The Samanid Empire at its greatest extent under Isma'il ibn Ahmad
|Languages||Persian (religious decree/mother tongue),12
|-||819–855||Yahya ibn Asad|
|-||999||'Abd al-Malik II|
|-||928 est.||2,850,000 km² (1,100,391 sq mi)|
|Today part of|
|History of Greater Iran|
|Until the rise of modern nation-states|
|History of Afghanistan|
The Samani dynasty (Persian: سامانیان, Tajik: Сомониён - Sāmāniyān), also known as the Samanid Empire, or simply Samanids (819–999),4 was a Sunni5 Persian Empire67 in Central Asia, named after its founder Saman Khuda, who converted to Islam8 despite being from Zoroastrian theocratic nobility. It was a native Persian dynasty in Greater Iran and Central Asia after the collapse of the Sassanid Persian empire caused by the Arab conquest.
The Samanids, a dynasty of Persian dehqan origin,9 reigned for 180 years, encompassing a territory which included Greater Khorasan (including Kabul),10 Ray, Transoxiania, Tabaristan, Kerman, Gorgan, and west of these provinces up to Isfahan. At the peak of their power, the Samanids controlled territory extending as far south as the Sulaiman Mountains in Quetta, Ghazni and Kandahar,11 and as far as Qazvin in the west.12 The Samanids were descendants of Bahram Chobin,1314 and thus descended from the House of Mihrān, one of the Seven Great Houses of Iran. In governing their territory, the Samanids modeled their state organization after the Abbasids, mirroring the caliph's court and organization.15 They were rewarded for supporting the Abbasids in Transoxania and Khorasan, and with their established capitals located in Bukhara, Balkh, Samarkand, and Herat, they carved their kingdom after defeating the Saffarids.13
With their roots stemming from the city of Balkh (then, part of Greater Khorasan)161718 the Samanids promoted the arts, giving rise to the advancement of science and literature, and thus attracted scholars such as Rudaki, Ferdowsi, and Avicenna. While under Samanid control, Bukhara was a rival to Baghdad in its glory.8 Scholars note that the Samanids revived Persian more than the Buyids and the Saffarids, while continuing to patronize Arabic to a significant degree.8 Nevertheless, in a famous edict, Samanid authorities declared that "here, in this region, the language is Persian, and the kings of this realm are Persian kings."8
The Samanid Empire was the first native Persian dynasty to arise after the Muslim Arab conquest. The four grandsons of the dynasty's founder, Saman Khuda, had been rewarded with provinces for their faithful service to the Abbasid caliph al-Mamun: Nuh obtained Samarkand; Ahmad, Fergana; Yahya, Shash; and Elyas, Herat. Ahmad's son Nasr became governor of Transoxania in 875, but it was his brother and successor, Ismail Samani who overthrew the Saffarids and the Zaydites of Tabaristan, thus establishing a semiautonomous rule over Transoxania and Khorasan, with Bukhara as his capital. In 893, Ismail invaded and defeated the Karluk Turks, taking Talas and converting the Nestorian church there into a mosque.1920 Ismail's son, Ahmad, sent two military excursions (911 & 912-913) into Sistan to re-establish Samanid control over the Caspian provinces.21
Samanid rule in Bukhara was not formally recognized by the caliph until the early 900s when the Saffarid ruler 'Amr-i Laith had asked the caliph for the investiture of Transoxiana. The caliph, Al-Mu'tadid however sent the Samanid amir, Ismail Samani, a letter urging him to fight Amr-i Laith and the Saffarids whom the caliph considered usurpers. According to the letter, the caliph stated that he prayed for Ismail who the caliph considered as the rightful ruler of Khorasan.22 The letter had a profound effect on Ismail, as he was determined to oppose the Saffarids.
