Abbasid Caliphate at its greatest extent, c. 850.
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The Abbasid Caliphate (Arabic: الخلافة العباسية / ALA-LC: al-Khilāfah al-‘Abbāsīyyah), was the third of the Islamic caliphates to succeed the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The Abbasid dynasty descended from Muhammad's youngest uncle, Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib (566–653 CE). They ruled as caliphs, for most of their period from their capital in Baghdad in modern-day Iraq, after taking back authority of the Muslim empire from the Umayyads in 750 CE (132 AH).
The Abbasid caliphate first centered their government in Kufa, but in 762 the caliph Al-Mansur founded the city of Baghdad, north of the Persian capital city of Ctesiphon. The choice of a capital so close to Persia proper reflects a growing reliance on Persian bureaucrats, most notably of the Barmakid family, to govern the territories conquered by Arab Muslims, as well as an increasing inclusion of non-Arab Muslims in the ummah. Despite this cooperation, the Abbasids of the 8th century were forced to cede authority over Al-Andalus and Maghreb to the Umayyads, Morocco to the Idrisid dynasty, Ifriqiya to the Aghlabids, and Egypt to the Shi'ite Caliphate of the Fatimids. The political power of the caliphs largely ended with the rise of the Buyids and the Seljuq Turks.
Although Abbasid leadership over the vast Islamic empire was gradually reduced to a ceremonial religious function, the dynasty retained control over its Mesopotamian demesne. The capital city of Baghdad became a center of science, culture, philosophy and invention during the Golden Age of Islam. This period of cultural fruition ended in 1258 with the sack of Baghdad by the Mongols under Hulagu Khan. The Abbasid line of rulers, and Muslim culture in general, recentered themselves in the Mamluk capital of Cairo in 1261. Though lacking in political power, the dynasty continued to claim authority in religious matters until after the Ottoman conquest of Egypt (1517).
- 1 Rise
- 2 Power
- 3 Islamic Golden Age
- 4 Evolution of Islamic identity
- 5 Decline of the empire
- 6 Abbasid Caliphate of Cairo (1261–1517)
- 7 Abbasid Khanate of Bastak
- 8 List of Abbasid caliphs
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Bibliography
- 12 External links
The Abbasid caliphs were Arabs descended from Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib, one of the youngest uncles of Muhammad and of the same Banu Hashim clan. The Abbasids claimed to be the true successors of Muhammad in replacing the Umayyad descendants of Banu Umayya by virtue of their closer bloodline to Muhammad.
The Abbasids also distinguished themselves from the Umayyads by attacking their moral character and administration in general. According to Ira Lapidus, "The Abbasid revolt was supported largely by Arabs, mainly the aggrieved settlers of Marw with the addition of the Yemeni faction and their Mawali". The Abbasids also appealed to non-Arab Muslims, known as mawali, who remained outside the kinship-based society of the Arabs and were perceived as a lower class within the Umayyad empire. Muhammad ibn 'Ali, a great-grandson of Abbas, began to campaign for the return of power to the family of Muhammad, the Hashimites, in Persia during the reign of Umar II.
During the reign of Marwan II, this opposition culminated in the rebellion of Ibrahim the Imam, the fourth in descent from Abbas. Supported by the province of Khorasan, Iran and the Shi'i Arabs, he achieved considerable success, but was captured in the year 747 and died in prison; some hold that he was assassinated.
On 9 June 747 (15 Ramadan AH 129), Abu Muslim successfully initiated an open revolt against Umayyad rule, which was carried out under the sign of the Black Standard. Close to 10,000 soldiers were under Abu Muslim's command when the hostilities officially began in Marv.
The quarrel was taken up by Ibrahim's brother Abdallah, known by the name of Abu al-'Abbas as-Saffah, who defeated the Umayyads in 750 in the Battle of the Zab near the Great Zab and was subsequently proclaimed caliph. Immediately after their victory, As-Saffah sent his forces to Central Asia, where his forces fought against Tang expansion during the Battle of Talas (the Abbasids were known to their opponents as the "Black robed Tazi" (黑衣大食: hēiyī Dàshí), "Tazi" being a Tang dynasty borrowing from Persian to denote 'Arabs'. Barmakids, who were instrumental in building Baghdad; introduced the world's first recorded paper mill in Baghdad, thus beginning a new era of intellectual rebirth in the Abbasid domain.
The first change the Abbasids made was to move the empire's capital from Damascus, in Syria, to Baghdad in Iraq. This was to both appease as well to be closer to the Persian mawali support base that existed in this region more influenced by Persian history and culture, and part of the Persian mawali demand for less Arab dominance in the empire. Baghdad was established on the Tigris River in 762. A new position, that of the vizier, was also established to delegate central authority, and even greater authority was delegated to local emirs. Eventually, this meant that many Abbasid caliphs were relegated to a more ceremonial role than under the Umayyads, as the viziers began to exert greater influence, and the role of the old Arab aristocracy was slowly replaced by a Persian bureaucracy.
The Abbasids had depended heavily on the support of Persians in their overthrow of the Umayyads. Abu al-'Abbas' successor, Al-Mansur welcomed non-Arab Muslims to his court. While this helped integrate Arab and Persian cultures, it alienated many of their Arab supporters, particularly the Khorasanian Arabs who had supported them in their battles against the Umayyads.
