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Bani’l-‘Abbas I – Abbasid Strength

6. Bani’l-‘Abbas I

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم وصلى الله على سيدنا محمد وعلى ءاله وصحبه أجمعين وسلّم

Title: Bani’l-‘Abbas I – Abbasid Strength

Author:  Abdassamad Clarke

Publication date: 19th Dhi’l-Qa‘dah 1433/6th October 2012

Assalamu alaykum. Welcome to the Muslim History Programme of the MFAS. This is the sixth of 12 sessions which make up the History of the Khalifas module. The lecture will last approximately 40 minutes during which time you should make a written note of any questions that may occur to you for clarification after the lecture. 


خَيْرُ‏ أُمَّتِي‏ الْقَرْنُ‏ الَّذِينَ‏ يَلُونِي‏ ثُمَّ‏ الَّذِينَ‏ يَلُونَهُمْ‏ ثُمَّ‏ الَّذِينَ‏ يَلُونَهُمْ

“The best of my ummah are the generation who are near to me, then those who are nearest to them, then those who are nearest to them.”1

The last of the Companions

In the year 100AH, Abū aṭ-Ṭufayl ‘Āmir ibn Wāthilah died and he was the last of the Companions. The first generation have come to an end.


What brought us to this point? At the very beginning lies the unification of the Arabs by Islam, as we saw in our first two lectures. In itself this is utterly unprecedented and this unification of the ‘aṣabiyyah of the Arabs united to the newly revealed dīn of Islam unleashes a tremendous power. Two empires based on large numbers of subjected peoples have simply nothing with which to withstand this new force. Then those subjected peoples themselves become subjects of the dīn and some of them are enslaved and become the mawālī of the Muslims. The Muslims are more tolerant of doctrinal differences and the taxation is generally easier so their lot is in many ways bettered. But it is in those peoples’ transition to becoming Muslims, that the problem is encountered. First, what happens when this tremendous cohesive binding together of the Arabs in Islam is diluted? No one knows. The Arab Muslims resist, since their ‘aṣabiyyah is the source of strength of the dawlah. Thus after the first two fitnahs this issue is a growing trial for the Muslims in the first century.

The Abbasids and Umayyads – a single Dynasty

Then there are problems within the dynasty. It is customary to view the Umayyads and Abbasids as two dynasties, but of course the reality is that they are a single dynasty, that of Quraysh. And that brings in a third element, the descendants of ‘Alī g. In Quraysh, power always belonged to Bani Umayya because of their greater numbers and wealth, and after the first period of the revelation it now reverts to them. This causes resentment in two other families in the clan of Hāshim: the descendants of al-‘Abbās and those of ‘Alī, which is not merely a personal resentment entirely, but rather at its root is the issue of whether the ‘best man’ should rule or the ‘optimum man’ politically. And politics is represented in that era by the issue of ‘aṣabiyya which lies with Bani Umayyah.

The Best Man vs Political Realism

The thesis of the ‘best man’ would play an important role in different ways. Its most obvious and sometimes extreme manifestation is in the standing of the Ahl al-Bayt. There the issue was simply whether the leader of the Muslims should be a complete embodiment of the best in terms of knowledge and spirituality. There is little doubt that many of the family of the Messenger of Allah @ were indeed the best. Paradoxically their attempts to take the leadership of the Ummah were to lead to terrible results and the slaughter of many of the Ahl al-Bayt themselves and the people who supported them. Often, as with al-Ḥusayn, they were lured unwisely to their deaths by treacherous shi’ah who failed to stand by them. Sometimes against their wishes they were proclaimed Imām and even Mahdī by others, as was the case with Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥanafiyyah who was thus proclaimed by al-Mukhtār, and used by them for their own ends, with results that created much of subsequent shi’ah myth and psychology. Thus we see that what is grossly labelled ‘shi‘ism’ is at this time comprised of two quite separate elements: first, the Ahl al-Bayt, and second, their partisan shi‘ah adherents who very often do not act in their best interests.

‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz

The man who goes far to resolve the ‘best man versus political realism’ issue is ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz. He is from the ruling élite and thus in one respect represents political realism. Yet people misunderstand him in a very fundamental way, because they think of him merely as ‘the best man’, or indeed a ‘good man’, which of course he was. But that is not his significance at this time in history. He has something fundamentally important: he has been the governor of Madīnah for seven years and has absorbed its ethos and has absorbed its fiqh. In his brief khilāfah he tries to restore the political domain according to the fiqh of Madīnah and succeeds brilliantly. It is fiqh that can resolve the ‘best man’ vs ‘political man’ dichotomy. His work goes far to healing many of the festering wounds that were causing deep divisions in the ummah. His successors lack his vision and try to undo his work and so all the divisions that he so successfully healed open up again, and the situation spins out of control. We have revolts and insurrections. 

Then the Abbasids are sucked into the vortex. They make a fateful decision: since the ‘aṣabiyyah of Quraysh lies with Bani Umayyah, they need to base themselves on another ‘aṣabiyyah and so, as well as drawing on many of the Arabs who have various grievances, they side with the mawālī, the Persians, thus leading to the orientialisation of the dawlah. Taking power, they butcher all of Bani Umayyah except for one man, ‘Abd ar-Raḥmān ibn Mu‘āwiyah ibn Hishām, who escapes to Andalus.

The Khawārij

The other force that works throughout this epoch and whose emergence we had noted in the khilāfah of Sayyiduna ‘Alī g is the Khawārij, Ḥarūriyyah or Ibāḍiyyah movement. It has a number of features, most prominently denial that there is any particular need for one of the Quraysh to be khalifah. They hold, on the contrary, that any pious man may be elected. Indeed, their mark is their sometimes extreme piety, which often results in their judgement that serious wrongdoers have actually left Islam and are kāfirūn. Thus they are known to kill other Muslims for very slight reasons and then enslave their wives and children and take their property.

The Fourth Group

A fourth group has been in our story from the beginning, but unremarked: those who sit out the fitnah and do not take part. A significant part of this group will become the ‘ulamā’ class.

The Battle of Zab 132/750

The Battle of Zab which opens this part of our history and in which Bani al-‘Abbās overthrow the last khalifah of Bani Umayyah, Marwān ibn Muḥammad, is perhaps one of the most significant battles in history which still affects us profoundly today.

