Bajkam al-Mākānī (Arabic: أبو الحسين
بجكم المكاني), referred to as Bajkam, Badjkam or Bachkam
(from Bäčkäm, a Persian and Turkish word meaning a horse- or
yak-tail), was a Turkish military commander and official of the
Abbasid Caliphate. A former ghulam of the Ziyarid dynasty, Bajkam
Abbasid service following the assassination of the Ziyarid
Mardavij in 935. During his five-year tenure at the Caliphate's
court at Baghdad, he was granted the title of amir al-umara,
consolidating his dominance over the Caliphs ar-Radi and al-Muttaqi
and giving him absolute power over their domains.
challenged throughout his rule by various opponents, including his
predecessor as amir al-umara, Muhammad ibn Ra'iq, the Basra-based
Baridis, and the
Buyid dynasty of Iran, but he succeeded in retaining
control until his death. He was murdered by a party of
Kurds during a
hunting excursion in 941, shortly after the accession of al-Muttaqi as
Bajkam was known both for his firm rule and for his patronage
Baghdad intellectuals, who respected and in some cases befriended
him. His death led to a void in central power, resulting in a brief
period of instability and fighting in Baghdad.
1 Early military career and service under Ibn Ra'iq
2 Amir al-umara
3 Death and ensuing anarchy
Early military career and service under Ibn Ra'iq
Details of Bajkam's early life are unknown. He was one of the ghilman
(military slaves, usually of Turkish origin) of the
Makan ibn Kaki
Makan ibn Kaki in northern Iran. Makan took care of the young Bajkam's
training and education, something for which the latter showed his
gratitude by adopting his patron's name as his nisba (surname).
Bajkam entered the service of Mardavij, founder of the
Ziyarid dynasty, who came to control Daylam,
Jibal and Tabaristan.
Mardavij mistreated his ghilman, who consequently murdered him at
Isfahan in January 935, an act in which
Bajkam may have been
complicit. After Mardavij's death, most of the ghilman in
Ziyarid service dispersed.
Bajkam and his fellow officer Tuzun assumed
the leadership of a large group and, after first offering their
services to the new governor of Jibal, Hasan ibn Harun, proceeded to
Abbasid court at Baghdad. At first, their offers were
rejected by the court, where the Caliph's Hujari bodyguards jealously
guarded their prerogatives, but the ghilman were eventually taken into
the service of Muhammad ibn Ra'iq, governor of
Basra and Wasit in
southern Iraq. Now known as
Bajkam created a large
military force under his command consisting of his own followers as
well as additional Turks and Daylamites summoned from Jibal.
In early November 936, the Caliph al-Radi (reigned 934–940) bestowed
the newly created title of amir al-umara ("commander of commanders")
on Ibn Ra'iq, who was effectively granted absolute control over the
Caliphate. This provoked the reaction of various provincial governors
as well as that of powerful interest groups in
Baghdad itself, such as
the caliphal bodyguards. Against them, Ibn Ra'iq employed
his Turkish supporters. With their aid, he managed to neutralize the
Hujari and Saji guard units, after which, in February 937,
rewarded with the posts of sahib al-shurta (chief of police) and
governor of the eastern provinces.
Far more difficult and protracted was the war against the ambitious
governor of Ahwaz, Abu Abdallah al-Baridi, who aimed to supplant Ibn
Ra'iq. Al-Baridi's family was of Basran origin, and had served the
Abbasids in various roles as officials before managing to assert a
weak hold over Khuzistan. Ibn Ra'iq himself was defeated and forced
Basra to the Baridis, but
Bajkam saved the situation by
scoring two major victories, despite being outnumbered, that allowed
him to take possession of Khuzistan. The hard-pressed al-Baridi now
turned to his powerful neighbour, the
Buyid ruler of Fars, Ali ibn
Buya, for help. Ali's brother Ahmad soon took over Khuzistan, and Ibn
Ra'iq was forced to offer possession of the province as an independent
Bajkam would recover it.
Bajkam however was repulsed by the
Buyid forces, and fell back to Wasit.
Ignoring Ibn Ra'iq's orders to retake Khuzistan,
Bajkam remained at
Wasit, and began plotting to depose Ibn Ra'iq himself. To this end,
Bajkam began seeking allies: he offered the governorship of Wasit to
the Baridis, and through the former vizier Ibn Muqla, who wished to
avenge himself on Ibn Ra'iq for his own downfall and confiscation of
his property, gained the covert support of Caliph al-Radi
himself. In September 938,
Bajkam led his troops from Wasit to
Baghdad. Ibn Ra'iq tried without success to impede his advance by
destroying the great dams of the
Nahrawan Canal and flooding the
plain, but Bajkam's army entered the
Abbasid capital without
opposition, and al-Radi immediately transferred Ibn Ra'iq's title of
amir al-umara to Bajkam.
Iraq in the 9th–10th centuries
Despite the continued relegation of al-Radi to a ceremonial role, the
relationship between the Caliph and
Bajkam was strong, with al-Radi
Bajkam for his harsh discipline and referring to the latter
as his "protégé".
