The decay of the Abbasid caliphate continues. Egypt is almost an independent country; and the caliphate is also troubled by the Qarmatian revolt – a group of Shia fanatics who end up stealing the Black stone from Mecca.
CALIPHATE OF AL-MUKTAFĪ BI’LLĀH (289-295/902-908).
1. The bay’ah was given to al-Muktafī, i.e. Abū Muhammad [‘Ali] b. Ahmad al-Mu’tadid, in Baghdad, on the same day that al-Mu’tadid died. Al-Muktafi was in ar-Raqqah. Letters and missives were sent to him to travel to Baghdad. He went, and settled there. His mother was Bakhtagiknah, and she was the daughter of al-Qāsim b. ‘Ubayd Allah b. Sulaymān b. Dhahb. He named his secretary al-‘Abbās b. Al-Hasan al-Mādarāni, and restored things to order.
2. In the second year of the caliphate of al-Muktafī, in 290 [of the Hegira], the Nile of Egypt reached the height of thirteen cubits and two fingers. The Muslims, Christians and Jews went out in procession, praying to God for rain, but the level of water remained as we mentioned, and the water continued to flow. In the third year of al-Muktafi’s caliphate there was made patriarch of Antioch Elias. He was a kātib. He held office for twenty-eight years and died. In the month of Rabī ‘al-ākhar, the town of Seleucia, in Byzantine territory, was conquered, and the loot was brought to Egypt in the month of Ragab of the year 290 [of the Hegira]. In the second year of the caliphate of al-Muktafi died Michael, patriarch of Alexandria, on Sunday, six days before the end of the month of Ramadan of the year 290 [of the Hegira], after having been patriarch for thirty-four years. After him the see of Alexandria remained without a patriarch for four years. In the fifth year of the caliphate of al-Muktafi, there was made patriarch of Alexandria Cristodulos, originally from Aleppo. He was consecrated in Jerusalem on Holy Saturday, the 4th of the month of Nīsān, that is, the 7th of Barmūdah, 19th of the month of ğumādā al-ākhar. Elias, the son of Mansūr, patriarch of Jerusalem, consecrated him and he went to Alexandria. But the inhabitants of Alexandria said, “We will not accept him unless the prayer making him patriarch is repeated.” The prayer of patriarchs was prayed over him on the 4th of Ramadan of the year 294 [of the Hegira]. He held office for twenty-six years and six months and died. He was buried in the church of [Saint] Michael at Fustāt-Misr. In the sixth year of al-Muktafi’s caliphate there was made patriarch of Jerusalem George, son of Da’ğān. He held office for four years and eight months and died.
3. There arose in Syria a rebel called Ismā’il the Qarmatian. In Damascus the governor, in the name of Khumārawayh b. Ahmad b. Tūlūn, was Tughğ b. Khaff al-Far’āni. After several battles, Tughğ was put to flight at the hand of Ismā’īl the Qarmatian, and many of his men fell on the field. Tughğ then wrote to Hārūn ibn Khumārawayh, informing him of the fact. Hārūn sent a large army to him, all of which belonged to the men of the Tulūnids. The battle between the army of Hārūn and the Qarmatian took place near a village called “Kenākir”, in the province of Damascus, in the area known as “al-Askafiyyah” in the month of Ragab of the year 289 [of the Hegira]. After a fierce battle, the Qarmatian was killed, and on both sides about twenty thousand men fell, while the others were fleeing. The survivors of the forces of Hārūn went to Damascus and Tiberias, while those of the Qarmatian army headed to Homs. Then Hārūn’s soldiers returned to Egypt, but part of them remained in Damascus with Badr, called al-Ğamāmi. The Qarmatian had a brother named an-Nāgim. He gathered the survivors of his brother’s forces, and formed an army by recruiting his own people, and began his rebellion in the area around Homs. When al-Muktafi learned that the Egyptian hosts had been cut to pieces and decimated by the Qarmatian and that the Egyptian soldiers had been killed, he decided to occupy Egypt, and he sent Muhammad ibn Sulaymān at the head of his most illustrious commanders and with a huge army. Al-Muktafi then went to ar-Raqqah and stopped there. When he came to Homs, Muhammad ibn Sulayman put to flight the troops of the Qarmatian an-Nāgim and captured seven hundred of his men. The Qarmatian escaped but he was caught in a place called “ad-Dāliyyah”. Muhammad ibn Sulaymān brought him to al-Muktafī, at ar-Raqqah, along with the seven hundred men. Al-Muktafi took him with him to Baghdad where, after torturing him for a long time, he had him decapitated on a scaffold, then hanged his body on a cross. He then ordered the killing of the seven hundred men: some were decapitated on the scaffold and then crucified, others had their hands and feet cut off.
