The Abbasid dynasty or Abbasids (Arabic: بنو العباس, romanizedBanu al-ʿAbbās) were an Arab dynasty that ruled the Abbasid Caliphate between 750 and 1258. They were from the Qurayshi Hashimid clan of Banu Abbas, descended from Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib. The Abbasid Caliphate is divided into three main periods: Early Abbasid era (750–861), Middle Abbasid era (861–936) and Later Abbasid era (936–1258). A cadet branch of the dynasty also ruled as ceremonial rulers for the Mamluk Sultanate as Caliph (1261–1517), until their conquest by the Ottoman Empire.

Abbasid caliphs
Flag of Abbasid dynasty
Parent familyBanu Hashim
CountryAbbasid Caliphate
Founded750 (in Baghdad)
1261 (in Cairo)
Final rulerAl-Mutawakkil III
Historic seat
TitlesCaliph (Amir al-Mu'minin)
Dissolution1258 (in Baghdad)
1517 (in Cairo)



The Abbasids descended from Abbas, one of Muhammad's companions (as well as his uncle) and one of the early Qur'an scholars.[1] Therefore, their roots trace back to Hashim ibn 'Abd Manaf and also Adnan in the following line: Al-‘Abbas ibn Abdul-Muttalib ibn Hashim ibn Abd Manaf ibn Qusai[2] ibn Kilab ibn Murrah ibn Ka'b ibn Lu'ay ibn Ghalib ibn Fihr ibn Malik ibn An-Nadr ibn Kinanah ibn Khuzaima ibn Mudrikah ibn Ilyas ibn Mudar ibn Nizar ibn Ma'add ibn Adnan.[3]



The Abbasid dynasty was the dynasty that ruled the third caliphate to succeed the Islamic prophet Muhammad. It descends from Muhammad's uncle, Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib (566–653 CE), from whom the dynasty takes its name.[4] The Abbasids ruled as caliphs for most of the caliphate from their capital in Baghdad in modern-day Iraq, after having overthrown the Umayyad Caliphate in the Abbasid Revolution of 750 CE (132 AH). The Abbasid Caliphate first centered its government in Kufa, modern-day Iraq, but in 762 the caliph Al-Mansur founded the city of Baghdad, near the ancient Babylonian capital city of Babylon. Baghdad became the center of science, culture and invention in what became known as the Golden Age of Islam. This, in addition to housing several key academic institutions, including the House of Wisdom, as well as a multiethnic and multi-religious environment, garnered it a worldwide reputation as the "Center of Learning".

The Abbasid leadership had to work hard in the last half of the 8th century (750–800) under several competent caliphs and their viziers to usher in the administrative changes needed to keep order of the political challenges created by the far-flung nature of the empire, and the limited communication across it.[5] It was also during this early period of the dynasty, in particular during the governance of Al-Mansur, Harun al-Rashid, and al-Ma'mun, that its reputation and power were created.[4] Abbasid Caliphate was at its peak until the assassination of Caliph Al-Mutawakkil in 861.

Assassination of al-Mutawakkil


Al-Mutawakkil had appointed his oldest son, al-Muntasir, as his heir in 849/50, but slowly had shifted his favour to his second son, al-Mu'tazz, encouraged by al-Fath ibn Khaqan and the vizier Ubayd Allah ibn Yahya ibn Khaqan. This rivalry extended into the political sphere, as al-Mu'tazz's succession appears to have been backed by the traditional Abbasid elites as well, while al-Muntasir was backed by the Turkic and Maghariba guard troops.[6][7] In late autumn 861, matters came to a head: in October, al-Mutawakkil ordered the estates of the Turkic general Wasif to be confiscated and handed over to al-Fath. Feeling backed into a corner, the Turkic leadership began a plot to assassinate the Caliph.[8][9] They were soon joined, or at least had the tacit approval, of al-Muntasir, who smarted from a succession of humiliations: on 5 December, on the recommendation of al-Fath and Ubayd Allah, he was bypassed in favour of al-Mu'tazz for leading the Friday prayer at the end of Ramadan, while three days later, when al-Mutawakkil was feeling ill and chose al-Muntasir to represent him on the prayer, once again Ubayd Allah intervened and persuaded the Caliph to go in person. Even worse, according to al-Tabari, on the next day al-Mutawakkil alternately vilified and threatened to kill his eldest son, and even had al-Fath slap him on the face. With rumours circulating that Wasif and the other Turkish leaders would be rounded up and executed on 12 December, the conspirators decided to act.[7][10]

