Abū al-ʿAbbās Aḥmad ibn al-Hasan al-Mustaḍīʾ (Arabic: أبو العباس أحمد بن الحسن المستضيء), better known by his laqab al-Nāṣir li-Dīn Allāh (الناصر لدين الله; 6 August 1158 – 5 October 1225) or simply as al-Nasir, was the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad from 1180 until his death. His laqab literally can mean The One who Gives Victory to the Religion of God. He continued the efforts of his grandfather al-Muqtafi in restoring the caliphate to its ancient dominant role and achieved a surprising amount of success as his army even conquered parts of Iran.[3] According to the historian, Angelika Hartmann, al-Nasir was the last effective Abbasid caliph.[4]

al-Nāṣir li-Dīn Allāh
الناصر لدين الله
Amir al-Mu'minin
Possible depiction of Al-Nasir holding two dragons, which could be a symbol of his victory of his two major enemies: the Grand Master of the Assassins, and the Khwarizmian Empire ruler Muhammad II. Baghdad, Talisman Gate, built circa 1221-22.[1]
34th Caliph of the Abbasid Caliphate
Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad
Reign28 March 1180 – 5 October 1225
Born(1158-08-06)6 August 1158
Baghdad, Abbasid Caliphate
Died5 October 1225(1225-10-05) (aged 67)
Baghdad, Abbasid Caliphate
ReligionSunni Islam

In addition to his military success al-Nasir built many monuments in Baghdad that are still standing such as Zumurrud Khatun Mosque and Mausoleum.



Al-Nasir was the son of Caliph al-Mustadi and a Turkish umm walad called Zumurrud (Emerald).[5] His reign was unusual for the rise of the futuwwa groups in his reign, connected to Baghdad's long-standing ayyarun. These urban social groups had long existed in Baghdad and elsewhere, and they were often involved in urban conflicts, especially sectarian riots. Al-Nasir made them into an instrument of his government, reorganizing them along Sufi lines and ideology.

al-Sarai Mosque was built by al-Nasir

In the early years of his caliphate, his goal was to crush the Seljuq power and replace it with his own. He incited rebellion against the Seljuq Sultan of Persia, Toghrul III. The Khwarezm Shah, Ala ad-Din Tekish, at his instigation, attacked the Seljuq forces, and defeated them in 1194; Toghrul was killed and his head exposed in the caliph's palace. Tekish, recognized now as supreme ruler of the East, bestowed on the caliph certain provinces of Persia that had been held by the Seljuqs.

Al-Nasir's mother Zumurrud[6] died in December 1202–January 1203,[7] or January–February 1203,[8] and was buried in her own mausoleum in Sheikh Maarouf Cemetery.[9] Her mausoleum is known as Zumurrud Khatun Mausoleum.

Al-Nasir sent his vizier to Tekish with some gifts, but the vizier irritated Tekish, who attacked the caliph's troops and routed them. Thereafter hostile relations prevailed for many years. The Caliph assassinated a governor of Tekish by using an Ismaili emissary. Tekish responded by having the body of al-Nasir's vizier, who died on a campaign against him, exhumed, and the head stuck up at Khwarizm. Irritated at this and other hostile acts, the Caliph retaliated by treating with indignity the pilgrims who came from the East under Khwarizm's flag. But beyond such poor revenge, he was powerless for any open enmity.

Tekish's son, Muhammad II (1200–1220), annoyed at the actions of the caliph, set up a Shi'a Caliph to paralyse al-Nasir's spiritual power. Following up this act, he turned his army on Baghdad. In response, some medieval historians write that al-Nasir appealed to Genghis Khan, the rising Mongol chief, to check Muhammad's progress. This point is controversial, but it is likely that the caliph had some contacts to the non-Muslims Mongols.[citation needed]

The caliph soon found Genghis Khan to be quite threatening. The steppes of Central Asia were set in motion by Genghis Khan, and his hordes put to flight the Khwarizm Shah, who died an exile in an island of the Caspian.

Policies and events


During the caliphate of al-Nasir several important political changes, incidents and developments took place. He also took part in them directly and sometimes indirectly.

Events between 1187 and 1190

Gold dinar of al-Nasir minted in 607 AH

In 1186 a conflict broke between sultan Toghrul III and Qizil Arslan. This conflict possibly prevented Toghrul III and Qizil Arslan from aiding Muhammad b. Bahram Shah, the last Seljuk Sultan of Kirman, who had been driven from Kirman by Oghuz rebels driven out from Khurasan in 1186

