Saffarid dynasty at its greatest extent under Ya'qub ibn al-Layth al-Saffar
|Languages||Persian (mother tongue)|
|-||861–879||Ya'qub bin Laith as-Saffar|
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The Saffarids (Persian: سلسله صفاریان) were a Muslim Persianate dynasty from Sistan that ruled over parts of eastern Iran, Khorasan, Afghanistan and Balochistan from 861 to 1003. The dynasty, of Persian origin, was founded by Ya'qub bin Laith as-Saffar, born in 840 in a small town called Karnin (Qarnin), which was located east of Zaranj and west of Bost, in what is now Afghanistan - a native of Sistan and a local ayyar, who worked as a coppersmith (ṣaffār) before becoming a warlord. He seized control of the Sistan region and began conquering most of Iran and Afghanistan, as well as parts of Pakistan, Tajikestan and Uzbekistan.
The Saffarids used their capital Zaranj, which is a city in modern-day Afghanistan, as a base for an aggressive expansion eastwards and westwards. They first invaded the areas south of the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan and then overthrew the Persian Tahirid dynasty, annexing Khorasan in 873. By the time of Ya'qub's death, he had conquered the Kabul Valley, Sindh, Tocharistan, Makran (Balochistan), Kerman, Fars, Khorasan, and nearly reached Baghdad but then suffered a defeat by the Abbasids.
The Saffarid empire did not last long after Ya'qub's death. His brother and successor, Amr bin Laith, was defeated at the Battle of Balkh against Ismail Samani in 900. Amr bin Laith was forced to surrender most of his territories to the new rulers. The Saffarids were subsequently confined to their heartland of Sistan, with their role reduced to that of vassals of the Samanids and their successors.
The dynasty began with Ya'qub ibn al-Layth al-Saffar (Ya'qub, son of Layth, the Coppersmith), a coppersmith who moved to the city of Zaranj. He left work to become an Ayyar and eventually got the power to act as an independent ruler. From his capital Zaranj he moved east into al-Rukhkhadj and Zamindawar followed by Zunbil and Kabul by 865. He then invaded Bamyan, Balkh, Badghis, and Ghor. In the name of Islam, he conquered these territories which were ruled mostly by Buddhist tribal chiefs. He took vast amounts of plunder and slaves from this campaign.
Arab armies carrying the banner of Islam came out of the west to defeat the Sasanians in 642 and then they marched with confidence to the east. On the western periphery of the Afghan area the princes of Herat and Sistan gave way to rule by Arab governors but in the east, in the mountains, cities submitted only to rise in revolt and the hastily converted returned to their old beliefs once the armies passed. The harshness and avariciousness of Arab rule produced such unrest, however, that once the waning power of the Caliphate became apparent, native rulers once again established themselves independent. Among these Saffarids of Sistan shone briefly in the Afghan area. The fanatic founder of this dynasty, the coppersmith’s apprentice Yaqub ibn Layth Saffari, came forth from his capital at Zaranj in 870 and marched through Bost, Kandahar, Ghazni, Kabul, Bamyan, Balkh and Herat, conquering in the name of Islam..—Nancy Dupree, 1971
The Tahirid city of Herat was captured in 870 and his campaign in the Badghis region led to the capture of Kharidjites which later formed the Djash al-Shurat contingent in his army. Ya'qub then turned his focus to the west and began attacks on Khorasan, Khuzestan, Kerman (Southeastern Iran) and Fars (southwestern Iran). The Saffarids then seized Khuzestan (southwestern Iran) and parts of southern Iraq, and in 876 came close to overthrowing the Abbasids, whose army was able to turn them back only within a few days' march from Baghdad. These incursions, however, forced the Abbasid caliphate to recognize Ya'qub as governor of Sistan, Fars and Kerman, and Saffarids were even offered key posts in Baghdad.
The Saffarids gave great care to the Persian culture. Under their rule, the eastern Islamic world witnessed the emergence of prominent Persian poets such as Fayrouz Mashriqi, Abu Salik al-Jirjani, and Muhammad bin Wasif al-Sistani, who was a court poet.
In the later 9th century, the Saffarids gave impetus to a renaissance of New Persian literature and culture. Following Ya'qub's conquest of Herat, some poets chose to celebrate his victory in Arabic, whereupon Ya'qub requested his secretary, Muhammad bin Wasif al-Sistani, to compose those verses in Persian.
