An Enigmatic Genealogical Chart of the Timurids: A Testimony to the Dynasty’s Claim to Yasavi-ʿAlid Legitimacy?

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This article discusses a genealogical chart drawn in the second half of the fifteenth century that presents a hitherto unknown genealogy as that of the Timurids. A close reading of the genealogy reveals that it presents a pattern of legitimation prevalent among the Yasavi Sufis of Central Asia. The genealogy is based on an Islamization narrative featuring holy warriors purportedly descended from Muḥammad b. al-Ḥanafiyya who supposedly ruled the area corresponding to the former domains of the historical Chaghatay Khanate, the body politic from which the Timurids emerged. The inventor of the genealogy, however, remains unknown.

An Enigmatic Genealogical Chart of the Timurids: A Testimony to the Dynasty’s Claim to Yasavi-ʿAlid Legitimacy?

in Oriens



  • 5

    Ibn Katīla“Bayān al-adʿiyāʾ” 988. In fact when we refer to the Central Asian Islamization narrative with which both genealogies are linked (discussed below) it is understood that the two genealogies can be regarded as parallel with each other down to the generation of ʿAbd al-Raḥīm ([5]) although corruptions in the texts mask such parallelism upon first inspection. Ibn Katīla the Iraqi author of the Bayān al-adʿiyāʾ migrated and resided first in the “land of the Turks” (bilād al-Turk) and then in Samarqand and Kish. The Bayān al-adʿiyā was in all likelihood written in the “land of the Turks” or Transoxiana and contains such accounts pertaining to Central Asia as mentioned here. See my introduction to Ibn Katīla “Bayān al-adʿiyāʾ.”

  • 6

    Ibn Katīla“Bayān al-adʿiyāʾ” 989. For interpreting “B-yākā Khān” to be a form masking “Bilgä Khan” see Devin DeWeese and Ashirbek Muminov eds. Islamization and Sacred Lineages in Central Asia: The Legacy of Ishaq Bab in Narrative and Genealogical Traditions volume 1 Opening the Way for Islam: The Ishaq Bab Narrative 14th–19th Centuries (Almaty and Bloomington: Daik-Press 2013) 289. The transcription system used for “Bilgä Khan” is that used in the said reference (the same will apply for Turkic personal names cited from the same reference below).

  • 9

    Morimoto“The Notebook” 828.

  • 12

    The references are: (1) Or. 140625b; (2) ibid. 28b; (3) ibid. 22b; (4) ibid. 19b; (5) ibid. 28b.

  • 27

    Mano“Amīru Teimūru Kyuregen” 114; Woods Timur’s Genealogy 92–3; Manz “Family and Ruler” 65–8; Subtelny Timurids 19–22; Kawaguchi Teimūru Teikoku Shihaisō no Kenkyū 213 n. 8; idem Teimūru Teikoku 248.

  • 51

    BinbaşIntellectual Networks280–1. Binbaş however does not deem this possibility likely.

  • 53

    Jean Calmard“Mohammad b. al-Hanafiyya dans la religion populaire, le folklore, les legends dans le monde turco-persan et indo-persan,” Cahiers d’ Asie centrale 5/6 (1998): 202. The primary sources Calmard’s analysis is ultimately based on when discussing the perception of Timur’s Khurasanian followers recount only the destruction by those followers (implying above all ex-Sarbadarids) of iconic structures in Damascus that were closely associated with the Umayyads. It is Calmard who sees the mentioned perception beyond their actions. I thank Professors Jean Calmard and Denise Aigle for providing me with the related pages (pp. 281–5 and the accompanying notes) of Calmard’s unpublished dissertation “Le culte de Karbalâ dans l’ Iran présafavide” Université de Paris III 1975 on which Calmard’s discussion in the related portion of his article is based.

  • 54

    HātifīTīmūr-nāma15 25 30 172 208.

  • 55

    Cf. Takao Ito’s recent article“Al-Maqrīzī’s Biography of Tīmūr,” Arabica 62 (2015): 308–27which showed among other things how variegated claims concerning Timur’s ancestry emanating from the Timurid establishment could be. Ito discusses a claim that connected Timur’s genealogy to Esen Qutlugh a senior amir of the later Ilkhanid period.


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    Chart 1

    Contents of the Timurid Genealogical Chart (MS. British Library Or. 1406, 22b–3b)

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    Figure 1

    Timurid Genealogical Chart (MS. British Library Or. 1406, 22b–3b). Three images presenting the right margin of 23b, the whole of 23a, and the left margin of 22b are put side by side. The chart in question begins on the right margin of 23a, about one fourth of the folio’s height up from the bottom.© The British Library Board, OR 1406, ff. 22b, 23a, 23b

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    Figure 2

    The marginal note on 19b referring to ʿAlī Chūpān, “al-Amīr Shīrshāh b. al-Amīr Khalīl,” and a group of the Wafāʾiyya Sufis© The British Library Board, OR 1406, f. 19b

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    Figure 3

    Mention of Ibrāhīm b. ʿAlāʾ al-Dawla (“qaburuhu bi-ʿAbd Allāh”) on 23a. *Note “qabruhu bi-mashhad al-Riḍā” to the left, for (Abū l-Qāsim) Bābur.© The British Library Board, OR 1406, f. 23a

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