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Saʿd al-Dawla al-Ṣafī Ibn Hibbatallah


SAʿD AL-DAWLA AL-ṢAFĪ IBN HIBBATALLAH (d. 1291), court physician and vizier in Mongol *Persia. He came from Abhar in the province of Jibāl. The sources refer to him by the honorific title "Saʿd al-Dawla" ("support of the State") or "the Jewish vizier," etc.

In two devastating attacks, the *Mongols succeeded in crushing three important Persian centers of power, namely in Khwārazm, in Alamut, and, finally in *Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. Thus, in the middle of the 13th century, a new era began in Persia which continued until the end of the Ilkhanid in 1335. Significant changes were introduced in the social, economic, legal, and governmental structures of Persia during this period. These changes influenced numerous intellectual activities, especially those related to art, historiography, prose, and poetry. Because of the religious attitude of the *Mongols, especially that of the first rulers, the Muslims lost some of their privileges as the rulers and governors in the Islamic lands. This change allowed members of religious minorities to occupy high positions under those Mongol rulers who had not yet accepted Islam as their religion. Saʿd al Dawla was a product of this change.

His Hebrew name is unknown. Saʿd al-Dawla is first mentioned in *Mosul. He subsequently moved to Baghdad where he practiced in 1284 as a physician. There he acquired expert knowledge of the financial administration and in 1285 was appointed a member of the diwan. His abilities and promotion evidently aroused the enmity of his colleagues, who in 1288 obtained his transfer as physician to the court of Arghūn Khān, in *Tabriz, Azerbaijan. A brilliant scholar and linguist, speaking Persian, Arabic, Turkish, and Mongolian, Saʿd al-Dawla soon won favor with the Mongol ruler, and in 1289 was appointed vizier of the whole Īl-Khān kingdom. According to custom, he immediately removed his opponents and filled the key posts in the administration with dependable Mongols, Christians, or Jews, primarily with members of his own family. He appointed one brother, Fakhr al-Dawla, governor of Baghdad; another brother, Amīn al-Dawla, was put in charge of the districts of Mosul and Diyār Bakr, Diyār Rabīʿa, and Mardin. The Persian and Arabic sources credit him with the establishment of the administration on the basis of law and justice. But the rule of these Jewish officials caused much resentment among the Muslim population. Moreover, Saʿd al-Dawla had personal enemies among Mongol leaders, who were jealous of Arghūn's unlimited confidence in him. When Arghūn became dangerously ill, court circles accused the vizier of having poisoned his benefactor. At a banquet, Saʿd al-Dawla and the majority of his supporters were arrested, a large number were slain at once, and Saʿd al-Dawla was executed the following day. A large-scale persecution of Jews in Tabriz, Baghdad, and other Jewish communities ensued. All his brethren and relatives subsequently met a violent death, described in the Arabic writings of Ibn al-Fūṭi, *Bar-Hebraeus, and others.

add. bibliography:

Bar Hebraeus, Chronography, ed. and tr. E.A., Wallis Budge, 1 (1932), 484–91; W.J. Fischel, Jews in the Economic and Political Life of Mediaeval Islam (1969), 90–117; Ibn al-Fuwati, al-Hawādith al-Jāmiʿa fi al-mia al-sābiʿa, ed. Mustafa Jawād (1922), 457–65; D. Krawulsky, "Saʿd al-Dawla," in: eis2, 8 (1995), 702–3; W. Shirāzi, in: Tārikh, 2 (1852), 235–45.

[Walter J. Fischel /

Amnon Netzer (2nd ed.)]

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