Historical Tales and Anecdotes of the Time of the Early Khalifahs/The Beginning of the Abbasside Dynasty

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THE founder of this dynasty was Abu-Muslim, eL "*" KhurasS.ny, and his name^was 'Abd-er-Rahmdn- ibn-Muslim. Amongst his sayings are the following lines :

Tho' they were reinforced, I obtained by vigilance and secrecy What fell away from the Kings of the Benu-Marwdn.

I ceased not striving with might for their overthrow, And the people were careless and verily the men slept

Never before had been such slumber. JBut with the sword I fell upon them, and from their sltunber woke them.

For he who sleeps while tending his flock where wild beasts roam.

Will find that the lion constitutes himself their shepherd

The first of these Abbasside Khalifabs was Abu- 'Abd-Alldh, es^Saffih.


Uipoa the death of Hishto, A.H. 125 (A.IX 742), el-Walid, the son of Hishim's brother and predecessor, Yezid, succeeded to the throne. (See Note *, p. 222.) But so immoral was el- Wand's hfe, and so inipious were his i3e.U%\»v3& q?^\^<5»\ns,,

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that the people of Syria unanimously resolved to depose him the following year. They accordingly chose Yezid, the son of el-Walid I. (see pp. 192 — 194), el-Walid's cousin-german, for their leader, and inaugurated him Khalifah. He marched against el-Walid, dispersed his troops, besieged him in his palace, and finally slew him, after he had reigned a year and three months. Yezfd him- self died of the plague at Damascus, after he had reigned six months, and was succeeded by his brother Ibrahtm. In the beginning of the year 127 (a.d. 744), however, Marw^- ibn-Muhammad-ibn-Marw^n-ibn-el-Hdkim, who was the governor of Mesopotamia and surrounding provinces, and who had rebelled against Yezid under pretext of avenging the murder of el-Walid II., marched against Ibrahim, in- tending to besiege Damascus, and depose the KhaliMi. At Rjnnafrin and Hems he was joined by many of the Khalifah's subjects, who took the oath of allegiance to him ; but Sulaimin-ibn-Hishim, Ibrahim's general, marched against him with an army of a hundred and twenty thousand men. Sulaimin's army was, however, routed with great .slaughter, and he himself was forced to fly tcf Damascus. Marwin released his many prisoners upon condition of their taking an oath of fidelity to el-Hikim and 'Othmdn, el-Walid's sons, who, since the murder of their father, had remained in prison at Damascus. But Sulaimin, beings well assured of Marwin's intention to place one of them upon the throne, no sooner arrived at Damascus than in concert with Ibrahim he ordered their execution, and then made his escape from the city. El-Hikim and 'Othmin, however, foreseeing what would happen, took care before their deaths to transfer their right to Marwin, and declared, in presence of a fellow-prisoner, that in case they should be slain, Marwin ought to be regarded by all Muslims as the lawful Khalifah and Imim. So after Sulaimin's flight, the citizens of Damascus opened their gates to Marwin, and,


