Reviews

In spite of their numerous appearances in a variety of pre-modern narrative sources, and in a more limited number of modern studies (notably by A. A. Semenov and by M. E. Masson, more recently by D. DeWeese and by B. Babadjanov—all duly mentioned in this well-documented and rigorous paper—, the sayyids [or sadat, descendants of the prophet Muhammad through his grandson Husayn, the son of ‘Ali b. Abu Talib and Fatima] of the city of Termez have remained so far an understudied aspect of the social history of Central Asia.  Allegedly related with the Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, and installed in Transoxiana under the reign of the anti-Alid Caliph al-Mutawakkil (r. 847-62), the sayyids of Termez both influenced and benefitted from al-Tirmidhi’s theory of the emanation of God’s benediction (baraka) on the prophets and saints of Islam.  Their close relations with the Samanids since the very origins of this dynasty allowed them to emerge as key holders of the civil and religious power.  Granted by the Abbasid Caliphs the official position of naqib in the first half of the tenth century, they continued to exert influence from the Ghaznawids to the Timurids.  The conquest of Transoxiana by the Saybanids (achieved with the fall of the Timurid enclave of Badakhshan in 1584) and the desertion of Termez after the mid-eighteenth century endemic turmoil marked a significant decreasing of the political influence of the sayyids of Termez.  The upheaval of the early Soviet period are unfortunately only evoked in passing, and as many academic historians of Central Asia the author does not show interested at all in the permanence of the authority of the sayyids in the region throughout the twentieth century, nor in the current rebirth of their authority and cult, enriched by a nascent culture of holy genealogies (see for instance the ongoing research by Sayyid Ahmad Qalandar on Tajikistani sayyids in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—reviewed in infra 490).

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-3.4.A-258