The Ḵalaj/Khalaj are usually referred to as Turks, but Josef Marquart (pp. 251-54) claimed that they were remnants of the Hephthalite confederation, which would indicate that they were originally Indo-Iranian. “Muslim authors agree that the Khalaj are one of the earliest tribes to have crossed the Oxus,” Vladimir Minorsky informs us (p. 430). According to the Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam (p. 111), compiled in 982-83 CE, most of them settled down in the Ḡazna region, but they were also numerous in the Balḵ, Toḵārestān, Bost, and Guzgān regions. Many of the Khalaj of the Ḡazna region became assimilated to the local Pashto-speaking population. Indeed, it seems very likely that they formed the core of the Pashto-speaking Ḡalzay (see ḠILZI) tribe, the name Ḡalzay being derived from Khalaj (Bosworth, p. 917; Frye, p. 1001).

Groups of Khalaj moved into Persia and the Near East, starting with the great Saljuq migrations of the 11th century (Köprülü, p. 114). Although they were very numerous and spread widely, they never formed a monolithic tribal entity. As a result, they were rapidly absorbed by other tribes, and their name rarely appears in historical records. Often today names of villages are their only vestiges. In 1932, Köylerimiz listed as many as sixteen villages throughout what is present-day Turkey, which bore the names of Halaç, Halaçlar or Halaçlı. They were to be found in the following provinces ( vilayet s): Antalya, Afyon, Niğde, Kütahya, Bolu, Balıkesir, Aydın, Kastamonu, Çankırı, Zonguldak, Yozgat, Ankara, Tokat, Giresun, Kirşehir, and Ëstanbul. There is even a village by the name of Khalaj in the Crimea (Köprülü, p. 116), and Minorsky suggested that the town of Kalach on the river Don in Southern Russia might have got its name from that of the tribe (Minorsky, p. 434).

There were also Khalaj in Azerbaijan, but we have very little information about them. The German diplomat Adam Olearius, who visited the province in 1638, listed the Khalaj among the tribes of Moḡān (Olearius, II, p. 28). A tribe by that name dwelling in Azerbaijan was mentioned by J.-M. Jouannin at the beginning of the 19th century (Jouannin, II, p. 465). In 1864, Keith E. Abbott wrote of a Khalaj tribe that lived near Miāna and Jamālābād (Abbott, p. 233). Finally, Basile Nikitine asserted that a Khalaj tribe “which was attested to be in the west of the country ... was absorbed by the Afšārs during the 19th century” (Nikitine, p. 233). By 1951, the only Khalaj left in Azerbaijan formed a tira (clan) by that name near Āstārā (Razmārā, IV, p. 19), but there were ten villages, the names of which were derived from that of the tribe in the šahrestān s (sub-provinces) of Tabriz, Māku, Orumiā, Marāḡa, Bostānābād, Ahar, and Ḵiāv (Idem, pp. 75, 192-93, and 335).

A large group of the Khalaj settled down in the mountains to the southwest of Sāva, in the Markazi province, and many of them have retained their tribal identity to this day. In that area, there is even a region called Ḵalajestān. Ḥasan Fasāʾi believed that the Khalaj of central Persia had come from Anatolia (Fasāʾi, II, p. 312). In any case, we know that the Khalaj were already living there at the time of Timur (1336-1405), for in 1403 they were mentioned in a farmān sent by that ruler to his grandson Eskandar (1384-1415, see ESKANDAR SOLṬĀN; Ẓafar-nāma , II, p. 573). According to Masʿud Kayhān, in 1932-33 they numbered 17,500 individuals and occupied 77 villages (Kayhān, II, p. 396). According to Gerhard Doerfer, in the 1960s they numbered 17,000 individuals and occupied some 50 villages (Doerfer, 1968, p. 720). In his article “The Turkish Dialect of the Khalaj,” Vladimir Minorsky gives us two lists of Khalaj villages in central Persia (Minorsky, pp. 435-36). In a recent work, Iraj Afšār-Sistāni writes that “the people of this tribe live in the vicinity of Āštiān and Tafreš, and make a living from their flocks” (Afšār-Sistāni, p. 115). The Khalaj of central Persia speak a Turkic dialect which contains so many archaisms and other unique features that Doerfer argues it should be referred to as “the Khalaj group of languages” (Doerfer, 1978, p. 918).

