1902 Encyclopedia > Arabia > Arabia - History - Abbasid Dynasty (Abbaside Dynasty)

(Part 43)


(43) Arabia - History - Abbasid Dynasty (Abbaside Dynasty)

Policy of the Abbaside Dynasty

With the accession, however, of the Abbaside caliphs, 750 A.D., the good days of Arabia came to an end. Though they also were, like their Ommiade predecessors, Arabs by origin, and indeed of the purest Arab blood, they owed their place on the throne, not to Arab partisans, but to the influence and the arms of the anti-Arab and eastern, provinces, Persian, Tatar, and Turkoman, beyond the Tigris, whilst the Arab half of the empire had almost unanimously declared for their supplanted rivals. Hence the Abbaside polic Arab partisans, but to the influence and the arms of the anti-Arab and eastern, provinces, Persian, Tatar, and Turkoman, beyond the Tigris, whilst the Arab half of the empire had almost unanimously declared for their supplanted rivals. Hence the Abbaside policy rested on a non-Arab base; and its representatives, although descendants of Koreysh and Hashim, systematically neglected or even depressed the Arab element of their rule, while they strengthened and elevated the Irano-Turanian or centrall Asiatic. Their throne, at first transferred from Damascus to Hashimeeyah, the newly-founded residence of Abd-Allah Es Saffah, on the Euphrates, was soon after removed further east to the banks of the Tigris. Here, close to the ruins of the old Persian capital of Madain, the second Abbaside caliph, Almansur, laid 760 A.D., the foundations of that great city which, under the Persian name of Baghdad, still remains a monument of his personal energy of the policy of his race.

Decline of the Abbaside Caliphs

Within its walls, surrounded by Persian ministers or slaves, amongst whom the family of Barmek has attained a tragical celebrity, and by an armed body of Turkish or Turkoman guards, are first their servants, but before long their masters, the descendants of abbas held for a century the substance, and for four centuries more the shadow of a scepter. Some of their names, and that of Haroon-el-Rasheed, 768 to 809 A.D. in particular, are connected with great events and famous memories, but the records of their reigns belong to Perso-Asiatic rather than to Arab history. Indeed, from the death of the eight caliph of the race, El-Mostasim, 842 A.D., to the accession of the last of their dynasty, El-Mostasim, 1242 A.D., these princes were mere puppets in the hands of the Persia, Koord, Turkoman, or Turkish mercenaries, by whom they surrounded themselves as a protection against their own Arab subjects. Meanwhile province after province separated itself from their empire, and reasserted its own native character and indpenedence, till in 1258 A.D., the pagan and Tatar chief Holagoo, grandson of Genghis-Khan, stormed Baghdad, and extinguished the decrepit dynasty of Abbas in the blood of the last caliph. Yet Arab genius, though deprived of political support, maintained by its philosophical literary vigour through all those dreary centuries, nor has even in our own time wholly lost, a certain intellectual ascendancy in Baghdad and its vicinity.

Karmathian Revolt

Meanwhile the Arabian peninsula itself, neglected or despoiled by the Abbaside caliphs, had sunk year by year more deeply into clannish disorganization, till the revolt of the Karmathians, about the end of the 10th and the beginning of the 11th century, detached Arabia definitely from the overgrow empire that she herself had founded. This revolt had been long preparing. Hatred of centralized rule, a strong attachment to local, tribal, and even in some places semi-municipal organization, both joined to a deep underlying skepticism, had from the very first originated and fostered throughout Arabia a widespread, though covert opposition to the establishment of Islamitic despotism, and jealousy of the predominance conferred by Mahomet and his successors on their kinsmen of the northern and western tribes, and on Koreysh in particular, had united in secret antagonism to Islam and the caliphate the other tribes of the peninsula, but especially those of the centre, east, and south. Hence the Karmathian outbreak son took the form of an Arab reaction against foreign and uncongenial influences and institutions, and being such, could hardly fail of substantial success. As to be special tenets professed by the Karmathians -- so-called from Karmath, their mystic founder, circa 890 A.D. -- they were, in their ultimate expression pantheistic in theory and socialist in practice.

Disorganization of Arabia

From the sea-coast provinces of Bahreyn and Katar, its first avowed centre, the uprising, headed by its terrible leader Suleyman Abu-Jahir, spread rapidly over the rest of Arabia; and in the year 929 of our era Mecca itself was stormed, and the Kaabeh ruined by his troops, while the sacred black stone itself was carried off do Hasa, where it remained twelve years. The feeble attempts of the Abbasite caliphs to check the movement proved utterly ineffectual; all was confusion, and for two centuries more a bloody partisan war, or rather an ever-recurring series of petty wars, devastated the peninsula. When this at last gave place to the quiet, not of peace but of exhaustion, Arabia, from Syria to Aden, was, with the sole exception of the narrow Hejaz coast-strip, detached in fact as in name from the pseudo-Arab empire of Baghdad, and had returned to its primitive independents. But by the same process the land had relapsed, hopelessly this time, into the semi-barbarism that invariably follows a prolonged vicissitude of petty tyrants, vicinal wars, interrupted communications, waste of life and property, and the fatal insecurity of universal lawlessness. Ease, wealth, trade, science, literature, all had perished from Arabia, till after a long anarchy, of which little memory is preserved, and that little of less interest, the country subdivided itself into the provincial sections that, with slight modifications, it has retained ever since.

Rearrangement of the Provinces

Oman, with the adjoining regions of Katar, and Hasa, was organized into a semi-elective monarchy of a limited character, under the leadership of the Nebhan and subsequently of the Yaarebah clan; while its rulers, in opposition to the orthodox head of Islam at Baghdad or elsewhere, assumed the half spiritual title of Imam, and have since retained it. Yemen, the wealthiest and most populous territory of Arabia, split up into an infinity of petty provinces, governed each by a distinct prince, while some one or other would from time to time assert a transient sovereignty over the rest. The barbarous districts of Mahrah and Hadramaut on the south-east, with the mountain fastness of Nejd and Shomer, were abandoned to the anarchy of clannish alliances or feuds. The Hejaz alone, with the sacred territory or Haram of Mecca, under the headship of the "shereefs" or "nobles," the lineal descendants of Koreysh, retained some kind of constituted authority connected with the outer world, and paid a respectful but distant allegiance, sometimes to the government of Baghdad, more often to that of Egypt.

Fatimite Dynasty in Egypt

For, on the ruins of the Aghlabte dynasty, founded by Ibrahim Ebn-Aglab, the general of Haroon-el-Rasheed in North Africa, 797 A.D., with the inland city of the Keyrawan for capital, there had arisen, 909 A.D., a new kingdom, that of the Fatimites, so designated from one Obeyd-Allah, its originator, a real or pretended descendent of Ali and Fatimah. These fatimities, able but tyrannical mystics, having united under their rule the whole of the north African coast, invaded Egypt; and Moezz-Allah, their caliph, having, 972-3 A.D., driven the Abbaside governor from the shores of the Nile, established his own throne in the city of Cairo, which his victorious general Jowjer had founded the year previous. From this capital he and his descendants ruled for two centuries more, not only over Egypt, lower and upper, but, though at the price of frequent wars, over Syria to the east and Tripoli to the west, till the last of the Fatimite caliphs, Adhid-Billah, was 1171 A. D., dethroned by the Joordish conqueror Salah-ed Deenn, better known in history and romance as Saladin, the chivalrous opponent of our own Richard I. But thought no Arab prince has ever since reigned in Egypt, the Hejaz with its sacred cities remained annexed to that country, and Yemen in part followed suit.

Read the rest of this article:
Arabia - Table of Contents

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-18 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries