The Role of the Shi’a in the Fall of the Abbasids

By Shaykh Rasul Jafariyan | Translated by Sayyid Ali Imran | Edited & annotated by Sayyid Burair Abbas

The doubt that will be discussed in this paper is the influence and role of the Shi’a in the fall of the Abbasid Caliphate and their collaboration with the Mongols. Previously, three topics were discussed: firstly, the Mongols themselves were in pursuit of expanding their conquests and did not need any provocation; secondly, according to reliable historical documents, Khawaja Nasīr al-Dīn al-Tūsi did not play a role in inciting the Khan of the Mongols to kill the Abbasid caliph and overthrow the Abbasid caliphate; and thirdly, his presence in the Mongol court was very effective in preserving religious artifacts and Muslim scholars. In this specific paper1, we will mention two other topics in this regard: one is the role of Ibn al-‘Alqami, the Shi’i minister of the last Abbasid caliph, in the fall of the Abbasids, and the other is the role of the Abbasid caliphs themselves in drawing the Mongols to Islamic lands, which led to their downfall.

The Role of Ibn al-Alqami in the Siege of Baghdad

Regarding the role of the minister of the last Abbasid caliph, Mu’ayyid al-Dīn ibn al-‘Alqami, who was an Imāmi Shi’a, much has been said, far more than what has been said about Khawaja Nasīr al-Dīn in terms of his impact on the events in Baghdad. Even some of those who have exonerated Khawaja Nasīr – without investigation – have accepted the role of Ibn al-‘Alqami.2

Regarding the role of Ibn al-‘Alqami, a greater number of historians have commented, and most of them, copying from each other, have presented the same information about Ibn al-‘Alqami, although some of them have exaggerated their lies and resorted to storytelling to magnify the role of Ibn al-‘Alqami.

Ibn al-‘Alqami is one of the ministers who, even by those who have accused him of instigating Hulagu to conquer Baghdad, has been praised, and in this respect, he is one of the rare ministers who appeared in the Abbasid era.

Ghassāni, who is among those who have attributed this accusation to the minister, says about him:

He was a person of good character, dignified, and possessed a noble spirit, who detested oppression and was knowledgeable in managing the kingdom. He never had a hand in the destruction of a house or the seizure of property.3

He was appointed as minister at a time when the Islamic world was going through many troubles, the most significant of which were the Mongol invasions. For instance, in the early years of his ministry (643), the Mongols attacked the regions of Iraq and the outskirts of Baghdad, and the minister, according to Ibn Abi al-Hadīd, staunchly resisted them and repelled their attacks with great strategy.4

The intention here is not to detail the biography of Ibn al-‘Alqami, but as detailed in his biography, he was a learned man, a lover of literature, and dignified, who skillfully carried out his duties.5 What most of these historians have mentioned is that the minister corresponded with Hulagu Khan and incited him to conquer Baghdad.

Those who have attributed this accusation to Ibn al-‘Alqami include:

Ghassāni6; Minhāj al-Sirāj7; Ibn Kathīr8; Ibn Khaldun10; Dhahabi11; Ibn al-Wardi12; Ibn Shākir13; al-Yāfi’ī14; Diyār Bakri15; Abul Fidā16 and others who have mostly repeated the same point.

Regarding why this rumor of inciting Hulagu by the minister emerged, we must point out several factors:

One is that the minister of Al-Musta’ṣim was a Shi’i and Rafiḍi, naturally inclined to replace the Abbasid caliph with an ‘Alawi.17 Although he was a Shi’a, no convincing evidence has been mentioned that the minister intended such a plan during his ministry. His merely being Shi’a is not a sufficient basis for this accusation, especially since Sultan Muhammad Khwarezmshah, who intended to attack Baghdad, justified his attack with the same point (replacing an Abbasid with an Alawi).18

Another very important context that has strengthened this accusation against the minister is that a year before the Mongol attack, a tragedy occurred in Baghdad as part of the ongoing Shia-Sunni conflicts. In this incident, following a clash between these two groups that resulted in a murder, the eldest son of the caliph and also the commander of the Abbasid military forces, Mujahid al-Din Dāwatdar, attacked the Karkh district, which was a Shia residential area, and committed heinous crimes.

According to the author of al-‘Asjad al-Masbuk, “They attacked and killed a number of people, looted their neighborhoods, and committed great atrocities against the Shi’a”.19 Many of these historians mention the impact of this crime on the psyche of Ibn al-Alqami and consider his correspondence with Hulagu as a result of these atrocities committed by the Abbasids.20

Ibn al-Wardi, referring to the fact that “Abu Bakr – the eldest son of the caliph who took the name Abu Bakr because of such injustice in the Karkh district – looted the Shi’a neighborhood of Karkh, committed indecencies against women, raises the issue of Ibn al-Alqami’s reactionary stance”21. Although this is something that Ibn al-‘Alqami should not have overlooked, especially since he also expressed a lot of sympathy with the Shi’a.

However, this alone cannot prove that Ibn al-‘Alqami, who was a wise and astute person, would have committed such an act in inciting Hulagu.

Carrying out an act like the attack on the Karkh district, which was a crime against at least half of the population of Baghdad, seemed very foolish at a time when there was a serious threat. The caliph should have been thinking about creating unity between Sunnis and Shi’a, not becoming a tool in the hands of two Sunni extremists in such a way that it would also lead to the downfall of the caliphate.

Another factor that laid the groundwork for this accusation is that the minister, after obtaining information about the situation of the Mongols – especially after hearing about the fall of Alamut, which had resisted its opponents for one hundred and seventy years – was certain that no military action could be taken against the Mongols. Therefore, he continuously suggested to the caliph to propose peace as soon as possible so that, at least, the Mongols, like the Seljuks and the Buwayhids, while taking power, would leave the name of the caliph and the caliphate intact. This suggestion has been mentioned by most historians.22

In fact, with the assumption of such a proposal, which could potentially have been the saviour of the caliph and the caliphate, the minister should not be accused of compromising with Hulagu.