From the classical European perspective, the world had always been considered as divided into an East and West reflecting the opposition between ancient Persian Empires on the one hand and the Greeks and later the Romans on the other. This opposition between East and West is very deep seated in our view of history and of geo-politics. Even though the task of pinning down exactly where East and West start and end is difficult, there is no doubt that a city such as Kufa is naturally a part of an area that stretches straight through to India and Pakistan. When the ‘Arabic’ khilāfah of Damascus gave way to one with a very powerful Persian influence in Baghdad, which had already happened to some degree in Kufa before the Damascene khilāfah, Islam itself became identified as an Eastern phenomenon in the eyes of those who regard themselves as Western. This heritage still shapes the way Muslims see themselves today and how they view the West, just as it fashions the self-image of ‘Westerners’ and their picture of Islam. This is particularly so in light of the fact that early on in our story, Bani al-‘Abbās began to lose the Islamic West, in the end resulting in a separate khilāfah in Andalus for a century and then the loss of Andalus itself to Islam.

Banu’l-‘Abbās (132/750-656/1258)

Muammad ibn ‘Alī

Buried in the mists of legend and myth, a myth to a large extent created by Bani al-‘Abbās, is the actual progenitor of the Abbasid dynasty, and even if the myth is not true, since it comes down to us through the Abbasid years, it probably represents something they believed in or expected people to believe in. 

Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī ibn ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Abbās was regarded as the leader of the clan of al-‘Abbās and he had been the one who had, according to their later narrative, organised the beginning of their movement to claim power. He had Abū Muslim create an anticipation of ‘ar-Riḍā: the pleasing one’ – an un-named member of the ‘Family of the Prophet @’ – coming forward to claim the khilāfah. People naturally expected one of the descendants of ‘Alī. When Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī died, his son Ibrāhīm became ‘the Imam’. Marwān II ibn Muḥammad put him to death on hearing of his succession to leadership of Banū al-‘Abbās. Before his death, Ibrāhīm had covenanted for the succession of his brother ‘Abdullāh ibn Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī as-Saffāḥ. 

Bani al-‘Abbās make two claims to legitimacy. First: 

Al-‘Abbās ibn ‘Abd al-Muṭṭalib

First, the descent from al-‘Abbās. The evidence for the superior merit of al-‘Abbās g and his descendants is only bettered by the evidence for the descendants of Sayyiduna ‘Alī g. All of the clan of Hāshim, including the descendants of al-‘Abbās and of his brother Abū Ṭālib and the other descendants of ‘Abd al-Muṭṭalib, are the Āl or ‘family’ of Muḥammad @ who may not receive zakāh or ṣadaqah. The Ahl al-Bayt, on the other hand, are the wives of the Prophet @ and possibly also including ‘Alī, Fāṭimah, al-Ḥasan and al-Ḥusayn, or indeed Bani Hāshim in their entirety.1 Nevertheless, the merits of Sayyiduna ‘Alī are not hidden from anyone, but the Companions had established their consensus that his merits did not necessarily indicate his priority in terms of the khilāfah. Thus, there is no particular case to be made for Bani al-‘Abbās in terms of a right to the khilāfah, although their merit and standing is high and as members of Quraysh they are certainly among those indicated in the hadith: “The leaders (imāms) are from Quraysh.”2

Second, there is the connection to:

Muammad ibn al-anafiyyah

This son of Sayyiduna ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib g was himself regarded with some awe and considerable respect in his own time and by the people of knowledge in general at that time and since. He is, for example, in the isnād of the hadith on the prohibition of mut‘ah marriage which Imām Mālik narrates from Sayyiduna ‘Alī g , and which al-Bukhārī and Muslim in turn narrate from him, and his inclusion in such an isnād is sufficient proof of his excellence and high merit. But we saw in our last lecture that al-Mukhtār had chosen him against his will as an Imām figure and that this had then devolved upon Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī.

This is an example of the ‘best man’ thesis in opposition to Umayyad ‘political know-how’.

The Coup

The third claim to legitimacy is that which the fuqahā’ established, which must have been reached after some deliberation and soul-searching, and that is through seizure of power by force. When the early ‘aqīdahs were drawn up they included passages indicating that if someone seizes power but then establishes the ṣalāh and the zakāh it is binding on the Muslims to obey them and it is not legitimate to rise against them, as is most cogently stated by Ibn Abī Zayd al-Qayrawānī in his Kitāb al-Jāmi‘:

No one may rise up against anyone who takes command of the Muslims, whether with their consent or by force, and then becomes oppressive, whether he is personally good or bad, whether he is unjust or just. One must fight enemies and perform the Hajj along with him. Paying Zakat to him, if he demands it, will discharge one’s obligation. One must pray the Jumu’ah and the two ‘Eid prayers behind him.3

Now, there must be a deeper meaning to this than merely submitting passively while the people of power enthrone themselves and dethrone their enemies. And that meaning we will find precisely in the so-called ‘Abbasid Revolution’. 

Later Umayyads, through a combination of politically inept decisions and unforeseen circumstances and events, had gone through crises to which they were unequal. Consequently, the whole of the ummah was in turmoil and uproar, constant battle and civil strife. Through this we can see the Abbasid Revolution for what it was: when strong men see the ship of state wildly off-course, amid waves that threaten to drown all on board, and they know the captain is drunk or deluded and they also know that they have the necessary skills and wherewithal to steer, of course they must step forward and take over. They may have to disabuse the captain of any idea that he is still fit to steer. Force may be necessary and almost invariably is, but for the good of all, it must be done. This is the Abbasid Revolution. 

This marks a much deeper transition and something else begins to happen: the people begin to become Muslims. Not necessarily because of the Abbasids, but at this time. They come in to Islam with their Hellenistic and Persian ideas, and they also earnestly want to learn the Qur’ān and the dīn, and the Arabs in general are beginning to have some time to think about implications of āyats of Qur’ān and hadith, and this and that, and the whole is a heady mix. It is a dangerous mix too because people put the different elements together and come up with all sorts of strange but strangely convincing tales: the creation of the Qur’ān; a station in between the Garden and the Fire; nothing is destined and man is free, or on the other hand man is absolutely doomed and has no self will at all.

There are, of course, the poets and the artists and artisans, the hospitals, the translations of the Greek texts in abundance and the mathematicians and doctors and scientists. Great culture and great sophistication all held together by this dīn, by these men who are still not that far from the desert and its values, still never far from the dīn.

Something new also is that now the khalīfah takes a title for a name.

As-Saffā (132/749-136/754)

His name is  ‘Abdullāh ibn Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī ibn ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Abbās. Born 108 AH/726 CE. He is sworn allegiance at Kufa 3rd Rabī‘ al-Awwal 132 AH/749 during the khilāfah of Marwān ibn Muḥammad, the last khalifah of Bani Umayyah.

