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Abbasid(əbă`sĭd, ă`bəsĭd) or
Abbaside(–sīd, –sĭd), Arab family descended from AbbasAbbas
, d. 653, uncle of Muhammad the Prophet and of Ali the caliph. A wealthy merchant of Mecca, he was at first opposed to the religious movement initiated by his nephew Muhammad.
..... Click the link for more information. , the uncle of Muhammad. The Abbasids held the caliphate from 749 to 1258, but they were recognized neither in Spain nor (after 787) W of Egypt. Under the UmayyadUmayyad
, the first Islamic dynasty (661–750). Their reign witnessed the return to leadership roles of the pre-Islamic Arab elite, and the rejuvenation of tribal loyalties. The Banu Ummaya constituted the higher stratum of the pre-Islamic Meccan elite.
..... Click the link for more information. caliphs the Abbasids lived quietly until they became involved in numerous disputes, beginning early in the 8th cent. The family then joined with the Shiite faction in opposing the Umayyads, and in 747 the gifted Abu MuslimAbu Muslim
, c.728–755, Persian leader of the Abbasid revolution. By political and religious agitation he raised (747) the black banners of the Abbasids against the ruling Umayyad family.
..... Click the link for more information. united most of the empire in revolt against the Umayyads. The head of the Abbasid family became caliph as Abu al-Abbas as-SaffahAbu al-Abbas as-Saffah
, d. 754, 1st Abbasid caliph (749–54). Raised to the caliphate by the armed might of Abu Muslim, he took the reign name as-Saffah [shedder of blood]. Most of the Umayyad family was exterminated, and the reign was one of massacre and force.
..... Click the link for more information. late in 749. The last Umayyad caliph, Marwan II, was defeated and killed and the Umayyad family nearly exterminated; one surviving member fled to Spain, where the Umayyads came to rule. Under the second Abbasid caliph, called al-Mansur (see Mansur, al-Mansur, al-
[Arab.,=the victorious], d. 775, 2d Abbasid caliph (754–75) and founder of the city of Baghdad. His name was in full Abu Jafar abd-Allah al-Mansur. He was brother and successor of Abu al-Abbas.
..... Click the link for more information. , d. 775), the capital was moved from Damascus to Baghdad, and Persian influence grew strong in the empire. The early years of Abbasid rule were brilliant, rising to true splendor under Harun ar-RashidHarun ar-Rashid
[Arab.,=Aaron the Upright], c.764–809, 5th and most famous Abbasid caliph (786–809). He succeeded his brother Musa al-Hadi, fourth caliph, a year after the death of his father, Mahdi, the third caliph.
..... Click the link for more information. , the fifth caliph, and to intellectual brilliance under his son al-Mamun (see Mamun, al-Mamun, al-
(Abu al-Abbas Abd Allah al-Mamun) , 786–833, 7th Abbasid caliph (813–33); son of Harun ar-Rashid. He succeeded his brother al-Amin after a bitter civil war, but was unable to enter Baghdad until 819.
..... Click the link for more information. ), the seventh caliph. After less than a hundred years of rule, however, the slow decline of the Abbasids began. Long periods of disorder were marked by assassinations, depositions, control by Turkish soldiers, and other disturbances, and from the beginning of their reign there were rival caliphs (see caliphatecaliphate
, the rulership of Islam; caliph , the spiritual head and temporal ruler of the Islamic state. In principle, Islam is theocratic: when Muhammad died, a caliph [Arab.,=successor] was chosen to rule in his place.
..... Click the link for more information. ). In 836 the capital was transferred to Samarra, remaining there until 892. Under the later Abbasids, the power of the caliphate became chiefly spiritual. Many independent kingdoms sprang up, and the empire split into autonomous units. The Seljuk Turks came to hold the real power at Baghdad. The conquests of Jenghiz Khan further lowered the prestige of the Abbasids, and in 1258 his grandson Hulagu Khan sacked Baghdad and overthrew the Abbasid caliphate. The 37th caliph died in the disaster, but a member of the family escaped to Cairo, where he was recognized as caliph (see MamluksMamluk
[Arab.,=slaves], a warrior caste dominant in Egypt and influential in the Middle East for over 700 years. Islamic rulers created this warrior caste by collecting non-Muslim slave boys and training them as cavalry soldiers especially loyal to their
..... Click the link for more information. ). The Cairo line of the Abbasid caliphate, completely subordinated to the Mamluks, survived until after the Ottoman conquest (1517) of Egypt.
See M. A. Shaban, The Abbāsid Revolution (1970); H. Kennedy, The Early Abbasid Caliphate (1981).