Mu'izz al-Dawla Thimal

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Thimal ibn Salih
Emir of Aleppo
ReignFebruary 1048 – August 1058
Predecessor Nasr ibn Salih
Successor Makin al-Dawla Ibn Mulhim al-Uqayli
ReignApril 1060 – 1062
PredecessorMahmud ibn Nasr
Successor Atiyya ibn Salih
SpouseAl-Sayyida al-Alawiyya bint Waththab al-Numayri
Full name
Abū ʿUlwān Thimāl ibn Ṣāliẖ ibn Mirdās
Regnal name
Muʿizz al-Dawla
Tribe Banu Kilab
Dynasty Mirdasid
Father Salih ibn Mirdas
Religion Shia Islam

Muʿizz al-Dawla Abū ʿUlwān Thimāl ibn Ṣāliẖ ibn Mirdās (Arabic : معز الدولة ثمال بن صالح بن مرداس) (died 1062) was the Mirdasid emir of Aleppo from 1042 until 1057, and again from 1061 until his death. He was the son of Salih ibn Mirdas.


Early life and career

Thimal was a son of Salih ibn Mirdas, the paramount emir (prince) of the Banu Kilab who founded the Mirdasid dynasty whose territories encompassed the region of Aleppo and the western Jazira. Thimal's birth year, like that of the other Mirdasids, is unknown. [1] Like most Muslims of the Aleppo region, the Kilab professed the Twelver Shia doctrine, though to what extent is unclear. [2] One indication of Thimal's subscription to the religion was his kunya (paedonymic), "Abū ʿUlwān", a name associated with Shia Islam. [2] Prior to Salih's capture of Aleppo in 1024, Thimal resided in the fortress of al-Rahba, [3] a fortified town on the middle Euphrates that had been in his father's possession since 1008; Salih lived in a tribal encampment on the outskirts of Aleppo. [3] Until the conquest of Aleppo, the Mirdasid court was in al-Rahba, where it was visited by the poet Ibn Abi Hasina in 1019 and 1022. [4] In both visits, the poet extolled Thimal and eulogized him as a malik (king). [4] Ibn Abi Hasina was particularly associated with Thimal and noted nearly every event of his life, though many of these events were not recorded by the medieval chroniclers. [5]

Struggles for power

Power-sharing with Nasr

Thimal moved to Aleppo following its conquest. [3] He was designated by Salih as his walī al-ʿaḥd (chosen successor) and his name was inscribed accordingly on coinage alongside the names of Salih and the Fatimid caliph, az-Zahir (r. 1021–1036), whose suzerainty the Mirdasids nominally acknowledged. [3] When Salih was slain by the forces of the Fatimid general Anushtakin al-Dizbari, Thimal may have remained in Aleppo, while his elder brother Nasr managed to escape the Mirdasids' rout. [6] Afterward, Nasr and Thimal abandoned the string of central Syrian cities their father had conquered and concentrated their forces in the territories of Jund Qinnasrin and Diyar Mudar, corresponding with northern Syrian and the western Jazira, respectively. [7] They shared power in Aleppo, with Thimal controlling the citadel and Nasr the city. [7] The Byzantine emperor Romanos III perceived the young Mirdasid emirs as weak rulers whose emirate was susceptible to a Fatimid takeover. [8] Thus, he decided to move against the Mirdasids despite the latter's efforts to negotiate a peaceful arrangement. [7] [8] However, the army Romanos led was routed by a much smaller Mirdasid force led by Nasr at the Battle of Azaz in August 1030. [8]