The two sides fought in Balkh, (now modern-day Afghanistan), during the spring of 900. During the battle, Ismail was significantly outnumbered as he came out with 20,000 horsemen against Amr's 70,000 strong cavalry.23 Ismail's horsemen were ill-equipped with most having wooden stirrups while some had no shields or lances. Amr-i Laith's cavalry on the other hand, were fully equipped with weapons and armor. Despite fierce fighting, Amr was captured as some of his troops switched sides and joined Ismail.24 D. G. Tor suggests that the defections to the Samanid side were because of Ismail's raids into Central Asia had given him the reputation of being a successful holy warrior.25
Isma'il thereafter sent an army to Tabaristan in accordance with the caliph's directive.26 The area at that time was then controlled by the Zaydids. The Samanid army defeated the Zaydid ruler Muhammad ibn Zayd and the Samanids gained control of the region.
The Samanids revived Persian culture by patronizing Rudaki,27 Bal'ami and Daqiqi.28 They also determinedly propagated Sunni Islam. However, the Samanids repressed Ismaili Shiism29 but were more tolerant of Twelver Shiism.8 Islamic architecture and Islamo-Persian culture was spread deep into the heart of Central Asia by the Samanids. Following the first complete translation of the Qur'an into Persian, during the 9th century, populations under the Samanid empire began accepting Islam in significant numbers.30
Through zealous missionary work as many as 30,000 tents of Turks came to profess Islam and later under the Ghaznavids more than 55,000 under the Hanafi school of thought. The mass conversion of the Turks to Islam eventually led to a growing influence of the Ghaznavids, who would later rule the region.
Agriculture and trading were the economic basis of Samanid State. The Samanids were heavily involved in trading - even with Europe, as thousands of Samanid coins that have been found in the Baltic and Scandinavian countries testify.31
Another lasting contribution of the Samanids to the history of Islamic art is the pottery known as Samanid Epigraphic Ware: plates, bowls, and pitchers fired in a white slip and decorated only with calligraphy, often elegantly and rhythmically written. The Arabic phrases used in this calligraphy are generally more or less generic well wishes, or Islamic admonitions to good table manners.
The power of the Samanids began to crumble in the latter half of the 10th century. In 962, one the ghulams, Alp Tigin, commander of the army in Khurasan, seized Ghazna and established himself there.32 His successors, however, including Sebük Tigin, continued to rule as Samanid "governors". With the weakened Samanids facing rising challenges from the Karakhanids for control of Transoxania, Sebük later took control of all the provinces south of the Oxus and established the Ghaznavid Empire.
In 992, a Karakhanid, Harun Bughra Khan, grandson of the paramount tribal chief of the Karluk confederation Sultan Satuq Bughra Khan, captured Bukhara, the Samanid capital.33 Harun died shortly afterwards, however, and the Samanids returned to Bukhara. In 999, Nasr b. Ali, a nephew of Harun, returned and took possession of Bukhara, meeting little resistance. The Samanid domains were split up between the Ghaznavids, who gained Khorasan and Afghanistan, and the Karakhanids, who received Transoxania; the Oxus River thus became the boundary between the two rival empires. The Samanid Isma'il II al-Muntasir escaped from Karakhanid captivity and attempted to restore the Samanid dynasty, but he was killed by an Arab bedouin chieftain in 1005.32
In commending the Samanids, the epic Persian poet Ferdowsi says of them:
کجا آن بزرگان ساسانیان
ز بهرامیان تا به سامانیان
According to a Bukharian historian writing in 943 stated that Ismail Samani:
"was indeed worthy and right for padishahship. He was intelligent, just, compassionate person, one possessing reason and prescience...he conducted affairs with justice and good ethics. Whoever tyrannized people he would punish...In affairs of state he was always impartial."34
"was extremely just, and his good qualities were many. He had pure faith in God (to Him be power and glory) and he was generous to the poor - to name only one of his notable virtues.35
The Somoni currency of Tajikistan is named after the Samanids. A notable airline based in Dushanbe is also named Somon Air. Also, the highest mountain in Tajikistan and in the former Soviet Union is named after Ismail Samani. The mountain was formerly known as "Stalin Peak" and "Communism Peak" but was subsequently changed to the Ismoil Somoni Peak.
