Open main menu

Abu Musa Muhammad ibn Harun al-Rashid (Arabic: أبو موسى محمد بن هارون الرشيد‎, translit. Abū Mūsā Muḥammad ibn Hārūn al-Rashīd; April 787 – 24/25 September 813), better known by his regnal name of al-Amin (Arabic: الأمين‎, translit. al-Amīn), was the sixth Abbasid Caliph. He succeeded his father, Harun al-Rashid, in 809 and ruled until he was deposed and killed in 813, during the civil war with his half-brother, al-Ma'mun.

Al-Amin
الأمين
Abbasid Dinar - Al Amin - 195 AH (811 AD).jpg
Gold dinar of al-Amin, minted in Baghdad in 811
6th Caliph of the Abbasid Caliphate
Reign24 March 809 – 27 September 813
PredecessorHarun al-Rashid
Successoral-Ma'mun
BornApril 787
Baghdad, Abbasid Caliphate
Died27 September 813 (aged 26)
Baghdad, Abbasid Caliphate
ConsortLubana bint Ali ibn al-Mahdi
Arib bint al-Ma'muniyyah
IssueMusa
Abdallah
Full name
Abu Musa Muhammad al-Amin ibn Harun al-Rashid
DynastyAbbasid
FatherHarun al-Rashid
MotherZubayda
ReligionSunni Islam

Contents

Early life and the issue of successionEdit

Muhammad, the future al-Amin, was born in April 787 to the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid (r. 786–809) and Zubayda, herself descended from the second Abbasid caliph, al-Mansur (r. 754–775). [1]

Muhammad had an elder half-brother, Abdallah, the future al-Ma'mun (r. 813–833), who had been born in September 786. However, Abdallah's mother was a Persian slave concubine, and his pure Abbasid lineage, gave Muhammad seniority over his half-brother.[1][2] Indeed, he was the only Abbasid caliph to claim such descent.[2] Already in 792, Harun had Abdallah receive the oath of allegiance (bay'ah) with the name of al-Amīn ("The Trustworthy"), effectively marking him out as his main heir, while Abdallah was not named second heir, under the name al-Maʾmūn ("The Trusted One") until 799.[1][2] Both brothers were assigned members of the powerful Barmakid family as tutors: al-Amin's tutor was al-Fadl ibn Yahya, while al-Ma'mun's was Ja'far ibn Yahya.[2][3]

These arrangements were confirmed and publicly proclaimed in 802, when Harun and the most powerful officials of the Abbasid government made the pilgrimage to Mecca. Al-Amin would succeed Harun in Baghdad, but al-Ma'mun would remain al-Amin's heir and would additionally rule over an enlarged Khurasan.[1][2] This was an appointment of particular significance, as Khurasan had been the starting-point of the Abbasid Revolution which brought the Abbasids to power, and retained a privileged position among the Caliphate's provinces. Furthermore, the Abbasid dynasty relied heavily on Khurasanis as military leaders and administrators. Many of the original Khurasani Arab army (Khurasaniyya) that came west with the Abbasids were given estates in Iraq and the new Abbasid capital, Baghdad, and became an elite group known as the abnaʾ al-dawla ("sons of the state/dynasty").[4][5] This large-scale presence of an Iranian element in the highest circles of the Abbasid state, with the Barmakid family as its most notable representatives, was certainly a factor in the appointment of al-Ma'mun, linked through his mother with the eastern Iranian provinces, as heir and governor of Khurasan.[6] The stipulations of the agreement, which were recorded in detail by the historian al-Tabari, accorded al-Mamun's Khurasani viceroyalty extensive autonomy. However, modern historians consider that these accounts may have been distorted by later apologists of al-Ma'mun in the latter's favour.[7] Harun's third heir, al-Mu'tamin, received responsibility over the frontier areas with the Byzantine Empire in Upper Mesopotamia and Syria.[2][3]

