Al-Mutawakkil 'Ala Allah was the tenth Abbasid caliph and son of al-Mu'tasim Bi'llah, the founder of Samarra. Politically, he caused tremors at court by ousting the establishment of his predecessors and renouncing the theological doctrine of Mu'tazilism that they had supported. Although Mutawakkil was a strong-willed ruler, his reign ended early with his assassination at the hands of his son and several officials in the military.
Mutawakkil is known to architectural historians for his many commissions. In addition to rebuilding the Congregational Mosque of Samarra, he constructed several palaces and founded a new imperial city to the north of Samarra that he named Mutawakkiliyya. Notably, it was at Mutawakkil's court that poets such as 'Ali ibn Jahm and Buhturi flourished and produced a series of fantastic poems describing the palatine architecture of Samarra.1 His prolific building activities earned him a negative reputation among later Muslim historians who characterize him as overly ambitious and frivolous, and attribute numerous palaces to him.2Undoubtedly, the vivid descriptions of the palaces by the poets he supported kindled the imaginations of these later authors.
See Julie Scott-Meisami, "The Palace-Complex as Emblem: Some Samarran Qasidas," in Robinson, ed., A Medieval Islamic City Reconsidered, 69-78.
For example, Abu Mansur al-Tha'alibi, Adab al-muluk, edited by Jalil al-'Atiyya (Beirut: Dar al-Gharb al-Islami, 1990), 114-115.