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Abu Muslim

From Academic Kids

Abu Muslim Abd al-Rahman ibn Muslim al-Khurasani أبو مسلم عبد الرحمن بن مسلم الخراساني (ca. 700 - 755), Abbasid general, was the son of a Persian Zoroastrian, born in Khurasan.

Although there is debate on what his real name was, the kunya Abu Muslim was bestowed unto him by the Abbasids. He grew up in Kufa, in Iraq.

Abu Muslim was a major supporter of the Abbasid cause, having met with their Imam Ibrahim ibn Muhammad in Mecca, and was later a personal friend of Abu al-'Abbas Al-Saffah, the future Caliph. He observed the revolt in Kufa in 736 tacitly. With the death of the Umayyad Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik in 743, the Islamic world was launched into civil war. Abu Muslim was sent to Khurasan by the Abbasids initially as a propagandist and then to revolt on their behalf. He took Merv in December 747 (or January 748), defeating the Umayyad governor there Nasr ibn Sayyar, as well as Shayban al-Khariji, a Kharijite aspirant to the caliphate. He became the de facto Abbasid governor of Khurasan, and gained fame as a general in the late 740s in defeating the peasant rebellion of Bihafarid, the leader of a syncretic Persian sect that blended Shi'ism and Mazdaism. Abu Muslim received support in suppressing the rebellion both from purist Muslims and Zoroastrians. In 750, Abu Muslim became leader of the Abbasid army and defeated the Umayyads at the Greater Zab. Abu Muslim stormed Damascus, the capital of the Umayyad caliphate, later that year.

His heroic role in the revolution and military skill, along with his conciliatory politics toward Shia, Sunnis, Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians made him extremely popular among the people. Although it appears that Abu al-'Abbas trusted him in general, he was wary of his power, limiting his entourage to 500 men upon his arrival to Iraq on his way to Hajj in 754. Abu al-'Abbas's brother, al-Mansur (r. 754-775), advised al-Saffah on more than one occasion to have Abu Muslim killed, fearing his rising influence and popularity. It seems that this dislike was mutual, with Abu Muslim aspiring to more power and looking down in disdain on al-Mansur, as well as feeling he owes him a lot for his position. When the new caliph's uncle, Abdullah ibn Ali rebelled, Abu Muslim was requested by al-Mansur to crush this rebellion, which he did, and sent Abdullah to his nephew as a prisoner. Abdullah was imprisoned then executed.

Relations deteriorated quickly when al-Mansur sent an agent to inventory the spoils or war, and then appointed Abu Muslim governor of Syria and Egypt, outside his powerbase. After a series of increasingly acrimonous correspondence, between Abu Muslim and al-Mansur, Abu Muslim feared he was going to be killed if he appeared in presence of the Caliph. He later changed his mind and decided to appear in his presence due to a combination of fear of disobedience, al-Mansur's promise to keep him as governor of Khurasan, and the assurances of some of his close aides, some of whom were bribed by al-Mansur. He went to Iraq to meet with al-Mansur's in al-Madain in 755. al-Mansur proceeded to enumerate his greivances against Abu Muslim, who kept reminding the Caliph of his efforts to enthrone him. al-Mansur then signaled five of his guards behind a protico to kill him. His mutilated body was thrown in the river Tigris, and his commanders were bribed to acquiesce to the murder.

His murder was not well-received by either the residents of Khurasan or the people of Iran, and there was resentment among the population over the brutal methods used by al-Mansur. He became a legendary figure for many, and several heretics started revolts claiming he has not died, and will return, such as his own propagandist, Ishaq al-Turk, the Zoroastrian cleric, Sunpadh, in Nishapur, and al-Muqanna in Khorasan. Even Babak claimed descent from him.

At least two epic romances were written around him, Akhbar Abu Muslim sahib al da'wa by Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Omran al-Marzobani in Arabic, and Abu Muslim nama Abu Tahir al-Tarsusi in Persian, later translated to Turkish.

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