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Abu 'Ali Muhammad Ibn 'Ali ibn Muqla al-Shirazi (885/6 – 20 July 940/1[1]) was a Persian vizier of the Abbāsid caliphs Al-Muqtadir and Al-Qāhir at Baghdād during three periods: 928–930, 932–933 and 934–936. He lost his position to the first of the regional emirs, Amir al-Umara, Ibn Ra'iq, and died in prison. He and his brother, Abū ‘Abd Allāh al-Ḥasan ibn ‘Alī ibn Muqlah, were the paternal uncles of Abu Bakr Ibn Durayd, and were both khātibs famed for their penmanship in calligraphy,[2][3][4]

Ibn Muqla
Died20 July 940
OccupationAbbasid court official and vizier
Years active908–936
Known forIslamic calligraphy
StyleNaskh, Thuluth, Tawqi, Muhaqqaq



Early life and careerEdit

Abū ‘Alī Muḥammad ibn 'Alī ibn Muqlah was born in Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate, in 885-6 (272 AH).[5] He began his career in public service as a tax collector in Fars. In 908, Ibn al-Furat, the vizier to the ineffectual caliph al-Muqtadir (r. 908–932), appointed him to the central government as head of official dispatches, [5] when the civil bureaucracy in the Abbasid court was at its apex and caliphal powers had collapsed under chronic financial shortages. Ibn al-Furat and the Banu'l-Furat, rival faction Ali ibn Isa al-Jarrah and the Banu'l-Jarrah, and the powerful military chief, Mu'nis al-Khadim, dominated the political scene in Baghdad.[6] Despite close ties, re-affirmed during Ibn al-Furat's second tenure in 917–918, Ibn Muqlah eventually turned against the vizier. Under the de facto vizierate of ‘Alī ibn ‘Īsā (918–928), Ibn Muqlah assumed another important department, (diwan) of the public estates.[5]

First vizierateEdit

After ‘Alī's disgrace in 928, and with the aid of the powerful hadjib (chamberlain) Naṣr, Ibn Muqla secured the vizierate,[5] albeit under extreme internal instability, when a short-lived coup in 929, instigated by Mu'nis, deposed al-Muqtadir in favour of his brother al-Qahir.[5][7] Despite the coup's failure, Mu'nis and his close ally, ‘Alī ibn ‘Īsā, now dominated the government, and led to Ibn Muqla's dismissal in 930.[5]

Second vizierate and the overthrow of al-QahirEdit

Map of Iraq in the 9th–10th centuries

Ibn Muqla was reappointed as vizier by al-Qahir when he succeeded al-Muqtadir after the latter's death in 932. The new caliph's attempts to assert his own authority met with opposition both from Ibn Muqla and from Mu'nis. Mu'nis started conspiring against al-Qahir, but he was arrested and killed before he could act, whereupon, after only six months in office, Ibn Muqla was dismissed.[5][8] Ibn Muqla then headed another conspiracy, and in 934 al-Qahir was captured, blinded and deposed by the Baghdad troops, with his nephew al-Radi succeeding him.[9]

Third vizierate and downfallEdit

When ‘Alī ibn ‘Īsā refused al-Rādī's request on grounds of his advanced age, to ressume the vizierate,[10] Ibn Muqla was appointed to his third term of office.[5] However, not until after the downfall of Muhammad ibn Yaqut, three months later, in April 935, did Ibn Muqla control the administration.[10]

The main threat to the caliphate was the internal quarrels in the Abbasid court that led to the growing autonomy of the regional governors. Looking to control their provinces they withheld taxes and so crippled the central government in Baghdad.[9] Ibn Muqla resolved to reassert his control over the neighbouring provinces by military force, and chose the Hamdanid-controlled Jazira as his first target: in 935 he launched a campaign that took the Hamdanid capital, Mosul, but he was forced to return to Baghdad. Another attempt in 936 to launch a campaign against the rebellious governor of Wasit, Muhammad ibn Ra'iq, failed to even get started. Coupled with his failure to counter the mounting financial crisis, this last disaster led to Ibn Muqla's dismissal and arrest.[5][11]