These fissures in their support led to immediate problems. The Umayyads, while out of power, were not destroyed. The only surviving member of the Umayyad royal family, which had been all but annihilated, ultimately made his way to Spain where he established himself as an independent Emir (Abd ar-Rahman I, 756). In 929, Abd ar-Rahman III assumed the title of Caliph, establishing Al Andalus from Córdoba as a rival to Baghdad as the legitimate capital of the Islamic Empire.
In 756, The Abbasid Caliph Al-Mansur sent over 4,000 Arab mercenaries to assist the Chinese Tang dynasty in the An Shi Rebellion against An Lushan. After the war, they remained in China. Arab Caliph Harun al-Rashid established an alliance with China. Several embassies from the Abbaside Caliphs to the Chinese Court are recorded in the T'ang Annals, the most important of these being those of (A-bo-lo-ba) Abul Abbas, the founder of the new dynasty, that of (A-p'u-ch'a-fo) Abu Jafar, the builder of Bagdad, of whom more must be said immediately; and that of (A-lun) Harun al-Rashid, best known, perhaps, in modern days through the popular work, Arabian Nights. The Abbasides or "Black Flags," as they were commonly called, are known in Tang dynasty chronicles as the hēiyī Dàshí, " The Black-robed Arabs." Al-Rashid sent embassies to the Chinese Tang dynasty and established good relations with them.
Islamic Golden Age
In virtually every field of endeavor —in astronomy, alchemy, mathematics, medicine, optics and so forth— Arab scientists were in the forefront of scientific advance.
The Abbasid historical period lasting to the Mongol conquest of Baghdad in 1258 CE is considered the Islamic Golden Age. The Islamic Golden Age was inaugurated by the middle of the 8th century by the ascension of the Abbasid Caliphate and the transfer of the capital from Damascus to Baghdad. The Abbassids were influenced by the Qur'anic injunctions and hadith such as "the ink of a scholar is more holy than the blood of a martyr" stressing the value of knowledge. During this period the Muslim world became an intellectual center for science, philosophy, medicine and education as the Abbasids championed the cause of knowledge and established the House of Wisdom in Baghdad; where both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars sought to translate and gather all the world's knowledge into Arabic. Many classic works of antiquity that would otherwise have been lost were translated into Arabic and Persian and later in turn translated into Turkish, Hebrew and Latin. During this period the Muslim world was a cauldron of cultures which collected, synthesized and significantly advanced the knowledge gained from the ancient Roman, Chinese, Indian, Persian, Egyptian, North African, Greek and Byzantine civilizations.
The reigns of Harun al-Rashid (786–809) and his successors fostered an age of great intellectual achievement. In large part, this was the result of the schismatic forces that had undermined the Umayyad regime, which relied on the assertion of the superiority of Arab culture as part of its claim to legitimacy, and the Abbasids' welcoming of support from non-Arab Muslims. It is well established that the Abbasid caliphs modeled their administration on that of the Sassanids. Harun al-Rashid's son, Al-Ma'mun (whose mother was Persian), is even quoted as saying:
The Persians ruled for a thousand years and did not need us Arabs even for a day. We have been ruling them for one or two centuries and cannot do without them for an hour.
A number of medieval thinkers and scientists living under Islamic rule played a role in transmitting Islamic science to the Christian West. These people greatly contributed to making Aristotle known in Christian Europe . In addition, the period saw the recovery of much of the Alexandrian mathematical, geometric and astronomical knowledge, such as that of Euclid and Claudius Ptolemy. These recovered mathematical methods were later enhanced and developed by other Islamic scholars, notably by Persian scientists Al-Biruni and Abu Nasr Mansur.
Christians (particularly Nestorian Christians) contributed to the Arab Islamic Civilization during the Ummayads and the Abbasids by translating works of Greek philosophers to Syriac and afterwards to Arabic. Nestorians played a prominent role in the formation of Arab culture, with the Jundishapur school being prominent in the late Sassanid, Umayyad and early Abbasid periods. Notably, eight generations of the Nestorian Bukhtishu family served as private doctors to caliphs and sultans between the eighth and eleventh centuries.
Algebra was significantly developed by Persian scientist Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī during this time in his landmark text, Kitab al-Jabr wa-l-Muqabala, from which the term algebra is derived. He is thus considered to be the father of algebra by some, although the Greek mathematician Diophantus has also been given this title. The terms algorism and algorithm are derived from the name of al-Khwarizmi, who was also responsible for introducing the Arabic numerals and Hindu-Arabic numeral system beyond the Indian subcontinent.
Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) developed an early scientific method in his Book of Optics (1021). The most important development of the scientific method was the use of experiments to distinguish between competing scientific theories set within a generally empirical orientation, which began among Muslim scientists. Ibn al-Haytham's empirical proof of the intromission theory of light (that is, that light rays entered the eyes rather than being emitted by them) was particularly important. Bradley Steffens described Ibn al-Haytham as the "first scientist" for his development of scientific method.
Medicine in medieval Islam was an area of science that advanced particularly during the Abbasids' reign. During the 9th century, Baghdad contained over 800 doctors, and great discoveries in the understanding of anatomy and diseases were made. The clinical distinction between measles and smallpox was described during this time. Famous Persian scientist Ibn Sina (known to the West as Avicenna) produced treatises and works that summarized the vast amount of knowledge that scientists had accumulated, and was very influential through his encyclopedias, The Canon of Medicine and The Book of Healing. The work of him and many others directly influenced the research of European scientists during the Renaissance.
