Tahirid dynasty

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Tahirid Dynasty

Tahirid Dynasty 821 - 873 (AD).png
Provinces governed by the Tahirids
StatusNominally part of the Abbasid Caliphate [1]
Capital Merv, later Nishapur
Common languages Persian (informal) [2]
Arabic (literature/poetry/science) [3]
Sunni Islam
Tahir ibn Husayn
Historical era Medieval
800 est. [4] 1,000,000 km2 (390,000 sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Black flag.svg Abbasid Caliphate
Saffarid Empire Saffarid dynasty 861-1003.png
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History of Afghanistan
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Associated Historical Regions
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History of Greater Iran

The Tahirid dynasty (Persian : طاهریان, Tâhiriyân) was a dynasty, of Persian [5] dihqan [6] origin, that effectively ruled the Khorasan from 821 to 873 while other members of the dynasty served as military and security commanders for the city of Baghdad from 820 until 891. [7] The dynasty was founded by Tahir ibn Husayn, a leading general in the service of the Abbasid caliph al-Ma'mun. Their capital in Khorasan was initially located at Merv but was later moved to Nishapur. The Tahirids have been described as the first independent Iranian dynasty and the short lived dynasty [8] after the fall of the Sassanian Empire. [9] [10] However, according Hugh Kennedy: "The Tahirids are sometimes considered as the first independent Iranian dynasty, but such a view is misleading. The arrangement was effectively a partnership between the Abbasids and the Tahirids." And instead, the Tahirids were loyal to the Abbasid caliphs and enjoyed considerable autonomy rather than being independent from the central authority. [11] [12] The tax revenue from Khorasan that was sent to the caliphal treasury was perhaps larger than those collected previously. [11]

Persian language Western Iranian language

Persian, also known by its endonym Farsi, is one of the Western Iranian languages within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and some other regions which historically were Persianate societies and considered part of Greater Iran. It is written right to left in the Persian alphabet, a modified variant of the Arabic script.

The Persians are an Iranian ethnic group that make up over half the population of Iran. They share a common cultural system and are native speakers of the Persian language, as well as closely related languages.

The dihqan, were a class of land-owning magnates during the Sasanian and early Islamic period, found throughout Iranian-speaking lands.


Rulers of Khurasan


The founder of the Tahirid dynasty was Tahir ibn Husayn, a general who had played a major role in the civil war between the rival caliphs al-Amin and al-Ma'mun. He and his ancestors had previously been awarded minor governorships in eastern Khorasan for their service to the Abbasids. [5] In 821, Tahir was made governor of Khorasan, but he died soon afterwards. The caliph then appointed Tahir's son, Talha, whose governorship lasted from 822–828. [13] Tahir's other son, Abdullah, was instated as the wali of Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula, and when Talha died in 828 he was given the governorship of Khorasan. Abdullah is considered one of the greatest of the Tahirid rulers, [14] as his reign witnessed a flourishing of agriculture in his native land of Khorasan, popularity among the populations of the eastern lands of the Abbasid caliphate and extending influence due to his experience with the western parts of the caliphate. [15]

Tahir ibn Husayn Abbasid caliphate general

Ṭāhir ibn Ḥusayn, also known as Dhul-Yamīnayn, and al-Aʿwar, was an Iranian general and governor during the Abbasid caliphate. Specifically, he served under al-Ma'mun during the Fourth Fitna and led the armies that would defeat al-Amin, making al-Ma'mun the caliph. He was then rewarded as governor of Khorasan, which marked the beginning of the Tahirid dynasty.

