Muslim conquest of Transoxiana

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Muslim conquest of Transoxiana
Part of the Muslim conquests
Transoxiana 8th century.svg
Map of Transoxiana and Khurasan in the 8th century
Date Between 7th century and 8th century
Location Transoxiana, Turkestan, Central Asia

Muslim victory

Umayyad Caliphate
Abbasid Caliphate (after Umayyad period)

Türgesh Kaghanate
Göktürk Empire[1]

Sogdian rebels[2]
Transoxianian allies
Commanders and leaders
Qutayba ibn Muslim
Muslim ibn Sa'id  
Junayd ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Murri
Sawra ibn al-Hurr al-Abani
Sa'id ibn Amr al-Harashi
Asad ibn Abd Allah al-Qasri
Nasr ibn Sayyar
Suluk Khagan
Ghurak  Surrendered
al-Harith ibn Surayj
Kapagan Khan[1]
Bilge Qaghan
Kul Tigin

The Muslim conquest of Transoxiana or the Arab conquest of Transoxiana[3] was the conquest of Transoxiana by the Muslim Arabs as part of the Muslim conquests.

Battles between Muslims and Turks[edit]

As a corollary to the Muslim conquest of Persia, the Muslims became neighbors of the city states of Transoxiana. Although Transoxiana was included in the loosely defined "Turkestan" region, only the ruling elite of Transoxiana was partially of Turkic origins whereas the local population was mostly a diverse mix of local Iranian populations.[4] As the Arabs reached Transoxiana following the conquest of the Sassanid Persian Empire, local Iranian-Turkic and Arab armies clashed over the control of Transoxiana's Silk Road cities. In particular, the Turgesh under the leadership of Suluk, and Khazars under Barjik clashed with their Arab neighbours in order to control this economically important region.

Umayyad–Turgesh Wars[edit]

Suluk's aim was to reconquer all of Transoxiana from the Arab invaders - his war was paralleled, much more westwards, by the Khazar empire. In 721 Turgesh forces, led by Kül Chor, defeated the Caliphal army commanded by Sa'id ibn Abdu'l-Aziz near Samarkand. Sa'id's successor, Al-Kharashi, massacred Turks and Sogdian refugees in Khujand, causing an influx of refugees towards the Turgesh. In 724 Caliph Hisham sent a new governor to Khorasan, Muslim ibn Sa'id, with orders to crush the "Turks" once and for all, but, confronted by Suluk, Muslim hardly managed to reach Samarkand with a handful of survivors after the so-called "Day of Thirst".

A string of subsequent appointees of Hisham were soundly defeated by Suluk, who in 728 took Bukhara and later on still inflicted painful tactical defeats such as the Battle of the Defile upon the Arabs. The Turgesh state was at its apex, controlling Sogdiana, and the Ferghana Valley. By 732, two powerful Arab expeditions to Samarkand managed, if with heavy losses, to reestablish Caliphal authority in the area; Suluk renounced his ambitions over Samarkand and abandoned Bukhara, withdrawing north.

In 734 an early Abbasid follower, al-Harith ibn Surayj, rose in revolt against Umayyad rule and took Balkh and Marv before defecting to the Turgesh three years later, defeated. In winter 737 Suluk, along with his allies al-Harith, Gurak (a Turco-Sogdian leader) and men from Usrushana, Tashkent and Khuttal launched a final offensive. He entered Jowzjan but was defeated by the Umayyad governor Asad at the Battle of Kharistan.Next year, Suluk was murdered by his general with Chinese support. Then in 739 the general himself was killed by the Chinese and the Chinese power returned to Transoxiana.

Battles between Göktürk Empire and Umayyad Caliphate[edit]

The Göktürks also had campaigns against the Arab Muslims.[1] By 705, the Göktürks had expanded as far south as Samarkand and threatened Arab control of Transoxiana.[1] Following Qutaiba's campaigns and Gurek's surrender, the Göktürk Empire sent forces down to the Transoxiana in order to help their Transoxian allies. According to Arab sources the forces were led by Kapagan, Bilge and Tegin.[5] The Göktürks clashed with the Umayyad Caliphate in a series of battles (712-713) in which the Arabs again emerged as victors.[1] The main factor of Göktürk failure was rebellions inside the empire and growing Chinese threat from the East.


The process of islamization of local peoples was slow during the Umayyad Caliphate period, but it became more intensive during the following Abbasid period. The Umayyads treated non-Arab peoples as second class citizens and didn't encourage conversions,[6] therefore only few Soghdian commoners converted to Islam during their rule [Grousset]. However, during the Abbasid period non-Arabs gained an equal status and as a result, Islam began spreading across Central Asia.

The Muslim conquest led to the spread of the Persian language in Transoxiana, where it is known as the Tajik language and its speakers are known as Tajik people.


The last major victory of Arabs in Central Asia occurred at the Battle of Talas (751). The Tibetan Empire was allied to the Arabs during the battle.[7][8][9][10][11] It was the An Lushan Rebellion and not the defeat at Talas that ended the Tang Chinese presence in Central Asia and forced them to withdraw from Xinjiang- the significance of Talas was overblown, because the Arabs did not proceed any further after the battle.[12] Because the Arabs did not proceed to Xinjiang at all, the battle was of no importance strategically, it was An Lushan's rebellion which ended up forcing the Tang Chinese out of Central Asia.[13] Despite the conversion of some Karluk Turks after the Battle of Talas, the majority of Karluks did not convert to Islam until the mid 10th century when they established the Kara-Khanid Khanate.[10][11][14][15][16][17] This was long after the Tang dynasty was gone from Central Asia. Barthold states that the Islamic rule over Transoxiana was secured at the Battle of Talas. Turks had to wait two and a half more centuries before reconquering Transoxiana when the Karakhanids reconquered the city of Bukhara in 999. Professor Denis Sinor said that it was interference in the internal affairs of the Western Turkic Khaganate which ended Chinese supremacy in Central Asia, since the destruction of the Western Khaganate rid the Muslims of their greatest opponent, and it was not the Battle of Talas which ended the Chinese presence.[18]

The Arab conquest did not mark the end of Buddhism or Chinese influence in the region. The Buddhist Kara-Khitan Khanate conquered a large part of Central Asia from the Muslim Karluk Kara-Khanid Khanate in the 12th century. The Kara-Khitans also reintroduced the Chinese system of Imperial government, since China was still held in respect and esteem in the region among even the Muslim population,[19][20] and the Kara-Khitans used Chinese as their main official language.[21] The Kara-Khitan rulers were called "the Chinese" by the Muslims.[22]