The intelligent minister’s prediction turned out to be correct, and the caliph, who did not heed his advice, ultimately destroyed both himself and the caliphate. He surrendered when the Mongols, angered by his insistence, and Hulagu could not forgive him.

Another factor that contributed to the substantiation of this accusation was that the minister survived and continued his ministerial duties for Hulagu, even though the ministry had no real significance for him.


Regarding this matter, it should be said: Firstly, it is clear that the minister was not inclined towards war, as he deemed it fruitless, and this itself could have been an advantage for him with the Mongols.


Secondly, regarding his survival, one must consider the possibility of intercession on his behalf by Khawaja Nasīr, as Khawaja shared his beliefs.


Thirdly, Ibn al-‘Alqami was not the only one who escaped the Mongol’s blade; many political and religious figures of Baghdad survived, including Mubarak, the son of the caliph, Jalāl al-Dīn, the son of a Dāwatdar, the military commander of the Abbasid forces, Nizām al-Dīn Abdul Mun’im, who was the chief judge of Baghdad and was reinstated in the same position after the conquest of Baghdad, Amir Ali Bahadur, who held the position of a senior police of Baghdad and remained in the same position, Fakhr al-Dīn Damghani, the head of the Diwan who continued in the same role after the conquest of Baghdad, Najm al-Dīn Abdul Ghāni Dar al-Nus, who were close to the caliph and all survived, as did Taj al-Dīn Ali ibn al-Dawami, who reached the position of chamberlain after the conquest of Baghdad and also survived.23

The cases mentioned were the contexts that occupied the minds of historians and led them to such an accusation, while some others did not succumb to it and did not accept the accusation. Of course, there are other contexts, including the bias of Sunni historians, and naturally, a researcher in such judgments, which could strongly be based solely on religious prejudice, should view with skepticism.

In addition, the surrender of the people of the city of Hilla, which was the main base of the Shi’a community – and of course, was a result of their wise action, just as many other cities like Basra did the same – along with the presence of Khawaja Nasīr alongside Hulagu, and more importantly, the fact that Shi’ism strengthened in Islamic regions after the Mongols’ arrival, all these factors led later historians to comfortably repeat this accusation.

The Root of the Accusation

As some realistic historians have pointed out, in Baghdad, apart from the caliph, there were two other influential groups:


One group were the Dāwatdar, the military commander of the Abbasids, whose most important supporter was Abu Bakr, the eldest son of the caliph. Dāwatdar were extremely biased towards Sunnism.24 On this basis, they collaborated with Abu Bakr in looting the Karkh district.

Opposite Dāwatdar and Abu Bakr the son of the caliph, there was Ibn al-‘Alqami, the minister, who was considered a Shi’a.25

These two groups naturally clashed over political issues, and their religious differences further exacerbated their conflicts. During the Mongol invasions, in response to the minister’s proposal, which advocated for surrender and seeking concessions, they pressured the caliph to reject this proposal, which he eventually did. Their temporary attack on the Mongols and their subsequent severe defeat forced everyone, including these two, to go to Hulagu Khan and eventually be killed because of their insistence.

Before this incident, as Rashīd al-Dīn reports, Dāwatdar sought to depose the caliph, who was not complying with his demands and had retained the minister, and to install his son Abu Bakr in his place. The revelation of this matter by the minister made their task difficult and intensified the conflicts. Eventually, dawatdar, to compensate for this issue, told the caliph that the minister had corresponded with the Mongols. This “rumor,” as you will see and as the caliph also called baseless, led later historians, who were biased, to present it as a “fact,” and naturally, as mentioned earlier, many contexts were raised for it.

Rashīd al-Dīn Hamadāni, who himself was one of the important historians of the Mongol period and had no motive to deny this accusation against Ibn al-‘Alqami, explicitly confirms the rumor-like nature of such an attribution. Referring to the flood that came in the year 654, he speaks of ruffians who extended their hands to the lives and properties of people and Mujahid al-Din Aybak [Dāwatdar], the military commander of the Abbasids, invited them to his side.

He wanted to remove the Abbasid caliph with this action and replace him with his son, but the minister informed the caliph. The caliph summoned Aybak Dāwatdar, threatened and reprimanded him. The dawatdar, feeling that the Caliph was not too harsh on him, accused the minister of having relations with the Mongols and said that he only wanted to slander me to deflect the accusation from himself. Dāwatdar claimed that “…he is against the caliph and there is continuous coming and going of spies between him and Hulagu Khan.”26

Rashīd al-Dīn continues, referring to dawatdar stirring up the ruffians and creating a commotion, writing: “The caliph sent Fakhr al-Dīn Damghani to ‘quell that commotion and wrote with his own hand that what they said about Dāwatdar is slander and calumny, and we have complete trust in them,’ and sent it by the hand of Ibn Darnush to Dāwatdar, who appeared before the caliph and, being appeased, returned with honor and respect.”27

This shows that dawatdar himself was afraid and thus, even though the caliph initially overlooked his actions, he stirred up this commotion to force the caliph to publicly show his trust in him. This power-hungry attitude reached a point where the caliph, out of fear, ordered that dawatdar’s name be mentioned in the sermon after the caliph’s name, possibly to appease him and prevent him from deposing the caliphate through a coup.

It seems that Dāwatdar’s behavior clearly shows that his sense of danger on one hand and his power-hungry nature on the other led him to use Sunnism as an excuse to bring Abu Bakr, the son of the caliph, to power, thereby increasing his own power. In this process, he raised this accusation against Ibn al-‘Alqami, even though the caliph had the least suspicion of the minister.

