BAYHAQ, a town of Khorasan in the Islamic period, also known as Sabzavār. Bayhaq is properly the name of a rural area (rostāq) lying between the district of Nīšāpūr (Neyšābūr) and the eastern borders of Qūmes, of which Sabzavār and Ḵosrowjerd, separated by two farsaḵs only, were the main urban centers. The early geographers are sparing in their descriptions of the town of Bayhaq-Sabzavār; it is described as producing corn and fruit and some silk textiles, and the center of its markets was covered over with timber arches. The rostāq was 25 farsaḵs across and comprised, according to Yāqūt, 321 villages (but only 40 in its dependencies, according to Mostawfī a century or so later; see Moqaddasī, p. 318; Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, tr. Minorsky, p. 102; Yāqūt, Boldān, Beirut, I, pp. 537-38; Nozhat al-qolūb, pp. 149-50, tr. Le Strange, p. 148; Le Strange, Lands, p. 391). Bayhaq’s comparatively low walls were raised in height by the Saljuq vizier Neẓām al-Molk in 464/1071-72, soon afterward dismantled by Arslān Arḡun b. Alp Arslān (Ebn Fondoq, Tārīḵ-eBayhaq, ed. Aḥmad Bahmanyār, Tehran, 1317 Š./1938, p. 53), but, as subsequent events showed, must have been speedily rebuilt (see further, below).

Bayhaq’s great strategic importance lay in its position on the great highway which skirted the northern fringes of the Dašt-e Kavīr and connected Ray and the west with Nīšāpūr and Khorasan. Its cultural significance stemmed from the great number of ʿolamāʾ and literary men which the town produced (“innumerable,” in Yāqūt’s words; see also Samʿānī [Leiden], fol. 101a-b, ed. Hyderabad, II, pp. 412-15), such as the historian of the Ghaznavids Abu’l-Fażl Bayhaqī (q.v.), said to have been born in the village of Ḥāreṯābād, and several noted traditionists and lawyers, such as the Shafeʿite faqīh Aḥmad b. Ḥosayn Bayhaqī (d. 458/1066). Its religious and social significance lay in the fact that a considerable number of ʿAlid sayyeds emigrated thither in the Taherid period, usually from Nīšāpūr (Ebn Fondoq, pp. 54-65, 254-55), gradually making Bayhaq a center of Shiʿism, so that Mostawfī (8th/14th century) could describe the inhabitants of Bayhaq as being all Twelver Shiʿite (Nozhat al-qolūb, p. 150, tr. p. 148).

We know more about the early Islamic history of Bayhaq than of any other Iranian town of comparable modest size, thanks to the local history, completed in 563/1167-68, by a local scholar ʿAlī b. Zayd, called Ebn Fondoq (see Storey, I, pp. 354, 1295-96; Storey-Bregel, II, pp. 1040-42; Q. S. K. Husaini, “Life and Works of Zahiru’d-Din al-Bayhaqi . . . ,” Islamic Culture 28, 1954, pp. 297-318; idem, “The Tarikh-i-Bayhaq of Zahiru’d-Diṇ . . . al-Baihaqi,” Islamic Culture 33, 1959, pp. 188-202; and see bayhaqī, abu’l-ḥasan ʿalǰ). From this work, we learn of the surrender of the town in 30/650-51 to the Arab general ʿAbd-Allāh b. ʿĀmer b. Korayz (q.v.), after initial resistance, on a basis of the payment of tribute. In the time of ʿAbd-Allāh b. Ṭāher (q.v.; early 3rd/9th century), the district contained 395 villages, 321 of which were ḵarāj-paying, yielding a ḵarāj revenue of 178,796 dirhams and tithe or ʿošr from 24 villages of 57,800 dirhams (Ebn Fondoq, p. 34). In 213/828, during the prolonged Kharijite rebellion of Ḥamza b. Āḏarak (q.v.), Bayhaq was sacked by these sectaries, who destroyed the Friday mosque (ibid., pp. 44-45). The factional strife (ʿaṣabīya) which racked much of Khorasan in the succeeding centuries was evident in Bayhaq, a religious element of which was the rivalry between the adherents of the Karrāmīya movement (q.v.) and the orthodox Sunnite and Shiʿite groups (ibid., pp. 51, 267, 269). When the Oghuz under Ṭoḡrïl Beg appeared in Khorasan in the 420s/1030s, Bayhaq suffered both from the Turkmen depredations—so that no sowing of crops outside the town walls was possible for seven years—and from the armies of their Ghaznavid opponents (ibid., pp. 268, 273-74). During the disorders in Khorasan attendant on the decline and disappearance of Saljuq power there in the second half of the 6th/12th century, Bayhaq was again affected; thus it was besieged and sacked in 548-49/1153-54 by the Ḵᵛārazmšāh Atsïz b. Moḥammad’s brother Yinaltigin, and in 561-62/1165-67 by the Turkish commander Ay Aba, opponent of the Ḵᵛārazmšāh Il-Arslān (ibid., pp. 271, 284). When the Mongols appeared in Khorasan in 617/1220, Bayhaq was taken by Börkey Noyan, with a reported (but doubtless exaggerated) number of 70,000 killed (Jowaynī, tr. Boyle, I, pp. 175-76), but it must have revived, and under the Il-khanids coins begin to be minted at Sabzavār from the reign of Abaqa (663-80/1265-82) onward, the series continuing through the periods of the Sarbadarids and Timurids to the Safavids, the latest attested date for minting being 935/1528-29 (see Spuler, Mongolen1, pp. 130, 303; E. von Zambaur, Die Münzprägungen des Islam, zeitlich und örtlich geordnet, Wiesbaden, 1968, p. 138). Thus Sabzavār was obviously enjoying some prosperity at least during these times, and the Sabzavār district was indeed the home of the Sarbadarids, who ruled in Khorasan during the middle years of the 8th/14th century (see D. Krawulsky, Ḫorāsān zur Timuridenzeit nach dem Tārīḫ-e Ḥāfeẓ-e Abrū . . . I: Edition und Einleitung, Wiesbaden, 1982, pp. 79-80). Under the Safavids, fighting took place at Sabzavār between the Uzbeks and the shahs, and it suffered especially in 989/1581 from Moḥammad Shah’s army and in 1004/1595-96 from the Uzbek ʿAbd-al-Moʾmen Khan (Eskandar Beg, tr. Savory, I, p. 423, II, pp. 686-87).

The modern town of Sabzavār had a population in ca. 1951 of 28,151 (Razmārā, Farhang IX, pp. 207-08) and 200,994 in 1345 Š./1966 (Rāhnamā-ye šahrestānhā-ye Īrān, ed. E. E. ʿArabānī, Tehran, 1345 Š./1967, p. 386); administratively, it falls within a district (baḵš)of the same name in the province (ostān) of Khorasan.

See also sabzavār.



Given in the text. See also for European travelers passing through Bayhaq, A. Gabriel, Die Erforschung Persiens, Vienna, 1952, index s.v. Sabzewar.

Search terms:

 بیهق bayhagh baihagh  

(C. E. Bosworth)

Originally Published: December 15, 1988

Last Updated: December 15, 1988

This article is available in print.
Vol. III, Fasc. 8, pp. 888-889