Date of Award

2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

South Asia Regional Studies

First Advisor

Jamal J. Elias

Abstract

This dissertation explores the Islamic origins of the Ghuris in medieval Afghanistan between the tenth and twelfth centuries CE. While the early Muslim historical and literary materials caricature the Ghuris (660–1215) for being a pagan and impoverished people early in Islamic history, we also know of their status as imperial Muslim sultans in the twelfth century when they established themselves as one of the most important Islamic ruling houses in the eastern Islamic world. To resolve this contradiction between impoverished origins and imperial status, this dissertation reconsiders the social and cultural origins of the Ghuris by reading against the grain the medieval primary sources in Arabic and Persian, such as universal and local histories, geographical manuals, and literary works. This is particularly accomplished by revisiting and analyzing one medieval historical text, Minhaj Siraj al-Din Juzjani’s Tabaqat-i Nasiri (c. 1260), the main historical source for pre-Islamic and Islamic histories of Ghur and the Ghuris. Existing scholarship – including work on the founding of the Delhi Sultanate – has mined this text as a dynastic history. This study departs from the previously dynastic approach by exploring how the Tabaqat-i Nasiri documents significant transformations in cultural, kinship, and political organization at the local level in Ghur. By focusing on the social and cultural histories of Ghur as Juzjani documents them, this study contributes to the debates concerning patterns of early Islamic conquests, authority, and household practices in the medieval countryside. It shows how rural, petty chiefs, warlords, and other men and women of power benefited from and exploited the social and political opportunities provided for them by Muslim imperial states based in urban centers, such as the Ghaznavids in Ghazni and Lahore. In addition to their cultural and political integrations into the Ghaznavid and the Great Saljuq imperial states, the Ghuris played them against each other by forming parallel personal, familial, and political alliances which provided them both political sanctuary and political resources as local puppet vassals and enemies. In doing so, not only did the Ghuri rulers preserve their social and political positions of power at the local and kinship levels, but they also exploited the vulnerabilities as well as political and social opportunities provided to them by these urban-based Muslim empires; so much so that, by the mid-twelfth century, they replaced them as the dominant Muslim power in South Asia.

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