ABU’L-ḴAYR KHAN B. DAWLAT SHAIKH OḠLĀN, of the descendants of Šïban (the younger son of Joči), the ruler of the Uzbek nomadic state in Dašt-e Qïpčaq in the 15th century A.D. He was born in 1412 (the year of the dragon), when the former ulus of Šïban was divided in a number of separate nomadic principalities. In the mid-1420s Abu’l-Ḵayr, as well as some other Shaibanid princes, was subordinate to Jumaduq Khan, a member of the same clan. In 1427 the latter was killed in battle with his rebellious amirs; Abu’l-Ḵayr, who was in command of his left wing, was taken prisoner, but later was set free (Tārīḵ-e Abu’l-Ḵayr Ḵānī, MS of the Institute of Oriental Studies, Leningrad, C-480, fol. 311b). Next year, 1428 (the year of the monkey), Abu’l-Ḵayr, supported by the leaders of the main Uzbek tribes and the head of the ulus of Mangït Waqqās Biy (q.v.), was proclaimed khan in western Siberia, in the town of Tura (W. Barthold in EI2 I, p. 135) or Tara (on the river Irtïš, see A. A. Semenov, K voprosu o proiskhozhdenii, p. 24; cf. Tārīḵ-e Abu’l-Ḵayr Ḵānī, fols. 312b-13a) or Čimgi-Tura, that is, Tumen (thus Tawārīḵ-e gozīda-ye noṣrat-nāma, p. 266; V. P. Yudin, in Materialy po istorii kazakhskikh khanstv, p. 138). This town remained his capital, or rather, his summer camp, till 1446. During the next four years Abu’l-Ḵayr established his authority over almost the whole ulus of Šïban; Abu’l-Ḡāzī (text, p. 190, cf. tr., p. 203) says that there were none of his relations who had not been hit by the Khan’s arrow or who had not felt the weight of his hand.

In winter, 834/1430-31 Abu’l-Ḵayr invaded Ḵᵛārazm. Apparently, he occupied only the northern part of the country with its capital Urgenǰ, which after the Mongol conquest was considered a part of the ulus of Joči. According to Baḥr al-asrār (cited by Akhmedov, Gosudarstvo, p. 49), he claimed that Urgenǰ should belong to the descendants of Joči when he demanded surrender from the Timurid governor of Ḵᵛārazm, the amir Ebrāhīm, son of the famous amir Shah Malek. Amir Ebrāhīm retreated to the southern part of Ḵᵛārazm, and Urgenǰ was captured and pillaged by the Uzbeks (V. V. Bartol’d, Sochineniya II/2, Moscow, 1964, p. 116). According to Tārīḵ-e Abu’l-Ḵayr Ḵānī (fol. 320a), during this occupation of Urgenǰ the famous Kobrawī Shaikh Kamāl-al-dīn Ḥosayn Ḵᵛārazmī dedicated and presented to the khan his Turkish work Kašf al-hodā (commentary on the Borda of Būṣīrī. A unique ms. exists in Berlin; see M. Hartmann in MSOS, As. VII/2, 1904, p. 8, no. 69. Cf. Storey, I, p. 177; see also A. A. Semenov in Sovetskoe vostokovedenie, 1956, no. 3, p. 52, where this event is erroneously related to the second occupation of Ḵᵛārazm by Abu’l-Ḵayr). In the summer of the same year the Uzbeks had to abandon Ḵᵛārazm: according to Tārīḵ-e Abu’l-Ḵayr Ḵānī (fols. 320b-21a), the retreat was a result of the great heat and the plague which began in this region. Another reason may have been a threat from two Jochid rulers of Astrakhan, Aḥmad Khan and Maḥmūd Khan. Abu’l-Ḵayr defeated them in a battle somewhere in the western part of Dašt-e Qïpčaq, and captured their ordū-bāzār (Tārīḵ-e Abu’l-Ḵayr Ḵānī, fols. 321a-23b). In 839/1435-36 Abu’l-Ḵayr invaded and plundered Ḵᵛārazm for the second time. In 844/1440-41 the Uzbeks raided Astarābād (ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Samarqandī in Sbornik materialov otnosyashchikhsya k istorii Zolotoĭ Ordy II, p. 258). ʿAbd-al-Razzāq describes them as “a group of the Uzbek army who became Qazaqs,” which makes one suppose that they separated from Abu’l-Ḵayr. The following years Sultan Šāhroḵ Mīrzā had to keep considerable troops to defend Gorgān and Astarābād from the raids of the Uzbeks. In 1446 Abu’l-Ḵayr captured the regions in the lower and middle course of the Sīr Daryā, with the towns of Sïḡnaq, Suzaq, Arquq, Uzgand, and Aq-qurḡān (Tārīḵ-e Abu’l-Ḵayr Ḵānī, fols. 325b-26a; Barthold , EI2 II, p. 135; on the towns cf. Bartol’d, Sochineniya III, Moscow, 1965, pp. 227-30), which were important centers of trade between Transoxania and Dašt-e Qïpčaq. Sïḡnaq then became his capital, and the border between the Uzbeks and the empire of the Timurids passed to the north of Yasï (Turkestan).