His name as-Saffāḥ means the ‘Shedder of blood’. 

- حدثنا عبد الله حدثني أبي حدثنا عثمان بن محمد وسمعته أنا من عثمان حدثنا جرير عن الأعمش عن عطية العوفي عن أبي سعيد الخدري قال:

-قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يخرج عند انقطاع من الزمان وظهور من الفتن رجل يقال له السفاح فيكون إعطاؤه المال حثيا. (مسند أحمد)

From Sa‘īd ibn al-Khudrī who said, “The Messenger of Allah @ said, ‘There will emerge during an interruption in the time and the appearance of trials a man who will be called as-Saffāḥ whose giving gifts of wealth will pour out.”

We do not know if the prophetic hadith narrated by Imām Aḥmad really foretold his coming or if he was given this name by people who knew the hadith. Although he and his family did kill a lot of people, most notoriously with the extermination of Banū Umayyah, he was also known for his great largesse, something that would mark the khalifahs in this period we are looking at – until the money ran out.

In his time, much of north Africa and Andalus and even as far as Sudan seceded from the khilāfah, as-Suyūṭī says.

Khālid ibn Barmak, a Muslim from a family of Buddhists in Balkh serves as-Saffāḥ and rises to become wazīr. He will later serve al-Manṣūr and al-Mahdī for whom his son Yaḥyā is wazīr as well as a tutor to his son Hārūn. The Barmak family come from a hereditary family of administrators and they understand the intricacies of taxation and administration in ways that none of the rulers do, and so are indispensable. 

But as-Saffāḥ dies of smallpox in 136.

Al-Manūr (136/754-158/775)

His name is Abū Ja‘far ‘Abdullāh ibn Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī. As with almost all of these Abbasid figures, his mother was a slave woman, in this case a Berber.

He is one of the great figures of the khilāfah of any epoch. Like other key figures such as ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwān and ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz, he is a man of knowledge. He has travelled as a penniless student and is a figure of real stature. 

Although as-Saffāḥ is properly speaking the founder of the dynasty, the first major figure is al-Manṣūr who ruled for 22 years and who stamped out the various uprisings against him, and imposed Abbasid power on the ummah. As we saw last week, it may be that the original Abbasid ‘missionary’ Abu Muslim put as-Saffāḥ forward in preference to his older brother al-Manṣūr hoping to have more control over him. He was wise to do that because al-Manṣūr would later have him killed.

Having known the early days of austerity, the years of poverty as a student and while an outsider during Umayyad rule, al-Manṣūr is still careful with money. Al-Manṣūr is known as Abū ad-Dawāniq ‘he of the dāniq coins’4 because of the detailed attention he pays to monetary transactions. Indeed, historians speak sarcastically of his meanness because the Muslims had at their time become used to extravagant largesse, and the records of fantastic sums of money given to poets in particular at the time are very striking. 

However, along with al-Khulafā ar-Rāshidūn, ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwān and ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz, al-Manṣūr was a man of knowledge who had travelled as a poor student to study.

At the beginning of his rule, the Abbasids are still based in Kufa, which is the base of their power. To understand this you must realise that Kufa is the westernmost point of a vast eastern expanse whose most important area is Khurasan to the north west of Persia, and which encompass parts of what is today called Afghanistan. This has been a powerhouse of both the Umayyads and the Abbasids and its fighting men are the real base of Abbasid power. The Umayyads had sometimes dealt with problematic people by sending them to fight in the East, which had contributed to the expansion eastwards but had created a reservoir of mettlesome and troublesome fighters. It was from here that the revolution had its first stirrings. 

So the Kufan/Khurasan axis is a dangerous beast to ride, and thus al-Manṣūr founds the city of Baghdad – Madīnat as-Salām ‘the City of Peace’ – as his new capital. But it is still in this most westerly part of the East. And the city, when it is completed, is stocked with Persians, sophisticated city people. 

He meets Mālik and commands him to compile what is to become the Muwaṭṭa’, and indeed instructs him on how to approach it. Later he wants to make the Muwaṭṭa’ the book to govern knowledge among the Muslims but Mālik persuades him not to. Many readers see this as Mālik’s admission of a kind of relativism, but more perceptive scholars realise that he did not want his knowledge to be used as a tool by the dynasty. 

Other scholars do not fare so well. Abū Ḥanīfah, who had allegedly supported the uprising of Muḥammad an-Nafs az-Zakiyyah and his claim to the khilāfah, is approached by al-Manṣūr to become the qāḍī, which he resolutely refuses. Al-Manṣūr has him imprisoned and flogged and, an elderly man, he dies in prison. 

This claim to the khilāfah by Muḥammad an-Nafs az-Zakiyyah is symptomatic of the worsening relationship between the two Hāshimī families of al-‘Abbās and ‘Alī ?. The Abbasids had come to power on the back of an anticipation from the Muslims of just rule from one of the Family of the Prophet @, from the family of ‘Alī, some expecting simply just rule by a man of taqwā and others an apocalyptical messianic figure, but no one anticipating Bani al-‘Abbās and their brand of realpolitik. If generally the family of ‘Alī had suffered under Bani Umayyah, they were, if anything, to be in a worse case for a good part of Abbasid rule.

It is in 143, during the reign of al-Manṣūr, that the ‘ulamā’ begin compiling books. We do not know why that is. It might have been because of al-Manṣūr’s command to Mālik to compile the Muwaṭṭa’. Could it have been because of a command of his to the ‘ulamā’ in general which has now been lost? Or was it because of a threat to knowledge such that they feared its loss, as had been the case when the Companions recorded the Qur’ān? 

The compilation is only the tip of an iceberg; many of the great Companions had their own madhhabs in fiqh and that diversity had spread among the Followers and, if anything, the range of verdicts had increased. Now, the fuqahā’ began the process of sifting through the material and unifying it and, in the process, reducing greatly the number of madhhabs. Like the act of Sayyiduna ‘Uthmān î in producing a single excellent muṣḥaf when before many of the Companions had each their own recitations, this was necessary so that knowledge of the dīn should not become confused. And similar activity was happening in other sciences such as tafsīr and Arabic grammar.

Nevertheless, and in spite of this great creative outburst in the classical Islamic sciences, as-Suyūṭī ends the chapter on al-Manṣūr with the ominous note that he has summoned Sufyān ath-Thawrī to come to him, and people fear what he will do to him because of what happened to Imām Abū Ḥanīfah and others before him, but al-Manṣūr dies before the arrival of Sufyān.