Rashīd al-Dīn writes elsewhere: “In that period, since dawatdar was on bad terms with the minister and the city’s ruffians and rabble, following him, spread rumors that the minister was one with Hulagu Khan and wanted his victory and the caliph’s downfall, and that was the suspicion.”28

Rashīd al-Dīn, while speaking about a message that Hulagu sent to the caliph declaring war, refers to the caliph’s consultation with the minister about what should be done. The minister suggests that they appease Hulagu by sending treasures and minting coins in his name to satisfy him. Initially, the caliph accepts his proposal, but Dāwatdar dissuades him, claiming this act as evidence of Ibn al-‘Alqami’s espionage. He says: Ibn al-‘Alqami wants to be respected by Hulagu Khan. Dāwatdar also threatened the caliph that if he sent the treasures, he would send soldiers to seize them.29

After that, a group, including Sulaiman Shah, advocated for a strong military attack. He discussed this with the minister, saying that if provided with the necessary resources, he could gather enough forces. The minister agreed to propose this to the caliph, although he knew – in Rashīd al-Din’s words – that “the caliph would not give gold.” Eventually, the Caliph did not give, and the matter was left unresolved…30

Therefore, according to Rashīd al-Dīn, the accusation of espionage against Ibn al-Alqami was merely a rumor spread by Dāwatdar. Rashīd al-Din’s writings are very detailed and noteworthy, while other historians mostly repeated the core accusation, generally expressing a single theme – their accounts are not comparable in historical consistency to those of Rashīd al-Dīn, who was a meticulous and learned historian.

Ibn al-Ṭiqṭaqa (d. 709), due to his association with the Mongol regime through his father, who was an employee of the Mongols, can be considered a reliable historian. He has interesting things to say about the accusations against Ibn al-‘Alqami and the rumors about him, noting the chaotic situation in Baghdad and the caliph’s inability to understand the realities. He writes:

However, his minister Mu’ayyid al-Din Ibn al-‘Alqami had realized the truth of the situation and was always advising him to be cautious and alert, and to pay attention to vigilance and preparedness. But the negligence of Musta’ṣim was increasing every moment, and his entourage made it seem like there was no problem and no significant danger threatening him, and that the minister was exaggerating the matter to heat up his market and to divert a stream of wealth towards himself and benefit from it.31

It is important to note that this account indicates that Ibn al-‘Alqami initially encouraged the caliph to launch a military campaign.


Elsewhere, he writes: “People attribute betrayal and deceit to Ibn al-‘Alqami, and this is not true. The greatest proof of Ibn al-‘Alqami’s integrity was his survival in this regime because when Sultan Hulagu conquered Baghdad and killed the caliph, he entrusted the city of Baghdad to Ibn al-‘Alqami, the minister, treated him well, and established his position. If Ibn al-‘Alqami had betrayed the caliph, he would never have been trusted by the Sultan.”32

This argument by Ibn al-Ṭiqṭaqa is entirely correct, as it was generally the custom of past kings, including the Mongol Khans, not to employ traitors. Someone who betrays his master will betray the new master again. However, his honesty impressed the Mongol Khan, who kept him in his position like many others.

From a documented account that Ibn al-Ṭiqṭaqa later narrates – from the nephew of Mu’ayyid al-Din Ibn al-‘Alqami – it appears that the minister showed his loyalty to the caliph until the last moment. When the caliph ordered him to go to Hulagu, he went, expressing “hearing and obedience.”

Regarding why Ibn al-‘Alqami found favor with Hulagu, Ibn al-Ṭiqṭaqa writes: “When he appeared before the Sultan and the Sultan heard his words, his speech impressed him and was well received. On the other hand, the minister Sa’īd Khawaja Nasīr al-Dīn Tūsi, may God sanctify his soul, also introduced Ibn al-‘Alqami to the Sultan as he deserved.”33 However, Ibn al-‘Alqami did not live long and, according to Ibn al-Ṭiqṭaqa, died a few months later in Jumada al-Awwal of the year 656.34 Biased historians who have fabricated many lies about Ibn al-‘Alqami have also claimed here that he was killed by Hulagu’s order35 and some have said he died of grief and sorrow36 although neither of these is true.

To support the points made by Rashīd al-Dīn and Ibn al-Ṭiqṭaqa, it is worth quoting from Minhāj al-Sirāj. He, with more bias than others, has implicated Ibn al-‘Alqami in other crimes and also brought up interesting points about the caliph’s trust in the minister. He mentions the revelation of Dāwatdar’s plot against the caliph by the minister, which Rashīd al-Dīn had mentioned, only after the minister was accused of having relations with the Hulagu Khan.

This “reversal” is due to a distortion so that no one would think that the minister sought revenge and, after being accused of relations with the Mongols, wanted to accuse Dāwatdar!

He accuses Ibn al-‘Alqami of secretly dealing with Hulagu. He mentions the minister’s correspondence with the Hulagu Khan and says Dāwatdar sent one of these letters to the caliph. However, the caliph, due to the conflict between the minister and Dāwatdar, did not accept the letter. When the minister learned of Dāwatdar’s action, he falsely claimed to the Caliph that Dāwatdar wanted to remove the Caliph and install his son Abu Bakr in his place.37

What is important in his words is that they even forged letters and showed them to the caliph, claiming the minister wrote them to the Mongols, but the caliph did not accept them and considered it a conflict between the two factions.

After this, Minhāj al-Sirāj emphasizes that the caliph, knowing the animosity between the two, did not pay attention to either of them speaking against the other. Even the caliph’s courtiers brought the minister’s letters to the caliph, but he considered them Dāwatdar’s work. Disappointed by the caliph’s reaction, they went to Dāwatdar, who said he had spoken to the caliph as much as possible, but the caliph did not listen to Dāwatdar. These courtiers then returned to the Caliph and asked for a solution to the Mongol problem, but he sent them to the minister.38

These are interesting facts that show the caliph also viewed the accusation of “the minister’s relations with the Mongols” as a fabrication by Dāwatdar. The importance of this matter is such that if the caliph had even the slightest doubt about the minister at that moment, he would have taken a stance against him, but on the contrary, he had no doubt.

