Continuing our series on Cities of Islam, we now turn our attention to Herat, a city known as the “Pearl of Khorasan” throughout history due to its geographical location, climate, and cultural richness. Enjoy your reading!
The Pearl of Khorasan
Afghanistan is an Asian country bordered by Pakistan to the east and south, Iran to the west, and Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north. Herat, our subject, is one of the significant centers of knowledge in Central Asia located in the west of Afghanistan. Due to its geographical location, climate, and cultural richness, this historic city has been referred to as the “Pearl of Khorasan” throughout history. Today, it stands out as Afghanistan’s hub of trade, culture, and tourism.
13 Centuries of Islamic Dominion
With the arrival and settlement of Muslims in the 8th century, Herat began its Islamization. With Islam, advancements in science were made in Herat. Such progress was made that it became the third center of science and culture in Central Asia after Samarkand and Bukhara. This isn’t surprising, as the first command of Islam is “Read.”
Throughout history, Herat has hosted many civilizations. According to remains and historical sources, one can see traces of numerous ancient civilizations with every step taken in the city. One of these traces is Alexander’s Citadel, named after Alexander the Great who originally built it. However, after Genghis Khan’s armies razed it, the citadel was reconstructed by Timur and has survived to this day.
A Poet and Linguist Raised by Herat
Born in Herat in 1441, Ali Shir Navai was a versatile scholar. Although known as a poet and linguist, he also held positions as a governor and vizier. We know him best for his work “Muhâkemat al-Lughatayn,” in which he compared Turkish and Persian languages. His purpose in writing this work was to demonstrate that Turkish was also a language of art, not just Persian, which was commonly used at the time. He left behind five divans, one in Persian and four in Turkish. He passed away in Herat, his birthplace, in 1501.
A Mosque That Leaves Beholders in Awe with Its 8 Centuries of History
This historic mosque is referred to in two different ways: Herat Friday Mosque and Herat Grand Mosque. It is a magnificent structure consisting of 403 domes, 30 aisles, and 2 large minarets. The verses inscribed in tiles on its walls are dazzling. Having undergone renovations and expansions over time, the mosque stands as one of the splendid examples of Islamic architecture that has reached our times.
Population of Herat
Afghanistan has not conducted an official census since 1979. According to the official population count from 1979, Afghanistan’s population is 15 million. Based on estimates from Afghanistan’s Central Statistics Organization in 2015, the population is around 32.5 million. Similarly, according to 2015 estimates, Herat’s population is 1.5 million.