Kakuyids (Kakwayhid, Ku: Kakûyî) were a Kurdish[1][2][3] or Daylamite*[4][5] dynasty that ruled in Eastern Kurdistan, Iraqi Ajam (Persian Iraq) and Jibal (ca 1007-1051). They maintain their power as an autonomous (de-facto independent) part of Seljukid Empire between 1051 and 1141.

With the decline of Arab rule over the Kurdish and Caspian areas in the 9th century, new Kurdish and Iranic dynasties established themselves. For example, the Arabs in southern Iran were replaced by the Shiite Buyids, who also came from Dailam and even succeeded in bringing the caliphate under their supremacy in Baghdad.

The Kakuyid Dynasty was founded by Ala ad-Dawla Abu Jafar Muhammad (short: Ala ad-Dawla Muḥammad), who is also called in the sources as Ibn Kakuya or Pusar-i Kaku. The word kaku used here, from which the dynastic name derives, means elder brother or Mr in Kurdish and maternal uncle in old Dailamite.

*:Hamzah al-Isfahani, a 10th-century Persian historian, reports that the Persians called the Dailamites “Kurds of Tabaristan” and the Arabs called them “Kurds of Suristan”.[6]

The Rise and Reign of Ala ad-Dawla Muhammad

After his father Rostam Dushmanziyar’s service to the Buyids of Ray as a mercenary and a feudal lord, Muhammad also came into their service and administered the city of Isfahan from ca 1008 onwards. Both families were linked by marriage. When the strong Buyid amir Fakhr ad-Dawla Ali was succeed by his weak son Majd al-Dawla Rostam, Muhammad took advantage of this to expand his own power.

Thus, he was able to extend his influence from Isfahan to north and west, he even outpowered the Buyids multiple times. He fought against rival principalities like the Kurdish Annazids in west and crushed a mercenary uprising in Hamadan on behalf of the Buyids in 1020. When Hamadan had problems with the successor of Buyid amir (the Buyids in Hamadan had split off from the Buyids of Isfahan), Muhammad saw a good opportunity and marched into the city. In this way, he incorporated the region of Hamadan, Dinawar and Khorramabad, while his master Majd ad-Dawla watched helplessly. Muhammad appointed his son Garshasp as the governor of Hamadan. In the following years, his pursuit was to secure his power, which led to conflicts with other local rulers again and again. In 1028, he was able to defeat his enemies in a decisive battle at Nahavand and eventually rise as a de facto independent ruler to the degree that he was considered to be the most powerful man in the region, although he continued to be nominally under the Buyids.

A serious threat Kakuyids were facing was the aggressive expansion policy of Ghaznavids: In 1029, Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni eliminated the Buyids of Ray and let his son Mas’ud occupy large part of Jibal. So, Muhammad was temporarily expelled from Hamadan and Isfahan and sought help from the Iraqi Buyids. Nevertheless, when Mahmud of Ghazni died in 1030 and Masud had to withdraw from Jibal (ie, to become a new Sultan as Shihab al-Dawla Masud I), Muhammad returned to Isfahan and expanded his power to Ray and Yazd. Later, however, he was expelled again by Masud I from these areas and had to submit to the Ghaznavids. He gave one of his daughters to Masud in marriage but always directed his loyalty according to the strength of the Ghaznavids. Thus, in times when the Ghaznavids were weakened or faced threats in eastern Iran, he conquered cities in the west. And when the Ghaznavids ultimately turned against him, Muhammad fled to Dailam in 1036.