In light of the baselessness of the main accusation, other accusations attributed to the minister cannot be accepted, such as the claim that after going to the Mongols and returning to the caliph, he deceived the caliph by saying that Hulagu wanted to give his daughter to the caliph’s son Abu Bakr and, like the Seljuks, only rule while leaving the caliphate intact.39 They wrote that he gathered all the jurists under the pretext of the marriage contract, and the Mongols killed them.40

These false accusations have spread so much that some biased individuals have attributed to Ibn al-‘Alqami a report that correctly pertains to Nasīr al-Dīn Allah – which we will mention later – who messaged the Mongols to come to Iran and pressure the Khwarezmians. This report relates to at least thirty-five years before the conquest of Baghdad.

They also accuse him of ordering the release of water behind the Baghdad army attacking Hulagu’s forces, causing many to drown41 and that he ordered the soldiers to disperse before that.42. However, this story is entirely false, and the military affairs of Baghdad had nothing to do with the minister. It was Mujāhid al-Dīn Dāwatdar who was responsible for the military affairs of the Abbasids and commanded the troops.

Atābakī (d. 874), an Egyptian who wrote about the Baghdad incident based on biased sources, also presents a collection of incorrect information. He not only completely associates Ibn al-‘Alqami with the Mongols but also writes that he sent his brother to them and adds that the Shi’a of the Karkh district were with the Mongol army.43 Other baseless accusations he makes are clearly false and are rooted in sectarian bias.

In addition to the previous issues, it should be noted that Khawaja Nasīr al-Dīn, who wrote a few pages about the incident of Baghdad – published in Juwayini’s Tarikh-e Jahangushay – does not make the slightest reference to Ibn al-‘Alqami’s role. This is significant because Khwaja was, after all, with Hulagu.

Ibn al-‘Abrī (d. 685), although he mentions the minister’s suggestion to send gifts, does not make any reference to a compromise with the Mongols, even though this issue was important.44

At the end of this section, it is necessary to mention what the authors of the Encyclopedia of Shi’ism have written:

“…but Shia sources, despite accepting the back and forth of messengers between Hulagu and the minister, attribute the defeat of the Baghdad army to the caliph’s indulgence in pleasures and…”45

If the meaning of the back and forth of messengers is a connection for the purpose of compromise and making peace with Hulagu, it must be stated that such a thing does not exist in Shia sources. Apparently, the reference to Shia sources is only the account of Ibn al-Ṭiqṭaqa.

The Role of the Abbasid Caliphs in Bringing the Mongols to Islamic Lands

One of the major problems of the Abbasid caliphs from the third century AH onwards was the rise of the spirit of independence among rulers in areas far from the caliphate’s center. Initially, these individuals were appointed by the caliphs and later declared independence while maintaining the caliph’s name in sermons and his inscription on coins.

Another group were those who, not appointed by the caliph but through their own power and effort, dominated a region and then sought legitimacy from the Abbasid caliphs. The peak of this problem for the Abbasids were the Buyids and Seljuks, who even controlled Iraq and left the caliphs only with spiritual influence!

The Khwarezmshahs were also of this kind, but due to their distance from Iraq and their concentration more in Eastern Iran, and also due to the political acumen shown by al-Nasir li-Din Allah, they could not infiltrate Baghdad. Even when Sultan Muhammad tried to do so with the pretext of Shi’ism,46 snow and cold in Hamadan blocked his way.47

These issues led to the Abbasid caliphs’ animosity towards the Khwarezmshahs, and they created problems for them through political, religious means, and even by conspiring to incite some local governments in the East against them.

One of these instances was al-Nasir li-Din Allah’s letters to the Ghurid Sultans, inciting them to war against Sultan Muhammad, which was one of the reasons for the Sultan’s fruitless attack on Baghdad.

Juwayini’s writes:

…the Caliph secretly sent messages to the Qara-Khitai Khans to repel Sultan Muhammad and repeatedly sent letters and correspondences to the Ghurid Sultans, and these secrets became apparent when the Sultan went to Ghazni and they were searching their treasuries.48

We mention these precedents to clarify the caliph’s history of inciting local governments in the East against Sultan Muhammad, so that we are not surprised to hear later that he even incited the Mongols to attack Sultan Muhammad.

Several historical evidences indicate this:

1. Ibn al-Athīr, who witnessed the last period of the Abbasid caliphs and the Mongol invasions, confirms the role of the Abbasid caliph al-Nasir li-Din Allah in bringing the Mongols to Islamic lands with the clearest expression, writing: “What the Persians have attributed to him, that he enticed the Mongols regarding the lands of Islam and corresponded with them in this regard, is true. This is a huge blow, in front of which every great sin is small.”49

2. Abu al-Fidā (729), another Sunni historian, also confirms this, saying: “Due to the enmity between al-Nasir and the Khwarezmshah, al-Nasir wanted the Khwarezmshah to be occupied with them and not aim for Iraq.”50

3. According to the account of Ahmad bin Sirr Allah, before the incident of the killing of merchants by the Khwarezmshah government, a letter from the Abbasid caliph to the Mongols was written. This letter was written on the head of a messenger after shaving his hair, and after his hair grew back, he was sent so that the letter would not fall into the hands of the Khwarezmshahs. The content of the letter was: “Although Genghis Khan has turned to conquer Transoxiana, if he strives to suppress the Khwarezmshah, who has oppressed the people and residents of those lands, it would be better.”51

It is shameful that Ibn Shākir attributed this act to Ibn al-‘Alqami – to accuse him – and did not mention the caliph52, just as Subki also mentioned it to prove the accusation against Ibn al-‘Alqami, while this act was carried out by al-Nasir li-Din Allah years before Ibn al-‘Alqami’s ministry.53