According to al-Tabari, a story later circulated that al-Fath and Ubayd Allah were forewarned of the plot by a Turkic woman, but had disregarded it, confident that no-one would dare carry it out.[11][12] On the night of 10/11 December, about one hour after midnight, the Turks burst into the chamber where the Caliph and al-Fath were having supper. Al-Fath was killed trying to protect the Caliph, who was killed next. Al-Muntasir, who now assumed the Caliphate, initially claimed that al-Fath had murdered his father, and that he had been killed after; within a short time, however, the official story changed to al-Mutawakkil choking on his drink.[13][14] The murder of al-Mutawakkil began the tumultuous period known as "Anarchy at Samarra", which lasted until 870 and brought the Abbasid Caliphate to the brink of collapse.[15]

Decline of Abbasid Caliphate


The decline of the Abbasids started with the death of al-Mutawakkil. After his assassination the Anarchy at Samarra began, which was a period of extreme internal instability from 861 to 870 in the history of the Abbasid Caliphate, marked by the violent succession of four caliphs.

Al-Muntasir became Caliph on 11 December 861, after his father al-Mutawakkil was assassinated by members of his Turkic guard.[16] Although he was suspected of being involved in the plot to kill al-Mutawakkil, he was able to quickly take control of affairs in the capital city of Samarra and receive the oath of allegiance from the leading men of the state.[17] Al-Muntasir's sudden elevation to the Caliphate served to benefit several of his close associates, who gained senior positions in the government after his ascension. Included among these were his secretary, Ahmad ibn al-Khasib, who became vizier, and Wasif, a senior Turkic general who had likely been heavily involved in al-Mutawakkil's murder.[18] His reign lasted less than half a year; it ended with his death from unknown causes on Sunday, 7 June 862, at the age of 24 years. During al-Muntasir's short reign (r. 861–862), the Turks pressured him into removing al-Mu'tazz and al-Mu'ayyad from the succession. When al-Muntasir died, the Turkic officers gathered together and decided to install the dead caliph's cousin al-Musta'in (son of al-Mutawakkil's brother Muhammad) on the throne.[19] The new caliph was almost immediately faced with a large riot in Samarra in support of the disenfranchised al-Mu'tazz; the rioters were put down by the military but casualties on both sides were heavy. Al-Musta'in, worried that al-Mu'tazz or al-Mu'ayyad could press their claims to the caliphate, first attempted to buy them off and then threw them in prison.[20] In 866 his nephew al-Musta'in was killed by al-Mu'tazz after Fifth Fitna. Al-Mu'tazz's reign marks the apogee of the decline of the Caliphate's central authority, and the climax of centrifugal tendencies, expressed through the emergence of the autonomous dynasties in Abbasid Caliphate. Finally, unable to meet the financial demands of the Turkic troops, in mid-July a palace coup deposed al-Mu'tazz. He was imprisoned and maltreated to such an extent that he died after three days, on 16 July 869.[21] He was succeeded by his cousin al-Muhtadi.[21] He ruled until 870, until he was murdered on 21 June 870, and replaced by his cousin, al-Mu'tamid (r. 870–892).[22]

Abbasids from al-Mu'tadid to al-Radi


In a series of campaigns al-Mu'tadid recovered the provinces of Jazira, Thughur, and Jibal, and effected a rapprochement with the Saffarids in the east and the Tulunids in the west that secured their—albeit largely nominal—recognition of caliphal suzerainty. These successes came at the cost of gearing the economy almost exclusively towards the maintenance of the army, which resulted in the expansion and rise to power of the central fiscal bureaucracy and contributed to the Caliph's lasting reputation for avarice. Al-Mu'tadid was renowned for his cruelty when punishing criminals, and subsequent chroniclers recorded his extensive and ingenious use of torture. His reign saw the permanent move of the capital back to Baghdad, where he engaged in major building activities.