Successors of Ala al-Dawla Muhammad

Ala al-Dawla Muhammad’s successor was his eldest son Faramurz, while Garshasp (I.) continued to rule in Hamadan. In the meantime, the Seljuks had defeated the Ghaznavids at the Battle of Danadanqan (1040) and made Ray one of their capitals. The Seljuk leader Tughril Beg sent an army against Isfahan to secure the loyalty of Kakuyids. The Kakuyids of Hamadan, allied with the Buyids and Annazids, were defeated by the Seljuks in 1047, hereby large parts of Jibal came directly under Turkish rule. Garshasp I spent his last years as a Buyid emir in Khuzistan until his death in 1052. As soon as the Seljuks retreated to Khorasan, Faramurz allied himself with the Buyids against the Seljuks. In 1047, Tughril Beg besieged Isfahan and forced Faramurz back under his rule. Although Faramurz remained faithful from then on, Isfahan was besieged again in 1050 and handed over to the Seljuks in 1051. They demolished the city walls, made Isfahan their new capital, and compensated Faramurz with the cities of Yazd and Abarkuh, over which the Kakuyids ruled peacefully as Seljuk vassals. Faramurz became a respected vassal with the honorary titles of Zahir al-Din (supporter of religion) and Shams al-Mulk (Sun of the Empire) and was part of the Seljuk delegation on Tughril Beg’s visit in Baghdad to marry caliph’s daughter.

Cultural Developments

In addition to wars, the promotion of art and culture was also one of the fields of activity of the Kakuyid emirs: Ala ad-Dawla Muhammad, who lived and worked in Isfahan during 1023 and 1024, ignored Sharia law ocassionally and supported the art and literature. For example, the famous universal scholar Avicenna dedicated his two (as far as is known) only works in Persian to his patron who held academic meetings every thursday. These two book are Danishnama-i Alai (the Book of Knowledge for [Prince] ‘Ala ad-Dawla) and Andar Danesh-e Rag (On the Science of the Pulse).

“I received the great order from our Lord, the just King Izz ad-Din Ala ad-Dawla Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Dushmanziyar –May his life last long and his fortune increase! – the Master who granted me everything I wanted —safety, generosity, scientific work, and life at his court— to wright for him and his entourage, a clear book on five traditional and philosophical sciences in Persian language,…”

-From the Introduction of Danishnama-i Alai[7]

He also worked as an inventor of observation equipments for the ruler interested in astronomy[8], served as a vizier for Kakuyids and accompanied the ruler regularly on military campaigns before he died in 1037.

Muhammad’s grandson Ali is also considered a patron whose Yazdi court brought scholars and writers together. The lover and promoter of Persian poetry was not only the first well-known patron of the famous poet Mu’izzi Nishapuri who dedicated three of his qasidas to him, but also the one who gave the great panegyrist the longed-for access to the Seljuki Sultan Malik-Shah I.

The city of Yazd in particular has been developed into a lively cultural centre under the Kakuyids. In addition to mosques, madrasas, mausoleums and non-profit institutions, irrigation systems (known as “Qanat”) were also built. Thanks to these qanats, the agriculture around Yazd was able to achieve good yields despite the very dry climate. The city’s defences also improved.

List of Rulers

  • Ala al-Dawla Abu Dschafar Muhammad ibn Rustam Dushmanziyar , ca. 1007/1008–1041
  • Shams al-Mulk Zahir ad-Din Abu Mansur Faramurz ibn Muhammad , 1041–ca. 1063
  • Ala ad-Dawla Abu Kalijar Garshasp (I.) ibn Muhammad , 1041–ca. 1148 (in Hamadan)
  • Ala al-Dawla (or Muayyid al-Dawla) Abu Mansur Ali ibn Faramurz , ?–1095
  • Ala al-Dawla Adud al-Din Abu Kalijar Garshasp (II.) ibn Ali , 1095–ca. 1141

Kakuyid Family Tree


1. Margaretha T. Heemskerk, Suffering in the Mu’tazilite theology, (Brill, 2000), 54.
2. R. N. Frye, The Cambridge History of Iran: The period from the Arab Invasion to the Seljuqs, (Cambridge University Press, 1975), 294.
3.  P. M. Holt, Peter Malcolm Holt, Ann K. S. Lambton, The Cambridge History of Islam: Volume 2, (Cambridge University Press, 1977), 570.
4. Encyclopædia Iranica
5. The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 5; edited by JA Boyle, John Andrew Boyle, William Bayne Fisher, Ilya Gershevitch, Peter Avery, Richard Nelson Frye, Peter Jackson; 110
6. Vladimir Minorsky, The Guran in: Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 11, No. 1 (1943), Pages 75-103, P. 75
7. Avicenna’s treatise on logic: (A concise philosophical encyclopaedia) and autobiography; Avicenna, Farhang Zabeeh; P. 12
8. Gotthard Strohmaier: Avicenna. Beck, Munich 1999

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