(A Persian landowner from the village of Saman in Balkh province in northern Afghanistan, he arrived in Merv to the court of the Umayyad governor of Khorasan, Asad ibn Abdullah al-Qasri, under whose influence he became a Muslim and served the governor till his death. He was the founder of the Samanid dynasty)
|Asad ibn Saman
اسد ابن سامان
|Nuh ibn Asad
نوح ابن اسد
|Ahmad ibn Asad
احمد ابن اسد
|Yahya ibn Asad
یحییٰ ابن اسد
|Ilyas ibn Asad
الیاس ابن اسد
|Ahmad ibn Asad
احمد ابن اسد
|Ibrahim ibn Ilyas
ظہیر الدین محمد بابر
|Abu Ibrahim Isma'il ibn Ahmad
ابو ابراہیم اسماعیل بن احمد
نصر ابن احمد
864 - 892
|Ya'qub ibn Ahmad
یعقوب ابن احمد
|Abu Ibrahim Isma'il ibn Ahmad
ابو ابراہیم اسماعیل بن احمد
|Ahmad ibn Isma'il
احمد بن اسماعیل
907 - 914
ابوالحسن نصر بن احمد
914 - 943
|Nuh ibn Nasr
نوح بن نصر
943 - 954
|Abd al-Malik ibn Nuh I
عبدالملک بن نوح
|Abu Salih Mansur ibn Nuh I
ابو صالح منصور بن نوح
|Nuh ibn Mansur
نوح بن منصور
|Abu'l-Harith Mansur ibn Nuh II
ابو الحارث منصور بن نوح
997 - 999
|Abd al-Malik ibn Nuh II
عبدالمالک بن نوح
997 - 999
|Isma'il Muntasir ibn Nuh II
اسماعیل منتصر بن نوح
997 - 999
- Iranian Intermezzo
- Persian empire
- History of Iran
- History of Afghanistan
- List of Sunni Muslim dynasties
- Greater Khorasan
- Full list of Iranian Kingdoms
- "Persian Prose Literature." World Eras. 2002. HighBeam Research. (September 3, 2012);"Princes, although they were often tutored in Arabic and religious subjects, frequently did not feel as comfortable with the Arabic language and preferred literature in Persian, which was either their mother tongue—as in the case of dynasties such as the Saffarids (861–1003), Samanids (873–1005), and Buyids (945–1055)...". 
- Elton L. Daniel, History of Iran, (Greenwood Press, 2001), 74.
- The Samanids, The David Collection. Islamic dynasties
- Encyclopædia Britannica, Online Edition, 2007, Samani Dynasty, LINK
- Rene Grousset, The Empire of the Steppes:A History of Central Asia, transl. Naomi Walford, (Rutgers University Press, 2002), 143.
- The Encyclopaedia of Islam (article by Clifford Edmund Bosworth) writes: SAMANIDS, a Persian dynasty which ruled in Transoxania and then in Khurasan also, at first as subordinate governors of the Tahirids [q. v. ] and then later autonomous, virtually independent rulers (204-395/819-1005)
- A historical atlas of Uzbekistan, By Aisha Khan, Published by The Rosen Publishing Group, 2003, ISBN 0-8239-3868-9, ISBN 978-0-8239-3868-1, pg. 23;
- The Cambridge History of Iran, By Richard Nelson Frye, William Bayne Fisher, John Andrew Boyle, Published by Cambridge University Press, 1975, ISBN 0-521-20093-8, ISBN 978-0-521-20093-6, pg. 164;
- The New Encyclopædia Britannica, By Encyclopædia Britannica Publishers, Inc. Staff, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc, Published by Encyclopædia Britannica, 1987, ISBN 0-85229-443-3, ISBN 978-0-85229-443-7, pg. 891;
- The monumental inscriptions from early Islamic Iran and Transoxiana, By Sheila Blair, Published by BRILL, 1992, ISBN 90-04-09367-2, ISBN 978-90-04-09367-6, pg. 27.
