Abd al-Malik I (Samanid emir)

Abd al-Malik I (Persian: عبدالملک‎; 936 or 944/5 – November 961) was amir of the Samanids from 954 to 961. He was the son and successor of Nuh I (r. 943–954). His reign was mainly marked by internal strife, with the Turkic slave-soldiers (ghulam) increasing in power. He died after falling from his horse during game of polo at Bukhara; he was succeeded by his brother Mansur I, who was put on the throne by a faction of ghulams led by Fa'iq.

Abd al-Malik I
Coin of Abd al-Malik I, minted at Nishapur in 955/6
Amir of the Samanids
ReignAugust 954 – 23 November 961
PredecessorNuh I
SuccessorMansur I
Born936 or 944/5
DiedNovember 961 (aged 17 or 25)
FatherNuh I
ReligionSunni Islam


Abd al-Malik was the eldest son of the Samanid amir Nuh I (r. 943–954).[1] According to the contemporary historian Narshakhi, Abd al-Malik ascended the throne at the age of 10, which would mean that he was born in 944/5. However, according to Hamza al-Isfahani, Abd al-Malik was born in 936, which would make him 19 at the time of his accession. The Encyclopaedia Islamica considers the report of Narshakhi unconvincing, and possibly a misinterpretation. It argues that chronicles make no mention of a 10-year old Abd al-Malik being aided by a regent to supervise the Samanid realm.[1] Nonetheless, it still states that "until further documentation comes to light, nothing more definite can be said on the matter."[1]


Iran in the mid-10th century

Since the reign of Nuh I, several difficulties started appearing in the Samanid realm, namely financial shortcomings, dissatisfaction in the army, and the emergence of powerful neighbouring kingdoms such as the Buyids. Internal strife, lack of capable viziers and the increasing authority of the Turkic slave-soldiers (ghulam) had also weakened the Samanid realm.[1] From his father Abd al-Malik inherited a tumultuous kingdom; with the circulation of Nuh's death, many military commanders in different parts of the realm started rebelling. Abd al-Malik only succeeded in ascending the throne with the accord of the leading military commanders. From the start of his reign, the commanders and courtiers were the ones with actual authority.[1] Abd al-Malik appointed Abu Mansur Muhammad ibn Uzayr as his vizier, while Bakr ibn Malik al-Farghani retained the office as governor of Khurasan.[1]

At the same time, the Muhtajid prince Abu Ali Chaghani—who had lost the governorship of Khurasan at the end of Nuh's reign—fled to the domain of the Buyid ruler Rukn al-Dawla (r. 935–976). There he was entrusted with the governorship of Khurasan by the Abbasid caliphs through the mediation of their Buyids, who were their suzerain. He was also given an army by Rukn al-Dawla, which he used to capture the capital of Khurasan, Nishapur. However, he was shortly repelled from the province by Bakr ibn Malik al-Farghani.[1] Abu Ali Chaghani died the following year at Ray due to a cholera outbreak.[1] After his death, Abd al-Malik sent two armies to attack the Buyid cities of Ray and Isfahan.[1]

However, the two powers soon made peace; under the terms of the peace treaty, the towns in Jibal, including Ray, were to be kept under Buyid rule, while the Samanids would receive annual sum of 200,000 dinars as tribute.[1] At the same time, some dissatisfied authorities within the Samanid realm accused Bakr ibn Malik al-Farghani of conspiring with the Buyids. Abd al-Malik had him subsequently summoned to Bukhara in December 956 under the pretense that he would award him a robe of honour, but instead had the ghulam Alptigin kill him. He then had his vizier Muhammad ibn Uzayr imprisoned and executed. Both were accused of being Qarmatians. Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Simjuri was subsequently given the governorship of Khurasan, while Abu Ja'far Utbi was made vizier.[1]

However, the ghulams were rapidly gaining more and more power. Alptigin managed to gain the governorship of Khurasan for himself, and had Muhammad Bal'ami, son of amir Nasr II's vizier, promoted to that post. The new vizier, however, fell under the influence of the ghulams, further cementing their grip on power within the state.[2] Abd al-Malik was not able to stop the expansion of the ghulams powers, resulting in the ghulams being effectively in control by the time he died in November 961 after falling from his horse during game of polo at Bukhara.[1][2] His palace in Khurasan was shortly afterwards raided by the ghulams, who threw the administration into a state of chaos.[1] Alptigin attempted to appoint Abd al-Malik's son as amir, but another group, led by Fa'iq, managed to put Abd al-Malik's brother Mansur I on the throne.[2] The Samanid kingdom was in a dire state after Abd al-Malik's death, according to Narshakhi; "When they buried him, the army grew restless and rebelled; everyone coveted the kingdom, and troubles raised their head."[3]

Not much is known about the personality of Abd al-Malik. Al-Maqdisi (d. 991) deemed him as an exceptional figure amidst the Samanid monarchs, while Shabankarai (d. 1358) portrayed him as a fair and virtuous individual.[1][3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Zarrinkoub & Negahban 2008.
  2. ^ a b c Frye 1975, p. 152.
  3. ^ a b Bosworth 1982, p. 128.


  • Bosworth, C. E. (1982). "ʿAbd-al-Malek b. Nūḥ b. Naṣr". Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol. I, Fasc. 2. p. 128.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Frye, R.N. (1975). "The Sāmānids". In Frye, R.N. (ed.). The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 4: From the Arab Invasion to the Saljuqs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 136–161. ISBN 0-521-20093-8.
  • Zarrinkoub, Ruzbeh; Negahban, Farzin (2008). "ʿAbd al-Malik I". In Madelung, Wilferd; Daftary, Farhad (eds.). Encyclopaedia Islamica Online. Brill Online. ISSN 1875-9831.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
Preceded by
Nuh I
Amir of the Samanids
Succeeded by
Mansur I