This article provides short notes on the rulers of the Saffaris Dynasty (861-930).
During the reign of the Caliph Mutvakkal, Saleh occupied Khurasan on the plea of suppressing the Kharji community. Tahir himself had often acted as arbitrator in disputes between the Kharjis and Saleh.
One of the allies of Saleh was Yakub Saffar (the ironsmith).
From his childhood, he had been large-hearted, and when he came of age and took to banditry he continued to treat his victims with consideration. He soon gathered a band of followers around him and became a conqueror.
Saleh sought help from him. Yakub seized the opportunity and helped him to suppress the revolt. Dirham, who was heir to the Governor handed over the army to Yakub and in 877, he succeeded in conquering Hirat, Kirman and later Shiraz. Meanwhile, the Tahiris had become very weak and unpopular. In 871, Yakub expressed his desire to meet the Caliph to offer his services to him.
The Caliph was afraid lest Yakub should advance as a for as Bagdad; he, therefore, promptly made him Governor of Tukharistan right up to the borders of India. Yakub crossed the Hindu Kush mountains and entered the Kabul valley. The Hindu ruler of Kabul had not so far been threatened by any Muslim. But now he was defeated by Yakub, and was taken as captive together with his idols of worship.
In 872, Yakub put an end to the Tahiri dynasty by defeating Mohammed, the last of the Tahirs. It is said that Mohammed told Yakub: ‘If you have come as an emissary from the Caliph, show me your credentials,’ to which Yakub replied by unscathing the sword concealed beneath his cloak: ‘Here are my credentials.’
In 881, Yakub died and his brother Amr succeeded him.
Amr Saffar (878-900):
Like his brother, Amr was a brave and an able leader too. For some time he acknowledged the suzerainty of the Caliph, but on the complaint of the people of Khurasan, the Caliph Motmid tried to depose him from the Governorship and sent an army against him. In the final battle, Amr was defeated and fled to Sistan, his motherland. Regrouping his forces there he again attacked the army of the Caliph.
In 892 the Caliph Motmid died and was succeeded by the Caliph Mojid. On offering his services to the new Caliph, Amr was again appointed Governor of Khurasan. At this time the Eastern provinces were divided into two parts -Iran and Antarved. Antarved was ruled by the Samanis, while Iran was under Amr.
The Caliph was obliged to follow this policy because of the growing strength of Rafi, son of Harasma. In 896 Amr defeated Rafi, seized Neshapor and -sent the head of Rafi to the Caliph, thus becoming master of the whole of Iran. Amr tried to advance towards Antarved, but the Caliph was following a double-faced policy—at times encouraging Amr, at others, encouraging Ismail Samani.
In 900 Ismail surrounded Balakh and after some fighting the town fell into his hands and Amr was taken prisoner. The Caliph, meanwhile, died where upon Ismail threw Amr into a Baghdad prison and put him to death. Tahir, the Son of Amr was merely a nominal ruler. At first it had been the practice to mention the name of the Caliph in the post-Namaz discourses at the Mosques, but Amr, by getting his name mentioned started the practice of also having the names of rulers mentioned in the discourses given by the Imams.
In the Siyatnama the fall of Yakub and Amr and the rise of Ismail Samani are written: Among the Samanis there was a ruler named Ismail who was extremely just and virtuous. He had great respect for holy men. He was so wealthy and powerful that although he resided in Bokhara he was master of the whole of Khurasan, Iraq and Antarved. He drove Yakub out of Sistan. Yakub had designs of entering Baghdad, driving the Abbasi Caliph out with a view to putting an end to the Abbasi dynasty.
The Caliph scented danger, however, and sent word to Yakub to keep out of Baghdad and stick to Iraq and Khurasan. Nevertheless Yakub persisted in his coming to Baghdad. Meanwhile, the Caliph consulted the elders who advised him to encamp with his army, and to wait with selected elders in the outskirts so that on arrival of Yakub the elders would mix with his commanders to know his intentions. If it was gathered that the Emirs of Iraq and Khurasan were not behind Yakub, they would launch the attack and defeat his force. The Caliph agreed to follow these tactics.
Yakub’s army encamped near that of the Caliph. Yakub met the Caliph and asked him to leave Baghdad without delay. The Caliph asked for two month’s grace. Meanwhile, he sent messengers to sound the Emirs who had come with Yakub. When they came to know of the real intention of Yakub, they professed their loyalty to the Caliph, and this was especially so in the case of the Emirs of Khurasan.
The attack against Yakub was now launched and as was expected, he was routed in the very first attack. With great difficulty he escaped to Khigisistan, losing ail his treasure. There he tried to regroup his forces. The Caliph sent his emissary with the message that he was prepared to forgive him if he agreed to return to Khurasan and resume the task of administration there.
Yakub, however, was unbending. He sent the emissary back with the reply that he was determined to go ahead with his plan to put an end to the Abbasi dynasty.
At about this time Yakub’s health began to fail. He, therefore, appointed his brother Amru to succeed him and handed over the treasury to him. Amru thereupon returned to Khurasan and began to administer the area.
Amru was also a bold and large-hearted ruler like his brother. But the Caliph looked upon him with suspicion, lest he should follow the footsteps of his brother though Amru actually had no such intention. The Caliph sent an offer to Ismail of Bokhara to make him Governor of Iraq and Khurasan on condition that he would drive out Amru. Ismail accepted the offer and collecting an army of about 2000 men advanced to the Vakhshu and called upon Amru to surrender the kingdom.
Amru rejected the proposal contemptuously and with an army of seventy thousand men marched towards Balakh. When the two armies clashed Amru was taken prisoner, although his forces remained intact. Amru was brought before Ismail, who took pity on him and asked him to dinner. But Amru told the escorting officer to report to Ismail that it was not military prowess but his behaviour, his integrity and faith that had won the day.
The Tahiris and Saffaris were virtually independent rulers. The Saffaris were not of aristocratic stock and were obliged to devote most of their energies to war, but the Tahiris paid considerable attention to the development of learning. The example set by the Caliphs Mansur, Harun and Mamun of Baghdad in translating the works of scholars and philosophers of other countries into Arabic was followed by them.
Yakub Kindi (870) was the first Arab philosopher to be influenced by the works of those of Greece. Although he belonged to an Arab tribe, his family had been in Iraq for several generations. In the East, Islam produced three well-known philosophers, Kindi, Pharabi and Bualisina, of whom Kindi was the most famous. He was well-versed in Mathematics, Astrology, Geography, Medicine and Philosophy. He ridiculed the alchemists but was a firm believer in Astrology.