ḴOTTAL (Ḵottalan), a province of medieval Islamic times on the right bank of the upper Oxus river in modern Tajikistan.

The province lay between the Vaḵšāb and Jaryāb rivers, which are the Vaḵš tributary of the Oxus (see ĀMU DARYĀ) and the upper course of the Oxus, now known as the Panj. To its west were the provinces of Vakš, Qobāḏiān and Čaḡāniān, and to its east the northeasterly-running course of the uppermost Oxus, with the districts of Darvāz and Rāḡ beyond the river valley. In Arabic and Persian poetry, forms like Ḵotlān, Ḵatlān are found in addition to Ḵottal and Ḵottalan, and in Chinese sources, the name is Kuʿ-tut-lo (Markwart, pp. 299-300). It has been suggested that Ḵottal is etymologically related to Hayṭal, which is the name of the Hephtalites in the sources of the early Islamic period (Le Strange, pp. 438-39).

Ḵottal was a region of lush pastures, famed for horse-breeding. Its inhabitants were also renowned for their skills in farriery, veterinary science, and in the production of saddlery and horse accoutrements. In Mongol and Timurid times, Ḵottal horses were exported as far as China (cf. Bosworth, p. 113). The Ḵottal valleys ran up to the Bottamān mountains, where gold and silver were mined, and which separated the upper Oxus basin from that of the Zarafšān. In their fastnesses dwelt the fierce and predatory Kumijis and Kanjina, and both were probably remnants of pre-Islamic Turkish Hephthalites, as expressly stated by Ḵᵛārazmi (fl. ca. 976-97) for the Kanjina (Bosworth and Clauson, pp. 6, 8-9). The chief town of the province and the residence of its ruler was Holbok, near modern Kulob, Monk, Halāvand, and Nučāra or Andičārāḡ were also significant urban centres (for the geography of Ḵottal and the neighboring regions, see Le Strange, pp. 438-39 and the map at p. 433; Barthold, pp. 70-72; and Ḥudūd, pp. 115, 119, cf. commentary pp. 354, 359-60 and map ix on p. 339).

Until the Mongol invasions Ḵottal seems to have had, intermittently if not continuously, its own lines of local rulers. The pre-Islamic princes bore the titles ḵottalān-šāh or ḵottalān-ḵodāh, and šir-e ḵottalān (Ebn Ḵorradāḏbeh, p. 40). The Arabs did not gain complete control of Ḵottal until almost the end of the Umayyad period. Ḥāreṯ b. Sorayj al-Tamimi (d. 746) who had rebelled against the governor of Khorasan Asad b. ʿAbdallāh al-Qasri (d. 738), gained the support of Ḵottal’s ruler. In 737, Asad led an expedition into Ḵottal and defeated the west Turkish forces of Sü-Lü (r. 717-37/38), the ḵāqān of the Türgeš (Ṭabari, II, p. 1593-1619; Ebn al-Aṯir, V, pp. 213-14; cf. Gibb, pp. 81-84). But only between 750 and 751 did the Arabs really secure control of the province, when Abu Moslem Ḵorāsāni (d. 755) sent Abu Dāwud Ḵāled b. Ebrāhim al-Bakri, the governor of Balkh, to Ḵottal. The local prince took refuge first with the Turks, and then with the Tang emperor, whose dynasty (618-907) held a vague suzerainty over Central Asia (Ṭabari, III, p. 74; Ebn al-Aṯir, V, pp. 448-49; cf. Chavannes, pp. 168, 216; Gibb, p. 95).

