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Al-Ma'mun al-'Abbasi
7th 'Abbasid Caliph
Tarsus Grand Mosque, Turkey.jpg
Tarsus Grand Mosque, Tarsus, Turkey; where he is buried
Personal Information
Name 'Abd Allah b. Haraun al-Rashid
Teknonym Abu l-'Abbas
Epithet al-Ma'mun
Birth 170/786
Death 218/833
Father Harun al-Rashid
Mother Marajil
Children al-'Abbas, Umm al-Fadl, Umm Habib
Burial Place Tarsus, Turkey 36°54′56″N 34°53′51″E / 36.91556°N 34.89750°E / 36.91556; 34.89750
Dynasty 'Abbasid
Reign 198/813-218/833
Contemporary with Imam al-Rida (a), Imam al-Jawad (a)
Capital Merv, Baghdad
Activities Assigning Imam al-Rida (a) as his successor, Killing Imam al-Rida (a)
Predecessor al-Amin al-'Abbasi
Successor al-Mu'tasim al-'Abbasi

Abū l-ʿAbbās ʿAbd Allāh al-Maʾmūn (Arabic:ابوالعباس عبدالله المأمون), (b. 170/786 - d. 218/833) the son of Harun al-Rashid, was the 7th caliph of Abbasid dynasty.

The first years of his reign were unstable because of his conflict with his brother, al-Amin, and 'Alawi uprisings. Thus, in order to stabilize his caliphate, he called Imam al-Rida (a) from Medina to Merv. And to pretend that he was friendly with the progeny of 'Ali (a), he first offered to assign the caliphate to the Imam (a), and when the Imam (a) refused the offer, he forced Imam al-Rida (a) to accept his succession. After quenching 'Alawi uprisings and in order to gain more control of the realm of his caliphate, al-Ma'mun went from Merv to Baghdad, and on his way, he martyred Imam al-Rida (a) because of his popularity among people.

Al-Ma'mun is taken to be influenced by Shi'as because he believed that Imam 'Ali (a) was superior to others after the demise of the Prophet Muhammad (s), permitted temporary marriage, and returned Fadak to the 'Alawis. However, he was taken to have Mu'tazili tendencies, because of his support for the Mu'tazila, particularly with regard to the creation of the Qur'an and made high-ranking officials, judges, and scholars of his time testify that the Qur'an was created.

Birth and Lineage

Abd Allah b. Harun, nicknamed al-Ma'mun, was born on Friday eve, Rabi' I 15, 170/September 19, 786[1] from a Persian mother. His mother, Marajil, was a slave woman from Badghis, Afghanistan.[2]


He was the 7th caliph of Abbasid dynasty. Harun al-Rashid had appointed al-Amin as the caliph after himself, and al-Ma'mun as al-Amin's successor. But after the death of Harun, a conflict began between the two brothers and finally al-Mu'mun was able to defeat Ali b. Isa, the chief commander of the army of al-Amin, in 195/810 by craftiness and perspicacity of al-Fadl b. Sahl-who later became his vizier-and commanding of Tahir b. al-Husayn titled as Dhu al-Yal-Aminayn, the chief commander of his army. And finally after a serious conflict in 198/813, Tahir conquered Baghdad. Al-Amin was prisoned and then killed. Al-Ma'mun was officially chosen as the caliph in 198/813 and he chose al-Fadl b. Sahl as his vizier.[3]

'Abbasi Dynasty
al-'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib
'Abd Allah b. al-'Abbas
'Ali b. 'Abd Allah
Muhammad b. 'Ali
Ibrahim al-Imam
(r. 132/749-50 - 136/753-54)
(r. 136/753-54 - 158/775)
(r. 158/775 - 169/785-86)
(r. 169/785-86 - 170/786-87)
Harun al-Rashid
(r. 170/786-87 - 193/808-9)
Muhammad al-Amin
(r. 193/808-9 - 198/813-14)
(r. 198/813-14 - 218/833)
(r. 218/833 - 227/841-42)
(r. 227/841-42 - 232/846-47)
(r. 232/846-47 - 247/861-62)
(r. 255/869 - 256/870)
(r. 247/861-62 - 248/862)
(r. 251/865 - 255/869)
(r. 256/870 - 279/892-93)
(r. 248/862 - 251/865)

