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Monday, October 12, 2009

The Golden Age of Islam - Part 2

Part 2: The Golden Age of Islam - By Namit Arora on Monday Columns
A great rebellion had overthrown the Umayyad Caliphate of Damascus in 750 CE, after which power shifted east to Baghdad—a city more Persian than Arab back then—reflecting the growing prominence of Persians in Islam. A new caliph, Abu Al-Abbas, a great-grandson of Muhammad’s uncle, founded the Abbasid dynasty, satisfying the fond desire of many rebels to get a caliph from the Prophet’s lineage. But their hopes were soon dashed when the new caliph began living up to his nickname, Al-Saffah—‘the blood-shedder’—by ruthlessly eradicating former allies like Abu Muslim. For the new regime, loyalty to the dynasty, and not the brotherhood of Islam, would be the basis of empire.

Leading up to the rebellion that had ousted the Umayyads, the Abbasids had made great play of the former’s addiction to wine and women. Now that they were themselves in power, their promise of a return to ‘true religion’ under the Prophet’s own family vanished into thin air; luxuries and irreligious behavior grew instead. The Abbasids, partly out of expediency, began patronizing a more liberal school of theology—the Mu’tazilah—much to the resentment of the Shiites and the orthodox Sunnis; it led to more crushed Shiite rebellions. [1]

The caliphs that followed Al-Abbas now presided over a loose collection of provinces, each with a governor and a bureaucracy similar to older Persian arrangements, where local satraps had a good deal of autonomy and power. Administration was divided into departments—or divans—headed by the vizier. The old Arab monopoly on power had passed—Islamized Persians began entering the higher echelons of leadership. The dominant Abbasid legal system—there were at least four to choose from, all proceeding from the Shari’ah but with significant variations nonetheless—became the Hanafi rite, the most liberal of the lot. In making civil laws and administering justice, it opposed overly literal readings of the Qur’an, relying instead on analogy, consensus, and judicial reasoning. [2]

Part 1: The Rise of Islam
(Part 3, which takes a closer look at the rational current of early Islam, will appear on Nov 9.)
[links 3quarks]


Blogger Tao Dao Man said...

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October 12, 2009 5:09 PM  

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