top of page

The Brief History of Khorasan

Khorāsān—also spelled Khurasan—was a vast historical realm in northeastern Iran, southern Turkmenistan, and northern Afghanistan. The historical region stretched north from the Amu Darya (Oxus River), west to the Caspian Sea, and south from the fringes of central Iranian deserts east to the mountains of central Afghanistan extending as far as Pakistan's Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

Greeks called Greater Iran, where Zoroastrianism predominated, Ariana, which Eratosthenes called Khorasan. Khorasan was primarily Zoroastrian, but there were Manichaeists, sun worshippers, Christians, Pagans, Shamanists, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, and others. Khorasan means "sunland" in Farsi. It was a cultural, political, and economic hub for the Islamic world in specific. Despite its prominence in mining, agriculture, and manufacturing in the modern era, Khorasan was once a gestalt of creation, innovation, science, and mysticism, specifically during the Islamic Golden Age (622 AD – 1258). Islamic world's most outstanding scholars, scientists, poets, and thinkers came from this region. The region was also home to numerous mystical traditions and influential thinkers, cementing the area's reputation as a pioneering and innovative hub of the world's spiritual and artistic development.

Because of its large land area, long history of Arab invasions, and repeated conquest by invaders like Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, many Turkic and Indo-Iranian languages were spoken in the region. The region was home to the Turkmen in the region's northwest, Kurds in the Bojnard and Quchan area, Timuris and Jamshidis (Chahar Aimak), some of whom are still nomadic, in the region's east, Heydaris further southwest, and Baloch and Pashtuns in the region's southeast. Arabs, Roma, Berberis of Mongol descent, and sparse Jewish communities also inhabited towns across the region, especially along villages, farming, and trading sites northwest of Mashhad, including the significant cities of Quchan, Shirvan, and Bojnard.

In short, what was once a centralized region for Islamic culture, learning, and mysticism is now dispersed across multiple modern nation-states with repressive political and ideological trajectories. It's hard to conceive of anything of transnational significance in modern nation-states. However, Khorasan's significant cultural and historical impact on the region's development and Islamic and the world's-history-at-large cannot be overlooked.

bottom of page