The Marwanids (Kurdish Merwanî, Arabic مروانيون, romanized Marwaniyyun) were a Kurdish[1,2,3,4] dynasty in northern Mesopotamia, which ruled from 990 to 1085.
Establishment of the Marwanid State
The State of Dostiki or the State of Marwanids was established in the year 982 AD. The founder of this state was Baz (Badh) . Baz, in his time, was known for his courage and wisdom. Ali ibn al-Athir says in his book al-Kamil fi’l-Ta’rikh (the Complete History) that the Abbasid caliph Uddat al-Dawla met with Bazê Dostîkî, secretly telling his minister that this guy scares people. Apparently, Baz read the caliph’s mind through his eyes, he therefore fled the palace with his cavalrymen and rescued himself from the Caliph’s forces.
After that, he began to rebuild his state in his own way. At first, he attacked Ardish . And the other Kurdish fortresses and cities opened their gates to him one by one after sending letters. In this way the reputation of Baz was spread and the neighboring states, Buyids and the Abbasid caliphate began to prepare their forces and acts to stop his achievement and expansion of his state. They tried to kill him many times and managed to kill him in his attack on Mosul.
Description of Baz’s personality requires special researches since his life was not well documented in historical sources. His original name was Husênê Ebdulahê Dostikî (Hussein Abdulah Dostiki). He was from the Harbexi (Harbeghi) Kurds of the Botan lineage.
After the death of Baz, the Abbasids, Buyids and Romans thought that the Dostiki State was no longer a threat. But on the contrary to this prediction; Baz’s deputies and heirs, especially Ebû Elî kurê Merwanî, restored their authority in cities and increased their strength once again. Ibn Kathir makes it clear: “The Fatimid delegation had sent a large delegation with gifts and antiques to Mir Abu Ali, acknowledged the existence of the state. Plus, Abbasids and the Byzantine Empire each demanded a great deal of friendship and boundary.”
Expansion of the Marwanids
The delineation of the state’s expanse and the ground on which it was established is a bit difficult. But if we describe the border of Marwanid state, we can create an image with these settlements in mind : Miyafarqin (capital), Diyarbekîr, Ardish, Nusaybin, Mardin, Urfa, Muş, Wan, Hasankif, Kharput, Botan, Qamishli, Amuda, Serêkaniyê and Derik. It’s evident that not all Kurdish lands had fallen into the hands of the Dostikîs. Therefore, in order to understand the general picture of this state, the political map of that era must be at hand. We must write about political conflicts and military forces and the courses of the conflicts. We should be able to understand Dostikîs through these events.
The Buyids and Abbasid Caliphate were in Baghdad at the time, and the Fatimid Caliphate was in Egypt, There were no clashes among the Muslim leaderships at all. Nonetheless, the Byzantine Empire protected its strongholds as well. And between these three states, there was a race to swallow the smaller ones in advance of the arrival of Seljuks.
Even though the Dostikî lords occasionally sent gifts to Byzantium, they did not pay taxes in contrast to the Hamdanids in Aleppo. At the same time they were holding their political and economic relations with the Fatimids and Abbasids.
This neutral attitude and policy enabled the Dostikî State to have a special position in the region and protect its borders from potential conflicts with the neighbours. In the reigon and its surrounding, the State of Marwanids had become an attractive marketplace for the regional merchants’ capitals thanks to its development and prosperity. Only in that state, anyone could continue its business without restrictive regulations.
“Nabhani merchant boy was earning 500 Byzantine dinars in one day,” says Ibn Kathir.
Ibn al-Azraq al-Fariqi stated that the rulers didn’t impose tax on anyone except an Arab man who had stored weapons in his house and then turned out to be a foreign official.
The long reign of Nasr al-Dawla Ahmad marks the apogee of the Marwanids. In 1054, Nasr al-Dawla Ahmad had to recognize the suzerainty of Tughril Beg the Sultan of the Great Seljuk Empire. The power of Marwanids started to decline after his death.
In 1061, Nizam ad-Dawla Nasr succeeded his father Nasr al-Dawla Ahmad. Seljuk Malik Shah I took the capital Mayyafariqin. The treasures belonging to the Marwanids were plundered.
Nizâm ad-Dawla Nasr reigned until 1079. The kingdom fell into the hands of the Seljuks. His son Nâsir ad-Dawla Mansûr14 had only one town Jazirat Ibn Umar’ (now Cizre). He died in 1085.
The State and Architecture
Marwanid architecture which was influenced by Arab arts initially grew from two cities of Farqîn (Mayafariqin) and Amîd (Diyarbekir).
Like in earlier ages in Diyarbekir region, Karacadag basalt stone was used as the primary material in constructions. These dark rocks are easy to carve and uniquely suited for stonemasonry.
Some notable examples of Marwanids’ unique architectural heritage are:
- Dicle Bridge
- Marwanid Masjid
- Marwanid Tower
1. Hillenbrand, Carole (1991). Marwanids, The Encyclopaedia of Islam. Vol. VI. Brill. p. 626.
2. Bosworth, C.E. (1996). The New Islamic Dynasties. Columbia University Press. p. 89.
3. Ashtiany, Julia (1990). Abbasid Belles Lettres. Cambridge University Press. p. 15.
4. Hugh Kennedy (2015). The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates: The Islamic Near East from the Sixth to the Eleventh Century. p. 215
5. Michael M. Gunter (2009). The A to Z of the Kurds, p. 133
6. C. E Bosworth, Edinburgh University Press (2014), The New Islamic Dynasties p.36
7. Ephrem-Isa Yousif, Les princes kurdes marwanides et les savants syriaques [archived]