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The Pre-Buyid Amirate: Two Views from the Past

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 January 2009

David Waines
University of Lancaster, England


“Historical study,” G. R. Elton has written, “is not the study of the past but the study of present traces of the past.” Whatever man has said, whatever act he has performed in the past, is irretrievably lost unless or until some present deposit of that past has survived for the historian to examine. The traces, or evidence available to the historian when he commences his narrative, has a bearing on the nature and scope of his work. Traces overlooked, neglected or disregarded might affect the soundness of the historian's interpretation; yet, the situation can be set right once the evidence has been reexamined, once the available traces have been indicated and employed. At the very least, those traces must exist. If the case were otherwise, most history would be construed as speculation, hearsay, gossip or worse. Truth is the daughter of time, but only when sufficient evidence will permit its establishment.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1977

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1 Elton, G. R., The Practice of History (London, 1969), p. 20.Google Scholar

2 Lewis, Bernard, “Government, Society and Economic Life under the Abbasids and Fatimids,” Cambridge Medieval History (Cambridge, 1966), IV, I, p. 646Google Scholar; idem, The Arabs in History (New York, 1960), p. 97.Google Scholar

3 La Civilisation de l'Islam Classique (Paris, 1968), p. 85Google Scholar; see also Sourdel, Dominique, “The Abbasids,” Cambridge History of Islam (Cambridge, 1970), I, 138139Google Scholar, and idem, Le Vizirat Abbaside (Damascus, 1959), I, 493494.Google Scholar

4 Canard, Marius, Histoire de la Dynastic des Hamdānides de Jasira et de Syrie (Algiers, 1951), I, 414.Google Scholar

5 Mez, Adam, Die Renaissance des Islams (Heidelberg, 1922), p. 1Google Scholar; Arnold, Thomas W., The Caliphate (Oxford, 1924), pp. 5860Google Scholar; Levy, Reuben, A Baghdad Chronicle (Cambridge, 1929), p. 150Google Scholar; Spuler, Berthold, The Muslim World, Part 1, The Age of the Caliphs, trans. Bagley, F. (Leiden, 1960), p. 73Google Scholar; Tyan, E., Institutions du Droit Public Musulman (Paris, 1954), I, 536540.Google Scholar

6 In his work, The Life and Times of Ali b. Isa “The Good Visier” (Cambridge, 1928), pp. 356–357, 363, 392Google Scholar, Harold Bowen is somewhat less adamant in insisting upon a sudden and complete reversal of roles between the caliph and amir as power holders. The most cautious and prudent view is that expressed by Claude Cahen in his Leçons d'Histoire Musulmane (Paris, 1957). III, 18Google Scholar; see also his later excellent survey, L'Islam des Origines au Début de l'Empire Ottoman (Paris, 1970), pp. 149, 178.Google Scholar

7 Defrémery's work appeared in the volume, Mémoires Présentées par Divers Savants, L'Académie des Belles Lettres et Inscriptions de l'Institut National de France, Ier ser. Vol. 2 (1852), pp. 105–196. The work was justly praised by a famous contemporary, Reinhardt Dozy (Journal Asiatique, 17 [1848]Google Scholar), who noted that the amirate up to that time had been the subject of only one other monograph, by the Gottingen scholar M. Umbreit. The latter's study, however, was merely a resumé of the few available printed sources and, according to Dozy, was replete with errors. See next paragraph in the text.

8 I have attempted a reevaluation of the amirate although against a much broader background of the decline of the caliphate in the latter half of the third/ninth and early fourth/tenth centuries: “Caliph and Amir: A Study of the Social and Economic Background of Medieval Political Power,” Ph.D. diss., McGill University, 1974.Google Scholar

9 Defrémery, “Memoire,” p. 106.Google Scholar

10 Ibid., pp. 115–116.

11 Gibb, H. A. R., Arabic Literature (2d ed.; Oxford, 1963), p. 95.Google Scholar

12 Volume one, which covered pre-Islamic times to A.H. 37, was published in facsimile form by Leone Caetani in London in 1909. Volumes 5 (1913) and 6 (1917) appeared in the same format and were then edited and translated by Amedroz, H. F. and Margoliouth, D. S. as The Eclipse of the 'Abbāsid Caliphate (London, 19201921), six volumes and index.Google Scholar

13 For estimates of his birthdate see 'Izzat, 'Abd al-'Aziz, Ibn Miskawayh (in Arabic) (Cairo, 1948), pp. 7981Google Scholar; Miskawayh, , The Refinement of Character, trans. Zurayk, Constantine (Beirut, 1968), p. xiiGoogle Scholar; Arkoun, Muhammed, Contribution a l'Étude de l'Humanisme Arabe au IV/X Siècle: Miskaivayh, Philosophe et Historien (Paris, 1970), p. 60.Google Scholar

