ABŪ SAHL ḤAMDOWĪ (or Ḥamdūʾī), AḤMAD B. ḤASAN, Ghaznavid official of the 4th-5th/11th century. His laqab is sometimes cited as Ḥamdūnī (e.g., Bayhaqī) but the more frequent form is established as correct by the rhyme words matched with it in Arabic and Persian poems; Ṯaʿālebī gives the full name, the laqab as al-Ḥamdūʾī (Tatemmat al-yatīma, ed. ʿA. Eqbāl, Tehran, 1353/1934, II, pp. 60-62; see also pp. 73-74).
Abū Sahl, while still a youth, attracted Sultan Maḥmūd’s attention and rose to become fiscal administrator (ṣāḥeb-e dīvān) of Ḡazna and its dependent districts. He served under Aḥmad b. Ḥasan Maymandī, Maḥmūd’s second to last vizier. Abū Sahl himself served as vizier for a few months, during the ephemeral reign of Sultan Maḥmūd (421/1030). That he was an able administrator may be inferred from the historian Bayhaqī’s account. Moreover, when Sultan Masʿūd (421-32/1030-40) reappointed Maymandī as vizier, the latter quickly appointed Abū Sahl as inspector-general for the entire fiscal administration (ešrāf al-mamlaka). Sultan Masʿūd evidently appreciated Abū Sahl’s talents in this capacity; he turned down Maymandī’s recommendation in 423/1031-32 that Abū Sahl be appointed to head the dīvān-e ʿarż (a post which, in effect, was that of the civilian commander of the army), citing the importance of the position of inspector-general. Early in 424/1033, however, Abū Sahl was assigned the governorship (kadḵodāʾī) of Ray and Jebāl, the westernmost Ghaznavid territories. (Maymandī died during this period.) In this role Abū Sahl led a force against Isfahan in 425/1033-34, where he seized the treasure of the Kakuyid dynast, Moḥammad b. Kākūya. The booty is said to have included a part of Ebn Sīnā’s library, which was sent to Ḡazna, eventually to suffer destruction when the city was taken by the Ghurid ʿAlāʾ-al-dīn Ḥosayn in 544/1149 (Bosworth, Ghaznavids, pp. 234, 301). Abū Sahl held Isfahan for two years; but Ebn Kākūya then retook his capital and went on to reoccupy Ray in 428/1036-37. Abū Sahl retreated to Nīšāpūr, seat of the Ghaznavid governor, Abu’l-Fażl Sūrī. Contributing to this brief resurgence of Kakuyid power was the growing threat to Ghaznavid Khorasan posed by the Oḡuz Turkmen, led by the Saljuqs. As the tribes frustrated the Ghaznavid army under Sobāšī and took Nīšāpūr in 429/1038, Sūrī and Abū Sahl took refuge in Gorgān. Abū Sahl returned to Ghaznavid territory when Sultan Masʿūd’s forces advanced in 431/late 1039. Masʿūd was dissatisfied with the former governor but accepted the suggestion of Masʿūd b. Layṯ that Abū Sahl pay a mulct of 50,000 dinars. The sultan became reconciled, bestowed a robe of honor on Abū Sahl, and admitted him to his circle of intimates. He was then sent to Ḡazna to recover revenue receipts he had deposited in the fortress of Mīkālī at the time of his flight from Nīšāpūr. The following year Masʿūd made him his chief advisor, when vizier ʿAbd-al-Ṣamad was away with Prince Mawdūd. Although not on good terms with the vizier, Abū Sahl tried not to offend him. Information about Abū Sahl ceases with the year 432/1040-41 (the end of the extant portion of Bayhaqī’s history).
Abū Sahl was a man of letters and patron of poets. Ṯaʿālebī quotes Arabic poems by him and Arabic verses in his honor by Abū Bakr ʿAlī b. Ḥasan Qohestānī. Farroḵī wrote three panegyric qaṣīdas attributing to Abū Sahl an ancient, noble lineage (Dīvān, ed. M. Dabīrsīāqī, Tehran, 1335 Š./1956, pp. 340-42, 398-401; Ḡ. Ḥ. Yūsofī, Farroḵī-e Sīstānī, Mašhad, 1341 Š./1962, pp. 110-13, 642).
Bayhaqī, 2nd ed., pp. 196, 428-29, 500-07, 654-55, 684, 706-09, 721, 725-27, 805, 813-14, 892, 973-74.
Ebn al-Aṯīr, s.a. 425 and 427.
Qazvīnī, Yāddāšthā IV, pp. 161-62.
Bosworth, Ghaznavids, pp. 71, 85-86, 105, 234-35.
Idem, “Dailamīs in Central Iran: the Kākūyids of Jibāl and Yazd,” Iran 8, 1970, pp. 81-83.
(Ḡ. Ḥ. Yūsofī)
Originally Published: December 15, 1983
Last Updated: July 21, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 4, pp. 369-370
Ḡ. Ḥ. Yūsofī, “ABŪ SAHL ḤAMDOWĪ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/4, pp. 369-370; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abu-sahl-hamdowi-or-hamdui-ahmad-b (accessed on 31 January 2014).