Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
48
CALIPHATE

extravagant Moslem sectaries as the Hāshimīya, the real Khorramī were not Moslems, but Persian Mazdaqites, or communists. The name Khorramī, or Khorramdīnī, “adherent of the pleasant religion,” seems to be a nickname. As they bore red colours, they were also called Mohammira, or Redmakers. Their object was to abolish Islam and to restore “the white religion.” We find the first mention of them in the year 808, when Harun al-Rashid sent an army against them. During the civil war their power was steadily increasing, and spread not only over Azerbaijan, but also over Media (Jabal) and Khorasan. The numerous efforts of Mamun to put them down had been all in vain, and they were now in alliance with the Byzantine emperor. Therefore, in the year 835, Motasim made Afshīn, a Turkish prince who had distinguished himself already in the days of Mamun, governor of Media, with orders to take the lead of the war against Bābak. After three years’ fighting, Bābak was taken prisoner. He was carried to Sāmarrā, led through the city on the back of an elephant, and then delivered to the executioners, who cut off his arms and legs. His head was sent to Khorasan, his body was crucified. For long afterwards the place where this happened bore the name of “Bābak’s Cross.”

In the hope of creating a diversion in Bābak’s favour, Theophilus in 837 fell upon and laid waste the frontier town of Zibatra. There and in several other places he took a great number of prisoners, whom he mutilated. The news arrived just after that of the capture of Bābak, and Motasim swore to take exemplary vengeance. He assembled a formidable army, penetrated into Asia Minor, and took the city of Amorium, where he gained rich plunder. During his return the caliph was informed of a conspiracy in the army in favour of ‛Abbās the son of Mamun, of which ‛Ojaif b. ‛Anbasa was the ringleader. The unfortunate prince was arrested and died soon after in prison. The conspirators were killed, many of them with great cruelty. (For the campaign see Bury in J.H.S., 1909, xxix. pt. i.)

Motasim had just returned to Sāmarrā when a serious revolt broke out in Tabaristan, Māziyār, one of the hereditary chiefs of that country, refusing to acknowledge the authority of Abdallah Ibn Ṭāhir, the governor of Khorasan, of which Tabaristan was a province. The revolt was suppressed with great difficulty, and it came out that it was due to the secret instigation of Afshīn, who hoped thereby to cause the fall of the Ṭāhirids, and to take their place, with the ulterior object of founding an independent kingdom in the East. Afshīn, who stood at that moment in the highest favour of the caliph, was condemned and died in prison. Motasim died a year later, January 842.

9. Reign of Wāthiq.—His son Wāthiq, who succeeded, though not in the least to be compared with Mamun, had yet in common with him a thirst for knowledge—perhaps curiosity would be a more appropriate term—which prompted him, as soon as he became caliph, to send the famous astronomer Mahommed b. Mūsā into Asia Minor to find out all about the Seven Sleepers which he discovered in the neighbourhood of Arabissus,[1] and Sallām the Interpreter to explore the situation of the famous wall of Gog and Magog, which he reached at the north-west frontier of China.[2] For these and other personal pursuits he raised money by forcing a number of high functionaries to disgorge their gains. In so vast an empire the governors and administrators had necessarily enjoyed an almost unrestricted power, and this had enabled them to accumulate wealth. Omar had already compelled them to furnish an account of their riches, and, when he found that they had abused their trust, to relinquish half to the state. As time went on, nomination to an office was more and more generally considered a step to wealth. During the reign of the Omayyads a few large fortunes were made thus. But with the increasing luxury after Mansur, the thirst for money became universal, and the number of honest officials lessened fast. Confiscation of property had been employed with success by Hārūn al-Rashīd after the disgrace of the Barmecides, and occasionally by his successors, but Wāthiq was the first to imprison high officials and fine them heavily on the specific charge of peculation.

