EBN AL-ʿAMĪD, cognomen of two famous viziers of the 4th/10th century: Abu’l-Fażl and his son Abu’l-Fatḥ. The father of the first was called Ḥoseyn. Tawḥīdī claims that this Ḥoseyn was of humble origin, a naḵḵāl (wheat-sifter) in the grain market of Qom (Aḵlāq al-wazīrayn, p. 82). This, however, is probably not true. After occupying major administrative posts, Ḥosayn was appointed chief of the chancery (dīwān al-rasāʾel) at the court of the Sāmānid amir Nūḥ b. Naṣr in Khorasan and was given two honorific titles: “ʿAmīd” (chief; doyen) and “Shaikh.”

Not much is known about Ḥosayn’s son, Abu’l-Fażl before he became the vizier of Rokn-al-Dawla, the Buyid sultan who ruled a district which included Ray, Hamadān, and Isfahan; but the fact that he occupied such a post indicates that he took the same line as his father. His early education combined Arabic poetry and Greek sciences and philosophy. His fame as a vizier spread far and wide, and many poets and men of letters were attracted to his court. The poet Motanabbī in one of his panegyrics speaks of him as one who had met Aristotle, Alexander, and Ptolemy. Meskawayh and Tawḥīdī both confirm his interest in philosophy, but the latter adds that Abu’l-Fażl did not hesitate to kill his adversaries—a trait not quite befitting a philosopher. During his vizirate, Abu’l-Fażl won several honorific titles: “Raʾīs,” “Ostād,” “the second Jāḥeẓ,” etc.

Apart from a collection of epistles and some poetry, Abu’l-Fażl left no books. Tawḥīdī copied some wise sayings and proverbs from a book by him entitled al-Ḵalq wa’ l-ḵolq, but this book remained in draft form (Aḵlāq al-wazīrayn, p. 328; al-Baṣāʾer VI, p. 165). In his style, he was not as fond of sajʿ (rhymed prose) as his contemporary Ṣāḥeb b. ʿAbbād was. He admired Jāḥeẓ’s style a great deal, but could not emulate it well. This was due, according to Tawḥīdī, to the fact that Abu’l-Fażl lacked several of the natural and circumstantial qualities which Jāḥeẓ possessed (Emtāʿ, I, p. 66).

When Abu’l-Fażl died in 360/971, he was succeeded in the vizirate by his son of twenty-two years, Abu’l-Fatḥ, who served two Buyid sultans: Rokn-al-Dawla and his son Moʾayyad-al-Dawla. Abu’l-Fatḥ was a good prose writer, in the manner of the secretaries of the dīvān, and was highly respected by the military. For this reason, he was given the title “Ḏu’l-kefāyatayn,” that is, master of both the pen and the sword. Six years into his vizirate, in 366/977, he was killed after having fallen out of favor with the powerful Buyid sultan ʿAżod-al-Dawla; he had also indulged excessively in pleasures, to the point of being oblivious to the intrigues being concocted around him. According to Ṣābī, however, his violent end was due to two factors: a) Rokn-al-Dawla’s lenient treatment of him, and b) the fact that he had inherited rather than earned the vizirate (Ṯaʿālebī, Yatīma II, p. 217).


Bibliography: (For cited works not given in detail, see “Short References.”)

Abū Hayyān Tawḥīdī, Aḵlāq al-wazīrayn, ed. M. b. Tāwīt al-Ṭanjī, Damascus, 1965.

Idem, al-Emtāʾ wa’l-moʾānasa, 3 vols., ed. A. Amīn and A. Zayn, Cairo, 1939-44.

Idem, al-Baṣāʾer wa’l-ḏaḵāʾer 10 vols., ed. W. Qāḍī, Beirut, 1988.

Meskawayh, Tajāreb al-omam, 3 vols., Cairo, 1914.

Ṯaʿālebī, Yātima, 4 vols., ed. M. M. ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd. Ebn Ḵallekān, Wafayāt al-aʿyān, 8 vols., ed. E. ʿAbbās, Beirut, 1968-72.

Yāqūt-al-Ḥamawī, Moʿjam al-odabāʾ, 7 vols., ed. E. ʿAbbās, Beirut, 1993.

(Ihsan Abbas)

Originally Published: December 15, 1996

Last Updated: December 2, 2011

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