History of Tahirids in Post-Islam Iran (821 – 893)

Map Showing History of Tahirids
Territories under Tahirids
Map Showing History of Tahirids
Territories under Tahirids

During post-Islam Iran and after suppressing Iranians’ nationalistic movements in Khorasan Province, north-east of Iran, the Abbasid caliphs appointed rulers in Iran. The history of Tahirids is about one such ruler appointed by them in Iran. After Harun Al-Rashid, Amin became Baghdad’s caliph. His rival and brother, Mamun, was the ruler of Khorasan. Amin was an inefficient ruler and was leading his dynasty to decline. These two brothers had conflicting insights and struggled for power in Baghdad over power. Eventually, they fought against each other.

Tahir, an Iranian general, was the trusted person for Mamun. He launched a military campaign against Baghdad. After a victorious battle when he seized the city, Tahir killed the caliph, Amin, without waiting for Mamun’s order. This was the end of Amin and beginning of Mamun’s caliphate from Baghdad. Of course, Mamun had great trust in him.

After Amin had been dethroned, Mamun appointed Tahir as the governor of Khorasan. It was not an independent Iranian government, but it could be unofficially inherited later by Tahir’s successors.

Anti Abbasid and anti Arab sentiments were notably increasing in Khorasan. Tahir wasn’t so well-liked by the courtiers in Baghdad, because he had killed the former caliph, Amin. They also called him sarcastically “son of fire temple” because of his nationality being an Iranian. He had been born in an Iranian family in Herat. He had Arabic education, was interested in literature and music and composed love poems. Despite Abbasids’ dislike for Tahir, they could not find anyone better than him for governing Khorasan.

Tahirids achieved kind of a partial domination over all Khorasan, Sistan, Transoxiana and a great area of the south of the Caspian Sea as well as the ancient regions under Medes without any opposition from Baghdad. This ruling system later became a model for other independent-like governments such as those of Samanids and Ghaznavids. This trend ultimately paved the way for the elimination of caliphs’ authority over Iranian territories.

Administration System during the History of Tahirids

Tahir showed special interest to the welfare of farmers. There were favorable laws regulated about the distribution of water supplied by Kariz (underground man-made aqueducts). All of these measures taken by Tahirids led to the general satisfaction of the community and the elimination of lots of discriminations.

He also initiated an educational campaign to teach everyone to read and write in his territory. Even the children of subjects were given this opportunity as well. Of course, it should be noted that Tahir had already shown his loyalty to the Abbasi caliphs by playing a key role in suppressing Mazyar movement in Tabarestan and disclosing the plans of Afshin against the caliphate system of Baghdad.

Baghdad did not intervene directly in the domestic affairs of Khorasan anymore. This could result in Tahirids’ administration development. As a matter of fact, Tahirids based their ruling system on the same methods common in pre-Islam Iran. Tahirids also sent the tax collected in Khorasan to Baghdad. The sermon of the Friday prayer was read in the name of the caliph of Baghdad. As some cases demanded, they reported the situation to Baghdad. A relatively remarkable amount of wealth was also collected in the court of Tahirids.

The Collapse of Tahirids

Tahir paid a lot of accurate attention to his army’s discipline and tried to establish justice in his areas. So, people began to like him. this worried the caliph’s friends. They had talked so much ill of Tahir with Mamun that finally urged him to send a rebuking letter to Tahir. He died the same night quite unexpectedly. Some blame Tahir for committing suicide and some blame Mamun for ordering the murder of his governor as Mamun was very notorious for planning such acts of brutality.

Abdollah, Tahir’s son, had served the caliph in various parts of the newly conquered Islamic territories. His other son, Talheh, had worked with Tahir in Khorasan for a long time showing his loyalty to the caliph too. However, brothers and their sons continued helping one another to keep the administration system in place in Khorasan and other parts of the Persia’s disintegrated territories. They even helped Baghdad get rid of other Iranian nationalist revolutionaries like Babak. As a result, the history of Tahirids continued in Tahir’s family. They represented the Abbasids in Khorasan.

Mohammad ibn-e Tahir, the last Tahirid ruler, reigned for 11 years without sufficient efficiency and led Khorasan to a chaotic condition. The Saffarid warrior, Yaghub Leith, led his uprising in Sistan toward victory. Then, he moved toward Khorasan and seized the power there. This was not what the caliph in Baghdad wanted. So, he made the caliph very worried as Yaghub didn’t owe his power to Baghdad.

The history of Tahirids was coming to an end as Yaghub’s power was increasing. He defeated all the governors of provinces ruling on behalf of the Abbasids’ caliph. He seized Kerman, Fars, and other areas. He reached near Baghdad with his powerful army but had to surrender to death when he became ill. His brother continued ruling at Yaghub’s territories and showed obedience to Baghdad’s caliph, but Mamun didn’t trust him.

The Abbasids’ governor at Transoxiana, Esmail Samany, was supported to arrest Yaghub’s brother and imprison him. As a consequence, Esmail could rule over all provinces on behalf of the caliph from Bukhara.

The history of Tahirids ended here and another governor was appointed by Baghdad’s caliph to rule in the conquered provinces of pre-Islam Iran.

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