The Saffarid dynasty (Persian: صفاریان) was a Sunni Persian dynasty from Sistan that ruled over parts of Greater Iran, with its capital at Zaranj (a city now in southwestern Afghanistan), from 861 to 1003. One of the first indigenous Persian dynasties to emerge after the Islamic conquest, the Saffarid dynasty was part of the Iranian Intermezzo. The dynasty's founder was Ya'qub bin Laith as-Saffar, who was born in 840 in a small town called Karnin (Qarnin), which was located east of Zaranj and west of Bost, in what is now Afghanistan. A native of Sistan and a local ayyār, Ya'qub worked as a coppersmith (ṣaffār) before becoming a warlord. He seized control of the Sistan region and began conquering most of Iran and Afghanistan, as well as parts of Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Saffarid dynasty at its greatest extent under Ya'qub ibn al-Layth al-Saffar
|Common languages||Persian (mother tongue)|
|Ya'qub bin Laith as-Saffar|
The Saffarids used their capital Zaranj as a base for an aggressive expansion eastward and westward. They first invaded the areas south of the Hindu Kush, and then overthrew the Persian Tahirid dynasty, annexing Khorasan in 873. By the time of Ya'qub's death, he had conquered the Kabul Valley, Sindh, Tocharistan, Makran (Balochistan), Kerman, Fars, Khorasan, and nearly reached Baghdad but then suffered a defeat by the Abbasids.
The Saffarid dynasty did not last long after Ya'qub's death. His brother and successor, Amr bin Laith, was defeated at the Battle of Balkh against Ismail Samani in 900. Amr bin Laith was forced to surrender most of his territories to the new rulers. The Saffarids were confined to their heartland of Sistan, and with time, their role was reduced to that of vassals of the Samanids and their successors.
The dynasty began with Ya'qub ibn al-Layth al-Saffar (Ya'qub, son of Layth, the Coppersmith), a coppersmith who moved to the city of Zaranj. He left work to become an Ayyar and eventually got the power to act as an independent ruler. From his capital Zaranj he moved east into al-Rukhkhadj (Arachosia) and Zamindawar, followed by Zunbil and Kabul by 865. He then invaded Bamyan, Balkh, Badghis, and Ghor. In the name of Islam, he conquered these territories which were predominantly ruled by Buddhist tribal chiefs. He took vast amounts of plunder and slaves from this campaign. Nancy Dupree in her book An Historical Guide to Afghanistan describes Yaqub's conquests as such:
Arab armies carrying the banner of Islam came out of the west to defeat the Sasanians in 642 and then they marched with confidence to the east. On the western periphery of the Afghan area the princes of Herat and Sistan gave way to rule by Arab governors but in the east, in the mountains, cities submitted only to rise in revolt and the hastily converted returned to their old beliefs once the armies passed. The harshness and avariciousness of Arab rule produced such unrest, however, that once the waning power of the Caliphate became apparent, native rulers once again established themselves independent. Among these Saffarids of Sistan shone briefly in the Afghan area. The fanatic founder of this dynasty, the coppersmith’s apprentice Yaqub ibn Layth Saffari, came forth from his capital at Zaranj in 870 and marched through Bost, Kandahar, Ghazni, Kabul, Bamyan, Balkh and Herat, conquering in the name of Islam.— Nancy Dupree, 1971
The Tahirid city of Herat was captured in 870 and his campaign in the Badghis region led to the capture of Kharidjites which later formed the Djash al-Shurat contingent in his army. Ya'qub then turned his focus to the west and began attacks on Khorasan, Khuzestan, Kerman (Southeastern Iran) and Fars (southwestern Iran). The Saffarids then seized Khuzestan (southwestern Iran) and parts of southern Iraq, and in 876 came close to overthrowing the Abbasids, whose army was able to turn them back only within a few days' march from Baghdad. These incursions, however, forced the Abbasid caliphate to recognize Ya'qub as governor of Sistan, Fars and Kerman, and Saffarids were even offered key posts in Baghdad.
In 901, Amr Saffari was defeated at the battle of Balkh by the Samanids, and they lost Khorasan to them.The Saffarids were reduced to the provinces of Fars, Kerman and Sistan. Under Tahir ibn Muhammad ibn Amr (901-908), the dynasty fought the Abbasids for the possession of Fars and keep its control over the province. In 908, begin a civil war between Tahir and the pretender al-Laith b. 'Ali in Sistan. In the next years, the governor of Fars, Sebük-eri defect to the Abbasids. In 912, the Samanids finally expelled the Saffarids from Sistan. Sistan passed briefly to Abbasid control, but become independent again under the Saffarid Abu Ja'far Ahmad ibn Muhammad; but now the dynasty was a minor power isolated in Sistan.
The Saffarids gave great care to the Persian culture. Under their rule, the eastern Islamic world witnessed the emergence of prominent Persian poets such as Fayrouz Mashriqi, Abu Salik al-Jirjani, and Muhammad bin Wasif al-Sistani, who was a court poet.
In the later 9th century, the Saffarids gave impetus to a renaissance of New Persian literature and culture. Following Ya'qub's conquest of Herat, some poets chose to celebrate his victory in Arabic, whereupon Ya'qub requested his secretary, Muhammad bin Wasif al-Sistani, to compose those verses in Persian.
From silver mines in the Panjshir Valley, the Saffarids were able to mint silver coins.
