Abbasi

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For an Iranian currency, see Abbasi (currency).

Abbasi (Arabic: عباسي‎) or 'Abbasids', are a prominent Islamic Arabic family. It is a clan of Banu Hashim Al Quraysh of Arabia. They once also formed a ruling Muslim dynasty (see Abbasid Caliphate). Abbasis dwell in Muree, parts of Kahuta and Abbottabad besides Bahawalur & Sindh in Pakistan.

Abbasid-Seljuq Empire (750-1258)[edit]

In the 740s, a Persian-Arab coalition from Khorasan, in eastern Iran, challenged the Umayyad dynasty and by 750, seized power over Muslim lands. The Umayyads had been based in Syria and were influenced by its Byzantine architecture and administration. In contrast, the Abbasids moved the capital to Baghdad in 762 and, although the leaders were Arab, administrators and cultural influence were primarily Persian.

This eastward shift allowed some independent dynasties to form in the west, such as the Spanish Umayyad and later the Egyptian Fatimids. Abbasid expansion to the east also brought them in conflict with the Chinese at the Battle of Talas in 751. The Muslim army was victorious, and through Chinese captives, learned about paper, which would replace papyrus and parchment, making Abbasid intellectual achievements easier to spread.

The 9th and 10th centuries under Abbasid rule were a golden age of Muslim achievement. In the recently built capital of Baghdad, the caliphs founded centers of study, including the Beyt alHikma, or House of Wisdom. Most historians attribute this to Al-Ma’mun, who reigned from 813-33, but some give credit to earlier caliphs. By the mid-800s, brilliant Muslim scholars—many Persian, but also Arab, Indian and Egyptian—shared their knowledge and writings in Baghdad. Al Khwarizmi (d. 850) adapted Hindu numerals and developed the numbering system we use today. He is considered the father of algebra. His works were translated into Latin in the 12th century and formed the basis of western mathematics. Scholars translated ancient Persian, Hindu and Greek texts into Arabic and then spread that knowledge across the vast Muslim lands, as far west as Spain, where they were translated into Latin. These texts helped Europeans become acquainted with the Greek thinkers, such as Aristotle.

The Abbasid dynasty depended on regional governors for military control and the collection of taxes. By the 11th century, this decentralized system proved too weak to defend against nomadic tribesmen from the east. In 1055, Seljuq Turkmen who had gradually moved into Abbasid territory, took control of Baghdad. Their leader, Tugrul Bey, forced the Abbasid caliph to name him sultan. From that point, the empire was ruled in name by the Abbasids, but in practice by the Seljuq.

The Seljuq expanded westward, defeating the Byzantines in Turkey and even taking control of Jerusalem. These challenges to Christian rule led the pope to call the first crusade in 1096. Christian knights seized and held Jerusalem until 1187, when the city was retaken by the great Muslim general, Saladin. Europeans maintained a presence in the region until the Crusades ended in 1204 and in spite of the conflict, trade flourished between east and west. It was partly through these exchanges that the learning of Muslim scholars in the Middle East was shared with Europe.

Even as the Abbasid political system weakened in later years, it gave rise to great scientific and literary achievement. Ibn Sina, known as Avicenna in the west, wrote the Canon of Medicine in 1025, an encyclopedia describing diseases and treatments that were far ahead of any medical work done in Europe. Much of the great literature of the period was written in Persian. The Shahnameh (“Book of Kings”) was published around the year 1000 and describes the mythologized history of ancient Persian kings. In the 12th century, the stories known as A Thousand and One Nights were first compiled and printed in Arabic.

The creativity that had flowed from Baghdad for four centuries came to a crashing halt in 1258, when the Mongol invasion reached Mesopotamia. The conquerors destroyed the city of Baghdad, burning its palaces and its houses of learning. Although the Mongols would eventually convert to Islam and foster their own cultural achievements, the golden age of the Abbasid dynasty had come to a close.

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