ABŪ NAṢR MANṢŪR B. MOŠKĀN, head of the Ghaznavid chancery under Maḥmūd and Masʿūd from 401/1011-12 till his death in 431/1039-40. The name Manṣūr appears only in Ṯaʿālebī’s Tatemmat al-yatīma (ed. ʿA. Eqbāl, Tehran, 1353/1934-35, vol. 2, p. 62) and his Ḵāṣṣ al-ḵāṣṣ (Beirut, 1966, p. 222). Both place and year of his birth are unknown, and the nesbas al-Zūzanī al-Ḵᵛāfī, mentioned in Moǰmal-e faṣīḥī (ed. M. Farroḵ, Mašhad, 1341 Š./1962, vol. 2, pp. 141-42) are missing in other sources. The oldest and richest source, Tārīḵ-e Bayhaqī by Abu’l-Fażl Bayhaqī (2nd ed.), who for at least nineteen years was Abū Naṣr’s closest associate in office, always calls him simply Abū Naṣr-e Moškān.
Knowledge of Abū Naṣr’s activities during his twenty years under Sultan Maḥmūd is scanty and derives from a few fragments of Bayhaqī’s lost volumes preserved by later historians (collected by S. Nafīsī in Dār pīrāmūn-e tārīḵ-e Bayhaqī, 2 vols., Tehran, 1342 Š./1963). However, the picture gained of his personality and character in this period is in perfect harmony with that gained from the ample details provided by Bayhaqī concerning the second period. During his entire career Abū Naṣr appears to have enjoyed the highest esteem, trust, and support of his royal patrons, whom he served not only as an eloquent chief secretary in both Arabic and Persian, but also as a wise and even intimate counselor. He was honest, far-sighted, courageous, and in full command of the court’s tacit rules and requirements and aware of its hidden intrigues and pitfalls. The extant stories from Sultan Maḥmūd’s period depict him as a figure with qualities in no way different from those described by Bayhaqī for the later years. In one of these accounts Maḥmūd is found intimately revealing to Abū Naṣr his desire to marry Ayāz’s sister and seeking his advice (introduction to ʿAwfī, Jawāmeʿ al-ḥekāyāt, GMS, Leiden, 1929, no. 1488). According to Moǰmal-e faṣīḥī (vol. 2, p. 142), in 419/1029 Maḥmūd offered him the post of vizier, which he refused. When Maḥmūd was taxing the inhabitants of Balḵ to maintain his garden, Abū Naṣr expressed his disapproval and caused him to stop (Barthold, Turkestan2, pp. 288-89). He also informed Maḥmūd of his misgivings at the king’s appointing Moḥammad as his successor (Ṭabaqāt-e Nāṣerī, ed. ʿA. Ḥ. Ḥabībī, Kabul, 1342 Š./1963, vol. 1, pp. 232-33; Bayhaqī, p. 222). When Masʿūd ascended the throne, Abū Naṣr mistrusted the newcomers and was reluctant to continue his work, but he was strongly supported by the ruler, who insisted on benefiting from his experience and capability (Bayhaqī, pp. 73-74). His advice, always given in unison with that of the grand vizier Maymandī, many times changed the course of events or saved Masʿūd from embarrassment (e.g., the plot to assassinate Altontāš Ḵᵛārazmšāh, Bayhaqī, pp. 402-21). On the whole he was dissatisfied with Masʿūd’s ways and policies. While absolutely loyal to the sovereign, he appears to have been unwilling to tolerate any abuse of his office and personal integrity. On one occasion he upbraided an officer who merely carried out Masʿūd’s order and killed a former governor (Bayhaqī, pp. 560-613). Bayhaqī, utterly glorifying his master, shows Abū Naṣr to have been opposed—and to have warned against—all events which ended with trouble and defeat for Masʿūd. He criticized Masʿūd’s handling of the problem of the Turkmen hordes penetrating into Khorasan; and near the end of his life, he saw the coming disaster and was deeply depressed (Bayhaqī, pp. 785-86). Shortly before Abū Naṣr’s death, Masʿūd was misled into ordering everyone to deliver his horses and camels to the army. Enraged by the order, Abū Naṣr sent a harshly worded letter to the ruler, and Bayhaqī remarks that “he had never acted with such disrespect.” Informed of the amir’s reaction, he expressed his disappointment in words almost shocking: “I knew it; that is what I had expected. May he who serves kings drop dead, but he will be shown no loyalty, no respect, and no mercy” (Bayhaqī, pp. 791-93). Masʿūd, however, did not cease to show him reverence and mourned his death, which occurred shortly thereafter. Bayhaqī, who directly quotes Abū Naṣr page after page, had in his possession a book called Maqāmāt-e Abū Naṣr-e Moškān, apparently a collection of all accounts coming from/or related to his master. Bayhaqī has preserved several of Abū Naṣr’s official letters in both languages. Praise and admiration for his eloquence comes also from authorities like Ṯaʿālebī, who cites several of his Arabic verses and a number of pithy phrases culled from his letters (Tatemmat al-yatīma, vol. 2, pp. 62-65) and Ebn al-Aṯīr (the year 431). He was buried in Ḡazna; Moǰmal’s report that his grave is near Zūzān in a farm called Moškīn, is baseless. On his family, no sources offer any information except Moǰmal, which names his son Abu’l-Fatḥ and several related descendants during the next four centuries (Nafīsī, Dār pīrāmūn tārīḵ-e Bayhaqī, vol. 2, pp. 1000-02). His nephew Ṯeqat-al-molk Ṭāher served Masʿūd b. Ebrāhīm (492-508/1099-1115) as minister and was praised by the poets Masʿūd-e Saʿd, Sanāʾī, Rūnī, and Moḵtārī (see Dīvān-e Masʿūd-e Saʿd-e Salmān, ed. R. Yāsamī, Tehran, 1318 Š./1939, p. lx, and the dīvāns of the others).
In addition to works mentioned in the text, see: Ebn Fondoq ʿAlī Zayd Bayhaqī, Tārīḵ-e Bayhaqī, ed. A. Bahmanyār, reprint, Tehran, 1966, pp. 121, 175.
Dehḵodā. Bosworth, Ghaznavids, index. M. R. Waldman, Toward a Theory of Historical Narrative, a Case Study in Perso-Islamicate Historiography, Columbus, Ohio, 1980 (an analysis of Bayhaqī), index.
Originally Published: December 15, 1983
Last Updated: July 21, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 4, pp. 352-353