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The political revival of the Abbasid caliphate: Al-Muqtafi and the Seljuqs.

The reign of the Abbasid caliph al-Muqtafi (r. 1136-1160) was one of great historical significance. Despite his having been chosen and elevated to the caliphate by the Seljuq sultans during the nadir of Abbasid power, after they had murdered one caliph and deposed another, it was al-Muqtafi who finally succeeded in reestablishing Abbasid political rule over Iraq. This article traces the course of al-Muqtafi's relations with the Seljuq sultans, analyzes how and why he succeeded in reviving Abbasid political rule, and considers the import of the events that transpired during his reign.


A new era in world history began with the Seljuq Turkmen invasion of the Islamic heartland in the eleventh century, which resulted in the almost millennium-long Turkic political and military domination of the central Islamic lands. (1) The arrival of the Seljuqs in the central Islamic lands was also fraught with significance for Islamic civilization. Among many other milestones, the Seljuq dynasty was the first and only non-caliphal dynasty in the pre-Mongol period to conquer the entire Middle East, from Central Asia to Syria, and the only Sunni Persianate dynasty ever to conquer the caliphal heartlands in Iraq while the caliphate lasted. The Seljuq conquest of the Middle East therefore also marked a turning point in the history of the caliphate.

The caliphate itself was, of course, the formative, fundamental political institution of Islam, and until the coming of the Seljuqs, in Patricia Crone's words, "all legitimate power flowed from the [caliph], so that all public offices would be void in his absence [...]." (2) Even after the political power of the caliphs had crumbled and local and regional rulers seized rule by force throughout the Islamic lands, these rulers, unless they were sectarian, had never claimed for themselves any special political authority independent of the caliph's; indeed, they called themselves by the traditional title used by caliphal governors from the beginning: amir, or commander. (3) Although they did concurrently adopt additional, more grandiose titles of rule taken predominantly from pre-Islamic Iran, (4) conceptually, in Islamic terms, they were still caliphal governors, even if in fact the caliphs had no control over their actions and rule.

This Islamic legal fiction of the caliphs' remaining the font of legitimate political authority could no longer be maintained, however, once the Seljuqs came upon the scene--first, because they were "much too powerful to masquerade as governors," (5) and second, and more importantly, because after "liberating" the caliphs from the control of the Shi (') ite Buyids and their generals, the Seljuqs themselves discarded the fiction of governorship that had held sway since the ninth century. Instead of restoring caliphal political power, the Seljuqs became the first Sunni dynasty to claim for itself universal political authority. This was explicitly manifested in their arrogation of the formerly caliphal title of sultan as their own official title; (6) they also encouraged the formulation of new Islamic political theories that exalted this new sultanic political authority at the expense of the caliphate. (7)

For a long time the accepted scholarly consensus regarding the Abbasid reaction to Seljuq claims was that although there were ample grounds for conflict between the Seljuq sultans and the Abbasid caliphs, the caliphs accepted--or were at least resigned to--the radically new political situation and concepts that came to prevail at this time. This quondam consensus, however, has been shattered by scholars over the last several decades, who have convincingly challenged the myth of Seljuq-Abbasid cordiality. (8) Despite this, however, little study has been made not only of Seljuq-caliph relations, but also of the caliphate itself during this period. (9)

The present article therefore addresses one discrete but highly significant portion of the historical lacuna that constitutes the history of the Abbasid caliphate in the twelfth century, particularly with respect to the state of sultan-caliph relations during the time when the Seljuqs were the main obstacle standing in the way of a restoration of caliphal rule: the reign of the caliph al-Muqtafi (530-555/1136-1160). The aim of this article is to trace al-Muqtafi's relations with the Seljuq sultans throughout his reign and his own recorded attempts to wrest political power from them, utilizing the full range of Arabic and Persian sources available in order to elucidate the path by which al-Muqtafi finally succeeded in realizing the dream of his two immediate predecessors in reestablishing both Abbasid independence and temporal rule.


The hostility between the Seljuq and Abbasid camps became particularly overt and politically important from 1118 onward. This was the year in which strong and ambitious rulers succeeded to both the Seljuq and the Abbasid thrones: the supreme sultan Ahmad Sanjar b. Malikshah on the Seljuq side and the caliph al-Mustarshid on the Abbasid side. (10) In fact, the key timeframe in Abbasid revival stretches throughout the period of Sanjar's rule, from 1118 until 1157. This was at least in part due to his relocation of the political center of the empire from western Iran to the city of Marv, located some 1,000 miles from the caliphal seat in Baghdad. He thereby left only a much weaker subordinate sultan in Iraq and western Iran, which meant that the Abbasids had much greater scope of action. (11) From that point, the history of the caliphate is rife with repeated attempts on the caliphs' part to restore their erstwhile temporal rule, all of which, up to the reign of the caliph al-Muqtafi, ended in disaster. (12)

In order to understand fully al-Muqtafi's successful attempt, one must be conversant with the historical context of the earlier part of this period, 1118-1136, that of al-Muqtafi's three immediate predecessors. In the spring of the year 511 (1118) the Seljuq Great Sultan Muhammad Tapar died and was succeeded in the supreme sultanate by Ahmad Sanjar, who had been ruling Khurasan and the East for twenty years as regional sultan and had constituted the power behind his brother's throne; (13) just a few months later (512/1118) Muhammad Tapar's brother-in-law, the Abbasid caliph al-Mustazhir bi-llah, died at the ripe age of forty-one. (14) Al-Mustazhir had earlier tried to assert some kind of caliphal authority to intervene in Seljuq affairs, as reported by Ibn al-Athir. (15) This report, with its revelation of the beginnings of Abbasid attempts to flex political muscle, displays perhaps the seeds of conflict that bore such bloody fruit in the reign of his successors, his son al-Mustarshid and grandson al-Rashid. The following events surrounding al-Mustazhir's death suggest this.

Immediately upon Muhammad Tapar's death, his son, the Seljuq prince Mahmud, sultan of the Traqayn and aspirant to the position and title of Great Sultan, requested of al-Mustazhir that the Friday sermon (khutba) be made in his name. (16) Among Mahmud's first actions was to dismiss Behruz, the military representative (shihna) of Baghdad, and to appoint to the post, first, the amir Aqsunqur al-Bursuqi, (17) and then the amir Mankubars (Mengu-bars), (18) one of his greatest commanders. Mankubars sent his own stepson, the amir al-Husayn b. Uzbek, (19) to serve as his deputy in Baghdad and Iraq. (20) Upon his dismissal, however, the amir Aqsunqur appealed to the caliph al-Mustazhir, who wrote to the new Seljuq appointee, al-Husayn, ordering him to halt his advance toward Baghdad while he corresponded with Sultan Mahmud on the matter. This attempted caliphal intervention in political affairs proved unsuccessful; al-Husayn replied that if the caliph gave him a direct order (in contravention of Mahmud's) to retreat, he would obey it, but al-Mustazhir apparently did not dare do so and in the end the issue was decided by a battle between al-Bursuqi and al-Husayn, which the former won. Ibn al-Athir notes specifically that this attempted caliphal intervention took place "a few days before the death of al-Mustazhir bi-llah," and it is not inconceivable that the proximity of the two events might even have been cause and effect rather than coincidence. (21)

