Rashid al-Din Hamadani

Rashīd al-Dīn Ṭabīb (Persian: رشیدالدین طبیب;‎ 1247–1318; also known as Rashīd al-Dīn Faḍlullāh Hamadānī, Persian: رشیدالدین فضل‌الله همدانی) was a statesman, historian and physician in Ilkhanate Iran.[1]

Having converted to Islam from Judaism by the age of 30 in 1277, Rashid al-Din became the powerful vizier of Ilkhan Ghazan. He was commissioned by Ghazan to write the Jāmiʿ al-Tawārīkh, now considered the most important single source for the history of the Ilkhanate period and the Mongol Empire.[2] He retained his position as a vizier until 1316.

After being charged with poisoning the Ilkhanid king Öljaitü, he was executed in 1318.[2]

Historian Morris Rossabi calls Rashid al-Din "arguably the most distinguished figure in Persia during Mongolian rule".[3] He was a prolific author and established the Rab'-e Rashidi academic foundation in Tabriz.


Genghis Khan (center) at the coronation of his son Ögedei, illustration by Rashid al-Din, early 14th century
Mongol soldiers in the Jāmiʿ al-Tawārīkh of Rashid al-Din, BnF. MS. Supplément Persan 1113. 1430-1434 AD.

Rashid al-Din was born in 1247 into a Persian Jewish family from Hamadan province. His grandfather had been a courtier to the founder of the Ilkhanate, Hulagu Khan, and Rashid al-Din's father was an apothecary at the court. He converted to Islam around the age of thirty.[4]

Rashid was trained as a physician and started service under Hulagu's son, Abaqa Khan. He rose to become the Grand Vizier of the Ilkhanid court at Soltaniyeh, near Qazvin. He served as vizier and physician under the Ilkhans Ghazan and Öljaitü before falling to court intrigues during the reign of Abu Sa'id Bahadur Khan, whose ministers had him killed at the age of seventy. His son, Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad, briefly served as vizier after him.

Jāmiʿ al-Tawārīkh


The Jāmiʿ al-Tawārīkh "Compendium of Chronicles" was commissioned by Ghazan and initially was a history of the Mongols and their dynasty, but gradually expanded to include the entire history since the time of Adam to Rashid al-Din's time.

Rashid was assisted by Bolad, a Mongol nobleman who was the emissary of the Great Khan to the Ilkhanid court. Bolad provided him with much background about the Mongols.

The Compendium was completed between 1307 and 1316, during the reign of Öljaitü.

Calligraphy workshop: Rab' i-Rashidi


The work was executed at the elaborate scriptorium Rab'-e Rashidi at Qazvin, where a large team of calligraphers and illustrators were employed to produce lavishly illustrated books. These books could also be copied, while preserving accuracy, using a printing process imported from China.

Hulagu Khan with his Eastern Christian wife, Doquz Khatun. Hulagu conquered Muslim Syria, in collaboration with Christian forces from Cilician Armenia, Georgia, and Antioch. From Rashid al-Din's work.

The work was at the time of completion, c. 1307, of monumental size. Several sections have not survived or been discovered. Portions of the Jāmiʿ al-Tawārīkh survive in lavishly illustrated manuscripts, believed to have been produced during his lifetime and perhaps under his direct supervision at the Rab'-e Rashidi workshop.[5]

Historiographical significance


Volumes I and II of the Jāmiʿ al-Tawārīkh have survived and are of great importance for the study of the Ilkhanate. Volume I "contains the history of the Turkish and Mongol tribes, including their tribal legends, genealogies, myths and the history of the Mongol conquests from the time of Genghis Khan to the end of the reign of Ghazan Khan"[6] while volume II describes "the history of all the peoples with whom the Mongols had fought or with whom they had exchanged embassies".[6] In his narration down to the reign of Möngke Khan (1251–1259), Ata-Malik Juvayni was Rashid al-Din's main source; however, he also utilized numerous now-lost Far Eastern and other sources. The Jāmiʿ al-Tawārīkh is perhaps the single most comprehensive Persian source on the Mongol period. For the period of Genghis Khan, his sources included the now lost Altan Debter "Golden Book". His treatment of the Ilkhanid period seems to be biased, as he was a high official, yet it is still seen as the most valuable written source for the dynasty.

