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Article

Abbasid  

Robert Hillenbrand

[‛Abbasid]

Islamic dynasty that ruled from several capitals in Iraq between ad 749 and 1258. The Abbasids traced their descent from al-‛Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad, and were thus able to claim a legitimacy that their predecessors had lacked (see Umayyad, §1). The Abbasids rose to power in north-east Iran by channelling disaffection with Umayyad rule, but they soon established their capitals in a more central location, founding Baghdad in 762. Although they initially encouraged the support of Shi‛ites, the Abbasids quickly distanced themselves from their erstwhile allies to become champions of orthodoxy. Upon accession, each caliph adopted an honorific title, somewhat like a regnal name, by which he was later known. For the first two centuries, the Abbasids’ power was pre-eminent, and their names were invoked from the Atlantic to western Central Asia. From the middle of the 10th century, however, real power was transferred to a succession of Persian and Turkish dynasts (...

Article

[Abū’l-Ḥasan ‛Alī ibn Hilāl al-Bawwāb]

(d Baghdad, 1022).

Arab calligrapher and illuminator. He began as a house decorator but turned to calligraphy and refined the ‘proportioned script’ developed a century earlier by Ibn Muqla, in which letters were measured in terms of dots, circles and semicircles. An intimate of court circles in Baghdad, Ibn al-Bawwab was appointed librarian to the Buyid ruler Baha’ al-Dawla (reg 998–1012) at Shiraz. There Ibn al-Bawwab calligraphed the volume missing from a Koran manuscript penned by his predecessor so perfectly that the patron was unable to distinguish the new work from the original. In addition to an epistle and didactic poem on penmanship, Ibn al-Bawwab is said to have copied 64 manuscripts of the Koran, but only one survives: a manuscript copied at Baghdad in 1000–01 (Dublin, Chester Beatty Lib., MS. 1431). The small volume contains 286 folios (trimmed size 175×135 mm). Each page of text has 15 lines in naskh...

Article

Karl-Heinz Golzio

[al-Murābiṭūn]

Islamic dynasty that ruled parts of the Sahara, Morocco, Algeria and Spain from 1056 to 1147. The Sanhaja Berber chief Yahya ibn Ibrahim, on returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca, founded a reform movement intended to strengthen orthodoxy among the Saharan Berbers, who were only superficially Islamisized, but according to many Arab historiographers they adhered to Kharijite doctrine. With the support of the Malikite jurist Ibn Yasin and the Lamtuna Berber chiefs Yahya ibn ‛Umar and his brother Abu Bakr, a fortress for a Muslim brotherhood (Arab. ribāṭ) was established on an island at the mouth of the Senegal River. The fortress soon became a centre for the tribes living nearby, and the increasing power of those who lived there (al-murābiṭūn) led to the submission of all the Sanhaja tribes. Their renewal of Islam showed strong ascetic trends along with a simple piety that resulted in a holy war against the corrupt culture and errant Muslims of the Maghrib. In ...

Article

Amol  

Gordon Campbell

Article

Sophie Page

Astrology is the art of predicting events on earth as well as human character and disposition from the movements of the planets and fixed stars. Medieval astrology encompassed both general concepts of celestial influence, and the technical art of making predictions with horoscopes, symbolic maps of the heavens at particular moments and places constructed from astronomical information. The scientific foundations of the art were developed in ancient Greece, largely lost in early medieval Europe and recovered by the Latin West from Arabic sources in the 12th and 13th centuries. Late medieval astrological images were successfully Christianized and were adapted to particular contexts, acquired local meanings and changed over time.

Astrology developed into a scientific branch of learning in ancient Greece, but because of the opposition of the Church Fathers it was transmitted to early medieval Europe in only fragmentary form in technically unsophisticated textbooks and popular divinatory genres. Literary and scientific texts provided more general ideas about the nature and attributes of the planets which were influential on later iconography. The first significant astrological images appear in 11th-century illustrated astronomical texts (e.g. London, BL, Cotton MS. Tiberius BV), which were acquired and produced by monasteries to aid with time-keeping and the construction of the Christian calendar....

Article

Term used to describe the distinctive relief decoration commonly used on stucco, wood and other arts of the early Islamic period. Characterized by a slanted cut (Ger. Schrägeschnitt), the decoration usually consists of rhythmic and symmetrical repetitions of curved lines with spiral terminals. The style is first documented in the mid-9th century ad at the Abbasid capital of Samarraا in Iraq, where the walls of enormous mud-brick palaces were rendered with plaster, moulded or carved in three styles of relief decoration. Although two styles (A and B) preserve recognizable vegetal forms ultimately derived from Late Antique ornament, the third (C) or Bevelled style is far more abstract, and the traditional distinction between subject and ground has dissolved. The same style of decoration was also used at Samarraا for wooden furnishings, such as panels and doors and for other sculpted media, such as rock crystal.