Whatever the circumstances behind al-Mustazhir's untimely demise, his son al-Mustarshid bi-llah Abu Mansur al-Fadl b. Abi l-'Abbas Ahmad al-Mustazhir bi-llah succeeded immediately to the caliphate (r. 512-529/1118-1135). (22) During the seventeen years of his rule, al-Mustarshid slowly but persistently expanded the political and military scope of caliphal power to a level unprecedented since the ninth century, a policy that ultimately resulted in 1135 in his being first taken captive by the Seljuqs and then violently murdered while in their custody. (23) The tension between the Seljuqs and the Abbasids did not end there: alustarshid's son and heir, al-Rashid (r. 529-530/1135-1136), was immediately estranged from the Seljuq sultans whom he blamed, quite vocally, for his father's murder. (24) Al-Rashid set about forming alliances with various atabegs and strongmen, most notably 'Imad al-Din ZengI, "in order to oppose Sultan Mas'ud," who was by this time Sanjar's subordinate sultan in Iraq and western Iran. (25) Mas'ud soon received intelligence of the coalition al-Rashid was gathering against him and marched upon Baghdad, which the caliph fled. Mas'ud then forced the religious clerics of Baghdad to declare al-Rashid deposed. (26) In sum, at the opening of the period this article will be examining, the Seljuqs had just ended two consecutive caliphal reigns by force in an untimely fashion: that of al-Mustarshid, by murder; and, less than a year later, that of al-Rashid, who was first deposed and subsequently murdered.


At this point, during one of the most critical junctures in Abbasid history, Mas'ud appointed in the year 530 (1136) the deposed caliph's uncle Muhammad b. al-Mustazhir as the new caliph, with the throne title of al-Muqtafi. (27) Divergent reasons are given for this choice, ranging from al-Muqtafi's marital connections and the promised payment by the new caliph of 120,000 dinars to the sultan, (28) to his personal qualities, including, notably, his perceived pliancy. (29) If this last reason was indeed the decisive one, it is ironic that when the Seljuqs actually had the power to choose an Abbasid caliph, at this nadir of Abbasid power, the one they selected, al-Muqtafi, would finally reestablish the Abbasids as an independent political power and throw off Seljuq rule in Iraq.

The relationship between Mas (') ud and his new pick began rather inauspiciously when Mas (') ud inaugurated it by plundering the caliphal palace, Dar al-Khilafa:
Sultan Mas'ud [...] took all that was in Dar al-Khilafa of horses,
mules, furnishings, gold, silver, carpets, curtains, canopies, mats,
and cushions [...] not leaving anything in the royal stable except for
four horses {arba'a ar'us min al-khayl), and three mules for drawing
water [...]. They took slave-girls, female servants, and male military
slaves (ghilman). (30)

This plundering was said to have been, variously, either in addition to or part of a 100,000 or 120,000 dinar fine or levy laid upon the new caliph. (31) The taking of the caliphal steeds, however, apparently had an additional purpose, for we are informed that the oath of allegiance (bay'a) was made to al-Muqtafi "upon [condition] that he have neither horseman nor any instrument of travel." (32) Clearly, the Seljuqs were anxious to prevent any further Abbasid attempts to restore their lost glory and military power. Nor did Seljuq strong-arming stop there. The "companions of the sultan" then came to the treasurer demanding their salaries, whereupon he resorted to the expedient of bringing these soldiers into the private female apartments of Dar al-Khilafa and forcing the wives and concubines of al-Mustarshid and al-Rashid to disgorge their jewels and valuables. This process included deliberately frightening the women and humiliating them by making them unveil their faces. (33)

Finally, Sultan Mas'ud decided for al-Muqtafi who his vizier would be. (34) The chosen vizier, Sharaf al-Din 'Ali b. Tirad al-Zaynabi, was the son of a famous cleric and had served in various positions under al-Mustarshid, including vizier. (35) He had been taken prisoner by Mas'ud in 1135, together with al-Mustarshid, and had remained with, and become close to, the sultan after his former master's murder, so that he was brought to Baghdad by Mas'ud for the purpose of deposing the caliph al-Rashid. Indeed, it was al-Zaynabi who actually chose al-Muqtafi as caliph--and he probably expected the new caliph to be beholden to him. (36)

But al-Muqtafi clearly regarded al-Zaynabi as Mas'ud's tool and resented being under the vizier's--and thus the sultan's--control. In 534 (1139) matters came to a head in a falling out between the caliph and the vizier, and the latter was dismissed. According to Ibn al-Athir, "The reason for [the falling out] was that the vizier would oppose the caliph in all that he commanded, and the caliph had an aversion to this." For his part, the vizier was first angry, then frightened, and he finally fled to the sultan's palace and sought refuge there. After much correspondence between the caliph and the sultan, "the sultan permitted [al-Muqtafi] to dismiss [the vizier]," (37) who remained in the sanctuary of the sultan's palace for nearly two years, until Mas'ud came to Baghdad and, at al-Zaynabi's request, extracted from al-Muqtafi, in Sanjar's name, (38) permission for al-Zaynabi to leave his asylum and return to his own home, where he remained under virtual house arrest until his death less than two years later. (39)

Ibn al-Jawzi similarly ascribes the falling out between the two to the caliph's moves toward independence, but he places a much greater emphasis on the underlying power struggle between the caliph and the sultan, whose representative al-Zaynabi essentially was, stating that "The caliph dispatched servants and administrators over the country without consulting the vizier so there occurred between the two of them estrangement, and the vizier desisted from paying him service." (40) In his telling, while this disagreement was temporarily patched up, the vizier's followers then clashed with the followers of the amir Turshak, (41) who "was one of the caliph's elite circle (khawass) and among those who had grown up with him and in his house." Al-Zaynabi thereupon instigated Mas'ud to arrest the amir. The caliph objected vociferously, and when Mas'ud saw how offended and displeased al-Muqtafi was, he sent Turshak back; but the vizier's provocations continued: he subsequently prevented one of the caliph's own longtime agents from having access to the caliph's presence, upon which the caliph arrested the vizier's major-domo. At this point al-Zaynabi fled to Mas'ud's palace and was permanently dismissed from the caliphal vizierate. (42)

Finally, Sibt b. al-Jawzi gives several different versions of the vizier's downfall: One, listed under the same year as the other sources (534h), speaks merely of a quarrel, although it is possibly connected to the fact that at this time Mas'ud married al-Muqtaff's daughter, in an act reminiscent of Toghril Beg's. (43) The other recounting, though, which precedes it under the year 531, makes quite explicit the cause of al-Muqtafi's hostility toward the vizier--namely, his prior complicity and involvement in the Seljuq deposition of al-Muqtafi's predecessor, al-Rashid:
Al-Muqtafi pursued the people who had issued the fatwa about the
evildoing of al-Rashid and had written up the charges [against
al-Rashid]; he punished those who had justified the sanctions and
fired whoever had justified the deposition [of the caliph al-Rashid];
and the vizier Sharaf al-Din 'Ali b. Tirad al-Zaynabi fell from favor
for this reason. Al-Muqtafi said: "If they acted thus with another,
then they would act thus with me," and he dismissed Ibn Tirad most
ignominiously and confiscated all his assets. (44)

Whatever the exact course of events leading to the downfall of the Seljuq-appointed vizier, al-Muqtafi by all accounts wanted to free himself from a perceived Seljuq lackey. He achieved his aim, emerging from this showdown with the right to appoint his own viziers, without Seljuq interference. He was undoubtedly assisted by the fact that, politically, neither Sanjar nor Mas'ud was anxious to quarrel with--and perhaps end up having to murder--yet a third caliph in a row. Perhaps to soothe the bad feeling caused in 534 (1136), a few months thereafter Sanjar returned to al-Muqtafi the most important heirlooms of the Abbasids, the alleged outer garment and staff of the Prophet, which had been taken from al-Mustarshid when he was defeated. (45)


