Abu Muslim Abd al-Rahman ibn Muslim al-Khurasani (Arabic: أبو مسلم عبد الرحمن بن مسلم الخراساني; born 718/19 or 723/27, died in 755), was a Persian general in service of the Abbasid dynasty, who led the Abbasid Revolution that toppled the Umayyad dynasty.
Abu Muslim al-Khorasani
Unknown birth name, possibly Behzadan, or Ibrahim
718/19 or 723/27
|Known for||Abbasid Revolution|
|Title||Abbasid governor of Khurasan|
|Predecessor||Nasr ibn Sayyar (as Umayyad governor)|
Origin and nameEdit
According to the Encyclopedia Iranica, "sources differ regarding his original name and his origin. Some make him a descendant of Gōdarz and of the vizier Bozorgmehr and call him Ebrāhīm; some name him Behzādān, son of Vendād Hormoz; and others relate him to the ʿAbbasids or to ʿAlī’s family. These suggestions are all doubtful". He was most likely of Persian origin, and was born in either Marw or near Isfahan. The exact date is unknown, either in 718/9 or sometime in 723/7.
Other sources refer to him as a Yaminite, a Kurd, an Arab or even a descendant of the ancient Iranian aristocracy. It is also said that he was born in Sar-e Pol Province of present-day Afghanistan to a Tajik family.
Shi'ite activist and missionary activity in KhurasanEdit
Kufa at the time was a hotbed of social and political unrest against the ruling Umayyad dynasty, whose policies favoured Arabs over non-Arab converts to Islam (mawālī) and were thus perceived to violate the Islamic promises of equality. The luxurious lifestyles of the Umayyad caliphs and their persecution of the Alids further alienated the pious. This rallied support for the Shi'a cause of rule by a member of the family of Muhammad, who would, as a God-guided imām or mahdī, rule according to the Quran and the Sunnah and create a truly Islamic government that would bring justice and peace to the Muslim community.
By 737 he is recorded among the followers of the ghālī ("extremist, heterodox") al-Mughira ibn Sa'id. These activities landed him in prison, from where he was liberated in 741/2 by the leading Abbasid missionaries (naqāb, sing. naqīb) on their way to Mecca. He was introduced to the head of the Abbasid clan, Ibrahim ibn Muhammad, who in 745/6 sent him to direct the missionary effort in Khurasan.
Khurasan, and the Iranian eastern half of the Caliphate in general, offered fertile ground for the Abbasids' missionary activities. Far from the Umayyad metropolitan province of Syria, Khurasan had a distinct identity. It was home to a large Arab settler community, which in turn had resulted in a large number of native converts, as well as intermarriage between Arabs and Iranians. As a frontier province exposed to constant warfare, the local Muslims were militarily experienced, and the common struggle had helped further unify the Arab and native Muslims of Khurasan, with a common dislike towards the centralizing tendencies of Damascus and the exactions of the Syrian governors. According to later accounts, already in 718/9 the Abbasids had dispatched twelve naqāb into the province, but modern scholars are sceptical of such claims, and it appears that only after the failure of the Revolt of Zayd ibn Ali in 740 did the Abbasid missionary movement begin to make headway in Khurasan. In 745, the Khurasani Qahtaba ibn Shabib al-Ta'i travelled west to swear allegiance to Ibrahim ibn Muhammad, and it was with him that Abu Muslim was sent east to assume control.
When Abu Muslim arrived in Khurasan, the province was in turmoil due to the impact of the ongoing Umayyad civil war of the Third Fitna, which had re-ignited the feud between the Yaman and Qays tribal groups: the numerous Yamani element in the province opposed the longtime governor, Nasr ibn Sayyar, and sought to replace him with their champion, Juday al-Kirmani. Al-Kirmani led an uprising against Ibn Sayyar, and drove him from the provincial capital, Merv, in late 746, with the governor fleeing to the Qaysi stronghold of Nishapur.
Abu Muslim and the Abbasid RevolutionEdit
He took Merv in December 747 (or January 748), defeating the Umayyad governor Nasr ibn Sayyar, as well as Shayban al-Khariji, a Kharijite aspirant to the caliphate. He became the de facto governor of Khorasan, and gained fame as a general in the late 740s in defeating the rebellion of Bihafarid, the leader of a syncretic Persian sect that were Mazdaism. Abu Muslim received support in suppressing the rebellion both from purist Muslims and Zoroastrians. In 750, Abu Muslim became leader of the Abbasid army and defeated the Umayyads at Battle of the Zab. Abu Muslim stormed Damascus, the capital of the Umayyad caliphate, later that year.
Rule of Khurasan and relations with al-MansurEdit
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After the establishment of the Abbasid regime, Abu Muslim remained in Khurasan as its governor. In this role he suppressed the Shi'a uprising of Sharik ibn Shaikh al-Mahri in Bukhara in 750/1, and furthered the Muslim conquest of Central Asia, sending Abu Da'ud Khalid ibn Ibrahim to campaign in the east.
