ʿABDALLĀH B. ḴĀZEM B. ẒABYĀN B. AL-ṢALT AL-SOLAMĪ, ABŪ ṢĀLEḤ, Arab military leader, governor of Khorasan, partisan of ʿAbdallāh b. al-Zobayr, d. 72/691-92. His adventurous life illustrates the possibilities open during the Arab conquests to men with the requisite qualities, irrespective of birth. Ebn Ḵāzem was apparently the son of a black mother whose name is variously given: ʿAǰla (Ebn Qotayba, Ketāb al-maʿāref, ed. F. Wüstenfeld, Göttingen, 1850, p. 418) or Asmāʾ (Balāḏorī, Fotūḥ, p. 418; Ḏahabī, Taʾrīḵ al-eslām wa ṭabaqāt al-mašāhīr wa’l-aʿlām, Cairo, 1367-69/1947-48, III, p. 167). On his father’s side, he may have been connected with one of the leading families of Banū Solaym, a tribe of the Możar; he accompanied his cousin Qays b. al-Hayṯam al-Solamī (called Qays b. Hobayra by an oversight in the Leiden text of Ṭabarī, I, p. 2831) when the latter went as commander of the Nīšāpūr zone of Khorasan in 29/649-50. He was probably a young man of about eighteen or nineteen, since we are expressly told that he was not a Companion of Moḥammad (Ḏahabī, Taʾrīḵ III, p. 167). The capture of Saraḵs, perhaps his greatest exploit (mentioned by nearly all the authorities), took place in 31/651-52. The next year in the neighborhood of Herat, he met and defeated a confederacy under the Persian Qāren.
Ebn Ḵāzem apparently received the governorship of Khorasan after the victory over Qāren (Ṭabarī, I, p. 2906). Ṭabarī, in placing this appointment in 35/656 (after ʿOṯmān’s death), has confused it with Ebn Ḵāzem’s second appointment in 43/663-64. The first appointment actually followed the departure from Khorasan of ʿOmar b. al-Hayṯam, when Ebn Ḵāzem was left as his successor (Ṭabarī, I, p. 2832).
During the troubles of ʿAlī’s caliphate, Ebn Ḵāzem returned to Baṣra , where his family had a house. In 38/658-59, he joined Moʿāvīa’s representative, Ebn al-Ḥażramī in escorting Zīād b. Abīh to Moʿāvīa. At this point Ebn Ḵāzem’s support of Omayyad authority became clear, and his second governorship of Khorasan began in 43/663-64. In the same year he made a short speech before Moʿāvīa in defense against accusations of having usurped the governorship. Although he disclaimed any oratorical skill, he displayed notable talent and easily won his case (Ṭabarī, II, p. 66). He returned to Khorasan and remained as governor until 45/665.
The crisis which rapidly developed after the death of the caliph Yazīd I in the year 64/683 afforded Ebn Ḵāzem the opportunity of again becoming governor of Khorasan, but at the same time led indirectly to his downfall. In the general support for ʿAbdallāh b. al-Zobayr, Khorasan passed temporarily to his camp. The province was in the hands of Salm b. Zīād, a nominee of Yazīd I, who, however, withdrew and was easily persuaded to appoint Ebn Ḵāzem as his successor (64/684). When Ebn Ḵāzem reached Marv, the provincial capital, Khorasan was already in revolt, and he could establish himself only by force. In the next years he had to face almost continuous fighting against the Rabīʿa and later the Tamīm, as well as against the Hephthalites. In all these battles, says Yaʿqūbī (II, p. 301), he did wonders and was repeatedly successful.
While the rest of the Islamic world gradually came to terms with ʿAbd-al-Malek, Ebn Ḵāzem continued to support ʿAbdallāh’s brother, Mosʿab b. al-Zobayr, who was then fighting in Iraq (Taʾrīḵ al-ḵolafāʾ, ed. P. Gryaznevich, Moscow, 1967, p. 121a). In 72/691-92 after the death of Mosʿab, ʿAbd-al-Malek sent an envoy to Ebn Ḵāzem and offered him Khorasan for seven years in return for his acknowledgment of him as caliph. Ebn Ḵāzem indignantly refused the offer. ʿAbd-al-Malek then wrote to one of Ebn Ḵāzem’s officers and appointed him to the governorship. This was too much for Ebn Ḵāzem’s loyalty, and he abandoned his allegiance to the Omayyads. The people of Marv followed him; but before long, Ebn Ḵāzem was overtaken and killed.
Ebn Ḵāzem was typical of military leaders in the early days of Islam. His courage was well-known (“the bravest of the people,” says Ebn Qotayba, Maʿāref, p. 214). It was displayed in such incidents as his fight with an elephant at the siege of Kabul (Balāḏorī, Fotūḥ, p. 396) and his duel with a chief of the Tamīm during one of his last campaigns (Ṭabarī, II, p. 586). He had no great political importance at any time; his own description of himself at the time of his death as a “chief (kabš) of the Możar” (Ṭabarī, II, p. 883) well sums up his career.
See the indices of Ṭabarī; Ebn al-Aṯīr; Yaʿqūbī; Baḷʿamī, Chronique; Balāḏorī, Fotūḥ, tr. F. C. Murgotten, The Origins of Islamic State II, New York, 1924; M. A. Shaban, The ʿAbbāsid Revolution, Cambridge, 1970.
See also Dīnavarī, Aḵbār al-ṭewāl, p. 149.
Ḏahabī, Ketāb al-ʿebar, Kuwait, 1960, p. 34.
Idem, Ketāb al-dowal al-eslāmīya, Hyderabad, 1364/1945, I, p. 11.
J. Wellhausen, Das arabische Reich und sein Sturz, Berlin, 1902, pp. 258-62.
H. A. R. Gibb in EI2 I, pp. 47-48.
(D. M. Dunlop)
Originally Published: December 15, 1982
Last Updated: July 15, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 2, pp. 181-182
D. M. Dunlop, “Abdallah B. Kazem,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/2, pp. 181-182; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abdallah-b-kazem-arab-military-leader-governor-of-khorasan-d-691-92 (accessed on 17 January 2014).