Abbasid Caliphate Information

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Room 1
Important People
Room 2
Government and Economics
Room 3
The Early Abbasid Era: Culture
Room 4
Early Abbasid Empire: Vocabulary
Room 5
Early Abbasid Empire
Geography: Moving of Islamic Capital
The Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads and
moved the capital from Damascus to a small
Christian village on the west bank of the Tigris
River, Baghdad. Baghdad was located right
next to the capital of Persia and was being run
by the Persian empire. The Abbasids then took
over. Baghdad was conquered by the Turks in
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Early Abbasid Empire
Geography: Iraq
Iraq was the central province in the Abbasid
caliphate. It was also the cultural center.
Notably because of the translation of Greek
science and philosophy into Arabic.
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Early Abbasid Empire
Geography: Baghdad
Baghdad was founded in 762 CE. That year
Baghdad became the capital of the Abbasid
empire. Baghdad was known for being a
cultural, philosophical, and literary center.
Because Baghdad is located of the Tigris river
it always had an abundant water supply but still
had a dry climate.
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Early Abbasid Empire
Geography: Tigris River
Baghdad was located on the edge of the Tigris
river. The Tigris river was 750 feet wide. The
river allowed many ships, warships, and
Chinese trading vessels to dock there. This
made Baghdad a place for the trading of
culture and many other goods.
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Early Abbasid Empire
Important People: Harun ar-Rashid
Harun ar-Rashid was the fifth and most famous
Abbasid Caliph in Iraq. He ruled from from 786
to 809. He was known for scientific, cultural,
art, music, and religious prosperity. He also
founded the Bayt al-Hikma, a library meaning
House of Wisdom.
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Early Abbasid Empire
Important People: Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib
Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib (566-653 CE) was
the paternal uncle and companion of
Muhammad. He was Muhammad’s youngest
uncle. Abd al-Muttailb was a wealthy merchant
Makka. Although al-Muttalib provided
protection to his kinsman, while the Muslim
religion was catching on, al-Muttalib did not
support it. Shortly before the fall of Makka he
turned away from the Quraysh rulers and gave
his support to Mohammad.
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Early Abbasid Empire
Important People: al-Amin
After Harun ar-Rashid died in 809, he left
Baghdad to his son al-Amin. Al-Amin had very
strong-willed followers who attacked the
eastern side of the empire in the spring of 811,
but were defeated. Al-Amin was then killed
during an attack by the eastern half of the
empire in 813.
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Early Abbasid Empire
Important People: al-Ma’mun
When Harun al-Rashid died he left the eastern
half of the empire to his son al-Ma’mun. AlAmin’s (his brother) followers attacked his
empire in the spring of 811 but were defeated.
His followers retaliated by attacking Iraq from
August of 812 to September of 813. They were
successful in killing al-Amin.
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The Early Abbasid Era
In 762 the capital of the Abbasid dynasty
became Baghdad, then known as Madinat asSalam (City of Peace).
The Abbasid dynasty rulers put their capital in
Baghdad after defeating the previous Umayyad
caliphs. It quickly grew bigger than any Asian
or European city. It expanded at the expense of
other great cities in the Middle East but
became the “seat of the government”.
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The Early Abbasid Era
Samarra As A Capital
Al-Mu’tasim ruled during this time. He
introduced a new class of Turkish warriors to
take over the military positions of the area. This
led Baghdadis to feel left out and become
angry so Al-Mu’tasim decided to make Samarra
the new capital, and it became “one of the last
major urban civilizations in Iraq until the 20th
In 865, a civil war broke out between Samarra
and Baghdad, essentially damaging Baghdad
pretty badly. However, in 892 the caliphs
returned to Baghdad and Samarra became
nothing more than an ordinary town.
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The Early Abbasid Era
Turkish Warriors
During the rule of al-Mu’tasim, Turkish warriors
were introduced to the military. This “class” was
made mainly out of Turkish slaves, also known
as Mamluks. For a while this huge army helped
the caliphate. But because they didn’t have
“any ties to the local community [it] gave rise to
political instability”. For about a decade the
Turkish soldiers killed the caliphs pretty much
whenever they wanted, but power to the
caliphs was eventually restored though the
Turkish uprising had permanently affected Iraq.
