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The Abbasid Revolution and Fall of the Umayyads

posted on: Aug 30, 2021

By Contributing Author/ Christian Jimenez

The times of the caliphates were considered one of the best times in the history of Islam as their civilization reached its territorial height under the Umayyad Caliphate, as the Islamic World was united and strechted from Iberia to Central Asia.  However, the famous Islamic Golden Age would only begin after the fall of the Umayyads and the rise of the Abbasids in what was called the Abbasid Revolution transforming the entire MENA region and other Muslim areas around the world.  

Disillusionment with the Umayyads

Image of Umayyad Caliphate at its greatest extent by

Before the Abbasid Revolution, the entire Muslim World was under the rule of the Umayyad Dynasty, who presided over the expansion of the World of Islam to its greatest extent by conquering North Africa and Spain during the 7th century C.E. This dynasty took place after the Rashidun Caliphate and the First Fitna between Mu’awiyah I and Ali, who was Muhammad’s son in-law and was and still is believed by the Shia to be the legitimate successor after Muhammad.  In addition to the conquest of new territories for Islam, life under the caliphate was prosperous, but there were two main issues that the Muslims didn’t like about this new dynasty.  The first problem was, the inequality between Arabs and non-Arabs, as the Arab Umayyads preferred to keep the social hierarchy of Arabs on top and everyone else beneath them.  Meanwhile, the second problem with the Umayyad Caliphate were the issues of taxation and conversions.  During the times of the caliphates and after amongst other Islamic states throughout history there was the jizya tax, which was obligatory on all non-Muslims and would only be lifted by the conversion of that taxpayer to Islam.  Meanwhile, the Muslims had the zakat which was only enforced on Muslims as an obligatory part of their religion where they were obligated to give some of their wealth to the needy.  This taxation system thus created a potential money problem for the Umayyads because if enough people converted in order to pay less taxes, then the tax revenue would decline.  Therefore, the Umayyads still kept above average taxation for recent converts to Islam in order to keep their revenue, causing the number of conversions to Islam to remain low.  This action also reinforced the Arab vs non-Arab divide as most of the Ummah before the rise of the Umayyads were Arabs from the Arabian Peninsula, which caused clear differences in taxation and such other treatments between Arabs and non-Arabs regardless if they were Muslim or not.  All of these problems would cause many people to become disillusioned with the Umayyad Caliphate, and they would soon find their champion against the Umayyads in the form of the Abbasids.

The Abbasid Revolution Begins

Image of Abbasid Baghdad by

The Abbasids would start a revolution during the year of 749 C.E., and their dynasty would be named after the uncle of Muhammad, Al-Abbas.  The Abbasids throughout this time sought to claim the legitimacy of the populace by claiming that a dynasty originating from the Banu Hashim tribe should rule the Ummah, and that the Umayyads were an oppressive force that needed to be overthrown.  The Abbasids would thus find a large following and great popularity amongst the non-Arab population of the caliphate in regions such as Central Asia.  Meanwhile, another important figure who supported the Abbasids and helped start the Abbasid Revolution was that of Abu Muslim Khorasani who was Persian.  Abu Muslim would manage to gain support from the Persian region of Khorasan, which was already discontented by their treatment under the Umayyads.  The Revolution would begin on the 25th day of Ramadan, as Abu Muslim told underground supporters to mourn in honor of the imams that were killed by the Umayyads and soon the people of Khorasan hoisted black flags, which was later adopted by the Abbasids.  The Abbasids were now gaining the support of Khorasan and they also took the important Central Asian city of Merv as they united the many enemies of the Umayyads who wanted them overthrown.   Later on in the campaign they would capture the important capital city of Kufa in Iraq , where Abu Muslim proclaimed As-Saffah, the first caliph of the new Abbasid Caliphate.  Then, the Umayyad Caliph at that time, Marwan II, raised an army and headed towards Iraq but he was routed by the Abbasid army of Abdullah bin Ali in the Battle of the Zab, and Marwan II would then flee to Damascus, which was then captured by the Abbasids by the year 750 C.E.  He then fled to Fustat, also known as Cairo, in present day Egypt, where he was slain by an Abbasid soldier thus guaranteeing the fall of the Umayyad Caliphate in all of its former territories expect Iberia where his dynasty would find a new emirate in Al-Andalus.  The Abbasids would then preside over the Islamization of most of the Islamic World, and would also start the Islamic Golden Age until the destruction of their capital of Baghdad by the Mongols in the year 1258 C.E.

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