Al-Mahdi 158/775-169/785

His name is Abū ‘Abdullāh Muḥammad ibn al-Manṣūr. His father made him governor of Tabaristan and his successor. He is an amiable and knowledgeable man dedicated to stamping out heresy. He energetically pursues heretics and is the first to command that polemical works be written in refutation of their arguments.

Al-Mahdī will send his two sons, al-Hādī and ar-Rashīd, to study with Mālik.

Like other Abbasids, an important part of his biography is the hadith he can narrate through his paternal lineage directly from the Prophet @ and from their ancestor ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Abbās ?. The other aspect is their relationship to Arabic poetry, either as writers of gifted amateur poetry themselves or cognoscenti of superior poets and lavish patrons.

This is another marker of the epoch: except for al-Manṣūr the Abbasids are known for prodigal generosity in response to sometimes the most trivial of matters, but most often for a good verse of poetry. This is the appearance of what Ibn Khaldūn notes: the first figures of a dynasty must be marked by the austerity of the desert and win power and wealth with great effort, but their sons and then their grandsons will come to know power and wealth as their birthright. The Abbasids begin to spend as if there is no tomorrow.

During his time, the Ibāḍī khawārij establish a dynasty in Algeria and north Africa. Another piece of the khilāfah breaks away, a process that will accelerate in the coming years.

Al-Hadi 169/785-170/786

His name is Abū Muḥammad Mūsā ibn al-Mahdī ibn al-Manṣūr.

His mother is a slave woman called Khuzayrān, and she is also the mother of ar-Rashīd.

He was frivolous, without dignity, and would drink and waste time and money playing. His reign lasted just over a year, and there are various stories about his death some of which amount to foul play.

Hārūn ar-Rashīd 170/786-193/809

His name is Hārūn Abū Ja‘far ibn al-Mahdī Muḥammad ibn al-Manṣūr ‘Abdullāh.

Alone among the Abbasids he is known first by his name and then his title.

He and Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn al-Ayyūbī are the only two monarchs, says the Qāḍī al-Fāḍil, to travel for the sake of knowledge. Hārūn studies with Mālik, taking along his two young sons Amīn and Ma’mūn. The other monarch is Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn al-Ayyūbī who travels to study the Muwaṭṭa’ in Alexandria under Ṭāhir ibn ‘Awf.

Hārūn also appoints Abū Yūsuf, who has served al-Mahdī and al-Hādī as qāḍī, as his chief qāḍī. Mālik and Abū Yūsuf are brought together by Hārūn in Madīnah, an encounter that is very famous among the ‘ulamā’.

Hārūn constantly visits ‘ulamā’ and awliyā’, and they visits him. They counsel him and he weeps. The stories in the Thousand and One Nights are little to do with who he was. He does 100 rak‘ahs every day. He walks on Hajj and wages jihad in alternate years. He personally leads the army against the Roman Nicephorus who has broken their treaty and who, after Hārūn defeating him and after signing a new treaty then breaks the treaty again while Hārūn and the army are well on their way home, not expecting that the Muslims would return during the ferocious winter, but they do and defeat him again. 

Hārūn has been brought up by Yaḥyā al-Barmakī scion of what is fast becoming a dynasty within a dynasty, the now-hereditary Barmakī administrators of the Abbasid dawlah. Their power and prestige, wealth and influence have come to exceed that of Hārūn himself and he quite suddenly turns on them and strips them of their former glory. Thus, in this instance is exposed one of the structural issues of the burgeoning dawlah: the role of administrators when they themselves become a focus of power.

One year he performs ‘umrah in Ramadan and then remains in iḥrām until the Hajj during which he walks from Makkah to ‘Arafah. After this Hajj, he moves to ar-Raqqah in the north of ash-Shām, which he takes as his capital for thirteen years and where Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan ash-Shaybānī is his qāḍī. The khilāfah is back in the West even if Baghdad remains the administrative centre. After Hārūn’s death, events take another course, which returns the centre to the East.

During his life, the dynasty of al-Aghlab is founded in Ifriqiyya, which is roughly coterminous with present-day Tunisia and part of Libya, and Ibrāhīm ibn al-Aghlab withdraws in all but name from the khilāfah. This is an example of a larger picture which will ultimately make the later stages of the Abbasids a sad and impoverished story. For various reasons, local rulers are granted a degree of autonomy or outright independence thus lessening the various revenues that flow into Baghdad and reducing the military strength of the khalifah’s armies until the khalifah himself becomes merely a token, even if later groups such as the Murabitun of Yūsuf ibn Tashfīn respect the form of the khilāfah enough to ask for recognition for themselves from him.

During his khilāfah, Hārūn makes covenants of consecutive succession for three of his sons while they are still small children, the first for al-Amīn, whose mother is Hāshimī because of which al-Amīn has the ‘aṣabiyyah support of the Hāshimī clan even though as he grows it is clear that he lacks the necessary intellect and skills to manage the affair; then al-Ma’mūn, a prodigal genius whom his father later gives the governance of Khurasan, the very power base and military garrison of the khilāfah; and finally al-Mu’tamin to whom he gives the governance of a number of provinces of Iraq. He excludes a fourth, al-Mu‘taṣim, from the succession, it is thought because of his lack of culture and refinement, but nevertheless he comes to rule and all subsequent Abbasid khalifahs are his descendants.

al-Amin  193/809-198/13

His name is Muḥammad Abū ‘Abdullāh ibn ar-Rashīd

His short reign ends in civil war between him and al-Ma'mūn. Al-Ma’mūn is in Khurasan and al-Amīn in Baghdad. The latter sends an army to Khurasan that al-Ma’mūn’s general Ṭāhir ibn al-Ḥusayn defeats decisively. Then Ṭāhir proceeds against al-Amīn in Baghdad and kills him. Al-Ma’mūn is now in debt to Ṭāhir although he abhors the killing of his brother, whom he had wanted captured. When the time comes to return to Baghdad, Ṭāhir will later be granted an autonomous kingdom and will found a dynasty. This is not only loss of revenue for al-Ma’mūn but of the very military backbone of the Abbasids.

Al-Ma'mun  198/813-218/833

His name is ‘Abdullāh Abū al-‘Abbās ibn ar-Rashīd.

His mother was a slave woman called Marājil who died in childbirth.