there being no other person in the empire capable of disputing his title or standing in competition with him, he was declared Khalifah, Ibrahim himself recognizing his authority, A. H. 127. So shortc indeed was Ibrahim's reign, that many writers scarcely mention him. He died A.H. 132. But the manner of his death is uncertain : some say he was assassinated, some that he was drowned, and others that he was poisoned. Marwin, however, though proclaimed Khalifah, did not long enjoy peace. The very same year (a.h. 127) the people of Hems rebelled against him. The Damascenes followed their example, and also the people of el-Bdsrah, who had proclaimed Sulaimin-ibn-Hishim Khalifah at that place. And though Marwin was successful in, to a certain extent, quelling these insurrections, yet the partisans of the house of el-Abbis were now beginning to grow powerful in some of the interior provinces of the empire. El-Abbis was the Prophet's uncle ; and the first of the family who made any considerable figure was his descendant in the third genera- tion, Muhammad-ibn-'Aly, who flourished in the time of 'Omar-ibn-'Abd-el-Aziz. 'Omar succeeded Sulaimin-ibn- 'Abd-el-Milik a.h. 99 (a.d. 717). Muhammad-ibn-'Aly was nominated chief or Imdm of the house of el-Abh^s in the hundredth year of the Hijrah. He is reported to havie said to the deputation sent to him on this occasion, "I shall soon die, and my son Ibrahim will be your, leader till he shall be slain. After his death, my other son, 'Abd-A114h, sur- named Abu-'l-'Abbis, es-Saffih, shall preside over you, and settle the government of the Muslims upon a solid and lasting basis." Muhammad died A.H. 125, and was suc- ceeded in the honourable post of Im^m by his son Ibrahim. It was Ibrahim who two years later appointed Abu-Muslim- 'Abd-er-Rahmin-ibn-Muslim, el-Khurasiny, then a youth of nineteen, to go as his representative to Khorassin. Abu- Muslim is called in the text \}bj^ founder ox establisher of the.

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Abbasside dynasty. Ibn-<Khalik^n caUs him the champion and asserter of the rights of the AMfOssides to the KhaH/ate, He was not of the house of d-Abb&S) nor do historians seem agreed as to his birth/sonie even maintaining that he was originally a slave of Kurd extraction. Be that as it may, he attached himself to the house of el-Abb&s, and sd great were his talents as a general, that the Khallfah Marw^'s troops could make no bead against him, and in A.H. 129 all Max^vdn's commandants of fortresses in Kho- rassin were obliged either to taflce an oath of fidelity to Ibrahim, or within a limited time to quit the province. In A.H. 131, Ibrahim, while on his way to perform the pilgrim- age to Mekkah, was seized by the troops of Marw^n, which came up with him near Harr4n, carried him to that city, and confined him in prison, where he soon after died. His brother Abu-'Abd-All^, es-Saffi^h, succeeded him, and mainly owing to the exertions and ability of Abu-Muslim, Marw^n and his forces were driven from point to point until at length he retreated to Egypt, where he was slain, A. h. 13^ (A.D. 750), and es-SaffjIh took possession of the Khalifate without further resistance.

Es-Saffih after this treated Abu-Muslim with the highest honour for his services, and the talents he had displayed in con- ducting this important enterprise. And from that time he constantly repeated aloud the lines given in the text. Ibn-Khalik&n gives a slightly different version of them.

Es-Saff4h died of smallpox at el-Anb^r, or at el-Hishimiyyah, a city erected by him at a short distance from the former, a.h. 136, on the very day that he completed his thirty-third year. He was succeeded by his brother Abu-JaAfar, el-Mansdr. But though the house of el-Abb&s owed its elevation to the Khaltfate almost entirely to Abu-Muslim, there had for some time been a considerable misunderstanding between that general and Al>u-Jadfar. The latter, indeed, observing the devotion of the people of Khorassin to Abu-Muslim would even during his brother's lifetime have persuaded the lattfer to put Abu-Muslim to death. But es-Saffih could not so far forget all sense of gratitude. Some writers assert that it was the intention of this great general to transfer the Khalifate from the house of el-Abbis to the descendants of 'Aly, and that that was the principal cause of his destruction. Be that as it may, he was treacherously inveigled into the palace of Abu-Jaifar, el^Mansilr, and there, in presence and by order of the Khalifah, was more treacherously slain, A.H. 137 (A.D. 755). He was a man of indisputable talent, though with regard to his intellectual abilities and humanity authors are not agreed, some representing him as prudent, merciful, and discreet ; while others have characterized him as of a fierce, merciless, and intractable disposition. A certiain Muslim being once asked whether Abu-Muslim or el-Hajj^j (see Note *, p. 151) was the better man, replied, " I will not say that Abu-Muslim was better than any other man, but that el-Hajjij was worse than he." Abu-Muslim is said to have killed six hundred thousand men in the various battles he fought for the house of el-Abbis and on other occasions.