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Medieval Sourcebook:
The Experiences of the Nations, c. 980 CE

The Caliphate of al-Muqtadir Billah (r. 908-932).

Account of the procedure at the proclamation of Ja'far son of Mu'tadid, whose kunyah was Abu'l-Fadi, and who was thirteen years of age at the time

When Muktafi's [Caliph, r. 892-902, father of Muqtadir] illness grew serious, his wazir `Abbas ben Hasan began to consider whom he should appoint Caliph; and his choice wavered. On his way from his own palace to that of the Sultan he used to be accompanied by one of the four persons who had charge of the bureau....When the first of these was his companion, and was consulted by him on the matter, he nominated Abu'l-`Abbas `Abdallah son of Mu`tazz, [Caliph, r. 866-869] eulogizing his character. The next day his companion was the third of these above-mentioned men, Ibn al-Furat, who, when consulted, replied that this was a matter to which he was unaccustomed; he begged therefore to be excused; he was accustomed to being consulted only about officials. `Abbas displayed annoyance, and said: "This is hedging; you know well what is wise." When he insisted, Ibn al-Furat said: "If the wazir's choice is fixed upon an individual, let him ask God's blessing and proceed with the execution of his plan. I understand that you refer to Ibn al-Mu`tazz, about whom rumour is rife." But `Abbas said: "All I want of you is your candid advice." Ibn al-Furat replied: "If that is what the wazir requires, then what I say is: For God's sake do not appoint to the post a man who knows the house of one, the fortune of another, the gardens of a third, the slave-girl of a fourth, the estate of a fifth, and the horse of a sixth; nor one who has mixed with people, has had experience of affairs, has gone through his apprenticeship, and made calculations of people's fortunes." The wazir requested Ibn al-Furat to repeat those words several times, and said at last: "Then whom do you nominate?" He replied: "Ja`far son of Mu`tadid!" "What," he said, "Ja`far is a child!" "True," al-Furat said, "only he is Mu`tadid's son. Why should you introduce a man who will govern, and knows our resources, who will administer affairs himself, and regard himself as independent? Why not deliver the empire to a man who will leave you to administer it?"

`Abbas ben Hasan inclined to Ibn al-Furat's view, and with this there coincided the testament of Muktafi, which assigned to his brother Ja`far the sucession to the Caliphate. So when Muktafi died, late in the day on Saturday, August 13, 908, the wazir `Abbas appointed Ja`far to the Caliphate, albeit unwillingly, owing to Ja`far's tender years. Safi the Hurami (attendant of the women's apartments) went to bring him down the river from Ibn Tahir's palace; when the harraqah in which he was brought came on its way to the palace of `Abbas ben Hasan, the retainers of `Abbas called out to the boatman to come inside. It occurred to Safi the Hurami that `Abbas only desired Ja`far to enter his palace because he had changed his mind with regard to the prince; fearing then that the wazir might transfer his choice to some one else, Safi told the boatman not to go in, and drawing his sword said to the boatman: If you go inside, I will slash off your head. So the boatman proceeded without stopping to the Sultan's Palace. Ja`far's appointment was then effected, and he took the title al-Muqtadir Billah ("the powerful through God"). The new Sultan gave `Abbas a free hand, and the latter gave out the accession money.


From: D. S. Margoliouth, ed., The Eclipse of the Abbasid Caliphate; Original Chronicles of the Fourth Islamic Century (The Concluding Portion of the Experiences of Nations by Miskawaihi), (London: Basil Blackwell, 1921), Vol. IV, pp. 1-3, reprinted without alteration in The Islamic World, William H. McNeil & Marilyn Robinson Waldman, eds., (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), pp. 178-180.

Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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© Paul Halsall, August 1998
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