DAYRAL-ʿĀQŪL (lit., “the monastery at the bend in the river”; cf. Syriac ʿaqûlā “bend”; Payne Smith, II, cols. 2963-65), a medieval town in Iraq situated on the Tigris 15 farsangs (= 80 km) southeast of Baghdad. It presumably grew up around a Christian monastery, but the latter had apparently disappeared by the time of Šāboštī (10th century), who did not mention its existence in his Ketāb al-dīārāt. The medieval geographers described Dayr al-ʿĀqūl as the primary town of the fertile district (ṭassūj) in central Nahravān, with busy markets, prosperous agriculture and palm groves, and a Friday mosque; Maqdesī (Moqaddesī, p. 122) considered it the most important town on the Tigris between Baghdad and Wāseṭ, comparable in prosperity to the towns of his native Palestine. Because of its position on the river, it was a station for levying customs dues, with barriers (maʾāṣer) laid across the river to halt traffic (Ebn Rosta, p. 186; tr. Wiet, p. 215). By the time of Yāqūt, in the 13th century, the town had declined somewhat; the course of the river had changed, and Dayr al-ʿĀqūl was a mile from its banks, in the midst of a desert (Boldān, ed. Beirut, II, pp. 520-21); Ḥamd-Allāh Mostawfī described it a century later as only a small town (Nozhat al-qolūb, ed. Le Strange, p. 41; tr. p. 48). It was subsequently completely deserted; its site is marked today by ruins known locally as al-Dayr situated to the north of modern ʿAzīzīya (Hāšemī, p. 529; cf. Le Strange, Lands, pp. 35-36).
The district of Dayr al-ʿĀqūl was the site of the decisive battle between the Saffarid Yaʿqūb b. Layṯ’s invading forces and the defending caliphal army of al-Moʿtamed (256-79/870-92) and his brother al-Mowaffaq, which took place on Sunday, 9 Rajab 262/Palm Sunday, 8 April 876, at a village called Estarband (?) between Dayr al-ʿĀqūl and Sīb Banī Kūmā (Ṭabarī, III, pp. 1892-94; Masʿūdī, Morūj VIII, pp. 42-45; ed. Pellat, pars. 3159-61; Ebn al-Aṯīr, VII, pp. 290-92; Ebn Ḵallekān, ed. ʿAbbās, VI, pp. 413-19; tr. de Slane, IV, pp. 312-19; cf. Nöldeke, pp. 190-91; Bāstānī Pārīzī; Bosworth, p. 113; Duri; Tārīḵ-e Sīstān, pp. 231-33.). The caliphal forces had numerical superiority, and al-Mowaffaq was able to impede deployment of the Saffarid troops by flooding the low-lying surrounding land.
M.-E. Bāstānī Pārīzī, Yaʿqūb-e Layṯ, Tehran, 1344 Š./1965, pp. 244-61.
C. E. Bosworth, “The Ṭāhirids and Ṣaffārids,” in Camb. Hist. Iran IV, pp. 90-135.
A. A. Duri, “Dayr al-ʿĀḳūl,” in EI2 II, p. 196.
T. Hāšemī, Mofaṣṣal joḡrāfīat al-ʿErāq, Baghdad, 1930.
T. Nöldeke, “Yakub the Coppersmith and His Dynasty,” in T. Nöldeke, Sketches from Eastern History, Edinburgh, 1892, pp. 176-206.
R. Payne Smith, Thesaurus Syriacus, 4 vols., Oxford, 1879-1901.
(C. Edmund Bosworth)
Originally Published: December 15, 1994
Last Updated: November 18, 2011
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Vol. VII, Fasc. 2, p. 170