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Turkistan
 
In the closing years of the 1st century AH, Qutaybah in a lightening attack extended the lands of caliphate all the way to the borders of Turkistan. Finding no impediments on the way of his further advance, in 96 AH, he continued his brisk march eastward through Farghanah on toward Chach. Though, Qutaybah’s military campaign initially resulted in the conquest of the eastern regions of Kashghar and the Sogdian areas of Ispijab in the north, the different climatic and political conditions of the area, as compared with Transoxiana, created difficulties for the Muslim forces in terms of maintaining their position and led to their eventual withdrawal.
With the consolidation of the caliphate’s grip over Transoxiana, in the early part of the 2nd century AH (8th cen. AD), and the stability brought to the domestic situation in the eastern areas of Turkistan, i.e. the Urghu region, as a result of the domination of the Qarluq, it appears that the `Abbasid officials in Transoxiana succeeded in establishing amicable relations with their neighbors to the east, i.e. the Jabghus (the title of the khans of western Turkistan) of the non-Muslim Qarluq tribe. There exist reports on the emissaries send by such caliphs as Hisham b. `Abd al-Malik to the khans of Turkistan as a means of inviting them to Islam, though, there are also accounts regarding their political disputes as well as occasional military skirmishes. There exists a report about the `Abbasid caliph, Mansur, who sent an army to Farghanah, commanded by a certain Layth, in order to destroy the alliance between the ruler of Farghanah and the Turkish khan of Kashghar. Another report which sheds light on the relations between the Muslims and Turks is the one from 194 AH according to which the Jabghu of the Qarluq is said to have been a vassal of the government in Khurasan, which also collected tribute from the king of Utrar (near Aspijab).
In addition to political relations, there also exist reports regarding the trade ties among the Muslims and the Turks. In the 2nd century AH, there existed strong relations between the Islamic west and the Turkish east and China, as well as between the people of Kaymakan and Qirqizistan in the north, through western Turkistan, relations whose existence is attested in the works of Muslim geographers of the early 3rd century AH. The commercial dealings between western Turkistan and Transoxiana, which appears to have continued up until the mid 3rd century AH, were themselves conducive ground for the infiltration of Islam into the region. In fact, according to the existing reports, it was during the same period that Islam found its way into the inner parts of Turkistan, up to Kulan and Isik Kul regions.
Apart from the conquest of Aspijab by the Samanid emir, Nuh, in 24 AH, as a limited and isolated event, there was no armed aggression carried out by the Muslims of Transoxiana against their neighbors for a period of some one hundred years. This calm, however, was shattered by the Samanid emir, Isma`il, who, upon his accession to the throne of Bukhara in 279 AH, embarked on a campaign in the western provinces, which led to the conquest of western Turkistan. In his march toward Aspijab in the north, he gained control of the strategic city of Taraz. According to a report by Narakhshi, many of the people of Taraz came to embrace Islam and turned the city’s temple into a jami` mosque. After Aspijab, Farab was the next city to fall under the control of the Samanids, where it soon became a major center of Islamic learning. The migration of the Syrian traditionist, `Abd Allah b. Muhammad Muqaddasi (died after 310 AH) to Farab, and the appearance in the area of the renowned philosopher Abu Nasr Muhammad b. Farabi (d. 350 AH), and two eminent men of letters, Abu Ibrahim Ishaq Farabi (d. 350 AH) and Abu Nasr Isma`il Jawhari (d. 395 AH) is a clear indication of the cultural significance of the region.
As regards the conquests of the Samanid emir, Isma`il, his northward march continued to the village of Nawjathak, the last outpost on the way to the region of Kaymak. However, very little detail exists with regard to the eastern parts of the newly conquered areas. In any event, the accession of this region to the Islamic world, in the later part of the 4th century AH, was such that the eminent contemporary Muslim geographer, Muqaddasi, refers to the western parts of Turkistan, from Aspijab to Balasaghun, as one of the six kurahs (an administrative unit of a province) of the land of Haytal (the lands of the Hephthalites or White Huns) and as part of Transoxiana, most of whose cities are said to possess jami` mosques. At the end of the same period, the political state of the Muslims of the border regions of Turkistan was of such level of stability that the soldiers in Transoxiana were called to duty in Syria.