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The Early Abbasid Era
Reign of Harun ar-Rushid
Harun ar-Rashid’s rule marked the high point of
economic prosperity in the years 786-809. Karen
Armstrong said, “"Arab Muslims now studied
astronomy, alchemy, medicine and mathematics with
such success that, during the ninth and tenth
centuries, more scientific discoveries had been
achieved in the Abbasid empire than in any previous
period of history.” However this was ruined by
unlawful disruption in the south by Walid ibn Tarif.
When Harun died, he split the Caliphate, leaving it to
his two sons. This was a horrible idea, and led to a
destructive civil war. This was most likely the
beginning of the fall of prosperity in this area.
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The Early Abbasid Empire
Culture: Basis/Foundation
The Abbasids were patrons of acquiring
knowledge and supported religious
observance. Their leaders were the first
Muslim rulers of an Islamic nation. In addition,
they became guardians of the religion as
opposed to an Arab aristocracy commanding
an Arab civilization on the lands that they
conquered. Baghdad took Medina’s place as
the main, thriving civilization. Baghdad became
the core of theological activity, and industry
and commerce developed greatly. As a result,
the Islamic empire came to their peak as
material and intellectual achievement
Dols, Michael W. "Abbasids." Public Services - Social,
Religious, Scientific, Products, Environment. 2007. Web. 09
Oct. 2010. <>.
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Early Abbasid Empire
Culture: Women
During the Early Abbasid Empire, women’s
roles in society were regarded as
unimportant. As a result of a strong
Patriarchal Society and from the conquests
of Sassanid and Byzantine lands, their voice
in society was intentionally quieted, and
their presence in politics was vanishing. This
sort of outlook on women’s importance
effected their daily lives.
“To Abu Hassan I offer condolences.
At times of disaster and catastrophe
God multiplies rewards for the patient.
To be patient in misery
Is equivalent to giving thanks for a gift.
Among the blessings of God undoubtedly
Is the preservation of sons
And the death of daughters.”
Ahmed, Leila. "Women in World History: Primary
Sources." Center for History and New Media. 2004-2006.
Web. 11 Oct. 2010.
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Early Abbasid Empire
Culture: Writing
Sha-Nama (the Book of Kings)
By Firdawsi
The Sha-Nama was a prominent epic poem
written in the Abbasid era. With a lavish and
elegant style, this important piece was as
profound as it was informative; it explicitly tells
of battles, illicit love affairs, and intrigues.
Vibrant illustrations and grand manuscripts
were only part of this work’s glory. Many times
did people read this piece of literature aloud
while being musically accompanied.
Other pieces of writing during this time would
Include subjects of: everyday incidents, striving
for communion with the divine, and statecraft.
Moshref, Rameen Javid. "Shahnama." Afghan Network
INteractive. Web. 09 Oct. 2010. <>.
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Early Abbasid Empire
Philosophy, medicine, mathematics, and other
sciences flourished as the Islamic world
developed the knowledge and wisdom of
earlier cultures. They contributed to the world
of math when they revised and corrected some
Greek’s theories of algebra, Geometry, and
Trigonometry.They also came to classify all
material substances into three groups (animal,
mineral, and vegetable). They also contributed
knowledge in mineral weighing, mapping, and
astronomy. However, Muslim’s technological
breakthroughs tended to focus on practical
applications as well. For example, hospitals,
papermaking, silk-weaving, and ceramic firing.
Young, M.J.L. "Religion, Learning and Science in the 'Abbasid
Period." Cambridge University Press. 2010. Web. 11 Oct. 2010.
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The Earl Abbasid Empire
Vocabulary: Mawali
Islamic converts (Mawali) were supposed to be
considered the same as anyone else. All
Muslims were sisters and brothers; Arabs
weren’t greater than Syrians, Persians, or
Egyptian; either black or white, skin color was
of no importance. Anyone who followed Islam,
even a mawali, was rightfully equal. Under the
Umayyad dynasty however, racist ideas said
that the only good people were Arabs.
Ironically, the term means "companion" or
"equal." Mawalis were initially considered a
second class under the “superior” Arabs. It was
because of this that the mawalis rebelled
against the Umayyad rulers and put in a new
dynasty, the Abbasids, that promised to treat
the mawalis fairly, in accordance with Islam.
Karr, Karen. "Mawali - History for Kids!" Kidipede - History and
Science for Kids - Homework Help for Middle School. 15 Jan.