- The History of Iran By Elton L. Daniel, pg. 74
- Elton Daniel, The History of Iran, 75.
- Tabaḳāt-i-nāsiri: a general history of the Muhammadan dynastics of Asia, pg.31, By Minhāj Sirāj Jūzjānī
- The historical,social and economic setting By M. S. Asimov, pg.79
- Iran and America: Re-Kind[l]ing a Love Lost By Badi Badiozamani, Ghazal Badiozamani, pg. 123
- History of Bukhara by Narshakhi, Chapter XXIV, Pg 79
- The Monumental Inscriptions from Early Islamic Iran and Transoxiana By Sheila S. Blair, pg. 27
- Iranica, "ASAD B. SĀMĀNḴODĀ, ancestor of the Samanid dynasty"
- Britannica, "The Samanids", Their eponym was Sāmān-Khodā, a landlord in the district of Balkh and, according to the dynasty’s claims, a descendant of Bahrām Chūbīn, the Sāsānian general. or 
- Kamoliddin, Shamsiddin S. "To the Question of the Origin of the Samanids", Transoxiana: Journal Libre de Estudios Orientales, 
- Renee Grousset, The Empire of the Steppes:A History of Central Asia, Transl. Naomi Walford, (Rutgers University Press, 1991), 142.
- Samanids, C.E.Bosworth, The Encyclopedia of Islam, Vol. VIII, Ed. C.E.Bosworth, E.van Donzel, W.P.Heinrichs and G.Lecomte, (E.J.Brill, 1995), 1026.
- Samanids, C.E.Bosworth, 1027.
- The book of government, or, Rules for kings: the Siyar al-Muluk, or, Siyasat-nama of Nizam al-Mulk, Niẓām al-Mulk, Hubert Darke, pg.18-19
- History of Islam (Vol 3) By Akbar Shah Najeebabadi, pg. 330
- Ibn Khallikan's biographical dictionary By Ibn Khallikān, pg.329
- D. G. Tor, The Islamization of Central Asia in the Sāmānid era and the reshaping of the Muslim world, Bulletin of SOAS, 72, 2 (2009), pg 283. School of Oriental and African Studies, United Kingdom
- Tabaḳāt-i-nāsiri: a general history of the Muhammadan dynastics of Asia, pg.32, By Minhāj Sirāj Jūzjānī
- Mihragan, J.Calmard, The Encyclopedia of Islam, Vol.VII, Ed. C.E.Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P.Heinrichs and C.Pellat, (Brill, 1993), 18.
- C.E. Bosworth, The Ghaznavids:994-1040, (Edinburgh University Press, 1963), 131.
- An Ismaili Heresiography: The "Bab Al-Shaytan" from Abu Tammam's Kitab Al ... By Wilferd Madelung, Paul Ernest Walker, pg. 5
- Michael Dillon, Xinjiang: China's Muslim far Northwest, (RoutledgeCurzon, 2004), 11.
- History of Bukhara, By Narshakhi trans. Richard N. Frye, pg. 143
- Sinor, Denis, ed. (1990), The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0 521 2,4304 1
- Davidovich, E. A. (1998), "Chapter 6 The Karakhanids", in Bosworth, C.E., History of Civilisations of Central Asia, 4 part I, UNESCO Publishing, pp. 119–144, ISBN 92-3-103467-7 More than one of
- The modern Uzbeks: from the fourteenth century to the present : a cultural history, by Edward Allworth, pg. 19
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- Daniel, Elton. (2001) The History of Iran (The Greenwood Histories of the Modern Nations) Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-30731-8, ISBN 978-0-313-30731-7