4. Al-Muktafi’s armies progressed with Muhammad ibn Sulaymān even to Damascus. Badr al-Hammāmi, along with the soldiers who were with him, asked for a promise of safety from Muhammad ibn Sulaymān. Muhammad ibn Sulayman then left for Palestine with the intent of invading Egypt. Knowing that the soldiers and armies had him as their target, Hārūn ibn Khumārawayh went to a place called “al-‘Abbāsiyyah”, an Egyptian territory of the province of al-Hawf, and camped there with his commanders and many men, to wait for Muhammad ibn Sulayman and to fight against him. Al-Muktafi’s ships followed the route to Tinnis and entered the province of Egypt. The Greek Damian commanded the fleet. Then some of Hārūn’s commanders came to meet Damian in a village of al-Fustāt called “Tanūhah”. The battle between the two sides was violent, but Hārūn’s officers went over to the other side and fled.
5. Shaybān ibn Muhammad b. Tūlūn, the uncle of Hārūn, attacked Hārūn ibn Khumārawayh and killed him, on Sunday 18th of the month of Safar of the year 292. Shaybān b. Ahmad b. Tūlūn was the arbiter of the situation only for a few days. For Hārūn’s officers wrote a letter to Muhammad ibn Sulaymān asking him to grant them protection. Granting them what they asked, Muhammad ibn Sulaymān entered Misr without finding any opposition and no objection on Thursday, two days before the end of the month of Safar of the year 292. Faced with this event, and seeing that Muhammad ibn Sulayman had already deployed his battle-ready soldiers in a place called “ar-Riyah” at the gate of the city of Misr, Shaybān and his brothers sought a guarantee of their lives and property . This was granted, and Shaybān’s forces disbanded. Muhammad ibn Sulayman ordered all the officers and secretaries of Hārūn who were with him to go to Baghdad. They went to Baghdad, while Muhammad ibn Sulaymān stayed in Egypt for six months, and the scribes and the officers with them collected thousands of thousands of dinars. Then he returned to Iraq, leaving Is’ān an-Nūshari in Egypt, after having stayed for six months and having collected from the provinces thousands of thousands of dinars destined for the sultan. Al-Muktafi took Muhammad ibn Sulaymān and threw him into prison, demanding the restitution of the goods that he had collected in Egypt.
6. In Syria one of Hārūn’s officers, known under the name of Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al-Khalīğ, one of those who remained with Muhammad ibn Sulaymān in Syria, rebelled, and, having gathered around him a multitude of men of every sort, had set up their seat in the city of ar-Ramlah. Learning of this, Isa an-Nūshari joined with al-Husayn ibn Ahmad al-Mādarāni, called Abū Zaynūn, and the soldiers who were in Egypt and came out together to fight against Muhammad ibn Ali al-Khaliğ. When they learned that he had a large number of men with him, they returned, together with the officers, to al-Fustāt. From here they went down to al-Gizah, broke the two bridges then gave them to the flames, so that Muhammad ibn Ali al-Khalīğ could not reach them, and continued marching about, now to Alexandria, now to upper Egypt. So the city of al-Fustāt remained without authority and without anyone [as governor]. The citizens protected themselves, and took care of each other for five days.
7. Muhammad ibn [Ali] al-Khalīg entered Misr on a Thursday, fourteen days before the end of the month of Dhū’l-qa’da of the year 292. He stayed there for eight months, accumulating riches and strengthening his position. Then the armies of al-Muktafī arrived, under the command of his freedman Fātik, and a group of officers. Muhammad ibn Ali al-Khalīg came out against him, retreated on al-Fustāt with his men and engaged in a violent battle. Muhammad ibn Ali was beaten and succeeded in returning to al-Fustāt, where he hid himself. Fātik made his entry into al-Fustāt together with his officers. The man with whom Muhammad bin Ali al-Khalīg was hiding went to Isā an-Nūshari and told him that he was with him. He was arrested – it was the month of Rağab of the year 293 [of the Hegira] – and he carried him with him back to Irāq together with his men, his family, his officers and scribes, and those who had helped him.
8. Al-Muktafi died on Sunday 13th of the month of Dhū’l-qa’da of the year 295 [of the Hegira]. His caliphate lasted six years, nine months and two days. His influential advisers and administrators of his affairs were his minister al-‘Abbās ibn al-Husayn and his freeman Fātik.
- From what follows, the name of this rebel was actually Abū’l-Qāsim, as is clear from the battle in which Tughğ was defeated. Eutychius has confused him with Ismā’īl, son of the 6th Imam Ga’far as-Sādiq (d. 765), from whom the Ismailites take their name. The latter are easy to confuse with the Qarmatians. (Pirone). The “Qarmata” or “Qarmatians” or “Qaramita” were a Shia group best known for taking the black stone from Mecca.↩
- Perhaps “officers” would be a better word?↩