Beginning in the 1140s, though, the opportunity presented itself for al-Muqtafi to commence cautiously intervening in Seljuq affairs and strengthening his own power. Mas'ud, the regional sultan of al-'Iraqayn, was, at least intermittently, a weak ruler, whose authority ultimately depended on the amirs' knowledge that if they committed too flagrant a usurpation the supreme sultan Sanjar might swoop down upon them. It is not clear from the sources whether the relative weakness of the western sultans throughout Sanjar's supreme sultanate was situational or personal--the sons of Muhammad Tapar had all become sultans at a young age, which meant that their atabegs and other powerful amirs had years in which to consolidate their own political and military positions and to manipulate the affairs of state before the sultans could really assume control. Thus, for instance, Mas'ud was said at the beginning of his reign to have been entirely under the sway of Yarin-Qush the Bazdar; (46) and he contended with other powerful amirs at numerous junctures throughout his reign. Certainly in part as a result of this situation, these sultans were far poorer than earlier ones. "His treasury was empty most of the time," several of the sources state regarding Mas'ud. (47)

Equally important, the ruler of the empire--as mentioned above--was over a thousand miles distant after 1118, which meant that his authority was necessarily weaker than when the sultanate was centered in western Iran and military intervention was a much more imminent threat. Moreover, by the 1140s Sanjar, venerable as he was, is specifically described as becoming senescent and losing the tight control he had previously exercised; (48) as well, his aura of invincibility had been shattered by his defeat in 535h (1141) at the hands of the Qara-Khitai, and he thereafter had to invest much of his time and energy in squelching challenges from ambitious and far-flung liegemen. (49) In fact, according to the chronicler Ibn al-Athir's specific asseveration, after the defeat at Qatwan Sanjar essentially granted Mas'ud independence in his own dominions. (50) It is therefore unsurprising that one finds Mas'ud's magnates taking advantage of this fact and engaging in rebellions and political maneuvering after this time. (51)

All of this presented opportunities for a canny caliph to try to undermine Seljuq authority and increase his own, and al-Muqtafi was not slow to avail himself of these. It led in the end, once again, to armed confrontation between sultan and caliph. Regarding this preliminary building of caliphal authority at Seljuq expense, let us examine two different incidents, both occurring in 541h. In Jumada II (December 1146) Mas'ud came to Baghdad and operated the mint, whereupon the caliph arrested the minters because they had allowed that. In retaliation the Seljuq shihna arrested the "major-domo (hajib al-bab)... and four khawass" stating that he would not hand them over until the minters were released. The caliph reacted by ordering everyone out of the mosques and commanding that they be locked. They remained so for three days, but then the shihna backed down and the caliph's major-domo was freed. (52)

The second incident is more egregious, for it reveals the caliph actively plotting with highly placed Seljuq commanders in an attempt to assassinate Mas'ud. A few months after the minting incident, Mas'ud managed to kill, and thus free himself from the control of, one of a triumvirate of amirs who had been keeping him a virtual captive in Baghdad since the previous year. (53) One of the two surviving amirs, 'Abbas--whose troops supposedly outnumbered those of the sultan (54) --is said to have then entered into an agreement with the caliph to have Mas'ud assassinated at a public festival; however, the sultan did not go out that day due to inclement weather. By the following week the sultan had discovered the plot and had 'Abbas seized and executed. (55) The following year Mas'ud fought and won a pitched battle against the last triumvir, Buz Aba; it was at least in part as a warning message to the caliph that the sultan had the rebel's head sent to Baghdad and hung from the gate of Dar al-Khilafa specifically. (56) It may well have been this not-so-subtle hint, in fact, that impelled al-Muqtafi at this time to have his son al-Mustanjid named in the khutba as heir apparent, in order to provide for contingencies. (57)

But the greater geopolitical position was on the caliph's side for, ultimately, Mas'ud's power rested on his liege lord Sanjar's military might. Yet, as mentioned above, in the late 1140s Sanjar's grasp on the reins of power, not to mention ability to undertake long-distance military campaigns, was diminished. (58) All of the subordinate Seljuq regional sultans, Mas'Od included, therefore also became significantly weaker, since their power ultimately rested upon that of Sanjar; consequently, Mas'ud's amirs became increasingly fractious and al-Muqtafi exploited every opportunity to profit from the situation.

In fact, a turning point in Abbasid caliphal revival occurred in 543h (1148). At this time, a group of Mas'ud's senior amirs, worried by his recent assertion of independence from them and the growing power and favor he was bestowing upon the Turkmen amir Khass Beg, took the opportunity to rebel. This coalition of amirs marched on Baghdad, together with a Seljuq pretender, one of Mas'ud's nephews; the caliph seized upon the occasion both to order the city wall to be repaired and strengthened and to gather an army for himself. (59) Revealingly, when the rebel amirs reached the city and encamped on its eastern side, Mas'ud's prefect fled "in fear of the caliph," not of the rebels. (60) It is significant that the caliph not only managed to form and lead an army, but that he managed to put the forces of the renegade Seljuq amirs to flight. (61) For the first time since al-Mustarshid's disastrous military ventures, a caliph was recruiting and leading armies.

Sanjar was sufficiently worried about his subordinate sultan's position after these events, and also by the sway that Mas'ud's magnates, particularly the amir Khass Beg, held over him, to pay an unusual visit to his nephew's domains--the last such visit by a Great Sultan outside of Khurasan--in order to shore up Mas'ud's authority. (62) This move on Sanjar's part seems to have produced the desired results: "Mas'ud's power was augmented [...] and the caliph came to an agreement with him [whereby] his adversaries were subdued." (63) This agreement with al-Muqtafi bore fruit in the latter's refusing to countenance a rebellion by one of Mas'ud's great-nephews in 544h (1149f.)--in fact withstanding a siege of Baghdad (64) --and, subsequently, in Mas'ud's visiting Baghdad in both 544 and 546. (65)

The effect of Sanjar's intervention diminished steadily after he had gone home, however, while al-Muqtafi's power was clearly growing, together with his political assertiveness toward the Seljuqs. Thus, in 545 (1150f.) an appointment was made by the sultan at the Nizamiyya madrasa in Baghdad--as was usual, without the caliph's order or permission. This time, however, the caliph decided to assert a right to control such matters, and the appointee, Yusuf al-Dimashqi, (66) was prevented from entering the mosque on Friday and had to pray in the sultan's mosque, where he was, however, prevented from speaking. When the sultan approached another shaykh to ask him to preach instead, he refused to do so except upon order of the caliph, "so the sultan extracted (istakhraja) the permission of the caliph in this [matter]." (67)


Soon thereafter, in Rajab 547/October 1152, when the relations between the Seljuqs and the caliph still hung in the balance, Mas'ud died at the age of 45, (68) "and the fortunes of the Seljuq house died with him." (69) What this meant in practice was that, as had happened previously, the succession was contested and the usual plethora of young and inexperienced Seljuq princes and their retinues, including overweening atabegs, contended for power. But the strategic situation was now very different from earlier models and the Seljuq position far more precarious--the caliph now had an army in addition to his ambitions, and a scant half-year later, in the spring of 548 (1153), Seljuq power received a fatal blow in the form of Sanjar's downfall and captivity by the Turkmen. There was no longer a Seljuq overlord to head west with an army and arrange political matters; conditions were finally propitious for the caliph to shake off Seljuq tutelage. (70)