He is a ḥāfiẓ of Qur’ān and extremely knowledgeable and accomplished.

He began his khilāfah in Khurasan where his father had made him governor.

Al-Ma’mūn is passionate about the Ahl al-Bayt and he sets his brother Mu’tamin aside from the succession and nominates ‘Alī ar-Riḍā ibn Mūsā al-Kāẓim ibn Ja‘far aṣ-Ṣādiq whom he himself names ‘ar-Riḍā – the Pleasing’. But of course this is the name at the very beginning of the Abbasid revolution when the Muslims, particularly the Khurasanis, are led to anticipate the appearance of someone who will be ar-Riḍā from the family of the Messenger of Allah @.

However, this does not fit with the ‘aṣabiyyah of Bani al-‘Abbās and they denounce al-Ma’mūn and pledge allegiance to his uncle Ibrāhīm ibn al-Mahdī. Al-Ma’mūn thus advances westward to Baghdad, the people renounce their pledge to Ibrāhīm because ‘Alī ar-Riḍā has died but al-Ma’mūn continues his advance and takes Baghdad.

Some years later he marries his wazīr’s daughter in a wedding ceremony whose extravagance is the stuff of legend. Then his shi’ism emerges again and he prohibits anyone from speaking well of Mu‘āwiyah and has it promulgated that ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib is the best of mankind after the Messenger of Allah @. The following year he makes public his adherence to the Mu‘tazili doctrine of the createdness of the Qur’ān. The Muslims are not happy with any of this so al-Ma’mūn puts it aside for some years for fear of rebellion. In the interim he engages in a number of military expeditions against the Romans.

It is important to put this strange behaviour of al-Ma’mūn side by side with what he is equally famous for, which is the inauguration of the translation of Greek works into Arabic and institution of the Bayt al-Ḥikmah in which various famous scientists and thinkers worked, men such as al-Khwarizmi, who basically gives us the mathematics that are the foundation of the current ‘scientific’ and commercial age, and the semi-legendary Jabir ibn al-Hayyan, the ‘father’ of chemistry.

Then he institutes the inquisition (miḥnah) during which ‘ulamā’, fuqahā’, muḥaddithīn and others are interrogated about the nature of the Qur’ān and other matters such as whether Allah, exalted is He, will be seen on the Last Day. In that very year he dies suddenly on a military expedition

al-Mu‘taim 218/833-227/842

His name is Abū Isḥāq Muḥammad ibn ar-Rashīd.

His mother was a foreign slave woman from Kufa called Māridah who was very dear to ar-Rashīd. He was a strong figure although, unlike his brothers, largely uneducated, and would have been a majestic khalifah if it had not been for his continuing to prosecute the inquisition. He made Mu‘tazilī doctrine public policy, children were forced to learn it, and imams and qāḍīs were forced to acknowledge it. Many resorted to taqiyyah ‘dissimulation’ for fear of their lives, except for Aḥmad ibn Hanbal who refused to avail of this option. He was imprisoned and flogged.

Ṭāhir ibn al-Ḥusayn establishes his dynasty in Khurasan with the consequences we have outlined, and so al-Mu‘taṣim shifts the capital to Samarra (surra man ra’āh – he is happy who has seen it) further to the East, because he now needs and desires to recruit Turkish fighting men due to the loss of the Khurasanis. He is a fierce and majestic general who slaughters his enemies extravagantly, fighting the Romans and defeating them decisively.

Al-Wāthiq 227/842-232/847

His name is Abū Ja‘far (also said Abū al-Qāsim) ibn al-Mu‘taṣim.

His mother was a Greek slave woman called Qarāṭīs.

Al-Wāthiq continues the inquisition until the middle of his reign. His qāḍī is a man called Ibn Abī Du’ād who was a fanatical Mu‘tazili, so much so that when the khalifah ransomed Muslim prisoners from the Romans, the qāḍī persuaded him only to ransom those who affirmed belief in the created nature of the Qur’ān.

Finally, he ends the inquisition, although some historians attribute that to al-Mutawakkil.

228/843 He invests Ashnās the Turk as sulṭān. As-Suyūṭī counts him to be the first khalifah to have appointed a sulṭān.

Al-Mutawakkil 232/847-247/861

His name is Ja‘far Abū al-Faḍl ibn al-Mu‘taṣim

His mother is Shujā a slave woman.

Al-Mutawakkil is a passionate and staunch defender of the dīn and the Sunnah. He restores to their former positions and honours the men of fiqh and hadith. But he is also puzzlingly very against the Ahl al-Bayt. 

He removes a notoriously unjust qāḍī in Cairo and installs al-Ḥārith al-Miskīn one of the students of Mālik, who tried to refuse it, but who when appointed became a great and memorable qāḍī.

Dhu’n-Nūn al-Miṣrī, another student of Mālik in Cairo who had learnt the Muwaṭṭa’ from him is the first man to speak about the ḥaqīqah, and ʿAbdullāh ibn al-Ḥakam, one of Mālik's pupils had opposed him on the basis that it was a bid‘ah. People are suspicious of him and he is arrested and sent to al-Mutawakkil who is delighted by him and re-assured by his outline of his belief. And this is the opening of a new chapter in Islam whose elaboration will come later insha’Allāh.

But we end on an ominous note: the Turkish troops, whom the khilāfah has come to depend on, murder al-Mutawakkil in the first of many palace intrigues which, along with greatly reduced revenues, will reduce the later Abbasids to a shadow of their former glory.

With his death, the khalifahs are now helpless in the hands of their Turkish troops, but nevertheless very necessary to them. The khalifahs provide the lynch-pin that holds things together, so they cannot be dispensed with, but they are helpless.

That brings us to the end of today’s lecture. I recommend as support for this lecture Jalal’ud-Din as-Suyuti’s Tarikh al-Khulafa (Eng. “History of the Caliphs”) pp.261-371 and as support for the whole course, Chapter III of Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddima on the power issues involved. The subject of our next lecture is Banu al-‘Abbās II for which you can prepare by reading Jalal’ud-Din as-Suyuti’s Tarikh al-Khulafa (Eng. “History of the Caliphs”) pp. 372-547. For deeper reflection on some of the issues of power and destiny, I recommend Shakespeare’s history plays, in particular the recent BBC showings under the title “The Hollow Crown.” Shakespeare shows how genuinely great men can be ruined, with tragic consequences for all by one flaw or a mistake. Thank you for your attention. Assalamu alaykum.


