Sultan Mahmoud Ghaznavi, the ruler of the Ghaznavid emirate
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
On April 30, 1030 AD, Sultan Mahmoud Ghaznavi, the ruler of the Ghaznavid emirate in what is now Afghanistan that he enlarged into an empire by conquering Khorasan, Eastern Iran, parts of Central Asia, Northwest India including today’s Pakistan, died at the age of 60 in his birthplace Ghazni, after a rule of 33 years. He was the son of Sebuktagin, the Turkic slave and successor as governor of Eastern Khorasan of Alptigin, who himself was a Turkic slave and general of the Bukhara-based Persian Samanid Dynasty of Central Asia and Northeastern Iran.
He led 17 expeditions into India, as far as Gujarat and what is now Uttar Pradesh, bringing in vast booty to finance his principal campaigns against the Shi’ite Muslim Buwayhid Dynasty of Iran-Iraq and against the Khwarezmshahis and Samanids in Central Asia. Mahmoud, who massacred the Ismaili Shi’ites of Multan, killed more Muslims during his military campaigns than the Hindus of India, most of whose territories, except for Punjab, he left intact under their own control, contenting himself with annual tribute, and even circulating coins with Islamic emblems in Sanskrit script.
During his raids in Iran, Mahmoud brought whole libraries from Rayy and Isfahan to Ghazni. He even demanded that the Khwarizmshah court send its men of learning to Ghazni his capital, such as the famous scientists, Abu Rayhan Berouni and Abu Ali ibn Sina – although the latter declined and fled into the interior of the Buwaiyhid Empire.
The notable poet Abu’l-Qassem Ferdowsi presented his masterpiece the “Shahnamah” to Mahmoud, who failed to appreciate his genius. At any rate, Sultan Mahmoud, who received the title Yameen od-Dowla from the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad, was a paradoxical person. In Afghanistan, Pakistan and among the Indian Muslims, he is celebrated as a hero, while others revile him. He was indeed a great patron of arts, architecture, Persian literature and Iranian culture. He appointed Iranians to high offices as ministers, viziers and generals. In addition, he preferred and promoted Persian language instead of his native Turkic, and adopted the “Shir-o-Khorshid” or the Lion and Sun flag which was a symbol of pre-Islamic Iran.