Abbasid Caliphate


Abbasid (əbă´sĬd, ă´bəsĬd) or Abbaside (–sīd, –sĬd), Arab family descended from Abbas, the uncle of Muhammad. The Abbasids held the caliphate from 749 to 1258, but they were recognized neither in Spain nor (after 787) W of Egypt. Under the Umayyad caliphs the Abbasids lived quietly until they became involved in numerous disputes, beginning early in the 8th cent. The family then joined with the Shiite faction in opposing the Umayyads, and in 747 the gifted Abu Muslim united most of the empire in revolt against the Umayyads. The head of the Abbasid family became caliph as Abu al-Abbas as-Saffah late in 749. The last Umayyad caliph, Marwan II, was defeated and killed and the Umayyad family nearly exterminated; one surviving member fled to Spain, where the Umayyads came to rule. Under the second Abbasid caliph, called al-Mansur (see Mansur, al-, d. 775), the capital was moved from Damascus to Baghdad, and Persian influence grew strong in the empire. The early years of Abbasid rule were brilliant, rising to true splendor under Harun ar-Rashid, the fifth caliph, and to intellectual brilliance under his son al-Mamun (see Mamun, al-), the seventh caliph. After less than a hundred years of rule, however, the slow decline of the Abbasids began. Long periods of disorder were marked by assassinations, depositions, control by Turkish soldiers, and other disturbances, and from the beginning of their reign there were rival caliphs (see caliphate). In 836 the capital was transferred to Samarra, remaining there until 892. Under the later Abbasids, the power of the caliphate became chiefly spiritual. Many independent kingdoms sprang up, and the empire split into autonomous units. The Seljuk Turks came to hold the real power at Baghdad. The conquests of Jenghiz Khan further lowered the prestige of the Abbasids, and in 1258 his grandson Hulagu Khan sacked Baghdad and overthrew the Abbasid caliphate. The 37th caliph died in the disaster, but a member of the family escaped to Cairo, where he was recognized as caliph (see Mamluks). The Cairo line of the Abbasid caliphate, completely subordinated to the Mamluks, survived until after the Ottoman conquest (1517) of Egypt.

See M. A. Shaban, The Abbāsid Revolution (1970); H. Kennedy, The Early Abbasid Caliphate (1981).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Abbasid Caliphate: Selected full-text books and articles

Reinterpreting Islamic Historiography: Harun Al-Rashid and the Narrative of the Abbasid Caliphate
Tayeb El-Hibri.
Cambridge University Press, 1999
The Armies of the Caliphs: Military and Society in the Early Islamic State
Hugh Kennedy.
Routledge, 2001
The Islamic World in Ascendancy: From the Arab Conquests to the Siege of Vienna
Martin Sicker.
Praeger, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "The Abbasid Empire" and Chap. 4 "Abbasid Decline and Imperial Disintegration"
History of the Arabs: From the Earliest Times to the Present
Philip K. Hitti.
MacMillan, 1956 (6th edition)
Librarian’s tip: Part III: "The Umayyad and Abbasid Empires"
Arabs, Persians, and the Advent of the Abbasids Reconsidered
Daniel, Elton L.
The Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 117, No. 3, July-September 1997
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Empire and Elites after the Muslim Conquest: The Transformation of Northern Mesopotamia
Chase F. Robinson.
Cambridge University Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Massacre and Narrative: The Abbasid Revolution in Mosul I" and Chap. 7 "Massacre and Elite Politics: The Abbasid Revolution in Mosul II"
The Formation of Islam: Religion and Society in the Near East, 600-1800
Jonathan P. Berkey.
Cambridge University Press, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "The Abbasid Revolution"
Religious Inquisition as Social Policy: The Persecution of the 'Zanadiqa' in the Early Abbasid Caliphate
Ibrahim, Mahmood.
Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ), Vol. 16, No. 2, Spring 1994
The True Caliph of the Arabian Nights: Hugh Kennedy Examines the Life of One of the Most Powerful Men in the World in the Eighth Century
Kennedy, Hugh.
History Today, Vol. 54, No. 9, September 2004
The Succession to the Caliph Musa Al-Hadi
Kimber, Richard.
The Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 121, No. 3, July-September 2001
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Islamic Dynasties: A Chronological and Genealogical Handbook
Clifford Edmund Bosworth.
Edinburgh University Press, 1967
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.