have named them as Kabul Shahhan, Ratbelan of Zabulistan, Dawaran of Zamindawar, Sheran of Bamian, Sharan of Gharjistan, Radoya of Sarkhas and Gozgan, and the Khuda and Saman Khuda of Balkh.

Yet another ruling family is Al-Fereighun or Fereighunids. They ruled over the northern region of Jozjan from 864 to 1019 A.D. During the time of the Samanid and Ghorid dynasties this family’s fame was at its peak. They maintained friendly ties with both these ruling families and they were scholarly kings who reared knowledge.

The northern boundary of their domain was the Oxus river and to the west their influence spread to Gharjistan, Ghor and Taloqan (close to Karwan, the greater Hari Rud) as far as Zamindawar and the Helmand river. Gozgan is said to be located at present day Sar-e Pul and this family is related to the Gozgan Khuda who lived before the Islamic period in Rubat-e Fereighun. According to Maqdasi this place is a distance of one day’s travel from And Khud, present day Andkhoi and Kurki.

We do not have any information about their patriarch, Fereighun. Al Utbi  states this person lived around the third century Highera (10th century A.D.) near Rubat-e Fereighun. His son, Ahmad bin (son of) Fereighun, is the first personality from this family whom we know from the history of the Islamic period.

Narshaki, the author of History of Bokhara says, in 900 A.D., when Amir Ismail Samani together with Omer and Lyce Safari started his campaign in Balkh, Amir Ahmad Fereighuni was also recognized as the ruler of Balkh by Omer and Lyce. Qaboos Nama states he was owner of large herds of horses who bore a thousand colts daily and this statement is not an exaggeration since the people of the area until this day are herders of large stocks of horses. 

Abu al-Haris Mohammad bin Ahmad is one of the rulers of this family whom we know from the ancient geographical text of Persian, Hudud al-Alam, who was a ruler with a love of knowledge and the aforementioned book was presented to him in 982 A.D. He ruled at a time when this family was at the peak of power. Astakhri mentions him around 951 A.D. According to Barthold he married his daughter to the young Samanid king, Nouh bin Mansur. According to Al-Utbi, Nouh bin Mansur summoned him to participate in the battle of Faiq in 990 A.D. but he was defeated. Ibn Asir writes that in 993 A.D. Nouh went from Khorasan to Gozganan and Abu al-Haris joined him. Two years later when Subuktageen challenged Faiq Abu al-Haris went to Herat to his aid and it was during this time he married his other daughter to Mahmud, son of Subuktageen and arranged for the marriage of Subuktageen’s daughter to his son, Abu al-Nasr Ahmad bin Mohammad. Upon the death of Subuktageen in  996 A.D. Abu al-Haris was the person who brought peace between Mahmud and his brother Ismail. He went to Ghazni with Sultan Mahmud and in 998 A.D. Mahmud let Abu al-Haris handle the arrest of Ismail. This is the last time Abu al-Haris is mentioned in historical texts.

Another person from this family is Abu Nasr Ahmad bin Mohammad Abu al-Haris who, according to Mohammad bin Abdul Jabar al-Utbi and Abdul Hai Gardezi, was the governor of Gozgan. In 1007 A.D. he led the Mahmudian army in the battle of Pul-Charkhian between the Qarakhanids and Mahmud’s brother. He accompanied Sultan Mahmud in the battle of Bahiam Nagar of India. He died in 1010 A.D.

While discussing the events of 1019 A.D. Baihaqi states during the year Mahmud went to Ghor but his sons, Masud and Mohammad, who were 14 years old, lived in the company of Hasan, son of Amir Fereighun of Ghozganan in Zamindawar. Since Abu al-Haris died in the same year, his son Hasan, from the daughter of Subuktageen, was the nominated prince. But it is not clear if this Hasan was the son of Fereighun bin Mohammad or that of Abu Nasr Ahmad. What we know, according to al-Utbi and Ufi, Sultan Mahmud asked for the hand in marriage of the daughter of Amir Abu Nasr Fereighuni, for his son Mohammad. He returned the land of Gozganan back to Abu Nasr and appointed Abu Mohammad Hasan bin Mehran as caretaker of the region together with Abu Nasr. In this way the region of Gozganan was totally under the influence of the Ghaznavid by 1017 A.D. Naser Khusrow and Qebadyani, while praising the grandeur of Mahmud, refer to this incident:

      Where is that man from the fear of whom

      The Fereighunids leave aside the land of Gozganan.

We see that the Fereighunids were the local kings of the northwestern section of Afghanistan who were famous for rearing knowledge, justice and their good deeds. In their courts eminent scholars and writers of Khorasan were reared. Sa’ali in Yatemat al-Dahr has mentioned the name of this family with much regard. Some members of this family were poets and writers of Arabic also.

Famous writers, historians and poets were associated with the Gozganan and the Fereighunid courts. Some of whom are:

Badi al-Zaman Hamdani, author of Maqamaat, died in 1007 A.D.

Abu al-Fatah Basti, secretary, author and poet of Arabic and Persian, died 1009 A.D.

Abu Bakr Mohammad bin Abas Khwarezmi, died 993 A.D.

The writer of Mafateh al-Uloom and the unknown author of Hudud al-Alam around 982 A.D.

Abu Nasr Mohammad bin Abdul Jabar al-Utbi, died 1035 A.D., author of History of Yamyani. This historian writes about the eminence and sublimity of the scholastic family with utmost pertinacity.

In the history of Islamic period we know of six persons from this scholastic family. They are:

1. Amir Fereighun, around 864 A.D.

2. Amir Ahmad bin Fereighun, 892-951 A.D.

3. Abu al-Haris Mohammad bin Ahmad, 951-998.

4. Fereighun  bin Mohammad, around 1003 A.D.

5. Abu Nasr Ahmad bin Mohammad, 999-1019 A.D.

6. Hasan bin Abu Nasr Ahmad, 1019 A.D.