ʿARABŠĀHĪ, a dynasty of Chingisid origin that ruled in Ḵᵛārazm from the beginning of the 10th/16th century. The name, accepted by some modern scholars as a matter of convenience (though apparently not found in Eastern sources), comes from one of the ancestors of the dynasty, ʿArabšāh b. Fūlād, a descendant of Šïban (Sïban), the fifth son of Joči. Another son of Fūlād, Ebrāhīm Oḡlān, was, through his grandson Abu’l-Ḵayr Khan, the ancestor of Šaybānī Khan (q.v.), the conqueror of Transoxiana. In scholarly literature these two branches of the Chingisids, who ruled over Turkic tribes that became known as Uzbeks, have been sometimes called “Shaybanids” (cf. W. Barthold in EI1IV, s.v.).

By the end of the 9th/15th century the ʿArabšāhī clan was headed by four sons of Yādegār Khan: Buräkä (or Bürgä, not Berke, as in some modern works), Abuläk, Aminäk, and Abāk; they and their Uzbek subjects did not participate in the conquest of Transoxiana led by Šaybānī Khan. After the defeat of Šaybānī and the occupation of Ḵᵛārazm by Shah Esmāʿīl in 916/1510, two sons of Buräkä, Ilbārs Solṭān and Bālbārs Solṭān, responded to the call of the inhabitants of Vazīr (in the northwest of Ḵᵛārazm) and seized this town after a massacre of its qizilbāš garrison. Soon afterward Ilbārs captured Urgaṇč, the most important town of the region, where he was proclaimed khan in 9l7/1511 (Abu’l-Ḡāzī, I, p. 197, erroneously gives 911/1505; cf. W. Barthold in EI1II, p. 976). Other members of the clan promptly joined the two brothers with the Uzbek tribes that had remained in the steppe till then. They conquered the whole of Ḵᵛārazm, subjugated the Turkmen tribes west and south of Ḵᵛārazm, and, after the death of Shah Esmāʿīl (930/1523), occupied the oases of northern Khorasan, along the Kopet Dāḡ mountains.

Throughout their rule the ʿArabšāhīs maintained steppe political traditions. Every male member (sultan) of the ruling clan was entitled to a share of common patrimony. The power was transferred within the clan according to seniority. The supreme ruler, who alone bore the title khan, was supposed to be (and in most cases actually was) the eldest member of the clan and was elected by an assembly (qurultay) of the sultans. The seat of the first khans (till ca. 924/1518) was Vazīr, then, for almost a century, Urgaṇč (with the exception of Aqatay Khan, 956-64/1549-57, who resided in Vazīr). Dōst Moḥammad Khan (964-65/1557-58) was the first supreme ruler who resided in Ḵīva. Ḥāǰī Moḥammad (Ḥāǰim) Khan moved to Ḵīva by the end of his rule, in 1009/1600, and his son and heir ʿArab Moḥammad Khan (1011-31 / 1603-22), who began his rule in Urgaṇč, later abandoned it and moved to Ḵīva, which thereafter remained the capital of the khanate. (About the changes in geographical conditions that led to this transfer of political center, see Ḵᵛārazm ). The sultans received as appanages various towns, with their districts, and Turkmen tribes in the steppe; an appanage often included certain regions both in Ḵᵛārazm (which was called Su Boyu “the side of the water”) and in the northern rim of Khorasan (called Taḡ Boyu “the side of the mountains”). It seems that during the first century of ʿArabšāhī rule, at least a partial redistribution of appanages occurred upon the accession of each new khan, but from the very beginning various branches of the ruling clan showed a clear tendency to entrench in their appanages and to turn them into hereditary possessions.

