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Al-Musta'sim succeeded his father in late 1242.

He is noted for his opposition to the rise of Shajar al-Durr to the Egyptian throne during the Seventh Crusade. He sent a message from Baghdad to the Mamluks in Egypt that said: "If you do not have men there tell us so we can send you men.".[1] However, Al-Musta'sim had to face the greatest menace against the caliphate since its establishment in 632, the invasion of the Mongol forces that, under Hulagu Khan, had already wiped out any resistance in Transoxiana and Khorasan. In 1255/1256 Hulagu forced the Abbasid to lend their forces for the campaign against Alamut.

In 1258 Hulagu invaded the Abbasid domain, comprising a little more than what is now Iraq and Syria. In an advance on Baghdad, Hulagu Khan had several columns advance simultaneously on the city, and laid siege to it. The Caliph had been deluded by promises from his Vizier that the Mongols could be driven off literally by the women of the city throwing stones at them, and did the worst of all things: nothing. He neither raised an army to defend Baghdad nor did he attempt to negotiate with Hulagu. Instead he sent weak threats to the Mongol warlord.

Baghdad was sacked on February 10 and the caliph was killed by Hulagu Khan soon afterwards. It is reckoned that the Mongols did not want to shed "royal blood", so they wrapped him in a rug and trampled him to death with their horses Some of his sons were massacred as well; one of the surviving sons was sent as a prisoner to Mongolia, where Mongolian historians report he married and fathered children, but played no role in Islam thereafter.

The Travels of Marco Polo reports that upon finding the caliph's great stores of treasure which could have been spent on the defense of his realm, Hulagu Khan locked him in his treasure room without food or water, telling him "eat of thy treasure as much as thou wilt, since thou art so fond of it."

The Mamluk sultans and Syria later appointed an Abbasid Caliph in Cairo, but they were even more symbolic than by now marginalized Abbasid Caliphs in Baghdad. They were ignored by the rest of the Muslim world. Even though they kept the title for about 250 years more, other than installing the Sultan in ceremonies, these Caliphs had little importance.

After the Ottomans conquered Egypt in 1517, the Abbasid Caliph of Egypt, Al-Mutawakkil III was transported to Constantinople, and Sultan Selim I announced himself to be a Caliph.

Panel #35
al-Musta'sim (1213 - 1258)
37th Caliph of the Abbasid Caliphate
Last Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad

Reign 1242 to 1258

King of Kings - by Lewis Lavoie