place and the black flags were unfolded. On that occasion Suleimān b. Kathīr was still leader, but by the end of the year Abu Moslim, whom the majority believed to belong himself to the family of the Prophet, was the acknowledged head of a strong army. Meantime, Naṣr had moved from Nishapur to Merv, and here the two Arabic armies confronted each other. Then, at last, the true significance of Abu Moslim’s work was recognized. Naṣr warned the Arabs against their common enemy, “who preaches a religion that does not come from the Envoy of God, and whose chief aim is the extirpation of the Arabs.” In vain he had entreated Merwan and Ibn Hobaira to send him troops before it should be too late. When at last it was possible to them to fulfil his wish, it was in fact too late. For a moment it seemed as though the rival Arab factions, realizing their common peril, would turn their combined forces against the Shi‛ites. But Abu Moslim contrived to re-awaken their mutual distrust and jealousy, and, taking advantage of the opportunity, made himself master of Merv, in Rabia II. A.H. 130 (December 747). Naṣr escaped only by a headlong flight to Nishapur. This was the end of the Arabic dominion in the East. Many Arab chiefs were killed, partly by order of Abu Moslim, partly by their clients. The latter, however, was strictly forbidden by Abu Moslim. So severe indeed was the discipline he exercised, that one of the chief missionaries, who by a secret warning had rendered possible the escape of Naṣr from Merv, paid for it with his life.
As soon as Abu Moslim had consolidated his authority, he sent his chief general Qaḥṭaba against Nishapur. Naṣr’s son Tamīm was vanquished and killed, and Naṣr retreated to Kumis (Qūmis) on the boundary of Jorjān, whither also advanced from the other side Nobāta at the head of an army sent by Merwan. Qaḥṭaba detached his son Ḥasan against Naṣr and went himself to meet Nobāta, whom he beat on the 1st of Dhu‛l-ḥijja 130 (6th August 748). Naṣr could not further resist. He reached Sāwā in the vicinity of Hamadan, where he died quite exhausted, at the age of eighty-five years. Rei and Hamadan were taken without serious difficulty. Near Nehawend, Ibn Ḍobāra, at the head of a large army, encountered Qaḥṭaba, but was defeated and killed. In the month of Dhu‛l-qa‛da 131 (June 749) Nehawend (Nehavend) surrendered, and thereby the way to Irak lay open to Qaḥṭaba. Ibn Hobaira was overtaken and compelled to retire to Wāsit. Qaḥṭaba himself perished in the combat, but his son Ḥasan entered Kufa without any resistance on the 2nd of September 740.
Merwan had at last discovered who was the real chief of the movement in Khorasan, and had seized upon Ibrahīm the Imam and imprisoned him at Harran. There he died, probably from the plague, though Merwan was accused of having killed him. When the other Abbasids left Ḥomaima is not certain. But they arrived at Kufa in the latter half of September 749, where in the meantime the head of the propaganda, Abu Salama, called the wazir of the family of Mahomet, had previously undertaken the government. This Abu Salama seems to have had scruples against recognizing Abu‛l-Abbas as the successor of his brother Ibrahīm, and to have expected that the Mahdi, whom he looked for from Medina, would not be slow in making his appearance, little thinking that an Abbasid would present himself as such. But Abu Jahm, on the instructions of Abu Moslim, declared to the chief officers of the Khorasanian army that the Mahdi was in their midst, and brought them to Abu‛l-Abbas, to whom they swore allegiance. Abu Salama also was constrained to take the oath. On Friday, the 12th Rabia II. A.H. 132 (28th November 749) Abu‛l-Abbas was solemnly proclaimed caliph in the principal mosque of Kufa. The trick had been carried out admirably. On the point of gathering the ripe fruit, the Alids were suddenly pushed aside, and the fruit was snatched away by the Abbasids. The latter gained the throne and they took good care never to be deprived of it.