These appanages remained quite autonomous in both their internal affairs and foreign relations; until the beginning of the 11th/17th century the whole khanate was very much like a confederation of practically independent principalities, where the power of the khan depended on his personal resources and prestige, the strength of the Uzbek tribes who supported him in his own domain, and the degree of solidarity among the members of the royal clan. Displays of an overall solidarity were very rare, occurring only in cases of great common danger (such as during the invasions of the Šaybānī Uzbeks from Bukhara under ʿObaydallāh Khan and ʿAbdallāh Khan). The history of the dynasty was marred by feuds between various branches of the ruling clan; in the resulting civil wars, four branches were eliminated (those of Abuläk, about 930/1524; Buräkä, 944-45/1538; and Buǰuḡa and Sufyān, sons of Aminäk, in 964-65/1556-58), until the title of khan finally remained in the family of Ḥāǰī Moḥammad (Ḥāǰim) Khan b. Aqatay b. Aminäk. Most of the male members of the ʿArabšāhī clan were killed during these disturbances and foreign invasions (e.g., in 1002/1594 ʿAbdallāh Khan put to death more than twenty princes taken prisoner) or fled to other countries, and from the time of Abu’l-Ḡāzī Khan, there remained no serious contenders for supreme power, which began to pass from father to son.

Until the middle of the 11th/17th century the ʿArabšāhī rulers remained typical nomadic leaders very little interested in sedentary culture. The towns were for them only winter residences and fortified refuges in case of danger. They spent the summer—most of the year—in tents in the steppe, especially on the hanks of the Amū Daryā (see, for instance, Abu’l-Ḡāzī, I, pp. 273-74; for a description of the nomadic encampment of Tīmūr Solṭān b. Ḥāǰim Khan in 965/1558 by Anthony Jenkinson, see S. Purchas, Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas His Pilgrimes XII, repr. Glasgow, 1906, p. 12). Almost nothing is known about the building activity of the ʿArabšāhīs; the only two buildings that remain in Ḵīva from this period are a small mosque and the baths of Anūša Khan built in 1068/1657 during the reign of his father, Abu’l-Ḡāzī. More important for the development of sedentary culture were several irrigation canals built by order of the khans, especially in the 11th/17th century (see V. V. Barthold, Sochineniya III, Moscow, 1965, pp. 177-79; Y. Gulyamov, Istoriya orosheniya Khorezma, Tashkent, 1957, pp. 199-203). The cultural level of the ʿArabšāhīs and of the country under their rule was low, even against the background of Central Asia’s general cultural decline in the Uzbek period. No literature worth mentioning survives from the time of the ʿArabšāhīs , except three Chaghatay historical works: Tārīḵ-e Dōst Solṭān (a semi-epic history of the Chingisids) by Ötemiš Ḥāǰī (see H. F. Hofman, Turkish Literature, sec. 3, pt. 1, vol. VI, Utrecht, 1969, p. 72) and two works by Abu’l-Ḡāzī Khan (1053-74/1643-63), Šaǰara-ye Turk (a history of the Mongols and the Turks down to the ʿArabšāhīs ) and Šaǰara-ye Tarākema (an adaptation of Turkmen genealogical and historical traditions, not “the history of the Mongols,” as in EI2 IV, p. 1064b). Abu’l-Ḡāzī complains that before him no history of his dynasty had ever been written because of the indifference (bī parwālïq) of his ancestors and the ignorance (bī wuqūflïq) of the people of Ḵᵛārazm, and he could find nobody able to write such a work. Abu’l-Ḡāzī owed his own literary education mainly to his ten years’ captivity in Isfahan.

