Tulunid Emirate in 893
|Status||Vassal of the Abbasid Caliphate|
|Common languages||Arabic (predominant), Turkic (army)|
|Religion||Islam (predominant), Coptic Christians|
|Aḥmad ibn Ṭūlūn|
|Khumarawaih ibn Ahmad ibn Tulun|
|900 (estimate)||1,500,000 km2 (580,000 sq mi)|
|History of the Turkic peoples pre-14th century|
|Turkic Khaganate 552–744|
|Khazar Khaganate 618–1048|
|Great Bulgaria 632–668|
|Kangar union 659–750|
|Turk Shahi 665-850|
|Türgesh Khaganate 699–766|
|Kimek confederation 743–1035|
|Uyghur Khaganate 744–840|
|Oghuz Yabgu State 750–1055|
|Karluk Yabgu State 756–940|
|Kara-Khanid Khanate 840–1212|
|Ganzhou Uyghur Kingdom 848–1036|
|Pecheneg Khanates 860–1091|
|Ghaznavid Empire 963–1186|
|Seljuk Empire 1037–1194|
|Khwarazmian Empire 1077–1231|
|Kerait Khanate 11th century–13th century|
|Delhi Sultanate 1206–1526|
|Qarlughid Kingdom 1224–1266|
|Golden Horde 1240s–1502|
|Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo) 1250–1517|
The Tulunids (Arabic : الطولونيون), were a mamluk dynasty of Turkic origin who were the first independent dynasty to rule Egypt, as well as much of Syria. They remained independent from 868, when they broke away from the central authority of the Abbasid dynasty that ruled the Islamic Caliphate, until 905, when the Abbasids restored the Tulunid domains to their control.
In the late 9th century, internal conflict amongst the Abbasids meant that control of the outlying areas of the empire was increasingly tenuous, and in 868 the Turkic officer Ahmad ibn Tulun established himself as an independent governor of Egypt. He subsequently achieved nominal autonomy from the central Abbasid government. During his reign (868–884) and those of his successors, the Tulunid domains were expanded to include Jordan Rift Valley, as well as Hejaz, Cyprus and Crete. Ahmad was succeeded by his son Khumarawayh, whose military and diplomatic achievements made him a major player in the Middle Eastern political stage. The Abbasids affirmed their recognition of the Tulunids as legitimate rulers, and the dynasty's status as vassals to the caliphate. After Khumarawayh's death, his successor emirs were ineffectual rulers, allowing their Turkic and black slave-soldiers to run the affairs of the state. In 905, the Tulunids were unable to resist an invasion by the Abbasid troops, who restored direct caliphal rule in Syria and Egypt.
The Tulunid period was marked by economic and administrative reforms alongside cultural ones. Ahmad ibn Tulun changed the taxation system and aligned himself with the merchant community. He also established the Tulunid army. The capital was moved from Fustat to al-Qata'i, where the celebrated mosque of Ibn Tulun was constructed.
The rise and fall of the Tulunids occurred against a backdrop of increasing regionalism in the Muslim world. The Abbasid caliphate was struggling with political disturbances and losing its aura of universal legitimacy. There had previously been Coptic and Alid-led movements in Egypt, without more than temporary and local success. There was also a struggle for power between the Turkish military command and the administration of Baghdad. Furthermore, there was a widening imperial financial crisis. All of these themes would recur during the Tulunid rule.
The internal politics of the Abbasid caliphate itself seem to have been unstable. In 870, Abū Aḥmad (b. al-Mutawakkil) al-Muwaffaḳ (d. 891) was summoned from exile in Mecca to re-establish Abbasid authority over southern Iraq. Quickly, however, he became the de facto ruler of the caliphate. As a result of this uncertainty, Ahmad ibn Tulun could establish and expand his authority. Thus the Tulunids wielded regional power, largely unhindered by imperial will; as such, the Tulunids can be compared with other 9th-century dynasties of the Muslim world, including the Aghlabids and the Tahirids.
