ABU’L-ṬAYYEB ṬĀHER B. ḤOSAYN B. MOṢʿAB B. ROZAYQ, founder of the Taherid dynasty of Khorasan; born 139/775-76 in Pūšang (Būšang), died 207/822 in Marv. Ṭāher’s great-grandfather Rozayq was mawlā of the governor of Seǰestān, Abū Moḥammad Ṭalḥa b. ʿAbdallāh Ḵozāʿī (62-64/681-82 to 683-84), and the Taherid family came then as mawālī of the Arab tribe of Ḵozāʿa to Khorasan (cf. Kaabi, “Origines,” pp. 147, 150). The grandfather Moṣʿab, who took part in the ʿAbbasid daʿwa in Khorasan, became ʿāmel of Pūšang near Herat, as did his son Ḥosayn after him. Hārūn al-Rašīd’s governor ʿAlī b. ʿĪsā b. Māhān (180-91/796-806) caused trouble in the province when he attacked the Khorasanian nobles, among whom were the Taherids. While Ḥosayn withdrew from these persecutions by making the pilgrimage to Mecca in 190/806, Ṭāher was taken and ill treated (Šaboštī, Ketāb al-dīārāt, Baghdad, 1951, p. 92). It seems that afterwards he sided with Rāfeʿ b. Layṯ, who had been in revolt for some years near Samarqand (according to Ebn Ḥazm, Naqṭ al-ʿarūs, Cairo, 1951, p. 76); he changed fronts after the caliph deposed ʿAlī and sent general Harṯama b. Aʿyan against the rebellious Kharijites (cf. Kaabi, “Origines,” pp. 160-64 with sources).
During the civil war, Ṭāher was in command of Maʾmūn’s forces and achieved an important victory near Ray in Šaʿbān, 195/May, 811 over Amīn’s army, which was led by his personal enemy, ʿAlī b. ʿĪsā. Ṭāher, because of his habit of wielding his sword with two hands, was called Ḏu’l-yamīnayn, “ambidextrous” (later his honorary title; cf. Ebn Ṭayfūr, Ketāb Baḡdād, Cairo, 1949, p. 20; Ṭabarī, III, pp. 802, 829f.). He conquered in rapid succession Qazvīn, Ḥolwān, Ḵāneqīn, and Ahvāz and besieged Baghdad with Harṯama b. Aʿyan in 197-98/812-13. At last Amīn was promised safe conduct by Harṯama if he voluntarily abdicated, but Ṭāher disregarded this promise and had him murdered. Accompanied by a letter of apology, Amīn’s head was sent to Maʾmūn in Khorasan. (Cf. Ṭabarī, III, pp. 796-832, 840-51, 855-57, 867-932; Yaʿqūbī, II, pp. 530-32, 535f; Ebn al-Aṯīr, VI, pp. 165-71, 174-78, 181f., 186f., 194-208; al-ʿOyūn wa’l-ḥadāʾeq fi’l-aḵbār wa’l-ḥaqāʾeq I, Leiden, 1869, pp. 323-44; Jahšīārī, Ketāb al-wozarāʾ, Cairo, 1938, p. 304; Ebn Ḵallekān [Beirut] II, pp. 517-20.) As a reward, Ṭāher received in 199/814-15 the provinces of Jazīra, Šām, and the Maḡreb, the city police (šorṭa) of Baghdad, and the police surveillance (maʿāwen) of the Sawād, and in 205/821, after Maʾmūn had passed over to Baghdad in 203/918, dominion over the countries east of ʿErāq. (Cf. Ebn Ṭayfūr, pp. 20, 24, 35; Ṭabarī, III, pp. 975, 1039; Yaʿqūbī, II, pp. 542, 554; Ebn al-Aṯīr, VI, pp. 208f., 255f.; ʿOyūn I, pp. 344, 361, 362; Ebn Ḵallekān [Beirut] II, p. 520.) The governorship of Khorasan was the crowning of Taherid efforts, which had always been linked to ʿAbbasid policy. This arrangement also suited the caliph, who had spent enough time in Khorasan to recognize that Iran could not be ruled directly from Baghdad. The settlement thus reached left the caliph his sovereignty and Ṭāher his longed-for freedom.
Ṭāher’s attempt to obtain complete independence failed. In Jomādā I, 207/September-October, 822 he omitted the caliph’s name in the Friday sermon (ḵoṭba) at Marv—an act equivalent to open revolt. The event cannot be reconstructed exactly, since even the contemporary sources do not know the details. (Cf. Sourdel, “Circonstances,” passim; Ebn Ṭayfūr, pp. 22-24, 67, 73-76; Ṭabarī, III, pp. 1063-66; Yaʿqūbī, II, pp. 554-57; Ebn al-Aṯīr, VI, p. 270f; Gardīzī, ed. Nazim, p. 5; ʿOyūn I, pp. 364f.; Šaboštī, pp. 94f; Aḡānī XIV, p. 37; Ebn Ṭeqṭaqā, Ketāb al-faḵrī, Paris, 1895, pp. 309f.; Ḥamza, p. 276; Ebn Ḵallekān [Beirut], II, pp. 521f.) It has been assumed as certain that Maʾmūn’s vizier, Aḥmad b. Abī Ḵāled (q.v.) (who supported Ṭāher’s appointment some years previously), had him poisoned in Jomādā II, 207. But Kaabi (Ṭāherides, pp. 193-218, 246-48) has presented good reasons to prove that there was no revolt and that Ṭāher died a natural death. Indeed, his son Ṭalḥa was a short time later appointed by the caliph and began the rule of the Taherids over Khorasan (until 259/873).
Ṭāher’s mother tongue was Persian (cf. Bosworth, “Tahirids,” p. 48), but he was also versed in Arabic. In 206/821-22 he wrote a letter to his son ʿAbdallāh, who had been appointed governor of Dīār Rabīʿa. Even Ṭāher’s contemporaries appreciated this composition, both for its political contents and its classical Arabic style (see Bosworth, “Mirror for Princes”).
W. Barthold, “Ṭāhir b. al-Ḥusain,” EI, German ed., Leiden and Leipzig, 1934, IV, pp. 660f.
C. E. Bosworth, “Tahirids and Arabic Culture,” Journal of Semitic Studies 14, 1969, pp. 45-79.
Idem, “An Early Mirror for Princes: Ṭāhir Dhū’l-Yamīnain’s Epistle to his Son ʿAbdallāh (206/821),” JNES 29, 1970, pp. 25-41.
F. Isĭltan, art. “Tâhir b. Hüseyin,” İA XI, pp. 631-35.
M. Kaabi, Les Ṭāhirides (IIIe/IXe siècle). Leur activité littéraire et les poètes de leur entourage, Paris, 1970 (thèse dactylographiée).
Idem, “Les origines ṭāhirides dans la daʿwa ʿabbāside,” Arabica 19, 1972, pp. 145-64.
S. Nafīsī, Tārīḵ-e ḵānadān-e Ṭāherī, Tehran, 1956, pp. 38-192.
D. Sourdel, “Les circonstances de la mort de Ṭāhir Ier au Ḫurāsān en 207/822,” Arabica 5, 1958, pp. 66-69.
Spuler, Iran, pp. 56-61.
Camb. Hist. Iran IV, pp. 91-92, 94-95.
Originally Published: December 15, 1983
Last Updated: July 21, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 4, pp. 390-391
M. Forstner, “ABU’L-ṬAYYEB ṬĀHER,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/ABU’L-TAYYEB TAHER; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abul-ayyeb-tiher-b (accessed on 2 February 2014).