Lebanon in History from the Earliest Times to the Present

By Philip K. Hitti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIX UNDER THE ʿABBĀSID CALIPHATE AND SUCCESSOR STATES

THE destruction of the Umayyad caliphate in 750 was occasioned internally by the weakness, incompetence and dissolute character of the last caliphs, and externally by the successful coalition against it of ʿAlids, ʿAbbāsids, ʿIrāqis, Persians and other dissatisfied groups. The disruptive forces went on unchecked. As descendants of al-ʿAbbās, paternal uncle of the Prophet, the 'Abbāsids claimed a prior right to the caliphate as compared with the banu-Umayyah.1 To the partisans of ʿ Ali the caliphs of Damascus were but ungodly usurpers who had perpetrated an unforgivable, unforgettable wrong against the "People of the House" (ahl al-bayt). These partisans were especially strong in al-ʿIrāq, where ʿ Ali had chosen al-Kūfah for his part- time capital. Moreover, the ʿIrāqis had nurtured a grudge against their Syrian neighbours for depriving them of the privilege of holding the seat of the caliphate. Non-Arabian Moslems in general and Persians -- with their long tradition of independence and national life -- in particular had for some time resented the treatment accorded them by the Arabian Moslems as represented by the Damascus caliphs. Then there were those theologians and critics who remembered the banu- Umayyah as late believers2 and considered Muʿāwiyah and his régime as secular. The one element missing was leadership, an element provided by abu-al-ʿAbbās ʿAbdullāh, a great-great- grandson of the Prophet's uncle.

ʿAbbāsids supersede the Umayyads

In January 750 the two opposing forces stood face to face on the left bank of the Greater (Upper) Zāb, an affluent of the Tigris. Marwān II ( 744-50) led the Syrian army. ʿAbdullāh ibn-ʿAli, an uncle of abu-al-ʿAbbās, led the coalition. For nine days the battle raged. The Syrian defeat was decisive. After putting up the semblance of a fight Damascus fell ( April 26, 750). One after the other of the Syrian towns surrendered

The decisive battle of al-Zāb

____________________

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