Ahmad ibn Ṭūlūn was a member of the mostly Central Asian Turkish guard formed initially in Baghdad, then later settled in Samarra, upon its establishment as the seat of the caliphate by al-Mu'tasim. In 254/868,Ibn Tulun was sent to Egypt as resident governor by Bāyakbāk (d. 256/870), the representative of the Abbasid caliph al-Muʿtazz. Ibn Tulun promptly established a financial and military presence in the province of Egypt by establishing an independent Egyptian army and taking over the management of the Egyptian and Syrian treasuries. In 877, troops of the caliphate were sent against him, due to his insufficient payment of tribute. Ahmad ibn Tulun, however, maintained his power, and took Syria the following year.
His reign of more than ten years allowed him to leave behind a well-trained military, a stable economy and an experienced bureaucracy to oversee the state affairs. He appointed his son, Ḵh̲umārawayh, as the heir.
With full autonomy, once the tax income no longer had to go to the Caliph in Baghdad, it was possible to develop irrigation works and build a navy, which greatly stimulated the local economy and trade. In 878, Jordan valley was occupied by the Tulunids, extending in the north to the outposts in the Anti-Lebanon mountains on the Byzantine border, enabling them to defend Egypt against Abbasid attack.
Following his father's death, Khumarawayh took control as the designated heir. The first challenge he faced was the invasion of Syria by armies sent by al-Muwaffak, the de facto ruler during the reign of caliph al-Mu'tamid. Khumarawayh also had to deal with the defection of Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Wasiti to the invaders' camp, a long-time and key ally of his father's.
The young Tulunid achieved political and military gains, enabling him to extend his authority from Egypt into northern Iraq, and as far north as Tarsus by 890. Being now a prominent player in the Near Eastern political stage, he negotiated two treaties with the Abbasids. In the first treaty in 886, al-Muwaffak recognized Tulunid authority over Egypt and the regions of Syria for a thirty-year period. The second treaty, reached with al-Muʿtadid in 892, confirmed the terms of the earlier accord. Both treaties also sought to confirm the status of the Tulunid governor as a vassal of the caliphal family seated in Baghdad.
Despite his gains, Khumarawayh's reign also set the stage for the demise of the dynasty. Financial exhaustion, political infighting and strides by the Abbasids would all contribute to the ruin of the Tulunids.Khumarawayh was also totally reliant on his Turkish and sub-Saharan soldiers. Under the administration of Khumarawayh, the Syro-Egyptian state's finances and military were destabilized.
The later emirs of the dynasty were all ineffectual rulers, relying on their Turkish and black soldiers to run the affairs of the state.
Khumarawayh's son Abu 'l-Asakir (also known as Jaysh) was deposed by the Tulunid military command in 896 AD, shortly after coming to power. He was succeeded by his brother, Harun. Though he would rule for eight years, he was unable to revitalize the dynasty, and was assassinated in 904, after the Abbasid army had recovered Syria and was on the verge of invading Egypt itself. Harun's successor, his uncle Shayban ibn Ahmad ibn Tulun, was unable to resist an Abbasid invasion under the command of Muhammad ibn Sulayman al-Katib, with naval support from frontier forces under Damian of Tarsus. This brought an end to his reign and that of the Tulunids.
Ahmad ibn Tulun founded his own capital, al-Qata'i, north of the previous capital Fustat, where he seated his government. One of the dominant features of this city, and indeed the feature that survives today, was the Mosque of Ibn Tulun. The mosque is built in a Samarran style that was common in the period during which the caliphate had shifted capitals from Baghdad to Samarra. This style of architecture was not just confined to religious buildings, but secular ones also. Surviving houses of the Tulunid period have Samarran-style stucco panels.
Ḵh̲umārawayh's reign exceeded his father's in spending. He built luxuriant palaces and gardens for himself and those he favored. To the Tulunid Egyptians, his "marvelous" blue-eyed palace lion exemplified his prodigality. His stables were so extensive that, according to popular lore, Khumarawaih never rode a horse more than once. Though he squandered the dynastic wealth, he also encouraged a rich cultural life with patronage of scholarship and poetry. His protégé and the teacher of his sons was the famed grammarian Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Muḥammad Muslim (d. 944). An encomium was written by Ḳāsim b . Yaḥyā al-Maryamī (d. 929) to celebrate Khumarawaih's triumphs on the battlefield.