The Fourth Fitna or Great Abbasid Civil War resulted from the conflict between the brothers al-Amin and al-Ma'mun over the succession to the throne of the Abbasid Caliphate. Their father, Caliph Harun al-Rashid, had named al-Amin as the first successor, but had also named al-Ma'mun as the second, with Khurasan granted to him as an appanage. Later a third son, al-Qasim, had been designated as third successor. After Harun died in 809, al-Amin succeeded him in Baghdad. Encouraged by the Baghdad court, al-Amin began trying to subvert the autonomous status of Khurasan, and al-Qasim was quickly sidelined. In response, al-Ma'mun sought the support of the provincial élites of Khurasan and made moves to assert his own autonomy. As the rift between the two brothers and their respective camps widened, al-Amin declared his own son Musa as his heir and assembled a large army. In 811, al-Amin's troops marched against Khurasan, but al-Ma'mun's general Tahir ibn Husayn defeated them in the Battle of Rayy, and then invaded Iraq and besieged Baghdad itself. The city fell after a year, al-Amin was executed, and al-Ma'mun became Caliph.

Al-Amin the sixth Arab Abbasid Caliph

Muhammad ibn Harun al-Rashid, better known by his regnal name of al-Amin, was the sixth Abbasid Caliph. He succeeded his father, Harun al-Rashid in 809 and ruled until he was deposed and killed in 813, during the civil war with his brother, al-Ma'mun.

The replacement of the Pahlavi script with the Arabic script in order to write the Persian language was done by the Tahirids in 9th century Khurasan. [16] [17]


Abdullah died in 845 and was succeeded by his son Tahir II. Not much is known of Tahir's rule, but the administrative dependency of Sistan was lost to rebels during his governorship. Tahirid rule began to seriously deteriorate after Tahir's son Muhammad ibn Tahir became governor, due to his carelessness with the affairs of the state and lack of experience with politics. Oppressive policies in Tabaristan, another dependency of Khorasan, resulted in the people of that province revolting and declaring their allegiance to the independent Zaydi ruler Hasan ibn Zayd in 864. [14] In Khorasan itself, Muhammad's rule continued to grow increasingly weak, and in 873 he was finally overthrown by the Saffarid dynasty, who annexed Khorasan to their own empire in eastern Persia. [18]

Sistan historical and geographical region in present-day Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan

Sīstān, known in ancient times as Sakastan, is a historical and geographical region in present-day eastern Iran and southern Afghanistan.


Tabaristan, also known as Tapuria, was the name applied to Mazandaran, a province in northern Iran. Although the natives of the region knew it as Mazandaran, the region was called Tabaristan from the Arab conquests to the Seljuk period.

Saffarid dynasty dynasty

The Saffarid dynasty was a Muslim Persianate dynasty from Sistan that ruled over parts of eastern Iran, with its capital at Zaranj. Khorasan, Afghanistan and Sistan from 861 to 1003. The dynasty, of Persian origin, was founded by Ya'qub bin Laith as-Saffar, born in 840 in a small town called Karnin (Qarnin), which was located east of Zaranj and west of Bost, in what is now Afghanistan - a native of Sistan and a local ayyar, who worked as a coppersmith (ṣaffār) before becoming a warlord. He seized control of the Sistan region and began conquering most of Iran and Afghanistan, as well as parts of Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Governors of Baghdad

Besides their hold over Khorasan, the Tahirids also served as the military governors ( ashab al-shurta ) of Baghdad, beginning with Tahir's appointment to that position in 820. After he left for Khorasan, the governorship of Baghdad was given to a member of a collateral branch of the family, Ishaq ibn Ibrahim, who controlled the city for over twenty-five years. [19] During Ishaq's term as governor, he was responsible for implementing the Mihna (inquisition) in Baghdad. [20] His administration also witnessed the departure of the caliphs from Baghdad, as they made the recently constructed city of Samarra their new capital. [21] When Ishaq died in 849 he was succeeded first by two of his sons, and then in 851 by Tahir's grandson Muhammad ibn Abdallah. [19]

Shurṭa is the common Arabic term for police, although its precise meaning is that of a "picked" or elite force. Bodies termed shurṭa were established in the early days of the Caliphate, perhaps as early as the caliphate of Uthman (644–656). In the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, the shurṭa had considerable power, and its head, the ṣāḥib al-shurṭa, was an important official, whether at the provincial level or in the central government. The duties of the shurṭa varied with time and place: it was primarily a police and internal security force and also had judicial functions, but it could also be entrusted with suppressing brigandage, enforcing the ḥisbah, customs and tax duties, rubbish collection, acting as a bodyguard for governors, etc. From the 10th century, the importance of the shurṭa declined, along with the power of the central government: the army—now dominated by foreign military castes —assumed the internal security role, while the cities regained a measure of self-government and appropriated the more local tasks of the shurṭa such as that of the night watch.

