Ibn Ra'iq's father was of Khazar origin and served as a military officer under Caliph al-Mu'tadid (r. 892–902). Under Caliph al-Muqtadir (r. 908–932), he served as chief of the police (sahib al-shurta) and chamberlain (hadjib). After the deposition and murder of al-Muqtadir and the accession of al-Qahir (r. 932–934), Ibn Ra'iq fell into disgrace and abandoned Baghdad. He nevertheless managed to be named governor of Basra, and returned to favour and obtained the governorship of Wasit on the accession of al-Radi (r. 934–940).
The frequent coups and violent struggle for control of the Caliphate had by this time greatly enfeebled the central government. Effective control over the Maghreb and Khurasan had long been lost, but now autonomous local dynasties emerged in the provinces closer to Iraq: Egypt and Syria were ruled by the Ikhshidids, the Hamdanids had secured control over the Jazira—the "island" plain between the Tigris and Euphrates in upper Mesopotamia—while most of Iran was ruled by Daylamite warlords, among whom the Buyids became prominent. Even in Iraq itself, the authority of the caliphal government was challenged. Thus in the south, around Basra, the Baridi family under
Abu Abdallah al-Baridi established its own domain, often refusing to send tax revenues to Baghdad and establishing contacts with the Buyids of Fars.
Map of Iraq in the 9th–10th centuries
In this atmosphere of disintegration, Ibn Ra'iq likewise refused to send his province's revenue to Baghdad. The Caliph's vizier, Ibn Muqla, tried to restore central control, but his expedition against the Hamdanids in 935 failed to achieve any lasting results and his attempt to campaign against Ibn Ra'iq in the next spring failed to even get off the ground, and he was himself arrested. Al-Radi was now forced to turn to Ibn Ra'iq for support, even though he had dismissed such a proposal in 935. Thus, in 936 Ibn Ra'iq came to Baghdad and assumed de facto control over the caliphal government with the title of amir al-umara ("commander of the commanders"). The post entailed overall command over the army, as well as the supervision of the civil administration, hitherto the province of the vizier. The Caliph was deprived of any say in affairs of state, and sidelined to a purely symbolical role.
The main pillars of Ibn Ra'iq's regime were the Turkish troops under Bajkam and Tuzun, former subordinates of Mardavij. To secure his own position, Ibn Ra'iq even massacred the old caliphal bodyguard, the Hujariyya, destroying the last body of troops still loyal to the Abbasid dynasty. Ibn Ra'iq's authority was soon weakened, however, when he fell out with the Baridis of Ahwaz, who had initially supported his rise to power. When he tried to deprive them of their province, they re-opened their contacts with the Buyids. Finally, it was discontent among the Turkish military that led to his downfall: the Turks under Bajkam rose up against him, and after a brief struggle, Bajkam became the new amir al-umara in September 938, while Ibn Ra'iq was sent to govern Diyar Mudar. The struggle between Bajkam and Ibn Ra'iq had one long-term and disastrous consequence: trying to impede Bajkam's advance towards Baghdad, Ibn Ra'iq ordered the blocking of the Nahrawan Canal to flood the countryside. This action did not avail Ibn Ra'iq, but it heavily impaired the local agriculture for centuries to come, since the canal played a central role in the ancient irrigation system of the Sawad. As Hugh N. Kennedy writes, "the breach of the Nahrawan canal was simply the most dramatic example of a widespread phenomenon of the time; and it was symbolic of the end of ‘Abbasid power just as the breach of the Marib Dam was of the end of the prosperity of pre-Islamic south Arabia".
Bajkam remained amir al-umara until his death in 941, whereupon Ibn Ra'iq seized the opportunity to recover his position: he sidelined Bajkam's successor Kurankij and secured his own re-appointment as amir al-umara in September 941. He did not long enjoy it, however, as in early 942 he was assassinated at the orders of the Hamdanid prince Nasir al-Dawla, who soon succeeded him as amir al-umara.