His heroic role in the revolution and military skill, along with his conciliatory politics toward Shia, Sunnis, Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians, made him extremely popular among the people. Although it appears that Abu al-'Abbas al-Saffah trusted him in general, he was wary of his power, limiting his entourage to 500 men upon his arrival to Iraq on his way to Hajj in 754. Abu al-'Abbas's brother, al-Mansur (r. 754-775), advised al-Saffah on more than one occasion to have Abu Muslim killed, fearing his rising influence and popularity. It seems that this dislike was mutual, with Abu Muslim aspiring to more power and looking down in disdain on al-Mansur, feeling al-Mansur owed Abu Muslim for his position. When the new caliph's uncle, Abdullah ibn Ali rebelled, Abu Muslim was requested by al-Mansur to crush this rebellion, which he did, and Abdullah was given to his nephew as a prisoner. Abdullah was ultimately executed.
Relations deteriorated quickly when al-Mansur sent an agent to inventorize the spoils of war, and then appointed Abu Muslim governor of Syria and Egypt, outside his powerbase. After an increasingly acrimonious correspondence between Abu Muslim and al-Mansur, Abu Muslim feared he was going to be killed if he appeared in the presence of the Caliph. He later changed his mind and decided to appear in his presence due to a combination of perceived disobedience, al-Mansur's promise to keep him as governor of Khorasan, and the assurances of some of his close aides, some of whom were bribed by al-Mansur. He went to Iraq to meet al-Mansur in al-Mada'in in 755. Al-Mansur proceeded to enumerate his grievances against Abu Muslim, who kept reminding the Caliph of his efforts to enthrone him. Against Abu Muslim were also charges of being a zindiq or heretic. al-Mansur then signaled five of his guards behind a portico to kill him. Abu Muslim's mutilated body was thrown in the river Tigris, and his commanders were bribed to acquiesce to the murder.
His murder was not well received by the residents of Khurasan, and there was resentment and rebellion among the population over the brutal methods used by Al-Mansur. He became a legendary figure for many in Persia, and several Persian heretics started revolts claiming he had not died and would return; the latter included his own propagandist Ishaq al-Turk, the Zoroastrian cleric Sunpadh in Nishapur, the Abu Muslimiyya subsect of the Kaysanites Shia, and al-Muqanna in Khorasan. Even Babak claimed descent from him.
At least three epic romances were written about him:
- Marzubānī, Muḥammad ibn ʻImrān, Akhbār shuʻarāʾ al-Shīʻah
- Muḥammad ibn Ḥasan, Abū Ṭāhir Ṭarsūsī, Abū Muslimʹnāmah
- Zidan, Jorji, Abu Muslim al Khorasani
- Abu Muslem FC, an Iranian football club is named after him.
- Yūsofī 1983.
- Bahramian, Ali; Sajjadi, Sadeq; Bernjian, Farhoud (2008). "Abū Muslim al-Khurāsānī". In Madelung, Wilferd; Daftary, Farhad (eds.). Encyclopaedia Islamica. Brill Online.
Abū Muslim al-Khurāsānī was a famous Persian dāʿī (missionary) and commander (ca. 100–137/ca. 718–754).
- Encyclopedia.com "c.728–755, Persian leader of the Abbasid revolution."
- Moscati 1960, p. 141.
- Abu Muslim Khorasani, Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia, Volume 1, ed. Alexander Mikaberidze, (ABC-CLIO, 2011), 23.
- Florian Illerhaus: "Haschimitische Propaganda. Bedingungen für den Erfolg der abbasidischen Revolution" (German). Munich, 2011. ISBN 978-3-640-80572-3
- Kennedy 2004, pp. 123–126.
- Kennedy 2004, p. 125.
- Kennedy 2004, pp. 125–126.
- Shaban 1979, pp. 134–136.
- Hawting 2000, pp. 107–108.
- Sharon 1990, pp. 43–45.
- Goldschmidt, Arthur (2002), A concise history of the Middle East, Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, pp. 76–77, ISBN 0-8133-3885-9
- Daniel, Elton L. (1979). The Political and Social History of Khurasan under Abbasid Rule, 747–820. Minneapolis & Chicago: Bibliotheca Islamica, Inc. ISBN 0-88297-025-9.
- Hawting, G. R. (2000). The First Dynasty of Islam: The Umayyad Caliphate AD 661–750 (2nd Edition). London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-24072-7.
- Moscati, S. (1960). "Abū Muslim". In Gibb, H. A. R.; Kramers, J. H.; Lévi-Provençal, E.; Schacht, J.; Lewis, B.; Pellat, Ch. (eds.). The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume I: A–B. Leiden: E. J. Brill. p. 141.
- Kennedy, Hugh N. (2004). The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates: The Islamic Near East from the 6th to the 11th Century (Second ed.). Harlow, UK: Pearson Education Ltd. ISBN 0-582-40525-4.
- Shaban, M. A. (1979). The ʿAbbāsid Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-29534-3.
- Sharon, Moshe (1990). Revolt: the social and military aspects of the ʿAbbāsid revolution. Jerusalem: Graph Press Ltd. ISBN 965-223-388-9.
- Yūsofī, Ḡ. Ḥ. (1983). "ABŪ MOSLEM ḴORĀSĀNĪ". Encyclopedia Iranica, Vol. I, Fasc. 4. pp. 341–344.