Al-Mu'tadid had taken care to prepare his son and successor, al-Muktafi, for his role by appointing him as governor in Rayy and the Jazira.[23][24] Although al-Muktafi tried to follow his father's policies, he lacked his energy. The heavily militarized system of al-Muwaffaq and al-Mu'tadid required the Caliph to actively participate in campaigns, setting a personal example and forming ties of loyalty, reinforced by patronage, between the ruler and the soldiers. Al-Muktafi, on the other hand, did not "in his character and comportment [...], being a sedentary figure, instil much loyalty, let alone inspiration, in the soldiers" (Michael Bonner).[25] The Caliphate was still able to secure major successes over the next few years, including the reincorporation of the Tulunid domains in 904 and victories over the Qarmatians, but with al-Muktafi's death in 908, the so-called "Abbasid restoration" passed its high-water mark, and a new period of crisis began.[26][27][28]

After al-Muktafi's death, al-Muqtadir came to the throne. He came to the throne at the age of 13, the youngest Caliph in Abbasid history. Al-Muqtadir's long reign (908–932) had brought the Abbasids to their lowest ebb, in which most of Northern Africa was lost. Mosul had thrown off its dependence and the Greeks could make raids at pleasure along the poorly protected borders. Yet in the East formal recognition of the Caliphate remained in place, even by those who virtually claimed their independence; and nearer home, the Carmathians had been for the time put down.

After Al-Muqtadir's death, al-Qahir came to power in 932. He ruled for two years until he was pressured to abdicate in favour of Al-Muqtadir's nominated heir al-Radi (r. 932–940). When He refused to abdicate, he was blinded and cast into prison.[29][30] According to al-Mas'udi, al-Radi "kept news of him hidden", so that he vanished from common knowledge.[31] He was not freed until eleven years later, when al-Mustakfi (r. 944–946) came to the throne and discovered him locked away in a remote room in the palace.[30][31]

Al-Radi's reign marked the end of the Caliph's political power and the rise of military strongmen, who competed for the title of Amir al-umara. Al-Radi is commonly spoken of as the last of the real Caliphs: the last to deliver orations at the Friday service, to hold assemblies with philosophers to discuss the questions of the day, or to take counsel on the affairs of State; the last to distribute largess among the needy, or to interpose to temper the severity of cruel officers.

Later Abbasid era (936–1258)


Al-Muttaqi and his successors were all considered as later Abbasids. Al-Muti was a weak figure, for all intents and purposes a puppet ruler of the Buyid emir, first Mu'izz al-Dawla, and then his son, Izz al-Dawla (r. 967–978). As a result of his lack of real power, al-Muti' himself barely figures in the chronicles of his reign, and medieval historians generally considered his period as the lowest ebb of the Abbasid caliphate,[32] an opinion shared by modern scholars as well.[33] al-Muti was succeeded by his son al-Ta'i who made attempts to restore his political authority until he was deposed by Baha al-Dawla. He was succeeded by his cousin al-Qadir, in his long reign, al-Qadir was successful in restoration his political authority in Baghdad and its surrounding territory. He was succeeded by his son al-Qa'im, and it was during his reign that the Buyids were replaced by the Seljuks. The Abbasids continued their partnership with the Seljuks until the reign of al-Muqtafi. Then Abbasid continued to rule Iraq directly with disturbance until Mongol Invasion in 1258.

Caliphate of Cairo


The Mamluk Sultans of Egypt and Syria later appointed an Abbasid prince as Caliph of Cairo, but these Mamluk Abbasid Caliphs were marginalized and merely symbolic, with no temporal power and little religious influence. The Cairo Abbasids were largely ceremonial Caliphs under the patronage of the Mamluk Sultanate that existed after the takeover of the Ayyubids.[34][35] Even though they kept the title for about 250 years more, other than installing the Sultan in ceremonies, these Caliphs had little importance. After the Ottomans conquered Egypt in 1517, the Caliph of Cairo, al-Mutawakkil III was transported to Constantinople.

