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The Seljuqs (1055-1152)



The Sunnite Seljuq leader Toghrl Beg entered Baghdad in December 1055, arresting and imprisoning the Buyid prince al-Malik ar-Rahim (1048-55). Without meeting the 'Abbasid caliph, he proceeded against the 'Uqaylids in Mosul, taking the city in 1057 and retaining the 'Uqaylid ruler as governor there on behalf of the Seljuqs. On his return to Baghdad in 1058, Toghrl was finally received by the caliph al-Qa'im (1031-75), who granted him the title "king of the East and West."

On Dec. 27, 1058, with Toghrl busy elsewhere, the Buyid slave general Arslan al-Muzaffar al-Basasiri and the 'Uqaylid ruler Quraysh ibn Badran (1052-61) occupied Baghdad, recognizing al-Mustansir, the Shi'ite Fatimid caliph of Egypt and Syria, and sending him the insignia of rule as trophies. Al-Basasiri expelled al-Qa'im and, with the help of the Mazyadid Dubays I (1018-81), quickly extended his control over Wasit and Basra.

Both the Fatimids and the Mazyadids withdrew their support, however, and al-Basasiri was killed by Seljuq forces in 1060. Toghrl reinstated al-Qa'im as caliph, who then gave him additional honours, including the title sultan (Arabic: sultan, "authority"), found on coins minted in the names of both the caliph and the sultan. The Seljuqs now tried to rid Iraq of all Shi'ite influences. Exchanging Shi'ite Buyid emirs for Sunnite Seljuq sultans, while perhaps ideologically appropriate, made little practical difference for the 'Abbasid caliphs, who remained captives in the hands of military strongmen. Though Baghdad continued as the seat of the caliphate, the Seljuq sultans ultimately established their capital at Esfahan in Persian Iraq. The relations between caliph and sultan were formalized by the great theologian al-Ghazali (d. 1111) as follows :-

(( Government in these days is a consequence solely of military power, and whosoever he may be to whom the holder of military power gives his allegiance, that person is Caliph. And whosoever exercises independent authority, so long as he shows allegiance to the Caliph in the matter of his prerogatives [of sovereignty], the same is a sultan, whose commands and judgments are valid in the several parts of the earth. ))

These and other politico-religious doctrines were universalized through the spread of a system of educational institutions (madrasahs), associated with the powerful Seljuq minister Nizam al-Mulk (d. 1092), an Iranian from Khorasan. The institutions were called Nizamiyahs in his honour. The most famous of them, the Baghdad Nizamiyah, was founded in 1067. Nizam al-Mulk argued for the creation of a strong central political authority, focused on the sultan and modeled on the polities of the pre-Islamic Sasanians of Iran and of certain early Islamic rulers. Under the successors of Toghrl, especially Alp-Arslan and Malik-Shah, the so-called Great Seljuq empire did attain a certain degree of centralization, and the sultans and princes went on to conquer eastern and central Anatolia in the name of Islam and to eject the Shi'ite Fatimids from Syria.

In the second half of the 11th and the first half of the 12th century, the Seljuq Turks gradually established more or less direct rule over all of Arabian Iraq. The 'Uqaylids of Upper Iraq were finally overthrown by Taj ad-Dawlah Tutush (1077-1095) of the Syrian branch of the Seljuq family. Upper Iraq now came under the rule of Seljuq princes and their governors, who were often of servile origin. One of these governors, 'Imad ad-Din Zangi, with the decline of the power of his Seljuq masters, founded an independent dynasty, the Zangids. A branch of the Zangid dynasty ruled Mosul from 1127 to 1222. At the time of the Mongol invasions, Mosul was in the hands of the slave general Badr ad-Din Lu'lu' (1222-59). In Lower Iraq the Mazyadids were able to extend their influence; in the early 1100s they took the towns of Hit, Wasit, Basra, and Tikrit. In 1108, however, their king, Sadaqah, was defeated and killed by the Seljuq sultan Muhammad Tapar (1105-18), and the dynasty never regained its former importance. The Mazyadids were finally dispossessed by the Seljuqs in the second half of the 12th century, and their capital, Al-Hillah, was occupied by caliphal forces.



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