ʿABD-AL-MALEK B. NŪḤ B. NAṢR, ABU’L-FAVĀRES, ruler of the Samanid dynasty in Transoxania and Khorasan, 343-350/954-61. The historian of Bokhara, Naršaḵī, and the Ghaznavid historian Gardīzī accord him the designation of al-Amīr al-Rašīd, but it appears from his coins that he was called al-Malek al-Movaffaq during his lifetime, and it seems that he was referred to after his death as al-Malek al-Moʾayyad.
The reign of ʿAbd-al-Malek’s father, Nūḥ I, had seen the growth of serious internal difficulties within the Samanid amirate; these were to increase and to contribute to the collapse of the state by the end of the 4th/10th century. The amir had found it difficult to control ambitious and powerful army leaders within the state, particularly Abū ʿAlī Čaḡānī, governor of Khorasan, who had an important power base through his domains in Čaḡānīān on the upper Oxus, and his rival, Abū ʿAlī Ebrāhīm Sīmǰūrī, a general of Turkish slave origin but the holder of extensive lands in Qūhestān. These rivalries aggravated the financial difficulties of the state; taxation had to be increased, but the army nevertheless remained frequently unpaid and consequently mutinous.
Such was the situation when Nūḥ’s ten-year-old son ʿAbd-al-Malek succeeded in Bokhara (Rabīʿ II, 343/August, 954). The geographer Maqdesī praises his capabilities as a ruler, but he seems in practice to have been largely helpless in the face of the determined policy of the military commanders to seize the substance of power. He was able at the outset to confirm Abū ʿAlī Čaḡānī’s dismissal from Khorasan and to appoint his own governor, Bakr b. Mālek, there. In the capital he appointed his own vizier, Abū Manṣūr Moḥammad b. ʿOzayr. The governorship of Khorasan later passed to Abu’l-Ḥasan Moḥammad Sīmǰūrī and then in 349/960 to Abū Manṣūr Moḥammad b. ʿAbd-al-Razzāq. The vizierate in Bokhara went to Abū Jaʿfar ʿOtbī and in 348/959 to Abū Manṣūr Yūsof b. Esḥāq. The amir attempted to break away from the tutelage of the military, executing one of the generals, Baḵtegīn. But disorders in the state compelled him to appoint the Turkish slave general Alptegīn, whose ambition he suspected, to the governorship of Khorasan in 349/961. He had previously dismissed him from the post of commander-in-chief of the army in favor of Abū Naṣr Manṣūr b. Bāyqarā. He also had to accept the pliant and mediocre Abū ʿAlī Moḥammad Baḷʿamī as vizier; Gardīzī points out that Alptegīn and Baḷʿamī worked hand-in-glove, and says that “Baḷʿamī never did anything without the knowledge of Alptegīn and on his recommendation.”
At this point, ʿAbd-al-Malek, a devotee of polo, was killed after falling from his horse in the maydān of Bokhara at the age of 17 (Šawwāl, 350/November, 961). To his brother and successor Manṣūr b. Nūḥ he left a disturbed kingdom. Naršaḵī says: “When they buried him, the army grew restless and rebelled; everyone coveted the kingdom, and troubles raised their head.” One result of the ensuing situation was that Alptegīn was compelled to withdraw to Ḡazna on the periphery of the Samanid empire, where his slave Sebüktegīn eventually founded the Ghaznavid empire.
The main primary sources are Gardīzī, ed. Nazim, pp. 39-42; idem, ed. Ḥabībī, pp. 159-61; Ebn al-Aṯīr, years 343, 349, 350; and Naršaḵī, p. 115; tr., p. 98.
For secondary sources, see Barthold, Turkestan 3, pp. 248-51, and R. N. Frye, in Camb. Hist. Iran IV, pp. 151-52.
(C. E. Bosworth)
Originally Published: December 15, 1982
Last Updated: July 14, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 2, p. 128