AL-MO'TADID AND AL-MUKTAFI
279-295 A.H. / 892-907 A.D.
AL-MO'TADID, already in possession of supreme power, continued as Caliph ably to administer the Government. Egypt returned to her allegiance; for Khumaraweih tempted by the honour, gave his daughter in marriage to the Caliph with a great dower, and promise of a yearly tribute. He was shortly after murdered in circumstances little creditable to the morality either of himself or of his Court.
The country fell into disorder under his young son, who, after a few months' reign, was also assassinated; and another son, Harun, who succeeded, suffered things to go from bad to worse.
Khorasan begins to fade from our view. The rulers, even in the far East, were still glad to get their title accredited from Bagdad. But there was little virtual power beyond the limits of Al-'Irak The Samanid house, which stood for the independence of the Persian nation, rose on the decay of the Saffarid whose rule was now confined to Sijistan; and the chief of the latter, 'Amr ibn Leith, taken prisoner by the Samanid, was by him sent to Bagdad; where, after remaining some time in prison, he was at last, by the tacit sign of Al-Mo'tadid on his deathbed, executed.
The 'Alid dynasty, so long dominant in Tabaristan, was also swallowed up by the Samanid. The immediate authority of the Caliph reached eastward only as far as Ar-Reiy; and even within that limit the powerful family of Abu Dulaf1
1 The same whose praises, sung by the blind poet,
so irritated Al-Ma'mun. Above, p. 509 n.
1 The same whose praises, sung by the blind poet, so irritated Al-Ma'mun. Above, p. 509 n.
had hitherto been more or less independent; it was now, however, reduced by Al-Muktafi, the Caliph's son, so that the west of Persia continued still to acknowledge the Court of Bagdad.
In Mesopotamia, the Caliph and his son were long engaged in a campaign against the Khawarij, still rampant from Mosul to Amid. In the end this region, which had long been disturbed, partly by rebel Bedawi bands, partly by the rivalry between Egyptian and Imperial generals, was for the time restored to order.
Al-Mo'tadid was a brave and energetic ruler. He was so tolerant towards the house of 'Ali, that when a heavy largess was sent to them by the 'Alid prince of Tabaristan, he was not displeased, as his predecessors would have been; but only bade that it should be done openly. Towards the Umeiyad race he was not so just. He went indeed, so far as to have them anathematised in the public prayers. He had even a volume of their misdeeds rehearsed from the pulpit, and forbade all favourable mention of them in debate at the clubs and religious gatherings. Bagdad was scandalised at this treatment; and in the end the Caliph withdrew his abusive book. Al-Mo'tadid was also cruel in his punishments, some of which are not surpassed by those of his predecessors. For example, a Zenji rebel, admitted to pardon, but afterwards found tampering with the army, was bound to a stake and, after being scorched with fire, taken down, beheaded, and the body impaled on the great bridge. The Khariji leader at Mosul, who fell by treachery into his hands, was paraded about Bagdad clothed in a robe of silk (the wearing of which Khawarij denounced as sinful) and then crucified, crying aloud, "The rule shall yet be the Lord's alone, let the unbelievers rage never so much!" And yet another of these Khawarij was "skinned alive," so says our annalist, "as you would skin a sheep."
After a prosperous reign of nearly ten years, Al-Mo'tadid died; and Al-Muktafi, his son by a Turkish slave-girl, succeeded to the throne. In command of Ar-Rakka at the time, he at once returned to the Capital, where he became a favourite of the people from his generosity, and for abolishing his father's subterranean prisons, the terror of Bagdad. During his reign of nearly seven years the Empire was threatened by various dangers which he bravely met and
overcame. Chief was that from the Karamita (Carmathians), a race of fanatics which had sprung up during the late reign, and of which mention will be made in the following chapter.
In beating back the savage Karmati hordes which spread over Syria and besieged Damascus, the Caliph received substantial aid from the Egyptian army, under command of Mohammad ibn Suleiman. Afterwards this general, seeing the now helpless state of the Tulunid government, and the consequent disorder of his country, not only transferred his allegiance to the Caliph, but advanced with a powerful army to reduce Egypt itself, and restore it to the Caliph; while with the same object a fleet from Tarsus entered the Nile. As Mohammad approached Cairo, most of the leadiug captains went over to him, and left Harun with diminished forces.
These again fell out among themselves, and Harun, in the attempt to quell the tumult, was killed by an arrow. Egypt, thus restored to the Caliphate, was ravaged by the invading force, and the grand works of the last twenty years destroyed. The Tulunid family, with all their property, were transported to Bagdad, and the dynasty ceased. Notwithstanding his great services, and the vast treasures he brought with him from Egypt, Mohammad was cast into prison, and tortured to reveal some part of the spoil he was suspected of keeping back. The banished captains of the old dynasty again returned to Egypt, and set up afresh a rebel government at Fustat; but they were beaten, and Egypt finally restored to its allegiance.
Mosul was again the scene of serious attack. The Kurds came down from their hill retreats in great multitudes on Nineveh. The government was at the time in the hands of a chief of the Hamdan family (founder of that house), Arabs of the Beni Taghlib clan, who had to draw for reinforcements on Bagdad, and with that help pursued the Kurds into Azerbijan, and at last restored order. The Samanid ruler of Khorasan was about the same time attacked by countless hordes of Turkomans, and placed in such danger, that, instead of being able to render aid against the Kurds, he sent an urgent appeal for help to Bagdad, which was read out from all the pulpits there, but with small result.
Throughout these two reigns, hostilities prevailed more or less with the Greeks, who were not slow to take advantage of the exigencies of the Caliphate. In 285 A.H. a Byzantine fleet was set on fire, and 3000 sailors decapitated.1 But there were reverses also. Tarsus was closely besieged by the Greeks, and the governor taken prisoner. Still worse, Egyptian rebels, to spite the Caliph, induced the Tulunid governor of Tarsus to burn the Muslim fleet of fifty vessels at anchor in their port. In consequence the Greeks were able to ravage the coasts at pleasure, both by land and sea, carrying vast numbers away captive. War was kept up with various fortune.
Ten golden crosses, each followed by 10,000 men, swept devastation and captivity along the Muslim shores; while, on the other hand, a Muslim fleet under a renegade Greek, and manned by negroes, ravaged the coast opposite Byzantium.
There followed further fighting, till in the end peace was made and prisoners on either side exchanged or ransomed.
Thus, after a stormy reign of between six and seven years, Al-Muktafi could look round
and find the Caliphate more secure than it had been since the days of Al-Mo'tasim.
One of his last acts was, on the death of the Samanid prince, to recognise the succession
of his son in Khorasan, and forward to him a banner mounted by his own hand. He died
at the early age of thirty-three, and left the throne to a minor brother. But, before
proceeding with the melancholy sequel of the Caliphate, some account should be given
of the Ismailians, who arose about this time and materially influenced the future history
1 So our authorities, though one can hardly believe it.
2 The annals of the Caliphate from 291 to 320 AH.
(=Nov. 903Dec. 932 A.D.), are given in the Continuation of the History of
At-Tabari by 'Arib ibn Sa'd of Cordova, edited by De Goeje, Leyden, 1897.
1 So our authorities, though one can hardly believe it.
2 The annals of the Caliphate from 291 to 320 AH. (=Nov. 903Dec. 932 A.D.), are given in the Continuation of the History of At-Tabari by 'Arib ibn Sa'd of Cordova, edited by De Goeje, Leyden, 1897.
The Caliphate: Its Rise, Decline, and Fall [Table of Contents]
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