Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

A Political Biography of Al-Sahib Isma'il B. 'Abbad (D. 385/995)

Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

A Political Biography of Al-Sahib Isma'il B. 'Abbad (D. 385/995)

Article excerpt

Among the many intellectuals and statesmen of the fourth/tenth century there are few who rival al-Sahib Abu 1-Qasim Ismail b. (Abbal for fame and influence among his contemporaries. The son of a BiVid vizier, Ibn Abbad became one of the century's most prominent political figures, serving as vizier for two Biayid amirs of western Iran. Mu'ayyid al-Dawla (d. 373/983) and Fakhr al-Dawla (d. 387/997). Under Ibn cAbbiad's careful management of affairs from 366/976 until his death in 385/995, the Bayid amirs won several decisive military victories, reaching the apogee of their power in the region. Culturally, too, Ibn (Abbad's tenure as a patron was significant. His courts in Rayy, Isfahdn, and Jur* were major centers of patronage for poets, litterateurs. scholars of the Arabic language, and theologians, rivaling in size and quality those of the famed Abil Muhammad al-Muhallabi (d. 352/963) in Baghdad and Sayf al-Dawla al-tlamdani (d. 356/967). Among the many renowned literary figures who attended his court were Abil Hayydn al-Tawhidi (d. 414/1023), Abil Bala al-Khwdrazmi (d. 384/994), and Bath al-Zaman al-Hamadhani (d. 398/1008).

As a result of Ibn (Abbad's fame in the fourth/tenth century, there is a wide range of literary source materials available to the researcher. Over the course of his lifetime Ibn (Abbdd authored a great number of letters, poetry, and other works that shed some light on his activities.' Similarly, reports about Ibn (Abbad are featured in histories of the Buyid period, such as Tajarib al-umam of Miskawayh (d. 421/1030) and Dhayl Tajarib al-umam of al-Riadhrawari (d. 488/1095), which provide the chronological framework for Ibn cAbbad's reign as vizier.2 Later biographical compendia and anthologies, such as Muha(larat al-udaba) of al-Rdghib al-Isfahani (d. early fifth/eleventh century) and Mu'jam al-udabe of Yaqat al-tlamawi (d. 626/1229), also provide important details on Ibn Abbad's early life and literary activities.(3)

However, the literary works written by Ibn 'Abbad's contemporaries provide the most interesting accounts of the vizier. In particular, there are the numerous reports (akhbeir) concerning Ibn 'Abbad included in the works of two important men of letters: Abu Mangir (d. 429/1039) and Abu" Hayydn al-Tawbid1.(4) Al-Thealibi compiled accounts from individuals at Ibn (Abbad's court, and his work was shaped in part by several individuals known to have been close to the famed vizier. By contrast, the majority of al-Tawl-jidi's reports about Ibn (Abbal issue from a single work produced during the years (367-370/977-980) that he spent at the vizier's court in Rayy.(5) Al-Tawbidi wrote Akhleig al-wazirayn with the intention to defame Ibn cAbbad when he was in Baghdad at the court of the Bflyid vizier Ibn Sa(dan sometime before the year 373/983, while Ibn cAbbal was still a major political figure.(6) Although there has been research on various aspects of Ibn (Abbad's literary and intellectual contributions, there are no systematic treatments that compile and corroborate accounts from the large variety of historical and literary sources relating to his life. (7) This article aims to provide a detailed account of Ibn Abbad's origins, education, rise to power as the Buyid vizier of Rayy, and subsequent career as vizier.

BIRTH, FAMILY, AND EARLY EDUCATION OF ESMA(IL B. (ABBAD Ibn (Abbad was born on 16 Dha 1-Qacda 326/14 September 938 in western Iran.(8) There is much confusion in the sources over the origins of his nisba al-Magi:mi. Most scholars, medieval and modern, believe that it referred to the city of Talacian located near the source of the river Shahradh, in the vicinity of Qazvin, distinguishing it from the city of the same name in Khurasan.(9) Many scholars seem to prefer this explanation of Ibn (Abbad's origin because it provides a geographical connection to the Daylarni amirs. However, al-Thdalibi states that he was from a town called Placiiin in the vicinity of Isfahan (10) for which there is evidence in support, viz. …

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