ʿALĀʾ-AL-DĪN ḤOSAYN B. ʿEZZ-AL-DĪN ḤOSAYN, called JAHĀNSŪZ, Ghurid sultan and the first ruler of the Šansabānī family to make the Ghurids a major power in the eastern Islamic world (544-56/1149-61). By the early 6th/12th century the Šansabānī chiefs had acquired the main power in the mountainous region of Ḡūr in central Afghanistan (the modern Ḡōrāt province). After the Saljuq sultan Sanǰar had placed the Ghaznavid sultan Bahrāmšāh on the throne in Ḡazna in 512/1118 as his protégé, the suzerainty exercised by the Ghaznavids over Ḡūr since the time of Maḥmūd and Masʿūd in the early 5th/11th century inevitably weakened. ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn Ḥosayn’s predecessors were still tribal chiefs, given to internecine squabbling; and this allowed Bahrāmšāh early in his reign to follow a policy of divide and rule in Ḡūr. Bahrāmšāh allegedly had ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn’s brother, Qoṭb-al-dīn Moḥammad, poisoned; when another brother, Sayf-al-dīn Sūrī, led a military expedition against Ḡazna, the sultan captured him and had him crucified. A further brother, Bahāʾ-al-dīn Sām, died before he could avenge his two brothers. ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn Ḥosayn therefore succeeded as amir in Ḡūr in 544/1149; he completed the construction of his fortress-capital Fīrūzkūh (whose site has not yet been identified with certainty) and was above all concerned to avenge his family on the Ghaznavids.
ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn now assumed command of Bahāʾ-al-dīn Sām’s army and marched into Zamīn Dāvar (the region of modern Qandahār). A battle took place there near the town of Tegīnābād, in which the Ghurid infantry, behind the protection of a wall of padded shields, managed to overcome the Ghaznavids’ war-elephants and cavalry. Bahrāmšāh fled towards Ḡazna and, after further reverses, retired to the Ghaznavid provinces in northern India. Ḡazna was now given over to a frightful sacking by ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn, which earned him the sobriquet of “the World-Incendiary” (Jahānsūz). All the tombs of the Ghaznavid sultans were broken into and the corpses exhumed and burnt, with the exception of those of Maḥmūd, Masʿūd, and Ebrāhīm; the rich public buildings and libraries of the Ghaznavids, erected from the booty of India, were despoiled; and exemplary vengeance was taken on all those in any way implicated in the previous killings of the Ghurid leaders. After this disaster, Ḡazna never recovered its former glory and became a petty provincial town. ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn then marched southwards to Bost and destroyed the palaces and buildings of the Ghaznavids there (545/1150-51).
He now aspired to a loftier position than that of a chieftain in Ḡūr. In imitation of Ghaznavid and Saljuq practice, he adopted the honorific title of al-solṭān al-moʿaẓẓam instead of that of mere malek, and started using the ceremonial parasol (čatr) as one of the insignia of royalty. He further resolved to throw off the suzerainty of the Saljuqs. In 547/1152 he ceased paying tribute to Sanǰar and advanced westwards from Fīrūzkūh down the Harī-rūd valley against Herat. He was, however, decisively defeated by the Saljuq army at Nāb and held prisoner by Sanǰar in Khorasan for two years, until a large ransom was forthcoming. It was presumably during this period of ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn’s captivity that Bahrāmšāh returned from India and resumed his ancestral throne in Ḡazna, though his son and successor Ḵosrowšāh soon afterwards had to abandon it definitively.
During ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn’s imprisonment, Ḡūr fell into chaos; and a rival chief, Nāṣer-al-dīn Ḥosayn b. Moḥammad Madīnī, seized power in Fīrūzkūh. But he was killed just before ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn returned to receive his patrimony. The last years of his life, up to his death in 556/1161, were devoted to extending Šansabānī authority into Ḡaṛčestān, Ṭoḵārestān, and Bāmīān in the north, and into Zamīn Dāvar in the south. It also appears that, during this period, ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn favorably entertained the propaganda of Ismaʿili missionaries (doʿāt) from Alamūt in northern Persia. He thus allowed this extremist Shiʿite sect to get a hold within Ḡūr, until it was suppressed in the ensuing reign of ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn’s son and successor Sayf-al-dīn Moḥammad (556-58/1161-63).
The principal source is Jūzǰānī’s Ṭabaqāt I, pp. 341-50, tr. Raverty, I, pp. 347-65; see also I, p. 242, tr. I, pp. 110-11.
Ghurid-Saljuq and Ghurid-Ghaznavid relations are discussed in Ebn al-Aṯīr, XI, pp. 135-36, 164-65 (years 544/1149-50 and 547/1152-53).
Cf. the sources for later Saljuq history, such as Ẓahīr-al-dīn Nīšāpūrī’s Salǰūq-nāma, Tehran, 1332 Š./1953, and Rāvandī’s Rāḥat al-ṣodūr, Tehran, 1333 Š./1954.
Some anecdotal material is to be found in Neẓāmī ʿArūżī Samarqandī’s Čahār maqāla, ed. M. Qazvīnī, London, 1910, pp. 46, 65-66, 87, revised tr. of Browne, London, 1924, pp. 30-31, 74, 96-97.
For secondary sources, see: Gulam Mustafa Khan, “A history of Sultan Bahram Shah of Ghaznin,” IC 23, 1949, pp. 200-17 (on Ghurid-Ghaznavid relations).
Wiet, on the Ghurids generally in A. Maricq and G. Wiet, Le minaret de Djam, la découverte de la capitale des sultans ghorides (XIIe-XIIIe siècles), Paris, 1959, pp. 34-35.
Bosworth in Camb. Hist. Iran V, pp. 159-61.
Idem, The later Ghaznavids: Splendor and Decay, New York, 1977, pp. 111-31.
(C. E. Bosworth)
Originally Published: December 15, 1984
Last Updated: July 29, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 7, pp. 778-779