BESṬĀMĪ family


BESṬĀMĪ, leading family among the Shafeʿites of Nīšāpūr from the late 4th/10th through the early 6th/12th century. The first important family member was Abū ʿAmr Moḥammad Besṭāmī who was chief judge of the city from 377/987 to 392/1002. Nothing is known of his antecedents though his name suggests he may have come from the town of Besṭām. Abū ʿAmr married the granddaughter of the outstanding scholar and Sufi Abū Sahl Moḥammad Ṣoʿlūkī, another pillar of the Shafeʿite school in Nīšāpūr. Twin sons were born of this marriage. Their grandfather gave them the nicknames they are usually known by: Mowaffaq or Emām Mowaffaq for Abū Moḥammad Hebat-Allāh and Moʾayyad for Abū Maʿālī ʿOmar.

Emām Mowaffaq was the leader of the Shafeʿites when the Saljuqs took control of Nīšāpūr in 1039. He had at that time a protégé of undistinguished background named Abū Naṣr Manṣūr Kondorī. With Mowaffaq’s backing, Kondorī rapidly rose in the service of the Saljuqs to become vizier of Sultan Ṭoḡrel Beg. He then prompted the sultan to launch a fierce persecution of everyone who adhered to the Asḥʿarite theological doctrine. Most Asḥʿarites were Shafeʿites, and at the outset of the persecution one of their leaders was Emām Mowaffaq’s young son, Abū Sahl Moḥammad Besṭāmī, who had succeeded to his father’s position. Abū Sahl Moḥammad evaded an arrest order and gathered a band of armed supporters from his family lands. By warfare and diplomacy he gained the freedom of other imprisoned leaders and went with them into exile after failing in an appeal to the sultan and suffering a brief imprisonment and confiscation of his lands. Abū Sahl Moḥammad’s only son died young. Of the several collateral branches of the family, all quite distinguished, the one that supplied the next leader was the offspring of a marriage between Emām Mowaffaq’s daughter and his nephew. His name was Abū Moḥammad Hebat-Allāh Besṭāmī Sayyedī.

Abū Moḥammad Hebat-Allāh married the daughter of the great Shafeʿite and Asḥʿarite scholar Emām-al-Ḥaramayn Jovaynī, who had also been victimized in the persecution. The last known prominent member of this family is a grandson of this union named Moʾayyad Mowaffaqī. He was the leader of the Shafeʿite faction in the middle of the 6th/12th century when factional conflict and nomadic depredations combined in the destruction of the city of Nīšāpūr. He died in 556/1161 as the fighting raged.



R. W. Bulliet, The Patricians of Nishapur, chaps. 6, 9.

H. Halm, Die Ausbreitung der schafiitischen Rechtsschule, Wiesbaden, 1974.

(Richard W. Bulliet)

Originally Published: December 15, 1989

Last Updated: December 15, 1989

This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 2, p. 182