The rebel army consisted of the forces of the Amirs of Zenjan and Maragha, the retainers of both Kamal Ai-Aba, head of the Mamluks, and of Saif al-Din Rus, husband of Innach Khatun, while Toghrul himself received significant support from Turkmens,[10] and their combined army forced Qizil Arslan to leave Hamadan after some clashes.[11] Toghrul undertook two diplomatic ventures in 1187, he journeyed to Mazandaran to request aid from Bavandid Husam al-Daula Ardashir, and received troops from him, and Toghrul also sent messages to al-Nasir, asking him to restore the palace of the Seljuk Sultan in Baghdad for him, but the Caliph razed the palace and then sent aid to Qizil Arslan, who agreed to become the Caliph's vassal.[12] The Caliph sent an army numbering 15,000 under his vizier Jalal al-Din 'Ubaidallah b. Yunus, which attacked Hamadan in 1188 without waiting for Qizil Arslan's army to arrive, he was defeated and captured, Toghrul secured victory by charging the enemy center after his right wing was battered, but this was a Pyrrhic victory, as Toghrul's army suffered grievous losses in the battle. [13] The Sultan next tried to reform his administration and coordinate strategy with available resources, [14] but his rash behavior[12] regarding a dispute over the command of the army, led to the execution of Kamal Ai-Aba, Saifuddin Rus and several of the Sultan's opponents, and the desertion of his allies. [11]

Qizil Arslan had declared Sanjar b. Suleiman-Shah as the Seljuk Sultan of Iraq, and reinforced by troops sent by the Caliph now invaded Hamadan, Toghrul, unable to resist the invasion, first retreated to Isphahan, [13] then to Urmia.[12] He was joined by an army led by his brother in law Hasan Kipchiq, and Toghrul also tried to get help from the Ayyubids and the Caliph, even sent his infant son as hostage to Baghdad in a futile gesture. Toghrul invaded Azerbaijan and sacked the towns of Ushnu, Khoy, Urmiya and Salmas. [15] Qizil Arslan reconciled with his nephews and defeated and captured Toghrul when he again invaded Azerbaijan in 1190.[15] Qizli Arslan imprisoned Toghrul and his son Malik Shah in Kuhran fortress near Tabriz. Qizil Arslan, encouraged by the Caliph, soon declared himself Sultan, married Innach Khatun, his brother's widow, and was poisoned by her in September, 1191.[15] His nephews began to rule independently, and one of the Mamluks of Jahan Pahalvan, Mahmud Anas Oglu,[16] freed Toghrul III from his prison in May 1192.[17]

Events of 1192–1194

Map of late 12th/ early 13th-century Abbasid caliphate and its ally states

Toghrul eluded the pursuers sent by Abu Bakr[15] and quickly assembled an army from his supporters and Turkmens, then marched east and defeated the army of Qutlugh Inanch Muhammad and Amir Amiran Umar near Qazvin on June 22, 1192, and won over a large part of the enemy soldiers after his victory.[17] Qutlug-Inach and Amiran Omar then attacked Abu Bakr in Azerbaijan and was beaten, Aimiran Umar sought refuge with his father in law Shirvanshah Akhsitan I (c.1160-1196), while Qutlug-Inach moved to Rey. Toghrul occupied Hamadan, secured the treasury and came to rule over Isphahan and Jibal, but did not attempt to negotiate an agreement with Abu Bakr, against Qutlug Innach. Qutlugh Innach now appealed to Khwarazmshah Ala ad-Din Tekish for aid, and Tekish invaded and captured Rey in 1192, forcing Qutlug Innach to flee the city. [17]

Toghrul's Truce with Tekish


Sultan Toghrul III opened negotiations with Tekish, and eventually agreed to become a vassal of Khwarizm, marriage of his daughter The Tekish's son Yunus Khan, and in return Tekish kept Rey, garrisoned his newly acquired territory, collected taxes, then installed Tamghach as the governor, and returned home to quell the rebellion of his brother Sultan Shah.[17] Toghrul now had the chance to negotiate with the Atabeg of Yazd, Langar ibn Wardanruz, or the Salghurid ruler of Fars, Degle ibn Zangi, both were nominally loyal to the Seljuks[18] but no initiatives were taken to unite against their common enemy.

Breaking of Truce and War declaration of Tekish and al-Nasir


Toghrul felt threatened with the presence of a hostile force in Rey, which was a strategic town commanding communication with Jibal and Azerbaijan was unacceptable to the Sultan. The Sultan marched towards Rey with his available forces in March 1193, defeated and killed Tamghach, captured Rey and drove out the Khrarizmian forces from the province.[17] Toghrul III next married Innach Khatun, mother of Qutlug Innach and Amirin Umar, as part of the peace agreement on her request, however, she was executed after the discovery of a plot to poison the Sultan.[16] The Sultan returned to Hamadan, Qutlug Innach fled to Zanjan, from where he sent messages to Tekish, and al-Nasir also asked the Tekish to move against Toghrul.[17] Toghrul again moved east in 1194 and defeated Qutlug Innach in battle despite the presence of 7,000 Khwarazmian troops aiding Qutlug Innach.[19] Qutlug Innach and other survivors moved east and joined up with the main Khwarizmian army led by Shah Tekish at Semnan.

Tughril was defeated in the battle of Ray by Tekish with the help of al-Nasir. Ala ad-Din Tekish sent Toghrul's head to al-Nasir who displayed it at the Nubi Gate in front of his palace, while his body was hanged at Rey.[20]

A coin minted in the name of Muhammad II (1200–1220) of Khwarezm, citing caliph al-Nasir as nominal suzerain.