Al-Radi was appreciative of Bajkam's respect for
his position as Caliph, and promised his support for the amir
In October–November 938,
Bajkam and the Caliph campaigned against
Hamdanid emir of Mosul, Hasan ibn Abdallah, who had
taken advantage of the turmoil in
Iraq to cease forwarding his
province's revenue to Baghdad. Although Bajkam's army captured Mosul,
Hasan fled before him to the remotest corners of his domain, where
Bajkam's forces pursued him in vain. In the meantime, the local
population resented the presence of the caliphal troops and launched
guerilla warfare against them, while Ibn Ra'iq used Bajkam's absence
to take control of
Baghdad at the head of a
Carmathian force. These
Bajkam to negotiate with his rivals: the Hamdanids
were restored in their province in exchange for the payment of the tax
arrears, and Ibn Ra'iq was bought off with the governorship of the
provinces of Tariq al-Furat, Diyar Mudar, Qinnasrin and al-'Awasim,
which were also claimed by the
Ikhshidids of Egypt. This arrangement
Bajkam and the Caliph to return to
Baghdad in February
Bajkam, having consolidated his control over Baghdad, now turned to
face the threat posed by the Buyids. To this end, he strengthened his
ties with the Baridis of Basra, by handing over Wasit, as previously
agreed, appointing Abu Abdallah al-Baridi as vizier of the Abbasid
court (although the latter remained at Wasit and did not visit
Baghdad), and, finally, by marrying himself to one of al-Baridi's
daughters. Bajkam's success against the Buyids was mixed: Wasit was
Buyid attack, and the Baridis led a successful campaign in
Susiana, but an expedition into
Jibal was crushed by the third Buyid
brother, Hasan. The alliance with the Baridis quickly soured,
however, as al-Baridi still maintained his ambition of replacing
Bajkam, and ajkam was aware of this. In late August 940, Bajkam
removed al-Baridi from the vizierate and launched an attack on Wasit,
which the Baridis abandoned without resistance. In the meantime,
Baghdad was in turmoil as religious violence had become
commonplace, with fanatical members of the
Hanbali school imposing
their tenets on the general populace.
In December 940, al-Radi died.
Bajkam remained at Wasit, but
sent his secretary to
Baghdad to convene a council of Abbasid
aristocrats, who selected al-Muttaqi (r. 940–944), al-Radi's
brother, as Caliph.
Bajkam also sent a slave named Takinak to the
deceased Caliph's palace, the Dar al-Sultan, to procure various items,
including the valuable al-Yatimah pearl. He also obtained three
female slaves from al-Radi's palace, whose singing he remembered from
his earlier visits to the Caliph.
Among al-Muttaqi's first actions as Caliph was the confirmation of
Bajkam as amir al-umara. Despite al-Muttaqi's gesture of support,
Bajkam still faced opposition among the semi-autonomous provincial
governors, including al-Baridi.
Death and ensuing anarchy
Bajkam opened a campaign against al-Baridi in early spring 941. His
lieutenants were at first defeated by the Baridis, whereupon Bajkam
himself left Wasit to take the field. On his way to join his army,
however, he was informed that his generals had achieved a major
victory over the Baridis, and decided to return to Wasit. On 21 April
941, while travelling, he took part in a hunting excursion, during
which he and his party inadvertently encountered a band of Kurdish
brigands. During a brief skirmish,
Bajkam was slain when one of the
Kurds stabbed him in the back with his lance.
Bajkam's unexpected death created a power vacuum in Baghdad, with
Daylamite and Turkish forces prompting the
former to join the defeated al-Baridi. With their assistance, he
marched on Wasit and Baghdad, capturing them, but was soon forced to
flee due to the disorder that followed his usurpation of power. A
Daylamite chief named Kurankij replaced him as de facto ruler of
Baghdad, but he imposed tyrannical rule, and al-Muttaqi appealed to
the former amir al-umara Ibn Ra'iq for assistance.
Ibn Ra'iq soon retook control of Baghdad, but political turmoil did
not cease with his re-installation as amir al-umara. Once again,
al-Baridi captured the city, and Ibn Ra'iq fled with the Caliph to
Mosul, from where the
Hamdanid rulers launched a successful attempt to
restore them. The
Hamdanid emir Hasan, after ordering the
assassination of Ibn Ra'iq, was made amir al-umara and given the laqab
Nasir al-Dawla ("Defender of the Dynasty"). In 943, the Hamdanids
were forced to retreat to
Mosul when Tuzun, one of Bajkam's officers,
seized power with military support; the following year, Tuzun
captured, blinded, and deposed al-Muttaqi, assuming the role of amir
al-umara. The Caliph's brother, al-Mustakfi (r. 944–946), was
appointed as his successor. The competition for control of the Caliph
ended in 945, when the
Buyid Ahmad took over the position of amir
al-umara with the title of Mu'izz al-Dawla. This begun the period of
Buyid control over
Baghdad and Iraq, which lasted until the
Seljuk conquest in the 1050s.
Despite his slave origin,
Bajkam was educated in Arabic (although he
reportedly did not speak it for fear of making mistakes), respected by
intellectuals and was known to seek the company of such men as al-Suli
and the physician Sinan ibn Thabit. It is in their writings that
glimpses of his character survive. According to the researcher Marius
Bajkam was "covetous of power and money, he did not hesitate
to resort to dissimulation and ruse, corruption and torture to attain
his ends; he was at times cruel, though his bravery was legendary, and
was more upright in character than Ibn Ra'iq".
Bajkam was also
solicitous for the welfare of his subjects, and especially the
inhabitants of Wasit cherished his memory.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Canard (1960), pp. 866–867
^ a b c Nagel (1990), pp. 578–586
^ Busse (1975), p. 256
^ a b Muir (1924), p. 569
^ a b Mottahedeh (2001), p. 92
^ Muir (1924), pp. 569–570
^ Muir (1924), pp. 570–571
^ a b c Qaddūmī (1996), p. 191
^ a b c d e Muir (1924), p. 572
^ Shalem (1997), p. 43
^ Muir (1924), pp. 572–580
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Muhammad ibn Ra'iq
amir al-umara of the
September 938 – 21 April 941