Rulers of the Saffarid dynasty
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|Related historical names of the region|
|Titular Name||Personal Name||Reign|
|Independence from the Abbasid Caliphate.|
|Ya'qub ibn Layth
یعقوب بن اللیث
|Amr ibn al-Layth
عمرو بن اللیث
|Tahir ibn Muhammad ibn Amr
طاھر بن محمد بن عمرو
co-ruler Ya'qub ibn Muhammad ibn Amr
|al-Layth ibn 'Ali
اللیث بن علي
|Muhammad ibn 'Ali
محمد بن علي
|Al-Mu'addal ibn 'Ali
المعضل ابن علي
|Amr ibn Ya'qub ibn Muhammad ibn Amr
عمرو بن یعقوب بن محمد بن عمرو
|Samanid occupation 913-922 CE.|
|Ahmed ibn Muhammad ibn Khalaf ibn Layth ibn 'Ali||922-963 CE|
|Khalaf ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khalaf ibn al-Layth ibn 'Ali||963-1002 CE|
|Conquered by Mahmud ibn Sebuktigin of the Ghaznavid Empire in 1002 CE.|
- The Saffarid dynasty and its neighbors at its peak in 900 CE
- Saffarid Soldier
- Iranian Intermezzo
- Nasrid dynasty (Sistan)
- Muhammad ibn Wasif
- List of kings of Persia
- List of Sunni Muslim dynasties
- "Persian Prose Literature". World Eras. HighBeam Research. 2002. Archived from the original on May 2, 2013. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
Princes, although they were often tutored in Arabic and religious subjects, frequently did not feel as comfortable with the Arabic language and preferred literature in Persian, which was either their mother tongue—as in the case of dynasties such as the Saffarids (861–1003), Samanids (873–1005), and Buyids (945–1055)...
- Robinson, Chase F. (2009). The new Cambridge history of Islam. Vol 1, Sixth to eleventh centuries (1. publ. ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. p. 345. ISBN 978-0-521-83823-8.
The Tahirids had made scant use of Persian, though the Saffarids used it considerably more. But under the Samanids Persian emerged as a full "edged language of literature and (to a lesser extent) administration. Court patronage was extended to Persian poets, including the great Rudaki (d. c. 940). Meanwhile, Arabic continued to be used abundantly, for administration and for scientific, theo logical and philosophical discourse.
- Medieval Central Asia and the Persianate World: Iranian Tradition and Islamic Civilisation, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017, p. 3, ISBN 9780857727435,
Finally when Abbasid rule collapsed in the mid-ninth century Khurasan and its Central Asian dependancies gained permanent autonomy from the Caliphate, thus opening the astoundingly brilliant three centuries, stretching from the mid-ninth to mid-twelfth centuries, during which this part of the Persianate lands became the seat of the leading political and military powers of the Sunni world... Throughout this era, Khurasan-Transoxiana undoubtedly constituted the heart of the Sunni Islamic world. First of all, the dynasties based here - the Saffarids, Samanids, Ghaznavids and Seljuqs - provided a military and political bulwark against non-Sunni groups, whether Infidel, Kharjite or Shi'ite
- "Saffarid dynasty", The Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages, Oxford University Press, 2010-01-01, doi:10.1093/acref/9780198662624.001.0001, ISBN 978-0-19-866262-4, retrieved 2020-09-30,
One of the first indigenous Persian dynasties to emerge after the Arab Islamic invasions.
- Tor, D. G. (2009). "The Islamization of Central Asia in the Samanid era and the reshaping of the Muslim world". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. University of London. 72 (2): 281. doi:10.1017/S0041977X09000524.
The Saffārids were the first of the Persianate dynasties to arise from the remains of the politically moribund ʿAbbāsid caliphate.
- Frye, Richard Nelson; Fisher, William Bayne; Boyle, John Andrew (1975). The Cambridge History of Iran. Cambridge University Press. p. 121. ISBN 0-521-20093-8.
- Stearns, Peter N.; Langer, William Leonard, eds. (2001). The Encyclopedia of World History. Houghton Mifflin. p. 115.
- Bosworth, Clifford Edmund. "Saffarids". Encyclopædia Iranica.
- "Saffarid dynasty". The Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages. Oxford University Press. 2010-01-01. doi:10.1093/acref/9780198662624.001.0001. ISBN 9780198662624.
One of the first indigenous Persian dynasties to emerge after the Arab Islamic invasions.
- Savory, Roger M. (1996). "The History of the Saffarids of Sistan and the Maliks of Nimruz (247/861 to 949/1542-3)". Journal of the American Oriental Society. doi:10.2307/605756. JSTOR 605756.
First, the Saffarid amirs and maliks were rulers of Persian stock who for centuries championed the cause of the underdog against the might of the Abbasid caliphs.
- al Saffar, Ya'kub b. al-Layth; Bosworth, C. E. The Encyclopaedia of Islam. Vol. XI. p. 255.
The provincial Persian Ya'kub, on the other hand, rejoiced in his plebeian origins, denounced the Abbasids as usurpers, and regarded both the caliphs and such governors from aristocratic Arab families as the Tahirids with contempt
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- Meisami, Julie Scott; Starkey, Paul (eds.). Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature. 2. p. 674.
Saffarids: A Persian dynasty.....
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There were many local Persian dynasties, including the Tahirids, the Saffarids....
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Saffarid, the Coppersmith, the epithet of the founder of this Persian dynasty...
- Daftary, Farhad. Historical Dictionary of the Ismailis. p. 51.
The Saffarids, the first Persian dynasty, to challenge the Abbasids...
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- Dupree, Nancy (1971). "Sites in Perspective (Chapter 3)". An Historical Guide To Afghanistan. Kabul: Afghan Tourist Organization. OCLC 241390.
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- Bosworth, C. E. (1999). "The Tahirids and the Saffarids". In Frye, R. N. (ed.). The Cambridge History of Iran: The period from the Arab Invasion to the Saljuqs. IV. Cambridge University Press. p. 129.
- "Pandjhir". Encyclopedia of Islam. VIII. p. 258.