The Uzbek tribes that came to Ḵᵛārazm with the ʿArabšāhīs remained predominantly nomadic throughout their reign. They formed a military estate in the khanate, while the old sedentary population of Ḵᵛārazm, the Sarts, constituted the class of taxpayers. The role of the Uzbek tribal nobility increased toward the end of the 11th/17th century; especially important was the position of atalïq (see EI2, supp. I, s.v.), the khan’s guardian and counselor. After a period of consolidation of power of the khans during the reigns of Abu’l-Ḡāzī and Anūša, a rapid decline set in, and the Uzbek tribal nobility, first the atalïqs and later the inaqs (see EI2, supp. I, s.v.) came to the fore. The rule of the ʿArabšāhīs came to an end in the last years of the 11th/17th or in the first half of the 12th/18th century. Anuša’s son Moḥammad Arang (or Arnäk?; d. ca. 1106/1694-95) is often regarded as the last khan of this dynasty, but Muʾnis, the historian of Ḵīva, names his nine successors, eight of whom were allegedly descendants of Ḥāǰī Moḥammad Khan, and one (Šīr Ḡāzī, d. l139/ 1726-27) a descendant of Solṭān Ḡāzī, son of Ilbārs Khan. Muʾnis does not give the exact affiliation of all these khans and sometimes mentions that there is contradictory evidence as to their origin; there is evidence, for example, that Shah Nīāz Khan (1109-14/1697-1703) was an Uzbek of the Qaṭaḡan tribe and official (ešik-āqā-bāšī) of Sobḥān-qolī Khan of Bukhara (see Moḥammad Yūsof Monšī, Taḏkera-ye moqīmḵānī, Russian tr. A. A. Semenov, Tashkent, 1956, p. 153; cf. Materialy po istorii Uzbekskoĭ, Tadzhikskoĭ i Turkmenskoĭ SSR I, Leningrad, 1932, p.267, where Shah Nīāz in his letter to Russia calls Sobḥān-qolī Khan his uncle; Iskhak Aga” in the old Russian translation should be amended to “Ešik Aqa”). Thus, the exact date of the end of ʿArabšāhī rule cannot yet be established, but it certainly falls within the period between 1106/1694 and 1140/ 1727.



The main source for the history of the ʿArabšāhīs is Abu’l-Ḡāzī Khan, Šaǰara-ye Tork, written in the 1600s and finished for his son Anūša in 1076/1665-66 (see Abu’l-Ḡāzī; Desmaisons’s French translation is sometimes not very accurate).

For the 10th/16th century Abu’l-Ḡāzī drew his information entirely from oral tradition, and his chronology (especially of the first ʿArabšāhīs) is very vague. In some cases his data can be corrected and supplemented from contemporary Persian sources: Nosaḵ-e ǰahānārā, Maǰmaʿ al-tawārīḵ, Aḥsan al-tawārīḵ, Afżal al-tawārīk, Ḵolāṣat al-tawārīḵ, and Tārīḵ-e ʿālamārā-ye ʿabbāsī (see Storey-Bregel, nos. 273 (2), 285, 723, 730, 725, 734); for the period up to 946/1539 these sources have been studied by M. B. Dickson in an unpublished doctoral dissertation, Sháh Tahmásb and the Uzbeks, Princeton, 1958, appendix I. Ferdaws al-eqbāl by Muʾnis Ḵᵛārazmī, written in Chaghatay in Ḵīva in the early 19th century (MS of the Leningrad Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR C-571, fols. 49b-77b; on other MSS see F. T. Hofman, Turkish Literature IV, pp. 203-04) contains only some minor additions for the period up to Abu’l-Ḡāzī, but it adds important details for the latter’s reign and is the main source for the last ʿArabšāhīs.

For this period Muʾnis apparently had only oral sources, and his chronology is vague or completely absent. Some chronological details can be found in the documents concerning the relations between Ḵīva and Russia (Materialy po istorii Uzbekskoĭ, Tadzhikskoĭ i Turkmenskoĭ SSR). The only existing survey of the history of the dynasty is given by N. Veselovskiĭ, Ocherk istoriko-geograficheskikh svedeniĭ o Khivinskom khanstve ot drevneĭshikh vremyon do nastoyashchego, St. Petersburg, 1877, pp. 89-182 (based on Abu’l-Ḡāzī and Russian sources; Muʾnis and most Persian sources are ignored).

On certain questions more material is found in A. Karryev, V. G. Moshkova, et al., Ocherki iz istorii turkmenskogo naroda i Turkmenistana v VIII-XIX vv., Ashkhabad, 1954, pp. 173-237.

On the general history of the khanate of Ḵīva under the ʿArabšāhīs , see Ḵᵛārazm .

(Y. Bregel)

Originally Published: December 15, 1986

Last Updated: August 10, 2011

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Vol. II, Fasc. 3, pp. 243-245