His Rejection of Khwarezmid's claim


By 1217,[21] Muhammad had conquered all the lands from the river Jaxartes to the Gulf. He declared himself shah and demanded formal recognition from the caliph. When the caliph al-Nasir rejected his claim, Ala ad-Din Muhammad gathered an army and marched towards Baghdad to depose al-Nasir. However, when crossing the Zagros Mountains, the shah's army was caught in a blizzard.[21] Thousands of warriors died. With the army decimated, the generals had no choice but to return home.



Al-Nasir spent his last three years paralysed and nearly blind. He suffered from dysentery for twenty days and then died.[22] He was succeeded by his son al-Zahir in the year 1225 as the thirty-fifth Abbasid caliph. His son ruled for a short period, al-Zahir lowered the taxes, and built a strong army to resist invasions. He died on 10 July 1226, nine months after his accession. He was succeeded his son (al-Nasir's grandson) al-Mustansir.

See also



  1. ^
    • Hillenbrand, Robert (1999). Islamic art and architecture. London : Thames and Hudson. p. 124, Fig. 97. ISBN 978-0-500-20305-7.
    • El-Hibri, Tayeb (22 April 2021). The Abbasid Caliphate: A History. Cambridge University Press. p. 237. doi:10.1017/9781316869567.005. It has been suggested that an image al-Nasir had carved over Bab al-Talsim, the Talisman Gate of Baghdad, in 618/1221, showing a seated figure holding two dragons at bay with his outstretched hands, was meant as symbolic of the caliph's success in subordinating the Ismaʿili Grand Master and the Khwarazm shah. The image remained there up until World War I, when the gate was blown up by the retreating Ottoman troops in 1917.
    • Kuehn, Sara (2011). The dragon in medieval East Christian and Islamic art. Leiden: Brill. pp. 25–26. ISBN 978-90-04-18663-7. One of the most outstanding examples of the dragon iconography on city gates certainly must have been the monumental sculptures on the archivolt of the so-called Talisman Gate (Bāb al-Talism) in Baghdad which was destroyed in 1917 during the First World War. (...) It showed a seated figure that presumably represented the caliph in the act of subduing a pair of mighty confronted dragons whose expansive serpentine bodies entirely filled the rest of the archivolt.
  2. ^ Hassan, M. (2018). Longing for the Lost Caliphate: A Transregional History. Princeton University Press. p. 284 n. 13. ISBN 978-0-691-18337-4.
  3. ^ El-Hibri, Tayeb (2021-04-22). The Abbasid Caliphate: A History. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-18324-7.
  4. ^ Hanne, Eric J. (2007). Putting the Caliph in His Place: Power, Authority, and the Late Abbasid Caliphate. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. p. 204. ISBN 978-0-8386-4113-2.
  5. ^ ʻIzz al-Dīn Ibn al-Athīr, Years 589-629/1193-1231: The Ayyūbids After Saladin and the Mongol Menace, transl. D.S. Richards, (Ashgate Publishing, 2008), 260.
  6. ^ Singer, A. (2002). Constructing Ottoman Beneficence: An Imperial Soup Kitchen in Jerusalem. SUNY series in Near Eastern Studies. State University of New York Press. p. 146. ISBN 978-0-7914-5351-3.
  7. ^ al-Athīr, ʻIzz al-Dīn; Richards, Donald Sydney (2006). Years 589-629/1193-1231. Crusade texts in translation. Ashgate. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-7546-4079-0.
  8. ^ Ohlander, Erik (2008). Sufism in an Age of Transition: ʿUmar al-Suhrawardī and the Rise of the Islamic Mystical Brotherhoods. Islamic History and Civilization. Brill. p. 92. ISBN 978-90-474-3214-2.
  9. ^ Hann, G.; Dabrowska, K.; Townsend-Greaves, T. (2015). Iraq: The ancient sites and Iraqi Kurdistan. Bradt Travel Guides. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 146. ISBN 978-1-84162-488-4.
  10. ^ Peacock & Yıldız 2013, p. 119.
  11. ^ a b Zardabli, Ismail B. 2014, p. 169.
  12. ^ a b c Bosworth 1968, p. 180.
  13. ^ a b Zaporozhets, V. M 2012, p. 190.
  14. ^ Peacock & Yıldız 2013, p. 120.
  15. ^ a b c d Zardabli, Ismail B. 2014, p. 170.
  16. ^ a b Zardabli, Ismail B. 2014, p. 171.
  17. ^ a b c d e f Buniyatov, Z.M. 2015, p. 41.
  18. ^ Bosworth 1968, p. 172.
  19. ^ Bosworth 1968, p. 182.
  20. ^ Hitti, Philip K. 1970, p. 482.
  21. ^ a b Rafis Abazov, Palgrave Concise Historical Atlas of Central Asia, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 43.
  22. ^ ʻIzz al-Dīn Ibn al-Athīr, Years 589-629/1193-1231: The Ayyūbids After Saladin and the Mongol Menace, 260.


Born: 6 August 1158 Died: 5 October 1225
Sunni Islam titles
Preceded by Caliph of Islam
Abbasid Caliph

28 March 1180 – 5 October 1225
Succeeded by