AḤMAD B. NEẒĀM-AL-MOLK, ABŪ NAṢR (d. 544/1149-50), son of the well-known Saljuq vizier (d. 485/1092) and himself vizier for the Great Saljuqs and then for the ʿAbbasid caliphs. He was born in Balḵ, his mother being a Georgian princess; she was either daughter or niece of King Bagrat I and formerly married (or at least betrothed) to Alp Arslan after the Caucasus campaign of 458/1064. Aḥmad lived in Isfahan and Hamadān during his father’s lifetime and after; in 500/1106-07 he set off for Sultan Moḥammad b. Malekšāh’s court in order to raise a complaint against the raʾīs of Hamadān. On reaching the court, he was appointed Moḥammad’s vizier (Šawwāl, 500/June, 1107) in succession to Saʿd-al-molk Abu’l-Maḥāsen Ābī, who had been executed on suspicion of heresy; the appointment was, it seems, primarily made on the basis of the reputation of Aḥmad’s father and the claims of the family on the patronage of the Saljuqs. His father’s honorific titles (Qewām-al-dīn, Ṣadr-al-eslām and Neẓām-al-molk) were conferred on him, but he seems already to have had the laqab Żīāʾ-al-molk. During his four years’ vizierate, Aḥmad accompanied the sultan on his expedition of 501/1107-08 to Baghdad and Iraq, during which, at Noʿmānīya, the Saljuq army defeated and killed the powerful Mazyadid amir of Ḥella, the so-called “king of the Arabs” Sayf al-dawla Ṣadaqa b. Manṣūr. Verses by the poet Abu’l-Moẓaffar Abīvardī eulogizing the vizier for his part in this campaign have been preserved. In 503/1109 the sultan sent Aḥmad and Amir Čavlı Saqāvū to besiege the Ismaʿili sectaries under Ḥasan Ṣabbāḥ in their stronghold of Alamūt and Ostāvand, but the attacking army was unable to make headway before winter set in and had to retire. This failure doubtless contributed to Moḥammad’s decision to dismiss Aḥmad in 504/1110-11 in favor of Ḵaṭīr-al-molk Abū Manṣūr Maybodī; in 503/1110 Aḥmad had already survived an attempt by Ismaʿili fedāʾīs to assassinate him in the mosque at Baghdad. Over the next few years, Aḥmad lived quietly in his house at Baghdad, according to Ebn al-Aṯīr; but according to the contemporary Anūšervān b. Ḵāled, he was imprisoned by the sultan for ten years.
By 516/1122, Maḥmūd b. Moḥammad was reigning as sultan, with another of Neẓām-al-molk’s sons, Šams-al-molk ʿOṯmān, as his vizier. When the caliph Mostaršed’s vizier, ʿAmīd-al-dawla Jalāl-al-dīn Ḥasan b. ʿAlī, was dismissed and jailed, Maḥmūd, disturbed by the growing independence shown by the ʿAbbasid ruler, imposed on him as vizier his personal choice, Aḥmad (Šaʿbān, 516/October, 1122). With the caliph, Aḥmad took part in warfare against the Mazyadid Dobays b. Ṣadaqa. But when Sultan Maḥmūd dismissed and executed Šams-al-molk ʿOṯmān, the caliph deemed himself strong enough to shake off the vizier foisted on him by the Saljuqs; and in 517/1123 he dismissed Aḥmad from office. So ended Aḥmad’s singularly undistinguished official career; clearly, it had been the magic of his father’s name, rather than any innate ability, which had brought him to prominence in the first place. He retired to the college founded in Baghdad by his father, the Neẓāmīya, where he spent the remaining twenty-seven years of his life (Ebn al-Aṯīr [repr.], XI, p. 147).
The general sources for Saljuq history during the sultanates of Moḥammad and his sons give information on Aḥmad’s two vizierates: Anūšervān b. Ḵāled; Rāvandī; Ṣadr-al-dīn Ḥosaynī; Ebn al-Jawzī; Sebṭ b. al-Jawzī; Ebn al-Aṯīr; and Hendūšāh b. Sanǰar, Taǰāreb al-salaf. Especially detailed is Anūšervān b. Ḵāled, in Bondārī’s Zobdat al-noṣra, ed. Houtsma, Leiden, 1889, pp. 96-103; ed. Cairo, 1318/1900, pp. 88-94.
Jovaynī (III, pp. 206-07, 211; tr. Boyle, II, pp. 678, 680-81) contains information about the assassination attempt on Aḥmad and the abortive siege operations against the Ismaʿilis in Daylam.
See also the later works on viziers: Nāṣer-al-dīn Kermānī, Nasāʾem al-asḥār, ed. J. Ormavī, Tehran, 1338 Š./1959, pp. 52-54.
Sayf al-dīn ʿOqaylī, Āṯār al-wozarāʾ, ed. Ormavī, Tehran, 1337 Š./1958, pp. 226-31.
Of secondary literature, see: ʿA. Eqbāl, Wezārat dar ʿahd-e salāṭīn-e bozorg-e salǰūqī, Tehran, 1337 Š./1958, pp. 163-70.
M. A. Köymen, Büyük Selçuklu imparatorluğu tarihi, II. Ikinci imparatorluk devri, Ankara, 1954, pp. 59-61, 73.
C. E. Bosworth, in Camb. Hist. Iran V, p. 122.
C. L. Klausner, The Seljuk Vizierate, a Study of Civil Administration 1055-1194, Cambridge, Mass., 1973, index s.v. Ḍiyāʾ al-Mulk. Zambaur, pp. 8, 223-24.
(C. E. Bosworth)
Originally Published: December 15, 1984
Last Updated: July 28, 2011
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Vol. I, Fasc. 6, pp. 642-643