Battle of Merv Establishes the Shaybānīd Dynasty Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Turko-Mongol Uzbeks established the Shaybānīd Dynasty after battles with the Iranian Ṣafavids in the early 1500’, confirming their control of a vast Central Asian region. They ruled the area until the end of the century, when the dynasty was lost to the rising Astrakhanid Dynasty, kin of the Shaybānīds.

Summary of Event

Shaybānī was the fifth grandson of the thirteenth century Mongol conqueror and ruler Genghis Khan (r. 1206-1227). Shaybānī’s elder brothers gained control of the White Horde and the Golden Horde, ruled by descendants of Genghis Khan’s grandson Batu Khan (d. 1255). The hordes had adopted Islam earlier than any other Mongol Dynasty. Shaybānīd Dynasty[Shaybanid Dynasty] Merv, Battle of (1510) Muḥammad Shaybānī ՙUbayd Allāh Shaybānī ՙAbd Allāh II ibn Iskandar Shaybānī Muḥammad Shaybānī Maḥmūd Khan (Jagataite khan) Bābur Ḥusayn Bayqarah Ismāՙīl I ՙUbayd Allāh Shaybānī Köchkünju Khan ՙAbd Allāh I Shaybānīd ՙAbd Allāh II ibn Iskandar Shaybānī ՙAbbās the Great Bāqī Muḥammad Bahādur

Shaybānī’s descendants and their followers remained loosely confederated with the larger Mongol states, evolving socially into the Turko-Mongol Uzbek Uzbeks people. Their rise to power as an independent entity paralleled the more or less separate Kazaks, Kyrgyz, and Oyrats, who shared similar origins. As steppe nomads, they jostled one another in the interstices between larger surrounding powers, especially the Golden Horde and the Timurid Empire that stretched from Afghanistan to Anatolia. As both of these states disintegrated during the fifteenth century, the fortunes of the Shaybānīd Uzbeks rose and fell.

Around 1490, Muḥammad Shaybānī became governor of Yasī on behalf of Maḥmūd Khan, the Jagataite khan of West Moghulstan (Tashkent). The city was a major regional trading center and the revered site of the tomb of the twelfth century Muslim Sufi Ahmad Yasawī. This became the core of a secular state that he would rule as khan from 1496 until his death in 1510. His Uzbek horde became a military and political arm of the Yasawiyya branch of Sunni Islam, and served as mercenaries for the Turko-Mongol Mughals, who sought to conquer what was left of the Timurid Empire Timurid Dynasty . In June, 1503, however, he turned on Maḥmūd at the Battle of Akhsi Akhsi, Battle of (1503) in Fergana and brought it and Tashkent under Uzbek control. He further expanded his state, beginning with his incursion into Transoxiana, at the Timurids’ expense, in 1499 and 1500. This expansion led to the Shaybānī-Timurid war (1501-1507) Shaybānī-Timurid War (1501-1507)[Shaybani Timurid War (1501-1507)] , which brought the Timurid Empire to a close, with Bābur, the last of the line, shifting the axis of his rule into India in the 1520’.

Beginning in 1501, the Uzbeks took, lost, and then retook Samarqand, Tamerlane’s resting place. In 1505-1506, Muḥammad seized Khiva, Bukhara, and Herāt in Khorāsān from Ḥusayn Bayqarah and his vassals. These victories brought him into conflict with Shāh Ismāՙīl of the recently ensconced Ṣafavid Dynasty in Iran, with Bābur, with the Mughals. When the Kyrgyz threatened to overrun his northern borders, Ismāՙīl struck. On December 2, 1510, the Iranian army—equipped with Turkish field artillery—confronted the light horsemen of Muḥammad’s horde near Merv and decimated it. Muḥammad was killed, and the vanquished Uzbeks eventually retreated into Tashkent. Khorāsān, including Balkh and Herāt up to the Firoz Kohi ridge, went to the Ṣafavids Ṣafavid Dynasty[Safavid Dynasty] , and in 1511 with Ismāՙīl’s blessing, Bābur grabbed Central Asia, in particular Samarqand and Bukhara.

The Sunni Bābur’s dealings with the Persian Shīՙites angered many in his new territories, and the Uzbeks sensed blood in the water. Islam;Shīՙites[Shiites] With Muḥammad’s nephew ՙUbayd Allāh in command, the Uzbeks reestablished themselves in Transoxiana at the Battle of Ghazdivan Ghazdivan, Battle of (1512) on December 12, 1512. Bābur’s forces, and the Iranians, under Najm Ṣānī—who died in the battle—were soundly defeated. Bābur retained part of Afghanistan, centered on Kabul, and thereafter generally made common cause with the Sunni Muslim Uzbeks against the Shīՙite Iranians, now separated by the Amu Darya (Oxus) River.

Samarqand and Bukhara served as dual capitals of this new khanate, which was initially ruled from Samarqand by Köchkünju Khan, Muḥammad Shaybānī’s uncle, until 1531, and by ՙUbayd Allāh from Bukhara, until 1539. This resulted in squabbling, weakened the fabric of the state, and ended in the unification of administration from Bukhara in 1539 under ՙAbd Allāh I Shaybānī. Administration was split again in 1557, but effectively united when ՙAbd Allāh II, ruling in Bukhara, placed his father, Iskandar, on the throne in Samarqand.