Grounds of Conflict

Succession Challenge

A main ground of conflict between al-Amin and al-Ma'mun was the issue of succession. When Harun pledged an allegiance to al-Amin—the younger brother—as his successor and appointed al-Ma'mun as al-Amin's successor and ruler of Khorasan, conflicts began between the two brothers arose which worried Harun about the future of the caliphate and the possibility of a civil war. Thus, Harun ordered the two brothers to make a written pledge in the Ka'ba to stay committed to each other's successions and not to interfere in each other's realms. To sanctify the pledge and make it more binding, a copy of it was hanged inside the Ka'ba.[4]

After Harun's death and al-Amin's caliphate, al-Amin acted in ways that implied violations of the pledge. His attempts to infiltrate the provinces under the rule of his two brothers, al-Ma'mun and al-Mu'tamin; his selection of his son, Musa, as his successor; and finally, the burning of the pledge hanged inside the Ka'ba were considered as violations of the pledge and an official announcement of war with al-Ma'mun.[5]

Conflict between Arab and Persian Parties

Al-Fadl b. Sahl, who had entered the Abbasid system in the heyday of Persian Barmakids and then became al-Ma'mun's mentor and later his advisor and vizier, tried to protect al-Ma'mun's right to the caliphate in order to fulfill his dream of moving the capital of the caliphate from Baghdad to Merv for the sake of Khorasan's glory.[6] On the other side, al-Fadl b. Rabi', the vizier of Harun and al-Amin who was hostile to Barmakids in the period of Harun and managed to remove them from power and gain the position of Harun's vizier, actively supported the Arabic party and its influence in the Abbasid system and tried to weaken Khorasan. The conflict led to a division among people as well such that Arabs supported al-Amin and Persians supported al-Ma'mun who had a Persian mother and wife.[7]

Result of the War

Al-Ma'mun became the caliph after his wars with the then-caliph al-Amin al-'Abbasi. Drawing on al-Fadl b. Sahl's tact, al-Ma'mun sent an army under the commandership of Tahir b. al-Husayn, known as Dhu l-Yaminayn, in order to combat 'Ali b. 'Isa, the commander of al-Amin's army. al-Amin's army was defeated after the murder of 'Ali b. 'Isa in 195/810 in Rey. Eventually, al-Ma'mun's army took over Baghdad in 198/813 after a serious battle. After his defeat, al-Amin was imprisoned and killed.[8] With the end of al-Amin's caliphate, al-Ma'mun was officially selected as a caliph in 198/813 in Merv, and appointed al-Fadl b. Sahl as his vizier.

Relationship with Alawis

Descendants of Imam Ali and Shi'as were called Alawis at the time. Numerous 'Alawi uprisings throughout the caliphate territory posed an essential challenge for Abbasid caliphs. 'Alawis who were constantly quenched since the period of al-Mansur al-'Abbasi[9] began uprisings against Abbasid caliphs when they had the opportunity to do so, though their uprisings usually failed. The conflict between al-Amin and al-Ma'mun over the caliphate during 193/808-197/812 undermined the Abbasid government and led to the increase of 'Alawi uprisings in different areas of Hijaz, Yemen, and Iraq.[10]

Alawi Uprisings

In the period of al-Ma'mun, 'Alawis started a number of uprisings. Most of them were made by the Zaydi sect of 'Alawis. The most important such an uprising which led to an independent government was the one made by a person called Ibn Tabataba in Kufa. It occurred in 199/814, and according to some historians, it was a heavy damage to the Abbasid government, leading to the formation of other fronts and autonomous governments in different areas against the Abbasid government by 'Alawis. Thus in addition to Kufa, Zayd b. Musa b. Ja'far, known as Zayd al-Nar began an uprising in Basra, Ibrahim b. Musa b. Ja'far in Yemen,[11] al-Husayn b. al-Hasan b. 'Ali known as Ibn Aftas in Mecca,[12] and Muhammad b. Ja'far known as Muhammad al-Dibaj in Hijaz.[13] Most of these uprisings were formed after Ibn Tabataba's uprising.[14]

Consequences Although such uprisings did not last long, they had consequences. For example, the love of people in Iraq and Khorasan for Ahl al-Bayt (a) gave the 'Alawis an opportunity to begin uprisings against al-Ma'mun, and there were always some advocates of Ahl al-Bayt (a) in Khorasan and Iraq who supported 'Alawi uprisings. This undermined the stability of the Abbasid caliphate, leaving it with constant worries of riots throughout its territories.[15] Another consequence of such uprisings was that they paved the path for the formation of Zaydi governments in Tabaristan and Yemen in later years.[16]

Asigning Imam al-Rida (a) as Successor

The coin minted with the name of Imam al-Rida as the successor of al-Ma'mun.