Centuries later, a tradition developed saying that, at this time, al-Mutawakkil III formally surrendered the title of caliph as well as its outward emblems—the sword and mantle of Muhammad—to the Ottoman Sultan Selim I, establishing the Ottoman sultans as the new caliphal line. Some historians have noted that this story does not appear in the literature until the 1780s, suggesting that it was advanced to bolster the claims of caliphal jurisdiction over Muslims outside the empire, as asserted in the 1774 Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca.[36]

Family tree

Genealogical Chart of Abbasid Caliphs
Banu Isma'il
Banu Adnan
Banu Nizar
Banu Mudar
Banu Kinana
Banu Quraysh
Abd Manaf
Banu HashimBanu Abd Shams
HashimAbd Shams
Banu Umayya
Abd al-MuttalibUmayya
Abu TalibAbd AllahAl-AbbasUmayyads
MuhammadAbd Allah
r. 656–661
Banu Abbas
r. 754-775
r. 750-754
r. 775-785
r. 785-786
Harun al-Rashid
r. 786-809
r. 813-833
r. 809-813
r. 833-842
r. 842-847
r. 847-861
r. 869-870
r. 861-862
Regent (de facto)
r. 870-892
r. 866-869
r. 862-866
r. 892-902
r. 902-908
r. 908-929,
r. 944-946
r. 934-940
r. 946-974
r. 974-991
r. 991-1031
r. 1031-1075
r. 1075-1094
r. 1094-1118
r. 1118-1135
r. 1136-1160
r. 1135-1136
r. 1160-1170
r. 1170-1180
Abu BakrAl-Nasir
r. 1180-1225
r. 1225-1226
Al-Hakim I
Caliph of Cairo
r. 1262-1302
r. 1226-1242
Caliph of Cairo
r. 1261
AhmadAl-Mustakfi I
Caliph of Cairo
r. 1302-1340
r. 1242-1258
Al-Wathiq I
Caliph of Cairo
r. 1340-1341
Al-Hakim II
Caliph of Cairo
r. 1341-1352
Al-Mu'tadid I
Caliph of Cairo
r. 1352-1362
Caliph of Cairo
r. 1377,
Al-Wathiq II
Caliph of Cairo
r. 1383-1386
Al-Mutawakkil I
Caliph of Cairo
r. 1362–1377,
Caliph of Cairo
r. 1406-1414
Al-Mu'tadid II
Caliph of Cairo
r. 1414-1441
Al-Mustakfi II
Caliph of Cairo
r. 1441-1451
Caliph of Cairo
r. 1451-1455
Caliph of Cairo
r. 1455-1479
Al-Mutawakkil II
Caliph of Cairo
r. 1479-1497
Caliph of Cairo
r. 1497-1508,
Al-Mutawakkil III
Caliph of Cairo
r. 1508-1516,

Notable members


Early Abbasid era (750–861)

  • Abu'l-Abbas al-Saffah, the first caliph of the Abbasid Caliphate
  • Abu Ja'far Abdallah ibn Muhammad al-Mansur, the second Abbasid Caliph[37]
  • Al-Mahdi third Abbasid caliph (r. October 775 – 24 July 785) was the most influential Abbasid Caliph. He also promoted Art and science in the Islamic Caliphate.
  • Al-Hadi, (r. 785–786) was an Abbasid caliph. He was very open with the people of his empire and allowed citizens to visit him in the palace at Baghdad to address him. As such, he was considered an enlightened ruler.
  • Harun al-Rashid, fifth Abbasid caliph (r. 786–809) rule is traditionally regarded to be the height of Islamic Golden Age's power. He established the legendary library Bayt al-Hikma ("House of Wisdom") in Baghdad and during his rule Baghdad began to flourish as a world center of knowledge, culture and trade.
  • Al-Amin, (r. 809–813) sixth Abbasid caliph, son of Harun al-Rashid and Zubaidah.
  • Al-Ma'mun, (r. 813–833) was an Abbasid caliph, he was well educated and with a considerable interest in scholarship, al-Ma'mun promoted the Translation Movement, he was also an astronomer.
  • Al-Mu'tasim, (833–842) was an Abbasid caliph, patron of the art and a powerful military leader.
  • Al-Wathiq, (r. 842–847) was an Abbasid caliph, he was well educated and with a considerable interest in scholarship.
  • Al-Mutawakkil, (r. 847–861) was the tenth Abbasid caliph, under his reign the Abbasid Empire reached its territorial height.

