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Al-Mustarshid (d. 1135) was the Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad from 1118 to 1135. Son of the preceding Caliph, he once more tried independence while the Seljuks were engaged in war in the East. They had left Baghdad much to itself. Risings in Iraq at this time were common.
One of the rising was led by the famous but unscrupulous general Dubeis . After plundering Basra, he joined the Crusaders in their attempt upon Aleppo, and afterwards incited a young brother of the Sultan to rebel and make a dash upon the capital; but the Caliph with 12,000 men, anticipating their movements, defended the city.
During this time Zengi, the famous foe of the Crusaders, grew into great power; he was given Mesopotamia by the Seljuk Sultan Mahmud II, including Mosul, Nasibin , and Harran. He carried his army into Syria with the view of reducing the Crusaders and nearly took Damascus and Emesa. His powerful name caused great joy in Baghdad, where the people said that at last the Crusaders had found men worthy to meet them in the field. Towards the end of al-Mustarshid's life, however, Zengi fell into difficulty owing to the hostility of the Kurds and the Caliph.
On the death of Sultan Mahmud, Zengi was recalled to the East by certain rebel members of the Seljuk house, stimulated by the Caliph and Dubeis. Here he was beaten and obliged to fly before the Caliph, who pursued him to Mosul, and besieged him there but without success for three months.
Zengi now resumed operations in Syria and in 529 AH (1134 AD) laid siege to Damascus, but was induced, partly by the bravery of the enemy, partly at the instance of the Caliph, to whom Zengi had made some concession in the public prayers, to relinquish the attempt. Recalled again by troubles in the East, he was unable to do much against the Crusaders till after al-Mustarshid's death.
Mustarshid attacked the Sultan's army near Hamadan; but, deserted by his troops, was taken prisoner, and pardoned on promising not to quit his palace any more. Left in the royal tent, however, in the Sultan's absence, he was found murdered, as is supposed, by an emissary of the Assassins (Hashshashin), who had no love for the Caliph. To remove the suspicion from himself, the Sultan Mas'ud threw the blame on the Caliph's old enemy, Dubeis, and had him put to death. Both al-Mustarshid and Dubeis are praised by their contemporaries as poets of no mean name; and the Caliph, had he held his hand from the temptation of arms, might have built up the Caliphate by the peaceful arts he was better fitted to employ.
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