After the death of Šāhroḵ (850/1447) Abu’l-Ḵayr took advantage of Ulūg Beg’s being engaged in the struggle for Herat with other Timurids, and raided Transoxania; the Uzbek troops reached Samarqand, but they were not able to capture the city and retreated, having plundered the region (see Bartol’d, Sochineniya II/2, pp. 154-55). In summer, 855/1451 the Timurid prince Abū Saʿīd (q.v.), who rose against ʿAbdallāh Mīrzā, the son of Ulūg Beg, and captured Yesï, asked Abu’l-Ḵayr for help. According to the Baḥr al-asrār of Maḥmūd b. Walī (cited by Akhmedov, Gosudarstvo, p. 86), Abū Saʿīd came to the camp of Abu’l-Ḵayr on the advice of the well-known Naqšbandī Shaikh Ḵᵛāǰa Aḥrār. The Uzbek troops marched on Samarqand (according to ʿAbd-al-Razzāq, because of great heat in the steppe of Jizaq, between Tashkent and Samarqand, the Uzbek sorcerers had to use the rain-stone yada to cause rain); in a battle about fifteen miles north of Samarqand the Uzbeks and Abū Saʿīd defeated the more numerous army of ʿAbdallāh, who was killed. Abū Saʿīd managed to deceive the Uzbeks, enter Samarqand without them, and close the city gates before his allies. Abu’l-Ḵayr and his troops were compensated with rich presents; Rābeʿa Solṭān Begom, Ulūg Beg’s daughter, was given in marriage to the khan; and the Uzbeks returned to Dašt-e Qïpčaq (ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Samarqandī, in Sbornik materialov II, pp. 259-60; Ḥabīb al-sīar [Tehran] IV, p. 50; Tārīḵ-e Abu’l-Ḵayr Ḵānī, fols. 328b-36a; Bartol’d, Sochineniya II/2, pp. 163-66). Abu’l-Ḵayr interfered once more in the internal strife of the Timurids in 864/1460, when he sent a detachment of Uzbeks under Burge Solṭān and Biškit (or Biškede) Oḡlān to help Moḥammad Jūkī Mīrzā (Ulūg Beg’s grandson), who rose against Abū Saʿīd. The Uzbeks, having plundered Transoxania, abandoned Moḥammad Jūkī, and he had to submit to Abū Saʿīd in 867/1462 (Bartol’d, Sochineniya II/2, pp. 170-71; Tārīḵ-e Abu’l-Ḵayr Ḵānī, fols. 342bf.; Akhmedov, Gosudarstvo, pp. 89-92).