Through the mediation of his closest adviser, al-Ḥusayn ibn Ḏj̲aṣṣāṣ al-Ḏj̲awharī, Khumarawaih arranged for one of the great political marriages of medieval Islamic history. He proposed his daughter's marriage to a member of the caliphal family in Baghdad. The marriage between the Tulunid princess Ḳaṭr al-Nadā with the Abbasid caliph al-Mu'tadid took place in 892. The exorbitant marriage included an awesome dowry estimated at between 400,000 and one million dinars. Some speculate that the splendours of the wedding were a calculated attempt by the Abbasids to ruin the Tulunids. The tale of the splendid nuptials of Ḳaṭr al-Nadā lived on in the memory of the Egyptian people well into the Ottoman period, and were recorded in the chronicles and the folk-literature.The marriage's importance arises from its exceptional nature: the phenomenon of marriage between royal families is rare in Islamic history. The concept of dowry given by the bride's family has also been absent in Islamic marriages, where mahr , or bride price has been the custom.
During his reign, Ibn Tulun created a Tulunid army and navy. The need for the establishment of an autonomous armed force became apparent after the revolt of ʿĪsā ibn al-S̲h̲ayk̲h, governor of Palestine, in 870. In response, Ibn Tulun organized an army composed of Sudanese and Greek slave-soldiers. Other reports indicate the soldiers may have been Persians and Sudanese.Ḵh̲umārawayh continued his father's policy of having a multi-ethnic army. His military prowess, in fact, was strengthened by his multi-ethnic regiments of black Sudanese soldiers, Greek mercenaries and fresh Turkic troops from Turkestan.
Ibn Tulun founded an élite guard to surround the Tulunid family. These formed the core of the Tulunid army, around which other larger regiments were built. These troops are said to have been from the region of G̲h̲ūr in Afghanistan, during Ibn Tulun's reign, and from local Arabs during the reign of Ḵh̲umārawayh. In a ceremony held in 871, Ibn Tulun had his forces swear personal allegiance to him. Nevertheless, there were defections from the Tulunid army, most notably of the high-ranking commander Luʾluʾ in 883 to the Abbasids. Throughout its life the army faced such persistent problems of securing allegiance.
Ḵh̲umārawayh also established an elite corps called al-muk̲h̲tāra. The corps was composed of unruly bedouins of the eastern Nile delta. By bestowing privileges upon the tribesmen, and converting them into an efficient and loyal bodyguard, he brought peace to the region between Egypt and Syria. He also re-asserted his control over this strategic region. The regiment also included one thousand Sudanese natives.
A list of military engagements in which the Tulunid army constituted a significant party is as follows:
During the reign of Ahmad ibn Tulun, the Egyptian economy remained prosperous. There were propitious levels of agricultural production, stimulated by consistent high flooding of the Nile. Other industries, particularly textiles, also thrived. In his administration, ibn Tulun asserted his autonomy, refusing to pay taxes to the central Abbasid government in Baghdad. He also reformed the administration, aligning himself with the merchant community, and changing the taxation system. Under the Tulunids, there were also repairs in the agricultural infrastructure. The key sector of production, investment, and participation in their Mediterranean-wide commerce, was textiles, linen in particular (Frantz, 281-5).The financial bureaucracy throughout the Tulunid period was headed by members of the al-Madhara'i family.
During the period of 870-872, Ibn Tulun asserted more control over Egypt's financial administration. In 871, he took control of the kharaj taxes as well as the thughūr from Syria. He also achieved victory over Ibn al-Mudabbir, the head of the finance office and member of the Abbasid bureaucratic élite.
The de facto ruler of the Abbasid caliphate, al-Muwaffak, took issue with Ibn Tulun's financial activities. He wanted to secure Egyptian revenue for his campaign against the Zanj rebellion (and perhaps limit the autonomy of the Tulunids). This pressing need for funds drew the attention of Baghdad to the considerably more wealthy Egypt.The situation came to a head in 877, when al-Muwaffak, upon not receiving the demanded funds, sent an army to depose Ahmad ibn Tulun. Nevertheless, on at least two occasions, Ibn Tulun remitted considerable sums of revenue, along with gifts, to the central Abbasid administration.