A large group of Khalaj from central Persia made their way to Fārs province, but it is not known exactly when. There has been a close relationship between these Khalaj and the Qašqāʾi. Several authors, including Ḥasan Fasāʾi, maintain that the Qašqāʾis are but an offshoot of the Khalaj tribe (Fasāʾi, II, p. 312). However, it is more likely that the Khalaj who moved to Fārs were absorbed by the Qašqāʾi tribal confederation, for the Qašqāʾi speak an Oḡuz Turkic dialect which differs substantially from the language of the Khalaj of central Persia. According to Oliver Garrod, two of the major Qašqāʾi tribes (the Šeš-Boluki and Fārsimadan), as well as the powerful Raḥimi clan, claim to be of Khalaj descent, and, as he asserts, the Šeš-boluki derive their name from the six boluk s, or districts, of Ḵalajestān (Garrod, p. 294). Garrod also wrote that “many villages of the Dehbid plateau (north of Shiraz) are today inhabited by Khalaj Turks, who claim a distant relationship with the Qashqai tribe” (idem, pp. 295-96). Finally, there is a clan by the name of Khalaj in the Kordšoli tribe, which is a mixture of Qašqāʾi and Mamasani elements (Oberling, 1974, pp. 29-30).

There are also Khalaj in the provinces of Ḵuzestān and Kermān. In Ḵuzestān, they form a clan of the Gündüzlü tribe; in the Kermān province, they form a clan of the Afšār-ʿAmuʾi tribe (Oberling, 1960, pp. 87 and 110). Finally, the villages of Ḵalaj-Darra, Ḵalaj-e ʿOlyā, and Ḵalaj-e Soflā in Lorestān ( Index Mundi ) and three villages by the name of Khalaj in Khorasan (Razmārā, IX, p. 150) indicate that, at some time, there were Khalaj in those provinces as well. The Khalaj of Persia are Shiʿites.



K. E. Abbott, Cities and Trade: Consul Abbott on the Economy and Society of Iran, 1847-66 , ed. A. Amanat, London, 1983.

Iraj Afšār-Sistāni, Ilhā, c¡ādornešinān wa ṭawāyef-e ʿašāyeri-e Irān , 2 vols., Tehran, 1987.

C. E. Bosworth, “ Kh ala dj : 1. History,” EI² IV, pp. 917-18.

G. Doerfer, “Das Chaladsch, eine neuentdeckte archaische Türksprache,” ZDMG , Suppl. 1, July 1968, pp. 719-25.

Idem, Khalaj Materials , Bloomington, Ind., 1971.

Idem, “ Kh ala dj : 2. Language,” EI² IV, p. 918.

Idem, Grammatik des Chaladsch , Wiesbaden, 1998.

Ḥājji Mirzā Ḥasan Fasāʾi, Fārs-nāma-ye Nāṣeri , 2 vols., lithograph, Tehran, 1895-96.

R. N. Frye, “ Gh alzay,” EI² II, p. 1001.

O. Garrod, “The Qashqai Tribe of Fars,” JRCAS 33 (1946), pp. 293-306.

Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam , tr. V. Minorsky, London, 1970.

J.‑M. Jouannin, list of tribes in: A. Dupré, Voyage en Perse fait dans les années 1807, 1808 et 1809 , 2 vols., Paris, 1819.

Index Mundi, available online (accessed 1 July 2009).

Masʿud Kayhān, Joḡrāfiā-ye mofaṣṣal-e Irān , 2 vols., Tehran 1932-33.

M. F. Köprülü, “Halaç,” in İA , fasc. 40 (1948), pp. 109-16.

Köylerimiz , Istanbul, 1932.

J. Marquart, Erānšahr nach der Geographier des Ps. Moses Xorenaci , Berlin, 1901.

V. Minorsky, “The Turkish Dialect of the Khalaj,” BSOAS 10, 1939-42, pp. 417-36.

B. Nikitine, “Communication,” Mélanges asiatiques 232, no. 1 (1940-41), p. 233.

P. Oberling, The Turkic Peoples of Southern Iran , Cleveland, 1960.

Idem, The Qashqāʾi Nomads of Fārs , The Hague, 1974.

A. Olearius, Voyage en Moscovie, Tartarie et Perse , Paris, 1659.

Ḥosayn-ʿAli Razmārā, Farhang-e joḡrāfiāʾi-e Irān , vols. IV and IX, Tehran, 1951. Šaraf-al-Din ʿAli Yazdi, Ẓafar-nāma , ed. Maulawī Muhammad Ilahdād, 2 vols., Calcutta, 1885-88.

July 1, 2009

(Pierre Oberling)

Originally Published: December 15, 2010

Last Updated: April 19, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XV, Fasc. 4, pp. 363-364