In order to protect himself against the threats of the 'Alawis forever and to establish his government in Khorasan where people loved Ahl al-Bayt (a), al-Ma'mun pretended that he was an advocate of Ahl al-Bayt (a). Thus, he invited Imam al-Rida (a) from Medina to Merv and pretended that he would abandon caliphate and surrender it to the most virtuous person from the progeny of 'Ali (a), that is, Imam al-Rida (a). When the Imam (a) rejected the offer to take over the caliphate, al-Ma'mun forced him to accept his succession.[17]

Al-Ma'mun did not really intend to assign the caliphate to Imam al-Rida (a); he only wanted to appoint the Imam (a) as the caliph and then take the control of everything by himself.[18] When Imam al-Rida (a) had to accept the succession of al-Ma'mun in 201/816, people pledged their allegiance to him. At the command of al-Ma'mun, the Imam (a) was given the title "al-Rida", coins were minted in his name, wages and awards of the army and statesmen were given with these coins,[19] and black clothes, which were signs of the Abbasids, were replaced by green clothes which were signs of the 'Alawis as the official clothes of the Abbasid caliphate.[20] With this policy, al-Ma'mun pretended that the slogan, "al-Rida min Al Muhammad" (al-Rida is from Muhammad's household) with which Abbasids called people to themselves was now realized by the succession of someone who is an instance of "al-Rida", and so there is no reason to start uprisings. This policy led to a remarkable decrease of Alawi uprisings.[21]

Concession of Some Areas to the 'Alawis

In line with the policy of establishing his caliphate and controlling the 'Alawis and after the succession of Imam al-Rida (a), al-Ma'mun conceded the rule of some areas which were seized by Alawis, such as Yemen and Hijaz, to them.[22]

Entrance of Sadat in Iran

A consequence of Imam al-Rida's (a) succession of al-Ma'mun was the immigration of sadat to Iran. According to some reports, a remarkable number of Shi'as and sadat went from Medina to Merv in order to meet Imam al-Rida (a), and on their way, they were joined by many advocates of the Imam (a). The apparent support of al-Ma'mun for 'Alawis and Shi'as paved the path for the immigration of sadat to Iran, and in particular, Khorasan.[23]