Abu al-Husayn Ishaq ibn Ibrahim was a ninth-century official in the service of the Abbasid Caliphate. A member of the Mus'abid family, he was related to the Tahirid governors of Khurasan, and was himself a prominent enforcer of caliphal policy during the reigns of al-Ma'mun, al-Mu'tasim, al-Wathiq, and al-Mutawakkil. In 822 he was appointed as chief of security (shurtah) of Baghdad, and over the next three decades he oversaw many of the major developments in that city, including the implementation of the mihnah or inquisition, the removal of the Abbasid central government to Samarra, and the suppression of the attempted rebellion of Ahmad ibn Nasr al-Khuza'i. After his death, the shurtah of Baghdad briefly remained in the hands of his sons, before being transferred to the Tahirid Muhammad ibn 'Abdallah ibn Tahir in 851.

The Mihna refers to the period of religious persecution instituted by the 'Abbasid Caliph al-Ma'mun in 833 AD in which religious scholars were punished, imprisoned, or even killed unless they conformed to Muʿtazila doctrine. The policy lasted for fifteen years as it continued through the reigns of al-Ma'mun's immediate successors, al-Mu'tasim and al-Wathiq, and two years of al-Mutawakkil who reversed it in 848 AD.

Abdallah played a major role in the events of the "Anarchy at Samarra" in the 860s, giving refuge to the caliph al-Musta'in and commanding the defense of Baghdad when it was besieged by the forces of the rival caliph al-Mu'tazz in 865. The following year, he forced al-Musta'in to abdicate and recognized al-Mu'tazz as caliph, and in exchange was allowed to retain his control over Baghdad. [22] Violent riots plagued Baghdad during the last years of Abdallah's life, and conditions in the city remained tumultuous after he died and was succeeded by his brothers, first Ubaydallah and then Sulayman. [23] Eventually order was restored in Baghdad, and the Tahirids continued to serve as governors of the city for another two decades. In 891, however, Badr al-Mu'tadidi was put in charge of the security of Baghdad in place of the Tahirids, [19] and the family soon lost their prominence within the caliphate after that. [14]

The term "Anarchy at Samarra" refers to the period 861–870 in the history of the Abbasid Caliphate, which was marked by extreme internal instability and the violent succession of four caliphs, who became puppets in the hands of powerful rival military groups. The term derives from the then capital and seat of the caliphal court, Samarra. The "anarchy" began in 861, with the murder of Caliph al-Mutawakkil by his Turkish guards. His successor, al-Muntasir, ruled for six months before his death, possibly poisoned by the Turkish military chiefs. He was succeeded by al-Musta'in. Divisions within the Turkish military leadership enabled Musta'in to flee to Baghdad in 865 with the support of some Turkish chiefs and the Tahirids, but the rest of the Turkish army chose a new caliph in the person of al-Mu'tazz and besieged Baghdad, forcing the city's capitulation in 866. Musta'in was exiled and executed. Mu'tazz was able and energetic, and tried to control the military chiefs and exclude the military from civil administration. His policies were resisted, and in July 869 he too was deposed and killed. His successor, al-Muhtadi, also tried to reaffirm the Caliph's authority, but he too was killed in June 870. With Muhtadi's death and the ascension of al-Mu'tamid, the Turkish faction around Musa ibn Bugha, closely associated with Mu'tamid's brother and regent al-Muwaffaq, became dominant in the caliphal court, ending the "anarchy". Although the Abbasid Caliphate was able to stage a modest recovery in the following decades, the troubles of the "Anarchy at Samarra" inflicted great and lasting damage on the structures and prestige of the Abbasid central government, encouraging and facilitating secessionist and rebellious tendencies in the Caliphate's provinces.

