ʿASKAR MOKRAM (lit. Mokram’s encampment), a town of the medieval Islamic province of Ahvāz (Ḵūzestān) and also the name of the district of which it was the administrative center. The Arabic sources give various tales concerning the origin of the name. According to Balāḏorī, FotūhÂ¡ p. 383, it was named after Moḥammad b. Moṭarref (al-Bāhelī?), a commander of Moṣʿab b. al-Zobayr, who was sent to suppress the revolt of Ebn Ẓabyār; other sources, such as Yāqūt (Beirut, IV, p. 123), attribute its foundation to Moḥammad b. Meʿzāʾ al-Ḥāreṯī, a general of the famous governor of Iraq and the east, al-Ḥaǰǰāǰ b. Yūsof. The only common factor in these accounts seems to be a foundation date towards the end of the 1st/7th century.
ʿAskar Mokram was situated on the northern part of the Ḵūzestān plain on both banks of the Nahr Masrūqān (modern Āb-e Gargar) just above where it now joins the main course of the Kārūn river (medieval Doǰayl) (though in the 4th/10th century, according to Ebn Serapion, the Nahr Masrūqān did not join the Doǰayl here but flowed parallel to it down to the tidal estuary). It was clearly a place of significance in Sasanian times, and the Arabic sources say that it was named Rostāq Kavād (Arabic Rostaqobāḏ). Its favorable situation in a highly fertile region made it an important market center, whose population in Sasanian times seems to have been in part Christian, and its strategic position, covering approaches into the mountains of Lorestān, made it a military center also. In the 4th/10th century there were two bridges of boats across the river at ʿAskar Mokram, and according to Ebn Ḥawqal, p. 253, tr. Kramers, pp. 249-50, a permanent bridge made of bricks. A bridge there had to be broken down by the caliphal troops in 266/879-80 in order to prevent the Zanǰ rebels (who had sacked ʿAskar Mokram only four years previously) from crossing to the east (Ṭabarī, III, pp. 1910, 1937).
In the 4th/10th century, the geographers describe the town as highly flourishing, and we possess coins minted there from ʿAbbasid times (299/911-12) and Buyid ones (340-44/951-56, reign of ʿAżod-al-dawla) (E. von Zambaur, Die Münzprägungen des Islams, zeitlich und örtlich geordnet I, Wiesbaden, 1968, p. 177). Eṣṭaḵrī, pp. 91-92, and Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, p. 130, record that it was the center for the Ahvāz sugar industry, to which cane grown elsewhere was brought for processing into red and white sugar and into refined sugarloaf. On the other hand, many authors mention the deadly scorpions (ǰarrāra) found there. Moqaddasī, pp. 409-10, describes how the town spread over both banks of the canal, but with the more important part of it on the western, Iraq side bank, where the Friday mosque and the principal markets lay. The town was famous both for its fine textiles, including ṭerāz manufactories (R. B. Serjeant, Islamic Textiles, Material for a History up to the Mongol Conquest, Beirut, 1972, pp. 45-46), and also for its scholars. Theological disputation (kalām) was a hobby of the townspeople, although Moqaddasī criticizes them for their Moʿtazelī tendencies; according to Ebn Ḥawqal, even the porters discussed abstruse question of Koran interpretation and feqh as they hauled their loads. ʿAskar Mokram certainly produced several noted scholars (who bore the nesba of “al-ʿAskarī,” cf. Samʿānī, Ketāb al-ansāb (Leiden), fols. 390b-391b, (Hyderabad), IX, pp. 297-304), the most notable being the philologists Abū Aḥmad al-Ḥasan b. ʿAbdallāh al-ʿAskarī (d. 382/993) and his pupil Abū Helāl al-Ḥasan b. ʿAbdallāh (d. after 400/1010).
The town was still flourishing in the 8th/4th century, for Ḥamdallāh Mostawfī describes it as large and as being formerly called in Persian Laškar (> Ar. al-ʿAskar) (Nozhat-al-qolūb, p. 112, tr. p. 110). Subsequently, however it fell into ruin, and the name of the town has disappeared from the map. The site is now marked by extensive surface ruins and is known as the Band-e Qīr “Bitumen dyke.”
See also C. Ritter, Erdkunde IX, pp. 182-83, 191-93.
P. Schwarz, Iran, pp. 377-86.
Le Strange, Lands, pp. 236-37.
(C. E. Bosworth)
Originally Published: December 15, 1987
Last Updated: August 16, 2011
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