|Ar-Radi bi'llah |
Gold dinar of ar-Radi
|20th Caliph of the Abbasid Caliphate|
|Reign||24 April 934 - 12 December 940|
Baghdad, Abbasid Caliphate now Iraq
|Died||23 December 940 (aged 31)|
Abu'l-Abbas Ahmad (Muhammad) ibn Ja'far al-Muqtadir (Arabic: ? (?) ? ?, romanized: Ab? al-?Abb?s A?mad (Mu?ammad) ibn al-Muqtadir; December 909 - 23 December 940), usually simply known by his regnal name ar-Radi bi'llah (Arabic: , romanized: ar-R bi'll?h, lit. 'Content with God'), was the 20th Caliph of the Abbasid Caliphate, reigning from 934 to his death. He died on 23 December 940 at the age of 31. His reign marked the end of the caliph's political power and the rise of military strongmen, who competed for the title of amir al-umara.
The future ar-Radi was born in December 909, to the caliph al-Muqtadir (r. 908-932) and a slave concubine named Zalum. When his father was killed in 932, he was proposed as a successor, but eventually his uncle al-Qahir (r. 932-934) was chosen. Al-Qahir had him imprisoned as a rival, and he remained confined until the deposition of al-Qahir in April 934, when he was freed and raised to the throne.
Hugh N. Kennedy describes ar-Radi as "quiet and affable, given to the company of scholars". Unlike the forceful al-Qahir, he quickly became a figurehead ruler, while ambitious men seized authority in the state.
After the distinguished former vizier Ali ibn Isa al-Jarrah declined to be reappointed to the office on account of his advanced age, Ibn Muqla, who had led the conspiracy against al-Qahir, received the post. However, for the first months of the reign, Muhammad ibn Yaqut continued to be the most powerful member of the court until his downfall in April 935; only then did Ibn Muqla truly gain control of the administration. In 935, the government was forced to take measures to confront the turmoil in Baghdad because of the thuggish behaviour of Hanbali fanatics. Supported by popular sentiment, they accosted people in the streets, forced their way into private dwellings, emptied vessels of wine wherever found, broke musical instruments and mistreated female singers, pried into the details of trade, beat up their Shafi'i rivals, and generally acted in an arbitrary manner against anyone who trespassed their strict interpretation of Islamic law and custom.
By this time, the greatest threat faced by the Caliphate was the increasing independence of the regional governors, who had taken advantage of the internal quarrels in the Abbasid court to strengthen their own control over their provinces and withheld the taxes due to Baghdad, leaving the central government crippled. Ibn Muqla resolved to reassert his control over the neighbouring provinces by military force, and chose the Hamdanid-controlled Jazira as his first target: in 935 he launched a campaign that took the Hamdanid capital, Mosul, but he was forced to return to Baghdad. Another attempt in 936 to launch a campaign against the rebellious governor of Wasit, Muhammad ibn Ra'iq, failed to even get started. Coupled with his failure to counter the mounting financial crisis, this last disaster led to Ibn Muqla's downfall. In April 936, Ibn Muqla was arrested by Muhammad ibn Yaqut's brother, al-Muzaffar, who forced ar-Radi to dismiss him as vizier.
Ibn Muqla's dismissal marked the final end of the independence of the Abbasid caliphs, for shortly after ar-Radi appointed Ibn Ra'iq to the new post of amir al-umara ("commander of commanders"), a military-based office that became the de facto ruler of what remained of the Caliphate and deprived the Caliph from all real authority. The caliph retained only control of Baghdad and its immediate environs, while all government affairs passed into the hands of Ibn Ra'iq and his secretary. The name of the amir al-umara was even commemorated in the khutba of the Friday prayer, alongside that of the caliph.
Ar-Radi is commonly spoken of as the last of the real Caliphs: the last to deliver orations at the Friday service, to hold assemblies to discuss with philosophers and discuss the questions of the day, or to take counsel on the affairs of State; the last to distribute largess among the needy, or to interpose to temper the severity of cruel officers.
And yet, with all this he was the mere dependent of another. Beyond the Wasir's shadow, there was little left at home. And abroad, even less: the rich East was gone, Berber Africa and Egypt also, with great part of Syria and Mesopotamia; Mosul independent; peninsular Arabia held by Carmathians and native chieftains; even Basra and Wasit rose in revolt. The advance of the 'Greeks' (Byzantine Empire) was stayed only by the brave Hamdanid prince who was deservedly styled Sayf al-Daula 'Sword of the Nation'.