History, Islamic Period
Timur Lang, Timurid dynasty, Timurids, Safavid dynasty, Afghan area
In the 7th century ad Arab armies carried the new religion of Islam to Afghanistan. The western provinces of Herat and Sistan came under Arab rule, but the people of these provinces revolted and returned to their old beliefs as soon as the Arab armies passed. In the 10th century Muslim rulers called Samanids, from Bukhoro in what is now Uzbekistan, extended their influence into the Afghan area. A Samanid established a dynasty in Ghazni called the Ghaznavids. The greatest Ghaznavid king, Mahmud, who ruled from 998 to 1030, established Islam throughout the area of Afghanistan. He led many military expeditions into India. Ghazni became a center of literature and the arts.
The Ghaznavid state grew weaker under Mahmud’s descendants and gave way in the middle of the 12th century to the Ghurid kingdom, which arose in Ghur, in the west central region of present-day Afghanistan. The Ghurids in turn were routed early in the 13th century by the Khwarizm Shahs, another central Asian dynasty. They were swept away in about 1220 by the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, who devastated the land.
Near the end of the 14th century the central Asian military leader Tamerlane (Timur Lang) conquered the region of Afghanistan and moved on into India. His sons and grandsons, the Timurids, could not hold Tamerlane’s empire together. However, they ruled most of present-day Afghanistan from Herat.
The period from the Ghurid through the Timurid dynasty produced fine Islamic architectural monuments. Many of these mosques, shrines, and minarets still stand in Herat, Qal‘eh-ye Bost, Ghazni, and Mazar-e Sharif. An important school of miniature painting flourished at Herat in the 15th century.
A descendant of Tamerlane on his father’s side and Genghis Khan on his mother’s side, Babur (Zahiruddin Muhammad) took Kabul in October 1504 and then moved on to India, where he established the Mughal Empire.
Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, Afghanistan was fought over by the rulers of the Mughal Empire, centered in India, and those of the Safavid dynasty, in Persia. Usually the Mughals held Kabul and the Persians held Herat, with Kandahar frequently changing hands. The Pashtun tribes increased their power, but they failed to win independence.
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