Indeed, Seljuq supporters and officials apparently realized this, for when news of Mas'ud's death reached Baghdad, the Seljuq prefect fled the city. (71) Deciding that the moment was auspicious, al-Muqtafi confiscated the prefect's residence in Baghdad along with those belonging to the sultan's supporters (together with all their possessions), gathered his own supporters and an army, and set about expelling all the Seljuq forces: (72)
When Sultan Mas'ud died, [al-Muqtafi] set to work pushing out the
non-Arabs (a'jam) (73) from Baghdad. He had mamluks, some of them
Byzantine and some of them Armenian, and he made them commanders
and consigned to each one of them an area of Iraq. (74)

In vain did the new Seljuq western regional sultan, (75) Muhammad b. Mahmud, repeatedly send the caliph abject letters promising that he was unlike "the sultans who preceded me," pledging his allegiance and vowing that he had no intention of installing a military representative to oversee the caliph; al-Muqtafi had no intention of subjecting himself to another Seljuq sultan--or even of letting him into Baghdad. (76)

The succeeding years witnessed not only deft caliphal diplomacy, playing off one Seljuq contender against the next, (77) but also the active military campaigns of caliphal armies, sometimes led by al-Muqtafi himself, against the various Seljuq forces seeking to master the western sultanate (al-'Iraqayn). The history of these campaigns is somewhat confused, but the most likely chronology can be sorted out as follows: In 547-48 (1152f.) the caliphal army captured Hilla, Kufa, and Wasit; in 549 al-Muqtafi personally besieged Takrit. The caliph and his army subsequently met a large Seljuq force of Turkmens in battle, under the command of the erstwhile Seljuq shihna, and defeated them resoundingly, in either 549 or 550 (1155f.) (78) In al-Bundari's words: "The caliph took possession of Iraq from the farther-most part of Kufa to Hulwan, and from the borders of Takrit to 'Abadan, and he assigned Wasit and its districts in iqta', and Basra [...] and al-Hilla and Kufa." (79) Immediately after this last battle, the caliph is said to have bestowed upon his own vizier the title of "Sultan of Iraq, King of the Armies" (sultan al-'Iraq malik al-juyush), in a clear attempt to cut down to size and to subordinate the position of sultan. (80) From this period onward, in the words of one source, "the authority (sultan) of al-Muqtafi strengthened, and his might increased; he vanquished opponents, and resolved upon betaking himself to the districts that opposed his rule [i.e., conquering recalcitrant areas]. His power did not cease to increase and rise until he died." (81)

Caliphal independence was not yet assured, however; al-Muqtafi had to fight one last Seljuq attempt to defeat the caliph and conquer Baghdad. This final showdown between al-Muqtafi and the Seljuq sultan Muhammad took place in 551 or 552 (1157), when Muhammad sent a missive to the caliph "demanding the khutba and the sultanate"; (82) during this campaign a Seljuq sultan besieged Baghdad for the last time. In Rabi' I of 552 (May 1157) the Seljuq forces lifted the siege, however, and withdrew, (83) "and after this the ambitions of the Seljuq sultans were sundered from Baghdad." (84) The final seal to Abbasid independence was set by the death of Sanjar in Safar 552 (April 1157), after which the caliph felt no need to pay even lip service to any Seljuq sultan. When news of Sanjar's demise reached Baghdad, his name was removed from the khutba and the Diwan held no mourning session in his memory; Seljuq rule over the Abbasids had officially ended. (85) In celebration of this milestone achievement, and as a memorial of thanksgiving to God, al-Muqtafi had the door of the Ka'ba replaced with a silver-plated one; he had the original door made into a coffin for himself. (86) Al-Muqtafi died not long thereafter, in 555/1160. (87)


There are several conclusions to be drawn from the events of al-Muqtafi's reign. First, one of the more noteworthy aspects of his military campaigns for caliphal independence--which seems not to have been remarked upon previously--is that the caliph achieved his military successes almost entirely without the aid of Turkish mamluks; the sources state explicitly that all of his slave soldiery (as opposed to his free soldiery, which included Turkmens as well as every other Muslim ethnic group) was recruited from Byzantium and Armenia--and these mamluks apparently maintained their position quite well against the various Seljuq and atabeg armies, which consisted largely of Turks, both Turkmens and mamluks:
When the imam was made caliph, it was upon the condition that he would
not purchase any Turkish mamluk; and throughout the entire length of
his caliphate he purchased only Armenian or Byzantine [ones], and he
did not have any [slave] Turks, with the sole exception of Turshak,
whom he had owned before [his elevation to] the imamate. (88)

Ironically, this passage, which has been held up as proof of Turkish mamluk superiority, proves the contrary, since al-Muqtafi's virtually Turkish-mamluk-free armies (89) repeatedly beat the Turkish (supposedly mamluk-filled) ones in open combat. (90) Even after freeing himself from Seljuq domination, when he enjoyed complete freedom of action, al-Muqtafi continued to avoid purchasing Turkish mamluks, according to this passage. (91)

The second and more important conclusion is that al-Muqtafi attained the goal toward which the Abbasids had been aspiring for two centuries, realizing what his murdered brother al-Mustarshid had aspired to achieve. By the end of his reign, for the first time in two hundred years, an Abbasid actually ruled over substantial portions of Iraq and maintained this position successfully in combat; this was a prodigious achievement, noted as such in the sources:
He was the first to rule independently in Iraq, standing alone without
any sultan alongside him, since the beginning of the days of the
Daylamites until this time; and the first caliph to have command of
the caliphate and rule over his army and associates since [the period]
when the mamluks took control over the caliphs, from the period of
al-Muntasir [r. 247-48/861-62] until [al-Muqtafi's day]. (92)

Finally, an examination of the reign of the caliph al-Muqtafi shows that he was a pivotal figure not only in Seljuq and Abbasid history specifically, but also in the history of the caliphate more generally, for it was he who finally succeeded in reestablishing, for the first time in centuries, Abbasid independence, and in resurrecting moribund caliphal political rule.



The author is grateful to the Institute for Advanced Study and the National Endowment for the Humanities for funding this research, and to Jurgen Paul, Michael Cook, and the JAOS anonymous readers for their comments.

(1.) On early Seljuq history, see A. C. S. Peacock, Early Seljuq History: A New Interpretation (London: Routledge, 2010). The standard political history of the period in its entirety remains C. E. Bosworth's "The Political and Dynastic History of the Iranian World (A.D. 1000-1217)," in The Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 5: The Saljuq and Mongol Periods, ed. J. A. Boyle (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1968), 1-202, now supplemented by A. C. S. Peacock, The Great Seljuk Empire (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press, 2015), which provides, finally, the first thorough book-length study that surveys the Seljuq period in its entirety.

(2.) P. Crone, God's Rule: Government and Islam. Six Centuries of Medieval Islamic Political Thought (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2004), 239.

(3.) Evidenced most clearly in the titulature inscribed on the official coinage of the Saffarid, Samanid, and Ghaznavid rulers; see, e.g., S. Album, A Checklist of Islamic Coins (Santa Rosa, CA.: S. Album, (2) 1998), 68-71, 82-83; for the Samanids, M. Fedorov et al., Sylloge numorum arabicorum Tubingen: Buhara I Samarqand. XVa Mittelasien I Central Asia I (Tubingen: Ernst Wasmuth, 2008); on Saffarid coinage, D. G. Tor, "A Numismatic History of the First Saffarid Dynasty," Numismatic Chronicle 162 (2002): 293-314.

