Personal Names in Monumental Inscriptions From Persia and Transoxiana

Ursula Georges

Introduction - Isms - Full Data


The Project

This article collects the personal names found in The Monumental Inscriptions from Early Islamic Iran and Transoxiana, by Sheila S. Blair (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1992). The book contains the text of inscriptions found in greater Persia (including parts of modern Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan), with dates ranging from 195 AH/ 810-11 AD to c. 500 AH/c. 1106 AD. The purposes of the inscriptions are various: some were mere graffiti, some are religious, some memorialize the founder of a building or the inhabitant of a tomb. Most of the people mentioned in the inscriptions are of high rank, but a few woodcarvers, smiths, and stonemasons signed their names to their work, and are represented here. The inscriptions also include the names of two women; one of them, Chihrâzâdh, commissioned the prince's tomb which bears her name.

All of the inscriptions discussed in this article were written in the Arabic language. Many of the names are classic Islamic names, such as `Alî and Muh.ammad; however, names derived from Persian (such as al-Khusraw) and from Turkish (such as Arslan Tikîn) also appear.

Transliteration and Notation

The standard scholarly method of transliterating Arabic into English uses small dots below letters to represent certain Arabic sounds. Since many standard fonts do not include these small dots, I have represented them by a period: for instance, the period in Muh.ammad represents a small dot below the 'h'. I have also used the period in the standard abbreviations b. for ibn 'son of' and bt. for bint 'daughter of', and in the ellipsis ... , which indicates missing portions of an inscription. Dashes may also indicate an uncertain reading, as in the name M-s-d-r-â, which may or may not represent Masdarâ.

Name Structure

The names in these inscriptions follow standard Arabic structures; detailed information about Arabic naming may be found in Period Arabic Names and Naming Practices, by Da'ud ibn Auda. The basic structure consists of a given name or ism followed by the abbreviation b. for ibn (son of) or bt. for bint (daughter of) and the father's given name. However, the names in these inscriptions are often far more complicated: they may incorporate several generations' worth of patronyms, a kunya (a literal or metaphorical nickname formed with Abu 'father of'), an occupational byname, or a locative. Many of the names in these inscriptions incorporate strings of elaborate titles, including titular names such as Ghiy‚th al-Umma 'aider of the nation'. During this time period, titular names were usually granted by the caliph; several rulers used a formulaic reference to the caliph, mawl‚ amÓr al-mu'minÓn or Client of the Commander of the Faithful, to identify themselves as legitimate Islamic rulers. A few name structures appear to have been influenced by non-Arabic languages. For instance, in the name of Abu Ja`far Muh.ammad b. Wandarîn Bâwand the word Bâwand is a family name, identifying Abu Ja`far's father as a member of the Bawandid dynasty; the Qarakhanid ruler Mu`izz al-Dawla Arslân Tikîn Abu'l Fad.l al-`Abbâs b. Mu'ayyad al-`Adl Ilik is identified by two given names, the Turkish Arslân Tikîn and the Arabic al-`Abbâs.

Onomastics Articles - Ursula Georges