Abbasid Rebellion (Abu Muslim’s Revolt)(747–750)
PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: The Muslim Arab Abbasids vs. Persia’s ruling family, the Ummayyads
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Khorasan, Persia
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: At issue was who should rule the Muslim empire; the Abbasids wanted the throne;the Ummayyads sought to prevent them from taking it.
OUTCOME: The last Ummayyad caliph was deposed and murdered; Abu al-Abbas became the first Abbasid caliph,establishing a new dynasty.
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:Unknown
In 747 Muslim Arabs, claiming descent from Al-Abbas (d. 653), the uncle of the prophet Muhammad (570–632), revolted in Persia against the Ummayyad dynasty, which then ruled the Arab world (most of today’s Middle East, the African coast of the Mediterranean, and the Iberian Peninsula). These “Abbasids,” were led by Abu Muslim (728–755), a man from obscure and lowly origins in Persia. Befriending the Abbasid imam in Persia, he became the agent of the family’s ascension to power. Under Abu Muslim’s black banners, the Abbasids stormed the Ummayyad city of Merv in the northeastern province of Khorasan in 748. The Ummayyad caliph, Marwan III (d. 750) attempted to crush the Abbasids, only to see his forces soundly defeated by them at the battles of Nishapur, Jurjan, Nehawand, and Kerbela. The revolt quickly spread from Persia to other areas of the Muslim empire. Marwan rallied those faithful to him and led them personally to battle but was defeated again, this time decisively, at Mesopotamia’s Great Zab River in 750. The caliph fled to Egypt and exile and, once there, was murdered. By then the general uprising in Persia and Mesopotamia had permitted Abu Muslim’s confederate, Abu al-Abbas as-Saffan (722–754), to declare himself caliph at Kufa, a Mesopotamian city on the Euphrates River. Abul Abbas thus became the first ruler in Persia’s Abbasid dynasty.
Further reading: Mas’Udi, The Meadows of Gold: The Abbasids (London: Kegan Paul, 1989); James E. Montgomery, Abbasid Studies: Occasional Papers of the School of Abbasid Studies, Cambridge, 6–10 July 2002 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003); M. Z. Shaban, The Abbasid Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).