4. When the Mongol invasions were occurring throughout the eastern Islamic lands, the caliph sent ambassadors to the Mongols and made promises and threats to him, just as the Mongol Khan – Guyuk Khan – also threatened the caliph and sent warnings!54

The chief judge Fakhr al-Dīn, the Caliph’s representative, was present at the enthronement ceremony of Guyuk Khan, Genghis’s son.55

5. Another account from Rabban Bar Sauma, who was in the Mongol court, states:

Once again, the caliph’s envoy reached Karakorum. This envoy was tasked with concluding a peace treaty with the new emperor and committed to providing ten thousand cavalry soldiers to assist the Mongols in their conquests in Iran. The Mongol Khan demanded that the caliph destroy all his fortifications and castles, but this proposal was rejected by the Caliph’s envoy.56

6. Ehsan Yarshater, citing Mīr Khawānad, confirms al-Nasir’s plea to the Mongol Khan to pressure Sultan Khwarezmshah.57 He writes about the authenticity of this news:

It is now uncertain whether the caliph himself was intent on delivering the greatest blow in history to the Islamic world, but such an act from al-Nasir li-Din Allah, who was deeply involved in politics, does not seem impossible, especially considering that no one at the time was aware of the real power of the Mongol Khan and could not foresee the consequences of awakening his ambition. Since Mīr Khawānad had no doubt about the caliph sending this message to the Mongol Khan, it can be said that others at that time also considered it plausible. Moreover, it is hard to believe that in the ninth century, someone would spread such news for selfish reasons.58

It should be noted:

Firstly, Ibn al-Athīr, one of the greatest Islamic historians of the seventh century, has testified to this.

Secondly, the confirmation of such a point by a Sunni about the caliph – when their effort is to defend the caliphate – should be more acceptable.

Thirdly, the important point is not the ignorance of the consequences of the Mongols’ actions but that the caliph of Muslims sought help from an infidel to crush Islamic lands and a Muslim Sultan, something others want to attribute to the Shi’a.

7. Rashīd al-Dīn in his book mentions the assistance the caliph provided to the Mongol Khan and writes:

“Hulagu… on the 12th of Rajab that year (655) sent an envoy to the caliph with threats and warnings, saying, ‘When we conquered the fortresses of the heretics, we sent envoys and asked for your help, but you replied that you would not send troops or aid.’ This shows that although he did not help, the very fact that the Caliph had promised to help him when he was conquering Iran is significant.59

8. When the threat of the Mongols in conquering Baghdad became serious and Ibn al-‘Alqami, the minister of Musta’ṣim, asked him to somehow come to terms with Hulagu to preserve the Abbasid caliphate, Musta’ṣim, influenced by the enemies of the minister, told him, “Do not fear the future and do not believe tales, for there is friendship and unity between me and Hulagu Khan and his brother Mongke Khan, not enmity and estrangement. Since I am their friend, they will surely be my friends and supporters too.”60

It is important to note that the caliph was as confident in his friendship with the Mongols as the Mongols had no trust in him. The emphasis of the caliph on friendship itself is evidence of the authenticity of the Abbasid caliph’s relations with the Mongols.

9. There are other instances indicating that the caliph’s envoys in the court of the Mongol Khan, Mongke Khan, who sent his brother Hulagu for further conquests in Western Asia, were inciting him against the Ismailis. The chief judge Shams al-Din Qazwini, wearing armor under his clothes, told the Mongol Khan that he did so out of fear of the heretics and conveyed a part of their deceit and dominance.61 It is noteworthy that after Hulagu set out for conquests in Iran and Iraq, he not only eliminated the heretics but also the caliph.

Mustawfi also writes about Hulagu’s journey to the west: “Hulagu Khan came to Iran in 653 at the request of Shams al-Din Ahmad Makki Qazwini, the judge, to eliminate the heretics.”62 Presumably, after that, Hulagu thought to himself to take a few more steps to Baghdad!

Leaving this aside, another matter arises: when the threat became more serious and the possibility of the fall of Iraq increased, the caliph did not provide any help to those who resisted the Mongols and left them alone against the Mongols. Several historical examples can be useful in this context.

1. According to Ibn al-Athīr, the ruler of Erbil, Muẓaffar al-Din, requested help from Badr al-Din, the ruler of Mosul, and the Abbasid Caliph in 618 to resist the Mongols. Badr al-Din sent some of his good soldiers to him. When they gathered in Daquqa, only a small force from the caliph joined them, although he had requested ten thousand men. Muẓaffar al-Din himself said that when the caliph corresponded with him about confronting the Tatars, he told him that the enemy was strong and he did not have enough troops. If he gave him ten thousand men, he could reclaim the lands they had taken. When he moved, the caliph only sent eight hundred effeminate men, so he did not see it prudent to risk himself and other Muslims.63

2. Jalāl al-Din Khwarezmshah, who inherited a troubled legacy from his father and was engaged with the Mongols on one side, his brother on another, and the caliph of Baghdad and local rulers on other fronts, managed to stand firm for several years with unparalleled bravery. He requested help from the Abbasid caliph twice to stand against the Mongols. Once, the response was that the caliph not only did not help him but “sent twenty thousand cavalry to fight against him and asked Muẓaffar al-Din Kukburi, the ruler of Erbil, to also send ten thousand cavalry to surround and finish off Jalāl al-Din.”64

3. Jalāl al-Din Khwarezmshah once again requested help from al-Musta’sim in 627 to prevent the Mongol invasion and sent a message to the caliph saying, “I am like a barrier between you and the Mongols. If this barrier is broken, your situation will also become disordered.” Again, the caliph did not accept his request.65

4. From the start of the Mongol invasions of Islamic lands to the conquest of Baghdad (656), there is a gap of more than forty years. During this time, the Abbasid caliphs were only concerned with organizing their caliphate and did not take any serious action. They only mobilized when the Mongols reached the gates of Baghdad in the years 634-635.66 Of course, at that time, they declared jihad. Before Baghdad was in danger – even if all Islamic lands in the east were being destroyed – there was no call for jihad. But the threat of the fall of the Abbasids led to the declaration of jihad, and al-Mustansir, the Abbasid Caliph, became active.67 This action forced the Mongols to retreat until twenty years later, when Al-Musta’ṣim, the last Abbasid Caliph, was in power, and Baghdad was conquered in Muharram 656. The inaction and thoughtlessness of the Abbasid caliphs in the defeat of the Muslims are among the important factors that should be discussed more.