Ibn Muqla's dismissal marks also the final end of the independence of the Abbasid caliphs, for shortly after Ibn Ra'iq was appointed to the new post of amir al-umara ("commander of commanders"), a military-based office that became the de facto ruler of what remained of the Caliphate and deprived the Caliph from all real authority.[5][12] Ibn Ra'iq had the possessions of Ibn Muqla and his son confiscated, and Ibn Muqla in turn began to conspire against the amir al-umara. When Ibn Ra'iq became aware he had him imprisoned and his right hand cut off. An additional detail of this incident is given in Al-Fihrist, which attributes the loss of Ibn Muqlah's hand to divine retribution in answer to the prayers of Ibn Shanabudh, an opponent of Abu Bakr ibn Mujahid, whose flogging Ibn Muqlah had ordered.[13] Shortly after, even while the army of the Turkish general Bajkam was approaching Baghdad to depose Ibn Ra'iq, his tongue was cut. Despite Bajkam's success, Ibn Muqla remained in prison, where he died on 20 July 940.[5]


Ibn Muqla was famous as a calligrapher. Al-Nadīm lists both the vizier and his brother, al-Hasan ibn 'Ali, among those who wrote with ink.[14] He was revered as 'a prophet in the field of handwriting; it was poured upon his hand, even as it was revealed to the bees to make their honey cells hexagonal'.[15] He or his brothers have been considered the originators of the so-called al-khatt al-mansub ("proportioned script") style, perfected by the 11th-century Persian calligrapher Ibn al-Bawwab.[5] "Khatt" refers to the "marking out" of lines, which suggests that calligraphy is a demarcation of space. In the al-khatt al-mansub system letter design is related to three measurements: the size of nuqta; the height of the alif; and the circle with a diameter equal to the height of the alif.[16][17]

No works by Ibn Muqla mentioned in sources such asIbn al-Nadim[18][19] survive.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ W. H. Siddiqi (1 January 1998). Rampur Raza Library: Monograph. Rampur Raza Library. ISBN 978-81-87113-33-1.
  2. ^ Khallikān (Ibn), Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad (1868). Ibn Khallikān’s Biographical Dictionary (translation of Wafayāt al-A’yān wa-Anbā’). III. Translated by MacGuckin de Slane. London: Oriental Translation Fund of Britain and Ireland. p. 266-271.
  3. ^ Nadīm (al-), Abū al-Faraj Muḥammad ibn Isḥāq Abū Ya’qūb al-Warrāq (1970). Dodge, Bayard (ed.). The Fihrist of al-Nadim; a tenth-century survey of Muslim culture. New York & London: Columbia University Press. p. 17, 87, 115, 119, 145, 152, 162, 197, 998.
  4. ^ Nadīm (al-) 1970, p. 134.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Sourdel 1971, pp. 886–887.
  6. ^ Kennedy 2004, pp. 185–188.
  7. ^ Kennedy 2004, p. 191.
  8. ^ Kennedy 2004, pp. 193–194.
  9. ^ a b Kennedy 2004, p. 194.
  10. ^ a b Zetterstéen 1995, p. 368.
  11. ^ Kennedy 2004, pp. 194–195.
  12. ^ Kennedy 2004, pp. 195ff..
  13. ^ Nadīm (al-) 1970, p. 70.
  14. ^ Nadīm (al-) 1970, p. 17.
  15. ^ Tabbaa, Yasser (1991). "The Transformation of Arabic Writing: Part I, Qur'ānic Calligraphy". Ars Orientalis. 21: 119–148. ISSN 0571-1371. JSTOR 4629416.
  16. ^ Grabar, Oleg (1992). The Mediation of Ornament. The A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts. XXXV. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 38.
  17. ^ Osborn, J.R. (2009). "Narratives of Arabic Script: Calligraphic Design and Modern Spaces". Design and Culture. 1 (3): 289–306. doi:10.1080/17547075.2009.11643292.
  18. ^ Ali 1999, p. 81.
  19. ^ Nadīm (al-), Abū al-Faraj Muḥammad ibn Isḥāq Abū Ya’qūb al-Warrāq (1970). Dodge, Bayard (ed.). The Fihrist of al-Nadim; a tenth-century survey of Muslim culture. New York & London: Columbia University Press. p. 17, 70, 134, 273, 277, 285, 371, 1052.