Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Mustazhir (Arabic: أبو عبد الله محمد بن أحمد المستظهر) better known by his regnal name Al-Muqtafi (1096 – 12 March 1160) (Arabic: المقتفي لأمر الله) was the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad from 1136 to 1160, succeeding his nephew al-Rashid, who had been forced to abdicate by the Seljuks. The continued disunion and contests between Seljuk Turks afforded al-Muqtafi opportunity of not only maintaining his authority in Baghdad, but also extending it throughout Iraq.

المقتفي لأمر الله
Amir al-Mu'minin
Dinar of Al-Muqtafi, 905-906.jpg
Gold dinar of al-Muqtafi
31st Caliph of the Abbasid Caliphate
Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad
Reign17 August 1136 – 12 March 1160
Born9 March 1096
Baghdad, Abbasid Caliphate
Died12 March 1160 (aged 64)
Baghdad, Abbasid Caliphate
  • Fatimah Khatun
  • Thawus
ʾAbu ʿAbdallāh Muḥammad ibn ʾAḥmad al-Mustaẓhir Al-Muqtafī li-ʾAmri ʾIllāh
ReligionSunni Islam

Birth and backgroundEdit

Al-Muqtafi was born on 9 March 1096. His name was Abu Abdallah Muhammad. He was the son of Abbasid caliph al-Mustazhir (r. 1094–1118). His mother was Ashin. She was from Syria, and was the mother of Muhammad, the future Caliph Al-Muqtafi.[1] After his father's death his half-brother al-Mustarshid[1] succeeded him on 6 August 1118. Al-Mustarshid (r. 1118–1135) ruled for sixteen years as Caliph but the last three years of his reign were occupied with war against Seljuq sultan Mas'ud (his deputy). Not long after the siege of Damascus, al-Mustarshid launched a military campaign against Seljuk sultan Mas'ud, who had obtained the title in Baghdad in January 1133 by the caliph himself. The rival armies met near Hamadan. The caliph, deserted by his troops, was taken prisoner, and pardoned on the promising not to quit his palace. Left in the caliphal tent, however, in the sultan's absence, he was found murdered while reading the Quran, as is supposed, by an emissary of the Assassins, who had no love for the caliph. Modern historians have suspected that Mas'ud instigated the murder although the two most important historians of the period Ibn al-Athir and Ibn al-Jawzi did not speculate on this matter. Physically, al-Mustarshid was a red-haired man with blue eyes and freckles.[2]

Al-Mustarshid was succeeded by his son and Heir apparent, Al-Rashid Billah on 29 August 1135. Like his father al-Mustarshid, al-Rashid Billah made another attempt of military independence (forming his own military) from the Seljuks. To avenge his father's death, he insulted the envoy of sultan Ghiyath ad-Din Mas'ud who came to demand a heavy largess, incited the mob to plunder his palace, and then, supported by Zengi, who was equally hostile to the sultan because of the murder of Dubais ibn Sadaqah, set up a rival sultan. Mas'ud hastened to the rebellious capital and laid siege to it. Baghdad, well defended by the river and its canals, resisted the attack; but in the end the caliph and Zengi, hopeless of success, escaped to Mosul. The sultan's power restored, a council was held, the caliph deposed, and his uncle al-Muqtafi succeeded as the new caliph. Al-Rashid Bi'llah fled to Isfahan where he was assassinated by a team of four Nizari Ismailis (Assassins) in June 1138. This was celebrated in Alamut for a week.[3]


Al-Muqtafi was able to defend the capital from various attacks. But he was ill-advised enough to support the rebellion of a son of Seljuk Sultan of Hamadan, who in response marched against Baghdad and forced the caliph to take refuge in the eastern quarter, initiating the Seljuk siege of Baghdad of 1157. Later the caliph was recalled by the sultan who needed him to quell a more serious rising in the East when Malik-Shah III (died 1160[4]) took Hamadan. Al-Muqtafi again received favor by the Seljuks, who betrothed himself to one of his daughters.

Awn al-Din ibn Hubayra was appointed as the Chief of the treasury by caliph al-Muqtafi and in 1149, he was appointed as the vizier (minister) of the Caliph, a post he kept for sixteen years until his death on 27 March 1165, commonly attributed to poisoning through his physician, who was in the pay of his rivals.[5] As a youth, Awn al-Din ibn Hubayra went to Baghdad where he received a classical Arabic education under several masters, studying the Qur'an, Arabic linguistics, and the Hanbali school of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh).[5]

During his caliphate, the Crusades were raging and Zengi, the atabeg of Mosul and founder of Zengid dynasty, obtained high distinction as a brave and generous warrior. At one time hard pressed, Zengi made urgent appeal for help to Baghdad. The sultan and the caliph dispatched 20,000 men in response. But in reality neither the Seljuks, nor the caliph, nor their emirs, had any enthusiasm for war against the Crusaders.

Al-Muqtafi is praised by contemporary Muslim historians as virtuous, capable and brave. During his caliphate of twenty-five years, he conducted many minor expeditions against enemies throughout Iraq and Syria.

A charter of protection granted by al-Muqtafi in 1139 to the Nestorian patriarch ʿAbdishoʿ III was published in 1926 by the Assyrian scholar Alphonse Mingana.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b الدكتور, عبد القادر بوباية ،الأستاذ (2009). الاكتفاء في اخبار الخلفاء 1-2 ج2. الاكتفاء في اخبار الخلفاء 1-2. Dar Al Kotob Al Ilmiyah دار الكتب العلمية. pp. 487, 492.
  2. ^ Amin Maalouf (15 July 2012). The Crusades Through Arab Eyes. Saqi. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-86356-848-0.
  3. ^ Daftary, Farhad (1992). The Isma'ilis: Their History and Doctrines. Cambridge University Press. p. 384. ISBN 978-0-521-42974-0.
  4. ^ Studies in Islamic History and Civilization. Brill. 1986. p. 275. ISBN 9789652640147.
  5. ^ a b Makdisi (1971), pp. 802–803
  6. ^ Mingana, A. (1926). "A Charter of Protection Granted to the Nestorian Church in AD 1138 by Muktafi II, Caliph of Baghdad". Bulletin of the John Rylands Library. 10 (1): 126–133. doi:10.7227/BJRL.10.1.6.


  • Studies in Islamic History and Civilization
  • This text is adapted from William Muir's public domain, The Caliphate: Its Rise, Decline, and Fall.
  • الدكتور, عبد القادر بوباية ،الأستاذ (2009). الاكتفاء في اخبار الخلفاء 1-2 ج2. الاكتفاء في اخبار الخلفاء 1–2. Dar Al Kotob Al Ilmiyah دار الكتب العلمية.
Cadet branch of the Banu Hashim
Born: 1096 Died: 12 March 1160
Sunni Islam titles
Preceded by Caliph of Islam
Abbasid Caliph

1136 – 12 March 1160
also claimed by Abd al-Mu'min of Almohad in 1147
Succeeded by