Astronomy in medieval Islam was advanced by Al-Battani, who improved the precision of the measurement of the precession of the Earth's axis. The corrections made to the geocentric model by al-Battani, Averroes, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, Mo'ayyeduddin Urdi and Ibn al-Shatir were later incorporated into the Copernican heliocentric model. The astrolabe, though originally developed by the Greeks, was developed further by Islamic astronomers and engineers, and subsequently brought to medieval Europe.
Muslim alchemists influenced medieval European alchemists, particularly the writings attributed to Jābir ibn Hayyān (Geber). A number of chemical processes such as distillation techniques were developed in the Muslim world and then spread to Europe.
The best known fiction from the Islamic world was The Book of One Thousand and One Nights. The original concept is derived from pre-Islamic Iranian (Persian) prototype with reliance on Indian elements. It also includes stories from the rest of the Middle-Eastern and North African nations. The epic took form in the 10th century and reached its final form by the 14th century; the number and type of tales have varied from one manuscript to another. All Arabian fantasy tales were often called "Arabian Nights" when translated into English, regardless of whether they appeared in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights. This epic has been influential in the West since it was translated in the 18th century, first by Antoine Galland. Many imitations were written, especially in France. Various characters from this epic have themselves become cultural icons in Western culture, such as Aladdin, Sinbad and Ali Baba.
A famous example of Islamic poetry on romance was Layla and Majnun, which further developed mainly by Iranian, Azerbaijani and other poets in Persian, Azerbaijani, Turkish, and other Turk languages dating back to the Umayyad era in the 7th century. It is a tragic story of undying love much like the later Romeo and Juliet.
Arabic poetry reached its greatest heights in the Abbasid era, especially before the loss of central authority and the rise of the Persianate dynasties. Writers like Abu Tammam and Abu Nuwas were closely connected to the caliphal court in Baghdad during the early 9th century, while others such as al-Mutanabbi received their patronage from regional courts.
One of the common definitions for "Islamic philosophy" is "the style of philosophy produced within the framework of Islamic culture." Islamic philosophy, in this definition is neither necessarily concerned with religious issues, nor is exclusively produced by Muslims. Their works on Aristotle was a key step in the transmission of learning from ancient Greeks to the Islamic world and the West. They often corrected the philosopher, encouraging a lively debate in the spirit of ijtihad. They also wrote influential original philosophical works, and their thinking was incorporated into Christian philosophy during the Middle Ages, notably by Thomas Aquinas.
Three speculative thinkers, al-Kindi, al-Farabi, and Avicenna, combined Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism with other ideas introduced through Islam, and Avicennism was later established as a result. Other influential Muslim philosophers in the Caliphates include al-Jahiz, and Ibn al-Haytham (Alhacen).
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In technology, the Muslim world adopted papermaking from China. The use of paper spread from China into the Muslim world in the 8th century CE, arriving in Spain (and then the rest of Europe) in the 10th century. It was easier to manufacture than parchment, less likely to crack than papyrus, and could absorb ink, making it ideal for making records and making copies of the Koran. "Islamic paper makers devised assembly-line methods of hand-copying manuscripts to turn out editions far larger than any available in Europe for centuries." It was from Islam that the rest of the world learned to make paper from linen. The knowledge of gunpowder was also transmitted from China via Islamic countries, where the formulas for pure potassium nitrate and an explosive gunpowder effect were first developed.
Advances were made in irrigation and farming, using new technology such as the windmill. Crops such as almonds and citrus fruit were brought to Europe through al-Andalus, and sugar cultivation was gradually adopted by the Europeans. Apart from the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates, navigable rivers were uncommon, so transport by sea was very important. Navigational sciences were highly developed, making use of a rudimentary sextant (known as a kamal). When combined with detailed maps of the period, sailors were able to sail across oceans rather than skirt along the coast. Muslim sailors were also responsible for reintroducing large three masted merchant vessels to the Mediterranean. The name caravel may derive from an earlier Arab boat known as the qārib. Arab merchants dominated trade in the Indian Ocean until the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century. Hormuz was an important center for this trade. There was also a dense network of trade routes in the Mediterranean, along which Muslim countries traded with each other and with European powers such as Venice, Genoa and Catalonia. The Silk Road crossing Central Asia passed through Muslim states between China and Europe.
Muslim engineers in the Islamic world made a number of innovative industrial uses of hydropower, and early industrial uses of tidal power, wind power, and petroleum (notably by distillation into kerosene). The industrial uses of watermills in the Islamic world date back to the 7th century, while horizontal-wheeled and vertical-wheeled water mills were both in widespread use since at least the 9th century. By the time of the Crusades, every province throughout the Islamic world had mills in operation, from al-Andalus and North Africa to the Middle East and Central Asia. These mills performed a variety of agricultural and industrial tasks. Muslim engineers also developed machines (such as pumps) incorporating crankshafts, employed gears in mills and water-raising machines, and used dams to provide additional power to watermills and water-raising machines. Such advances made it possible for many industrial tasks that were previously driven by manual labour in ancient times to be mechanized and driven by machinery instead in the medieval Islamic world. It has been argued that the industrial use of waterpower had spread from Islamic to Christian Spain, where fulling mills, paper mills, and forge mills were recorded for the first time in Catalonia.
A number of industries were generated during the Arab Agricultural Revolution, including early industries for textiles, sugar, rope-making, matting, silk, and paper. Latin translations of the 12th century passed on knowledge of chemistry and instrument making in particular. The agricultural and handicraft industries also experienced high levels of growth during this period.