Under Ahmad's son, Khumarawayh, the Abbasids formally entered into a treaty with the Tulunids, thereby ending hostilities and resuming the payment of tribute. Financial provisions were made in the first treaty in 886 with al-Muwaffak. A second treaty with al-Muʿtaḍid, the son of al-Muwaffak, in 892, re-affirmed the political terms of the first. Financially, the Tulunids were to pay 300,000 dīnārs (though this figure may be inaccurate) annually.
The Tūlūnid administration over Egypt bore several notable features. The style of rule was highly centralized and "pitiless" in its execution. The administration was also backed by Egypt's commercial, religious and social élite. Ahmad ibn Tulun replaced Iraqi officials with an Egyptian bureaucracy. Overall, the administration relied on the powerful merchant community for both financial and diplomatic support. For example, Maʿmar al-Ḏj̲awharī, a leading member of the merchant community in Egypt, served as Ibn Ṭūlūn's financier.
The Tulunid administration also helped the economy prosper, by maintaining political stability, which in Egypt is a sine qua non . Isolated revolts among the Copts and some Arab nomads in upper Egypt, which never threatened the dynasty's power, were actually a response to the more efficient Tulunid fiscal practices. The economy was strengthened by reforms introduced both immediately before the Tulunids and during their reign. There were changes in the taxes assessment and collection system. There was also an expansion in the use of tax-contracts, which were the source of an emergent land-holding élite in this period.Ahmad ibn Tulun's agrarian and administrative reforms resulted in encouraging peasants to work their lands with zeal, despite the heavy taxes. He also terminated the exactions of the administration officers for their personal profit.
One final feature of the administration under Ibn Ṭūlūn was the discontinued practice of draining off the majority of his revenue to the metropolis. Instead, he initiated building programs to benefit other parts of Egypt. He also used those funds to stimulate commerce and industry.
Ḵh̲umārawayh inherited a stable economy and a wealthy polity from his father. The treasury was worth ten million dīnārs at the young Tulunid's succession. When Ḵh̲umārawayh was killed in 896, the treasury was empty, and the dinar had sunk to one-third its value. Part of this financial disaster is attributed to his addiction to luxury, while squandering wealth to win loyalty was also another cause.
Ḵh̲umārawayh, unlike his father, spent lavishly. For example, he gave his daughter, Ḳaṭr al-Nadā, an extraordinary dowry of 400,000 - 1,000,000 dīnārs, for her wedding in 892 to the Abbasid al-Muʿtaḍid. This move is speculated by some scholars to have been an attempt by the Abbasid to drain the Tulunid treasury.
|Titular Name||Personal Name||Reign|
|De facto autonomy from the Abbasid Caliphate during the reign of Caliph al-Mu'tamid.|
| Ahmad ibn Tulun |
أحمد بن طولون
|868 - 884 CE|
| Khumarawayh ibn Ahmad ibn Tulun |
خمارویہ بن أحمد بن طولون
|884 - 896 CE|
| Jaysh ibn Khumarawayh |
جیش ابن خمارویہ بن أحمد بن طولون
| Harun ibn Khumarawayh |
ہارون ابن خمارویہ بن أحمد بن طولون
|896 - 904 CE|
| Shayban ibn Ahmad ibn Tulun |
شائبان بن أحمد بن طولون
|904 - 905 CE|
|Re-conquered by the Abbasid Caliphate during the reign of Caliph al-Muktafi by general Muhammad ibn Sulayman.|
The two gubernatorial dynasties in Egypt which have already been mentioned, the Tulunids and the Ikhshidids, were both of Mamluk origin.
Following the Islamic conquest in 639 AD, Lower Egypt was ruled at first by governors acting in the name of the Rashidun Caliphs and then the Ummayad Caliphs in Damascus, but in 747 the Ummayads were overthrown. Throughout the Islamic rule, Askar was named the capital and housed the ruling administration. The conquest led to two separate provinces all under one ruler: Upper and Lower Egypt. These two very distinct regions would be heavily governed by the military and followed the demands handed down by the governor of Egypt and imposed by the heads of their communities.