These complex arrangements, sealed with mutual judicial and religious oaths, clearly demonstrate that Harun was conscious of their precariousness, in view of the profound differences between al-Amin and al-Ma'mun, both in character and in interests.[1] Very quickly, this latent rivalry had important repercussions: almost immediately after the court returned to Baghdad in January 803, the Abbasid elites were shaken by the abrupt fall of the Barmakid family from power. On the one hand, this decision may reflect the fact that the Barmakids had become indeed too powerful for the Caliph's liking, but its timing suggests that it was tied to the succession issue as well: with al-Amin siding with the abnaʾ and al-Ma'mun with the Barmakids, and the two camps becoming more estranged every day, if al-Amin was to have a chance to succeed, the power of the Barmakids had to be broken.[2][8][9] Indeed, the years after the fall of the Barmakids saw an increasing centralization of the administration and the concomitant rise of the influence of the abnaʾ, many of whom were now dispatched to take up positions as provincial governors and bring these provinces under closer control from Baghdad.[9] This led to unrest in the provinces, especially Khurasan, where local elites had a long-standing rivalry with the abnaʾ and their tendency to control of the province (and its revenues) from Iraq.[10] The harsh taxation imposed by a prominent member of the abnaʾ, Ali ibn Isa ibn Mahan, even led to a revolt under Rafi ibn al-Layth, which eventually forced Harun himself, accompanied by al-Ma'mun and the powerful chamberlain (hajib) and chief minister al-Fadl ibn al-Rabi, to travel to the province in 808. Al-Ma'mun was sent ahead with part of the army to Marv, while Harun stayed at Tus, where he died on 24 March 809.[2][9][11]

CaliphateEdit

Hostility towards al-MamunEdit

Al-Ma'mun had distrusted al-Amin before their father's death and convinced Harun to take him with him on Harun's last journey east. Although Harun had instructed the Baghdad commanders of this expedition to remain with al-Ma'mun, after Harun's death they returned to Baghdad. Al-Amin sought to turn al-Ma'mun's financial agent in Rayy against al-Ma'mun and he ordered al-Ma'mun to acknowledge al-Amin's son Musa as heir and return to Baghdad. Al-Ma'mun replaced his agent in Rayy and refused the orders. His mother was Persian and he had strong support in Iran.

The brothers had different mothers. Al-Amin was prompted to move against al-Ma'mun by meddlesome ministers, especially al-Fadl ibn al-Rabi'. He had Harun's succession documents brought from Mecca to Baghdad, where he destroyed them. Then, he sent agents east to stir opposition to al-Ma'mun. However, a careful watch at the frontier denied these the opportunity. Al-Amin denied al-Ma'mun's request for his family and money and kept them in Baghdad.

In March 811 Al-Amin dispatched an army under Ali ibn Isa ibn Mahan against Al-Ma'mun. Ali advanced on Rayy. Ma'mun's capable general Tahir bin Husain met and defeated Ali, who was killed.

Internal rebellionsEdit

Al-Amin faced unrest in Syria. He sent Abd al-Malik ibn Salih to restore order there. There was fierce fighting and Abd al-Malik died. Al-Amin sent Ahmad ibn Mazyad and Abdallah ibn Humayd east, each with an army (al-Tabari v. 31 p. 100 says each had 20,000 men). However, Tahir's agents sowed discord and these two armies fought against each other.

Al-Amin faced an uprising in Baghdad led by Ali ibn Isa's son Husayn. This was quelled and Husayn was killed. Tahir took Ahwaz and gained control of Bahrayn and parts of Arabia. Basra and Kufa swore allegiance to al-Ma'mun. Tahir advanced on Baghdad and defeated a force sent against him. In Mecca, Dawud ibn Isa reminded worshippers that al-Amin had destroyed Harun ar Rashid's succession pledges and led them in swearing allegiance to al-Mamun. Dawud then went to Marv and presented himself to al-Ma'mun. Al-Ma'mun confirmed Dawud in his governorship of Mecca and Medina.