Evolution of Islamic identity
While the Abbasids originally gained power by exploiting the social inequalities against non-Arabs in the Umayyad Empire, ironically during Abbasid rule the empire rapidly Arabized. As knowledge was shared in the Arabic language throughout the empire, people of different nationalities and religions began to speak Arabic in their everyday lives. Resources from other languages began to be translated into Arabic, and a unique Islamic identity began to form that fused previous cultures with Arab culture, creating a level of civilization and knowledge that was considered a marvel in Europe.
Decline of the empire
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- Rift with the Shia
Abbasids found themselves at odds with the Shia Muslims, most of whom had supported their war against the Umayyads, since the Abbasids and the Shias claimed legitimacy by their familial connection to Muhammad. Once in power, the Abbasids embraced Sunni Islam and disavowed any support for Shi'a beliefs. Shortly thereafter, Berber Kharijites set up an independent state in North Africa in 801. Within 50 years the Idrisids in the Maghreb and Aghlabids of Ifriqiya and a little later the Tulunids and Ikshidids of Misr were effectively independent in Africa.
- Conflict of Army Generals
The Abbasid authority began to deteriorate during the reign of al-Radi when their Turkic Army generals, who already had de facto independence, stopped paying the Caliphate. Even provinces close to Baghdad began to seek local dynastic rule.
Also, the Abbasids found themselves to often be at conflict with the Umayyads in Spain.
Fracture to autonomous dynasties
The Abbasid leadership had to work hard in the last half of the 8th century (750–800), under several competent caliphs and their viziers to overcome the political challenges created by the far flung nature of the empire, and the limited communication across it and usher in the administrative changes to keep order. While the Byzantine Empire was fighting Abbasid rule in Syria and Anatolia, military operations during this period were minimal, as the caliphate focused on internal matters as local governors, who, as a matter of procedure, operated mostly independently of central authority. The problem that the caliphs faced was that these governors had begun to exert greater autonomy, using their increasing power to make their positions hereditary.
At the same time, the Abbasids faced challenges closer to home. Former supporters of the Abbasids had broken away to create a separate kingdom around Khorosan in northern Persia. Harun al-Rashid (786–809) turned on the Barmakids, a Persian family that had grown significantly in power within the administration of the state and killed most of the family. During the same period, several factions began either to leave the empire for other lands or to take control of distant parts of the empire away from the Abbasids.
Even by 820, the Samanids had begun the process of exercising independent authority in Transoxiana and Greater Khorasan, as had the Shia Hamdanids in Northern Syria, and the succeeding Tahirid and Saffarid dynasties of Iran. Especially after the "Anarchy at Samarra", the Abbasid central government was weakened and centrifugal tendencies became more prominent in the Caliphate's provinces. By the early 10th century, the Abbasids almost lost control of Iraq to various amirs, and the caliph al-Radi was forced to acknowledge their power by creating the position of "Prince of Princes" (amir al-umara). Shortly thereafter, the Persian faction known as the Buyids from Daylam swept into power and assumed control over the bureaucracy in Baghdad. According to the history of Miskawayh, they began distributing iqtas (fiefs in the form of tax farms) to their supporters.
At the end of the eighth century the Abbasids found they could no longer keep a huge polity larger than that of Rome together from Baghdad. In 793 the Shi'ite dynasty of Idrisids set up a state from Fez in Morocco, while a family of governors under the Abbasids became increasingly independent until they founded the Aghlabid Emirate from the 830s. By the 860s governors in Egypt set up their own Tulunid Emirate, so named for its founder Ahmad ibn Tulun. From this time Egypt would be ruled by dynasties separate from the Caliph. In the East as well, governors decreased their ties to the center. The Saffarids of Herat and the Samanids of Bukhara had broken away from the 870s, cultivating a much more Persianate culture and statecraft. By this time only the central lands of Mesopotamia were under direct Abbasid control, with Palestine and the Hijaz often managed by the Tulunids. Byzantium, for its part, had begun to push Arab Muslims farther east in Anatolia.
By the 920s, the situation had changed further. A Shi'ite sect only recognizing the first five Imams and tracing its roots to Muhammad's daughter Fatima took control of Idrisi and then Aghlabid domains. Called the Fatimid dynasty, they had advanced to Egypt in 969, establishing their capital near Fustat in Cairo, which they built as a bastion of Shi'ite learning and politics. By 1000 they had become the chief political and ideological challenge to Sunni Islam in the form of the Abbasids. By this time the latter state had fragmented into several governorships that, while recognizing caliphal authority from Baghdad, did mostly as they wanted, fighting with each other. The Caliph himself was under 'protection' of the Buyid Emirs who possessed all of Iraq and western Iran, and were quietly Shi'ite in their sympathies.
Outside Iraq, all the autonomous provinces slowly took on the characteristic of de facto states with hereditary rulers, armies, and revenues and operated under only nominal caliph suzerainty, which may not necessarily be reflected by any contribution to the treasury, such as the Soomro Emirs that had gained control of Sindh and ruled the entire province from their capital of Mansura. Mahmud of Ghazni took the title of sultan, as opposed to the "amir" that had been in more common usage, signifying the Ghaznavid Empire's independence from caliphal authority, despite Mahmud's ostentatious displays of Sunni orthodoxy and ritual submission to the caliph. In the 11th century, the loss of respect for the caliphs continued, as some Islamic rulers no longer mentioned the caliph's name in the Friday khutba, or struck it off their coinage.