As-Saffā (132/749-136/754)

He is ‘Abdullāh ibn Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī ibn ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Abbās. Born 108 AH/726 C. Sworn allegiance at Kufa 3rd Rabī‘ al-Awwal 132 AH/749 during the khilāfah of Marwān ibn Muḥammad.

In his time, much of north Africa and Andalus and even as far as Sudan seceded from the khilāfah, as-Suyūṭī says.

133/751 Arab forces in Central Asia defeat a Chinese Army at the Battle of Atlakh (28th July) on the Talas. Of particular importance is that the Arabs learn about paper from the Chinese prisoners. Samarkand initially plays the role of the site of paper production in the Arab world.

134AH/751 The Muslims defeat the Tang Dynasty in the only historical battle with the Chinese at the Battle of Ṭalās.

136/754 He died of smallpox in Dhu’l-Ḥijjah/May and bequeathed the khilāfah to Abū Ja‘far al-Manṣūr.

Al-Manūr (136/754-158/775)

He is Abū Ja‘far ‘Abdullāh ibn Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī.

His mother was a Berber slave woman.

137/755 Murder of Abu Muslim. He had been the Abbasid representative in Khurasan and arguably the man who put them in power.

138/756 ‘Abd ar-Raḥmān ibn Mu‘āwiyah ibn Hishām ibn ‘Abd al-Malik ad-Dākhil, who had fled after the slaughter of his clan, enters Andalus which withdraws from political allegiance to the khilāfah although without claiming khilāfah. He was, as-Suyūī says, a man of learning and justice.

140/758 Foundation of Baghdad. Kufa, although the power base of the Abbasids, has always been treacherous, and so they build the new city, but fatefully like Kufa it is in the East.

141/759 Muslims retreat from France over the Pyrenees. The Muslim advance had been checked at Poitiers/Tours (114/732). They had held the South of France for a while – the city of Narbonne had been a Muslim amirate for almost 40 years.5

143/760 Adh-Dhahabī said that “this year the ‘ulamā’ begin to write books: Ibn Jurayj writes in Makkah, al-Awzā‘ī in Sham, Ibn Abī ‘Arūbah and Ḥammād ibn Salamah in Basra, Ma‘mar in Yemen, Sufyān ath-Thawrī in Kufa. Ibn Isāq began his Maghāzī. Abūanīfah writes on fiqh. Then Hushaym, al-Layth ibn Sa‘d, Ibn Lahī‘ah. Then Ibn al-Mubārak, Abū Yūsuf and Ibn Wahb, at which period the collection of works of science and their classification increased greatly and treatises on the Arabic language and idiom were drawn up and also on history and the encounters of the desert Arabs. Before this period, the ‘ulamā’ used to discourse from memory or lectured on science from manuscripts, [which were] accurate but unsystematically arranged.” Al-Manṣūr meets Imām Mālik and commands him to write the Muwaṭṭa’ instructing him how to do it.6

143/760 The Ismā‘īlis split from other shi’ah. Ismā‘īl, one of the two oldest sons of Ja‘far ibn Muhammad al-Bāqir ibn ‘Alī Zayn al-‘Ābidīn ibn al-Ḥusayn ibn ‘Alī ibn Abī ālib, had predeceased his father and so in reality, his son was seen to inherit and Ismā‘īlism is based on his son, not on him. The rest of the shi’ah look to Mūsā al-Kāẓim ibn Ja‘far.

NOTE: ca 760: During the Tang Dynasty, the Chinese invented paper money, it is said, because merchants found carrying copper coinage cumbersome, i.e. because they did not have enough silver and gold.

145/6th December 762 Muḥammad ibn ‘Abdullāh ibn al-Ḥasan ibn al-Ḥasan ibn ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib an-Nafs az-Zakiyyah declares for the khilāfah. He and his brother Ibrāhīm rise in revolt in Madīnah and are slain. Many of the Ahl al-Bayt die as a result.

146/763 Expedition against Cyprus.

Imām Abū Ḥanīfah imprisoned for refusing the post of Qāḍī.

147/765 A Frankish embassy went to Baghdad and returned to Europe after three years with numerous presents

147/765 the trial of Imām Mālik when the governor of Madīnah prohibited him from narrating a hadith that a divorce pronounced under compulsion is not valid. Mālik refused not to narrate it and was publicly punished and humiliated, but still insisted on narrating the hadith. 

148/767 Abū Ḥanīfah (80 AH/699 CE — 148 AH/767 CE) dies in prison because he had steadfastly refused appointment as ī. An old man, he could well have died from the rigours of imprisonment, but there are stories of poison. It is said that he had supported the claim to khilāfah of an-Nafs az-Zakiyyah and that al-Manūr had killed him for that.

148/767: Khawārij dawlah set up by Ibn Madrar at Sijilmasa 

149/767 The building of Baghdad is completed.

NOTE: 149/768-198/814 Charlemagne rules in France. 

149/768 An Abbasid embassy from al-Manṣūr visited France possibly to arrange an alliance against Muslim Spain.

150/766 Imām ash-Shāfi‘ī is born.

150/767 The troops in Khurasan revolt under the leadership of Ustadh Sīs. Al-Manṣūr’s son al-Mahdī leads his father’s forces and defeats them.

157/774 Offa King of Mercia in England mints a copy of an Abbasid Dīnār for trade with the Muslims 

6th Dhu’l-Ḥijjah 158/7th October 775 Al-Manṣūr dies.

He was the first for whom books, such as Kalilah and Dimnah, and the works of Euclid, were translated into Arabic. He was the first who caused a split with the descendants of ‘Alī.

Al-Mahdi 158/775-169/785

Abū ‘Abdullāh Muḥammad ibn al-Manṣūr. Born in 126/745 or 127/746.

His mother was Umm Mūsā bint al-Manṣūr ibn ‘Abdullāh who was descended from princes of Ḥimyar.

His father made him governor of Tabaristan, and named him his successor.

He energetically pursues heretics and is the first to command that polemical works be written in refutation of their arguments.

159/776 He makes a covenant for the succession to pass to his son Mūsā al-Hādī and then Hārūn ar-Rashīd after him.

160/777 ‘Abd ar-Raḥmān ibn Rustam is elected Imām and founds a dynasty based in Tahert in Algeria which includes many of the Berber tribes of North Africa. This is the culmination of decades of propagation and fighting by the Ibāḍiyyah.

161/778 He commands the construction of the Makkah road and builds palaces and reservoirs there.

163/780 The jihad continued against the Romans and there were many openings.

164/780 Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal born.

