ABU’L-QĀSEM ʿALĪ B. MOḤAMMAD B. ḤOSAYN B. ʿAMR, a wealthy dehqān from Sabzavār who was prominent as a founder of madrasas in the second decade of the 5th/11th century. As a member of an old and aristocratic family which had marital connection with the illustrious Mīkālī family, Abu’l-Qāsem served as the deputy for the Bayhaq area of the raʾīs of Nīšāpūr, Abū Naṣr Manṣūr b. Rāmeš (d. 427/1036). The most noteworthy aspect of his career, however, was his foundation in Sabzavār of four madrasas, one each for the Hanafites, Shafeʿites, Karramites, and Shiʿites. Although madrasas are known to have existed in Khorasan for over a century before his time, Abu’l-Qāsem ʿAlī is the only known patron to have established institutions for more than one maḏhab or faction prior to the 6th/12th century. This was considered so unusual at the time that he was summoned to Ḡazna in 414/1023 and reproved by Sultan Maḥmūd on the grounds that Abu’l-Qāsem had damaged his own faction by patronizing his opponents. It is uncertain which faction Abu’l-Qāsem actually favored, but he is mentioned as being a disciple of Ebn Abi’l-Ṭayyeb, for whom he built the Shiʿite madrasa. In 5th/11th century Khorasan, torn by violent factional divisions, Abu’l-Qāsem’s patronage of rival groups appears anomalous, but his actions may possibly be seen as a precursor of later government efforts to use educational patronage as a means of controlling factional strife. A letter from people of Bayhaq to the raʾīs of Nīšāpūr has been preserved, extolling his patronage of both madrasas and mosques.


Ebn Fondoq, Tārīḵ-e Bayhaq, ed.

A. Bahmanyār, Tehran, 1938, pp. 185, 194-95, 205.

(R. W. Bulliet)

Originally Published: December 15, 1983

Last Updated: December 15, 1983

This article is available in print.

Cite this entry:

R. W. Bulliet, “ABU’L-QĀSEM ʿALĪ B. MOḤAMMAD,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2012, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abul-qasem-ali-b-2 (accessed on 16 October 2012).