(4.) Most notably, for instance, shahanshah, or king of kings, a title that was embraced by both the Samanids and the Buyids; see D. G. Tor, "Shahanshah," Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, ed. G. Bowering et al. (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2013), 492; L. Treadwell, "Shahanshah and al-Malik al-Mu'ayyad: The Legitimation of Power in Samanid and Buyid Iran," in Culture and Memory in Medieval Islam: Essays in Honor of Wilferd Madelung, ed. F. Daftary and J. W. Meri (London: I. B. Tauris, 2003), 318-37; C. E. Bosworth, "The Persistent Older Heritage in the Medieval Iranian Lands," in The Rise of Islam, ed. V. S. Curtis and S. Stewart (London: I. B. Tauris, 2009), 30-43. The essential thing to note is that none of these titles made any kind of claim in the Islamic tradition.

(5.) Crone, God's Rule, 234.

(6.) See D. G. Tor, "Sultan," Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, 532-34.

(7.) Crone, God's Rule, 243-47.

(8.) G Makdisi, "The Marriage of Tughril Beg," IJMES 1,3 (1969): 259-75; idem, "Les rapports entre calife et sultan a l'epoque saljuqide," IJMES 6,2 (1975): 228-36; H. Laoust, "Les agitations religieuses a Baghdad au IVe et Ve siecles de l'hegire," in Islamic Civilization 950-1150, ed. D. S. Richards (Oxford: Bruno Cassirer, 1973), 169-86; D. G Tor, "A Tale of Two Murders: Power Relations between Caliph and Sultan in the Twelfth Century," Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft 159 (2009): 279-97; E. J. Hanne, Putting the Caliph in His Place: Power, Authority, and the Late Abbasid Caliphate (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press, 2007); O. Safi, The Politics of Knowledge in Premodern Islam (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2006), 35-42; and Peacock, Great Seljuk Empire, chap. 3. Crone (God's Rule, 248-49) has rightly noted that "When there was tension between [the caliph] and a political ruler, it was usually because [the caliph] was trying to recover his own former position as political ruler [...]. The coexistence of caliph and sultan, in other words, led to political competition [...]."

(9.) Scholarship to date has generally treated the caliphs either in the early period through Malikshah--e.g., E. Glassen, Der Mittlere Weg: Studien zur Religionspolitik und Religiositat der spateren Abbasiden-Zeit (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1981)--or in the period after the end of Seljuq rule--e.g., A. Hartmann, An-Nasir It-Din Allah (1180-1225): Politik, Religion, Kultur in der spaten 'Abbasidenzeit (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1975). The critical reign of al-Muqtafi, however, has received scant notice. (The article by V. Van Renterghem, in The Seljuqs: Politics, Society, and Culture, ed. C. Lange and S. Mecit [Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press, 2011], 117-38, touches on the subject of Seljuq-Abbasid relations during the relevant years only tangentially and very briefly; note the erroneous dating of the cessation of the Seljuq khutba in Baghdad, p. 120: the correct date is 552h.) The two works most germane to the subject of this article are H. Mason, Two Statesmen of Mediaeval Islam: Vizir lbn Hubayra (499-560 AH/1105-1165 AD) and Caliph al-Nasir li Din Allah (553-622 AH/ 1158-1225 AD) (The Hague: Mouton, 1972), esp. 12-66, and Hanne, Putting the Caliph in His Place, which deals with al-Muqtafi's reign on pp. 169-80. Both of these, however, rely upon a very limited source base for their analysis.

(10.) Little has been written about either. For succinct treatments, see C. Hillenbrand, "al-Mustarshid bi'llah," in Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed. (Leiden: Brill, 1960-2004), vol. 7; D. G. Tor, "Sanjar, Ahmad b. Maleksah," Encyclopaedia Iranica (online edition); on the relations between the two, Tor, "Tale of Two Murders." A brief summation can also be found in Peacock, Great Seljuk Empire, 146-51. See also Hanne, Putting the Caliph in His Place, 142-69, for an epitomizing of the accounts of Ibn al-Jawzi and Ibn al-Athir.

(11.) Although David Durand-Guedy has provided a needed corrective to the assumption of scholars that the Seljuq sultans became more or less sedentary after their conquests, he perhaps forces the evidence too far in the opposite direction; cf. his "Ruling from the Outside: A New Perspective on Early Turkish Kingship in Iran," in Every Inch a King: Comparative Studies on Kings and Kingship in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds, ed. L. Mitchell and C. Melville (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 325-42; "Where did the Saljuqs Live? A Case Study Based on the Reign of Sultan Mas'ud b. Muhammad (1134-1152)," Studia Iranica 40 (2011): 211-58. The sources regarding Sultan Mas'ud in the period under discussion have him residing in both encampments and palaces (especially in Baghdad); in this, as in so many other aspects, the Seljuqs were an odd blend of steppe and sedentary practices. Furthermore, while the sultans during this period moved between western Iran and Baghdad, Sanjar clearly established a capital at Marv.

(12.) As elucidated in Tor, "Tale of Two Murders."

(13.) Sadr al-Din b. 'Ali al-Husayni (Akhbar al-dawla al-Saljuqiyya [Beirut: Dar al-Afaq al-Jadida, 1984], 84) notes that at the time of Muhammad Tapar's death "[t]here was no one greater than [Sanjar] in the [Seljuq] family, or with a more powerful kingdom." Seljuq dominions were ruled as something of a familial federation, with subordinate sultans, members of the dynasty, ruling large regions such as Kirman in Iraq together with western Iran (the so-called 'Iraqayn, "two Iraqs"), Syria, and so forth, but owing fealty to, and relying upon the ultimate military support of, the Great Sultan (al-sultan al-mu'azzam). After a brief war to settle "the sultanate pass[ing] from the ruler in Iraq to the ruler in Khurasan" (ibid., 83), Muhammad Tapar's son and heir MahmQd, who ruled in the 'Iraqayn, unequivocally acknowledged Sanjar as suzerain (ibid., 88-89); Zahir al-Din Nishapuri, Saljuqnama, ed. A. H. Morton (Chippenham, UK: E. J. W. Gibb Memorial Trust, 2004), 70; Muhammad b. 'Ali b. Sulayman Ravandi, Rahat al-sudur wa-ayat al-surur dar tarikh al Saljuq, ed. M. Iqbal (Tehran: Amir Kabir, 1364 [1945f.]), 205; Yahya b. 'Abd al-Latif Qazwini, Lubb al-tawarikh (Tehran: Bunyad va Guya, 1363 [1984]), 181-82.

(14.) 'Izz al-Din Abu 1-Hasan 'Ali Ibn al-Athir, al-Kamil fi l-ta'rikh, ed. C. Tornberg (repr. Beirut: Dar Sadir, 1399 [1979]), 10: 534. Al-Mustazhir had married the sultan's sister in 504A (al-Husayni, Akhbar, 81-82; Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 10: 483-84). Seljuq-Abbasid matrimony was not always conducive to longevity; two casualties that spring to mind are Toghril Beg--who died very soon after his marriage, which had been vociferously opposed by the bride's father--and Malikshah, who died suddenly in his thirties during the ten-day moratorium he had given the caliph to quit Baghdad.

(15.) Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 10: 535: "Whenever a sultan or one of his deputies undertook to wrong someone, [al-Mustazhir] did his utmost to condemn this and restrain [the Seljuq official] from it." Al-Mustazhir's hopes of reclaiming lost glory were doubtless nourished by the circumstances of succession contention within the Seljuq family, which several sources claim led in the year 496h to the temporary reversion to the recognition of the caliph alone in the khutba, and the omission of any sultan's name alongside his (e.g., Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, Ta'rtkh al-khulafa', ed. M. 'A. Baydawi [Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya, n.d.], 342; Abu 1-Faraj 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Ali Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Muntazam fi ta'rikh al-umam wa-l-muluk, ed. M. A. 'Ata [Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya, 1412/1992], 17: 80).

