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Karmathians or Carmathians (kärmāˈthēənz), a Muslim sect of the 9th and 10th cent., similar to the Assassin sect. They were part of a movement for social reform that spread widely through Islam from the 9th to the 12th cent. They were organized according to initiation and illumination, like other similar sects of the period. Although heretical, their doctrine had a great influence on Islamic philosophy and remnants of it are today found in the religion of the Druze. The chief importance of the Karmathians came with their establishment of an independent communist community in lower Mesopotamia before 900. They were the source of rebellions in Khorasan and Syria, and after 900 they conquered all of Yemen. In spite of the efforts of the Abbasid caliph at Baghdad, the Karmathians continued their career until (c.930) they created a sensation that rocked Islam by carrying away the Black Stone from the Kaaba at Mecca. Ten years later the Karmathians returned the stone. They were in constant touch with the founders of Fatimid rule in Egypt, alternately at war or peace with them. They ceased to be a political power after 1000.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



adherents of one of the two branches (sub-sects) of the Muslim Shiite sect of the Ismailis.

The Karmathian subsect arose in the ninth century in southern Mesopotamia. Most of its followers were peasants, nomadic Bedouin, and craftsmen. Toward the end of the ninth century, the Karmathians led a series of antifeudal rebellions against the Abbasids (the largest such rebellions occurred in southern Mesopotamia around 890–906; in Bahrain in 894–99; and in Syria in 900–02). Their social ideal was the restoration of communal landholding and general equality (which, incidentally, did not apply to slaves, who were to become the property not of individuals but of the entire community). The Karmathian religious and philosophical views were identical to those of the Ismailis.

About 899, the Karmathians conquered Bahrain and established their state at al-Ahsa (eastern Arabia); the state survived to the end of the eleventh century. Free farmers and craftsmen, who did not pay taxes, were predominant in the state, which owned 30, 000 slaves. The latter worked in the fields and in gardens, repaired mills, and so on. Attacks by the Karmathians, who were implacable foes of Sunnism, on Sunnite territories (in 930, for example, on Mecca) were accompanied by pillage, massacre, and the enslavement of peaceful populations. Such practices were repellent to the masses, who shared the Karmathians’ social ideals but not their religious beliefs. The suppression of Karmathian rebellions, the savage persecution of the Karmathians by the Ghaznavids, and internal unrest weakened the sect, which for all practical purposes ceased to exist by the late 11th or the early 12th century.


Beliaev, E. A. MusuVmanskoe sektantstvo. Moscow, 1957.
Bertel’s, A. E. Nasir-i Khosrov i ismailizm.Moscow, 1959.
Petrushevskii, I. P. Islam v Irane VII-XV vv. Leningrad, 1966. Chapter 11 (contains detailed bibliography).


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Al-Gharib proceeds to describe the disruptive uprisings of the Qaramitah (Carmathians), the Buwayhids and the Fatimids--all of which contributed to weakening Islam.
Al-Gharib insists that their ethnic ancestors were Persian slaves who had fled Iraq's Samara ahead of the Carmathian raids, (15) and adds:
Furthermore, he draws a correlation between the Carmathian raids on Mecca (including the "theft" of the holy Black Stone) and Iranian-inspired disturbances and riots during the Hajj season.