14 On this point see the article of Khan, M. S., “The Eye-Witness Reporters of Miskawayh's Contemporary History,” Islamic Culture, 38 (1964), 295313.Google Scholar

15 Amedroz, and Margoliouth, , Eclipse of the Abbasid Caliphate, I, 352.Google Scholar

16 al-Hamadānī, Muhammed b. 'Abd al-Malik, Takmila Tārīkh al-Tabarī, ed. Kan‘ān, Albert (2d ed.; Beirut, 1961), pp. 9899Google Scholar; Jamāl al-Dīn Abū '1-Mahasin Yūsuf b. Taghrī Bardī, Al-Nujūn al-Zāhira fī Mulūk Mi⋅r wa'l-Qāhira (Cairo, 1383/1963), III, 258Google Scholar; Sāī al-Dīn Muhammad b. ‘Alī b. Tabāṭabā b. al-Tiqṭaqā, Al-Kitāb al-Fakhrī fī ‘l-Ādāb al-Sultanīyya wa ‘l-Duwal al-Islamīyya (Cairo, 1381/1962), pp. 227228Google Scholar; al-Antākī, Yasḥya b. Sa'īd, Histoire de Yahya-ibn Sa'id D'Antioche, ed. and trans. Kratchkovsky, I. and Vasiliev, A., Patrologia Orientalis, 18, 5 (Paris, 1924), 711712.Google Scholar

17 Details of al-Ṣūlī's life and writings will be found in the introduction to Marius Canard's French translation of al-Ṣūlī's Akhbār al-Rāḍī wa ‘l-Muttaqī (Algiers, 1946)Google Scholar; Kratchkovsky, I., “al-Ṣūlī,” El2, 4, 541542Google Scholar; and al-‘Umarī, Aḥmad Jamāl, Abū Bakr al-ūlī (Cairo, 1973).Google Scholar

18 al-Nadīm, Ibn, Fihrist, ed. Fluegel, G. (Leipzig, 18711872), photoreprint (Beirut, n.d.), pp. 129, 151.Google Scholar

19 al-Mas'ūdī, , Murūj al-Dhahab, ed. 'Abd al-Ḥamīd, Muḥammad Muḥya 'l-Dīn (Cairo, 1357/1938), I, 67.Google Scholar

20 al-Sābī, Hilāl, Kitāb Tuhfat al-Umarᾱ’ fī Tārīkh al-Wuzarā’, ed. Farāj, ‘Abd al-Sattār Aḥmad (Cairo, 1958), p. 4.Google Scholar

21 Abū ‘l-Fallāḥ ‘Abd al-Hayy b. al-‘Imād al-ḥanbalī, Shadharāt al-Dhahab fī Akhbār min Dhahab (Beirut, n.d.) I, 342.Google Scholar

22 Al-Ṣūli, , Akhbār al-RāṢī wa ‘l-Muttaqī, pp. 8586; trans. Canard, I, 146.Google Scholar

23 al-Nadīm, Ibn, Fihrist, p. 129Google Scholar; Yāqūt, , Irshād al-Arīb ilā Ma'rifat al-Adīb, ed. Margoliouth, D. S. (Leiden, 19071931), II, 58.Google Scholar

24 al-Sābī, Hilāl, Kitāb Tuhfat al-Umarā’ fī Tārīkh al-Wuzarā’, p. 4.Google Scholar

25 Kratchkovsky, , “al-Sūlī,” IV, 542.Google Scholar

26 Khan, M. S., “Miskawayh and Arabic Historiography,” Journal of the American Oriental Society, 89 (1969), 715.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

27 Ibid., 716.

28 Rosenthal, Franz, A History of Muslim Historiography (2nd ed.; Leiden, 1968), pp. 172173.Google Scholar

29 al-ḍūlī, , Akhbār al-RāṢṢ wa ‘l-Muttaqī, p. 39.Google Scholar

30 Ibid., p. 16; trans. Canard, p. 64.

31 al-Iṣfahānī, Ḥamza, Tawārīkh Sinī Mulūk al-Ard wa 'l-Anbiyā’, ed. Gottewald, J. (Leipzig, 1844)Google Scholar; references in this paper are to the Beirut edition, 1961, prepared by Yūsuf Ya'qūb al-Maskūni.

32 Ibid., p. 5.

33 Ibid., p. 152.

34 Amedroz, and Margoliouth, , Eclipse of the 'Abbāsid Caliphate, I, 366.Google Scholar

35 Ibid., I, p. 351.

36 This argument will be made in a forthcoming article in the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 20, 3 (1977).Google Scholar

37 Amedroz, and Margoliouth, , Eclipse of the ‘Abbāsid Caliphate, II, 87.Google Scholar

38 al-Ṣūlī, , Akhbār al-RāṢī wa'l-Muttaqī, p. 131Google Scholar; trans. Canard, I, 107.

39 Ibid., p. 235; trans. Canard, II, 68.

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