After the Establishment of Caliphate

Imams and Caliphs
Imam 'Ali (a)
(b.3 BH/600 - d.40/661)
Duration of Imamate: 11/632 - 40/661
Abu Bakr
'Umar b. Khattab
'Uthman b. 'Affan
Imam al-Hasan (a)
(b. 3/625 - d. 50/670)
Duration of Imamate: 40/661 - 50/670
Abu Bakr
'Umar b. Khattab
'Uthman b. 'Affan
Imam 'Ali (a)
Imam al-Husayn (a)
(b. 4/626 - d. 61/680)
Duration of Imamate: 50/670 - 61/680
Abu Bakr
'Umar b. Khattab
'Uthman b. 'Affan
Imam 'Ali (a)
Imam al-Hasan (a)
Yazid b. Mu'awiya
Imam al-Sajjad (a)
(b. 38/658 – d. 94/713)
Duration of Imamate: b. 61/680 – 94/713
Imam 'Ali
Imam al-Hasan (a)
Mu'awyia b. Yazid
Marwan b. Hakam
'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan
Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik
Imam al-Baqir (a)
(b. 57/677 – d. 114/733)
Duration of Imamate: 94/713 - 114/733
Mu'awyia b. Yazid
Marwan b. Hakam
'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan
Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik
Sulayman b. 'Abd al-Malik
'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz
Yazid b. 'Abd al-Malik
Hisham b. 'Abd al-Malik
Imam al-Sadiq (a)
(b. 83/704 – d. 148/765)
Duration of Imamate: 114/733 - 148/765
'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan
Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik
Sulayman b. 'Abd al-Malik
'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz
Yazid b. 'Abd al-Malik
Hisham b. 'Abd al-Malik
Walid b. Yazid
Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik
Ibrahim b. Walid
Marwan b. Muhammad
Abu l-'Abbas al-Saffah
al-Mansur al-Dawaniqi
Imam al-Kazim (a)
(b. 128/745 - d. 183/799)
Duration of Imamate: 148/765 - 183/799
Marwan b. Muhammad
Abu l-'Abbas al-Saffah
al-Mansur al-Dawaniqi
al-Mahdi al-'Abbasi
al-Hadi al-'Abbasi
Harun al-Rashid
Imam al-Rida (a)
(b. 148/766 – d. 203/818)
Duration of Imamate: 183/799 - 203/818
Al-Mansur al-Dawaniqi
Mahdi al-'Abbasi
Hadi al-'Abbasi
Harun al-Rashid
Amin al-'Abbasi
Ma'mun al-'Abbasi
Imam al-Jawad (a)
(b. 195/811 - d. 220/835)
Duration of Imamate: 203/818 - 220/835
Amin al-'Abbasi
Ma'mun al-'Abbasi
al-Mu'tasam al-'Abbasi
Imam al-Hadi (a)
(b. 212/828 - d. 254/868)
Duration of Imamate: 220/835 - 254/868
Ma'mun al-'Abbasi
al-Mu'tasam al-'Abbasi
al-Wathiq bi Allah
al-Mutawakkil al-'Abbasi
al-Muntasir al-'Abbasi
al-Musta'in al-'Abbasi
al-Mu'tazz al-'Abbasi
Imam al-'Askari (a)
(b. 232/846 - d. 260/874)
Duration of Imamate: 254/835 - 260/874
al-Mutawakkil al-'Abbasi
al-Muntasir al-'Abbasi
al-Musta'in al-'Abbasi
al-Mu'tazz al-'Abbasi
al-Muhtadi al-'Abbasi
al-Mu'tamad al-'Abbasi
Imam al-Mahdi (a)
(b. 255/869 - alive)
Duration of Imamate: 260/874 - alive
al-Mu'tazz al-'Abbasi
al-Muhtadi al-'Abbasi
al-Mu'tamad al-'Abbasi
al-Mu'tadad al-'Abbasi
al-Muktafi al-'Abbasi
al-Muqtadir al-'Abbasi
al-Qahir al-'Abbasi
al-Radi al-'Abbasi

When he managed to control 'Alawi uprisings and relatively stabilize his caliphate, al-Ma'mun changed his policies. This change of policy was reflected in some cases: setting aside Persian methods of governance and Persian advisors, returning to the Arabic practice, showing more regard for Baghdad which was his fathers' capital, plotting the martyrdom of Imam al-Rida (a), new pressures on 'Alawis, showing the Abbasid sign—black clothes—again, and prohibiting Alawi green clothes.[24]

Killing the Persian Vizier

Al-Fadl b. Sahl was al-Ma'mun's Persian vizier, who endeavored to help al-Ma'mun reach and establish the caliphate. After his caliphate, al-Ma'mun gave him the title "Dhu l-Riyasatayn" (holder of two headships) because of his efforts. The title implied that al-Fadl was both the head of the country and the head of the army.[25]

According to some historians, Ibn Sahl's advisory assistance to al-Ma'mun was intended to make Merv the capital of the caliphate, instead of Baghdad, to make Khorasan superior to Iraq and other areas, and to give back to Persians the dignity they had lost after the humiliation of Persian Barmakids in the Abbasid system.[26] Thus, al-Fadl b. Sahl tried to conceal from the caliph any challenges threatening the greatness of Merv, Khorasan, and Persians. For example, removal of Tahir b. al-Husayn—the Arabic ruler of Baghdad—and the assignment of the position to a Persian ruler, al-Hasan b. Sahl; and the superiority of Persians to Arabs, which was reflected in the policies of al-Ma'mun, caused a riot in Baghdad. The Persian vizier tried to conceal the news of Baghdad from the caliph.[27]

When al-Ma'mun was informed by Imam al-Rida (a) about the riots in Baghdad, he decided to leave Merv to Baghdad. The caliph learned that his return to Baghdad would be prevented by his Persian vizier. Moreover, concealment of such information made him pessimist of al-Fadl b. Sahl. Thus, early in his travel to Baghdad, he killed his Persian vizier in Sarakhs in the hands of his secret agents.[28]