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The Ismaili Fatimid dynasty of Cairo contested the Abbasids for even the titular authority of the Islamic ummah. They commanded some support in the Shia sections of Baghdad (such as Karkh), although Baghdad was the city most closely connected to the caliphate, even in the Buyid and Seljuq eras. The Fatimids' green banners contrasted with Abbasids' black, and the challenge of the Fatimids only ended with their downfall in the 12th century.
Separatist dynasties and their successors
This list represents the succession of Islamic dynasties that emerged from the fractured Abbasid empire by their general geographic location. Dynasties often overlap, where a vassal emir revolted from and later conquered his lord. Gaps appear during periods of contest where the dominating power was unclear. Except for the Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt, recognizing a Shi'ite succession through Ali, and the Andalusian Caliphates of the Umayyads and Almohads, every Muslim dynasty at least acknowledged the nominal suzerainty of the Abbasids as Caliph and Commander of the Faithful.
- Northwest Africa: Idrisids (788–974) → Almoravids (1040–1147) → Almohads (1120–1269)
- Ifriqiya (modern Tunisia, eastern Algeria & Western Libya): Aghlabids (800–909 CE) → Fatimids of Egypt (909–73 CE) → Zirids (973–1148) → Almohads (1148-1229) → Hafsids (1229–1574)
- Egypt & Palestine: Tulunids (868–905 CE) → Ikhshidids (935-969) → Fatimid Caliphate (909–1171) → Ayyubid dynasty (1171–1341) → Mamluks (1250–1517)
- Al-Jazira (modern Syria & Northern Iraq): Hamdanids (890–1004 CE) → Marwanids (990–1085) & Uqaylids (990–1096) → Seljuks (1034-1194) → Mongol Empire and the Ilkhanate (1231–1335)
- Southwest Iran: Buyids (934-1055) → Seljuks (1034–1194) → Mongol Empire
- Khorasan (modern Iran, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan): Samanids (819–999 CE) → Ghaznavids (962–1168) → Seljuks (1034–1194) → Ghurids (1011-1215) → Khwarazmians (1077–1231) → Mongol Empire & the Ilkhanate (1231–1335)
- Transoxiana (modern Central Asia): Samanids (819-999) → Karakhanids (840-1212) → Khwarazmians (1077–1231) → Mongol Empire & the Chagatai Khanate (1225–1687)
Buyid and Seljuq military control (978–1118)
Despite the power of the Buyid amirs, the Abbasids retained a highly ritualized court in Baghdad, as described by the Buyid bureaucrat Hilal al-Sabi', and they retained a certain influence over Baghdad as well as religious life. As Buyid power waned after the death of Baha' al-Daula, the caliphate was able to regain some measure of strength. The caliph al-Qadir, for example, led the ideological struggle against the Shia with writings such as the Baghdad Manifesto. The caliphs kept order in Baghdad itself, attempting to prevent the outbreak of fitnas in the capital, often contending with the ayyarun.
With the Buyid dynasty on the wane, a vacuum was created that was eventually filled by the dynasty of Oghuz Turks known as the Seljuqs. When the amir and former slave Basasiri took up the Shia Fatimid banner in Baghdad in 1058, the caliph al-Qa'im was unable to defeat him without outside help. Toghril Beg, the Seljuq sultan, restored Baghdad to Sunni rule and took Iraq for his dynasty. Once again, the Abbasids were forced to deal with a military power that they could not match, though the Abbasid caliph remained the titular head of the Islamic community. The succeeding sultans Alp Arslan and Malikshah, as well as their vizier Nizam al-Mulk, took up residence in Persia, but held power over the Abbasids in Baghdad. When the dynasty began to weaken in the 12th century, the Abbasids gained greater independence once again.
Revival of military strength (1118–1206)
While the Caliph al-Mustarshid was the first caliph to build an army capable of meeting a Seljuq army in battle, he was nonetheless defeated in 1135 and assassinated. The Caliph al-Muqtafi was the first Abbasid Caliph to regain the full military independence of the Caliphate, with the help of his vizier Ibn Hubayra. After nearly 250 years of subjection to foreign dynasties, he successfully defended Baghdad against the Seljuqs in the siege of Baghdad (1157), thus securing Iraq for the Abbasids. The reign of al-Nasir (d. 1225) brought the caliphate to power throughout Iraq, based in large part on the Sufi futuwwa organizations that the caliph headed. Al-Mustansir built the Mustansiriya School, in an attempt to eclipse the Seljuq-era Nizamiyya built by Nizam al-Mulk.