Ibn al-Ṭiqṭaqa writes about Al-Musta’ṣim, who was in the most critical situation:

“Al-Musta’ṣim, the last Caliph, loved entertainment, listening to music, and was always surrounded by it. His companions and entourage were also constantly indulging in pleasures and did not consider his well-being.” The author then quotes a few verses of poetry criticizing him and the bad situation of that time and continues:

“Another thing that is well-known about Al-Musta’ṣim is that he once wrote to Badr al-Din Lu’lu’, the ruler of Mosul, asking for a group of musicians and entertainers. This was at the same time that Hulagu’s envoy also came to Badr al-Din Lu’lu’, requesting catapults and siege equipment. Badr al-Din Lu’lu’ said, ‘Look at the requests of these two and weep for Islam and Muslims.68

The caliph’s lack of effort to protect the Islamic borders, while only boasting of spiritual authority and caliphate, was widely known. Hulagu Khan, when he conquered Baghdad, reminded the Caliph of this. Khawaja Nasīr, in describing the situation in Baghdad, writes:

“…the caliph was brought [before Hulagu]. The caliph ordered the presentation of gifts, which the king immediately distributed among his nobles, commanders, soldiers, and those present, and placed a tray of gold before the caliph, telling him to eat it. The caliph said he could not eat it, to which the king replied, ‘Then why did you keep it and not give it to your soldiers? Why didn’t you make arrows from these iron doors and come to the Jihun River so I couldn’t cross it?’ The Caliph replied that it was God’s will. The king said, ‘What happens to you will also be God’s will,’ and returned that night… They went to the caliph’s palace, where there were seven hundred women and thirteen hundred servants, and the others were dispersed.”69

Nakhjawani (d. 724) writes: “Hulagu Khan ordered them to tell him [Al-Musta’ṣim], ‘What kind of man are you, and what intelligence and strategy do you have, that you neither gathered an army to fight for you nor came to us in submission and kindness?'”70

Khawānad Mīr also mentions the tray of gold placed before the caliph and quotes Hulagu saying, ‘Why didn’t you sacrifice something you cannot eat for the sake of your life and the lives of so many Muslims, and give it to the army to protect your hereditary kingdom from foreign aggression?’71

5. Before Hulagu’s attack on Baghdad, Sulaiman Shah proposed that they help him gather an army and attack the Mongols. Al-Musta’ṣim agreed, but his minister Ibn al-Alqami “knew that the caliph would not give gold”.72 Sulaiman Shah and other notables of Baghdad confessed to the minister that “he [Al-Musta’ṣim] loves entertainers and jesters and is an enemy of soldiers and warriors.”73 Following the acceptance of Sulaiman Shah’s proposal and the caliph’s promise, the minister began his work and gathered soldiers from near and far to Baghdad. However, Sulaiman Shah, after five months, the minister announced that a large group and a vast army had gathered, and it was now the caliph’s turn to give gold. The minister reported this, and Al-Musta’ṣim made excuses. The minister, having lost all hope in his promises, resigned himself to fate and waited: “Until fate itself reveals what lies beyond.”74

Ibn al-Ṭiqṭaqa states: “Al-Musta’ṣim spent most of his time listening to music and pleasant melodies and spending time with jesters.”75 The story of the last Abbasid caliph’s greed for gold and his inaction during the Mongol attack is more famous than for us to prove it here. The caliph’s only hope was to send a message to Hulagu saying, “…every king who aimed at the Abbasid family and Dar al-Salam Baghdad met a terrible end, even though they were powerful kings and mighty rulers. The foundation of this house is firmly laid and will last until the Day of Judgment.”76

Sometimes he also threatened that the whole world obeys him, and if he commands, everyone will accept his decree. Other companions of the caliph also had these delusional thoughts.77 However, these threats did not create any problems for the Mongols, as they did not believe in these threats and knew from forty years of experience with the Abbasid caliphs that these words were like an empty drum.

Ibn Kathīr, a Hanbali himself, when examining Al-Musta’ṣim’s life, writes: “He was Sunni but lacked awareness and loved to accumulate wealth. Among other things, he legitimized the money that was deposited with him by al-Nasir Dawud bin al-Mu’aẓẓam, worth one hundred thousand dinars, and… such an action by the caliph is very reprehensible.”78

Ibn Shākir also mentions Al-Musta’ṣim’s love for accumulating wealth.79

Hindushah Nakhjawani also writes about him: “…his inclination was towards pleasure and listening to songs, and the presence of jesters and people of pleasure.”80 He further writes: “Most of his time was spent in entertainment and travel.”81 Ghassāni, who was present in those lands and times, speaks of the Caliph’s negative traits, including the accumulation of wealth.82

Khawānad Mīr has noted that Al-Musta’ṣim was distinguished among most Abbasid caliphs for his arrogance, pride, abundance of gold and jewels, and many other luxurious and extravagant habits.83 Atābakī also wrote that al-Musta’sim lacked sufficient knowledge in managing the kingdom, neglected affairs, and was fond of accumulating wealth.84 Isn’t it appropriate to consider the incompetence and mismanagement of the caliph, who ignored the minister’s advisory words and unnecessarily surrendered to dawatdar, as the primary cause of the “inaction of Muslims” against the Mongols?


In conclusion, we must emphasize and confirm that in this writing, what we found historically incorrect was the claim that Khawaja Nasīr and Ibn al-‘Alqami played a role in inciting Hulagu. Considering the evidence presented, the baselessness of this unfounded claim became clear.

