The title, found in early Turkic languages from the 8th century (stone stellae in the Orkhon River in Mongolia) onward as yabḡu, appears as jabḡuya or jab(b)uya in early Islamic sources dealing with the Eastern Iranian fringes and the steppe lands beyond. Since these sources connect the title in the first place with the Oghuz (see ḠOZZ) and Qarluq tribes of the Turks, the initial sound change y > j of the form in Arabic presumably accords with the statement by Maḥmud Kāšḡari that the Oghuz and Qıpčaq change every initial yāʾ into alef or jim (Kāšḡari, I, p. 31; tr. Dankhoff and Kelly, I, p. 84).

In the old Turkic Empire, the Yabḡu was a close relative of the Qaḡan and, on the evidence of the Orkhon inscriptions, he held a high administrative rank (Clauson, p. 873). The title had also been borne by Turkic princes in the upper Oxus region in post-Hephthalite (see HEPHTHALITES) times, appearing on their coins (Ghirshman and Ghirshman, pp. 50-51), and it is at Qondoz in Ṭoḵārestān that the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Hüen-Čuang located Šad, the eldest son of the Yabḡu of the Western Turks. At this time (7th century C.E.), the Yabḡus ruled over a principality to the south of the upper Oxus, and it is as opponents of the Arabs in Ṭoḵārestān that the Jabbuyas or Jabḡuyas appear in such Arabic sources as Yaʿqubi and Ṭabari (Gibb, pp. 8-11). The operations of Qotayba b. Moslem in the upper Oxus region in 90-91/708-10 against the Hephthalite chief Ṭarḵān Nizak involved the Jabbuya’s eventual deportation to Syria as a hostage by Qotayba after Nizak’s death (Ṭabari, III, pp. 1206-7, 1220-21, 1225; tr. Hinds, pp. 155, 166, 168, 172; cf. Gibb, pp. 37-38; Bosworth, 1986, pp. 541-42).

Subsequently, it is in connection with the relations of the Arab governors in Transoxania with the Turks of the adjacent regions that the Yabḡu of the Oghuz tribe is mentioned there. Thus in the early Abbasid period, the caliph al-Mahdi (r. 775-85) received the submission of various princes of the Transoxanian fringes and the lands beyond, including the Yabḡu of the Qarluq and the Ḵāqān of the Toghuz-Oghuz; and in 195/810-11, the caliph al-Maʾmun (r. 813-33), faced with a coming struggle for the caliphate with this brother al-Amin (r. 809-13), had to conciliate various rulers of the East who had fallen away in their nominal allegiance, including Jabḡuya, Ḵāqān, the ruler of Tibet, and the king of Kabul (Yaʿqubi, Taʾriḵ, II, p. 478; Ṭabari, III, pp. 815-16, tr. Fishbein, pp. 71-72; cf. Barthold, p. 202). In the early 10th century, geographical works mention Jabḡukaṯ, “the town of the Yabḡu,” located on the middle Syr Daryā in the neighborhood of Šāš (Eṣṭaḵri, p. 330; Ebn Ḥawqal, p. 461; Ebn Ḥawqal, tr. Wiet, p. 445; Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam, p. 117; cf. Barthold, p. 173).

The title Yabḡu for the chiefs of the Oghuz and Qarluq is listed by Ḵvārazmi, who wrote ca. 366/977 and probably used a Samanid source for this (Bosworth and Clauson, p. 6). The Yabḡu, as the head of the Oghuz, who lived as nomads in the steppes between the lower Syr Daryā and the Aral Sea and the Ural River, is well-known from historical and geographical sources of the 10th and early 11th centuries. The caliphal envoy Aḥmad b. Fażlān (q.v.) traversed these lands in 309-10/921-23, and he describes the chief of the Oghuz as the Yabḡu (Togan, p. 33, tr. p. 28, Excursus 33a, pp. 140-41; Bosworth, The Ghaznavids, pp. 217-18).

The Oghuz in the proximity of Transoxania did not become Muslims until towards the end of the 10th century, and in the early 11th century we find the Yabḡu of the Oghuz ruling from Yengi-kent (‘new town’) on the lower Syr Daryā. It is also at this time that we learn of the hostility between the two branches of the Oghuz under the Yabḡu and the Saljuq family respectively. In the 1030s, Šāh-Malek b. ʿAli of Yengi-kent and Jand (q.v.) became the ally of the Ghaznavid (see GHAZNAVIDS) ruler Masʿud (r. 1031-40) in his struggle with the Saljuqs who were harrying Khorasan. He conquered Khwarazm for Masʿud in 432/1041, but by that time the latter was already dead; and very soon Šāh-Malek was dislodged by the victorious Saljuqs, who forced him to flee and then killed him (Pritsak, pp. 406-10; Bosworth, The Ghaznavids, p. 239).

The Saljuqs had already appropriated the title of Yabḡu for a member of their own family, Musā, but after the middle of the 11th century, with the constituting of the Saljuq state as a Perso-Islamic empire, this old Turkish title disappeared from use.


See Short References for Ebn Ḥawqal; EsÂṭaḵri; and Yaʿqubi, Taʿriḵ. W. W. Barthold, Turkestan Down to the Mongol Invasion, with additions, tr. T. Minorsky, ed. C. E. Bosworth, 3rd ed., London, 1968.

C. E. Bosworth, The Ghaznavids: Their Empire in Afghanistan and Eastern Iran 944-1040, Edinburgh, 1963.

Idem, “Ḳutayba b. Muslim,” in EI2 V, 1986, pp. 541-42.

C. E. Bosworth and G. Clauson, “Al-Xwārazmī on the Peoples of Central Asia,” JRAS, 1965, pp. 2-12.

G. Clauson, An Etymological Dictionary of Pre-Thirteenth Century Turkish, Oxford, 1972.

R. N. Frye, The History of Bukhara, Cambridge, Mass., 1954.

H. A. R. Gibb, The Arab Conquests in Central Asia, London, 1923. R. Ghirshman and T. Ghirshman, Les Chionites-Hepthalites, Cairo, 1948.

Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam: ‘The Regions of the World,’ A Persian Geography 372 A.H.-982 A.D., tr. V. Minorsky, pref. by V. V. Barthold, ed. C. E. Bosworth, 2nd ed., London, 1970.

Maḥmud Kāšḡari, Divān loḡāt al-tork, ed. R. B. Kilisli, Istanbul, 1333/1917; tr. R. Dankoff and J. Kelly as Compendium of the Turkic Dialects (Dīwān Luγāt at-Turk), Cambridge, Mass., 1984.

O. Pritsak, “Der Untergang des Reiches des Oġuzischen Yabġu,” in 60. doğum yılı münasebetiyle Fuad Köprülü armağani. Mélanges Fuad Köprülü, Istanbul, 1953, pp. 397-410.

Ṭabari, Ketāb taʾriḵ al-rosol wa’l-moluk, ed. M. J. de Goeje et al., 15 vols., repr., Leiden, 1964; tr. M. Hinds as The Zenith of the Marwānid House, in The History of Tabari: an annotated translation, vol. 23, Albany, N.Y., 1990; tr. M. Fishbein as The War between Brothers, in The History of Tabari: an annotated translation, vol. 31, Albany, N.Y., 1992.

A. Z. V. Togan, Ibn Faḍlāns Reisebericht, Leipzig, 1939.

(C. Edmund Bosworth)

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