The caliph also shared Mamun’s intolerance on the doctrinal question of the uncreated Koran. He carried his zeal to such a point that, on the occasion of an exchange of Greek against Moslem prisoners in 845, he refused to receive those Moslem captives who would not declare their belief that the Koran was created. The orthodox in Bagdad prepared to revolt, but were discovered in time by the governor of the city. The ringleader Ahmad b. Naṣr al-Khozā‛ī was seized and brought to Sāmarrā, where Wāthiq beheaded him in person. The only other event of importance in the reign of Wāthiq was a rising of the Arabian tribes in the environs of Medina, which the Turkish general Boghā with difficulty repressed. When he reached Sāmarrā with his prisoners, Wāthiq had just died (August 846). That the predominance of the praetorians was already established is clear from the fact that Wāthiq gave to two Turkish generals, Ashnās and Itākh respectively, the titular but lucrative supreme government of all the western and all the eastern provinces. In his days the soldiery at Sāmarrā was increased by a large division of Africans (Maghribīs).

10. Reign of Motawakkil.—As Wāthiq had appointed no successor the vizier Mahommed Zayyāt had cast his eye on his son Mahommed, who was still a child, but the generals Wasīf and Itākh, seconded by the upper cadi Ibn abī Da’ud, refused their consent, and offered the supreme power to Wāthiq’s brother Ja‛far, who at his installation adopted the name of al-Motawakkil ‛alā ‛llāh (“he who trusts in God”). The new caliph hated the vizier Zayyāt, who had opposed his election, and had him seized and killed with the same atrocious cruelty which the vizier himself had inflicted on others. His possessions, and those of others who had opposed the caliph’s election, were confiscated. But the arrogance of Itākh, to whom he owed his Caliphate, became insufferable. So, with the perfidy of his race, the caliph took him off his guard, and had him imprisoned and killed at Bagdad. He was succeeded by Wasīf.

About this time an impostor named Mahmūd b. Faraj had set himself up as a prophet, claiming to be Dhu‛l-Qarnain (Alexander the Great) risen from the dead. Asserting that Gabriel brought him revelations, he had contrived to attract twenty-seven followers. The caliph had him flogged, and compelled each of the twenty-seven to give him ten blows on the head with his fist. The “prophet” expired under the blows (850).

One of the first acts of Motawakkil was the release of all those who had been imprisoned for refusing to admit the dogma of the created Koran, and the strict order to abstain from any litigation about the Book of God. The upper cadi Ibn abī Da’ud, the leader of the movement against orthodoxy, who had stood in great esteem with Mamun and had fulfilled his high office under the reigns of Motasim and Wāthiq, had a stroke of paralysis in the year 848. His son Mahommed was put in his place till 851, when all the members of the family were arrested. They released themselves by paying the enormous sum of 240,000 dinārs and 16,000,000 dirhems, which constituted nearly their whole fortune, and were then sent to Bagdad, where father and son died three years later. An orthodox upper cadi was named instead, and the dogma of the created Koran was declared heresy; therewith began a persecution of all the adherents of that doctrine and other Motazilite tenets. Orthodoxy triumphed, never again to lose its place as the state religion. Hand in hand with these reactionary measures came two others, one against Jews and Christians, one against the Shi‛ites. The first caliph who imposed humiliating conditions on the Dhimmis, or Covenanters, who, on condition of paying a certain not over-heavy tribute, enjoyed the protection of the state and the free exercise of their cult, was Omar II., but this policy was not continued. A proposition by the cadi Abū Yūsuf to Hārūn al-Rashid to renew it had not been adopted. Motawakkil, in 850, formulated an edict by which these sectaries were compelled to wear a distinctive dress and to distinguish their houses by a figure of

  1. See M.J. de Goeje, “De legende der Zevenslapers van Efeze,” Versl. en Meded. der K. Akad. v. Wetensch. Afd. Letterk. 4e Reeks, iii., 1900.
  2. See M.J. de Goeje, “De muur van Gog en Magog,” Versl. en Meded. 3e Reeks, v., 1888.