In our series about Islamic cities, this time we will introduce you to the city of Bukhara, located on the Silk Road, one of the most important historical trade routes.
A Center of Knowledge and Culture in Transoxiana
Uzbekistan is a country in Central Asia, bordered by Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south, and Kazakhstan to the north and west. The subject of our discussion, Bukhara, is situated in the historical region known as Transoxiana, between the rivers Syr Darya and Amu Darya. It is known for its architectural structures, caravanserais, mosques, and madrasas. Being almost like a museum itself, the Historic Centre of Bukhara is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Titles Throughout Bukhara’s History
Bukhara was founded by the Persians. Archaeological findings suggest it was established around 500 BCE, giving it a history of at least 2500 years. In its early days, it gained fame as the City of Fire Worshippers due to the presence of Zoroastrians. After the Arabs Islamized the region, it was given various beautiful titles that reflected the beauty of Islam, such as “The Beauty of the Soul,” “The Dome of Islam,” “Noble,” and “Sacred.”
City of Scholars and Scientists: Bukhara
Bukhara has been a breeding ground for renowned literary figures, mathematicians, thinkers, and scholars in the Islamic world. The Samanid rulers, who used it as their capital, supported scholars, writers, and poets. Many scholars like Al-Biruni, Avicenna, Nurshaki, and Rudaki gathered in Bukhara. The most famous scholar from Bukhara is Imam Bukhari.
A Multifaceted Genius
Ibn Sina, born in the village of Afshana near Bukhara in 980, is known as Avicenna in the West. He was a polymath, excelling in fields like medicine, astronomy, poetry, mathematics, law, ethics, and philosophy. He is said to have written around 200 books in various fields. This Muslim genius passed away in 1037 in the city of Hamedan.
1300 Years of Islamic Dominion
Bukhara was first conquered by Muslims in 674 during the Umayyad period. However, Islamic control over Bukhara was firmly established through campaigns conducted between 706 and 709. The Muslim Arabs attached great importance to the Islamization of Bukhara. They implemented many facilitative practices to accelerate the conversion of the masses to Islam and to resolve the problems arising from encountered challenges.
Bukhara’s Sun, Like Shams
Muhammad ibn Ismail, born in Bukhara in 810 CE, is known as Imam Bukhari. He is renowned for compiling authentic Hadiths, and his book, known as Sahih al-Bukhari, is one of the most trusted sources of Hadith for Sunni Muslims. Imam Bukhari passed away in 870 CE in the town of Hartank in Samarkand.
The City’s Most Impressive Structure: Kalan Mosque and Minaret
The Kalan (Kalyan) Mosque and Minaret, constructed in 1127, are the most striking and impressive works in Bukhara. Commissioned by the Karakhanid ruler Arslan Khan, it was designed by Usta Bako, often referred to as the Mimar Sinan of Uzbekistan. The Kalan Minaret, consisting of 105 steps and 13 tiers, stands at a height of 45.30 meters. Although composed of 13 tiers, each tier features distinct colors and patterns.
Both Palace and Fortress: Ark Citadel
The Ark Citadel is an architectural structure built in the 4th century. Standing at 20 meters in height, the citadel covers an area of 4.2 hectares. Throughout different periods, the Bukhara Khans used the Ark Citadel as their winter palace. Within the Ark Citadel, you can find a mosque, the emir’s living quarters, a treasury, an armory, a prison, and several workshops.
A Masterpiece Preserved Buried in Sand
The Ismail Samani Mausoleum, built in the 10th century in Bukhara for Samanid ruler Ismail Samani, bears the distinction of being the first known and surviving mausoleum in Central Asia. Considering its construction date, it stands as an important artistic work in terms of its plan, craftsmanship, and decoration. It’s also globally recognized as an architectural marvel. Due to sandstorms in the desert, it was buried under sand. This burial saved it from destruction during the Mongol invasion. As they say, “Every cloud has a silver lining.”