However, one point is correct: both Khawaja and Ibn al-‘Alqami, as well as the Shi’a community and scholars of the Shi’i city of Hilla85 and many other cities, when they saw the Mongols’ plundering and the number of their forces on one side, and the conflicts and disputes among various local rulers in Iran and Iraq on the other, lost hope in resistance and decided to somehow make the Mongols accept Islamic culture through accommodation, although their priority was to save the people, scholars, and libraries, in which they also endeavored.

This foresight led to the strengthening of Shi’ism later on, with even some Mongol rulers like Khudabanda being influenced by figures like ‘Allamah Hilli and converting to Shi’ism. In fact, such actions can be considered a new phase in the growth and spread of Shi’ism, especially since the Mongol rule brought about a kind of religious tolerance86 allowing the Shi’a to freely propagate their views and thoughts. Despite this, initially, the Mongols were too strong to be influenced by the likes of Khawaja, unless they fell at their feet and earnestly sought intercession – as we have cited a few examples. Nevertheless, after entering Baghdad, the Mongols killed both Sunnis and Shi’as.87

The Shi’as clan had chosen it as the center of their government between 403-545. When the Mongols attacked, the people of this city sent representatives to Hulagu and showed their submission. However, when the Mongols arrived, most of the population fled to the deserts. If the people of Hilla were saved like some other cities, it was due to their own efforts and early surrender. Therefore, it is not entirely accurate to say that “Shi’i cities surrendered due to the wisdom of Khawaja Nasīr al-Dīn Tūsi”,88 although it is possible that he advised the people of Hilla, like some other cities to surrender, and they followed suit.89


