an extensive general history composed in Persian by  b. Serāj-al-Din Jowzjāni, who for the first part of his career lived in Ḡur under the Ghurid sultans and latterly in Muslim India under the Moʿezzi or Šamsi Delhi sultans.


ṬABAQĀT-E NĀṢERI, an extensive general history composed in Persian by  b. Serāj-al-Din Jowzjāni, who for the first part of his career lived in Ḡur under the Ghurid sultans and latterly in Muslim India under the Moʿezzi or Šamsi Delhi sultans (b. 589/1193 in Ḡur, d. at Delhi in India apparently in the time of Ḡiāṯ-al-Din Balaban, r. 664-86/1266-89; see MEHNĀJ-E SERĀJ).

The work is dedicated to the son of the Delhi Sultan Iltutmiš, Nāṣer-al-Din Abu’l-Moẓaffar Maḥmud-šāh (hence its name "The Nāṣerean Tables"). It was composed, it seems, during the author’s retirement, mainly in 657-58/1259-60. It comprises 23 ṭabaqāt, literally "layers,” beginning with Adam, the Biblical Patriarchs and Prophets, the forebears of the Prophet Moḥammad and his career (ṭabaqa 1), and after a consideration of the Patriarchal, Umayyad and ʿAbbasid caliphates (2-4), deals with the ancient kings of Persia, from Kayumarṯ and the Pishdadis to the Sasanians, and with Tobbaʿ kings of Yemen and the governors there up to the Islamic conquest (5-6). For these two sections, Jowzjāni cites as his source "histories of the Persians which Ferdowsi used in his Šāh-nāma,” but regards this information as dubious and problematic compared with what he will retail of history as known in the pure light of Islam (Jowzjāni, I, p. 131). The main body of the work deals with the ruling dynasties of the Iranian lands, first those actually of Persian origin, the Taherids, the Saffarids, the Samanids and the Buyids (ṭabaqāt 7-10), but then those Turkish incomers to the Persian lands, the Ghaznavids (11) and the Saljuqs and their Atabegs (the Great Saljuq sultans, up to and including Sanjar, the Saljuqs of Rum, the Ildegizid Atabegs of Azerbaijan, the Salghurid Atabegs of Fārs and the brief line of Moʾayyed-al-Din Ay Aba in Nishapur after Sanjar’s death; 12-13). There follow the Iranian Naṣrid maleks of Nimruz or Sistan (14) and the "Kurdish maleks of Syria,” i.e. the Ayyubids, presumably included because of the origin of their progenitor Zangi in the slave entourage of the Saljuq Sultan Malekšāh (15). With the Khwarazmshahs of Anuštegin’s line (16), Jowzjāni was approaching events of his own time, and with the Šansabānis or Ghurid dynasty (divided into the lines ruling in Ḡur, in Bāmiān and Ṭoḵārestān, and in Ḡazna) (17-19), and the Ghurid commanders in Northern India, out of whom arose the Slave Kings of Delhi and their provincial commanders (20-22), he was dealing with contemporary history. The final section (23) deals with "the disasters befalling Islam and the irruption of the infidels, may God cause them to perish,” i.e., the Mongols, up to the time of the Il-Khanid Hülegü and the Golden Horde Khan Berke.

These sections 16-23 in fact comprise over two-thirds of the whole book (I, pp. 297-497; II, pp. 1-29) and are obviously of outstanding importance as source material for the Ghurids and their meteoric rise to power in eastern Afghanistan; for the history of their epigoni, their Turkish commanders in India and the Delhi Sultanate, according to K. A. Nizami, "the only connected and coherent narration of the political and military activity of the [Delhi Sultanate] period" (p. 71); and for the cataclysm of the Mongol onslaught on the eastern Islamic lands. For the history of the Ghurids, he explicitly mentions seeing in 602/1205-06, at the Ghurid capital Firuzkuh, the genealogical work of his contemporary Faḵr-al-Din Mobārakšāh Marvarruzi (i.e. the Šajara-ye ansāb; see FAḴR-E MODABBER) and deriving material from it (I, pp. 318-19). The Ṭabaqāt-e nāṣeri may likewise be regarded as first-hand for events in Muslim India after 623/1226, the year when Jowzjāni left Ḡur for the subcontinent, embarking on a diplomatic and legal career which was to raise him to the supreme post of qāżi al-qożāt in Delhi. He was often an eyewitness of significant events in both his homeland of Ḡur and in India, and he frequently mentions deriving valuable information from "trustworthy persons" (ṯeqāt), unfortunately without naming these. He does, however, explicitly state that he received information orally from participants in significant events, e.g., when at Lakhnawati in Bengal in 642/1244-45, his host, the local governor Moʿtamed-al-Dawla, described to him an expedition into Tibet in which he had participated (I, pp. 429ff.).

 Nizami again has pointed out that on Indo-Muslim matters, Jowzjāni’s history is informative rather than illuminating, being essentially one of events told from the viewpoint of the Turkish military and ruling classes, to whom he was closely linked by bonds of favor and patronage. Hence one could hardly expect it to be critical of these ruling strata; nor does he provide material for us to estimate the part of the non-Turkish elements in the Delhi Sultanate, or show any interest in administrative or social institutions (Nizami, pp. 80-84). P. Jackson (pp. 45-46) has likewise noted the confused arrangement of materials resulting from the author’s repetition of the same events in different ṭabaqāt, with varying and even conflicting details.

