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The Samanid Period

The consolidation of Islam in Transoxiana, together with the fall of the non-Muslim Turkish governments in the east, paved the way for the establishment of a stable, independent and integrated government in the region with a nationalist Islamic identity. The Samanid government, which was initially made up of a number of petty kingdoms under the auspices of the rulers of Khurasan, continued to gain in importance and was eventually recognized by the caliphate of Baghdad in 261 AH (875 AD) as a kingdom independent from that of Khurasan. The direct governorship granted to Nasr b. Muhammad by the caliph was a de facto designation of Transoxiana as an independent province, which opened up a new chapter in the history of the region. The evolution toward religious unification of the region also initiated during the reign of the Samanids, a development which was nearly completed by the close of the 3rd century AH. Hanafism gained ascendancy, as the dominant fiqhi school, in the vast areas of Transoxiana, with Shafi`ism enjoying wider popularity in Chach, Ilaq and the sawad of Bukhara. In the first few centuries AH, at least as concerned the eastern regions, Hanifism was not confined to its fiqhi tenets and was also a source of theological teachings. Though, Abu Muqatil as among the first proponents of the `adli Hanafites of Transoxiana played a crucial role in the expansion of the religion in the region, Hanafism had for some time before him drawn closer to the position of the Traditionism. The advocates of this school, who apart from the issue of irja’ had no differences of opinion with the Traditionists, considered themselves as among the People of Sunnah and Jama`ah. 

Toward the close of the 3rd century AH, the Hanafite school of the People of Sunnah and Jama`ah, which mainly came into being in Transoxiana, especially in the two cities of Samarqand and Bukhara, came to enjoy the support of the Samanid emirs, who sanctioned it as the official religion. In fact, the Hanafite leaders prompted the Samanid emir, Isma`il, to prevent other schools from establishing themselves in the region, to which end the emir commissioned Hakim Samarqandi to compile a compendium of the beliefs of the People of Sunnah and Jama`ah. The effort resulted in the book of al-Sawad al-A`zam, which was translated into Persian on the orders of the Samanid emir, Nuh, in a period of less than a century. Some of the scholars of the school such as Abu Hafs Kabir Bukhari came to such prominence that according to Narakhshi, Abu Hafs was responsible for the city of Bukhara being dubbed as Qubbat al-Islam (the Sanctuary of Islam). In spite of the fact that the Samanids did their utmost to eliminate all other sects in Transoxiana, Shi`ism, with its long-standing background in the region, continued to enjoy wide popularity. In fact, the two Shi`ite branches of Imamism and Isma`ilism continued to flourish throughout the Samanid period. 

The history of Imamism in Transoxiana is rather obscure up to the middle part of the 3rd century AH, however, there are ample sources for tracing the history of the Shi`ite religion, especially in Samarqand and Kush, in the succeeding period. In the mid decades of the 3rd century AH, it is possible to ascertain the existence in Transoxiana of an Imami school with a theological orientation, chiefly represented by the Marwazi theologian, Husayn b. Ashkib, who took up residence in Samarqand and Kush. Though, Ibn Shakib played a crucial role in the transmission of Imami beliefs in Iraq and Khurasan to Transoxiana, one should not overlook the efforts of such native contemporary scholars as Ibrahim b. Nusayr Kushi, Ahmad b. Abi `Awf Bukharai, Ja`far b. Ahmad b. Ayyub Samarqandi, as well as Hasan b. Kharzad, an immigrant from Qum. In the later decades of the 3rd century AH, Muhammad b. Mas`ud `Ayyashi, a non-Shi`ite resident of Samarqand, embraced the Imami faith and based on the education he received from the Imami scholars of Transoxiana as well as those of Khurasan, Qum and Iraq, established a school in Samarqand, whose graduates included such eminent savants as Kushi, the author of Ma`rifat al-rijal. Among other contemporaries of `Ayyashi mention should be made of Ibrahim b. `Ali, the mystic and author from Kufah, who took up residence in Samarqand and enjoyed the patronage of Samanid emirs, such as Nasr b. Ahmad. 

The Imami community of Transoxiana in the 4th century AH was rather extensive, and the adherents of the sect were scattered throughout the region, from Khwarazm to Ilaq. The renowned Imami scholar, Ibn Babawayh, traveled to the region in around 368 AH, and visited the cities of Samarqand, Farghanah and Ilaq. His La man Yahdarah al-faqih, one of the four major Shi`ite fiqhi books, was written at the behest of the residents of the latter city. 

The Isma`ili missionary activities in Transoxiana, which was the result of the efforts of Abu `Abd Allah Khadim in Khurasan, initiated in the later years of the 3rd century AH. Soon the Isma`ili circles of Transoxiana produced their own influential scholars, among which was the most distinguished da`i of the east, Muhammad b. Ahmad Nasafi. The degree of success achieved by Nasafi in the propagation of the Isma`ili cause was such that it aroused the ire of the Sunni faqihs and impelled them to depose the Samanid Emir Nasr II, who had gravitated toward Isma`ili beliefs. This was followed by a widespread massacre of the Isma`ilis of the region, which included the killing of Nasafi and his followers in 332 AH, on the orders of the Samanid emir. Though, these events resulted in a diminished Isma`ili influence in the region, it failed to extinguish it altogether.

* source: Pakatchi , Ahmad "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 , pp.513 - 514

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