Personal relationships, death and successionEdit

Al-Amin is recorded as having two wives, Arib bint al-Ma'muniyyah, and Lubāna bint ‘Alī ibn al-Mahdī (who was noted for her exceptional beauty).[12] However, Al-Amin died before the consummation of his marriage to Lubanah; her attested poetry includes a lament for his death: 'Oh hero lying dead in the open, betrayed by his commanders and guards. I cry over you not for the loss of my comfort and companionship, but for your spear, your horse and your dreams. I cry over my lord who widowed me before our wedding night'.[13]

The fact that Al-Amin was known to be sexually attracted to men - specifically male eunuchs - was regarded by contemporaries as a serious character defect.[14] Al-Tabari recorded al-Amin's fondness for eunuchs, his personal extravagance, and an intense irritation when singers sang songs that were not very auspicious - describing how the king fell madly in love with his male slave, Kauthar, whom he had named after a river in paradise.[15]To address the issue of homosexual attraction, his mother (Zubayda), is said to have arranged for slave women to be dressed in masculine clothing in the hope of inducing him to adopt more "conventional morals" and further heirs.

Al-Amin died at the siege of Baghdad (812–813). Tahir advanced and set up camp near the Anbar Gate. Baghdad was besieged. The effects of this siege were made more intense by the rampaging prisoners who broke out of jail. There were several vicious battles, such as at al-Amin's palace of Qasr Halih, at Darb al- Hijarah and al-Shammasiyyah Gate. In that last one Tahir led reinforcements to regain positions lost by another officer. Overall the situation was worsening for al-Amin and he became depressed.

When Tahir pushed into the city, al-Amin sought to negotiate safe passage out. Tahir reluctantly agreed on the condition al-Amin turn over his sceptre, seal and other signs of being caliph. Al-Amin tried to leave on a boat, apparently with these indications he was caliph. He rejected warnings he should wait. Tahir noticed the boat. Al-Amin was thrown into the water, swam to shore, was captured and brought to a room where he was executed. His head was placed on the Anbar Gate. Al-Tabari (v. 31 pp. 197–202) quotes Tahir's letter to al-Ma'mun informing that caliph of al-Amin's capture and execution and the state of peace resulting in Baghdad.

Al-Amin had appealed to his mother, to arbitrate the succession after his death and champion his cause and lineage as Aisha had done two centuries before. Zubaida, however, refused to do so. As al-Ma'mun refused to acknowledge Al-Amin's son Musa as heir, the throne went to al-Ma'mun.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e Gabrieli 1960, p. 437.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Rekaya 1991, p. 331.
  3. ^ a b Kennedy 2004, p. 142.
  4. ^ El-Hibri 2010, p. 274.
  5. ^ Kennedy 2004, pp. 133–135.
  6. ^ El-Hibri 2010, p. 282.
  7. ^ El-Hibri 2010, pp. 282–283.
  8. ^ Kennedy 2004, pp. 142–143.
  9. ^ a b c El-Hibri 2010, p. 283.
  10. ^ Kennedy 2004, p. 144.
  11. ^ Kennedy 2004, pp. 144–145.
  12. ^ Classical Poems by Arab Women: A Bilingual Anthology, ed. and trans. by Abdullah al-Udhari (London: Saqi Books, 1999), p. 120; ISBN 086356-047-4.
  13. ^ Guthrie, Shirley (2013-08-01). Arab Women in the Middle Ages: Private Lives and Public Roles. ISBN 9780863567643.
  14. ^ Bernard Lewis, Race and Color in Islam (1979).
  15. ^ Jama, Afdhere (2015-02-05). "5 Queer Muslims in History". LGBT Muslims: Information on Sexual Diversity in the Muslim Community. Archived from the original on 2016-03-21. Retrieved 2016-03-24.

SourcesEdit

  • El-Hibri, Tayeb (2010). "The empire in Iraq, 763–861". In Robinson, Chase F. The New Cambridge History of Islam, Volume 1: The Formation of the Islamic World, Sixth to Eleventh Centuries. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 269–304. ISBN 978-0-521-83823-8.
Al-Amin
Clan of the Banu Quraish
Born: April 787 Died: 24/25 September 813
Sunni Islam titles
Preceded by
Harun al-Rashid
Caliph of Islam
Abbasid Caliph

24 March 809 – 24/25 September 813
Succeeded by
al-Ma'mun