ABŪ ʿAWN, ʿABD-AL-MALEK B. YAZĪD ḴORĀSĀNĪ AZDĪ, a distinguished ʿAbbasid general, twice governor of Egypt and once of Khorasan. Although Abū ʿAwn’s career can be followed for a period of forty years, little is known beyond its bare outline. He first is mentioned raising money for the ʿAbbasid cause in Gorgān, his native city, in 129/747 along with Ḵāled b. Barmak. He was a mawlā of the Honāʾa branch of the Azd tribe; but, judging from an insult once given him (Kendī, Wolāt Meṣr, ed. H. Naṣṣār, Beirut, 1379/1959, p. 31), his original occupation may have been that of a cattle dealer. Once the revolution broke out, he quickly proved his worth as a general. In 130/748 he was simply another second echelon commander. A year later he was an independent commander and played a major role in defeating the army of Marwān II, first at Šahrezūr (131/749) and then on the Zāb river (132/750). In 132/750, under the supervision of Ṣāleḥ b. ʿAlī of the ʿAbbasid family, he led the successful hunt in Egypt for the fugitive Marwān II. Ṣāleḥ b. ʿAlī became the first ʿAbbasid governor of Egypt, but Abū ʿAwn succeeded him from 133/751 to 136/754, during which period he suppressed a Coptic revolt. Then Ṣāleḥ b. ʿAlī returned for a brief second tour as governor and sent Abū ʿAwn first on a military expedition into Libya and then on a punitive one against a rebel in Palestine. Abū ʿAwn became governor of Egypt again in 137/754 and served until his recall in 141/758. By 144/761 he was back in Khorasan trying to bring order to that troubled area, and in 150/767 he joined in the fight against the rebel Ostāḏsīs. He finally attained the governorship of Khorasan, one of the most important and powerful posts in the caliphate, in 159/776; but his failure to press effectively the campaign against the rebel Moqannaʿ seems to have brought about his replacement a year later. The last that is heard of him is the caliph Mahdī’s visit to his death bed in 169/784. This act of caliphal respect was surely warranted by the lifetime of unstintingly loyal service rendered by Abū ʿAwn.
See the indices to Ṭabarī and Ebn al-Aṯīr, as well as Kendī (reference in the text).
(R. W. Bulliet)
Originally Published: December 15, 1983
Last Updated: July 19, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 3, pp. 260-261