Map of the Afrighid dynasty (Green color)
|Languages||Khwarezmian language, Middle Persian|
|Religion||Zoroastrianism, later Islam in the 9th century.|
|•||967–995||Abu 'Abdallah Muhammad (last)|
|Historical era||Middle Ages|
|•||Ma'munid conquest of Khwarezm.||995|
|History of Greater Iran|
The Afrighids (from 305 to 995 AD) (Persian: آفریغیان-آل آفریغ) were a native Chorasmian Iranian dynasty who ruled over the ancient kingdom of Chorasmia until 995 AD. Over time, they were under the suzerainty of the Sassanid Empire, the Hephthalite Empire, the Göktürk Khaganate, the Umayyad Caliphate and the Samanid Empire.
Al-Biruni, the native Chorasmian scholar, mentions twenty-two members of the Afrighid dynasty for a total span of 690 years with an average rule of 31 years for each ruler. According to him, the Afrighids ruled from 305 AD, through the Arab conquests under Qotayba b. Moslem in 93/712, and up to their overthrow in 385/995 by the rising rival family of Ma'munids. The main source on the Afrighids prior to Islam is also Al-Biruni. Part of the reason for the gap in information about this dynasty is mentioned by Al-Biruni.
|“||When Qutaibah bin Moslem under the command of Al-Ḥajjāj ibn Yūsuf was sent to Khwarazmia with a military expedition and conquered it for the second time, he swiftly killed whoever wrote in the Khwarazmian native language and knew of the Khwarazmian heritage, history, and culture. He then killed all their Zoroastrian priests and burned and wasted their books, until gradually the illiterate only remained, who knew nothing of writing, and hence the region's history was mostly forgotten.||”|
It has been suggested that 'Afrigh' is the Arabicized of 'Abriz' in Persian (آبریز where water flows, a reference to the geography of Khwarazm and its abundant water). However, Dr. Parviz Azkai, in his annotations on Al-Biruni's Chronology of Ancient Nations, explains that this is a popular etymology. Azkai explains that Afrigh was originally Ap-Air-ig meaning from the Aryan descent: ap or af is the same in 'afrashtan' (Persian: افراشتن) to raise; air is the root meaning Aryan as seen in Iraj, and Eran/Iran (land of Aryan); and -ig is the suffix of relation in Iranian languages and cognate to '-ic' in English or '-ique' in French.
The ancient Iranian kingdom of Khwarazm had been ruled until 995 by the old established line of Afrighids of Kath. Khwarazm, or the classical Chorasmia, was the well irrigated and rich agricultural region of lower Oxus. Surrounded by all sides by steppe land and desert, it was geographically isolated from other areas of civilization. This isolation allowed it to maintain a separate distinctive Iranian language and culture . Khwarazm was one of the early areas of Iranian civilization, and the local Chorasmian historian, Al-Biruni traces civilization there beyond the first millennium BC. Before the 8th century, there had only been few ineffectual Arab raids on the fringes of Chorasmia from the directions of Khorasan and Transoxania. But in 712 AD, Qutayba ibn Muslim was able to intervene in a civil war between the Afrighid Shah and his brother Khorrazad. Two Arab invasions lead to much destruction as Al-Biruni notes. Once the Arabs withdrew from their raid, the Shahs recovered power in Chorasmia and they continued to adhere to their ancestral faith, which according to Al-Biruni was Zoroastrianism. The local shahs continued to ally with local Iranian princes, Soghdian merchants and even Turks and Chinese in order to resist the Arabs.
It thus came vaguely under Muslim suzerainty, but it was not until the end of the 8th century or the beginning of the 9th century that an Afrighid was first converted to Islam appearing with the popular convert’s name of ‘Abdallah (slave of God). In the course of the 10th century, the local family of the Ma'munids who were based in Gurganj, on the left bank of the Oxus grew in economic and political importance due to trade caravans. In 995, they violently overthrew the Afrighids of Kath and themselves assumed the traditional title of the Khwarazm Shah. Briefly, the area was under Samanid suzerainty, before it passed to Mahmud of Ghazna. From then on, Turco-Mongolian invasions and long rule by Turco-Mongol dynasties supplanted the Iranian character of the region although the title of Khwarizm Shah was maintained well up to the 15th century.
