D-Day: the switchover from Omayyads to Abbasids

Golden Mein:

D-Day was devised to be 25th Ramadan, in the year 129 A.H, this was proclaimed to be the day, when people would gather around the black standard of Abbasids to mark the day of mourning for fallen commanders, the heads of various factions dissatisfied with Omayyad rule. Bon fires were lit on hilltops to announce the Abbasid manifesto, which Abu Muslim had devised to be affirmation of loyalty to ‘Ahl-ul-Bait’ the House of Prophet [pbuh]. The claim of Hashmites against Omayyads—the usurpers, had to be endorsed. Columns after columns moved solemnly to affirm their loyalty to the emerging power dispensing—Hashmites, without an apparent distinction of Abbasids and Alids.

The depleted garrisons of Omayyads could hardly resist the uprising. Nasr, the deputy governor, an able though aging commander requested for help, while the Omayyad forces were already pinned down westwards combating Kharijis, various factions of the rebels in Iraq and Hejaz. He resisted as much as he could, however had to retreat. Kirmani, the Himyarite leading the forces faced a Modharite ambush and lost his life, his sons took over, where he left. Nasr held Merv, as long as he could. Before retreating, he made one desperate appeal in moving words, “Oh, that I knew whether the sons of Omayyads be awake or sunk in sleep, if they are sleeping in such times as these, say to them arise, the hour has come!” Ameer Ali calls this desperate cry historic, it indeed was, the Omayyad hour had indeed come.

Abu Muslim was choosing his commanders wisely, collecting men and matter—the armour for campaigns ahead, Kahtaba bin Shabib, a Hejazi settler in Fars was one such general. He pursued Nasr, as Farghana and Khorasan fell before the re-enforcements ordered by Caliph from Iraq could arrive.   Next front was Jurjan, failing to take a stand here too; Nasr fled towards Fars and died on way. Thus perished the man, who even in his advanced years—85 years old, had put in his best, his effort however could not save, what was destined—the fall of Omayyads.

The Abbasid advance continued. Apart from engagement with rebellions of various hues in Iraq and Hejaz, Caliph Marwan-II a person of retiring nature could not apprehend that the hour Nasr had warned of had indeed arrived. Various authors though have noted his daring nature, his battlefield capabilities and his soldierly demeanor, and an easy nature that enabled him to blend with the men, he led. Equally true, as it emerges from various studies of the man is lack of consistency in consolidating his gains. He would leave the care of the state to his kith and kin, and retire to his cherished retreats, away from the capital. This partly contributed to his undoing. And danger was getting nearer by the day.

As often happens in a period of change from one regime to another, cons of the regime in decay multiply and whatever the pros start withering away. That is exactly what was happening to Omayyads in those fateful years right from announced D-Day–25th Ramadan, 129 A.H to the ultimate fall in 132 A.H. As Abu Muslim storm troopers forged ahead, many dissatisfied elements from the mainstream Arabia joined the Himyarites, the Persians, the Mawalis—the name the newly reverts carried. Along with the movement of men and matter, the relentless propaganda of Omayyads being usurpers and lacking faith and commitment to the sacred cause of Islam continued. Abu Muslim had a lot to bank upon, we may concede however Omayyad contribution to the march of Islam. Of particular note is not only the domination of West and Central Asia, of North Africa, also of Spain across Mediterranean. And reaching south of France, before Charles Martin undid the effort, and Muslim missed dominating Europe by a whisker. Domination of sea lanes was made possible by developing a navy, which took off in Ameer Muwaiyah’s time and continued in the years ahead.

Kahtaba bin Shabib pressing ahead after victory at Jurjan entered Rai [ancient Rhages] a place I served in during my years in Iran. The place is located 30-40 Km from central Tehran on the way to holy city of Qom—the site of great Shiite school of learning and mausoleum of Syeda Masooma [RA] sister of Hazrat Imam Reza—the 8th Imam of Shias, whose mausoleum is in the holy city of Mashad in Khorasan. The next place of importance, as Kahtaba forged westwards was the historic city of Nahawand, the place where Muslims had won another famous victory after the decisive battle at Qadsiyah. The town was besieged by Hasan ibn Kahtaba. Apart from his son cast in his own shadow—an able commander, Kahtaba had with him Abu Ayun—an Iranian general, and Khalid Barmek. The Barmek family became a part and parcel of Abbasid caliphate in the role of Viziers—the ministers of court. Before Omayyad forces under two commands—one of Abdullah ibn Marwan-II, the caliph and another Yazid—Viceroy of Iraq could converge, Nahawand fell. Abu Ayun was send to combat Abdullah, he carried the day, Abdullah was killed.

Kahtaba bin Shabib bypassed Yazid army aiming for jugular—Kofa, the capital of Iraq, however Yazid intercepted, and faced defeat. Kahtaba however fell in this battle, Hasan assumed command and entered Kofa. The stage was thus set for Abbasid takeover. From the ultimate fall of Omayyads to take over by Abbasids, there were other developments. Ibrahim, the Abbasid nominated to be the family head was hiding in Humima in Palestine. Marwan-II had him traced by his spies, he was arrested and incarcerated. Marwan-II doubted some important Omayyads of attempts to undermine his authority, including Abdullah ibn Omar-II and Abbas ibn Walid-I, hence they too were incarcerated. As the news reached Caliph that his son had lost and was killed, he killed Ibrahim, his suspected Omayyad adversaries as well. Arabic scribe—Ibn-ul-Ather disputes this take, a house fell on him is one proposition, poison was mixed with milk is another. Omayyad adversaries were consumed by plague, as per Ibn-ul-Ather’s take.

Ibrahim had before his death nominated Abu’l Abbas Abdullah as successor—inheritor of Abbasid bid for power. Better known as as-Saffah—sanguinary [bloodthirsty, because of the matter, he dealt his adversaries with] all was thus set for his takeover, there were hiccups though, the takeover we may take-up the Friday next, inshallah

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

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