Impact of Mingling and Competition between Arabs and Persians in Abbasid Era

Historians describe the Abbasid state era as the golden age of Arab-Islamic civilization, in which the Abbasids reached an unprecedented level of urbanization and great political status, expanding between Asia and Africa continents, where Islamic arts and Arab literature flourished, along with the transfer of foreign sciences, which all caused the Arab mind to mature and focus on research and constructive thinking. Several different nations and peoples entered the conquering Arab powers and were affected by the morals and religion of those conquering Arabs and joined the Abbasid state. Despite the apparent positiveness in that, yet such mingling and competition among the peoples of the Abbasid state led to the emergence of Shu’ubiyya that hated the Arabs severely, belittled their value and worth, whether Persians or others. In his book, Historical Roots of Shu’ubiyya, Historian Abdel-Aziz Al-Douri defined the Shu’ubi person as “Any person who belittles the status of the Arabs and refuses to see them as superior to others”. Rather, they are the ones who object to the Arabs claiming their superiority over the nations and their keeping pace with civilizational progress and human development in the movement of history.

Shu’ubis went beyond belittling the Arabs and extended their hatred thereof to favor all non-Arabs. Such Shu’ubiyya was clearly evident during the debates and arguments witnessed by that era.

Distinguished poets carried the slogan of Shu’ubiyya and were its angry tongue, unleashed weapon and its horns that croaked against the Arabs. However, the conflict was mostly between the Arabs and the Persians as vastly evident according to several historians contemporary to that historical era. Who would have thought that in the second century AH / eighth century AD, poet Bashar bin Burd, of Persian origin, would be described as an extreme Shu’ubi, who is very supportive to non-Arabs?! He said in his poetically:

Earth is dark and the fire is shining…

Fire is worshiped since fire ever existed

Has Bashar been nostalgic for his old religion and his fanaticism for Persia?

There is also the famous poet “Dik al-Jinn”, who was known for his strong rejection to Arabs, where he said: “Arabs have no merit over us. The birth of Abraham (PBUH) brought us together and we embraced Islam as they did. Whenever a man from them was killed, another was kicked from us. Allah Almighty has not glorified them compared to us, as Islam brought us all together!”.

This is in addition to other poets and writers whose Shu’ubiyya overshadowed them, such as Al-Sogadi, Mihyar Al-Dailami and Abu Ishaq Al-Mutawakkili.

Those poems that the poets exclaimed, or the narratives narrated by the narrators against the Arabs, showed that Shu’ubiyya had become an indisputable matter. Poets declared their Shu’ubiyya openly without trepidation or fear of the Abbasid authority. Some wrote books that insulted the Arabs and slandered them, such as al-Jihani, who wrote a book in which he insulted and belittled the Arabs, even accused them of eating insects and vermin, as if they had been stripped of human virtues! In this regard, we cannot ignore the famous Abdullah bin Al-Muqaffa, who was considered a major Persian Shu’ubiyya figure, who was against the Arabs and was described as an enemy to them, favor the Persians and Persian fanatism to the last day of his life, when he was ordered to be killed and said, addressing the Arab prince: “By Allah, killing me is killing a thousand souls, while killing you is not even a killing of a single whole person”. Thus, in the most critical situation in his life, Al-Muqaffa did not stop his sarcasm for the Arabs.

There are several names in our political, literary and cultural history, where Shu’ubiyya remained practiced in history, until after the Abbasid state, in different ways and methods, in an approach of thought that many peoples adopted under the Abbasid state.