Abu Muslim—rise of Abbasids

Golden Mein

Khorasan based Abu Muslims was too deft a planner to miss capitalizing on the governance deficits of Omayyad caliphs in the dying days of the dynastic caliphate. Marwan-II, the last of Omayyads facing heavy odds and taking on his adversaries gamely in some sectors had nevertheless a stretched out front to face. He subdued the rebellions in Hems and Palestine, and impaled the rebels. Iraq and Hejaz rebellions were Khawarij led, in Hejaz by Abu Hamza. Khawarij left a better governance impression in Hejaz compared to that of Omayyads. However Iraq and Hejaz were cleared of Khawarij, the rebels took refuge in Khorasan—another element capitalized by Abu Muslim. Yemen rebellion carried the label of ‘Dai-ul-Haq’ [summoner to truth] Himyarites had received a rough deal. Dai—the summoner was from Hadhramaut/Hazramaut, his name beingAbdullah ibn Yahya Hadhrami. Yemen too was cleared of rebels, and Abu Muslim continued cashing on Omayyad follies. Himyarite rage against Modharite excesses of last few Omayyad Caliphs, who knew not how to strike the right balance between two premier Arab factions had Abu Muslim adding adherents to his growing ranks.

Ameer Ali in his, ‘A Short History of the Saracens’ [page: 172]quotes an old author relating of Abu Muslim, “The gravest events could hardly disturb the serenity of his countenance. He received the news of most important victories without expressing the least symptom of joy; under the greatest reverses of fortune he never betrayed the slightest uneasiness, and when angered, he never lost his self command”. And Ameer Ali’s own conclusion, based on testimony of others relates, “An impassive exterior, which no adversity or success could affect, however slightly, concealed a pitiless and cruel heart”. Ameer Ali attributes Machiavellian dexterity to Abu Muslim in playing upon the vanities of Modhar and Himyar and the bitterness which animated both. In paying tribute to his urbanity, Ameer Ali notes, “His unsavouring urbanity and condescension conciliated enemies and secured adherents; whilst the capacity to organize the troops and administering public affairs extorted admiration”. High praise indeed though Machiavellian attitude, concealing a cruel heart beneath an impassive exterior relates a different tale. The cons with pros summed up the one who delivered by working effectively through a maze of events, wherein he developed an innate capacity to weed out the kernel from the chafe. Perhaps situation being pregnant with many possibilities did not leave room for consideration and exhibition of holistic morality. Morality had a premium on it in the Medinite republic of Khulfia-e-Rashideen, but was a waning commodity, a century ahead.

To sum up the forces arrayed against Omayyads, we may include scores of disgruntled elements. Historians, chroniclers of Islamic lore, philosophers and poets, eminent authors have talked of what in vernacular is called the ‘Arabi Asabiat’.  That denotes a partial Arab attitude in mild terms or to raise the pitch, even high headedness towards the nationals of nations, who impressed by the clarity of the message—the message of equality had joined the Islamic mainstream in droves. No distinction to be made between Arabi and Ajmi, the only measure of acceptability in Islam being ‘Taqwa’ [faith].   In word and deed that had been the message of Prophet Mohammad [pbuh] while delivering his landmark last sermon[Khutba] at Arafat. As long as the message retained its pristine purity, there was no distinction between an Arabi and the Ajmi [non-Arab]. The moment its essence was set aside, the equals became subjects, and Arabs the overlords. The non-Arabs—the Persians, the Berbers, the Spanish Muslims [Biladiun-the locals] did not lose faith in the pristine Islamic message, but they certainly lost faith in power dispensing of Omayyads. They were no more stake holders in power dispensing. Thus while deserting Omayyads, they held on to the new standard—the standard of Ahl-ul-Bait [the house of Prophet {pbuh)].

Abu Muslim was holding the standard, incidentally black, perhaps to denote the pain, the suffering of the masses. It had a cloud and a shadow—the shadow denoting the stakes of Abbasids. The stake however was not prominently displayed in the slogan of Abu Muslim. The slogan was that Hashmis’ the clan of Prophet Mohammad [pbuh] would deliver, where Omayyads had failed. It made no distinction between the Alids/Fatmides [the progenies of house of Syedena Ali (RA) and Syeda Fatima (RA)] and Abbasids [house of Hazrat Abbas (RA)]. Hazrat Abbas [RA] in Islamic lore stands depicted in glowing terms, as a thinking mind, measuring his steps before treading a path. He thus became a counselor of the Prophet [pbuh] even in days when he held his Meccan station, while Islam was confronted with host of issues. As the Medinites approached the Prophet [pbuh] for devising means to help them get out of desperate straits, Hazrat Abbas [RA] ensured that his illustrious nephew [pbuh] stands assured of their wholehearted support, were he to take up the Hegira [migration] from Mecca to Medina. The deftness in planning moves attributed to Hazrat Abbas [RA] amply rubbed on his progenies, a fact that may not be missed by keen students of Islamic history.

Omayyads could not hold the Arabi-Ajmi equation, nor could they hold the inter-Arab equation between Modharites and Himyarites—the Hejazis and the Yeminis. ‘Arabi Asabiat’remained restricted to Modharites; Himyarites were gradually eased out of power equation. Arab chroniclers, compilers of Islamic history in non-Arab Islamic lands, Persians particularly hold one person, more than anyone else responsible for setting up the Omayyad political agenda—Hajaj ibn Yusuf. Ameer Ali in his wide writings on Islamic lore confers with the take—the agenda of Hajaj. And that agenda was of ‘Arabi Asabiat’ to the exclusion of Himyarites. It had a narrow spectrum, which could be held with force, and Hajaj showed no limits in exerting force, to a point where even Omayyads couldn’t take it any further. It is related that mother of Walid-I—the dowager queen refused an audience to Hajaj, objecting to his human rights violations in contravention of the principles laid down by Islam. As already related, his influence had the Caliph of the times remove the saintly and serene—Omar ibn Abdul Aziz [Omar-e-Sani] from viceroyalty of Hejaz, as he provided protection to many escaping Hajaj’s tyranny in Iraq. Even the sublime caliphate of Omar ibn Abdul Aziz [Omar-e-Sani] could not remove the stains of Hajaj’s misdeeds, nor could his agenda be diluted, the exceptions being few and far between.

Abu Muslim thus had a coalition of forces to work on—the Himyarites, the Persians, the Khawarij and how deftly he handled that coalition would need some telling—inshallah in the week ahead—Friday, the next!

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]

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