  1. The original paper can be accessed:
  2. Among them is Dr. Haeri in the mentioned article, which Dr. Hassan al-Amin answered in the next issue; also refer: Bayani, pp. 315 and 316.
  3. ‘Asjad al-Masbūk Fi Tabaqāt al-Khulafā wa al-Mulūk al-Mulk, pg.640
  4. Sharh Nahj al-Balagha, v.8, pg. 239-240
  5. Refer: Mu’ayyid al-Dīn Ibn al-‘Alqami Wa Asrār Saqūṭ Dawla al-‘Abbasiyyah
  6. al-‘Asjad al-Masbūk Fi Tabaqāt al-Khulafā wa al-Mulūk al-Mulk, pg.626-630
  7. Tabaqāt Nāsiri, pg.191-192
  8. al-Bidāyah al-Nihāyah, v. 13, pg.196
  9. Tarīkh Ibn Khaldun, v.3, pg.662[/note; Khawānad Mīr9Tarīkh Rawḍa al-Safā, v.2, pg.336-338
  10. Siyar ‘Alām al-Nubala, v.23, pg.361
  11. Tarīkh Ibn Wardi, v.2,pg.190
  12. Fawāt al-Wafīyāt,v.3, pg.253
  13. Mirāt al-Jinān, v.3, pg.112
  14. Tarīkh al-Khamīs, v.2, pg.376
  15. Tarīkh Mukhtasar Fi Akhbār al-Bashar, v.3, pg.194
  16. Tarīkh Ibn Wardi,v.2, pg.18
  17. Tārīkh-i Jahāngushāy-i Juwaynī, v.2, pg.96
  18. Asjad al-Masbūk Fi Tabaqāt al-Mulūk al-Mulk, pg.625
  19. Tarīkh al-Nāsiri,v.2, pg.194; Al-Nujūm Al-zāhirah Fī Mulūk Miṣr Wa-Al-Qāhirah, v.7, pg.48; Tarīkh al-Khulafā, pg.333
  20. Tarīkh Ibn Wardi, v.2,pg.190; Tarīkh Mukhtasar Fi Akhbār al-Bashar, v.3, pg.194
  21. Tarīkh Rawḍa al-Safā, v.2, pg.339; Siyar ‘Alām al-Nubala,v.23, pg.361; Tajārib al-Salaf Dar Tawārīkh Khulafā wa Wuzarā, pg.357 Fi Al-Adāb Al-Sultāniyyah Al-Dawla Al-Islamiyyah, pg.335; Tarīkh Mukhtasar al-Dawlah, pg.269-270; Jāmi’ Al-Tawārīkh – Tarīkh Mughūl, v.2- part-1, pg.282
  22. Refer : Mu’ayyid al-Dīn Ibn al-‘Alqami Wa Asrār Saqūṭ Dawla al-‘Abbasiyyah, pg.137-138; About some people refer: – Jāmi’ Al-Tawārīkh – Tarīkh Mughūl, v.2- part-1, pg.295; Tarīkh Mukhtasar al-Dawlah, pg.272
  23. Fawāt al-Wafīyāt, v.3, pg.252
  24. Fawāt al-Wafīyāt, v.3, pg.252; Mu’ayyid al-Dīn Ibn al-‘Alqami Wa Asrār Saqūṭ Dawla al-‘Abbasiyyah,pg.43-44
  25. Jāmi’ Al-Tawārīkh – Tarīkh Mughūl, v.2- part-1, pg.263
  26. Jāmi’ Al-Tawārīkh – Tarīkh Mughūl, v.2- part-1, pg.263-264
  27. Jāmi’ Al-Tawārīkh – Tarīkh Mughūl, v.2- part-1, pg.263
  28. ibid. pg.272 In this regard, Ibn al-‘Abrī also quoted the same accusation from Dawatdar. Tarīkh Mukhtasar al-Dawlah, pg.270
  29. ibid. pg.274
  30. Al-Fakhri Fi Al-Adāb Al-Sultāniyyah Al-Dawla Al-Islamiyyah, pg.335
  31. ibid. pg. 338
  32. ibid. pg. 338
  33. ibid. pg. 338-339
  34. Tarīkh Al-Khamīs, v.2,pg.377
  35. Tarīkh Rawḍa al-Safā, v.3, pg.97
  36. Tabaqāt al-Nāsiri, v. 2, pg.191
  37. ibid. v.2, pg.194
  38. Siyar ‘Alām al-Nubala, v.23, pg.361; Asjad al-Masbūk Fi Tabaqāt al-Khulafā wa Al-Mulūk Al-Mulk, pg.630; Tarīkh Ibn Wardi, v.2, pg.191; Tarīkh Mukhtasar Fi Akhbār al-Bashar, v.3, pg.194ūm Al-Zāhirah Fī Mulūk Miṣr Wa-Al-Qāhirah, v.7,pg.50
  39. Tarīkh al-Khulafā, pg.332
  40. Tabaqāt al-Nāsiri, v.2, pg.193
  41. Tarīkh Al-Khamīs, v.2, pg.376-377; Tarīkh Rawḍa al-Safā, v.2, pg.338
  42. Al-Nujūm Al-Zāhirah Fī Mulūk Miṣr Wa-Al-Qāhirah, v.7, pg.47-49
  43. Tarīkh Mukhtasar al-Dawlah, pg.269-271.
  44. Encyclopedia of Shi’ism, v.1, pg.351
  45. Tārīkh-i Jahāngushāy-i Juwaynī, v.2, pg.96-97
  46. ibid. pg.98
  47. ibid. pg.120
  48. Kāmil Fi Tarīkh, v.12, pg.440
  49. Tarīkh Mukhtasar Fi Akhbār al-Bashar, v.3, pg.143; Also Refer: Shi’ism and Sufism, pg.50
  50. Tarīkh Alfī, v.4. Quoted by Bayyani, pg. 281; Also Refer: Tarīkh al-Dawlah Wa Al-Mulūk, v.9, pg. 98; Mu’ayyid al-Dīn Ibn al-‘Alqami Wa Asrār Saqūṭ Dawla al-‘Abbasiyyah, pg. 114
  51. Fawāt al-Wafīyāt, v.3, pg.254-255
  52. Tabaqāt Al-Shafi’iyyah Al-Kubrah, Subkī.
  53. Jāmi’ Al-Tawārīkh – Tarīkh Mughūl, v.1, pg.570; Bayyani, pg.282
  54. Tārīkh-i Jahāngushāy-i Juwaynī, v.1, pg. 205
  55. Bayyani, pg.282. Also: “The journery of William Rubruck to the eastem parts of the world”
  56. Tarīkh Rawḍa al-Safā, v.5, pg.25 ; The Mongol Period: History of the Muslim World, pg. 25
  57. The Mongol Period: History of the Muslim World, pg. 24-25
  58. Jāmi’ Al-Tawārīkh – Tarīkh Mughūl, v.2- part-1, pg.267
  59. ibid. pg.272
  61. Tarīkh i-Guzida, pg.588-589
  62. Kāmil Fi Tarīkh, v.12,pg.379
  63. Bayyani, pg.285
  64. Tarīkh Rawḍa al-Safā; quoted by Bayyani, pg.298
  65. [TN]: In the original Farsi article, the years mentioned were 334-335, which is incorrect.
  66. Jāmi’ Al-Tawārīkh – Tarīkh Mughūl, v.2- part-1, pg.2
  67. Al-Fakhri Fi Al-Adāb Al-Sultāniyyah Al-Dawla Al-Islamiyyah,pg.46-47
  68. Tārīkh-i Jahāngushāy-i Juwaynī, v.2, pg. 290; Jāmi’ Al-Tawārīkh – Tarīkh Mughūl, v.2- part-1, pg.292 (only quoted the last part)
  69. Tajārib al-Salaf Dar Tawārīkh Khulafā wa Wuzarā, pg.357
  70. Tarīkh Rawḍa al-Safā, v.3, pg.96
  71. Jāmi’ Al-Tawārīkh – Tarīkh Mughūl, v.2- part-1, pg.274
  72. ibid. pg.274
  73. ibid. pg. 274
  74. Al-Fakhri Fi Al-Adāb Al-Sultāniyyah Al-Dawla Al-Islamiyyah,pg.333
  75. Jāmi’ Al-Tawārīkh – Tarīkh Mughūl, v.2- part-1, pg.275
  76. ibid. pg.270-271
  77. al-Bidāyah al-Nihāyah, v.13, pg.204-205; Mu’ayyid al-Dīn Ibn al-‘Alqami Wa Asrār Saqūṭ Dawla al-‘Abbasiyyah, pg.62
  78. Mu’ayyid al-Dīn Ibn al-‘Alqami Wa Asrār Saqūṭ Dawla al-‘Abbasiyyah, pg.62; Fawāt al-Wafīyāt, v.2, pg.231
  79. Tajārib al-Salaf Dar Tawārīkh Khulafā wa Wuzarā,pg.354
  80. ibid. pg.356
  81. Asjad al-Masbūk Fi Tabaqāt al-Khulafā wa al-Mulūk al-Mulk, pg.624
  82. Tarīkh Rawḍa al-Safā, v.2, pg.335
  83. Al-Nujūm Al-Zāhirah Fī Mulūk Miṣr Wa-Al-Qāhirah, v.7, pg.64
  84. Al-Ḥawādith Al-Jāmi’yah, pg.327; Jāmi’ Al-Tawārīkh – Tarīkh Mughūl, v.2- part-1, pg.294
  85. The Mongol Period- History of the Muslim World, pg. 203
  86. Al-Nujūm Al-Zāhirah Fī Mulūk Miṣr Wa-Al-Qāhirah, v.7,pg.50; Tarīkh Al-Khamīs, v.3, pg.377
  87. The Mongol Period- History of the Muslim World, pg.59
  88. Jāmi’ Al-Tawārīkh – Tarīkh Mughūl, v.2- part-1, pg.294; Tarīkh Rawḍa al-Safā, v.6, pg.319