Mongol invasion (1206–1258)
In 1206, Genghis Khan established a powerful dynasty among the Mongols of central Asia. During the 13th century, this Mongol Empire conquered most of the Eurasian land mass, including both China in the east and much of the old Islamic caliphate (as well as Kievan Rus) in the west. Hulagu Khan's destruction of Baghdad in 1258 is traditionally seen as the approximate end of the Golden Age. Mongols feared that a supernatural disaster would strike if the blood of Al-Musta'sim, a direct descendant of Muhammad's uncle and the last reigning Abbasid caliph in Baghdad, was spilled. The Shiites of Persia stated that no such calamity had happened after the deaths of the Shiite Imam (leader) Hussein; nevertheless, as a precaution and in accordance with a Mongol taboo which forbade spilling royal blood, Hulagu had Al-Musta'sim wrapped in a carpet and trampled to death by horses on 20 February 1258. The Caliph's immediate family was also executed, with the lone exceptions of his youngest son who was sent to Mongolia, and a daughter who became a slave in the harem of Hulagu. According to Mongolian historians, the surviving son married and fathered children.[clarification needed]
Abbasid Caliphate of Cairo (1261–1517)
In the 9th century, the Abbasids created an army loyal only to their caliphate, composed of non-Arab origin people, known as Mamluks. This force, created in the reign of al-Ma'mun (813–42) and his brother and successor al-Mu'tasim (833–42), prevented the further disintegration of the empire. The Mamluk army, though often viewed negatively, both helped and hurt the caliphate. Early on, it provided the government with a stable force to address domestic and foreign problems. However, creation of this foreign army and al-Mu'tasim's transfer of the capital from Baghdad to Samarra created a division between the caliphate and the peoples they claimed to rule. In addition, the power of the Mamluks steadily grew until al-Radi (934–41) was constrained to hand over most of the royal functions to Mahommed bin Raik.
The Mamluks eventually came to power in Egypt. In 1261, following the devastation of Baghdad by the Mongols, the Mamluk rulers of Egypt re-established the Abbasid caliphate in Cairo. The first Abbasid caliph of Cairo was Al-Mustansir. The Abbasid caliphs in Egypt continued to maintain the presence of authority, but it was confined to religious matters. The Abbasid caliphate of Cairo lasted until the time of Al-Mutawakkil III, who was taken away as a prisoner by Selim I to Constantinople where he had a ceremonial role. He died in 1543, following his return to Cairo.
Abbasid Khanate of Bastak
In 656 AH/1258 CE, the year of the fall of Baghdad, and following the sack of the city, a few surviving members of the Abbasid dynastic family led by the eldest amongst them, Ismail II son of Hamza son of Ahmed son of Mohamed, made their way into the region of Fars in Southern Persia. They settled in the city of Khonj, then a great centre for learning and scholarship. Shaikh Abdulsalam Khonji (b. 661 AH – d. 746 AH) son of Abbas son of Ismail II was born in Khonj only five years after the fall of Baghdad and the arrival of his grandfather in the city. He became a great religious scholar and Sufi saint, held in high esteem by the local populace. His tomb still stands in Khonj and is a site visited by people from near and far.
The descendants of Shaikh Abdulsalam Khonji were religious scholars and figures of great respect and repute for generation after generation. One such scholar and direct descendant of Shaikh Abdulsalam Khonji in the male line, Shaikh Mohamed (d. around 905 AH) son of Shaikh Jaber son of Shaikh Ismail IV, moved to Bastak.[page needed] His grandson, Shaikh Mohamed the Elder (d. 950 or 975 AH) son of Shaikh Nasser al-Din Ahmed son of Shaikh Mohamed, settled in Khonj for a time. But in 938 AH, in response to growing Safavid power, Shaikh Mohamed the Elder moved permanently to Bastak as his grandfather had done. His own grandson, Shaikh Hassan (d. 1084 AH) (also called Mulla Hassan) son of Shaikh Mohamed the Younger son of Shaikh Mohamed the Elder, is the common ancestor of all the Abbasids of Bastak and its neighbouring areas.
Shaikh Hassan’s grandsons, Shaikh Mohamed Saeed (b. 1096 AH – d. 1152 AH) and Shaikh Mohamed Khan (b. 1113 AH – d. 1197 AH) son of Shaikh Abdulqader son of Shaikh Hassan, became the first two Abbasid rulers of the region. In 1137 AH, Shaikh Mohamed Saeed began gathering support for an armed force. Following the capture of Lar, he ruled the city and its dependencies for 12 or 14 years before passing away in 1152 AH.
Shaikh Mohamed Khan Bastaki, his brother, was meanwhile the ruler of Bastak and the region of Jahangiriyeh. In 1161 AH, Shaikh Mohamed Khan Bastaki departed for Didehban Fortress, leaving Bastak and its dependencies in the hands of his eldest son Shaikh Mohamed Sadeq and his cousin Agha Hassan Khan son of Mulla Ismail. Shaikh Mohamed Khan ruled Jahangiriyeh from Didehban Fortress for a period of roughly 20 to 24 years, for which reason he has been referred to as Shaikh Mohamed “Didehban”. He eventually returned to Bastak and continued to reign from there up to the time of his death. At the height of his rule, the Khanate of Bastak included not only the region of Jahangiriyeh, but its power also extended to Lar and Bandar Abbas as well as their dependencies, not to mention several islands in the Persian Gulf.
Shaikh Mohamed Khan Bastaki was the first Abbasid ruler of Bastak to hold the title of “Khan” (Persian: خان, Arabic: الحاكم), meaning "ruler" or "king", which was bestowed upon him by Karim Khan Zand. The title then became that of all the subsequent Abbasid rulers of Bastak and Jahangiriyeh, and also collectively refers in plural form – i.e., “Khans” (Persian: خوانين) - to the descendants of Shaikh Mohamed Khan Bastaki.
The last Abbasid ruler of Bastak and Jahangiriyeh was Mohamed A’zam Khan Baniabbassian son of Mohamed Reza Khan “Satvat al-Mamalek” Baniabbasi. He authored the book Tarikh-e Jahangiriyeh va Baniabbassian-e Bastak (1960), in which is recounted the history of the region and the Abbasid family that ruled it. Mohamed A’zam Khan Baniabbassian passed away in 1967 CE, a year regarded as marking the end of the Abbasid reign in Bastak.
