Islamic Legacy Of Samarkand

Samarkand: A City With A Rich Islamic Heritage

Samarkand is one of the most ancient cities on the planet, the same age as Rome and Athens. It is more than 2750 years old. Samarkand has always been distinguished by being a true example of true Oriental hospitality. Several nationalities have always got along with ease here. Samarkand is commonly called “Eastern Babylon”. It reflected the path as if in a huge mirror. The path passed by numerous generations. Rich events of the city, ups and downs, valuable finds and exhibits, ancient monuments suggest that the first people began to live on this territory many thousands of years ago.

According to an ancient legend, when the city of Samarkand was founded (VIII century BC), a leopard descended from the Zarafshan Range and approved the construction of the city. Since then, the Samarkand people associate themselves with the bars – they are as proud as strongly brave and equally generous.

How Did the People of Samarkand Embrace Islam?

Before the arrival of the Muslims, the inhabitants of Samarkand were idolaters, their idols were made of simple stone. The places of worship for idols were located between the mountains. It was believed that this place of service for the high priests. At that time, the Muslims were ruled by a Caliph, whose righteousness was set as an example. His name was al-Farooq Umar Ibn Abd alaziz (680-720) (may Allah be pleased with him). He ruled the land, which had no Persian Kisra, nor the Roman Kaysar. Its borders stretched from China to the Atlantic ocean. His wife Fatima, daughter of Abdul Malik and sister of Caliph Suleiman was the noblest of Arab women.

When the Muslim forces under the command of the skilful and well-known General Qutayba ibn Muslim approached the Eastern part of Samarkand, they headed for the mountain located behind the city, so that the inhabitants of the city did not see them and began to defend themselves, and that it was possible to attack from behind. And they found themselves in the center of the defeated city with the speed of a hurricane, reading dhikr, but unable to make the people of Samarkand completely surrender. The priests fled to their place of worship between the mountains, and the inhabitants hid in their houses, fearing the Muslims. But then some people started coming out of their homes to get water and food, they sent little children to get it, and the Muslims didn’t touch them, on the contrary, they helped them to bring it.

The children returned happy, bringing home water and food. Calm and confidence began to return to their hearts, and people returned to their fields and possessions. They found it just as they had left it, and the usual old life began. Between Muslims and people of Samarkand had been the commercial transactions and other business relationships. They saw in the Muslims reliability and honesty, and there was no harassment from their side.

There was no limit to the residents ‘ surprise when a Muslim and one of the residents of Samarkand argued, and in the Sharia court the decision was made in favor of a resident of Samarkand. Word of this reached the priests, who fled to the mountains. Then they said that if the conquerors judged so justly, it was inevitable that they should have a righteous Ruler, and ordered the chief of the priests to go to him and tell him what had happened.

He came to Umar bin Abdul Aziz and asked: “Are you the ruler of the faithful?” He said Yes, what do you want? “O ruler of the faithful, I have been oppressed!” The man interrupted him and asked: “Who are you complaining about?” “On Qutayba ibn Muslim”. The ruler realized that this dispute was not between two people. The Persian explained the problem and said: “I was sent by the priests of Samarkand. They said that you have a custom: when you take possession of a city, you give the right to choose between three things: accepting Islam, paying tribute, or war”.

The ruler said: “Yes, this is our rule and the city has the right to choose one of the three”. The young man said that Qutayba bin Muslim did not do this, but, on the contrary, suddenly led the Muslim troops to the city. When the ruler heard this, he did not make a decision, because he was not in the habit of doing so after hearing only one side. He took out a small sheet of paper and wrote a text of two lines, wrapped and sealed, saying: “Send this to the Governor of Samarkand and he will stop abusing you”.

The young man gave the letter to the priests. They said give it to the Governor to make a decision according to the letter. The Governor of Samarkand was surprised by the letter. He made sure it was from him, opened it, and it was following: “From the Ruler of the Faithful to the Governor of Samarkand. As-salamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu! Appoint the judge who will resolve the dispute between Qutayba and priests of Samarkand and himself take the place of Qutayba ibn Muslim”. I did not want the Governor to return Qutayba back and to distract him from his conquests and victories.

But there was nothing he could do but obey the ruler’s command, and he quickly appointed a judge. During the trial, Qutayba ibn Muslim admitted that he did not give the city residents a choice, but decided to attack the city unexpectedly, for security reasons. And when the defendant confesses, the trial is considered as ended. By court decision, Muslims were ordered to leave Samarkand without all that they had earned and leave everything to the residents, in accordance with the Sharia and Sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.). The Muslims began to leave the city, and the judge also got up and went out in front of the priests.

The priests did not believe this, and the people of Samarkand watched the Muslims leaving the city. Then this young man said: “By Allah, their religion is the truth!” and recited declaration of faith (Shahadah). After him, the priests witnessed the uniqueness of Allah and accepted Islam.


Apart from its Islamic history, Samarkand is a cultural heritage of Central Asia. Samarkand was sung by both Eastern and Western poets and writers including Alisher Navoi, Goethe, Oscar Wilde, Jules Verne and Anna Akhmatova.

And lastly, here is Edgar Allan Poe’s description of Samarkand in “Tamerlane”:

Look ‘round thee now on Samarcand!— Is not she queen of Earth?

Her pride, above all cities?

In her hand, their destinies?

In all beside, stands she not nobly and alone?

Falling—her veriest stepping-stone, shall form the pedestal of a throne.

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