The Al-Ferighun: Men of Letters and Peace


Abdul Hai Habibi


The land which is now Afghanistan was once split into many emirates. Among the ruling dynasties there lived many well-known poets and scholars. The amirs of these territories are believed to have been devotees of literature and there were many renowned poets in their courts. Their wisdom and wise judgement were well-known throughout the land.

The Al-Ferighun, the Ferighunids, ruled about 210-410 Hijera (871-1010 A.D.). Several rulers in his dynasty were famous men of letters and peace-lovers. They had friendly relations with the Samanids and the Ghaznavids, two other coeval famous dynasties.

Historians refer to these dynasties who ruled over the present area of Afghanistan and the neighboring countries as: the Kabul Shahs of Kabul, the Ratbails of Zabulistan, the Darwan Shahs of Zamindawar, the Radwia of Sarakhas, the Gozgan Khodas, and the Saman Khodas of Balkh.

The Ferighunids ruled over a wide area of what is now northern Afghanistan; its northern border was the Oxus river, to the south it lay across Gharjistan, Shor and Taloqan (near the Karwan Inn on the upper Hari Rud) as far as Zamindawar and the Helmand. The ruler of Ghor, Ghor Shah, was a vassal of the Ferighunids. This family is believed to have descended from he kings who were called Gozgan Khodah who ruled over Gozgan, present day Sar-e Pul. According to the historian, Maqdisis, Gozgan Khodah lived a distance of one day’s walk from Und Khod and Karkie.

Al-Utbi says that this family lived around the 3rd century Hijera near the Afrigun Inn (Afrigun Rabat). The son of King Ferighun, Ahmad bin Ferighun is the first person known in the history of this family after Islam.

Narsheki, the writer of the history of Bukhara, says that in 900 A.D. the ruler, Amir Ismail Samani declared war on Amr bin Lais Safari. At this time Ahmad Ferighuni was made ruler of Balkh by Amr bin Lais Safari. Kabos Nama refers to him as the owner of many thousand horses; 1000 piebald ponies were born every day. The people of this area are still ardent breeders of horses.

Another ruler of this dynasty was Abu al-Haris Mohammad bin Haris, whom we know from the book Hudud-al-Alam. He was said to be a patron of scholars and the book was presented to him in 992 A.D. During this time the dynasty reached the peak of its power. The geographer, Istakhri, has mentioned him in 951 A.D. According to Barthold his daughter was married to the young Samanid king, Noh bin Mansur, in 975 A.D. Fifteen years later, according to Al-Utbi, Noh bin Mansur went to Gozgan from Khorasan. Two years later Sultan Mahmud’s father, Subuktageen fought against Faiq and Abu Haris went to Herat to help Subuktageen, Al-Utbi recalls he gave his daughter in marriage to Mahmud bin Subuktageen. His son, Abdul Nasr Ahmad bin Mohammad, married Subuktageen’s daughter in 966 A.D. When Subuktageen died, Abu Haris established peace between Mahmud and his brother Ismail and he went to Ghazni with Sultan Mahmud. In 999 A.D. the Sultan summoned Haris to capture Ismail. This is the last we hear of Abu Haris in history.

Al-Utbi in 1003 A.D. mentions a person by the name of Ferighun bin Mohammad, who was sent to Balkh, Und Khod and Merv Rud to find the last prince of the Samanids. Since we do not have any further details we have to be content with this meager information.

The next king of this dynasty we know of is Abu Nasr bin Mohammad Abu Haris who, according to Mohammad bin Abdul Jabar, Al-Utbi and Abdul Hai Gardezi, was governor of Gozganan. He is said to have been in the lead in the battle of Pul-e Charkhuyan in 999 A.D. between the Qarakhanids and Mahmoud’s brother. It is also believed that Abu Nasr was with Sultan Mahmud in 1008 A.D. in the battle of Behim Nagr of India. He died in 1020 A.D.

Around 1020 Baihaqi says that Sultan Mahmud went to Ghor while his sons, Masud and Mohammad, both 14 years old, lived in Zamindawar with Hasan, the son of Amir Ferighun of Gozghan. Since Amir Abu Haris was dead by this time, it is certain that Hasan was the son of Subuktageen’s daughter and was nominated to the throne of the Gozganids. It is not certain whether Hasan was the son of Ferighun bin Mohammad or Abu Nasr Ahmad, another king of the Ferighounid dynasty. According to Al-Utbi Sultan Mahmud chose Abu Nasr’s daughter to be the wife of his son Mohammad and returned Gozgan back to Abu Nasr. He also appointed Abu Mohammad Hasan bin Mehram responsible for the conduct of affairs of Gozgan. It is said Gozgan had fallen into the hands of the Ghaznavids in 1070 A.D. Nasir Khusrow Robadeyani while eulogizing the grandeur and dignity of Sultan Mahmud writes:


Where is the man whom the Ferighunids fear so much

That they relinquished Gozgan to him.

From these lines it appear that the Ferighunid dynasty ruled the northern regions of Afghanistan. The were famous for their wisdom and fostering of sciences and justice. Well know scholars and writers were in their courts. Many scholars of this dynasty spoke and recited poetry in Arabic fluently. Adie al-Zaman who died in 1007 A.D. and Abu Fath Busti Munshi, a Persian and Arabic poet, were prominent writers of the court.

Historians of the Islamic period have been able to trace the life of six rulers of this dynasty. They are:

Amir Ferighun, around 864 A.D.

Amir Ahmad bin Ferighun 892-998 A.D.

Abdul Haris Mohammad bin Ahmad 892-998 A.D.

Ferighun bin Mohammad around 1003 A.D.

Abu Nasr bin Mohammad 999-1019 A.D.

Hasan bin Abu Nasr Ahmad 1019 A.D.