ʿALĪ B. ʿĪSĀ B. MĀHĀN (d. l96/812), officer in the service of the ʿAbbasids. He was commander of the guard under the caliph Mahdī (158-69/775-85) and entrusted by Hādī (169-70/785-86) with the functions of secretary of the army (though he does not seem to have been ḥāǰeb at the same time, as reported by Jahšīārī, who may have confused ḥeǰāba with command of the guard). At first, Hārūn al-Rašīd (170-93/786-809) kept Ebn Māhān near himself; then, disregarding the advice of Yaḥyā b. Ḵāled Barmakī, he named him governor of Khorasan (180/796) to replace Fażl b. Yaḥyā. According to the chroniclers, Ebn Māhān extorted from the populace, had some notables executed, and levied huge taxes on the countryside, acts which permitted him to shower the caliph with gifts. He is also accused of having participated in the plot against the Barmakids. In 189/805 Rašīd came to suspect him of wishing to make himself independent and was about to dismiss him, but Ebn Māhān succeeded in convincing the caliph of his good faith and appeased him by multiplying his gifts. His oppressive policies probably caused the revolt of Rāfeʿ b. Layṯ in 190/806. In 192/808 the caliph himself was forced to conduct an expedition to Khorasan. At the death of Rašīd, Ebn Māhān rallied to the cause of Amīn (193-98/809-13). He was one of the first to support Fażl b. Rabīʿ in pressing the new caliph to withdraw from Maʾmūn his designation as heir presumptive; he wrote in this cause to all the functionaries dependent on him. In 195/811, he was chosen to command the army sent from Baghdad against that of Maʾmūn commanded by Ṭāher b. Ḥosayn; at this time he was also named governor of Jabal, Hamadān, Isfahan, and Qom. The armies met near Ray, and though much superior in numbers, Ebn Māhān’s army was easily routed after he was struck down by a man named Dāʾūd Sīāh Ḵᵛārazmī. His body was stripped and his head was sent to Fażl b. Sahl, an ally of Maʾmūn. Maʾmūn’s description of his anxiety and sudden joy at this is reported by Jahšīārī, in a fragment recorded by M. ʿAwād (Lost Fragments of Kitāb al-Wuzarāʾ wa’l-Kuttāb, Beirut, 1965, pp. 38-42).


See the indexes of Ṭabarī, Ebn al-Aṯīr, Jahšīārī, and other early chroniclers.

Jāḥeẓ, al-Bayān wa’l-tabyīn, ed.

ʿA. M. Hārūn, Cairo, 1948-50, III, p. 195.

Ebn al-Ṭeqṭaqā, al-Faḵrī, ed.

H. Derenbourg, Paris, 1895, pp. 294-96.

Masʿūdī, Morūǰ VI, pp. 420-24; (ed. Pellat) secs. 2626-28.

Ḡars-al-Neʿma b. Helāl Ṣābeʾ, al-Hafawāt al-nādera, ed.

Ṣ. Aštar, Damascus, 1387/1967, pp. 52, 139.

Ebn al-ʿEmād, Šaḏarāt-al-ḏahab, Cairo, 1350-51/1931-32, I, pp. 309, 321, 342.

F. Gabrieli, “La successione di Hārūn ar-Rašīd e la guerra fra al-Amīn e al-Maʾmūn,” RSO 11, 1926-28, pp. 341-97 et passim. Index and bibliography cited in D. Sourdel, Le vizirat ʿabbāside, Damascus, 1959-60.

F. Bostānī, Dāʾerat al-maʿāref, Beirut, 1956-, IV, pp. 18-19.

EI2 III, p. 859.

(Ch. Pellat)

Originally Published: December 15, 1985

Last Updated: August 1, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 8, p. 852

Cite this entry:

Ch. Pellat, “ʿALĪ B. ʿĪSĀ B. MĀHĀN,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/8, p. 852, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ali-b-isa-b-mahan (accessed on 30 December 2012).