2009. Web. 11 Oct. 2010.
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The Early Abbasid Empire
Vocabulary: Mamluks
The Mamluks or the “White Slaves” (in Arabic)
were a military force mostly of Turkish slaves –
many of which who were famous for the
horsemanship. The Mamluks typically came to
hold military and political power – and in some
cases, attain the rank of sultan. For this
reason, many times were Mamluks considered
to be of a greater social rank than normal
slaves, and even above freeborn Muslims. The
Mamluks were responsible for eliminating the
last of the Crusades and at one point recruited
by Napoleon to form his very own Mamluk
"I could not imagine what I could do using a
fistful of these warriors" -Napoleon
Mikaberidze, Alexander, and David Sharashenidze. "Mameluks, the
Great Warriors of the Past." The Napoleon Series. 1995-2004. Web.
11 Oct. 2010. <>.
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The Early Abbasid Empire
Vocabulary: Ulama
The Ulama were orthodox, religious scholars.
They highly disagreed with non-Islamic ideas
and scientific thinking. They also related the
ancient Greek learning to the “aggressive”
civilizations located in the Christian part of
Europe. The ulamas thought that questioning
(characteristic of Greek tradition) would disrupt
the power and authority of the Quran – in which
they thought was the “final, perfect, and
complete revelation of an all-knowing divinity”.
Many bright Islamic theologians had trouble
converging the Orthodox and Greek traditions
because the ulama would constantly turn down
their ideas.
"Saudi Arabia - The Ulama." Country Studies. Web. 11
Oct. 2010. <>.
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The Early Abbasid Empire
Vocabulary: Sufis
The term “sufis” was derived from woolen robes
that wandering mystics would wear. These
mystics, Sufis, would seek a personal union with
their god, Allah. Sufis would try to focus on the
presence of Allah in their life rather than the
usual “illusory existence” of everyday life. Sufis
were strictly monotheistic and made sure that
there were distinct boundaries between that of
Allah and humans. Although strict on their
beliefs, sufis came in a wide spectrum of
characters. Some were believed to be miracle
workers and healers. Others were leaders of
militant bands trying to spread the Islamic
religion.Some sufis would try to unite with Allah
through asceticism, or meditation, while others
tried songs, drugs, and even dancing (whirling
Pike, John. "Sufi Islam." - Reliable Security
Information. 200-2010. Web. 08 Oct. 2010.
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The Early Abbasid Empire
The Dhimmis were the People of the Book
(Christians and Jews) – people who shared the
bible with the Muslims. Eventually, Persians
and Zoroastrians also became dhimmis as the
Arabian conquests spread – expanding the
term dhimmis to suit the groups.Dhimmis were
generally tolerated and accepted by the
Muslim overlords; they were free to worship
however they wanted, whenever they wanted.
Although they did still have to pay both
property & commercial taxes, and the jizya
(tax), their legal systems and communities
were as they were. In the end, this was a good
call my the Muslim overlords because it did not
oppress the people and consequently made
them accept the Arab law and rules.
Bat-Ye'or. "The Status of Non-Muslim Minorities Under Islamic
Rule." Dhimmis and Dhimmitude: The Status of Minorities Under
Islamic Rule. 2001-2006. Web. 11 Oct. 2010.
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Early Abbasid Empire:
Abu Muslim
One day man calling himself Abu Muslim
appeared in the city of Marv. Marv is located
about 1500 miles east of Damascus. He
recruited warriors and told them that the family
of Ali and the Prophet must return to the
Caliphate. In 750 CE his forces clashed with
the Umayyads on the Great Zab River in
Iraq. The last Umayyad caliph fled into Egypt,
where he was eventually caught and killed.
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Early Abbasid Empire
Calligraphy: Thuluth
Perhaps the most predominant style of Arabic
calligraphy, the Thuluth Style was created in
the Abbasid period. This style was used
particularly when writing official documents of
the king or Sultan. The style may have gotten
it’s name “thuluth” (“a third”) because the
thuluth writing was about one third of the size
of the other well known contemporary writing
style. As depicted in the picture to the right, the
script is a combination of lines & curves, a
cursive flow, and intricate proportions. Some
still consider it the most vital of all the
ornamental scripts today.
"Thuluth Style." Islamic Arts and Architecture Organization. Web. 11
Oct. 2010.
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The Book of One Thousand and One Nights
The Book of One Thousand and One Nights is
one of the most famous (collection of) stories of
this time period. It’s also known as Arabian
Nights. The number and type of stories vary in
each edition, but it started in the 10th century
and was eventually pretty much completed in
the 14th century. In the 18th century is when it
was first translated to English. We get a lot of
famous Western characters from this book, like
Aladdin, Sinbad, and Ali Baba.
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