During the engagement with the Byzantines, Thimal had remained in Aleppo with the bulk of the warriors of Banu Kilab to defend the city and its citadel should Nasr's cavalry be dispersed. [9] The brothers had meanwhile sent away their families to shelter in their tribe's encampments at the outskirts of Aleppo. [10] Subsequent to the Mirdasids' victory, Thimal left Aleppo to bring back his family to the city, but during his absence Nasr seized the citadel and became the sole Mirdasid emir of Aleppo. [7] [10] Thimal sought to regain the city and to that end, gained the support of most of the Banu Kilab. [11] Most likely in response to this threat, Nasr appealed for Byzantine protection and entered Byzantine vassalage in May 1031. [7] The chieftains of the Banu Kilab ultimately mediated a reconciliation between Thimal and Nasr whereby the former would rule the Upper Mesopotamian portion of the Mirdasid emirate from al-Rahba while Nasr would rule the Syrian portion from Aleppo. [12]

Conflict with the Fatimid governor of Syria

By 1038, Nasr had become embroiled in conflict with al-Dizbari, the powerful Damascus-based governor of Syria. The enmity, dating from al-Dizbari's defeat and killing of Nasr and Thimal's father at al-Uqhuwana, was reignited when the Fatimid vizier al-Jarjara'i engineered the alottment of Homs to Nasr's emirate to al-Dizbari's chagrin. [13] The dismissed Fatimid governor of Homs appealed for al-Dizbari's assistance to oust Nasr, prompting al-Dizbari to launch a campaign against the Mirdasids. [14] Nasr mobilized as many Kilabi warriors as he could and together with Thimal confronted al-Dizbari's troops, whose ranks included numerous Banu Tayy and Banu Kalb tribesmen, near Salamiyah. [15] The Mirdasids were defeated and while they regrouped, al-Dizbari sacked Hama north of Homs. [15] The two sides fought again at Tell Fas, near Latmin. [15] During the battle, Thimal fled with his Kilabi loyalists, leaving Nasr and a small core of supporters to be defeated and slain by al-Dizbari. [16]

According to historian Suhayl Zakkar, Thimal's intention had been to "restore his own position in Aleppo which Nasr had usurped from him an almost similar way". [17] Nonetheless, he became demoralized at the defeat of his brother and feared he was not in a strong enough position to hold Aleppo. [18] He therefore departed the city for the Jazira with his family, including Nasr's wife, al-Sayyida al-Alawiyya bint Waththab, and the latter and Nasr's son Mahmud ibn Nasr. [18] He left his cousin Muqallid ibn Kamil in charge of the citadel and a Kilabi kinsman, Khalifa ibn Jabir, in charge of the city, while he could gather reinforcements from among the Bedouin tribesmen of the Jazira. [18] Al-Dizbari's army ultimately besieged Aleppo and by June/July 1038, had captured it and expelled Muqallid and Khalifa, along with any Mirdasid loyalists left in the city. [19]

Thimal retained the Mesopotamian portion of Mirdasid emirate, [20] but al-Dizbari later captured Balis and Manbij from him, but was unable to take al-Rahba. [21] Meanwhile, Thimal had married al-Sayyida al-Alawiyya, Nasr's widow and a princess of Thimal's allies, the Banu Numayr. [21] When her brother Shabib ibn Waththab died in 1039/40, she inherited the twin cities of al-Raqqa and al-Rafiqa and subsequently entrusted them with Thimal. [21] The latter made al-Raqqa his capital in order to remain as close as possible to Aleppo. [20] [21]

Emir of Aleppo

First reign

The Fatimid state, guided by al-Jarjara'i, had grown afoul of al-Dizbari's virtual independence and consolidation of power across Syria. Al-Jarjara'i condemned al-Dizbari as a traitor and much of the Fatimid army in Syria abandoned him. [21] He was ultimately forced to leave Damascus for Aleppo, prompting al-Jarjara'i to request that Thimal neutralize him. [21] Moreover, Thimal was formally granted by the Fatimid caliph al-Mustansir (r. 1036–1094) the governorship of Aleppo. [22] By the time Thimal mobilized his Kilabi and other Bedouin forces from al-Raqqa to seize Aleppo, al-Dizbari died in January 1042. [21] [22] However, Thimal and Muqallid's troops were refused entry into the city by the aḥdāth (urban militia) supported by the Fatimid garrison whose troops defied al-Mustansir's decree. [23] Thimal retreated to the Kilabi tribal encampments at Qinnasrin, but within a few days an opportunity arose to take Aleppo when the aḥdāth and the Fatimid troops entered into conflict over control of the city. [23] The aḥdāth consequently allowed Thimal entry on 22 February, forcing the Fatimid troops to barricade themselves in a palace adjacent to the citadel, which was held by al-Dizbari's former ghilmān (slave soldiers). [23] Thimal was able to quickly capture the palace, but only captured the citadel after a seven-month siege, after which he was congratulated by al-Mustansir. [23]