Abu’l-ʿAbbās Aḥmad ibn Jaʿfar, better known by his regnal name al-Muʿtamid ʿalā ’llāh, was the Caliph of the Abbasid Caliphate from 870 to 892. His reign marks the end of the "Anarchy at Samarra" and the start of the Abbasid restoration, but he was a largely a ruler in name only. Power was held by his brother al-Muwaffaq, who held the loyalty of the military. Al-Mu'tamid's authority was circumscribed further after a failed attempt to flee to the domains controlled by Ahmad ibn Tulun in late 882, and he was placed under house arrest by his brother. In 891, when al-Muwaffaq died, loyalists attempted to restore power to the Caliph, but were quickly overcome by al-Muwaffaq's son al-Mu'tadid, who assumed his father's powers. When al-Mu'tamid died in 892, al-Mu'tadid succeeded him as caliph.
Abu'l-Abbas Ahmad ibn Talha al-Muwaffaq, better known by his regnal name al-Mu'tadid bi-llah, was the Caliph of the Abbasid Caliphate from 892 until his death in 902.
Abū Muḥammad ʿAlī ibn Aḥmad, better known by his regnal name al-Muktafī bi-llāh, was the Caliph of the Abbasid Caliphate from 902 to 908. More liberal and sedentary than his militaristic father al-Mu'tadid, al-Muktafi essentially continued his policies, although most of the actual conduct of government was left to his viziers and officials. His reign saw the defeat of the Qarmatians of the Syrian Desert, and the reincorporation of Egypt and the parts of Syria ruled by the Tulunid dynasty. The war with the Byzantine Empire continued with alternating success, although the Arabs scored a major victory in the Sack of Thessalonica in 904. His death in 908 opened the way for the installation of a weak ruler, al-Muqtadir, by the palace bureaucracy, and began the terminal decline of the Abbasid Caliphate.
Ahmad ibn Tulun was the founder of the Tulunid dynasty that ruled Egypt and Syria between 868 and 905. Originally a Turkic slave-soldier, in 868 Ibn Tulun was sent to Egypt as governor by the Abbasid caliph. Within four years Ibn Tulun had established himself as a virtually independent ruler by evicting the caliphal fiscal agent, Ibn al-Mudabbir, taking over control of Egypt's finances, and establishing a large military force personally loyal to himself. This process was facilitated by the volatile political situation in the Abbasid court and the preoccupation of the Abbasid regent, al-Muwaffaq, with the wars against the Saffarids and the Zanj Rebellion. Ibn Tulun also took care to establish an efficient administration in Egypt. After reforms to the tax system, repairs to the irrigation system, and other measures, the annual tax yield grew markedly. As a symbol of his new regime, he built a new capital, al-Qata'i, north of the old capital Fustat.
Al-Qaṭāʾi was the short-lived Tulunid capital of Egypt, founded by Ahmad ibn Tulun in the year 868 CE. Al-Qata'i was located immediately to the northeast of the previous capital, al-Askar, which in turn was adjacent to the settlement of Fustat. All three settlements were later incorporated into the city of Cairo, founded by the Fatimids in 969 CE. The city was razed in the early 10th century CE, and the only surviving structure is the Mosque of Ibn Tulun.
Muhammad ibn Abi'l-Saj, also known as Muhammad al-Afshin, an Iranian appointed general of al-Mu'tadid, was the first Sajid amir of Azerbaijan, from 889 or 890 until his death. He was the son of Abi'l-Saj Devdad.
Abu 'l-Jaysh Khumārawayh ibn Aḥmad ibn Ṭūlūn was a son of the founder of the Tulunid dynasty, Ahmad ibn Tulun. His father, the autonomous ruler of Egypt and Syria, designated him as his successor. When Ibn Tulun died in May 884, Khumarawayh succeeded him. After defeating an attempt to depose him, in 886 he managed to gain recognition of his rule over Egypt and Syria as a hereditary governor from the Abbasid Caliphate. In 893 the agreement was renewed with the new Abbasid Caliph, al-Mu'tadid, and sealed with the marriage of his daughter Qatr al-Nada to the Caliph.