It is generally agreed that the Afrighids were Zoroastrians until the reign of Abdallah ibn Torkasbatha during the 9th-century. However, their Zoroastrian beliefs differed from those in Iran and were a mix between a local form of Khwarazmian Zoroastrianism and paganism. The Khwarazmians, like their Sogdian relatives, also made rituals and sacrifices dedicated to the Iranian mythological hero Siyavash whom they appeared to worship, according to Tolstov, with regards to vegetation.
Later by the ninth century the Afrighids became Muslims.
Name of Rulers
Only consonants of the pre-Islamic names are known with long vowels, since in Arabic script, the short vowels are not written and diacritic signs are used to clarify when required. After the conversion of 'Abdallah, all the names expect possibly 'Eraq are Arabic and their pronunciation is known. Unfortunately, the manuscripts that have also come down have also suffered some corruption due to scribal errors, since the Chorasmian names were incomprehensible for most non-natives. Al-Biruni himself utilizes the extra letters of Chorasmian which were not used in Arabic writings.
More is known about the dynasty in the Islamic era after the beginning of the 8th century and their conversion to Islam.
4) Askajamuk I.
5) Azkajwar I.
6) Sahr I.
11) Sahr II.
13) Azkajwar II.
15) Askajamuk II.
19) Mansur ibn Abdallah.
20) Eraq ibn Mansur.
21) Muhammad ibn Eraq.
22) Abu Sa'id Ahmad.
23) Abu 'Abdallah Muhammad, killed in 995.
- Bosworth, C. E. "ĀL-E AFRĪḠ". Encyclopædia Iranica. Columbia University. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
- C.E. Bosworth, “The Ghaznavids” in History of Civilization: Central Asia in History of Civilizations of Central Asia, Volume IV: The Age of Achievement : A.D. 750 to the End of the Fifteenth Century : Part One : The Historical Social and Economic Setting/edited by M.S. Asimov and C.E. Bosworth. Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, 1999, 485 pages. (Vol. IV, Pt. I). ISBN 81-208-1595-5. Excerpt from page 101: “The ancient Iranian kingdom of Khwarazm had been ruled until 995 by the old established line of Afrighids of Kath, but control subsequently passed to the new line of Khwarazm Shahs, the Ma'munids of Gurganj”
- Clifford Edmund Bosworth, The New Islamic Dynasties: A Chronological and Genealogical Manual, Columbia University, 1996.
- Encyclopedia Iranica, “ĀL-E AFRĪḠ (Afrighid dynasty)” by C. E. Bosworth
- L. Massignon, "Al-Biruni et la valuer internationale de la science arabe" in Al-Biruni Commemoration Volume, (Calcutta, 1951). pp 217-219. excerpt: In a celebrated preface to the book of Drugs, Biruni says: It is through the Arabic language that the sciences have been transmitted by means of translations from all parts of the world. They have been enhanced by the translation into the Arabic language and have as a result insinuated themselves into men's hearts, and the beauty of this language has commingled with these sciences in our veins and arteries. And if it is true that in all nations one likes to adorn oneself by using the language to which one has remained loyal, having become accustomed to using it with friends and companions according to need, I must judge for myself that in my native Chorasmian, science has as much as chance of becoming perpetuated as a camel has of facing Kaaba.
- Bosworth, C. E. (1968). "The Political and Dynastic History of the Iranian World (A.D. 1000–1217)". In Frye, R. N. The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 5: The Saljuq and Mongol periods. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–202. ISBN 0-521-06936-X.
- Bosworth, C. Edmund (1984). "ĀL-E AFRĪḠ". Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol. I, Fasc. 7. C. Edmund Bosworth. pp. 743–745.
- B. A. Litvinsky, Ahmad Hasan Dani (1996). History of Civilizations of Central Asia: The crossroads of civilizations, A.D. 250 to 750. UNESCO. pp. 1–569. ISBN 9789231032110.
- Chorasmia in Encyclopædia Iranica by Yuri Aleksandrovich Rapoport 
- Albiruni. The Chronology Of Ancient Nations, trans.Edward Sachau. London: Elibron Classics, 2005.