During his siege of the citadel, Thimal sent envoys to Empress Theodora (r. 1042–1056) to gain Byzantine protection in return for recognizing Theodora' suzerainty and offering tribute. [24] Theodora accepted and bestowed upon Thimal the title of magistros , while conferring lower-ranking imperial titles on al-Sayyida al-Alawiyya and six other members of the Mirdasid household. [21] [24] Thimal thus became a vassal of Byzantium in the same way Nasr had been. [24] In Zakkar's estimation, Thimal had been motivated to seek Byzantine protection out of fears that the Fatimids would at one point or another turn against him. [24] Though al-Mustansir confirmed Thimal's governorship in 1045, tensions between Thimal and al-Mustansir increased when the former only partially restored to the Fatimids the 400,000 or 600,000 dinars left in Aleppo's citadel by al-Dizbari. [21] [24] Further straining ties was Thimal's discontinuation of the annual 20,000 dinar tribute to al-Mustansir. [24]

In 1048, al-Mustansir dispatched an army led by the Fatimid governors of Damascus and Homs, Nasir al-Dawla ibn Hamdan and Ja'far ibn Kulayd, respectively, along with auxiliaries from the Banu Kalb, to conquer Aleppo. [25] The Fatimid force captured Hama and Ma'arrat al-Nu'man before defeating Thimal outside of Aleppo, forcing the latter to retreat behind the city walls. [25] In the fall of 1048, Ibn Hamdan encamped his forces at Shildi, a village on the Quwayq River in Aleppo's vicinity for the dual purpose of remaining close to the city and having access to a water supply for his troops. [25] However, he was forced to Damascus as a result of heavy losses in men and equipment incurred when the Quwayq flooded his camp during heavy rains. [25] Due to these natural events, Thimal was spared a potential Fatimid siege. [25]

Following Ibn Hamdan's withdrawal, Thimal attempted to negotiate a peace with al-Mustansir through the latter's successive Jewish viziers, Sadaqa ibn Yusuf al-Falahi and Abu Sa'd, but both were executed in relatively quick succession. [21] His cousin, Ja'far ibn Kamil, meanwhile went on the offensive and killed Ibn Kulayd at Kafartab, provoking a renewed Fatimid expedition against the Mirdasids. [26] This campaign was led by Rifq at the head of a 30,000-strong army including an uneasy mix of regular Berber troops and Bedouin auxiliaries from the Banu Kalb and Banu Jarrah. [21] The Byzantine emperor unsuccessfully attempted to persuade al-Mustansir to halt the advance and consequently dispatched two armies to oversee developments in northern Syria. [26] To prevent their utilization by the Fatimids, Muqallid demolished the fortifications of Ma'arrat al-Nu'man and Hama. [26] In August 1050, Rifq's forces were annihilated by Thimal's Kilabi troops at Jabal Jawshin and Rifq was detained and fatally wounded. [26]

After his victory, Thimal sought to avoid further conflict and achieve reconciliation with the Fatimids. To that end, he released all their war prisoners and entered into a mediation brokered by the Fatimid qāḍī (judge) of Tyre, Ali ibn Iyad. [27] The latter persuaded al-Mustansir to accept a Mirdasid delegation headed by al-Sayyida al-Alawiyya and including Thimal's young son, Waththab, in late 1050. [26] [27] The delegates paid the caliph 40,000 dinars, which amounted to two years of unpaid tribute. [27] Al-Sayyida al-Alawiyya declared the Mirdasids' loyalty to the Fatimids and beckoned al-Mustansir to "grant peace and protection" to Aleppo. [28] Al-Mustansir subsequently confirmed Thimal's authority over Aleppo and the other territories of his realm. [26]