The Bevelled style quickly became popular throughout the Abbasid realm: it is found, for example, at the ...

Article

Buyid  

Robert Hillenbrand

[Buwayhid]

Islamic dynasty that ruled in Iran and Iraq from ad 932 to 1062. Civil wars, the erosion of caliphal power by a Turkish military caste, corrupt administration and racial tensions during the 9th century terminally damaged the Abbasid state, and gradually the extremities of the empire in North Africa, Spain, Central Asia and Afghanistan established a de facto independence. In Iran, burgeoning national sentiment found expression in the Shu‛ubiyya (the controversy over the respective merits of the Arab and Persian literary traditions), in heterodox religious movements and in a revival of pre-Islamic Persian culture, notably among the breakaway Tahirid (reg ad 821–73), Saffarid (reg ad 867–c. 1495) and Samanid dynasties. These tendencies crystallized after 932 with the gradual rise to power of Abu Shuja’ Buya and his clan of condottieri from the mountainous area south of the Caspian Sea. He and his three formidable sons masterminded the liberation of western Iran and Iraq from caliphal control. The youngest son, Mu‛izz al-Dawla (...

Article

Fatimid  

Jonathan M. Bloom

Islamic dynasty that ruled in Ifriqiya (now Tunisia) from ad 909 to 972 and in Egypt from ad 969 to 1171. The Fatimids were Isma‛ili Shi‛ites who traced their ancestry back to Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, via Isma‛il, the seventh Shi‛ite Imam. They believed that their rightful position as leaders of the Muslim community had been usurped by the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs. The first Fatimid success was the toppling of the Aghlabid rulers of Ifriqiya in 909. The Fatimid leader ‛Ubayd Allah assumed the title of caliph and the regnal name al-Mahdi (reg 909–34). He soon moved his capital from the hostile religious environment of Kairouan to Mahdia on the Mediterranean coast, a base more appropriate for the expected Fatimid conquest of the rest of the Islamic world. The port soon became a centre for Mediterranean commerce, whose revival was one of the cornerstones of Fatimid prosperity. The indigenous Berber population of North Africa rose in repeated rebellions, often fomented by the Fatimids’ Umayyad rivals in Spain. In 947 the caliph ...

Article

Robert Hillenbrand

Islamic dynasty that ruled in Afghanistan, Transoxiana, eastern Iran and northern India from ad 977 to 1186. The founder was Sebüktigin (d 997), a Turkish slave employed by the Samanid dynasty, who eventually defied their authority and set up his own principality with its capital at Ghazna, now in Afghanistan. His son Mahmud (reg 998–1030) transformed this principality into a highly militarized empire. At first this expansion was achieved at the expense of the Samanid, Buyid and Qarakhanid dynasties, but Mahmud’s streamlined military machine also had a more ambitious target: 17 near-annual raids were launched between 1001 and 1024 against northern India, an ongoing holy war that made Mahmud’s name a byword for religious orthodoxy. It also brought vast booty and briefly made Ghazna a famous metropolis, with a fabulous mosque prinked out in gold, alabaster and marble, a university, madrasas, libraries, aqueducts and other public works. These campaigns also tilted Ghaznavid policies away from Iran, a weakness successfully exploited by the Saljuq dynasty at the battle of Dandanqan (...

Article

Ghurid  

R. Nath and Jonathan M. Bloom

revised by Sheila S. Blair

[Ghuri; Ghorid]

Dynasty that ruled portions of Afghanistan and north-west India c. 1030–1206. It originated in the Ghur region of Afghanistan; its first fully historical figure is ‛Izz al-Din, who paid tribute to Saljuq and Ghaznavid rulers. Ghaznavid power declined after the death of Mahmud (reg 998–1030), and the Ghurids assumed independence. Under ‛Alaا al-Din Husayn (reg 1149–61) the Ghurids captured and sacked Ghazna and forced the last of the Ghaznavids to Lahore. ‛Alaا al-Din was succeeded by his son Sayf al-Din (reg 1161–3), on whose death the principality of Ghur passed to his cousin Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad (reg 1163–1203). In 1173 Ghiyath al-Din appointed his brother Shihab al-Din (better known as Mu‛izz al-Din Muhammad) to rule from Ghazna and turned his own attention to campaigns in the west. Together the brothers established an empire stretching nearly from the Caspian Sea to north India. Mu‛izz al-Din, known in Indian history as Muhammad ibn Sam or simply Muhammad of Ghur, drove the Ghaznavids from Lahore in ...

