Al-Mutawakkil, ‘Abbasid Caliph AH 232-247/AD 847-861

Bernardi 158Jj; Nützel 1463; A 229.4, Superb Extremely Fine

Madinat al-Mutawakkiliya mint (near Samarra in Iraq), narrow flan type. Kalima at center, double obverse marginal legends with Qur’an 30:4 in outer margin, date formula in inner margin, al-Mu’tazz Billah (heir) cited below; Reverse, continuation of Kalima, “lillah” above, al-Mutawakkil bi-Amr Allah below, Qur’an 9:33 in margin. Brilliant and exceptionally well preserved. Very rare.


Following the death of the ‘Abbasid caliph al-Wathiq, Turkish military leaders and members of the ‘Abbasid ruling class nominated his brother, who assumed the title al-Mutawakkil (AH 232-247/AD 847-861). This was the first of many major interventions by either Turkish or Persian military leaders in the selection of the caliph. Al-Mutawakkil resented being a puppet and moved cleverly to restore the power of Caliphate as it was originally intended. An unforgiving man, he killed many of the members of the Abbasid inner circle including his chief minister and his Turkish commander of his Guard. Mutawakkil’s navy captured Sicily from Byzantines, signaling a new chapter of Islamic rule in that Island. In the year 836, the ‘Abbasid caliph al-Mu’tasim founded a new capital, Samarra, which stretched along the east bank of the Tigris, 78 miles above Baghdad. In the late 850s, the caliph al-Mutawakil established a new city just to the north of Samarra, known as al-Ja’fariya or al-Mutawakiliya. The lavish main palace, the Ja’fari, lay at the end of a grand avenue lined with smaller palaces and a mosque. The building of al-Mutawakiliya was the high point in the expansion of Samarra. However, the new city was occupied for only a short time. Al-Mutawakil took up residence in the Ja’fari in 860 and transferred the administrative bureaucracy from Samarra. In December 861, al-Mutawakil was assassinated by his Turkish guard with the support of his son and heir, al-Muntasir, who ordered a return to Samarra.