For the Mongol invasions, which were of course for him very contemporary history, Jowzjāni got direct information from persons who had been eyewitnesses to events in Transoxiana and Khorasan when the Mongols arrived, such as the Sayyed-e Ajall Bahāʾ-al-Din Rāzi; a secretary of the Khwarazmshahs, Tāj-al-Din ʿEmād-al-Molk; the merchant Ḵᵛāja Aḥmad Vaḵši; the qāżi Waḥid-al-Din Fušanji; the Ghurid Malek Tāj-al-Din Ḥasan; Ḵᵛāja Rašid-al-Din Balḵi; Sayyed Ašraf-al-Din b. Jalāl-al-Din of Samarqand; and others (see on these informants, Nizami, pp. 79-80).

Although it is these later, highly detailed sections which are of most interest for the historian of the eastern Iranian fringes of the Islamic world and of early Muslim India, the earlier sections of the Ṭabaqāt-e nāṣeri dealing with the history of the post-caliphal dynasties are nevertheless far from wholly derivative and without interest. Jowzjāni has precious information not found elsewhere on the demise of the Samanids and the concurrent establishment of slave commanders in Ḡazna and the rise of the Ghaznavids, and his material on the later members of this last dynasty, for which information elsewhere is very sparse, is likewise valuable. For the earlier Islamic centuries, their dynasties and their chronology, he mentions that he drew upon various sources, including Ṭabari’s History (most probably via Balʿami’s Persian translation); Moṭahhar b. Ṭāher Maqdesi’s Ketāb al-Badw wa’l-taʾriḵ; and Biruni’s al-Qānun al-Masʿudi. For the Saffarids, the Samanids, and the Ghurids, he mentions the (lost) history known as the Qeṣaṣ-e Ṯāni of Ebn Hayṣam Nābi. For the Ghaznavids, Jowzjāni mentions Sallāmi’s History of the Rulers of Khorasan; a Tāriḵ-e Mojadwal of ʿEmād-al-Din Moḥammad b. ʿAli (both lost); and Abu’l-Fażl Bayhaqi’s Mojalladāt, in particular, the (lost) section of these on the founder Sebüktegin, and he quotes Bayhaqi’s master Abu Naṣr Moškān (from the latter’s administrative memoirs, the Maqāmāt?).

The Ṭabaqāt-e nāṣeri survives in some dozen manuscripts, the oldest apparently stemming from the 8th century; see Storey, I, pp. 68-70, and Storey-Bregel, I, pp. 294-98. A partial printed text was made by W. Nassau Lees in the Bibliotheca Indica series (Calcutta, 1863-64), and a largely (but not totally) complete edited text, with many taʿliqāt and indices, by ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy Ḥabibi. Extracts were poorly translated in Elliott and Dowson (I, pp. 259-353). Major H. G. Raverty made a largely complete English translation, Ṭabaḳāt-i-Nāṣirī, comprising all but the early, totally derivative ṭabaqāt and with copious notes and commentary citing parallel or supplementary sources (see under Jowzjāni in Bibliography); the work’s shortcomings, and the uncriticalness of the commentary, in particular, were, however, severely criticized by Barthold (pp. 60-61). 



A. S. Bazmee Ansari, "al-Ḏjūzḏjānī,” EI² II, p. 609.

W. Barthold, Turkestan down to the Mongol Invasion, 3rd. ed., London, 1968.

C. E. Bosworth, "Early Sources for the History of the First Four Ghaznavid Sultan (977-1041),” Islamic Quarterly 7, 1963, pp. 3-22, esp. 16-17.

Idem, The Ghaznavids: Their Empire in Afghanistan and Eastern Iran 944-1040, Edinburgh, 1963, pp. 10-11.

H. M. Elliott and J. Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians II. The Muhammadan Period, London, 1869.

P. Jackson, The Delhi Sultanate. A Political and Military History, Cambridge, 1999.

Menhāj-al-Din Jowzjāni, Ṭabaqāt-e nāṣeri, ed. ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy Ḥabibi, 2 vols., Tehran 1963-64; tr. H. J. Raverty as Ṭabaḳāt-i-Nāṣirī: A General History of the Muhammadan Dynasties of Asia, including Hindustan; from A.H. 194 (810 A.D.) to A.H. 658 (1260 A.D.) and the Irruption of the Infidel Mughals into Islam, 2 vols., London, 1881-99.

K. A. Nizami, On History and Historians of Medieval India, New Delhi, 1983.

C. A. Storey, Persian Literature: A Bio-bibliographical Survey, Leiden, 1927; ed. and tr. Yu. E. Bregel as Persidskaya literatura: Bio-bibliograficheskiǐ obzor, 3 vols., Moscow, 1972.

(C. E. Bosworth)

Originally Published: December 3, 2010

Last Updated: December 3, 2010