169/786 Al-Mahdī dies in a hunting accident.

Naṣr ibn ‘Alī al-Jahḍamī: Ḥusayn ibn ‘Urwah narrated to me saying, “[The Caliph] al-Mahdī arrived and sent Mālik two thousand dīnārs” or he said, “three thousand dīnārs”. Then ar-Rabī‘ came to him after that and said, ‘The Amīr al-Mu’minīn would like you to accompany him to Madīnah as-Salām (Baghdad).’ So he said, ‘The Prophet @ said, “Madīnah is better for them if only they knew,” and the money  is with me untouched.’”

Al-Hadi 169/785-170/786

Abū Muḥammad Mūsā ibn al-Mahdī ibn al-Manṣūr.

His mother was a slave woman called Khuzayrān and also the mother of ar-Rashīd.

He was frivolous, without dignity, and would drink and waste time and money playing. His reign lasted just over a year.

Harun ar-Rashid 170/786-193/809

Hārūn Abū Ja‘far ibn al-Mahdī Muḥammad ibn al-Manṣūr ‘Abdullāh.

169/786 Battle of Fakhkh takes place three miles from Makkah in which al-Ḥusayn ibn ‘Alī ibn al-Ḥasan ibn al-Ḥasan ibn al-Ḥasan ibn ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib asserts his claim to the khilāfah but is decisively defeated. Idrīs ibn ‘Abdullāh ibn al-Ḥasan ibn al-Ḥasan ibn ‘Alī ibn Abī ālib flees with a slave to Morocco.

170/787 first Viking raid in Europe

171/788 Idrisid beginnings in Morocco.

175/791: Assassination of Moulay Idris. 

176/792  Invasion of Southern France.

179/795 Death of Imām Mālik.

179/795 Hārūn performs ‘umrah in Ramadan and then stays in ihram until Hajj going on foot from Makkah to ‘Arafah.

180/796 Hārūn establishes ar-Raqqah in ash-Shām as his capital and it remains thus for around thirteen years, although Baghdad remains the administrative centre. He appoints Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan ash-Shaybānī as his qāḍī.

181/797 Death of Khalf ibn Khalīfah, the last of the Followers.

182/798 Hārūn makes a covenant for the succession of ‘Abdullāh after al-Amīn, names him al-Ma’mūn and gives him the governance of Khurasan.

Abū Yūsuf dies. 

183-184/799-/800 The last major battle between Khazar and khilāfah forces, when a Khazar army invaded Azerbaijan and Arran, and was driven back by the local governor, Yazīd ibn Mazyad ash-Shaybānī. As-Suyūṭī says that the Khazars slaughtered many and took 100,000 people into captivity.

184/800 Ibrāhīm ibn al-Aghlab established in power in North Africa. Hārūn cedes authority to him and he and his descendants withdraw from the khilāfah in all but name. 

186/802 Hārūn makes a covenant of succession for his third son Qāsim, while still a child, titled him al-Mu’tamin and gave him the provinces of Iraq to govern.

Hārūn has a fourth son, al-Mu‘taṣim, but he does not make a covenant for his succession. Nevertheless he later succeeds to the khilāfah and all subsequent khalifahs are descended from him.

187/803 The Roman emperor Nicephorus broke his treaty and Hārūn marched against him and defeated him.

187/803: Downfall of the Barmakids. Their wealth and influence have grown to eclipse the khalifah.

189/805: Campaigns against the Byzantines. Capture of the islands of Rhodes and Cypress.

193/809 – 3rd Jumada ath-Thani/23rd March – Hārūn dies in Ṭūs in Khurasan while leading a military expedition. He was forty-five.

Al-Amīn  193/809-198/13

His name is Muḥammad Abū ‘Abdullāh ibn ar-Rashīd

194/810 Imām al-Bukhārī born 

198/813 Civil war between al-Amin and al-Ma'mun. Ṭāhir ibn al-Ḥusayn was sent against al-Amīn and slew him. 

Al-Ma'mun  198/813-218/833

His name is ‘Abdullāh Abū al-‘Abbās ibn ar-Rashīd.

His mother was a slave woman called Marājil who died in childbirth.

Ḥāfiẓ of Qur’ān and extremely knowledgeable and accomplished.

He began his khilāfah in Khurasan where his father had made him governor.

201/816 He sets his brother Mu’tamin aside from the succession and nominates ‘Alī ar-Riḍā ibn Mūsā al-Kāẓim ibn Ja‘far aṣ-Ṣādiq.

203/818 ‘Alī ar-Riḍā dies.

204/819  al-Ma’mūn comes to Baghdad.

204/820 Imām ash-Shāfi‘ī dies.

205/820:  Ṭāhir ibn al-Ḥusayn establishes the rule of the Tahirids in Khurasan.

206/821 ‘Abd ar-Raḥmān ibn al-Ḥakam assumes the khilāfah in Andalus.

210/825 al-Ma’mūn marries the daughter of his wazīr in a ceremony and celebratoin of such extravagance as to be almost inconceivable.

201/825 On Calculation with Hindu Numerals written by al-Khwārizmī. It gave so-called Indian numerals to the world, but in Europe this was not to happen until the 12th Century.

211/826 al-Ma’mūn declares it a crime to speak well of Mu‘āwiyah and that ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib ? is the best of mankind after the Messenger of Allah @.

212/827  Ma’mūn declares the Mu‘tazilah creed the state religion.

212/827 The conquest of Byzantine Sicily by Aghlabid forces under Asad ibn al-Furāt, the student of Mālik and Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan ash-Shāfi‘ī-Shaybānī.

215/830 The Abridged Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing (al-Kitab al-mukhtasar fi hisab al-jabr wa'l-muqabala) written by al-Khwārizmī. It is the foundation of Algebra.

215/830 Imām Junayd born.

218/833 The miḥnah. The ‘ulamā’, fuqahā’ and muḥaddithūn are called to the inquisition to be compelled to declare the Qur’ān is created. Many avail of the tactic of taqiyyah or dissimulation fearing for their lives.

al-Mu‘taim 218/833-227/842 

Abū Isḥāq Muḥammad ibn ar-Rashīd.

221/836: Mu‘tasim shifts the capital to Samarra. 

al-Wathiq 227/842-232/847

Abū Ja‘far (also said to be Abū al-Qāsim) ibn al-Mu‘taṣim.

His mother was a Greek slave woman called Qarāṭīs.

He ends the inquisition.