Martyrdom of Imam al-Rida (a)

When al-Ma'mun achieved his goals of designating Imam al-Rida (a) as his successor, he was under the impression that the Imam's (a) presence was no longer in the interest of his government. Al-Ma'mun's worries about the continued succession of Imam al-Rida (a) were rooted in some issues: the superiority of Imam al-Rida (a) to scholars of other religions in their debates, the increased popularity of Imam al-Rida (a) among people,[29] and the Imam's (a) explicit criticisms of some of al-Ma'mun's policies.[30] Thus, like previous Abbasid caliphs who had killed Imams, al-Ma'mun plotted a conspiracy to martyr Imam al-Rida (a) on his way to Baghdad early in 203/818.[31]

Moving the Capital to Baghdad

Al-Ma'mun's Persian and apparently anti-Abbasid policies always led to objections by prominent Abbasid figures and people of Baghdad. As a result, some prominent Abbasid figures in Baghdad did not accept al-Ma'mun's caliphate and pledged their allegiance to Ibrahim b. al-Mahdi. The protests began to unrest Baghdad and led to a domestic war.[32] On the other hand, there was a serious unrest in Egypt and Jazira and the threat of a domestic war among the Abbasids was looming large. The caliph came to the conclusion that these unrests could not be quenched except by change of his policies and moving the capital to Baghdad. Thus, he departed to Baghdad, the capital of his fathers.[33]

Return of Alawis to the Period of Hardship

With the policy change of al-Ma'mun—his shift from Persian methods to Arabic practices—his peaceful treatment of 'Alawis came to an end. After the martyrdom of Imam al-Rida (a), he pretended that he had no role in his martyrdom. Thus, after entering Baghdad, he tried to appease 'Alawis, sent gifts to Imam al-Jawad (a), and returned Fadak to Alawis.[34] But after a while, he exposed his anti-Alawi positions by disallowing them from entering his palace and forcing them to wear black clothes which were signs of Abbasids. Al-Ma'mun's anti-'Alawi policies did not end there; he appointed a grandson of Ziyad b. Abih, an arch-enemy of 'Alawis, as the ruler of Yemen, a center of Alawi uprisings.[35]

Religious Tendency


According to historical evidence, al-Ma'mun interacted with some Mu'tazili scholars, such as Abu Hudhayl al-'Allaf and al-Nazzam,[36] and assigned governmental positions to some prominent Mu'tazila.[37] He also believed that the Qur'an was created. Such evidence led some historians to the view that al-Ma'mun had Mu'tazili tendencies. However, there are accounts of al-Ma'mun's interactions with some anti-Mu'tazila figures, such as Yahya b. Aktham, al-Ma'mun's advisor, who was hostile to the Mu'tazila.[38] These contradictory reports led some people to hold that al-Ma'mun had mixed views about kalam.[39]


Late in his reign, al-Ma'mun formed some courts of inquisition in order to test faqihs, scholars of hadiths, and judges. According to al-Ma'mun's order in 218/833, the Mu'tazila were commissioned to hold inquisitions about people's beliefs about the creation of the Qur'an. Thus, people who did not believe that the Qur'an was created were ousted and imprisoned. According to some reports, some jurisprudents admitted that they believed in the creation of the Qur'an out of fear. This action by al-Ma'mun is referred to as "mihna".[40]


Al-Ma'mun's tendency to Shiism has been a controversial issue between Shiite and Sunni historians as well as Orientalists. The Shi'as have always been pessimist about Abbasid caliphs, including al-Ma'mun, although he was more knowledgeable than other Abbasid caliphs and displayed Shiistic tendencies. Thus, they reject his Shiism as believed by Shiite Imams.[41] However, some Sunni sources have emphasized al-Ma'mun's Shiism. For instance, al-Dhahabi, Ibn Kathir, and Ibn Khaldun explicitly held that al-Ma'mun was a Shi'a. In some cases, they regarded the Abbasid government as a Shiite government.[42] Al-Suyuti has also cited that al-Ma'mun was a Shi'a.[43]