List of Abbasid caliphs
|Caliphs of the Abbasid Caliphate|
|1||Abu'l Abbas As-Saffah||131–136||750–754|
|Caliphs of Cairo|
|40||Al-Hakim I (Cairo)||660–702||1262–1302|
|41||Al-Mustakfi I of Cairo||702–741||1303–1340|
|48||Al-Mutawakkil I (restored)||791–809||1389–1406|
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Tazi in Persian sources referred to a people in that land, but was later extended to cover Arab lands. The Persian term was adopted by Tang China (Dàshí :大食) to refer to the Arabs until the 12th century
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With the rise of the Abbasides we enter upon a somewhat different phase of Muslim history, and approach the period when an important body of Muslim troops entered and settled within the Chinese Empire. While the Abbasids inaugurated that era of literature and science associated with the Court at Bagdad, the hitherto predominant Arab element began to give way to the Turks, who soon became the bodyguard of the Caliphs, ‘until in the end the Caliphs became the helpless tools of their rude protectors.’
Several embassies from the Abbaside Caliphs to the Chinese Court are recorded in the T'ang Annals, the most important of these being those of (A-bo-lo-ba) Abul Abbas, the founder of the new dynasty, that of (A-p'u-cKa-fo) Abu Giafar, the builder of Bagdad, of whom more must be said immediately; and that of (A-lun) Harun al Raschid, best known, perhaps, in modern days through the popular work, Arabian Nights. The Abbasides or ‘Black Flags,’ as they were commonly called, are known in Chinese history as the Heh-i Ta-shih, ‘The Black-robed Arabs.’
Five years after the rise of the Abbasides, at a time when Abu Giafar, the second Caliph, was busy plotting the assassination of his great and able rival Abu Muslim, who is regarded as "the leading figure of the age" and the de facto founder of the house of Abbas so far as military prowess is concerned, a terrible rebellion broke out in China. This was in 755, and the leader was a Turk or Tartar named An Lu-shan. This man, who had gained great favour with the Emperor Hsuan Tsung, and had been placed at the head of a vast army operating against the Turks and Tartars on the north-west frontier, ended in proclaiming his independence and declaring war upon his now aged Imperial patron. The Emperor, driven from his capital, abdicated in favour of his son, Su Tsung (756–763), who at once appealed to the Arabs for help.
The Caliph Abu Giafar, whose army, we are told by Sir William Muir, ‘was fitted throughout with improved weapons and armour,’ responded to this request, and sent a contingent of some 4000 men, who enabled the Emperor, in 757, to recover his two capitals, Sianfu and Honanfu. These Arab troops, who probably came from some garrison on the frontiers of Turkestan, never returned to their former camp, but remained in China, where they married Chinese wives, and thus became, according to common report, the real nucleus of the naturalised Chinese Mohammedans of to-day.
While this story has the support of the official history of the T'ang dynasty, there is, unfortunately, no authorised statement as to how many troops the Caliph really sent. The statement, however, is also supported by the Chinese Mohammedan inscriptions and literature. Though the settlement of this large body of Arabs in China may be accepted as probably the largest and most definite event recorded concerning the advent of Islam, it is necessary at the same time not to overlook the facts already stated in the previous chapter, which prove that large numbers of foreigners had entered China prior to this date.
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It would seem, however, that trade occupied the attention of the early Mohammedan settlers rather than religious propagandism; that while they observed the tenets and practised the rites of their faith in China, they did not undertake any strenuous campaign against either Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, or the State creed, and that they constituted a floating rather than a fixed element of the population, coming and going between China and the West by the oversea or the overland routes. According to Giles, the true stock of the present Chinese Mohammedans was a small army of four thousand Arabian soldiers, who, being sent by the Khaleef Abu Giafar in 755 to aid in putting down a rebellion, were subsequently permitted to settle in China, where they married native wives.
The numbers of this colony received large accessions in the 12th and 13th centuries during the conquests of Genghis, and ultimately the Mohammedans formed an appreciable element of the population, having their own mosques and schools, and observing the rites of their religion, but winning few converts except among the aboriginal tribes, as the Lolos and the Mantsu. Their failure as propagandists is doubtless due to two causes, first, that, according to the inflexible rule of their creed, the Koran might not be translated into Chinese or any other foreign language; secondly and chiefly, that their denunciations of idolatry were as unpalatable to ancestor-worshipping Chinese as were their interdicts against pork and wine. They were never prevented, however, from practising their faith so long as they obeyed the laws of the land, and the numerous mosques that exist throughout China prove what a large measure of liberty these professors of a strange creed enjoyed. One feature of the mosques is noticeable, however: though distinguished by large arches and by Arabic inscriptions, they are generally constructed and arranged so as to bear some resemblance to Buddhist temples, and they have tablets carrying the customary ascription of reverence to the Emperor of China – facts suggesting that their builders were not entirely free from a sense of the inexpediency of differentiating the evidences of their religion too conspicuously from those of the popular creed. It has been calculated that in the regions north of the Yangtse the followers of Islam aggregate as many as ten millions, and that eighty thousand are to be found in one of the towns of Szchuan. On the other hand, just as it has been shown above that although the Central Government did not in any way interdict or obstruct the tradal operations of foreigners in early times, the local officials sometimes subjected them to extortion and maltreatment of a grievous and even unendurable nature, so it appears that while as a matter of State policy, full tolerance was extended to the Mohammedan creed, its disciples frequently found themselves the victims of such unjust discrimination at the hand of local officialdom that they were driven to seek redress in rebellion. That, however, did not occur until the 19th century. There is no evidence that, prior to the time of the Great Manchu Emperor Chienlung (1736–1796), Mohammedanism presented any deterrent aspect to the Chinese. That renowned ruler, whose conquests carried his banners to the Pamirs and the Himalayas, did indeed conceive a strong dread of the potentialities of Islamic fanaticism reinforced by disaffection on the part of the aboriginal tribes among whom the faith had many adherents. He is said to have entertained at one time the terrible project of eliminating this source of danger in Shensi and Kansuh by killing every Mussulman found there, but whether he really contemplated an act so foreign to the general character of his procedure is doubtful. The broad fact is that the Central Government of China has never persecuted Mohammedans or discriminated against them. They are allowed to present themselves at the examinations for civil or military appointments, and the successful candidates obtain office as readily as their Chinese competitors.
