Land of the Bulgarians, Land of Islam.
The Bulgar tribe, a mix of Turkic and Iranian peoples, who were believed to have migrated to Europe with the Hunnic invasions, came to dominate a large section of Black Sea region. Eventually, they split into two main tribes one on the center of the Volga River, who became the Volga Bulgarians and the other on the banks of the Danube River. The ruling dynasty of both tribes, the Dulo clan, was established as a powerful clan by Kubrat, the founder of Old Great Bulgaria. Old Great Bulgaria was created through a union of the all the Bulgar tribes and conquest of the Avars but was divided upon the death of its founder.
Kotrag, the son of Kubrat, led a Bulgar invasion of the Volga River and conquered the Finno-Urgic peoples living there around 660. At the death of his father, Kotrag had broke away from Old Great Bulgaria and his descendents would in the 7th to 9th centuries establish a state along the central area of the Volga River, called Volga Bulgaria. In the year 922, Abbasid Caliph al-Muqtadir sent Ibn Fadlan from Baghdad to Bolghar to establish relations and convert them to Islam. During the visit, Almış iltäbär converted bringing in qadis and teachers of Islamic law as well as building forts and mosques. Almış took, upon his conversion, the title Emir and Islamized his name to Ja'afar ibn Abdulla, a practice that became common in later generations. After his conversion, the Emir worked to become, eventually independent of the Khazars, becoming the first King of Volga Bulgaria or as the Caliph knew him, the King of Saqaliba, referring to the Slavs. Later Bulgarian Sultans would attempt to convert Vladimir I of Kiev to Islam but he refused to become Muslim and take wine from his people, which he called, the ” very joy of their lives”.
The cities of the Volga Bulgarians grew large and rich off trade between Europe and Asia. The capital city of Bolghar rivaled the greatest centers of the Islamic world in both wealth and size; there was another city, Bilär which served as an occasional capital if raids by the Rus became too frequent. The Volga Bulgarians traded with the Norse, Rus, and Northern Pagan tribes to the north, Byzantines, Abbasid Caliph, and Seljuk Turks in the south, Western Europe and even China. It was this wealth of trade that facilitated the growth of their cities and funded Sultan Akhad Maskha’s building in honor of his wife’s pregnancy in the later winter of 1067.