The third volume is either lost or was never completed; its topic was "historical geography".[6]

The most important historiographic legacy of the Jāmiʿ al-Tawārīkh may be its documentation of the cultural mixing and ensuing dynamism that led to the greatness of the subsequent Timurid, Safavid Iran, Qajar, and Ottoman Empires, many aspects of which were transmitted to Europe and influenced the Renaissance. This was the product of the geographical extension of the Mongol Empire and is most clearly reflected in this work by Rashid al-Din. The text describes the different peoples with whom the Mongols came into contact and is one of the first attempts to transcend a single cultural perspective and to treat history on a universal scale. The Jāmiʿ attempted to provide a history of the whole world of that era,[6] though many parts are lost.

One of the volumes of the Jāmiʿ al-Tawārīkh deals with an extensive History of the Franks (1305/1306), possibly based on information from Europeans working under the Ilkhanids such as Isol the Pisan or the Dominican friars, which is a generally consistent description with many details on Europe's political organization, the use of mappae mundi by Italian mariners and regnal chronologies derived from the chronicle of Martin of Opava (d. 1278).[7]

Book transmission: printing and translation

Mongol cavalry pursuing their enemy.
Ghazan on his horse. Rashid al-Din, Jāmiʿ al-Tawārīkh.

Rashid al-Din also collected all of his compositions into a single volume, entitled Jami' al-Tasanif al-Rashidi ("The Collected Works of Rashid"), complete with maps and illustrations. He even had some of his shorter works, on medicine and government, translated into Chinese. Anyone who wished was given access to his works and encouraged to copy them. In order to facilitate this, he set aside a fund to pay for the annual transcription of two complete manuscripts of his works, one in Arabic and one in Persian.

The printing process used at the workshop has been described by Rashid al-Din, and bears very strong resemblance to the processes used in the large printing ventures in China under Feng Dao (932–953):

[W]hen any book was desired, a copy was made by a skillful calligrapher on tablets and carefully corrected by proof-readers whose names were inscribed on the back of the tablets. The letters were then cut out by expert engravers, and all pages of the books consecutively numbered. When completed, the tablets were placed in sealed bags to be kept by reliable persons, and if anyone wanted a copy of the book, he paid the charges fixed by the government. The tablets were then taken out of the bags and imposed on leaves of paper to obtain the printed sheets as desired. In this way, alterations could not be made and documents could be faithfully transmitted.[8] Under this system he had copies made, lent them to friends, and urged them to transcribe them and return the originals. He had Arabic translations made of those works he composed in Persian, and Persian translations of works composed in Arabic. When the translations had been prepared, he deposited them in the mosque library of the Rab'-e Rashidi.[6]

Authorship and plagiarism accusations


The authorship of the Jāmiʿ al-Tawārīkh has been questioned on several grounds.

Abu al-Qasim Kashani (d. 1324), who wrote the most important extant contemporary source on Öljaitü, maintained that he himself was the true author of the Jāmiʿ al-Tawārīkh, "for which Rashid al-Din had stolen not only the credit but also the very considerable financial rewards."[2]

According to Encyclopædia Iranica, "While there is little reason to doubt Rashid al-Din’s overall authorship of the Jāmiʿ al-Tawārīkh, the work has generally been considered a collective effort, partly carried out by research assistants."[9] Kashani may have been one of those assistants.[9]

Some also contended that it was a translation of a Mongol original.[2]

Authorship of his Letters


Scholars are in dispute about whether Rashid al-Din's Letters are a forgery or not. According to David Morgan in The Mongols,[10] Alexander Morton has shown them to be a forgery, probably from the Timurid period.[11] One scholar who has attempted to defend the letters' authenticity is Abolala Soudovar.[12]

Fahlavi poems


There are some fahlavīyāt by him apparently in his native dialect: a hemistich called zabān-e fahlavī (1976, I, p. 290), a quatrain with the appellation bayt-efahlavī, and another hemistich titled zabān-e pahlavī ("Fahlavi language").[13]

Loss of influence and death

The Mongol ruler, Ghazan, studying the Quran

In 1312, his colleague Sa'd-al-Din Mohammad Avaji fell from power and was replaced by Taj-al-Din Ali-Shah Jilani. Then, in 1314, Öljaitü died and power passed to his son, Abu Sa'id Bahadur Khan, who sided with Ali-Shah. In 1318, Rashid al-Din was charged with having poisoned Öljaitü and was executed on July 13, at the age of seventy.[14] His Jewish ancestry was referenced numerous times in the court. His head was carried around the city after the execution and people were chanting: "This is the head of the Jew who abused God's name, may God's curse be upon him."[15]

