temp. Ibrahim al-Mubarak, Rival Caliph at Baghdad AH 202-203/AD 817-819

Bernardi 108; Nützel 1310; cf. A E225 (silver dirham), Very Fine

Mintless type (Madinat al-Salam), Kalima at center, Qur’an 9:33 in margin; Reverse, continuation of Kalima, Arabic letter “alif” above and “m” below, the first and last letters of the name Ibrahim. Extremely rare, only the second example known.


The ‘Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid (AH 170-193/ AD 786-809) named his first son al-Amin as successor. Harun’s other son al-Ma’mun was named second successor and given the province of Khurasan as an appanage. When Harun al-Rashid died in 809, al-Amin succeeded him in Baghdad. Under the influence of courtiers, al-Amin began taking steps to undermine his brother’s autonomous status in Khurasan. Tensions soon resulted in war. The army of al-Ma’mun defeated the forces of al-Amin at the Battle of Rayy in 811, after which he invaded Iraq and besieged Baghdad itself. The city fell after a year and al-Amin was executed. Al-Ma’mun became caliph on 27 September 813. Rather than rule from the ‘Abbasid capital, al-Ma’mun chose to remain in Khurasan, the original Persian power base of the ‘Abbasids. He also sought to appease the Shi’ites by naming Ali al-Rida, a Shi’ite imam, as heir. This decision enraged Sunni nationalists and traditional Arab elites in Baghdad. Consequently, on 20 July 817 al-Ma’mun’s uncle Ibrahim, a son of the third ‘Abbasid caliph al-Mahdi, was proclaimed caliph by the people of Baghdad, who gave him the regnal name al-Mubarak (“the Blessed”). Little more than a puppet, Ibrahim’s authority was never widely recognized outside the capital. The caliphate of Ibrahim al-Mubarak was brought to an abrupt end with the arrival in 819 of al-Ma’mun. Ibrahim was deserted by those who had supported him and he went into hiding. He was eventually granted clemency and spent the rest of his life as a musician, singer and poet, regarded by his contemporaries as one of the great artists of the age. The gold dinar of Ibrahim in the Tyrant Collection is the second of only two examples known, well-struck and fully legible. The first was published by Heinrich Nützel in his 1898 catalogue of the Islamic coins in the Königliche Museum, Berlin, and was the only specimen known to Bernardi.