Middle Abbasid era (861–936)


Later Abbasid era (936–1258)

  • Al-Qadir influential caliph of later Abbasid era.
  • Al-Muqtafi, ruled from 1136 to 1160.
  • al-Nasir, continued the efforts of his grandfather al-Muqtafi in restoring the caliphate to its ancient dominant role and achieved a surprising amount of success as his army even conquered parts of Iran.[38] According to the historian, Angelika Hartmann, al-Nasir was the last effective Abbasid caliph.[39]
  • Al-Musta'sim, last Abbasid caliph of Baghdad.

See also



  1. ^ "'Abd Allah ibn al-'Abbas". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. I: A-Ak - Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, Illinois: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2010. pp. 16. ISBN 978-1-59339-837-8.
  2. ^ Armstrong, Karen (2001). Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet. Phoenix. p. 66. ISBN 0946621330.
  3. ^ Ibn Ishaq; Guillaume (1955). The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Isḥāq's sīrat. London. p. 3. ISBN 0195778286. The Paternal Ancestral Lineage of Prophet Muhammad{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  4. ^ a b Hoiberg 2010, p. 10.
  5. ^ Brauer 1995
  6. ^ Gordon 2001, p. 82.
  7. ^ a b Kennedy 2004, p. 169.
  8. ^ Kraemer 1989, p. 171.
  9. ^ Kennedy 2004, pp. 168–169.
  10. ^ Kraemer 1989, pp. 171–173, 176.
  11. ^ Kraemer 1989, pp. xx, 181.
  12. ^ Kennedy 2006, p. 265.
  13. ^ Kraemer 1989, pp. 171–182, 184, 195.
  14. ^ Kennedy 2006, pp. 264–267.
  15. ^ Kennedy 2004, pp. 169–173.
  16. ^ Bosworth, "al-Muntasir," p. 583
  17. ^ Kennedy, 266-68
  18. ^ Gordon, pp. 88-91
  19. ^ Bosworth, "Muntasir," p. 583
  20. ^ Saliba (1985) pp. 6-7
  21. ^ a b Bosworth 1993, p. 794.
  22. ^ Zetterstéen & Bosworth 1993, pp. 476–477.
  23. ^ Kennedy 1993, pp. 759–760.
  24. ^ Bonner 2010, p. 337.
  25. ^ Bonner 2010, pp. 332, 335, 337.
  26. ^ Bonner 2010, pp. 337–339.
  27. ^ Kennedy 2004, pp. 184–185.
  28. ^ Sourdel 1970, pp. 132–134.
  29. ^ Zetterstéen 1987, p. 627.
  30. ^ a b Sourdel 1978, p. 424.
  31. ^ a b Masudi 2010, p. 386.
  32. ^ Zetterstéen & Bosworth 1993, p. 799.
  33. ^ Hanne 2007, p. 101.
  34. ^ Bosworth 2004, p. 7
  35. ^ Houtsma & Wensinck 1993, p. 3
  36. ^ Lewis, Bernard (1961). The Emergence of Modern Turkey. Oxford University Press.
  37. ^ Axworthy, Michael (2008). A History of Iran. Basic Books. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-465-00888-9. Archived from the original on 2016-03-07. Retrieved 2015-08-08.
  38. ^ El-Hibri, Tayeb (2021-04-22). The Abbasid Caliphate: A History. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-18324-7.
  39. ^ Hanne, Eric J. (2007). Putting the Caliph in His Place: Power, Authority, and the Late Abbasid Caliphate. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. p. 204. ISBN 978-0-8386-4113-2.