It was not only after his death that al-Ma'mun was considered as a Shi'a. Even during his caliphate, his tendency towards some Shiite beliefs led to the thought that he was a Shi'a. In some cases, his policies and actions in favor of 'Ali's (a) progeny was followed by accusations of being a Rafidi made by his own Abbasid kin residing in Baghdad.[44]

Arguments for al-Ma'mun's Shiism

In historical sources, there are reports about al-Ma'mun's policies and actions during his caliphate which imply his Shiistic tendencies. Here are some of such actions:

Offering the caliphate and succession to 'Ali's (a) progeny: people who claim that al-Ma'mun was a Shi'a believe that the offer to assign the caliphate to Imam al-Rida (a) by al-Ma'mun was grounded in his approximately Mu'tazili and Shiite mindset, especially the belief in the superiority of Imam 'Ali (a). Moreover, al-Ma'mun's mother was Persian and believed in Imam 'Ali (a) and his progeny and al-Ma'mun was raised among Persians, especially people of Khorasan, and this led to his Shiistic tendencies. Advocates of this view claim that al-Ma'mun pledged to God that if he defeats his brother, he will assign the caliphate to the most virtuous person from 'Ali's (a) progeny. Thus, after defeating al-Ma'mun, he kept his promise and selected Imam al-Rida (a) as his successor.[45] This action by al-Ma'mun led some historians, such as al-Suyuti, to take him to be an extremist Shi'a.[46]

Returning Fadak to the progeny of Fatima (a): after returning to Baghdad and fully establishing his government, al-Ma'mun decided to return Fadak to the progeny of Fatima (a), despite severe oppositions. Thus, he invited 200 scholars to a meeting and asked them to express their views about Fadak. After hearing different views, they concluded that Fadak belonged to Fatima (a) and should, thus, be returned to its original heirs. Pressures by opponents led al-Ma'mun to hold another meeting with a greater number of scholars from the whole Islamic territory. The conclusion was still the same. Thus, in 210/825, he wrote to Qutham b. Ja'far, the ruler of Medina, to return Fadak to the progeny of Fatima (a).[47] According to some researchers, since the usurpation of Fadak was always a political instrument by caliphs to exert pressure on Ahl al-Bayt (a) and Shi'as, returning Fadak by al-Ma'mun shows his tendency to Ahl al-Bayt (a).[48] The news about the surrender of Fadak to its true owners was reflected in some poems.

Permitting temporary marriage: mut'a or temporary marriage is a matter of dispute between Shi'as and Sunnis. When 'Umar b. al-Khattab prohibited temporary marriage, subsequent caliphs as well as many Sunni scholars prohibited it, but al-Ma'mun permitted temporary marriage, despite oppositions. When Yahya b. Aktham, al-Ma'mun's chief justice and a Sunni scholar, told al-Ma'mun that 'Ali (a) also prohibited temporary marriage, he withdrew from its permissibility out of respect for Ali (a).[49]

Official announcement of the superiority of Imam Ali (a) over caliphs: according to reliable Shiite and Sunni sources, al-Ma'mun held a meeting with 40 prominent Sunni scholars of the time and debated the superiority of Imam 'Ali (a) over other caliphs with them. He won the debate and they admitted the superiority of Imam 'Ali (a) after the demise of the Prophet Muhammad (s).[50] Moreover, in 212/827, al-Ma'mun announced the superiority of Imam 'Ali (a) over Abu Bakr b. Abi Quhafa and 'Umar b. al-Khattab.[51]

Aversion to praising Mu'awiya: in 211/826, al-Ma'mun expressed his antipathy to those who praised Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan, and punished such people.[52]

Admission of his and his father's Shiism: some historians reported that al-Ma'mun himself expressed his belief in Shiism.[53] According to some reports, he told his companions that he learned Shiism from his father. He was asked: "if your father, Harun, was a Shi'a, then why did he killed Ahl al-Bayt (a)?" He replied that reign is blind to fathers and children, let alone others.[54]