(16.) Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 10: 533; al-Fath b. 'Ali b. Muhammad al-Bundari, Zubdat al-nusra wa-nukhbat al-'usra, ed. M. Th. Houtsma (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1889), 119-20.

(17.) Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 10: 533.

(18.) L. Rasonyi and I. Baski, Onomasticon turcicum = Turkic Personal Names, 2 vols. (Bloomington, IN: Indiana Univ., Denis Sinor Institute for Inner Asian Studies, 2007), 2: 540.

(19.) Ibid., 2: 600.

(20.) Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 10: 534.

(21.) Ibid., especially since he apparently died of a gastro-intestinal malady; see D. S. Richards's footnote in The Chronicle of Ibn al-Athir for the Crusading Period from al-Kamil fi 'l Ta'rikh, 3 vols. (Farnham, Surrey, 2005), 1: 190.

(22.) Ibn al-Jawzi, Muntazam, 17: 161-62.

(23.) According to one source, the western Seljuq sultan was convinced that "the caliph sought the rule of Iraq and Khurasan" (Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Nizam al-Husayni Yazdi, al-'Urada fi l-hikaya al-saljuqiyya, ed. M. M. Shamsi [Tehran: Bunyad-i Mawqufat-i Duktur Mahmud Afshar Yazdi, 1388 (1968f.)], 104-5).

(24.) Muhammad b. 'Ali ibn al-'Imrani, al-Inba' fi ta'rikh al-khulafa', ed. Q. al-Samarra'i (Cairo: Dar al-Afaq al-'Arabiyya, 1999), 186; Qazvini, Lubb al-tawarikh, 124; Nishapuri, Saljuqnama, 75; Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 28; Abu 1-Fida' 'Imad al-Din Isma'il b. 'Ali, al-Mukhtasar fi akhbar al-bashar (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya, 1417/1997), 2: 74.

(25.) Abu 1-Fida', Mukhtasar, 76. Atabegs were the military officers who served as official guardians for Seljuq princes.

(26.) Al-Bundari, Zubdat al-nusra, 183; Abu 1-Fida', Mukhtasar, 76; Muhammad b. Burhan al-Din Khwandshah Mirkhwand, Tarikh-i rawdat al-safa' (Tehran: Markaz-i Khayyam Piruz, 1959-60), 3: 532.

(27.) Ravandi, Rahat al-sudur, 228-29; Hamdallah b. Abi Bakr b. Ahmad b. Nasr Mustawfi Qazvini, Tarikh-i guzida, ed. 'A. H. Nava'i (Tehran, 1339 [1960]), 360-61; Qazvini, Lubb al-tawarikh, 124; Abu 1-Fida', Mukhtasar, 76; ibn al-'Ibri, Ta'rikh, 205-6; Mirkhwand, Rawdat al-safa', 3: 353; al-Husayni, Akhbar, 108-9; al-Bundari, Zubdat al-nusra, 183; Ibn al-'Imrani, al-Inba', 186; Rashid al-Din Fadlallah, Jami' al-tawarikh, ed. A. Atesh (Tehran: Dunyay-i Kitab, n.d.), 1-2: 361; Muhammad b. 'Ali b. Muhammad Shabankara'i, Majma' al-ansab, ed. M. H. Muhaddis (Tehran: Amir Kabir, 1376 [1956f.]), 115; Yazdi, 'Urada, 106. See also Tor, "Tale of Two Murders," 292. Rashid al-Din, Yazdi, and Shabankara'i never mention the deposition and make it seem as though Mas'ud appointed al-Muqtafi only after al-Rashid was killed by so-called batinis.

(28.) Bar Hebraeus, The Chronography of Gregory Abu 'l-Faraj 1225-1286, tr. E. A. W. Budge (repr. Amsterdam: APA-Philo Press, 1976), 1: 263. This information is not present in the Arabic version: Gregorius Ibn al-'Ibri, Ta'rikh mukhtasar al-duwal (Beirut: Dar al-Mashriq, 1992), 205-6.

(29.) Ibn al-Athir, Kumil, 11: 43; Bar Hebraeus, Chronography, tr. Budge, 1: 208. The stories presciently warning against al-Muqtafi are surely foreshadowing literary devices, e.g., Bar-Hebraeus, Chronography, tr. Budge, 1: 263; Ibn al-Athir, al-Kamil, 11: 44.

(30.) Ibn al-Jawzi, Muntazam, 17: 314; Shams al-Din Abu 1-Muzaffar Yusuf b. Qiziloghlu Sibt Ibn al-jawzi, Mir'at al-zaman fi ta'rikh al-a'yan, ed. K. S. al-Juburi (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Imiyya, 1434 [2013]), 13: 516.

(31.) E.g., Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, Mir'at al-zaman, 13: 523, where the fine is levied after the plundering, and is clearly additional; note the acerbic answer al-Muqtafi sends to the sultan's demand for this money.

(32.) Ibn al-Jawzi, Muntazam, 17: 314; al-Suyuti, Ta'rikh al-khulafa', 349-50. Al-Husayni (Akhbar, 129; repeated in al-Bundari, Zubdat al-nusra, 235) writes, on the other hand, that the caliph swore not to undertake a purchasing program of specifically Turkish ghilman (al-ghilman al-atrak); this question will be addressed below. Suffice it to note here that David Ayalon ("The Mamluks of the Seljuks: Islam's Military Might at the Crossroads," JRAS 3rd ser. 6,3 [1996]: 308-10) interprets this ban as meaning that the Turkish mamluks were so far superior to all other military slaves that the Seljuqs did not fear the caliph's power should he have others; but there are many other possible reasons for a specifically Turkish ban, assuming this was not authorial interpolation in al-Husayni that was then followed by a number of subsequent authors. One is Seljuq fear of losing their advantage of racial solidarity should potentially rival armies also be manned by Turks, whether free or slave (for an instance of racial solidarity influencing the outcome of a battle, see al-Bundari, Zubdat al-nusra, 177, discussed in D. G. Tor, "Mamluk Loyalty: Evidence from the Late Saljuq Period," Asiatische Studien 65,3 [2011]: 778); a second may be due to the fact that while it was impossible in a society so permeated by slavery for the Seljuqs to forbid the caliphal household to purchase any slaves, it was possible to limit their purchase of the one category that tended, especially after the advent of the Seljuqs and the corresponding rise in Turkic prestige, to be used predominantly and disproportionately as military slaves.

(33.) Ibn al-Jawzi, Muntazam, 17: 314; Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, Mir'at al-zaman, 13: 516; cf. Yazdi, 'Urada, 106.

(34.) Ibn al-Jawzi, Muntazam, 17: 314.

(35.) Al-Bundari, Zubdat al-nusra, 175; Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 10: 653.

(36.) Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 26, 42; al-Bundari, Zubdat al-nusra, 183; Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, Mir'at al-zaman, 13: 515-16.

(37.) Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 76.

(38.) Ibn al-Jawzi, Muntazam, 18: 18.