Article

Masyaf  

Hafez K. Chehab

[Maṣyāf; Masyad]

Castle and town 45 km east of Hama, Syria. Mentioned as early as the late 11th century, the fortress was built on a rocky promontory on the eastern slopes of the Jabal al-Nusayriyya and displays an impressive vertical mass buttressed with rectangular towers. It is an excellent example of military architecture of the medieval Islamic period, with a curtain wall and numerous rectangular salients and a central keep. Masyaf successfully resisted crusader attacks and was briefly the property of the Banu Munqidh of Shayzar before becoming an Isma‛ili stronghold. In 1260 the fortress was plundered by the Mongols and in 1270 it was taken by the Mamluk sultan Baybars (reg 1260–76), who incorporated it into his domain.

Enc. Islam/2: ‘Maṣyād’ M. van Berchem: ‘Epigraphie des assassins de Syrie’, Journal asiatique, 9th ser., 9 (1897), pp. 453–501 T. S. R. Boase: Castles and Churches of the Crusading Kingdom (London, 1967)...

Article

I. G. Bango Torviso

[Sp. mozárabe]

Term traditionally used to describe the art of Christians living in the areas of the Iberian peninsula ruled by Muslims in the 10th and 11th centuries. The Castilian word derives from the Arabic musta‛rib (‘Arabized’) and is to be contrasted with Mudéjar, the term used to describe the art of Islamic inspiration produced for non-Muslim patrons in the areas of the Iberian peninsula reconquered by Christians between 1085 and the 16th century. Very few surviving works of art fit this strict definition of Mozarabic art, and it is difficult to characterize them. The only substantial building is the ruined three-aisled basilica at Mesas de Villaverde (Málaga; often identified as ‘Bobastro’), which preserves its rock-cut foundations and walls (see Spain §II 2.). The two illuminated manuscripts surviving from this period are quite different in style. The Biblia Hispalense (Madrid, Bib. N., Cod. Vit. 13–1), copied c. 900 at or near Seville by or for Bishop ...

Article

Basilio Pavón Maldonado

Spanish term used to describe the architecture and art of Islamic inspiration produced in the areas of the Iberian peninsula reconquered by Christians between 1085, when Alfonso VI of Castile-León (reg 1072–1109) seized Toledo from the Muslims, and the 16th century. The Castilian word derives from the Arabic mudajjan (‘permitted to remain’), and it was initially thought that Mudéjar art was produced only by Muslims for Christian masters, but the term has come to be applied to a broader range of works produced by Muslims, Christians, and Jews for Christian and Jewish patrons. Mudéjar may be contrasted to Mozarabic, which, in its strictest sense, refers to the art of Christians living under Muslim rule in the peninsula in the 10th and 11th centuries. The distinctive and eclectic style of Mudéjar brick, stucco, and timber architecture developed in many regions of Spain throughout the long Spanish Middle Ages (see...

Article

Muslim  

[Muslim ibn al-Dahhān]

(fl c. Cairo, 1000).

Arab potter. Twenty complete or fragmentary lustreware vessels signed by Muslim are known. A fragmentary plate with birds in a floral scroll (Athens, Benaki Mus., 11122) is inscribed on the rim ‘[the work of] Muslim ibn al-Dahhan to please … Hassan Iqbal al-Hakimi’. Although the patron has not been identified, his epithet al-Hakimi suggests that he was a courtier of the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim (reg 996–1021). The other pieces, bowls or bases from them, are decorated with animals, birds, interlaced bands, inscriptions and floral motifs. One complete bowl (New York, Met., 63.178.1) shows a heraldic eagle, a second (Cairo, Mus. Islam. A., 14930) has a central griffin surrounded by palmettes, and a third (Cairo, Mus. Islam. A., 15958) has a design of four white leaves surrounded by an inscription in kufic offering good wishes. Muslim also countersigned objects made by other potters and may have been the master of an important workshop. His work represents the zenith in the animal, floral and abstract decoration of Egyptian lustrewares of the Fatimid period (...

Article

Robert Hillenbrand

[Seljuk; Selçuk]

Turkish Islamic dynasty with branches that ruled in Iran, Iraq and Syria from 1038 to 1194 and in Anatolia from 1077 to 1307.

