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B. ʿOBAYD-ALLĀH B. MOḤAMMAD BALʿAMĪ TAMĪMĪ, vizier to the Samanid amir Naṣr b. Aḥmad (r. 913-42), father of the vizier and historian Amirak Baḷʿamī.

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Volume III, Fascicle 6, pp. 573-574

BALʿAMĪ, ABU’L-FAŻL MOḤAMMAD B. ʿOBAYD-ALLĀH B. MOḤAMMAD BALʿAMĪ TAMĪMĪ, vizier to the Samanid amir Naṣr b. Aḥmad, father of the vizier and historian Abū ʿAlī Moḥammad b. Moḥammad Balʿamī (see amīrak balʿamī) and thus member of a distinguished family in the service of the rulers of Transoxania and Khorasan. The unusual nesba Balʿamī is explained by Samʿānī, Ketāb al-ansāb (Leiden, fol. 90a = ed. Hyderabad, II, pp. 313-14) as either from Balʿam, a place in Anatolia which the Omayyad general Maslama b. ʿAbd-al-Malek raided and occupied, or else from Balʿamān, a village of the Marv oasis where the vizier’s forebears had settled since the time of Qotayba b. Moslem (q.v.). Whatever the family’s origins—and it is unknown whether they were of pure Arab blood or had been non-Arab, presumably Iranian, mawālī or clients of the Arab tribe of Tamīm—they moved to Bukhara where, Samʿānī states, Balʿamīs were still living in his own time (6th/12th century).

Samʿānī’s information here that Abu’l-Fażl Moḥammad first served Amīr Esmāʿīl b. Aḥmad (r. 279-95/892-907) is uncorroborated in the historical sources. He only appears in the reign of Esmāʿīl’s grandson Naṣr II b. Aḥmad (r. 301-31/913-42; q.v.). At some unknown date, but probably about 309/921, he became vizier to Naṣr in succession to Abu’l-Fażl b. Yaʿqūb Nīšāpūrī (Maqdesī, p. 337), and from then onwards, he is sporadically mentioned in the sources (Gardīzī, Ebn al-Aṯīr) as involved in military and diplomatic activities. Already in 309/921 he was with the Samanid forces suppressing in a battle near Ṭūs the revolt of Daylamite Laylī b. Noʿmān on behalf of the Zaydī ʿAlid al-Dāʿī ela’l-Ḥaqq Ḥasan b. Qāsem; in the next year, he combined with the Turkish commander of the Samanids Sīmjūr Dawātī in Ṭabarestān against the Daylamite Mākān b. Kākī (q.v.); and in 321/933 he was with Amir Naṣr in Gorgān conducting operations against the Daylamite ruler of Jebāl and Ray, Mardāvīj b. Zīār (q.v.).

Balʿamī also interceded for the release from jail of the commander Abū ʿAlī Moḥammad b. Elyās (see āl-e elyās), who subsequently established for himself a virtually autonomous principality in Kermān; and for the general Ḥosayn b. ʿAlī Marvazī or Marv-al-rūḏī, who seems to have been caught up in the Ismaʿili Shiʿite movement in Transoxania during the last years of Naṣr b. Aḥmad’s reign (see for this episode, Barthold, Turkestan2, pp. 242-44). Ṯaʿālebī quotes verses of thanks by Ḥosayn addressed to Balʿamī after his release from imprisonment in the citadel of Herat (Yatīma [Cairo] IV, p. 85, French tr. C. Barbier de Meynard, in JA, series 5, 1, 1853, p. 204). Balʿamī also played a decisive role in the crisis of the popular revolt in Bukhara, at some date between 317/929 and 320/932, led by the baker Abū Bakr. The amir’s brothers, eager for power, were released from prison, and Naṣr himself was absent at Nīšāpūr. By coming to terms with the son of Ḥosayn b. ʿAlī Marvazī, Balʿamī was able to secure the amir’s crossing of the Oxus, his return to the capital, and the quelling of the rebellion.

Balʿamī was clearly, together with Jayhānī, the driving force during what seems to have been the reign of a weak and impressionable ruler. He is further praised, e.g., by Samʿānī, as a maecenas and encourager of poets and scholars, including of the poet Rūdakī (q.v.), and public buildings erected by him at Marv and Bukhara are mentioned. Not surprisingly, Neẓām-al-Molk praises the Balʿamīs as the viziers par excellence of the Samanids (Sīāsat-nāma, ed. Darke1, 1347 Š./1968, p. 218, tr. idem, London, 1968, p. 178). A collection of royal decrees (tawqīʿāt) drafted by Balʿamī is mentioned by Neẓāmī ʿArūżī (Čahār maqāla, ed. M. Qazvīnī, rev. M. Moʿīn, Tehran, 1333 Š./1954, text, p. 22, notes, pp. 23-24, 469). His vizierate endured until 326/938, according to Ebn al-Aṯīr, when he was succeeded in that office by Abū ʿAlī Moḥammad Jayhānī. Balʿamī died on the night of 10 Ṣafar 329/13-14 November 940, according to Samʿānī.


Primary sources: Gardīzī, ed. Nazim, pp. 30, 32.

Ebn al-Aṯīr (repr.), VIII, pp. 125, 132, 263, 278, 378.

Nāṣer-al-Dīn Monšī Kermānī, Nasāʾem al-asḥār, ed. Jalāl-al-Dīn Ormavī, Tehran, 1338 Š./1959, p. 35, reproduced in Sayf al-Dīn ʿOqaylī, Āṯāral-wozarāʾ, ed. Ormavī, Tehran, 1337 Š./1959, pp. 146-47 (brief, uninformative and inaccurate).

Eṣṭaḵrī, pp. 260, 307.

Moqaddasī, (Maqdesī), p. 317.

Studies: Barthold, Turkestan2 , pp. 241ff.

D. M. Dunlop, “Balʿamī,” in EI2 I, p. 984.

Cite this page
C. Edmund Bosworth, “BALʿAMĪ, ABU'L-FAŻL MOḤAMMAD”, in: Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, © Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. Consulted online on 16 July 2024 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2330-4804_EIRO_COM_6494>
First published online: 2020
First print edition: 19881215

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