Arguments against al-Ma'mun's Shiism

Shiistic tendencies of al-Ma'mun grounded by his Mu'tazili thoughts: some opponents of al-Ma'mun's Shiism believe that al-Ma'mun's Shiistic tendencies were grounded in his Mu'tazili views. In that period, some of the Mu'tazila were very close in their views to Shi'as and 'Alawis. Like Shi'as, they believed in the superiority of Imam 'Ali (a) over other caliphs and supported Imam al-Rida's (a) succession of al-Ma'mun. according to this theory, al-Ma'mun did not offer caliphate to Imam al-Rida (a) on the basis of his belief in Twelver Shiism; rather he did so to pretend his love of the progeny of 'Ali (a) so as to continue to have the support of Persians who loved Ahl al-Bayt (a) and to prevent 'Alawi uprisings.[55]

Al-Ma'mun's Shiism as a general Shiism: some people have distinguished between two kinds of Shiism:

  • Shiism as Twelver Shiism (belief in all 12 Imams),
  • General Shiism, that is, the belief that Imam 'Ali (a) was the immediate successor of the Prophet (s), without following Ahl al-Bayt (a) in other beliefs and practices. Thus, the Shiism of al-Ma'mun, his father, Harun, and the rest of the Abbasids was a general Shiism.[56]

Imam-killing Shi'a: Morteza Motahhari held that al-Ma'mun's debate with Sunni scholars regarding the superiority of the caliphate of Imam 'Ali (a) was unique and said: "surely no religious scholar has argued about the problem of caliphate as nicely as did al-Ma'mun. he debated about the problem of the caliphate of Amir al-Mu'minin (a) and defeated everyone". Motahhari holds that al-Ma'mun's Shiite tendencies are undeniable, but he was an "Imam-killing" Shi'a, comparing it to the Shiism of people of Kufa in the period of the imamate of Imam al-Husayn (a) who ended up martyring him.[57]

Science in the Period of al-Ma'mun

Since his youth and because of being raised among Persians, al-Ma'mun was very interested in learning and wisdom. He also recommended others to translate books from Greek, Syriac, Pahlavi, and Indian into Arabic. His palace was always a center for the assembly and debates of scholars from different religions.[58]


The grave of al-Ma'mun, Tarsus, Turkey

Al-Ma'mun died of illness in Rajab 218 (July 833) in Badandun while he was attacking Rome. And he was buried in Tartus.[59] Today his grave is located in the great mosque of Tarsus in the Mersin province south of Turkey near the Syrian border.