The peace with the Fatimids contributed to the stability of Thimal's emirate for the next seven years. [26] During this time, Thimal’s shaykh al-dawla (chieftain of the state), Ibn al-Aysar, oversaw municipal affairs in Aleppo and was Thimal’s principal representative with the Byzantine emperor and the Fatimid caliph. [26] Annual tributes to both rulers were maintained. Thimal entrusted fiscal policy to a succession of viziers from al-Rahba: Abu’l Fadl Ibrahim al-Anbari, Abu Nasr Muhammad ibn Jahir and Hibat Allah ibn Muhammad al-Ra’bani al-Rahbi. [26] The latter two were “experts in public finance”, according to Bianquis, and had served other Muslim rulers. [26] The inhabitants of Aleppo generally prospered during this period and benefitted from low prices. [26] The city experienced a construction boom in houses, most of which survived until the Mongol destruction of Aleppo in 1260. [26]

Second reign

In 1060, Thimal was in Cairo when he was informed by the caliph that his nephew Rashid al-Dawla Mahmud had seized Aleppo, and as a result the caliph would be retaking the coastal provinces allotted to him. Thimal decided to return to Aleppo, but found Mahmud unwilling to yield control, while another Mirdasid, 'Atiyya ibn Salih, Thimal's brother, had become independent in Rahba. After several military engagements between Thimal and Mahmud, the Kilab came up with a compromise. Mahmud gave up Aleppo to his uncle, in exchange for cash and grain. Thimal therefore reentered Aleppo in 1061.

Thimal's second reign lasted little more than a year. He led several successful expeditions against Byzantine positions to the west, between Antioch and Aleppo. He died at the end of 1062. He had named his brother 'Atiyya as his successor, but Mahmud contested this, causing more strife between the Mirdasids.

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  1. Zakkar 1971, p. 87.
  2. 1 2 Zakkar 1971, p. 84.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Zakkar 1971, p. 105.
  4. 1 2 Zakkar 1971, p. 91.
  5. Zakkar 1971, p. 29.
  6. Zakkar 1971, pp. 105–106.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 Bianquis 1993, p. 117.
  8. 1 2 3 Zakkar 1971, pp. 113–116.
  9. Zakkar 1971, p. 113.
  10. 1 2 Zakkar 1971, p. 107.
  11. Zakkar 1971, p. 108.
  12. Zakkar 1971, pp. 107–108.
  13. Zakkar 1971, pp. 122–123.
  14. Zakkar 1971, pp. 123–124.
  15. 1 2 3 Zakkar 1971, p. 124.
  16. Zakkar 1971, pp. 124–125.
  17. Zakkar 1971, p. 125.
  18. 1 2 3 Zakkar 1971, p. 132.
  19. Zakkar 1971, p. 133.
  20. 1 2 Zakkar 1971, p. 134.
  21. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Bianquis 1993, p. 118.
  22. 1 2 Zakkar 1971, p. 138.
  23. 1 2 3 4 Zakkar 1971, p. 139.
  24. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Zakkar 1971, p. 140.
  25. 1 2 3 4 5 Zakkar 1971, p. 141.
  26. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Bianquis 1993, p. 119.
  27. 1 2 3 Zakkar 1971, p. 154.
  28. Zakkar 1971, p. 78.


Preceded by
Shibl al-Dawla Nasr
Mirdasid emir of Aleppo
Succeeded by
Fatimid rule
Preceded by
Rashid al-Dawla Mahmud
Mirdasid emir of Aleppo
Succeeded by
'Atiyya ibn Salih