In the first decades of the ʿAbbasid caliphate Ḵottal was ruled by a branch of the Banijurids, whose seat of power was in Ṭoḵārestān (Bosworth, 1996, p. 174), and these rulers issued their own coinages (Vasmer). Ḥāreṯ b. Asad, who controlled Ḵottal (Ebn Ḵordāḏbeh, p. 180), was a cousin of Dāvud b. al-ʿAbbās (r. 848-73) in Balḵ. Toward the end of the 9th century, Moḥammad b. Aḥmad Abu Dāvud (d. after 898) ruled from Balḵ over Ṭoḵārestān, Juzjān, Termeḏ and Ḵottal (Ḥamza Eṣfahāni, p. 170). In 10th century, Ḵottal’s rulers were tributaries of the Samanids (819-1005) in Bukhara, but their status was such that they were sending presents, and not paying taxes (Moqaddasi, p. 337). In 930 Jaʿfar b. Abi Jaʿfar b. Abi Dāvud rebelled against the Samanid ruler Naṣr b. Aḥmad (r. 914-43). Between 947 and 949, when the governor of Khorasan Abu ʿAli Čaḡāni was at war with the Samanid Nuḥ b. Naṣr (r. 943-54), Abu ʿAli stirred up in revolt all the vassal rulers (moluk-e aṭrāf) of the Oxus region, including the prince of Ḵottal Aḥmad b. Jaʿfar (Ebn al-Aṯir, VIII, p. 222; Gardizi, pp. 157-58; cf. Barthold, p. 248).

At the beginning of the 11th century, the Ghaznavids used the province as their strategically important base for expeditions against the Qara-khanids (see ILAK-KHANIDS) in Transoxania. In 1031 (Bayhaqi, p. 386; cf. Bosworth, 1963, p. 54) the ʿAbbasid caliph al-Qāʾem (r. 1031-1075) awarded Ḵottal, together with other territories, to the Ghaznavid ruler Masʿud (r. 1031-1040), even though ʿAlitigin (d. 1034), the ruler of Bukhara and Samarqand, laid claim to Ḵottal and thus institigated the Kumijis to raid the province (Bayhaqi, p. 519). But who ruled Ḵottal during the Ghaznavid and the early Saljuq periods is less clear. The Moḥtājids (933-ca. 1000; see ĀL-E MOḤTĀJ) controlled neighboring Čaḡāniān, while the Ghaznavid ruler Maḥmud (r. 998-1030) exercised in his influence by appointing, towards the end of his reign, Ḵottal’s supreme judge (qāżi’l-qożāt) from a Nishapur family of religious scholars (ʿolamāʾ), the Tabānis (Bayhaqi, p. 266; cf. Bosworth, 1963, p. 178). Yet it is unknown whether a sister of Maḥmud, known as Ḥorra-ye Ḵottali (Bayhaqi, see index p. 991) was married to the province’s local ruler. During the earlier part of Masʿud’s reign, the Ḵottal mint issued coins in the name of Maḥmud’s son and successor, but in the later 1030s this mint issued coins in the name of Abu’l-Asad, an otherwise unknown local prince. Before the Saljuq conquest, when Ghaznavid influence in the upper Oxus lands was already weakening, Abu‘l-Asad acknowledged the Qara-khanid Böritigin Ebrāhim b. Naṣr (r. ca. 1052-1068) as his suzerain (Fedorov).

Ḵottal was controlled by various local commanders, once the Saljuqs established their authority in the upper Oxus lands. In 1064, an amir withdrew tribute to rebel against the Saljuq sultan Alp Arslān (r. 1063-1073) and was killed (Ebn al-Aṯir, X, p. 34). With the decline of the Great Saljuqs (1040-1194), the Qara-khanids (992-1212) again gained influence in the province (Fedorov, p. 202). In the time of the Ghurids (ca. 1011-1215) and the Khwarazmshahs (ca. 1077-1231), no separate line of princes is mentioned for Ḵottal in the sources. In the 14th century the province was one of several small principalities that had emerged during the disintegration of the Chaghatayid khanate (1227-1363). Timur (1336-1405) is alleged to have killed Ḵottal’s local ruler Kay Ḵosraw for treasonable collusion with the ruling power in Khwarazm (Yazdi, I, p. 243). In the 16th century, Ḵottal was controlled by the Shaybanids (1500-1599), an Uzbek dynasty. In this period, the name Ḵottal disappears from recorded usage and the name of the above mentioned modern town Kulob is first used instead. The Manghits (1747-1920) included the province into their khanate of Bukhara. In 1920, the province became part of Soviet Central Asia, and was given to Tajikistan when it gained independence in 1991.




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(Clifford Edmund Bosworth)

Originally Published: April 20, 2009

Last Updated: April 20, 2009