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though the actual date and circumstances of the introduction of Islam into China cannot be traced with certainty further back than the 13th century, yet the existence of settlements of foreign Moslems with their Mosques at Ganfu (Canton) during the T'ang dynasty (618—907) is certain, and later they spread to Ch'uan-chou and to Kan-p'u, Hangchow, and perhaps to Ningpo and Shanghai. These were not preaching or proselytising inroads, but commercial enterprises, and in the latter half of the 8th century there were Moslem troops in Shensi, 3,000 men, under Abu Giafar, coming to support the dethroned Emperor in 756. In the 13th century the influence of individual Muslims was immense, especially that of the Seyyid Edjell Shams ed-Din Omar, who served the Mongol Khans till his death in Yunnan in 1279. His family still exists in Yunnan, and has taken a prominent part in Moslem affairs in China.
The present Muslim element in China is most numerous in Yunnan and Kansu; and the most learned Muslims reside chiefly in Ssuch'uan, the majority of their books being printed in the capital city, Ch'eng-tu. Kansu is perhaps the most dominantly Mohammedan province in China, and here many different sects are found, and mosques with minarets used by the orthodox muezzin calling to prayer, and in one place veiled women are met with. These, however, are not Turks or Saracens, but for the most part pure Chinese. The total Moslem population is probably under 4,000,000, though other statistical estimates, always uncertain in China, vary from thirty to ten millions; but the figures given here are the most reliable at present obtainable, and when it is remembered that Islam in China has not been to any great extent a preaching or propagandist power by force or the sword, it is difficult to understand the survival and existence of such a large number as that, small, indeed, compared with former estimates, but surely a very large and vigorous element.
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Mahomedans: IEJ Iej. First settled in China in the Year of the Mission, A.D. 628, under Wahb-Abi-Kabcha a maternal uncle of Mahomet, who was sent with presents to the Emperor. Wahb-Abi-Kabcha travelled by sea to Cantoa, and thence overland to Si-ngan Fu, the capital, where he was well received. The first mosque was built at Canton, where, after several restorations, it still exists. Another mosque was erected in 742, but many of these M. came to China simply as traders, and by and by went back to their own country. The true stock of the present Chinese Mahomedans was a small army of 4,000 Arabian soldiers sent by the Khaleef Abu Giafar in 755 to aid in putting down a rebellion. These soldiers had permission to settle in China, where they married native wives; and three centuries later, with the conquests of Genghis Khan, largo numbers of Arabs penetrated into the Empire and swelled the Mahomedan community.
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In 789 the Khalifa Harun al Raschid dispatched a mission to China, and there had been one or two less important missions in the seventh and eighth centuries; but from 879, the date of the Canton massacre, for more than three centuries to follow, we hear nothing of the Mahometans and their religion. They were not mentioned in the edict of 845, which proved such a blow to Buddhism and Nestorian Christianity perhaps because they were less obtrusive in the propagation of their religion, a policy aided by the absence of anything like a commercial spirit in religious matters.
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The first mosque was built at Canton, where, after several restorations, it may still be seen. The minaret, known as the Bare Pagoda, to distinguish it from a much more ornamental Buddhist pagoda near by, dates back to 850. There must at that time have been a considerable number of Mahometans in Canton, thought not so many as might be supposed if reliance could be placed on the figures given in reference to a massacre which took place in 879. The fact is that most of these Mahometans went to China simply as traders; they did not intend to settle permanently in the country, and when business permitted, they returned to their old haunts. About two thousand Mussulman families are still to be found at Canton, and a similar number at Foochow; descendants, perhaps, of the old sea-borne contingents which began to arrive in the seventh and eighth centuries. These remnants have nothing to do with the stock from which came the comparatively large Mussulman communities now living and practising their religion in sthe provinces of Ssŭch'uan, Yünnan, and Kansuh. The origin of the latter was as follows. In A.D. 756 the Khalifa Abu Giafar sent a small army of three thousand Arab soldiers to aid in putting down a rebellion.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Abbasid Caliphate.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1921 Collier's Encyclopedia article Abbassides.|
- "Abbassides, The". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
- "Abbasid Caliphs" (streaming RealAudio), In Our Time, UK: BBC Radio 4, 2 February 2006.
- "Abbasid Caliphate", Encyclopaedia Iranica (entry)[dead link].
- "Abbasids", Judaica, Jewish virtual library.
- "The Abassid Caliphate (758–1258)", History, Jewish virtual library.