Rulers of the Saffarid dynasty
|History of Afghanistan|
|History of Greater Iran
Until the rise of modern nation-states
|Titular Name||Personal Name||Reign|
|Independence from the Abbasid Caliphate.|
|Ya'qub ibn Layth
یعقوب بن اللیث
|Amr ibn al-Layth
عمرو بن اللیث
|Tahir ibn Muhammad ibn Amr
طاھر بن محمد بن عمرو
co-ruler Ya'qub ibn Muhammad ibn Amr
|al-Layth ibn 'Ali
اللیث بن علي
|Muhammad ibn 'Ali
محمد بن علي
|Al-Mu'addal ibn 'Ali
المعضل ابن علي
|Amr ibn Ya'qub ibn Muhammad ibn Amr
عمرو بن یعقوب بن محمد بن عمرو
|Samanid occupation 913-922 CE.|
|Ahmed ibn Muhammad ibn Khalaf ibn Layth ibn 'Ali||922-963 CE|
|Khalaf ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khalaf ibn al-Layth ibn 'Ali||963-1002 CE|
|Conquered by Mahmud ibn Sebuktigin of the Ghaznavid Empire in 1002 CE.|
- "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)...". 
- The Islamization of Central Asia in the Samanid era and the reshaping of the Muslim world, D.G. Tor, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London , Vol. 72, No. 2 (2009), 281;"The Saffārids were the first of the Persianate dynasties to arise from the remains of the politically moribund ʿAbbāsid caliphate".
- The Cambridge History of Iran, by Richard Nelson Frye, William Bayne Fisher, John Andrew Boyle (Cambridge University Press, 1975: ISBN 0-521-20093-8), pg. 121.
- The Encyclopedia of World History, ed. Peter N. Stearns and William Leonard Langer (Houghton Mifflin, 2001), 115.
- Clifford Edmund Bosworth, Encyclopædia Iranica SAFFARIDS
- "First, the Saffarid amirs and maliks were rulers of Persian stock who for centuries championed the cause of the underdog against the might of the Abbasid caliphs." -- Savory, Roger M.. "The History of the Saffarids of Sistan and the Maliks of Nimruz (247/861 to 949/1542-3)." The Journal of the American Oriental Society. 1996
- "The provincial Persian Ya'kub, on the other hand, rejoiced in his plebeian origins, denounced the Abbasids as usurpers, and regarded both the caliphs and such governors from aristocratic Arab families as the Tahirids with contempt". -- Ya'kub b. al-Layth al Saffar, C.E. Bosworth, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol. XI, p 255
- Saffarids: A Persian dynasty.....", Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature, Volume 2, edited by Julie Scott Meisami, Paul Starkey, p674
- "There were many local Persian dynasties, including the Tahirids, the Saffarids....", Middle East, Western Asia, and Northern Africa, by Ali Aldosari, p472.
- "Saffarid, the Coppersmith, the epithet of the founder of this Persian dynasty...", The Arabic Contributions to the English Language: An Historical Dictionary, by Garland Hampton Cannon, p288.
- "The Saffarids, the first Persian dynasty, to challenge the Abbasids...", Historical Dictionary of the Ismailis, by Farhad Daftary, p51.
- The Development of Persian Culture under the Early Ghaznavids, C.E. Bosworth, Iran, Vol. 6, (1968), 34.
- Saffarids, C.E. Bosworth, Encyclopedia of Islam, Vol. VIII, Ed. C.E.Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P.Heinrichs and G. Lecomte, (Brill, 1995), 795.
- Dupree, Nancy (1971) "Sites in Perspective (Chapter 3)" An Historical Guide To Afghanistan Afghan Tourist Organization, Kabul, OCLC 241390
- Saffarids, Encyclopedia of Islam, Vol. VIII, 795.
- Esposito, John L., The Oxford History of Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 38.
- The Development of Persian Culture under the Early Ghaznavids, C.E. Bosworth, 34.
- C.E. Bosworth, The Ghaznavids 994-1040, (Edinburgh University Press, 1963), 89.
- The Ṭāhirids and Persian Literature, C. E. Bosworth, Iran, Vol. 7, (1969), 104.
- The Tahirids and the Saffarids, C.E.Bosworth, The Cambridge History of Iran: The period from the Arab Invasion to the Saljuqs, Vol. IV, Ed. R.N.Frye, (Cambridge University Press, 1999), 129.
- Pandjhir, Encyclopedia of Islam, Vol. VIII, 258.
- Encyclopædia Iranica Saffarids