MASʿUD (III) B. EBRĀHIM, ʿALĀʾ-AL-DAWLA WA’L-DIN ABU SAʿD, Ghaznavid sultan (r. 492-508/1099-1115), recorded on his coins with various other honorifics (see Bosworth, 1977, p. 83).

He succeeded his father, Ebrāhim, probably after fratricidal succession disputes amongst his many brothers, though details are lacking; indeed, in the light of Masʿud’s apparently successful reign, we know remarkably little about specific events within it.  He seems to have had generally peaceful relations with his western neighbors, the Great Saljuqs, and in his father's lifetime, he had married, possibly in about 475/1082-83, a daughter of Sultan Malekšāh, Jawhar Ḵātun (known in the sources as the Mahd-e ʿErāq), although in 495/1102 he gave shelter at Ghazna to Kontoḡdi, a rebellious slave commander of Sultan Sanjar (Juzjāni, I. p. 240; Ebn al-Atir, X, pp. 168, 347-49; Bosworth, 1977, pp. 83-84).

With the western frontier of the empire now stable, Masʿud’s main sphere of military activity seems to have been India; information here comes mainly from his court panegyrists, such as ʿOṯmān Moḵtāri, Masʿud-e Saʿd-e Salmān, and Abu’l-Faraj Runi.  ʿOṯmān Moḵtāri, assigned by the sultan, composed for him an epic poem in rhymed couplets (maṯnawi), the Šahriār-nāma, which is partially extant (text in his Divān, pp. 798-844; editor’s commentary, pp. 765-95; Ṣafā, II, pp. 502-4).  The defeat and capture of the rājā of Qanawj is recorded, and there were raids beyond the Ganges-Jumna Doāb as far as Malwa in Central India (Ray, I, pp. 513-15; Bosworth, 1977, pp. 84-85; ʿOṯmān Moḵtāri, editor’s commentary, pp. 654-74).

We are better informed, primarily from the excavations of the 1950s and 1960s at Ghazna of the Italian Archeological Mission in Afghanistan (see ḠAZNI ii), about Masʿud’s extensive construction of palaces and gardens, doubtless financed from the spoils of India, and apparently with the trophies from Hindu temples incorporated in their fabrics.  There is a tower at Ghazna, whose inscription was read by Henry Rawlinson in the 19th century as being constructed by Masʿud (Flury, pp. 75-78).  The Italian excavations have revealed what must have been a splendid palace of Masʿud, constructed of brick but with marble slabs around a courtyard, that are inscribed with a maṯnawi poem in the motaqāreb meter in praise of the sultan, which was put together and read by Alessio Bombaci (pp. 413-14).

Masʿud died in Šawwāl 508/March 1115, survived by a number of sons, of whom several are mentioned (Juzjāni, I, p. 240, n. 5; tr. Raverty, I, p. 107; Ebn al-Aṯir, X, p. 508).  This proliferations of sons, and the fact that three of them, Širzād, Malek Arslān, and Bahrāmšāh engaged on their father’s death for three years in internecine fighting, with the first two very briefly holding the throne, resulted in Masʿud acquiring, obviously posthumously, the sobriquet of Abu’l-Moluk (Father of Kings).  From these struggles, Bahrāmšāh finally emerged as victor, but only with military help from the Saljuq Sultan Sanjar, and the weakened sultanate fell under Saljuq suzerainty (Juzjāni, I, pp. 241-42; Bosworth, 1977, pp. 89-98). 



Sources. There are no contemporary sources, and our main information comes from:

Ebn al-Aṯir, al-Kāmel fi’l-taʾriḵ, ed. C. J. Tornberg, 13 vols., Beirut, 1965, XIII, p. 341.

Menhāj-e Serāj Juzjāni, Ṭabaqāt-e nāṣeri, ed. ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy Ḥabibi, 2 vols., Kabul, 1963-64, I, pp. 240; tr. H. G. Raverty, as Ṭabaḳāt-i-Nāṣeri, 2 vols., London, 1881-99, I, pp. 106-7.

These are supplemented by anecdotal material in such collections as:

Faḵr-e Modabber Mobārakšāh, Ādāb al-ḥarb wa’l-šajāʿa, ed. Aḥmad Sohayli Ḵᵛānsāri, Tehran, 1967; tr. in Iqbal M. Shafi, “Fresh Light on the Ghaznavîds,” IC 12, 1938, pp. 200, 203-4, 216

and by references to Masʿud’s campaigns by his poets, including:

ʿOṯmān Moḵtāri, Divān, ed. Jalāl-al-Din Homāʾi, Tehran, 1962.



Alessio Bombacci, The Kūfic Inscription in Persian Verses in the Court of the Royal Palace of Masʿūd III at Ghazni, Rome, 1966. 

Clifford Edmund Bosworth, The Later Ghaznavids: Splendour and Decay, Edinburgh and New York, 1977, pp. 82-90. 

Samuel Flury, “Le décor épigraphique des monuments de Ghazna,” Syria 6, 1925, pp. 61-90.

Robert Hillenbrand, Islamic Architecture, Form, Function and Meaning, Edinburgh 1994. 

Hem Chandra Ray, The Dynastic History of Northern India (Early Mediaeval Period), 2 vols., Calcutta, 1931-36; 2nd ed., 2 vols., New Delhi, 1973.

Ḏabiḥ-Allāh Ṣafā, Tāriḵ-e adabiyāt dar Irān, 5 vols. in 8, Tehran, 1959-92, II, pp. 470-76, 483-507.

(C. Edmund Bosworth)

Last Updated: December 20, 2012