Many happy returns to our Muslim brothers in Egypt and the Middle East on the occasion of Greater Bairam (Eid al-daha)! We wish our country peace and prosperity.
In the previous article, we spoke of the Barmakids’ role in the Abbasid state, especially during Harun al-Rashid’s tenure. Likewise, we tackled their downfall and some of the reasons why he broke up with the Barmakids, as per historians, the death of Ja’far bin Yahya, the imprisonment of his father, Yahya bin Khalid until he died in prison. This was followed by the death of al-Fadl bin Yahya. We gave a brief account of the Barmakids’ role in science, literature, translation, medicine, and architecture. Al-Tabari maintains, “When al-Mansur considered establishing Baghdad, he consulted his assistants, among whom was Khalid bin Pramukh. It is said that Khalid bin Pramukh designed Abu Ja’far’s city and advised him to build it.” The Barmakids’ downfall was tackled by historians and it is claimed that al-Rashid used to weep when their names were mentioned. Abu Nawas, their poet wrote an elegy from which we quote:
Tell the Moirai, ‘seizing Ja’far is your last success
For after him, you’re not entitled to a master or mistress
Tell generosity, ‘after Fadl, do not continue.’
Tell calamity, ‘do ensue.”
O Hashemite swords beware
Of Barmakid revenge and flare!”
The End of al-Rashid’ Tenure
In 192 Hijri (809 A.D.), al-Rashid headed to Khorasan to suppress Rafi’ bin al-Layth’s rebellion. He was accompanied by his son, al-Ma’mun. On the way, al-Rashid got seriously ill. He died at the age of forty-two, in Tus, a village eastern Persia. At that time, he had already ruled the State for twenty-three years. His son Mohammed al-Amin succeeded him. Historians maintain that al-Rashid was one of the most famous and renowned kings. He was zealous, diligent in serving his subjects, and vigilant about the state’s affairs. His court was unique. During his tenure, arts, sciences, and translation flourished, for he respected science and scientists.
During Harun al-Rashid’s tenure, Egypt had several proconsuls, some of whom spent only a few months in office! Al-Rashid had deposed Ali bin Soliman, appointing Mussa bin Eissa in his stead.
Mussa bin Eissa (171-172 Hijri) (787-789 A.D.)
After deposing Ali bin Soliman, who had previously been proconsul of the Two Holy Cities, Yemen and Egypt, al-Rashid appointed Mussa bin Eissa in his stead. Mussa bin Eissa allowed Copts to restore the churches which Ali bin Soliman had demolished, having abided by the advice of judges Al-Layth bin Sa’ad and Abdullah bin Luhay’a. Historians maintain that he was fair and kind to his subjects. He was a good administrator, as well. Thus, he was loved by his subjects. The caliph deposed him and assigned Muslima bin Yahya. Thus, he ruled Egypt for about seventeen months. Bin Eissa also became proconsul of Kufa, then Damascus, after which he was restored to ruling Egypt.
Muslima bin Yahya (172-173 Hijri) (789-790 A.D.)
His name is Muslima bin Yahya bin Qurrah bin Ubaydullah, of Khorasan. He was appointed by al-Rashid proconsul of Egypt. He came with ten thousand sentries. During his tenure, lots of riots and schisms took place. So, he was deposed and Mohammed bin Zuhayr al-azdi took over. Thus, bin Yahya ruled Egypt for about eleven months.
Mohammed bin Zuhayr (173 Hijri) (790 A.D.)
Mohammed bin Zuhayr al-azdi became proconsul of Egypt after al-Rashid had deposed Muslima. He ruled Egypt for but a few months, as he assigned Omar bin Ghaylan the collection of taxes. So, the latter imposed huge taxes on the people, which made them hate him and rebel, along with the sentries. They besieged his house. The proconsul did not support him. When the caliph got to know of this vey stance, he deposed bin Zuhayr, appointing Dawoud bin Yazid in his stead.
Dawoud bin Yazid (174-175 Hijri) (790-791 A.D.)
Dawoud bin Yazid bin Hatem, of Muhallab became proconsul of Egypt after Mohammed bin Zuhayr had been deposed by al-Rashid. Ibrahim bin Saleh bin Ali, the Abbasid, was assigned tax collection affairs. He took care of the country’s affairs and ousted some of the sentries who rebelled against Omar bin Ghalyan, banishing a group to Morocco, and another to the East. Al-Rashid asked him to take the Egyptians’ pledge of obedience to his son Mohammed al-Amin. During bin Yazid’s tenure, Egypt was quiet and secure. He remained in his post until the caliph deposed him and restored Mussa bin Eissa to rule her for a second time. His tenure lasted for about one year.
Mussa bin Eissa (175-176 Hijri) (791-792 A.D.)
After Dawoud bin Yazid had been deposed, Mussa bin Eissa was re-assigned the affairs of Egypt, after which he considered rebelling against Harun al-Rashid who, upon getting to know, said, “I shall replace him with the least worthy of people.” He told his minister Ja’far bin Yahya, “Assign the least worthy of people the affairs of Egypt.” So, Ja’far sent Omar bin Mahran to Egypt. Some historians maintain that Egypt was assigned to Ja’far bin Yahya. Subsequently Omar bin Mahran was his deputy. Others assert that Omar bin Yahya was assigned the collection of taxes only. Many historians said that Ibrahim bin Saleh was Mussa’s successor. He was proconsul of Egypt for about one year.
Ibrahim bin Saleh (176 Hijri) (792 A.D.): Second Tenure
Ibrahim bin Saleh was re-assigned the affairs of Egypt by Harun al-Rashid. He deputized Assama bin Amr. At that time, Nasr bin Kolthoum was assigned the collection of taxes. When Assama died, he was succeeded by Rawh bin Zinbah. Bin Saleh did not rule Egypt for a long time, as he died in the self-same year, having spent about two months and a half as proconsul. His son, Saleh, took over after his death until Abdullah bin al-Musayyab was appointed.
Abdullah bin al-Musayyab (176-177 Hijri) (793 A.D.)
His name is Abdullah bin al-Musayyab bin Zuhayr bin Amr al-dabbi. He became proconsul of Egypt after the death of Ibrahim bin Saleh. He ruled the country for only ten months, after which Isaac bin Soliman took over. During his short tenure, he fought the people of al-Houf. When his son Hisham asked him to send him help in Andalusia, he mobilized troops. Yet, he was deposed.
Isaac bin Soliman (177-178 Hijri) (793-794 A.D.)
His name is Isaac bin Soliman bin Ali bin Abdullah bin al-Abbas, the Hashemite. He became proconsul of Egypt after the deposition of Abdullah. Isaac imposed heavy taxes on farmers, so Egyptians rebelled against him. People of al-Houf fought him. Subsequently, he fought them back and killed many of them. He sent a message to the caliph to disclose the matter to him. So, al-Rashid deposed him and appointed Hartama bin al-A’yan in his stead, sending a great army with the latter. He had spent almost a year as proconsul. Bin al-Athir asserts, “In 178 Hijri, the people of al-Houf rebelled against their proconsul and started fighting him. Al-Rashid sent him Hartama bin al-A’yan, the proconsul of Palestine. They fought the people of al-Houf together. These people belonged to Qais and Quda’a. They became submissive and pledged obedience to the sovereign. So, al-Rashid deposed Isaac, and appointed Hartama for a month, after which he deposed him and appointed Abdul Malik bin Saleh in his stead. So was the story. Stories never end in Beautiful Egypt.