al-Wathiq

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al-Wathiq
الواثق
9th Caliph of the Abbasid Caliphate
Abbasid Caliph in Samarra
Reign 842–847
Predecessor al-Mutasim
Successor al-Mutawakkil
Full name
Al-Wathiq ibn Mutasim
Dynasty Abbasid
Father al-Mutasim
Mother Qaratis
Died 10 August 847
Religion Islam

Abu Jaffar Harun Al-Wathiq ibn Mutasim (Arabic (816 – 10 August 847), (الواثق) was an Abbasid caliph who reigned from 842 until 847 AD (227–232 AH in the Islamic calendar).

Biography[edit]

He succeeded his father, al-Mutasim, being hailed caliph on the day his father died, December 26, 841. Al-Wathiq was the son of the Byzantine Greek concubine Qaratis. She accompanied al-Wathiq's brother Jafar ibn al-Mu'tasim (the future caliph al-Mutawakkil) on the pilgrimage in A.H. 227. However, she died on the way on August 16, 842. She was buried in Kufa.

In A.H. 229 (843–844) al-Wathiq, remembering Harun al-Rashid's handling of the powerful Barmakids, arrested some of his prominent officials. These were tortured to encourage them to surrender funds they allegedly misappropriated.

In A.H. 230 (844–845) al-Wathiq sent one of his Turkish generals, Bugha al-Kabir (the Elder), to handle lawlessness in Arabia. A rampant tribe had defeated and killed the forces of Hammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari. Bugha al-Kabir promptly brought order there arresting a good number of miscreants. The next year, when Bugha was quelling disturbances elsewhere in Arabia, these prisoners attempted to escape. They were prevented and killed.

In A.H. 231 al-Wathiq secured an exchange of captives with the Byzantines. Al-Tabari records that 4,362 Muslims were reported freed in this exchange. This was the first time there was such a prisoner exchange since A.H. 194 (809–810) or 195 (810–811) in al-Amin's reign.

That same year there was a planned rebellion in Baghdad centred on Ahmad ibn Nasr ibn Malik. The uprising was scheduled for the night of April 4, 846. However, those who were supposed to sound the signal to rise did so a day early. There was no response. Authorities intervened. Ahmad ibn Nasr was arrested and brought before al-Wathiq. The caliph interrogated him, though more on approved religious belief than on scheming rebellion). Al-Wathiq, using a famous sword, personally joined in the execution.

The same year there was a break in at the palace treasury in Samarra. Thieves made off with 42,000 dirhams and a small amount of dinars. Security chief Yazid al-Huwani was tireless in his pursuit of them. They were caught.

In A.H. 232 (846–847) al-Wathiq sent Bugha al-Kabir to stop the depredations of the Banu Numayr. In al-Yamamah on February 4, 847 he fought a major engagement against them. At first he was hard pressed. Then some troops he had out raiding returned, fell upon the forces attacking Bugha and completely routed them.

Al-Wathiq showed an interest in learning similar to that of his father; thus he was a great patron of scholars, as well as artists. He was renowned for his own musical talents, and is reputed to have composed over one-hundred songs.

During his reign, a number of revolts broke out, the largest ones in Syria and Palestine. These revolts were the result of an increasingly large gap between Arab populations and the Turkish armies that had been formed by Wathiq's father, al-Mutasim. The revolts were put down, but antagonism between the two groups continued to widen, with the Turkish forces gaining power.

Al-Wathiq died on August 10, 847 of high fever. He was succeeded by his brother, al-Mutawakkil.

Assessment[edit]

Al-Tabari records that al-Wathiq was of medium height, handsome and well-built. He was fair with a ruddy complexion. His left eye was paralyzed.

A heavily fictionalized version of Al-Wathiq appears in William Thomas Beckford's classic 18th-century gothic fantasy novel Vathek.

Sources[edit]

Al-Wathiq
Born:  ? Died: 847
Sunni Islam titles
Preceded by
Al-Mu'tasim
Caliph of Islam
842–847
Succeeded by
Al-Mutawakkil