AḤMAD B. MOḤAMMAD B. ḴALAF B. Layṯǰ, ABŪ JAʿFAR (r. 311-52/923-63), amir in Sīstān of the Saffarid dynasty (that part of it sometimes called “the second Saffarid dynasty”). The vast military empire built up by Yaʿqūb and ʿAmr b. Layṯ had been shattered by the Samanids of Transoxania, who had in 298/910-11 and again in 301/9l3-14 invaded Sīstān and imposed their rule there. However, the accession in Bokhara of the child Naṣr II b. Aḥmad as amir inaugurated a period of Samanid weakness. The authority of the ʿAbbasid caliphs was briefly reestablished in Sīstān by their governor in Fārs and Kermān, but then the province passed into the hands of local military leaders and chiefs of the bands of patriotic ʿayyārs or “vigilantes.” In the course of this confusion, the ayyārs of the capital Zarang rebelled, and in Moḥarram, 311/April-May, 923 raised to the throne of Sīstān a scion of the Saffarid dynasty, Abū Jaʿfar Aḥmad b. Moḥammad; he is described by the local history, the Tārīḵ-eSīstān, as young in years but with the wisdom of older men. Aḥmad’s grandfather had been a close companion of Yaʿqūb and ʿAmr, and he was also related to them through his mother Bānū. His first accomplishment was to establish his own authority in the regions to the east of Sīstān proper, those of Bost and Roḵḵaǰ or Zamīn-dāvar, whither the dispossessed ʿayyār leader of Sīstān, ʿAbdallāh b. Aḥmad, had fled (311/923). With the pacification of all these regions, he consolidated his power and his rule was universally recognized. Aḥmad was even able to contemplate forays outside the boundaries of his own land. In 317/929 the caliphate was distracted by the temporary deposition and then restoration of the caliph Moqtader, and Aḥmad sent an army under his slave Moḥammad b. Yaʿqūb Razdānī into Kermān, where a million dirhams taxation was collected. Shortly afterwards, another member of the Saffarid family, Abū Ḥafṣ ʿAmr b. Yaʿqūb b. Moḥammad, who had been briefly raised to power in Sīstān as amir (299-301/911-13), returned to Sīstān from Baghdad; possibly the caliph hoped to inject an element of discord into the politics of Sīstān, but Abū Ḥafṣ was in fact made welcome at the Zarang court. Bost, from its eccentric position in relation to the heartland of Sīstān, had remained a center for unrest and disaffection; in 320/932 Aḥmad went there to suppress a revolt of a group of Turks led by Qarategīn Esfīǰābī, who was aided by two local malcontent leaders, Bā Yazīd Banakī and Bā Zakarīyāʾ Zaydūy.
Aḥmad was now a respected figure among eastern Islamic potentates, famed for his personal knowledge and his encouragement of learning, so that the Samanid Naṣr b. Aḥmad treated him on equal terms. Naṣr sent rich presents to Zarang, and his court poet Rūdakī wrote for Aḥmad a splendid ode, which earned its author 10,000 dinars from the Saffarid; the Tārīḵ-eSīstān goes on to mention that many poets writing in Arabic also eulogized Aḥmad. In the latter part of Aḥmad’s reign, the commander-in-chief of the army, Abu’l-Fatḥ, secured a considerable ascendancy in the state, suppressing in 341/952-53 factional strife at Ūq. However, he then raised a revolt at Jarvardkān and Baskar in Sīstān in favor of Abu’l-ʿAbbās, son of the former Saffarid amir Ṭāher b. Moḥammad b. ʿAmr (287-96/900-09), who, on account of his direct male descent from ʿAmr b. Layṯ, had considerable local support. Nevertheless, Aḥmad’s commander Razdānī, with the aid of the Turks of Bost, succeeded in mastering this outbreak. Nothing is known of the next few years, until in Rabīʿ I, 352/April, 963, Razdānī conspired with leaders of the amir’s slave guards and with the Saffarid prince Abu’l-ʿAbbās b. Ṭāher b. Moḥammad and murdered Aḥmad. A period of disorder followed, but eventually Aḥmad’s son, Abū Aḥmad Ḵalaf, was able to secure the throne and began a long reign in Sīstān, until the province came into the orbit of the empire built by the Ghaznavid sultan Maḥmūd (393/1003).
The sole primary source is the anonymous Tārīḵ-eSīstān, pp. 310-26 (includes the complete text of Rūdakī’s ode, also given by E. D. Ross, “A Qasida by Rudaki,” JRAS, 1926, pp. 213-38).
Of secondary sources, see Bosworth, “The Ṭāhirids and Ṣaffārīds,” Cam. Hist. Iran IV, pp. 131-32, and for chronology, Zambaur, pp. 200-01, and Bosworth, The Islamic Dynasties, Edinburgh, 1967, p. 103.
What little is known about Aḥmad’s coinage is discussed by J. Walker, “The Coinage of the Second Saffarid Dynasty in Sistan,” American Numismatic Society Notes and Monographs, no. 72, New York, 1936, pp. 14-17.
(C. E. Bosworth)
Originally Published: December 15, 1984
Last Updated: July 28, 2011
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Vol. I, Fasc. 6, pp. 641-642