By Calling or the Abbasids Persians Created a Racist State for Themselves in the Arab State
The Abbasid call is one of the key transformations in Islamic history. This is definitely due to its success in overthrowing the first hereditary state in the history of Islam, which is the Umayyad state. This resulted in the establishment of the Abbasid state, which continued to rule for several centuries, despite several political changes that weakened it.
Nevertheless, what concerns us here is the Persian role in calling for the Abbasids, up to the Persians’ attempt to control the mechanisms of the call, so as to rule from behind the scenes after its success and the establishment of the Abbasid state, as well as the extent of its impact on the Arab element, which is the main component of the Abbasid state.
The Abbasid state is affiliated with Al-Abbas bin Abd al-Muttalib, the uncle of the Prophet (PBUH), who was dearly loved and revered by the Prophet, so did the caliphs thereafter. Al-Abbas died during the caliphate of Othman bin Affan and it was not known about him that he demanded the caliphate, nor did his sons, while the Alawites, the sons of Ali bin Abi Talib, demanded the caliphate as per their well-known story, since the caliphate of Ali bin Abi Talib and the incidents that took place with him and with his descendants after him.
The question here: If the Abbasid branch, since Al-Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet, did not claim the caliphate, then from where did this concept emerge, on which the ideological foundation of the Abbasid call relied?
The matter began with a narration that spread to a large extent, establishing the idea that claiming the caliphate moved from the Alawis to the Abbasids, on the basis that everyone is from Hashem family. Some promoted that Abu Hashem bin Muhammad bin Al-Hanafiya, on his death bed, recommended that the imamate be transferred after him to the Abbasids, specifically to Muhammad bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Al-Abbas. Accordingly, the call to the Hashem family became general and the Abbasids began their quest for the caliphate.
At its outset, the Abbasid call was characterized by secrecy for fear of confronting the Umayyads and eliminating the call. Therefore, they began with calling for the “hidden imam” so that the Umayyads would not know him. They also raised the slogan of “Al-Reda from Aal Al-Bayt” in order not to provoke the Alawites; i.e., the call under this slogan was vague and it could bear any branch of the Hashem family.
Muhammad Abdullah Annan provides an important explanation for the success of the Abbasid call, based on Ibn Khaldun’s concept of fanaticism. Annan believes that: “The Abbasids spent a long time aspiring to power. As they did not have sufficient fanaticism, they integrated into Shiite movement and found in invoking it an effective way to attract the masses”.
It is noticeable that the Persians were the most supporters of the Abbasid call, especially in Khurasan region. Historian Muhammad al-Khudari has a diligence in explaining that, which is a diligence that is not devoid of prestige. Al-Khudari believes that: “Those who entered Islam among the Persians were closer than others to being influenced by Shiites views, because they did not differentiate between caliphate and power. Power to them was obtained by inheritance; a gift from Allah to the royal family. Whoever opposes it, he is a dissident who deserves to be hated and cursed. If they, the Persians, were told that the Umayyads usurped the Prophet’s family’s right, that facilitated their response and they believed that the Umayyads should be fought to liberate that sacred right therefrom”.
This interpretation is based on ancient Persian religious and cultural foundations in explaining the accession of the Persians to the Abbasid call. However, it is important to explain many other reasons behind that, including the geographical distance of the Persian states, especially Khorasan, which is the main center of the militarizing the call, from the center of the Umayyad state in Damascus. Here it becomes clear to us how dangerous the peripheries are to the center.
Some point to the existence of a racist factor behind the Persians’ support for the Abbasid call, which is the Persians’ hatred for the Umayyad state that favored the Arab element, on the basis that “the Arabs are the substance of Islam”. Hence, the Persians joined the Abbasid call in abundance to offend the Umayyad state and hoping to reach power behind the curtain of the Abbasids. This is confirmed by Al-Khudari, saying: “They, the Persians, saw that their state had vanished and became loyalists to the Arabs. They found in that call an opportunity to recover something of the greatness they had and humiliate the Arabs. They saw that by helping that new state, the Abbasids, they become the owners of the word heard and the authority in force, and the impact of that on the elite even more on the public”.
Others point out an important matter; that the success of the Abbasid call was not only for religious or ethnic reasons, as money played a key role in the success of that call. They emphasize the importance of the donations of the rich supporters of the call, especially in Khorasan, as well as the imposed financial donations and the Abbasids’ seizure of the “Bayt al-Mal” funds in the cities they seized from the Umayyads. They also refer to the Abbasids call by being members of the Prophet’s family and have the acquired right to the “fifth” of the funds. They used that money to win over followers, spend on soldiers and finance the war against the Umayyads.
Historical experience shows us that in the history of secret calls, the ideological factor should not be relied on solely. It is important to search for the economic factor, financing the call and gaining followers.
Thus, many factors assembled behind the success of the Abbasid call and the establishment of their state at the expense of the fall of the Umayyad state, in addition to opening the door to the rise of the Persian element to the higher ranks of government. Perhaps this is evident in the nature of the role played by Abu Muslim al-Khorasani in the success of the Abbasid call and the elimination of the Umayyads. It is sufficient to mention that the goal of Abu Muslim al-Khorasani was: “If I am able to eliminate all Arabs from Khurasan, I shall do it”.
Annan indicates that the Abbasids, after the success of the state, realized the danger of the Persian power centers for its stability, hence was the confrontation with Abu Muslim Khorasani, followed by the confrontation with the Barmakids.
For its promotion in the distant outskirts of the Umayyad state, Abbasid call relied on the Persian element.
However, the Persians will never forget that they were the main reason, from their point of view, for the success of the call and the establishment of the Abbasid state until the Persian element became a “state within the state” and the main point of weakness in the history of the Abbasids.
- Ahmed Mohamed, Money and its Role in the Abbasid Call, Faculty of Education Journal, University of Alexandria, Volume Thirty-First (2021).
- Hussein Atwan, Abbasid Call: History and Development, 2nd edition (Beirut: Dar Al-Jil, 1995).
- Sayyid Salem, First Abbasid Era (Alexandria: University Youth Foundation, 1993).
- Muhammad Al-Khudari, Lectures on the History of Islamic Nations: The Abbasid State, edited by Muhammad Al-Othmani (Beirut: Dar Al-Qalam, 1986).
- Nabila Hassan, History of the Abbasid State (Alexandria: Dar Al-Ma’refa Al-Jamieya, 1993).