Monday, January 7, 2013

'Abd Allah ibn Tahir

‘Abd Allah ibn Tahir (c.798-844/5), also known as Abdullah ibn Tahir al-Khurasani, was a member of the Tahirid dynasty.  He was a poet, a general and virtually the independent ruler of Khurasan, a man of wisdom and wide culture and an accomplished musician. He was the Tahirid governor of Khurasan from 828 until his death. He is perhaps the most famous of the Tahirids.

Abdullah's early career consisted of serving with his father Tahib ibn Husayn in pacifying the lands of the caliphate following the civil war between al-Amin and al-Ma'mun. He later succeeded his father as governor of Al-Jazira, with the task of defeating the rebel Nasr bin Shabath, and between 824 and 826 convinced Nasr to surrender. He was then sent to Egypt, where he successfully ended an uprising led by 'Abd Allah ibn al-Sari. He also recovered Alexandria, which had been seized by Andalusian Muslim refugees seven years before: following their expulsion, the refugees headed to Byzantine Crete, establishing Muslim rule there for the first time.

Although Abdullah had been made the governor of Khurasan following his brother's death in 828, he only arrived in Nishapur in 830. In the meantime, he had been busy fighting more revolts. He was assigned for a brief time in 829 to stop the Khurramite Babak, but then was given new orders by the caliph to move to Khurasan and stop the Kharijites. Abdullah's brother 'Ali acted as deputy governor of Khurasan until he was ready to take up residence in Nishapur.

During his reign as governor, Abdullah was occupied with affairs on both the eastern and western parts of his territories. In the east, he took steps to improving the strength of the Samanids, his vassals in Transoxiana. The Samanids were important, as they controlled the trade between Central Asia and the central caliphate, including the trade of Turkish slaves. Also in the east in 834, an Alid, Muhammad ibn al-Qasim, revolted in Juzjan, but Abdullah's forces eventually managed to capture him.

In the west, meanwhile, Abdullah came into contact with the local ruler of Tabaristan, the Ispahbad Mazyar bin Qarin. As the ruler of the east, Abdullah claimed Tabaristan as a dependency and insisted that the tribute owed by Mazyar to the caliph should pass through him. Mazyar, however, was looking to expand his dominion and wanted to be free of Tahirid influence, so he refused to accept this and demanded that he be able to pay his tribute directly to the caliph. In this struggle, Mazyar had the support of the Afshin, who allegedly wanted to control the Tahirid lands himself. Abdullah was able to turn the caliph against Mazyar, and in 839 was ordered to stop the Ispahbad. Mazyar, a recent convert to Islam, heavily relied on the Zoroastrians on the province but in the end was captured, sent to Iraq and executed. Tahirid control over Tabaristan was therefore secured until the Zaydid revolt of 864.

'Abd Allah died in Nishapur, either at the end of 844 or in 845. He was succeeded by his son Tahir.

Alternative names include:

'Abd Allah ibn Tahir
'Abdallah ibn Tahir al-Khurasani
'Abdullah ibn Tahir al-Khurasani
Ibn Tahir
Ibn Tahir, 'Abd Allah
Ibn Tahir al-Khurasani
Ibn Tahir al-Khurasani, 'Abdallah
Ibn Tahir al-Khurasani, 'Abdullah

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