Abu Ahmad Talha ibn Ja'far, better known by his laqab as al-Muwaffaq bi-Allah, was an Abbasid prince and military leader, who acted as the de facto regent of the Abbasid Caliphate for most of the reign of his brother, Caliph al-Mu'tamid. His stabilization of the internal political scene after the decade-long "Anarchy at Samarra", his successful defence of Iraq against the Saffarids and the suppression of the Zanj Rebellion restored a measure of the Caliphate's former power and began a period of recovery, which culminated in the reign of al-Muwaffaq's own son, the Caliph al-Mu'tadid.
Ishaq ibn Kundaj, or Kundajiq, was a Turkic military leader who played a prominent role in the turbulent politics of the Abbasid Caliphate in the late 9th century. Initially active in lower Iraq in the early 870s, he came to be appointed governor of Mosul in 879/80. He ruled Mosul and much of the Jazira almost continuously until his death in 891, despite becoming involved in constant quarrels with local chieftains, as well as in the Abbasid government's rivalry with the Tulunids of Egypt. On his death he was succeeded by his son, Muhammad, but in 892 the Abbasid government under Caliph al-Mu'tadid re-asserted its authority in the region, and Muhammad went to serve in the caliphal court.
The Battle of Tawahin was fought in 885 between the forces of the Abbasid Caliphate under Abu'l-Abbas ibn al-Muwaffaq and the autonomous Tulunid ruler of Egypt and Syria, Khumarawayh. The battle took place near Ramlah and ended with a Tulunid victory.
The al-Madhara'i were a family of officials from Iraq who served as and virtually monopolized the posts of director of finances (‘āmil) of Egypt and Syria for the Tulunid dynasty, the Abbasid Caliphate, and the Ikhshidid dynasty, between 879 and 946. In this role, they amassed "one of the largest personal fortunes in the medieval Arab east".
Ali ibn Ahmad al-Madhara'i was a member of the al-Madhara'i family of fiscal bureaucrats, serving as director of finances and vizier under the Tulunids of Egypt.
Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Ali al-Madhara'i (871–956) was the last important representative of the bureaucratic al-Madhara'i dynasty of fiscal officials. He served as director of finances of Egypt and Syria under the Tulunid dynasty and the Abbasid Caliphate, as well as becoming vizier for the Tulunid ruler Harun ibn Khumarawayh, and later occupying high office under the Ikhshidids.
Ṭughj ibn Juff ibn Yiltakīn ibn Fūrān ibn Fūrī ibn Khāqān was a Turkic military officer who served the Abbasid Caliphate and the autonomous Tulunid dynasty. He was the father of Muhammad al-Ikhshid, the founder of the Ikhshidid dynasty.
Al-ʿAbbās ibn Aḥmad ibn Ṭūlūn was the eldest son of the founder of the Tulunid dynasty, Ahmad ibn Tulun, and heir-apparent until his failed attempt to usurp his father in 879. After a failed attempt to take over Ifriqiya, he was imprisoned in Egypt and executed shortly after the succession of his brother, Khumarawayh, in May 884.
Muhammad ibn Sulayman, surnamed al-Katib, was a senior official and commander of the Abbasid Caliphate, most notable for his victories against the Qarmatians and for his reconquest of Syria and Egypt from the autonomous Tulunid dynasty.
Badr ibn ʿAbdallāh al-Ḥammāmī, also known as Badr al-Kabīr, was a general who served the Tulunids and later the Abbasids.
The Battle of Mecca was an armed skirmish fought in 883 between the forces of the Tulunid ruler of Egypt and Syria, Ahmad ibn Tulun, and those of the Abbasid Caliphate, supported by the Saffarid emirate. The battle took place at Mecca in western Arabia and was fought to determine who would gain guardianship over the city during the annual pilgrimage. It ended with an Abbasid-Saffarid victory and the expulsion of the Tulunid forces from Mecca.
Asma bint Khumarawayh ibn Ahmad ibn Tulun, known as Qatr al-Nada, was a Tulunid princess and the principal wife of the sixteenth Abbasid caliph, al-Mu'tadid.