In the 19th century, some European scholars, such as Mountstuart Elphinstone,
tended to classify them as a Pashtun tribe, but this is generally rejected by
modern scholarship, and, as explained by Morgenstierne in the Encyclopaedia of
Islam, is for "various reasons very improbable". Instead, the
consensus in modern scholarship (incl. Morgenstierne, Bosworth, Dupree, Gibb,
Ghirshman, Longworth Dames and others) holds that the dynasty was most likely
of Tajik origin. Bosworth further points out that the actual name of the Ghurid
family, Āl-e Šansab (Persianized: Šansabānī), is the Arabic
pronunciation of the originally Middle Persian name Wišnasp, perhaps
hinting at a (Sassanian) Persian origin.
The language of the Ghurids is subject to some controversy.
What is known with certainty is that it was considerably different from the New
Persian literary language of the Ghaznavid court. Nevertheless, like the Samanids
and Ghaznavids, the Ghurids were great patrons of the New Persian literature, poetry,
and culture, and promoted these in their courts as their own. There is nothing to
confirm the recent surmise (as claimed in the Paṭa Khazāna) that the Ghurids
were Pashto-speaking, and there is no evidence that the inhabitants of Ghor
were originally Pashto-speaking.
Ghurids were bounded to Ghaznavids and Seljuks almost 150 years before 1148.
Beginning in the mid-1100s, Ghor expressed its independence from the Ghaznavid
Empire. In 1149 the Ghaznavid ruler Bahram Shāh poisoned a local Ghūrid leader,
Quṭb ud-Dīn, who had taken refuge in the city of Ghazna after a family quarrel.
In revenge, the Ghūrid chief ʿAlāʾ-ud-Dīn Ḥusayn sacked and burned the city of
Ghazna and put the city into fire for seven days and seven nights. It earned
him the title of Jahānsuz, meaning "the world burner".
The Ghaznavids retook the city with Seljuk help, but lost it to Oghuz Turk freebooters.
In 1173, Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori reconquered the city of Ghazna and
assisted his brother Ghiyasuddin - to whom he was a loyal subordinate, - in his
contest with Khwarezmid Empire for the lordship of Khorāsān. Shahabuddin Ghori
captured Multan and Uch in 1175 and annexed the Ghaznavid principality of Lahore
in 1186. After the death of his brother Ghiyas-ud-Din in 1202, he became the
successor of his empire and ruled until his assassination in 1206 near Jhelum
(in modern-day Pakistan). A confused struggle then ensued among the remaining
Ghūrid leaders, and the Khwarezmids were able to take over the Ghūrids' empire
in about 1215. Though the Ghūrids' empire was short-lived, Shahabuddin Ghori's
conquests strengthened the foundations of Muslim rule in India. On his death,
the importance of Ghazna and Ghur dissipated and they were replaced by Delhi as
the Islamic capital for the Ghurid Sultans in India.
The Ghurids were great patrons of Persian culture - language, identity, arts
and literature were all of great importance to them, although many of the
written works have been lost. They transferred the Khurasanian architecture of
their native lands to India, several great examples of which can be seen in the
Minars they built.