(39.) He died in Ramadan 538/March 1144: Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 97; Ibn al-Jawzi, Mumazam,18: 18. On the Seljuq intervention, see Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, Mir'at al-zaman, 13: 552. A truncated version of this affair can be found in al-Bundari, Zubdat al-nusra, 194. Cf. Bar Hebraeus, Chronography, tr. Budge, 266: "The word which Sultan Mas'ud spake to the Wazir Sharaf al-Din was actually fulfilled [...]. For that Khalifah began to meddle in political matters without the advice of the Wazir, and the Wazir was cut off in his house. And when he brought him he discussed matters with him disingenuously. And the hand of the Wazir was suppressed in very many affairs, and after a little the Khalifah dismissed him finally from his office of Wazir."

(40.) Al-Muqtafi had begun his caliphate with an empty treasury but, according to Ibn al-Athir (Kamil, 11: 43-44), the sultan sent to al-Muqtafi to determine which land revenues (iqta's) would go toward the caliphal privy purse, and in the end the caliph was awarded the amount that al-Mustazhir had enjoyed.

(41.) According to C. Edmund Bosworth ("Notes on Some Turkish Personal Names in Seljuq Military History," Der Islam 89 [2012]: 108), the correct form is probably "Tershek," although another possibility would be "Torsuq"; see Rasonyi and Baski, Onomasticon, 2: 781-82.

(42.) In June 1140; Ibn al-Jawzi, Muntazam, 18: 4. Cf Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 92, who separates the events, placing the arrest of Turshak at a later point in time.

(43.) Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, Mir'at al-zaman, 13: 544. It is perhaps suggestive that the information regarding this quarrel between the caliph and his vizier immediately succeeds notice of the wedding; if, indeed, the vizier facilitated this match, it would be another parallel to Toghril Beg's presumptuous marriage, on which, see Makdisi, "Marriage of Tughril Beg" (above, n. 8), passim.

(44.) Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, Mir'at al-zaman, 13: 528.

(45.) Abu I-Fida', Mukhtasar, 82.

(46.) Al-Husayni, Akhbar 106; al-Bundari, Zubdat al-nusra, 175, who points out that this was only after the atabeg Aqsunqur was assassinated by the Isma'ilis (for this event, ibid., 169). On this name, see Rasonyi and Baski, Onomasticon, 1: 334.

(47.) Nishapuri, Saljuqnama, 74; Rashid al-Din, Jami' al-tawarikh, 1-2: 359.

(48.) E.g., al-Bundari, Zubdat al-nusra, 276: "When the term of Sanjar's life lengthened [...] the amirs gained sway over the rule of his affairs, and behaved familiarly with his power."

(49.) Most notably the Khwarazmshahs and Ghurids; see, e.g., J. Paul, "Sanjar and Atsiz: Independence, Lordship, and Literature," in Nomad Aristocrats in a World of Empires, ed. idem (Wiesbaden: Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2013),81-130.

(50.) Ibn al-Athir, al-Kamil, 11: 82: adhina lahu fi l-tasarruf fi l-Rayy.

(51.) E.g., Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, Mir'at al-zaman, 13: 567-68.

(52.) Ibn al-Jawzi, Muntazam, 18: 49; Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, Mir'at al-zaman, 13: 572-73; cf. al-Suyuti, Ta'rikh al-khulafa', 350. This incident perhaps helps to answer at least partially the question of how al-Muqtafi was financing his comeback, since it is doubtful that the iqta's originally awarded him by Mas'ud would have sufficed to raise armies.

(53.) 'Abd al-Rahman b. Tughayaruk. E.g., Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 104.

(54.) Ibid., 116.

(55.) Nishapuri, Saljuqnama, 82; Yazdi, 'Urada, 110; Ravandi, Rahat al-sudur, 238, 242; Rashid al-Din, Jami' al-tawarikh, 1-2: 375; Mirkhwand, Rawdat al-safa', 4: 328-29. Ibn al-Athir (Kamil, 11: 116-17), al-Husayni

(Akhbar, 118-19), Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi (Mir'at al-zaman, 13: 580), and al-Bundari (Zubdat al-nusra, 217) all omit 'Abbas's plot with the caliph from their accounts.

(56.) Ravandi, Rahat al-sudur, 242; Rashid al-Din, Jami' al-tawurikh, 1-2: 377; Ibn al-Jawzi, Muntazam, 18: 55; Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, Mir'at al-zaman, 13: 580; Shabankara'i, Majma' al-ansab, 116; Nishapuri, Saljuqnama, 83; Yazdi, 'Urada, 111. Cf. Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi (Mir'at al-zaman, 13: 574), who states merely that Buz Aba's head was sent to Baghdad, without mentioning the caliphal palace gate; al-Husayni (Akhbar, 119) omits this episode entirely.

(57.) Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 123. Another proximate cause may be the revolt of the caliph's own brother, Isma'il b. al-Mustazhir, against him (Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, Mir'at al-zaman, 13: 584) or even the death of al-Muqtafi's Seljuq wife, Sanjar's niece, two months prior to the appointment (ibid., 586).

(58.) For the reference, see n. 48 above.

(59.) Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 132-33; Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, Mir'at al-zaman, 13: 587-88. Al-Mustarshid had previously built this wall in 517 (1123); Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 10: 616. Al-Bundari (Zubdat al-nusra, 235) mentions the fortifying of the walls and digging of trenches only after the death of Mas'ud.

(60.) Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 133-34; al-Husayni, Akhbar, 120. Both Ibn al-Jawzi (Muntazam, 18: 64) and Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi (Mir'at al-zaman, 13: 587) have the caliph mention his flight, implying that it was the rebel amirs who frightened him away; pace Hanne (Putting the Caliph in His Place, 172-73), who interprets this episode as a significant defeat for the caliph due to the civilian casualties reported by Ibn al-Athir. These might have been of little concern to a medieval ruler, however; Ibn al-Athir states also that the amirs accomplished nothing of military significance and were not able to breach eastern Baghdad's defenses, let alone defeat the caliphal forces in battle. Al-Husayni's account in particular is vital to understanding the outcome of this episode.

(61.) Al-Husayni, Akhbar, 120; Ibn al-Jawzi, Muntazam, 18: 65-66.

(62.) Ravandi, Rahat al-sudur, 243; al-Husayni, Akhbar, 121; Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, Mir'at al-zaman, 13: 594 (who places Sanjar's progression in 544); Nishapuri, Saljuqnama, 83-84; Rashid al-Din, Jami' al-tawarikh, 1-2: 378. All state that Sanjar came to Mas'ud's dominions expressly to seek Khass Beg's head.

(63.) Shabankara'i, Majma' al-ansab, 116, although he places this event in 541, unlike the annalists.

(64.) Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 143; Ibn al-Jawzi, Muntazam, 18: 71-72; Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, Mir'at al-zaman, 13: 593-94.

(65.) Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 143, for the earlier date; Ibn al-Jawzi, Muntazam, 18: 72, 81; Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, Mir'at al-zaman, 13: 594, 622; Nishapuri, Saljuqnama, 84, 85; Ravandi, Rahat al-sudur, 244, 245; Rashid al-Din, Jami' al-tawarikh, 1-2: 379, 80.

(66.) Yusuf b. 'Abdallah b. Bundar al-Dimashqi, see Shams al-Din Muhammad b. Ahmad b. 'Uthman al-Dhahabi, Siyara'lam al-nubala' (Beirut: Mu'assasat al-Risala, 1419/1998), 20: 513-14.

(67.) Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 152; Ibn al-Jawzi, Muntazam, 18: 77. Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi (Mir'at al-zaman, 13: 609-10) relates a somewhat different version.

(68.) Nishapuri, Saljuqnama, 86. According to al-Suyuti (Ta'rikh al-khulafa', 351), his death was due to al-Muqtafi's having prayed against him for a month.