  1. Suyūṭī, Tārīkh al-khulafāʾ, p. 306.
  2. Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-yaʿqūbī, p. 460.
  3. Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-yaʿqūbī, p. 460; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 8, p. 472-489.
  4. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 8, p. 240-286.
  5. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 8, p. 387-389.
  6. Maḥmūd Ibrāhīm & Sharīf, al-ʿĀlam al-Islāmī fī l-ʿaṣe al-ʿAbbāsī, vol. 5, p. 110.
  7. Ṭaqūsh, Dawlat-i ʿAbbāsīyān, p. 125-127.
  8. Ṭaqūsh, Dawlat-i ʿAbbāsīyān, p. 130-131.
  9. Allāh Akbarī, ʿAbbāsīyān az biʿthat tā khilāfat, p. 95-97.
  10. Abū l-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil al-ṭālibīyyīn, p. 455-459; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 8, p. 574.
  11. Abū l-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil al-ṭālibīyyīn, p. 355.
  12. Laythī, Jahād al-Shīʿa fī l-ʿaṣr al-ʿabbāsī al-awwal, p. 326.
  13. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 7, p. 125.
  14. Naqawī, "Taʾthīr-i qīyāmhā-yi ʿalawīyān", p. 141-144.
  15. Mudarrisī, Imāmān-i Shīʿa wa junbishhā-yi maktabī, p. 249-261.
  16. Naqawī, "Taʾthīr-i qīyāmhā-yi ʿalawīyān", p. 148-149.
  17. ʿĀmilī, Zindigānī-yi sīyāsī-yi hashtumīn Imām, p. 141.
  18. ʿĀmilī, Zindigānī-yi sīyāsī-yi hashtumīn Imām, p. 161.
  19. Masʿūdī, Murūj al-dhahab, vol. 2, p. 441.
  20. Mufīd, al-Irshād, vol. 2, p. 367; Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-yaʿqūbī, p. 460.
  21. Laythī, Jahād al-Shīʿa fī l-ʿaṣr al-ʿabbāsī al-awwal, p. 413-414.
  22. Aṣgharī, Nigarishī bar ḥukūmat-i Maʾmūn, p. 218; Naqawī, "Taʾthīr-i qīyāmhā-yi ʿalawīyān", p. 153.
  23. Aṣgharī, Nigarishī bar ḥukūmat-i Maʾmūn, p. 218.
  24. Ṭaqūsh, Dawlat-i ʿAbbāsīyān, p. 148-149.
  25. Ṭaqūsh, Dawlat-i ʿAbbāsīyān, p. 132; Jahishyārī, Kitāb al-wuzarāʾ wa l-kitāb, p. 305-306.
  26. Maḥmūd Ibrāhīm & Sharīf, al-ʿĀlam al-Islāmī fī l-ʿaṣe al-ʿAbbāsī, vol. 5, p. 110.
  27. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 8, p. 546;Ṭaqūsh, Dawlat-i ʿAbbāsīyān, p. 148.
  28. Dūrīyy, al-ʿAṣr al-ʿAbbāsī al-awwal, p. 165.
  29. Ṭaqūsh, Dawlat-i ʿAbbāsīyān, p. 144-145.
  30. Ṣadūq, ʿUyūn akhbār al-Riḍā, vol. 2, p. 241.
  31. Ibn Ṣabbāgh al-Mālikī, al-Fuṣūl al-muhīmma fī maʿrifat al-aʾimma, p. 350; Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-yaʿqūbī, p. 471.
  32. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 8, p. 546.
  33. Ṭaqūsh, Dawlat-i ʿAbbāsīyān, p. 148.
  34. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 7, p. 156.
  35. Laythī, Jahād al-Shīʿa fī l-ʿaṣr al-ʿabbāsī al-awwal, p. 375-376.
  36. Nāẓimīyān Fard, Maʾmūn wa miḥnat, p. 69-70.
  37. Masʿūdī, al-Tanbīh wa l-ishrāf, p. 339.
  38. Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, Tārīkh Baghdād, vol. 4, p. 199-200.
  39. Nāẓimīyān Fard, Maʾmūn wa miḥnat, p. 70.
  40. Nāẓimīyān Fard, Maʾmūn wa miḥnat, p. 67-78.
  41. Allāh Akbarī, ʿAbbāsīyān az biʿthat tā khilāfat, p. 27.
  42. Dhahabī, Siyar aʿlām al-nubalāʾ, vol. 11, p. 236; Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāya wa l-nihāya, vol. 10, p. 275-279; Ibn khaldūn. al-ʿIbar, vol. 2, p. 272.
  43. Suyūṭī, Tārīkh al-khulafāʾ, p. 363.
  44. Naqawī, "Taʾthīr-i qīyāmhā-yi ʿalawīyān", p. 141.
  45. Abū l-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī, Maqātil al-ṭālibīyyīn, p. 454.
  46. Suyūṭī, Tārīkh al-khulafāʾ, p. 363.
  47. Ḥamawī, Muʿjam al-buldān, vol. 4, p. 240; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 7, p. 156.
  48. Rahbar, "Fadak namād-i maẓlūmīyyat-i Ahl al-Bayt", p. 181.
  49. Nāẓimīyān Fard, Maʾmūn wa miḥnat, p. 71; Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, Tārīkh Baghdād, vol. 4, p. 199.
  50. Ibn ʿAbd Rabbih, al-ʿIqd al-farīd, vol. 5, p. 349-359.
  51. Suyūṭī, Tārīkh al-khulafāʾ, p. 364.
  52. Suyūṭī, Tārīkh al-khulafāʾ, p. 364.
  53. Masʿūdī, Murūj al-dhahab, vol. 4, p. 5.
  54. Ṣadūq, ʿUyūn akhbār al-Riḍā, vol. 1, p. 88; Shūshtarī, Majālis al-muʾminīn, vol. 2, p. 270.
  55. Ṭaqūsh, Dawlat-i ʿAbbāsīyān, p. 133-134.
  56. Mūsawī Kinturī, ʿAbaqāt al-anwār, vol. 4, p. 109-113.
  57. Motahhari, Majmūʿa-yi āthār, vol. 18, p. 118.
  58. Dihkhudā, Lughatnāma, vol. 13, p. 20083.
  59. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 8, p. 472-489; Ṭaqūsh, Dawlat-i ʿAbbāsīyān, p. 160.


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