The History of al-Tabari Vol. 34: Incipient Decline: The Caliphates of al-Wathiq, al-Mutawakkil, and al-Muntasir A.D. 841-863/A.H. 227-248
The events described in this volume took place during al-Tabari's own time. Al-Tabari was thus writing "contemporary history," and his narrative, often based on first-hand reports, is drawn in vivid and arresting detail. The volume portrays the summit of "the Samarra period," following al-Mu'tasim's transfer of the 'Abbasid capital upstream from Baghdad to Samarra.
Three caliphs are portrayed in this volume: al-Mu'tasim's son and successor, al-Wathiq; al-Wathiq's brother al-Mutawakkil; and al-Mutawakkil's son al-Muntasir. At this time the 'Abbasid caliphs came under the dominant influence of the Turkish military elite. The crowning example of Turkish power and 'Abbasid frailty was the dramatic assassination of al-Mutawakkil by Turkish officers within the precincts of his own palace. The Turks were afterward not only instrumental in raising al-Muntasir the caliphate, they also forced him to depose his two brothers as heirs apparent. Finally, they had al-Muntasir himself killed.
During the period of al-Wathiq and al-Mutawakkil, insurrections erupted in the center of the empire, and serious revolts broke out in distant provinces, including Africa and Armenia. The Byzantine raids on Damietta and Samosata were memorable events, and periodic Muslim forays were made into Byzantine territory. Prisoner exchanges between Muslims and Byzantines are reported in engaging detail on the basis of eyewitness testimony. The report of a prisoner release by a Shi'ite emissary to the Byzantine emperor contains a charming description of his visit to Constantinople and his audience with Michael III.
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Abd al-Malik Abdallāh Abū according Aḥmad al-Fath al-Hasan al-Mu'tazz al-Muntaşir al-Mutawakkil al-Wathiq al-Zayyāt appears appointed Arab army asked authority Baghdad Banū became bi-llāh brother brought Bughā Byzantine Cairo edition caliph called chief cited Commander concerning death departed Dhū died dīnārs dirhams entered exchange Faithful father follows gate gave give given Glossarium governor hand Hārūn head History Ibrāhīm Index Īsā Isḥāq Islam Itākh Ja'far killed Lands Leading letter Manuel Marin mawlā means Mecca mentioned Mu'jam Muḥammad Mūsā Muslims Najāḥ Nașr oath of allegiance officers ordered palace pays Persian pilgrimage present prisoner Reign remained rendered replied reported residence returned Sa'id Sāmarrā says secretary seized sent servant slave sons Sulaym summoned Ta’rīkh Țabarī territory Text took town Turkish Turks turned Ubaydallāh Umar whereupon Ya'qubī Yahyā Zambaur