Eight Emirs of Bukhara claimed descent from eleven of the Twelve Husaynid Imams, and from Imam Hasan Al-Askari

Portrait of Alim Khan, 1911by Sergey Mikhaylovich Prokudin-Gorsky, an innovator in the medium of early colour photography, documented the ethnic and cultural diversity of the Russian empire under the patronage of Tsar Nicholas II. The project had been intended to glorify imperial Russia but is now seen as a document of the end of an era; by the end of the decade, the tsar had been executed, the photographer had emigrated and the emir was living in exile.

by Ahmed Khan, Founder, The Rahnuma Daily
Editor-In-Chief (therahnuma.com)

(RAHNUMA) Between 1785 and 1920 Bukhara was ruled by eight Emirs. After the Russian conquest of Samarkand (1868), the Emirate of Bukhara became a Russian protectorate.

The Emirate of Bukhara was officially created in 1785, upon the assumption of rulership by Shah Murad. As one of the few states in Central Asia after the Mongol Empire not ruled by descendants of Genghis Khan (besides the Timurids), it staked its legitimacy on its descent from eleven of the Twelve Imams, rather than Genghisid blood, as the ruler took the Arab Muslim title of Emir instead of Khan.

Over the course of the 18th century, the Emirs had slowly gained effective control of the Khanate of Bukhara, from their position as Ataliq; and by the 1740s, when the Khanate was conquered by Nadir Shah of Persia, it was clear that the Emirs held the real power.

In 1747, after Nadir Shah’s death, the Ataliq Muhammad Rahim Bi executed Abulfayz Khan and his son, ending the Janid dynasty. From then on the Emirs allowed puppet Khans to rule until, following the death of Abu l-Ghazi Khan, the first Emir Shah Murad assumed the throne openly, and proclaimed himself as ‘Emir Masum’, or ‘(representative of the) Infallible Lord’.

According to the royal court etiquette of the Russian imperial court, the Emirs of Bukhara had the title of “luminosity”, “illuminated”, “brilliant light” and stood above the great princes.

Photo – Emir of Bukhara Mohammed Alim Khan and Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna at the old Livadia Palace, 1910s Artist: Anonymous.

In January 1893, Mir Alim and his father arrived in St. Petersburg, where Emperor Alexander III approved him as the heir to the throne and personally determined the program of his education, promising Abdulahad Khan that his son would be brought up in accordance with the norms of Islam.

According to Naqib Muhammadxon Jahongirov Sirojiddinxon, President of “Association of the Descendants of the Prophet, Turkistan” or “Turkiston Sayyidlari va Eshonlari” the Emirs of Bukhara claimed descent from Imam Hasan Al-Askari, the eleventh Husaynid Imam.

“The Last Emir Sayyid Mir Mohammed Alim Khan (photographed below), was subsequently a descendant of Imam Hasan Al-Askari in the 19th generation according to official Russian records of the Emirate”, says Naqib Muhammadxon Jahongirov Sirojiddinxon.

The descendants of Imam Hasan Al-Askari left the Abbasid capital, where they were possibly under threat from the Abbasids who were jealous of their father’s following, and private army, the largest in the Empire.

According to Donaldson, PhD, Imam Hasan Al-Askari also spoke in Hindi, Persian and Turkish. This claim, which is accepted by Shi’ite Muslims as well establishes not only that Indian, Persian and Turkish Muslims were in communication with the Twelve Imams during their lives, but that the Imams and subsequently their descendants had faithful subjects all over the world.

“[Imam Hasan] al-Askari must also have studied languages. In later years it was known that he could speak Hindi with the pilgrims from India…” [Donaldson, Dwight M. (1933). The Shi’ite Religion: A History of Islam in Persia and Irak. BURLEIGH PRESS. pp. 217–222].

Seen below is a photograph of the last Emir of Bukhara, Sayyid Mir Mohammed Alim Khan (1880–1944). Following the death of his father, Abdulahad Khan, in late 1910, Alim Khan assumed power in Bukhara.

Sayid Amir Alim Khan. Photographer Sergey Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky. Emir of Bukhara. Bukhara Between 1907.

Ahmed Khan is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief & Publisher of The Rahnuma Daily (theRahnuma.com), the online English daily edition of The Rahnuma-E-Deccan Daily (ReDD), India’s oldest Urdu daily print newspaper established in 1921. More than 81.1 million Indians identify Urdu as their language, and as per the annual INA (Indian Newspapers Association) report, ReDD ranks among the top 5 most widely circulated and read Urdu daily print newspapers throughout India. Ahmed resides in Hyderabad at his maternal ancestral home and can be contacted at, @editor_therahnuma, editor@therahnuma.com

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