Birthday: November 2, 971
Died At Age: 58
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Also Known As: Yamīn ad-Dawlah Abul-Qāṣim Maḥmūd Ibn Sebüktegīn
Born Country: Afghanistan
Born in: Ghazni, Afghanistan
Famous as: Ruler of the Ghaznavid Dynasty
Emperors & Kings
Died on: April 30, 1030
place of death: Ghazni, Afghanistan
Who was Mahmud of Ghazni?
Mahmud of Ghazni was a late-10th-century and early-11th-century political and military leader and conqueror who reigned over a vast region in Asia, which stretched from Ray in the west to Samarkand in the north-east, and from the Caspian Sea to the Yamuna River in India. The first independent ruler of the Ghaznavid dynasty, he began his career serving under his father, who was a slave commander in the Samanid Empire, in various military campaigns. Mahmud ascended the throne in 999 and immediately began his efforts to secure his position and expand his empire. He was an extremely Persianized ruler, who upheld the bureaucratic, political, and cultural customs of the Samanids, his predecessors. This act ultimately set up the framework for a Persianate state in northern India. When he chose to use the title “Sultan”, he became the first ruler in history to do so. The title underscored the enormity of his power, while simultaneously maintaining an ideological connection with the suzerainty of the Abbasid Caliphate.
Childhood & Early Life
Born Yamīn-ud-Dawla Abul-Qāṣim Maḥmūd ibn Sebüktegīn on November 2, 971, in the town of Ghazni in the region of Zabulistan (present-day Afghanistan), Mahmud was the son of Abu Mansur Sabuktigin and his wife, the daughter of an Iranian aristocrat from Zabulistan.
Sabuktigin, a Turkic slaver commander, reigned over Ghazni as a subordinate of the Samanid Empire. Little information is available about Mahmud’s early life. He and Ahmad Maymandi, a Zabulistani-born Persian and Mahmud’s foster brother, were educated together.
In 994, he embarked on his first military campaign with his father to wrest control of Khorasan from the rebel Fa'iq in support of the Samanid Emir, Nuh II.
The Samanid Empire had become quite volatile at this point. There was a lot of infighting between various factions struggling for dominance, the most prominent of which were Abu'l-Qasim Simjuri, Fa'iq, Abu Ali, the General Bekhtuzin as well as the neighbouring Buyid dynasty and Kara-Khanid Khanate.
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Accession & Reign
Sabuktigin passed away in 997, after which Ismail, his son and a younger half-brother of Mahmud, became the sovereign of the Ghaznavid dynasty. Why Sabuktigin picked Ismail over the older and more experienced Mahmud is unknown. It was possibly due to Ismail’s mother, who was the daughter of Alptigin, Sabuktigin's old master.
It was not long before Mahmud rebelled, and with the support of his other brother, Abu'l-Muzaffar, the governor of Bust, overthrew Ismail a year later at the Battle of Ghazni and took over the Ghaznavid kingdom.
Mahmud was the first ruler in history to bear the flag of Islam into the heart of Indian subcontinent. Many Muslims consider him a champion of their faith, a brilliant leader gifted with supernatural powers. However, a number of Indian historians see him as “an insatiable invader and an intrepid marauder”. Neither evaluation is accurate.
During his attacks on India, Mahmud’s focus remained on the temples, where incredible wealth used to be stored. Despite being a zealous champion of Islam, he did not seek to convert Indians to Islam or ill-treat his Indian subjects. He even kept a large contingent of Hindu soldiers.
A great patron of art and literature, Mahmud turned Ghazni, his capital, into an important cultural, commercial, and intellectual centre in the Islamic world with the plunder he accumulated from his invasions. At the height of its influence, its only rival was Baghdad.
Marriage & Issue
Mahmud’s wife’s name was Kausari Jahan. They were the parents of twin sons, Mohammad and Ma'sud, who, following Mahmud’s death, ascended the Ghaznavid throne one after the other. He also had several other children, including Izz al-Dawla Abd al-Rashid, Suleiman, and Shuja.
Mahmud had a lifelong companion named Malik Ayaz, who was a slave from Georgia. Ayaz served as an officer and later as a general in Mahmud’s army. His unwavering feudalistic loyalty towards his master inspired a number of popular stories and poems from Sufi artists.
Death & Legacy
During his last expedition, Mahmud came down with malaria. He passed away on April 30, 1030, in Ghazni due to tuberculosis, which was the result of the medical complications related to malaria. He was 58 years old at the time. His mausoleum was built in Ghazni. His successors reigned over the Ghaznavid empire for the next 157 years.