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ABBASIDS

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet had a son, Abdullah, who never tried to establish his own caliphate. Abdullah and his son, Ali bin Abdullah resided in Humayma. It was the latter's son, Muhammad bin Ali to have taken the charge of Kaysaniya sect from the dying Abu Hashim. Thus, the house of Abbas inherited the party and organization of Abu Hashim along with his claims. Muhammad bin Ali led the Kaysaniya sect, and propagated in the name of Ahl al-Bayt, declaring that the caliph should be from Alid descent and the Umayyads had no right to rule. It was mere an ostensible slogan to procure wide supports of the Alids and nourish future political ambition. Muhammad bin Ali died before translating his objective and handed over his claims to his son, Ibrahim. He began to dispatch emissaries, starting with Khorasan, where the bulk of the Kaysaniya faction resided.

In the meantime, the newly acclaimed Umayyad caliph Marwan sought to strike at the centre of the whole movement by arresting Ibrahim. He is said to have strangled him as Yaqubi writes, by having his head put into a bag of lime until he died. But Ibrahim had two brothers, Abul Abbas and Abu Jafar Mansur, both of whom escaped to Khorasan. And very soon these two brothers returned, supported by Abu Muslim's victorious troops, to lead the insurgents in their final struggle in the West. Their way had been prepared for them in Kufa by propaganda that had been carried on for more than twelve years.

Meanwhile, things took a reverse turn for the Abbasid family. The army commanded by Abul Abbas and Abu Jafar Mansur, had come from Khorasan to Kufa, where they found the city decorated in black, the accepted colour of the Abbasids, and the people who crowded to the mosque also wore black clothes and black turbans with black banners planted in hands. Abu Salama led the prayers, after which he announced that Abu Muslim had now made it possible for the world of Islam to shake itself free from the Umayyads, and declared that it was to this end that he called upon them to recognize Abul Abbas, the brother of the murdered Ibrahim, as their rightful Imam and Caliph. Abul Abbas mounted the pulpit and made his inaugural speech, in which he named himself as as-Saffah (blood-shedder) and "identified the glory of God with his own interest and those of his house. He named the Abbasids as the Ahl al-Bayt from whom uncleanliness was removed, and denied that the Alids were more worthy of the caliphate" (Tabari, 3:29). His speech was followed by a speech from his uncle, Daud bin Ali, who also emphasized that the rights of the Abbasids were legally inherited and there were but two legal caliphs in Islam: Ali bin Abu Talib and Abbas as-Saffah. He added that the caliphate would remain in the hands of the Abbasids until they passed it over to Isa bin Marium. (Tabari, 3:31; Yaqubi, 2:350 and Masudi, 3:256). The excited crowd expressed their approval and gave their allegiance to Abul Abbas as the first caliph of the Abbasid caliphate in 132/750. In sum, there were 37 caliphs in Abbasid dynasty from Abul Abbas (d. 136/754) to al-Mustasim (d. 656/1258).

Marwan, the Umayyad caliph was at that time advancing towards Kufa with a huge army. He encountered the army from Khorasan at a point on the greater Zab river, and the battle of Zab lasted for two days. It was closely contested struggle, and the day was turned when Marwan's horse ran away without its rider. He managed to escape, but was eventually discovered and killed. So fell the last of the Umayyads in 132/750.

After Alamut operations, Halagu marched on Baghdad and reached on January 18, 1258. On January 30, the Mongols opened a heavy bombardment. On the morning of Wednesday, February 13, 1258, the Mongols entered Baghdad. The citizens were mercilessly massacred, and the city was plundered and then set on fire. Thus, Baghdad, the proud capital of the Abbasids, was razed to dust, groaning under the pagan heels of the Mongols. Diyarbakri (d. 982/1574) writes in Tarikh-i Khamis that, "The massacre continued in Baghdad for 34 days during which 1,80,000 persons were put to the sword. For four days, the blood ran freely in the streets and the water of Tigris was dyed red for miles." The savage massacres can be further judged from the example quoted by Steven Runciman in A History of the Crusades (London, 1954, p. 303) that, "One Mongol found in a side-street forty new born babies, whose mothers were died. As an act of mercy, he slaughtered them, knowing that they could not survive with no one to suckle them." The victorious army pursued and attacked at full gallop. The 37th Abbasid caliph al-Mustasim (640-656/1242-1258) was destined to be the last caliph, and was beaten to death on Halagu's orders, and according to another version, trampled on by horses. Abul Faraj writes in Tarikh Mukhtasar al-Duwal (pp. 445-6) that, "The Abbasid caliph al-Mutasim was devoted to entertainment and pleasure, passionately addicted to playing with birds, and dominated by women. He was a man of poor judgment, irresolute, and neglectful of what is needful for the conduct of government. When he was told what he ought to do in the matter of the Tatars, either to propitiate them, enter into their obedience and take steps to gain their goodwill, or else to muster his armies and encounter them on the borders of Khorasan before they could prevail and conquer Iraq, he used to say, ‘Baghdad is enough for me, and they will not begrudge me if I renounce all the other countries to them. Nor will they attack me when I am in it, for it is my house and my residence.’ Such baseless fancies and the like prevented him from taking proper action, and so he was stricken by calamities which he had never imagined.”

In sum, Prof. Masudul Hasan writes in History of Islam (Lahore, 1987, 2:192) that, “The gravest fault of the Abbasid caliphs was that they suffered the state to be fragmented thereby weakening the power structure and exposing the state to foreign attack. Thus our value-judgment is that the Abbasid caliphs were themselves responsible for their fall.” According to Vladimir Minorsky in Iran: Opposition, Martyrdom and Revolt (Chicago, 1955, p. 192), “Ata Malik Juvaini sheds tears over the misfortunes of the Muslims, and at the same time attributes to his infidel masters the role of those of whom God said: ‘They are My troops through whom I take My vengeance upon the rebels.’”


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