The Ulugh Beg Madrasah in Bukhara

The Ulugh Beg Madrasah (1417+) is the only structure of such scale in Bukhara, which remained from the epoch of the Timuride dynasty.

Ulugh Beg (March 22, 1394 - October 27, 1449), born Muhammad Taragai ibn Shakhrukh ibn Timur Gurgan. Ulugh Beg, meaning "Great Ruler" or "Patriarch Ruler" was the grandson of Timur and the son of Shakhrukh. Ulugh Beg was born in Sultaniyeh in Iran. He showed an aptitude for scientific pursuits from an early age. His father and grandfather attracted scholars to Samarkand, and Ulugh Beg took full advantage of this. With Timur's death, and the accession of Ulugh Beg's father to much of the Timurid Empire, Ulugh Beg settled in Samarkand which had been Timur's capital. After Shah Rukh moved the capital to Herat (in modern Afghanistan), sixteen-year-old Ulugh Beg became the governor in Samarkand in 1409. In 1411 he became a sovereign of the whole Mavarannahr khanate.

The teenaged ruler set out to turn the city into an intellectual center for the empire. In 1417-1420 he built the madrasa ("university" or "institute") on
Registan Square in Samarkand, and invited numerous Islamic astronomers and mathematicians to study there. In addition to the madrasah in Samarkand Ulugh Beg also built the same institution in Bukhara, supposed to be a real center of the enlightenment in the area. The construction of the Ulugh Beg Madrasah in Bukhara was also initiated in 1417. His own particular interests concentrated on astronomy, and in 1428 he built an enormous observatory in Samarkand.

Interestingly, he was very strongly devoted to the search for truth and accuracy, to the point of using his position of power to advance a false idea, then chastizing people who agreed with him out of deference to his rank and power.

His father, Shakhrukh, died in 1447 and passed control of his kingdom to Ulugh Beg, which drew him away from his scientific pursuits. Ulugh Beg's politics were not up to his science and, after his father's death, he was unable to retain power despite being an only son. Ulugh Beg was assassinated in 1449 under the orders of his son, Abdul Latif, who was himself murdered a year later.

The life of Ulugh Beg paralleled the life of another prominent figure of the 15-th century - Sheikh Uboydullo Khodja Ahror (1404-1490). Sheikh Uboydullo Khodja Ahror was born in Bogiston village near to
Tashkent. Uboydullo Ahror was quite young man when he became a head of the Sufi order Naqshbandiyya. He noticeably improved doctrine, and in the middle of the 15th c. he became a leader of Muslim clergy of all the State that was inherited from Timur, where during the 14th and 15th centuries, the Naqshabandiya was the dominant Sufi order. Using his important position Khoja Ahrar became powerful political broker. There is opinion that Khodja Ahror opposed the secular education in madrasahs. After Ulgh Begh's death he moved his residency from Tashkent to Samarkand (in 1451), where in the rest of his life he had enormous influence in spiritual and temporal power. Ulugh Beg's death and the strengthening of the clergy power in the state put an end to the astronomical work at Samarkand.

Perhaps the madrasah of Ulugh Beg in
Bukhara built almost at the same time with his madrasah in Samarkand is the witness of inceptive confrontation between Ulugh Beg and religious opposition of Nakshbandiya, whose center was in Bukhara. At least an inscription entwined with astral elements of decor, which predominates in ornamental finishing of the main entrance of the madrasah, throws down a challenge. It says: "Pursuit of knowledge is the duty of each follower of Islam, man and woman". They say there was another inscription, lost in renovation in the 16-th century, "Let the doors of God's blessing will open over a circle of peoples, versed in the book wisdom".

The architects of the Ulugbek Madrasah in
Bukhara were best professionals of that time, Nadjmetdin Bukhari and Ismail Isfagani.