After the conquest of Nehawend, Qaḥṭaba had detached one of his captains, Abu ‛Aun, to Shahrazūr, where he defeated the Syrian army which was stationed there. Thereupon Abu ‛Aun occupied the land of Mosul, where he obtained reinforcements from Kufa, headed by Abdallah b. Ali, an uncle of Abu‛l-Abbas, who was to have the supreme command. Merwan advanced to meet him, and was completely defeated near the Greater Zab, an affluent of the Tigris, in a battle which lasted eleven days. Merwan retreated to Harran, thence to Damascus, and finally to Egypt, where he fell in a last struggle towards the end of 132 (August 750). His head was cut off and sent to Kufa. Abu Aun, who had been the real leader of the campaign against Merwan, remained in Egypt as its governor. Ibn Hobaira, who had been besieged in Wasit for eleven months, then consented to a capitulation, which was sanctioned by Abu‛l-Abbas. Immediately after the surrender, Ibn Hobaira and his principal officers were treacherously murdered. In Syria, the Omayyads were persecuted with the utmost rigour. Even their graves were violated, and the bodies crucified and destroyed. In order that no members of the family should escape, Abdallah b. Ali pretended to grant an amnesty to all Omayyads who should come in to him at Abu Fotros (Antipatris) and acknowledge the new caliph, and even promised them the restitution of all their property. Ninety men allowed themselves to be entrapped, and Abdallah invited them to a banquet. When they were all collected, a body of executioners rushed into the hall and slew them with clubs. He then ordered leathern covers to be thrown upon the dying men, and had the banquet served upon them. In Medina and Mecca Da‛ud b. Ali, another uncle of Abu‛l-Abbas, conducted the persecution; in Baṣra, Suleiman b. Ali. Abu‛l-Abbas himself killed those he could lay his hands on in Hira and Kufa, amongst them Suleimān b. Hishām, who had been the bitterest enemy of Merwan. Only a few Omayyads escaped the massacre, several of whom were murdered later. A grandson of Hisham, Abdarrahmān, son of his most beloved son Moawiya, reached Africa and founded in Spain the Omayyad dynasty of Cordova.
With the dynasty of the Omayyads the hegemony passes finally from Syria to Irak. At the same time the supremacy of the Arabs came to an end. Thenceforth it is not the contingents of the Arabic tribes which compose the army, and on whom the government depends; the new dynasty relies on a standing army, consisting for the greater part of non-Arabic soldiers. The barrier that separated the Arabs from the conquered nations begins to crumble away. Only the Arabic religion, the Arabic language and the Arabic civilization maintain themselves, and spread more and more over the whole empire.
We now enter upon the history of the new dynasty, under which the power of Islam reached its highest point.
1. Abu‛l-Abbas inaugurated his Caliphate by a harangue in which he announced the era of concord and happiness which was to begin now that the House of the Prophet had been restored to its right. He asserted that the Abbasids were the real heirs of the Prophet, as the descendants of his oldest uncle Abbas. Addressing the Kufians, he said, “Inhabitants of Kufa, ye are those whose affection towards us has ever been constant and true; ye have never changed your mind, nor swerved from it, notwithstanding all the pressure of the unjust upon you. At last our time has come, and God has brought you the new era. Ye are the happiest of men through us, and the dearest to us. I increase your pensions with 100 dirhems; make now your preparations, for I am the lavish shedder of blood and the avenger of blood.”
Notwithstanding these fine words, Abu‛l-Abbas did not trust
- Merwan has been nicknamed al-Ja‛di and al-Ḥimār (the Ass). As more than one false interpretation of these names has been given, it is not superfluous to cite here Qaisarānī (ed. de Jong, p. 31), who says on good authority that a certain al-Ja‛d b. Durham, killed under the reign of Hishām for heretical opinions, had followers in Mesopotamia, and that, when Merwan became caliph, the Khorasanians called him a Ja‛d, pretending that all’Ja‛d had been his teacher. As to al-Ḥimār this was substituted also by the Khorasanians for his usual title, al-Faras, “the race-horse.”
- The Arabic word for “shedder of blood,” as-Saffāh, which by that speech became a name of the caliph, designates the liberal host who slaughters his camels for his guests. European scholars have taken it unjustly in the sense of the bloodthirsty, and found in it an allusion to the slaughter of the Omayyads and many others. At the same time, it was not without much bloodshed that Abū‛l-Abbas finally established his power.