Though, historical sources contain explicit references to the Samanids’ military advance in the Furqanah region, based on the evidence of a number of works, it may be surmised that the accession of the kurah of Aspijab to the Samanid territory was concomitant with that of Furqanah, i.e. the region located in the southern part of modern Kyrgyzstan, including such border cities as Awash and Awzkand. An Arabic rock inscription dating from 329 AH is among the evidence testifying to the Islamic history of the region. According to Muqaddasi, in the later part of the 4th century AH, Islam was flourishing throughout the region, where major Muslim communities were coming into being. The same century witnessed the rise of such eminent native scholars as `Imran b. Musa Awashi and `Ali b. Sulayman Khatibi Awzkandi.
The spread of Islam in eastern Turkistan began in earnest with the consolidation of the Qarakhanid power in Kashghar in the second quarter of the 4th century AH. The Qarakhanids may be viewed as the first Muslim dynasty to emerge from among the Turkish khanates. The first ruler of the dynasty, Satuq Bughurkhan (d. 344 AH), converted to Islam, and in addition to enjoying political power, he came to be known as a religious leader, so much so that his mausoleum in Kashghar has continued to remain a pilgrimage site for the Muslims of the region. During the early days of the dynasty, Islam began to spread at a rapid pace. In fact, up until the decade of the 380s AH, which was marked by the eastward expansion of the Qarakahnid power, there were very few strongholds for religions other than Islam in the lands straddling Kashghar and Transoxiana, from Khurasan all the way to China. Balasaghun was captured by the Qarakhanid forces in 382 AH, and Bukhara fell in the following year. Thus, the dynasty established its control over the region, which in turn resulted in conditions conducive to the spread of a single religion.
The region of Khotan, midway between Kashghar and Tibet, was conquered a little before 397 AH by Qadarkhan, of the Qarakhanids, and thus the way was paved for the expansion of Islam all the way to China’s doorstep. In the oldest examples of Turkic-Islamic poetry, relating to the Qarakahnid atmosphere of Kashghar, contained in the divan of Lughat al-Turk, there are vivid depictions of the wars between the newly converted Muslim Turks and the non-Muslim Uyghurs, wars that are imparted with an air of religious jihad. In the later part of the 5th century AH, there arose in the region of Khotan such eminent faqihs and traditionists as Ahmad b. Muhammad Astarasni (died after 498 AH) and Sulyman b. Dawud Khutani (died after 523 AH).
Regarding the spread of Islam in the region of the northern steppe, i.e. the area approximately covering the modern Kazakhstan (except its southern province), it may be assumed that its western part had a much longer history of conversion to Islam. The area which was inhabited by the various Ughuz tribes in the 4th century AH came into contact with Islam during the same period as a result of trade activities. According to Muqaddasi, the city of Sawran (or Sabran), on the border of the Ughuz and the Transoxanians, had an Islamic milieu, with its own jami` mosque.
In 423 AH, with the migration of the Saljuks – from among the leaders of the Ghuz and the progenitors of the Saljuk dynasty – to the region of Jand in northern Khwarazm, a new political power came into being in the region. The conversion of the Saljuks to Islam was concomitant with the Islamization of the region. Soon Jand became a Muslim region, and its unification with Sawran gave rise to the establishment of a semi-independent Ughuz Muslim kingdom.
With regard to other regions of Kazakhstan, mention must first be made of a report by Ibn Athir who notes that, in 435 AH, the inhabitants of some ten thousand tents, of the nomads of the steppe, were converted to Islam as a result of the efforts of the Qarakhanids. Of course, Ibn Athir’s report must be treated with caution, since his claim that “in the same year all Turks, except the Tatar and the Khata, in the regions of China, were converted to Islam” smacks of hyperbole. As can be gathered from the notes by Yaqut Hamawi, in the 6th century AH, the regions of Aspijab and Atrar constituted the border area between the converted Turks and their unconverted tribesmen.
Khwajah Ahmad Yasawi (d. 562 AH), a religious personality of mystic tendencies, who hailed from the city of Yassi (in modern Turkistan), north of Aspijab, played a crucial role in the spread of the Islamic message among the nomadic people of the region. His collection of poems, titled Divan-i Hikmat (the Divan of Wisdom), gained popularity as a work of religious import. The tomb of Khwajah in Turkistan has been a center of Islamic learning and propagation throughout the centuries as well as a pilgrimage site for the nomadic populations of the region, who consider it as the Ka`bah of Turkistan.
In the early 7th century AH, the invasions of Genghis Khan dramatically changed the political landscape of central Asia, a development which also impacted the Kipchak desert which lay on the path of the Mongol armies’ march toward Russia. Ever since the time of Uzbek Khan (reigned 712 – 742 AH), the Mongol-Turkic rule of the Golden Horde, in western Kipchak desert, transformed into a supporter of Islam, and with the establishment of the unified rule of the White-Golden Horde by Tokhtamysh, in 782 AH, Islam continued its slow advance toward the east.
 
* source: Pakatchi , Ahmad "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 , pp.515- 517
 
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