(69.) Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 160; Abu 1-Fida', Mukhtasar; 93. Cf. Rashid al-Din, Jami' al-tawarikh, 1-2: 384: "After sultan Mas'ud, there remained to the Seljuqs no splendor (rawnaq) in Baghdad."

(70.) Al-Husayni, Akhbar, 123-26: "After him, Seljuq rule over the kingdom of Transoxiana and over Baghdad came to an end, and the Khwarazmshah took over his realm."

(71.) E.g., Yazdi, 'Urada, 134; al-Husayni, Akhbar, 129.

(72.) Ibn al-Jawzi, Muntazam, 18: 84; Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 161-62; Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, Mir'at al-zaman, 14: 11; see also al-Bundari, Zubdat al-nusra, 234-35. Ibn al-Athir describes how the caliph also made a show of confiscating the apparently abundant store of alcoholic beverages in the homes of the Seljuq supporters, especially the shihnas.

(73.) The term here is clearly used to refer to the Turks, i.e., the Seljuqs.

(74.) Al-Husayni, Akhbar, 129. The caliph's implacable opposition to everyone connected with the Seljuqs extended even to well-known preachers and religious scholars, e.g., Abu 1-Hasan 'Ali b. Husayn al-Ghaznawi, from whom the caliph is said to have "turned away" after Mas'ud's death because of his close connection with the Seljuqs; Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 216-17. Al-Suyuti (Ta'rikh al-khulafa', 351) mentions that one of al-Muqtafi's first actions after Mas'ud's death was to depose "whoever had been appointed by the sultan as an instructor in the Nizamiyya."

(75.) Disregarding the four-month rule of the drunkard Malikshah b. Mahmud, who was speedily deposed; see, e.g., Nishapuri, Saljuqnama, 87-88.

(76.) Al-Husayni, Akhbar, 131, 134; Mirkhwand, Rawdat al-saja', 3: 533 (for Muhammad's pleading).

(77.) E.g., Yazdi, 'Urada, 120, 125; Nishapuri, Saljuqnama, 94; Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Muntazam, 18: 106; Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, Mir'at al-zaman, 14: 29-30, 33. Al-Bundari (Zubdat al-nusra, 235-36) describes the rivalry among the various camps and how the caliph also took astute advantage of this blessing. In this case, the caliph did permit the weak contender Sulaymanshah (who reigned 555/1160 in 'Iraq-i 'ajam for a scant six months before being killed; Nishapuri, Saljuqnama, 103) to enter Baghdad, but al-Muqtafi was clearly using him as a counterpoise to the more threatening sultan Muhammad. For caliphal exploitation of Sulaymanshah, see additionally al-Bundari, Zubdat al-nusra, 240-42. Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi (ibid.) notes that the caliph laid out explicitly that "Iraq would be the caliph's, and Sulaymanshah would not have anything but what he conquered himself outside Iraq."

(78.) Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 162, 194-96; Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, Mir'at al-zaman, 14: 11, 20-21; Ibn al-Jawzi, Muntazam, 18:90-91, 95-97, 101-2; al-Husnyni, Akhbar, 131-33; Rashid al-Din, Jami' al-tawarlkh, 1-2:394-95; Bar-Hebraeus, Chronography, tr. Budge, 282ff.; Abu 1-Fida', Mukhtasar, 100.

(79.) Al-Bundari, Zubdat al-nusra, 235. The various campaigns can be found on pp. 236ff.

(80.) Ibn al-Jawzi, Muntazam, 18: 97; Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 196. Al-Bundari (Zubdat al-nusra, 235) explains that the caliph gave in iqta'- to his vizier, Ibn Hubayra, "everything that the vizier of the sultan and his high dignitaries had held."

(81.) Al-Suyuti, Ta'rikh al-khulafa', 352.

(82.) Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, Mir'at al-zaman, 14: 37.

(83.) Al-Husayni, Akhbar, 134-40; al-Bundari, Zubdat al-nusra, 246-55, 290ff.; Nishapuri, Saljuqnama, 95-98; Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 212-15; Ibn al-Jawzi, Muntazam, 18: 111-18; Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, Mir'at al-zaman, 14: 37-39; Abu 1-Fida', Mukhtasar, 102.

(84.) Al-Husayni, Akhbar, 140.

(85.) Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 222; Ibn al-Jawzi, Muntazam, 18: 121. According to Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi (Mir'at al-zaman, 14: 49), the caliph also confiscated all of Sanjar's property in Baghdad and, when the sultan Muhammad sent messengers to the caliph the following year, the vizier refused them entry or even a hearing (ibid., 60). There was subsequently a very brief period during the first year of the reign of al-Muqtafi's son, al-Mustanjid (who succeeded his father in 555/1160, after thwarting an assassination plot by one of his half-brothers; Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 256-57), when the new caliph recognized the ephemeral Sulaymanshah in the khutba, apparently as a precautionary measure during the perilous transition period (Ibn al-Jawzi, Muntazam 18: 146 reports the ending of the practice). This extremely brief resumption of Seljuq inclusion in the khutba appears to have been purely pro forma--there was not, for instance, any renewal of the practice of stationing a shihna.

(86.) Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 228; al-Suyuti, Ta'rikh al-khulafa', 352; Mirkhwand, Rawdat al-safa', 3: 533.

(87.) Ibn al-Jawzi, Muntazam, 18: 138; al-Suyuti, Ta'rikh al-khulafa', 352; al-Bundari, Zubdat al-nusra, 292; Abu 1-Fida', Mukhtasar, 105.

(88.) Al-Bundari, Zubdat al-nusra, 235. We have already encountered this lone Turkish mamluk above.

(89.) Al-Muqtafi had apparently inherited a few mamluk commanders from his predecessors, for instance, the amirs Mankubars and Qutlugh Bars, both of whom are explicitly referred to as having been among the mamluks of al-Mustarshid; al-Husayni, Akhbar, 131 (who is explicit only regarding Mankubars); al-Bundari, Zubdat al-nusra, 237 (who states that "both of the two were [originally] from among the Mustarshidiyya").

(90.) Although in the last Seljuq siege of Baghdad there was apparently quite a large Kurdish contingent; see Sibt Ibn al-Jawzi, Mir'at al-zaman, 14: 37.

(91.) It seems he was wise to do so--in the end, Turshak defected to the other side; Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 252. Mamluk loyalty was a severe systemic problem, and this would not be the only recorded case of racial 'asabiyya trumping other loyalties; see D. G. Tor, "Mamluk Loyalty: Evidence from the Late Saljuq Period," Asiatische Studien 65,3 (2011): 767-96; and for a more general critique of the romanticization of Turkish mamluks, idem, "The Mamluks in the Military of the Pre-Seljuq Persianate Dynasties," Iran: Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies 46 (2008): 213-25.

(92.) Ibn al-Athir, Kamil, 11: 256, correcting "al-Mustansir" to "al-Muntasir"; Abu 1-Fida', Mukhtasar, 110; Ibn al-'Ibri, Ta'rikh, 209; Mirkhwand, Rawdat al-safa', 3: 534. Cf. al-Suyuti, Ta'rikh al-khulafa, 352-53, dating caliphal impotence from al-Muqtadir's reign: "From the days of al-Muqtafi, Baghdad and Iraq returned to the hand of the caliphs [...] before this, from the reign of al-Muqtadir [r. 908-932] until his [al-Muqtafi's] time, rule had belonged to those kings who gained mastery, and there did not remain to the caliphs anything but the title of caliph."
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Author:TOR, D.G.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Apr 1, 2017
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