Al-Mustain Abbasid Caliph

Al-Mustaʿin was the Abbasid Caliph from 862 to 866, during the "Anarchy at Samarra". After the death of previous Caliph, al-Muntasir, the Turkish military leaders held a council to select his successor. They were not willing to have al-Mu'tazz or his brothers; so they elected Ahmad ibn Muhammad أحمد بن محمد, a grandson of al-Mu'tasim, who took the regnal name al-Mustaʿin bi-llah.

Al-Mutazz Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad from 866 to 869

Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad ibn Jaʿfar, better known by his regnal title al-Muʿtazz bi-ʾllāh was the Abbasid caliph from 866 to 869, during a period of extreme internal instability within the Abbasid Caliphate, known as the "Anarchy at Samarra".

Language and culture

The Tahirids were highly Arabized in culture and outlook, and eager to be accepted in the Caliphal world where cultivation of things Arabic gave social and cultural prestige. For this reason, the Tahirids could not play a part in the renaissance of New Persian language and culture. But the Persian language was at least tolerated in the entourage of the Tahirids and the amirs were not positively Anti-Iranian. On the other hand, the Saffarids played the leading part in the renaissance of Persian literature. [24]

Members of the Tahirid dynasty

Map of Tahirid Khurasan Tahirid Khurasan ca 836 AD.svg
Map of Tahirid Khurasan
Governor [19] [25] Term
Governors of Khurasan
Tahir ibn Husayn 821-822
Talha ibn Tahir 822-828
Abdallah ibn Tahir al-Khurasani 828-845
Tahir (II) ibn Abdallah 845-862
Muhammad ibn Tahir (II) 862-873
Governors of Baghdad
Tahir ibn Husayn820-822
Ishaq ibn Ibrahim al-Mus'abi 822-850
Muhammad ibn Ishaq ibn Ibrahim 850-851
Abdallah ibn Ishaq ibn Ibrahim 851
Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Tahir 851-867
Ubaydallah ibn Abdallah ibn Tahir 867-869
Sulayman ibn Abdallah ibn Tahir 869-879
Ubaydallah ibn Abdallah (again)879-885
Muhammad ibn Tahir (II)885-890
Ubaydallah ibn Abdallah (again)890-891

Family tree

Bold denotes a Tahirid that served as governor of Khorasan; italics denotes an individual who served as governor of Baghdad. [26]

Tahir I
Tahir II

See also

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  1. Encyclopedia Britannica "Ṭāhirid dynasty, (821–873 ce), Islamic dynasty of the land of Khorāsān (centred in northeastern Persia), which owed nominal allegiance to the ʿAbbāsid caliph at Baghdad but enjoyed virtual independence."
  2. Introduction: the Turko-Persian tradition, Robert L. Canfield, Turko-Persia in Historical Perspective, ed. Robert Leroy Canfield, (Cambridge University Press, 1991), 6.
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  8. Ann, Porter, Venetia (1992). "The history and monuments of the Tahirid dynasty of the Yemen 858-923/1454-1517". etheses.dur.ac.uk. Retrieved 2018-12-02.
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  18. see Hammuda
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  21. Gordon, Matthew S. (2001), The Breaking of a Thousand Swords: A History of the Turkish Military of Samarra (A.H. 200-275/815-889 C.E.), Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, p. 47 ff.
  22. Kennedy, Hugh (2001), The Armies of the Caliphs: Military and Society in the Early Islamic State, London: Routledge, pp. 135-9.
  23. Yar-Shater, Ehsan, ed. (1985-2007), The History of al-Tabari, Vols. 1-40, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, v. XXXV p. 124 ff.; v. XXXVI pp. 3-5, 13 ff.
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  26. Kraemer, Joel L (1989), Foreword, in Ehsan Yar-Shater (Ed.), The History of al-Tabari, Volume XXXIV: Incipient Decline, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, p. xxviii.