Al-Mutawakkil (232/847-247/861)

Ja‘far Abū al-Faḍl ibn al-Mu‘taṣim

241/855 Imām Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal dies.

247/861 Murder of al-Mutawakkil

1aī Muslim. This hadith is widely transmitted in different wordings by many different routes.

1 Al-Qurtubi says in his tafsīr:

The people of knowledge different about who the Ahl al-Bayt are?

So ‘Ata and ‘Ikrimah and Ibn ‘Abbas said: They are his wives in particular with no man along with them. they took the position that what is meant by the house is the dwelling place of the Prophet, salla'llahu 'alaihi wa sallam, because of His words, ta'ala, “And remember what is recited in your houses". 

A party, among them al-Kalbi, said: “They are ‘Ali, Fatimah, al-Hasan and al-Husayn in particular. In this respect there are hadiths from the Prophet asa,” and they sought to prove their argument by His words, ta'ala, “So that He might drive filth away from you Ahl al-Bayt and purify you” with a meem, and if it had been particularly for women it would have been ‘ankunna and yutahhirakunna, except that it is possible that it is here according to the word ‘Ahl’ in the same way as when a man says to his friend, “How are your Ahl?" i.e. your wife and your womenfolk and he says, “They (hum) are well." Allah ta'ala said, “They said, ‘Do you marvel at the command of Allah? The mercy of Allah and His blessings be upon you (kum) Ahl al-Bayt.” [Hud:73]

What is obvious from the ayat is that it is general with respect to all of the people of the house, both the wives and others. He only said, “And to purify you (kum)” because the Messenger of Allah @, and Hasan and Husayn were among them, and when the masculine and feminine are joined, the masculine predominates. So the ayat gives the sense (iftaddat) that the wives are of the Ahl al-Bayt since the ayat is  about them, and the fact of their being addressed is shown by the context of the words. And Allah knows best.

As for the fact that Umm Salamah said, “This ayat was revealed in my house, and so the Messenger of Allah @ called ‘Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn and went with them under a Khaybari cloak and said, ‘These are my Ahl al-Bayt’ and recited the ayat and said, ‘O Allah drive filth away from them and purify them utterly.’ So Umm Salamah said, ‘And am I with them, Messenger of Allah?’ He said, ‘You are in your place, and you are in good.’” At-Tirmidhi and others narrated it and he said, “This is an irregular hadith.” Al-Qushayri said, “And Umm Salamah said, ‘I entered my head in the cloak and said, “Am I one of them, Messenger of Allah?” He said, “Yes.”’” 

Ath-Tha‘alabi said, “They are Banu Hashim.” And this shows that the House means the house of lineage, and thus al-‘Abbas and his paternal uncles and paternal cousins are of them. The like is narrated of Zayd ibn Arqam, may Allah be pleased with all of them.

According to the verdict of al-Kalbi His words, “And remember” is the beginning of the address of Allah, ta'ala, to the wives of the Prophet @ by way of exhortation and enumeration of the blessing by mentioning that which is recited in their houses of the ayats of Allah, ta'ala, and the wisdom. The people of knowledge of interpretation (ta'weel) say that the ayats of Allah are the Qur’an and the wisdom is the Sunnah. The sound position is that His words, “And remember” are in a succession from what preceded them. And He said ‘ankum because of His words “Ahl” because it is masculine, and thus He named them – even though they are females – with a masculine noun and so thus it became ‘ankum.

One pays no heed to the verdict of al-Kalbi because there are found things in this tafsir of his which, if they had been in the time of the salif as-salih, they would have prevented him and put restrictions on him. Thus, the ayats from His words, “O Prophet, say to your wives…” up to his words, “Allah is gracious, all-aware” are all successive one after another, so how would there appear distinct words in the middle  that are  about someone else? This is only something that occurs in the traditions that when this ayat was revealed to the Prophet asa, he called ‘Ali, Fatimah, al-Hasan and al-Husayn, and then the Prophet @, went to a cloak and folded it about them and then he turned his hand towards the sky and said, “O Allah these are my Ahl al-Bayt. O Allah drive away filth from them and purify them utterly.” So this was a du‘a from the Prophet @ after the revelation of the ayat; he wanted to include them in the ayat by which the wives had been addressed, but then al-Kalbi and those who agreed with him went and transformed it into being especially about them, whereas it was a du‘a for them resulting from the revelation. (Al-Qurtubi)

2 Narrated from ‘Alī by al-Ḥākim in al-Mustadrak and by al-Bayhaqī, and in a version from Anas and ‘Alī by an-Nasā’ī, Imām Aḥmad and al-Bayhaqī, in a version from Abū Barzah by aṭ-Ṭabarānī, in a version from Ibn ‘Abbās by Ibn ‘Asākir, in a version from Anas by Ibn Abī Shaybah, and in another version from Anas by aṭ-Ṭabarī.

3Ibn Abī Zayd al-Qayrawānī, Kitāb al-Jāmi‘ (translated by Abdassamad Clarke and published as A Madinan View, Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd., London).

4 The dāniq is a sixth of a dirham.

5For 40 years, from 100/719, Narbonne was part of the Amirate of Cordoba with a strong Gothic presence. The Carolingian Pepin the Short conquered Narbonne from the Muslim in 141/759 after which it became part of the Carolingian Viscounty of Narbonne. 

6The noted scholar and historian Qāḍī Imām Ibn Khaldūn said in his Muqaddimah: “Abū Ja‘far had a rank in knowledge and in the dīn before the khilāfah and after it. It was he who said to Mālik while indicating to him to compose the Muwaṭṭa’, ‘Abū ‘Abdullāh, no one remains on the face of the earth more knowledgeable than me or you, but the khilāfah has occupied me. You must compose a book for people by which they will benefit. In it you should avoid the concessions (rukhṣah) that Ibn ‘Abbās grants, the severities of Ibn ‘Umar, and the unusual and singular positions (shādhdh) that Ibn Mas‘ūd takes. Arrange it and make it accessible (waṭṭi’) for people.’ Mālik said, ‘By Allah! He taught me composition on that day.’” His command waṭṭi’! comprises the senses of facilitating, making easy and accessible, and smoothing a path, and it is from this that one meaning of the name Muwaṭṭa’ derives: The Smoothed and Levelled Path Made Easy for People. Another meaning is ‘that which has been agreed upon many times’ because of the endorsement of the fuqahā’ of Imām Mālik’s time on its soundness. Al-Manṣūr later wanted to coerce people to follow the Muwaṭṭa’ but Mālik counselled him not to do it.