At the court of Abu al-Fadl b. al-‘Am Id
In 357/967, during his trip to Rayy, al-Tawhldl mentions that he stopped in Isfahan and attended the majalis of Abu Sa‘Id al-Bistaml.286 In the same year in Rayy, al-Tawhldl made a connection with Abu al-Fadl b. al-Amld (d. 360/970) in the hope of improving his social position.287 Although he attended his majalis and made new acquaintances, such as Miskawayh, the treasurer of Ibn al-Amld, al-Tawhldl failed to obtain the patronage of Ibn al-Amid and received nothing from him.288 It is difficult to judge al-Tawhldl’s relationship with Ibn al-‘Amid or why he was not successful because he does not provide a description of the majalis, and because most of his reports about Ibn al-Amld are sayings ascribed to others. This has led some scholars to doubt whether al-Tawhldl had really met him.289 At the very least, however, al-Tawhldl’s reporting of many stories that were critical of Ibn al-Amld’s character could indicate a level of dissatisfaction with the vizier’s behaviour. On one occasion, al-Tawhldl dwells upon the story of Ibn al-Amld and his supposedly close friend al-Hajib al-Nlsaburl, which he heard from ‘All b. al-Qasim who conversed with Ibn al-Amld about it.290 In this conversation, Ibn al-Amld is portrayed as someone who was obsessed with power, loved glory, leadership, and money, and who would do anything to maintain it, even to the extent of hypocritically denying his religious beliefs and philosophy.291
Al-Tawhldl also disparages Ibn al-Amld’s reputation as a generous patron of culture and examines his proteges one by one. Although he grants that the vizier did give al-Amirl a little support, he acknowledges that this was because al-Amirl approached him with the grossest flattery, and claimed that he had come from Khurasan to study the science of mechanics with him. Ibn al-‘Amid responded that he was equally in need of studying metaphysics with al-‘AmirI. Al-TawhIdI adds that neither of them knew anything of either science.292 Al-TawhIdI seems to have been aware of the effect of courtesy on winning a patron, but why did he not use similar means? It is unclear why al-TawhIdI did not use these skills - whether it was because he really lacked them or simply because this was not how he thought istina‘ should be granted, or what he thought the role of a protege should be.
In al-Basa'ir, al-TawhIdI quotes a letter addressed to Ibn al-‘AmId by someone who had waited a long time at his door-step in the hope of obtaining his largesse, but with no success.293 Ihsan ‘Abbas suggests that the letter might have been written by al-TawhIdI himself to show the deficiencies of the vizier.294 In any event, the letter is full of bitterness. It underlines that urging one’s soul to fulfil its duty is an act of generosity, that paying employees their wages is the proper condition of life, that men of power should be accessible, and that a man should know, no matter how strong his kingdom is or how large his entourage, that he is praised for his good deeds, and blamed for his bad ones. These demands would seem to echo what would form the heart of al-Tawhidfs moral engagements with different Buyid viziers.
Although al-TawhIdI’s stay in Rayy enabled him to meet figures such as Ibn ‘Abbad for the first time, when he accompanied Mu’ayyid al-Dawla (d. 373/ 984) from Isfahan to Rayy in 358/969, his experience in Rayy does not seem to have fulfilled his ambitions, so he returned quickly to Baghdad in the same year.295 In Baghdad, al-TawhIdI was more successful. He was introduced into many scholarly circles,296 and had the chance to attend a reception for scholars given by ‘Izz al-Dawla in Ramadan 360/971, where he met the HanafI jurist and Mu‘tazilI theologian Abu ‘Abd Allah al-BasrI (d. 369/980).297 He also mentions that he met al-MarwarrudhI at the court of the vizier Abu al-Faraj Muhammad b. al-‘Abbas, who took office after Abu al-Fadl al-‘Abbas al-Husayn in 385/996.298