His property was confiscated and Rab'-e Rashidi, with its scriptorium and its precious copies, were turned over to the Mongol soldiery. A century later, during the reign of Timur's son Miran Shah, Rashid al-Din's bones were exhumed from the Muslim cemetery and reburied in the Jewish cemetery.[16]

National and political thoughts


Rashid al-din was an Iranian patriot and also an admirer of the Iranian state traditions. The name of "Iran" is mentioned in his Jami' al-tawarikh, and he showed dislike for Mongols (whom they referred to as Turks).[17]

See also



  1. ^ "Rashid ad-Din". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Accessed 11 April 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d Morgan, D.O. (1994). "Rāshid Al-Dīn Tabīb". Encyclopaedia of Islam. Vol. 8 (2nd ed.). Brill Academic Publishers. pp. 145–148. ISBN 9004098348.
  3. ^ Genghis Khan: World Conqueror? (Introduction by Morris Rossabi) (PDF). www.blackwellpublishing.com.
  4. ^ George Lane, Genghis Khan and Mongol Rule,Hackett Publishing , 2009 p.121.
  5. ^ The large literature on these includes: S. Blair, A compendium of chronicles : Rashid al-Din’s illustrated history of the world, 1995, 2006 ISBN 1-874780-65-X (contains a complete set of the folios from Khalili collection, with discussion of the work as a whole); B. Gray, The 'World history' of Rashid al-Din: A study of the Royal Asiatic Society manuscript, Faber, 1978 ISBN 0-571-10918-7. See the article on the work for more
  6. ^ a b c d e Lunde, Paul; Mazzawi, Rosalind (1981). "A History of the World". Saudi Aramco World. 32 (1).
  7. ^ Jackson, p.329–330.
  8. ^ Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China. v.5, "Paper and Printing", ed. Tsien Tsuen-hsuin. Cambridge University Press, 1985. p. 306–307.
  9. ^ a b "Jāmeʿ al-Tawāriḵ" at Encyclopædia Iranica
  10. ^ The Mongols (2nd ed.). p. 183.
  11. ^ Morton, A. H. (1999). "The Letters of Rashid al-Din: Ilkhanid fact or Timurid fiction?". In Amitai-Preiss, R.; Morgan, D. O. (eds.). The Mongol Empire and Its Legacy. Leiden: Brill. pp. 155–199. ISBN 90-04-11048-8.
  12. ^ Soudovar, Abolala (2003). "In defense of Rašid-od-din and his Letters". Studia Iranica. 32: 77–122. doi:10.2143/SI.32.1.262.
  13. ^ Foundation, Encyclopaedia Iranica. "Welcome to Encyclopaedia Iranica". iranicaonline.org.
  14. ^ Lewis, Bernard (2014). The Jews of Islam. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-1-4008-2029-0., p. 101.
  15. ^ Littman, David (1979). Jews Under Muslim Rule: The Case of Persia. Institute of Contemporary History., page 3.
  16. ^ [Douglas, William O. (1958). West of the Indus. Doubleday., p. 417]
  17. ^ PETRUSHEVSKY, I. P. (1 January 1970). "RASH͟ĪD AL-DĪN'S CONCEPTION OF THE STATE". Central Asiatic Journal. 14 (1/3): 148–162. JSTOR 41926869.
    • Although Rashid al-Din was of a family of Jewish origin nevertheless in his correspondence (as well as in the Jami' al-tawarikh) he invariably speaks as an ardent Sunni Muslim and Iranian patriot, an admirer of the Iranian state traditions.
    • Equally, the state of the Ilkhans was to Rashid al-Din not a Mongol ulus, but "the state of Iran" (Mamalik-i Irãn) (...)
    • In the Jami' al-tawarikh, a work of semi-official historiography, this Iranian patriotic tendency shows itself only here and there, and then in a disguised form. In his letters Rashid al-Din is more outspoken. There he speaks sharply about the Turks (i. e. the Mongols) as tyrants and oppressors of the Iranian ra'iyyats. Rashid al-Din's dislike for the Turks was also due to the fact that under the last Ilkhans the Mongol-Turkish tribal aristocracy was the main bearer of the centrifugal tendency and a wilful element not always obedient to the central authority in the person of the Ilkhan. In a letter Rashid al-Din calls the Turkish (= Mongol) amirs "pure swindlers and accomplices of the devil".