ՙAbd Allāh II ruled independently as khan from 1583, having been elected in traditional fashion. The election was ratified by four leaders of the Sunni Muslim dervish (Sufi) sect of the Naqshbandīyah, including the powerful Shaykh Kwaja Saՙd al-Dīn Jūybārī. Sufism;Central Asia This sect had gained a powerful position in urban Uzbek society during ՙAbd Allāh’s reign. As Muḥammad Shaybānī unified his by using the Yasawiyya sect of Sufis (and they using him), so ՙAbd Allāh II worked with the Naqshbandīyah, which had been founded by Baha al-Din Naqshband (d. 1398). This holy man lived in Bukhara and was buried nearby, his tomb a site of pilgrimage.

True to their steppe roots, the Shaybānīds ruled with a light hand, more as leaders of a confederacy than of an empire, leaving effective administration at the tribal tumen level. Resentment against taxes and instability in border areas, both caused by incessant wars with the Ṣafavids and Mughals, undermined Shaybānīd control. Generally allied with the Sunni Muslim Ottoman Turks against the Shīՙite Ṣafavids, the Uzbeks were by turns defending their borders and seeking to expand them. ՙAbd Allāh’s conquest of the Persian Herāt, Sabzavar, Isfarain, Tebes, and Mashhad, however, restored Uzbek confidence. In the Shīՙite towns, especially Mashhad, the site of a holy shrine, the Sunni Muslims carried out fierce destruction and killings. This served to restore Uzbek confidence, which was newly shattered only with ՙAbd Allāh’s defeat by the Ṣafavids and death in 1598.

Bukhara had long been a major center of trade, and the Shaybānīds, in shifting their power base there from Samarqand, did a great deal to enhance the cityscape. As one might expect, both religious and commercial buildings were erected, under the patronage of Uzbek nobles, religious brotherhoods and the khan. ՙUbayd Allāh rebuilt much of the city, including its 10-meter (33-foot) high and 5-meter (16.5-foot) wide fortified wall. Wide arterial roads facilitated the movement of caravans through the city, which provided newly constructed quarters—caravanserais—for men, beasts, and burden. Domed or arched marketplaces served the needs of inhabitants and visitors. Great bazaars sold luxury goods from three continents.

Numerous places of worship provided for the Muslims’ spiritual needs, and many religious schools, or madrasas, were built to educate the young and the old. Education;Shaybānīd Dynasty[Shaybanid Dynasty] One madrasa, with more than one hundred large student cells, was built in the 1530’s and is still being used today. In other cities as well, the Shaybānīds paid great attention to commercially useful public works such as bazaars, caravanserais, bridges, and underground reservoirs.

In the later 1590’, the Ṣafavid shah ՙAbbās the Great defeated the Uzbeks in battle near Herāt and thereby regained much of Khorāsān, including Herāt and sacred Mashhad. In 1598, ՙAbd Allāh II died and was replaced by Pir Muḥammad II, who was soon murdered by Bāqī Muḥammad Bahādur, first in the line of Astrakhanid Astrakhan rulers in Bukhara. Bāqī was descended from Genghis Khan through Orda, Shaybānī’s older brother, and was related to ՙAbd Allāh by marriage. The new dynasty is sometimes called the Janid, for Bāqī’s father, Jani.


The Shaybānīd rise to power led to the end of the Timurid Empire, which had gone far in integrating the cultures of steppe and city. The resulting diaspora of intellectuals and artists enriched the Ṣafavid and Ottoman courts, but the Uzbeks proved less worthy patrons. Nonetheless, Bukhara and Samarqand were centers of Turko-Mongol culture and trade during the Shaybānīd period.

Events on the larger stage, however, forced these cities into the background of interregional commerce and activity. During this time European ships were contacting China directly, and caravan routes were shifting away from Transoxiana. Khiva and Qoqand (Kokand) became major rivals for trade between the Muslim world and the expanding Russian state, whose very rise served to isolate the Uzbeks further. The rise of the Shīՙite Ṣafavids and the Uzbeks’ intense rivalry with them effectively cut the Uzbeks from the Muslim world beyond Central Asia.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Blair, Sheila A. S., and Jonathan Bloom. The Art and Architecture of Islam, 1250-1800. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1994. Contains easily accessible material on the fine arts in Bukhara during the Shaybānīd period.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Grousset, René. The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia. Translated by Naomi Walford. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1970. Well-organized and comprehensive work that covers the region’s history to the eighteenth century. Chapter 13, “The Shaybānīds,” is especially helpful.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">McCauley, Martin. Afghanistan and Central Asia: A Short History. Boston: Pearson Longman, 2002. Brief overview that introduces the main outlines of the conflict between the Shaybānīds and the Ṣafavids.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Soucek, Svat. The History of Inner Asia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Chapter 11, “The Shaybānīds,” provides a useful overview of the events and issues of the dynasty’s rule.

1451-1526: Lodī Kings Dominate Northern India

c. 1462: Kazak Empire Is Established

1507: End of the Timurid Dynasty

1512-1520: Reign of Selim I

Apr. 21, 1526: First Battle of Panipat

July 21, 1582: Battle of the Tobol River

1587-1629: Reign of ՙAbbās the Great

1598: Astrakhanid Dynasty Is Established

Categories: History