A Political Biography of al-Sahib Isma'il b. 'Abbad (d. 385/995).

Author:Pomerantz, Maurice A.
Position:Biography
 
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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., Ibn (Abbad chose Isfahan as the location for his own burial, eschewing Rayy, which had been his place of residence for the previous two decades, and he often voiced his attachments to the city of Isfahan in ways that suggest it was his city of birth. (11)"It is possible that the nisba relates to his family members having lived in the village of Talaqanchah, located approximately twenty miles to the south of Isfahan. (12)

Ibn (Abbad must have spent his early years in western Iran. Although details of the rise of the family to prominence in Isfahan are unknown,(13) his grandfather,

When the Buyid amir Rukn al-Dawla entered 4fahiln in 323/934,(21) he chose (Abbad as his vizier on account of his administrative skills. cAbbad proved himself to be a valuable asset to the Buyid government of central Iran, achieving such a level of refinement in the scribal arts that YaqEn mentions that certain "letters and correspondence" (mulditabat wa-murtisallit) between him and the qadi of Ramhurmuz, al-Hasan b. cAbd al-Ratundn b. Hammad, were -well known and recorded" (madhkara wa-mudawwana).(22) Scholars of the next generation recalled Abbild as one of the "most exceptional people of his time [on account of his knowledge, piety, abstemiousness, grace, and perfection [as well as] trustworthiness, resolve, savvy, and competence."(23) When (AbbAd died in 335/946 it was said that the entire city of Qumm mourned his loss. (24)

Ibn (Abba'd revered his father and looked to him as a model of both leadership and piety. Literature from his court written between the years 360-385/970-995 refers to his relationship with his father on several occasions. For example, the courtier and poet Ibn 135bak (d. 410/1020) reported that Ibn (Abbad said, "I was not so pleased with any poet's work so much as with that which the poet Abri Said al-Rustami al-Wahani said: He [Ibn cAbbad] inherited the vizierate from one great man to the next (waritha I-wizarata kabiran 'an kabirin)...."(25)

In the years following his father's death, Ibn

Ibn cAbbad must have learned to speak Persian as a child and he developed in this language a refined sensitivity that he displayed on occasion later in life at his court. (28) However, Ibn cAbbad also received education in the Arabic language and spoke this language with fluency as well. In his childhood Ibn Abbad related Iladith and other historical and literary reports from his father.

In Isfahan Ibn (Abbad attended the study circle of the local teacher Abil 'Arm al-Sabbagh.(29) It is reported that discord soon arose between teacher and student such that one day Ibn cAbbad departed in anger from one of his lessons. He then allegedly wrote the following lines and sent them to his teacher:

You entrusted me with knowledge, so you know how many a tongue harmed a vulnerable body part! And if you taught me coarsely, the sword will not [forever] remain with the polisher! (30) According to al-Raghib al-Isfahaii, these words came to the attention of the local man of letters Abil 1-Husayn Ahmad b. Sad. Astonished by Ibn Abbad's poetic skill he reproduced the verses, adding, "a man of eighty has recorded the poetry of a ten-year-old!" He then recited Q 19:12, "We have given him wisdom even as a boy." Perhaps because he saw Ibn 'Mblid's promise, Ahmad b. Sacd hoped to cultivate his talents effectively, and since he had previously worked in the city's diwii n, his support may have helped Ibn (Abb5d attain his first administrative appointment.31 Ibn cAbbad began to receive training in the basic skills of an administrator, such as letter-writing and accounting, and was appointed scribe in the

Awddtani 1-iltna fa-la tajhala kam miqwalin yajni 1-maqtali wa-anta in (allamtant saqatan wa-l-sayfu la yabqa ala l-sayqa1i diwan of Isfahan. There he became the protege (sani[a.sup.32]) of the Buyid vizier Abu 1-Fall Muhammad b. al-Hjusayn Ibn al-Amid, who like Ibn. Abbad gained his position by virtue of the proximity of his father to the Daylami soldiers of fortune who first established Buyid control over western Iran. (33)

Abu 1-Fadl served for seven years in Isfahan as a subordinate to Ibn Abbad's father. After Abbad's death he became sole vizier for Rukn al-Dawia in Isfahan. (34) AbU 1-Fadi was an impressive figure, learned and accomplished in many fields. (35) In addition to being a statesman, he was a poet, belletrist, patron, and scholar. In a poem of praise that Ibn Abbad recited before his master Abu 1-Fadi, written early in their relationship, he expressed joy at having been included in the vizier's retinue.

Indeed, how many a man is jealous of me whom I used to envy now says out of his anger and his pain, "Ibn Abba'd attained all of his hopes When 1bn al-Amid counted him among his servants!" (36) IBN ABBAD STUDIES IN RAYY WITH ABO L-FADL IBN AL-AMID

During the period that Ibn cAbbild was his apprentice, Abu l-Facll extended Buyid rule northwards from Isfahan in the direction of the Caspian Sea. As a result of numerous military successes, Rayy replaced Isfahan Isfahan as the central court of the Buyids in the year 335/946, and the city soon became a chief Buyid stronghold in western Iran as well as an important capital of the Islamic world. (37)

Shortly after Abu I-Factl moved to the new capital with Rukn al-Dawla appears to have gone to Rayy for further study and training as a scribe (katib). With Abu 1-Fadi he studied the so-called Arabic sciences. Filled with admiration for the vizier's mastery of Arabic, he seems to have modeled himself to some degree on Abu l-Facirs depth and breadth of linguistic knowledge. (38)

One of Abu 1-Fac11's areas of distinction was an astonishing capacity to memorize poetry. His courtier, the famed historian and philosopher AbU 'Ali Miskawayh (d. 421/1030), states that in seven years of being the vizier's closest confidant, he never heard him recite a line of poetry for which he had not learned the poet's entire corpus (diwan) by heart...

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