Several years earlier (probably, about 861/1457, see Barthold, EI2 I, p. 135) a severe blow to Abu’l-Ḵayr was inflicted by the Qalmaqs under Uz Tämür (or Az Tämür?) Tayši (cf. P. Pelliot, Notes critiques d’histoire Kalmouk, Paris, 1960, p. 17), who invaded Dašt-e Qïpčaq from the Ču valley. After total defeat near Kök Kašane (about 5 miles to the south from Sïḡnaq), Abu’l-Ḵayr had to retreat to Sïḡnaq, while the Qalmaqs plundered his subjects, as well as the northern districts of the Timurid possessions (Tārīḵ-e Abu’l-Ḵayr Ḵānī, fols. 336b-39a). About 870/1465-66 two sultans from the descendants of Orda (the eldest son of Joči), Kerai and Jānībek, fled with a number of dependents from Abu’l-Ḵayr to Mongolia; after the death of Abu’l-Ḵayr a large part of his former nomadic subjects joined these sultans, forming a new tribal union of Qazaqs (A History of the Moghuls of Central Asia being the Tarikh-i-Rashidi of Mirza Muhammad Haidar . . . , tr. E. D. Ross, London, 1895, pp. 82, 272-73). In 872/1468 Abu’l-Ḵayr received in his camp the Timurid prince Sultan Ḥosayn Bāyqarā, who asked his help against Abū Saʿīd and was treated amicably, especially when he demonstrated his ability to drink wine without becoming drunk (Mīrkᵛānd, Rawżat al-ṣafāʾ VII, pp. 32-34; Ḥabīb al-sīar [Tehran] IV, pp. 131-33; Bartol’d, Sochineniya II/2, pp. 220-21). According to Ḵᵛāndamīr, Abu’l-Ḵayr assembled troops to send with Sultan Ḥosayn; but the khan was already seriously ill, and he had died before the army set out; the illness is described as maraż-e fāleǰ, paralysis (thus in modern editions of Rawżat al-ṣafāʾ and Ḥabīb al-sīar, as well as in the Bombay lithographic edition of the latter; however, V. Minorsky reads maraż-e qābeḥ “a hideous illness,” without a reference to any particular edition; see Barthold, Four Studies on the History of Central Asia III, Leiden, 1962, p. 25, n. 5). According to the 17th century historian Maḥmūd b. Walī, shortly before his death Abu’l-Ḵayr moved in winter with numerous troops against the Moghuls, but in the locality Aq-qïšlaq (probably somewhere in the region of modern Alma-Ata) he died (Baḥr al-asrār, Russian tr. in Materialy po istorii kazakhskikh khanstv, pp. 358-61; Akhmedov, Gosudarstvo, p. 59). Yet another version of Abu’l-Ḵayr’s death is given by Abu’l-Ḡāzī (text, p. 190, tr. p. 203), who claims that he was killed by his rebellious relatives. The date of his death is given by Tārīḵ-e Abu’l-Ḵayr Ḵānī, which does not mention in this connection either any military campaign or a rebellion, as 874/1469-70 (fol. 346b), though the year of the mouse is given as the year of the cycle, which should correspond to 872/1468 (cf. Barthold, EI2); his age at his death is given as fifty-seven.

After the death of Abu’l-Ḵayr his nomadic empire disintegrated, but his grandson Moḥammad Šaybānī Khan (q.v.) united under his power a large part of the Uzbek tribes and conquered Transoxania at the beginning of the 16th century. 


The main source for the biography of Abu’l-Ḵayr is Tārīḵ-e Abu’l-Ḵayr Ḵānī by Masʿūd b. ʿOṯmān Kūhestānī written in 946-47/1539-40 (about MSS and Russian translations of extracts see Storey-Bregel, I, pp. 397-99). As pointed out by Barthold, the author apparently used as one of his sources the Maṭlaʿ al-saʿdayn by ʿAbd-al-Razzāq Samarqandī, which gives an account especially of the relations between Abu’l-Ḵayr and the Timurids (under the years 834, 839, 855, 869, 872; see the text published in Sbornik materialov ontosyashchikhsya k istorii Zolotoĭ Ordy II. Izvlecheniya iz persidskikh sochineniĭ, sobrannye V. G. Tizengauzenom . . . , Moscow and Leningrad, 1941, pp. 258-61).

Other primary sources:

Tawārīḵ-e gozīda-ye noṣrat-nāma (anon.), ed. by A. M. Akramov, Tashkent, 1967, pp. 263-67 (facsimile).

Mīrzā Moḥammad Ḥaydar, A History of the Moghuls, tr. Ross, pp. 82, 92, 272.

Abu’l-Ḡāzī, I, pp. 186-89, 190-91; II, 196-201, 202-03.

Maḥmūd b. Walī, Baḥr al-asrār 6, rokn 3, (see Storey-Bregel, II, pp. 1136-38; I could only use the Russian translation in Materialy po istorii kazakhskikh khanstv XV-XVIII vekov, Alma-Ata, 1969, pp. 346-61).

Secondary sources: H. H. Howorth, History of the Mongols, pt. II/II, London, 1880, pp. 686-90.

A. A. Semenov, “K voprosu o proiskhozhdenii i sostave uzbekov Shaĭbani-khana,” Materialy po istorii tadzhikov i uzbekov Sredneĭ Azii, Stalinabad, 1954, pp. 24-28.

P. P. Ivanov, Ocherki po istorii Sredneĭ Azii, Moscow, 1958, pp. 25-26, 32-38.

B. Akhmedov, Gosudarstvo kochevykh uzbekov, Moscow, 1965.

(Y. Bregel)

Originally Published: December 15, 1983

Last Updated: July 21, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 3, pp. 331-332

Cite this entry:

Y. Bregel, “ABU’L-ḴAYR KHAN,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/3, pp. 331-332; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abul-kayr-khan-oglan (accessed on 31 January 2014).