Isma'il ibn Ahmad
|Isma'il ibn Ahmad|
|Amir of the Samanid Empire|
|Reign||August 892 – November 907|
|Successor||Ahmad ibn Isma'il|
|Issue||Ahmad ibn Isma'il|
|Father||Ahmad ibn Asad|
|Religious beliefs||Sunni Islam|
Isma'il ibn Ahmad (Persian: ابو ابراهیم اسماعیل بن احمد سامانی, Tajik: Абу Иброҳим Исмоил ибни Аҳмади Сомонӣ, Abu Ibrahim Ismail ibn Ahmad Samani, d. November 907) was the Tajik Samanid amir of Transoxiana (892-907) and Khorasan (900-907). His reign saw the emergence of the Samanids as a powerful force. He was the son of Ahmad ibn Asad and a descendant of Saman Khuda, the founder of the Samanid dynasty who renounced Zoroastrianism and embraced Islam. Ismail is considered the father of the Tajik nation.
Gaining approval of the local population, Ismail was described as good natured devout Muslim, relying exclusively on Allah in accordance with the Islamic principle of tawheed. During his brother Nasr's reign, Isma'il was sent to take control of Bukhara, which had been devastated by looting on the part of forces from Khwarazm. The citizens of the city welcomed Isma'il, seeing him as someone who could bring stability.
Soon afterwards, a disagreement over where tax money should be distributed caused a falling out between Nasr and Isma'il. A struggle ensued, in which Isma'il proved victorious. Although he took effective control of the state, he did not formally overthrow his brother, instead remaining in Bukhara. He did so because Nasr had been the one whom the Caliph had given the formal investiture of Transoxiana to; in the caliph's eyes, Nasr was the only legitimimate ruler of the region. Furthermore, the Saffarids of Sistan had claims on Transoxiana; the overthrow of Nasr would have given the Saffarids a pretext for invading. Isma'il therefore continued to formally recognize Nasr as ruler until the latter's death in August 892, at which point he officially took power.
Reign and Missionary Efforts
Isma'il was active to the north and east, steadily spreading Samanid influence as well as solidifying his control over other areas including Kirman, Sistan and Kabul. Ismail was successful in establishing economic and commercial development and organized a powerful army. It was said that he made his capital Bukhara into one of Islam's most glorious cities, as Ismail attracted scholars, artists, and doctors of law into the region. The first translation of the Qu'ran into Persian was completed during Samanid rule. Sunni theology greatly cultivated during Ismail's reign, as numerous mosques and madrassas were built.
In 893, Ismail took the city of Talas, the capital of the Karluk Turks, taking an immense booty of animals and Turkish slaves and converting a Nestorian church into a mosque. He also brought an end to the Osrūshana dynasty, extending Samanid suzerainty over the Syr Darya river. Ismail and other Samanid rulers propagated Islam amongst the inhabitants and as many as 30,000 tents of Turks came to profess Islam. During his reign he subjugated numerous regional states to the east, directly incorporating some within his boundaries and retaining the local rulers of others as vassals. Khwarezm to the north was partitioned; the southern part remained autonomous under its Afrighid rulers, while the northern part was governed by a Samanid official. Another campaign in 903 further secured the Samanid boundaries. These campaigns kept the heart of his state safe from Turkish raids, and allowed Muslim missionaries to expand their activities in the region.
Even after his brother Nasr's death, Ismail's rule in Bukhara was not formally recognized by the caliph at that point. As a result, the Saffarid ruler 'Amr-i Laith himself asked the caliph for the investiture of Transoxiana. The caliph, Al-Mu'tadid however sent Ismail 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. The letter had a profound effect on Ismail, as he was determined to oppose the Saffarids.
The two sides fought in Balkh, northern Afghanistan during the spring of 900. During battle, Ismail was significantly outnumbered as he came out with 20,000 horsemen against Amr's 70,000 strong cavalry. 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. Isma'il wished to ransom him to the Saffarids, but they refused, so he sent 'Amr to the caliph, who blamed 'Amr's conduct in the matter and then invested Isma'il with Khurasan, Tabaristan, Ray, and Isfahan.
Isma'il decided to take advantage of the caliph's grant by sending an army to Tabaristan, which was then controlled by the Zaydids. The Samanid army defeated and killed the Zaydid ruler Muhammad ibn Zayd, but then Isma'il's general Muhammad ibn Harun revolted. In 901 Isma'il led an army into Tabaristan and the rest of Northern Persia, forcing Muhammad to flee to Dailam, the Samanids thus conquered territory as far west as Ray and Qazvin, though his successors were not able to hold on to these areas against the resurgent Daylamites and Kurds.
Although Isma'il continued to send gifts to the caliph, as was customary, he neither paid tribute or taxes. For all intents and purposes he was an independent ruler, although he never took any title higher than that of amir.
After a long sickness Isma'il died in 907 and was succeeded by his son Ahmad. Ismail gave enormous amounts of booty and riches to others, and kept nothing. A tomb in Bukhara has been identified as the tomb of Isma'il ibn Ahmad, though it seems to belong to the later Samanid period.
According to a Bukharian historian writing in 943 stated that Ismail:
"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 tyrannize people he would punish...In affairs of state he was always impartial."
"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.
With the end of Soviet Union dominion in Central Asia, Ismail's legacy was rediscovered and rehabilitated. The Somoni currency of Tajikistan is named after Ismail. Also, the highest mountain in Tajikistan (and in the former Soviet Union) is named after Ismail. The mountain was formerly known as "Stalin Peak" and "Communism Peak" but was subsequently changed to the Ismoil Somoni Peak.
Also the greatest award of Tajikistan which is equal to $2000 USD is in his name.
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Ahmad ibn Isma'il