Arab dominion of the eastern Islamic world came to an end in ad 945 when the caliphs were forced to surrender their temporal authority to their army commanders, who belonged to the Persian Buyid family. Henceforth the caliphs preserved only the forms and not the substance of power. For the next century political control of this huge area passed to various dynasties, principally of Persian origin, among which the Buyid family was pre-eminent. One dynasty alone broke this mould: the Ghaznavids, who controlled Afghanistan, much of the Punjab and parts of eastern Iran. They had begun as Turkish military slaves but had assimilated Perso-Islamic ways. This Turkish hegemony became definitive under the Saljuqs, who dispossessed the Ghaznavids and Buyids alike, took over Baghdad in 1055 and thereafter began a fundamental reshaping of the body politic. For the first time since the 7th century, nomads ruled the Middle East—for the Saljuq Turks expanded westward towards the shores of the Mediterranean, controlling Anatolia, Iraq and parts of Syria as well as the Iranian world. From obscure pagan beginnings in their Central Asian homeland on the fringes of the Islamic world, they had risen in three generations to become the greatest contemporary Muslim power. No contemporary written Turkish sources describe this process, which can therefore be studied only through the medium of much later historians whose perception of events is essentially Muslim. It is clear, however, that in their rise to power the Saljuqs had preserved intact their ethnic and tribal identity, and with it their military strength. Henceforth many traditions of steppe society infiltrated the Muslim world. Among these was the principle of clan ownership, with no clearly defined hereditary succession. Territory was often partitioned among a ruler’s male relations—an extreme example is the Anatolian Saljuq sultan Qilij Arslan, who divided his lands among his 11 sons. Another custom decreed the appointment of a guardian or atabeg for a prince in his minority, and such atabegs often supplanted the lawful ruler. Turkish traditions such as these clashed with Muslim norms and destabilized Islamic society....

Article

Sedrata  

Margaret Graves

Site of a settlement in the Sahara in the early Islamic period, near the modern-day Algerian city of Ouargla. Sedrata was briefly the capital of the Khariji sect in North Africa until it was destroyed in the 11th century.

In the 7th century, the Kharijites, a highly conservative opposition party that rejected both the succession of ‛Ali b. Abu Talib as well as that of his rivals, fled from persecution to the Maghrib. The Rustamid dynasty of Kharijites established their capital at Tahart (now in western Algeria), but fled from there to Sedrata in 909 when the Fatimids invaded. The Kharijites remained at Sedrata until it was destroyed in 1077; leaving Sedrata they took refuge in the oasis towns of the Mzab Valley in Central Algeria, where the Kharijite tradition has survived to the present day. The austere architectural tradition of these towns is rather hard to reconcile with the sophisticated and intricate stucco decoration found at Sedrata....

Article

In its most general sense, spolia (pl., from Lat. spolium: ‘plunder’) denotes all artifacts re-employed in secondary contexts, from building blocks reused in a wall to pagan gems mounted on a Christian reliquary. It is a matter of debate whether this broad application of the term is justified, or whether it should be restricted to the relatively small subset of reused objects that were taken or ‘stripped’ (like spoils) from their original context, rather than found, purchased, inherited or otherwise acquired by non-violent means. It is likewise debated when the use of spolia should be considered meaningful, if at all. Arnold Esch defined five possible motives for using spolia: convenience, profanation, Christianization, political legitimation and aesthetic attraction. Michael Greenhalgh has argued for reducing the motives to three (at least with regard to marble): pragmatism, aesthetics and ideology; while Finbarr Barry Flood cautioned against reductive interpretations generated by any taxonomy, insisting that reused objects are mutable in meaning and capable of multiple interpretations during their life cycle....

Article

Muslim dynasty that ruled the Yemen from 1047 to 1138. The Sulayhids, who ruled as representatives of the Fatimid caliphs of Egypt, were responsible for restoring Isma‛ili Shi‛ism to the Yemen. The dynasty was founded by ‛Ali ibn Muhammad al-Sulayhi (reg 1047–67), who had come under the influence of a Fatimid missionary; after the missionary’s death, the Fatimid caliph al-Mustansir (reg 1036–94) named ‛Ali as Fatimid agent in south Arabia. In 1046 ‛Ali and 60 men from his tribe began to set up the rule of the Fatimids in the Yemen, and in 1047 they fortified the mountain village of Masar to the west of San‛a’. In the early 1060s ‛Ali obtained sovereignty over Zabid and San‛a’, which he made his capital in 1063, and asserted himself over the Ma‛nids of Aden. From 1063 he sent the annual covering (Arab. kiswa) for the Ka‛ba at Mecca, a sign of his power and prestige. In ...

Article

S. J. Vernoit

Muslim dynasty that ruled in parts of North Africa and Spain between ad 972 and 1152. The founder of the dynasty, Ziri ibn Manad (d 972), was a Sanhaja Berber in the service of the Fatimid caliphs, who ruled from Tunisia. In 936 Ziri founded Ashir, the family seat, in the Titeri Mountains 170 km south of Algiers. His son Buluggin (reg 972–84) was appointed governor of North Africa when the Fatimids left Kairouan for Cairo. Under Buluggin, his son al-Mansur (reg 984–96), and his grandson Badis (reg 996–1016), the Zirids greatly enlarged their territory, expanding into northern Morocco, where they came in conflict with the Umayyads of Spain. By 1015 the Zirid domain had become too large to be governed from Kairouan alone: the Zirids retained control of the eastern half, while the western portion was granted to Buluggin’s son Hammad (reg 1015–28), who established his capital at the Qal‛at Bani Hammad to the east of Ashir. In ...