THE ARAB TRIBAL FEUDS IN KHORASAN
64-130 A.H / 684-747 A.D.
THE overthrow of the Umeiyad Dynasty was brought about by a rising of the Persian Shi'a in Khorasan, which was itself colonised from Al-Basra. In Al-Kufa the people were split up, not into tribal divisions, but into political or religious parties. In Al-Basra tribal jealousy flourished almost as in pre-Islamic times, only the tribes acted, not singly, but in groups. The most important group consisted of Temim allied to the Ribab (sons of Abd-Menat, with Dabba), under whose protection were many Persians and Indians. Opposed to Temim stood Rabi'a. The 'Abd el-Keis went with Bekr in Al-Basra. The Yemeni tribes were represented by the Azd in Al-Basra, in Al-Kufa by Madhhij, Hamdan, and Kinda. The Azd came late upon the scene, but took front rank through Al-Muhallab and his sons. They were taken up by Rabi'a, whilst Temim joined with Keis.
Ziyad, Mu'awiya's stadtholder of Al-Basra, had found his chief supporters among the Azd, and ever after bore a kindly feeling towards them. On the death of Yezid I., it was a Temimite who proclaimed Ibn az-Zubeir, and 'Obeidallah, Ziyad's son, now governor of Al-'Irak, threw himself into the arms of the Azd, but thought it prudent to retire. In his absence tumult arose. Bekr now renewed their alliance with the Azd against Temim, and took possession of the Mosque, from which, however, they were quickly expelled by Temim, and the Azdite chief killed (x. 64 A.H., May, 684 A. D.).
The tribes resident in Al-Basra were now divided into two hostile armies on the one side the Azd with Rabi'a (Bekr and 'Abd el-Keis), on the other Temim with the
Ribab and Hanzala. Through the generous action of Temim no blood was shed, and the collective tribes chose an Amir, until Ibn az-Zubeir should send them a governor, which he did three months later. The feud passed, but the rivalry remained; and under Al-Muhallab Temim resented being made second to the Azd. A wholesome fear of the Khawarij also helped to keep things quiet.
In Khorasan the Arabs were opposed by Turks and Persians, but this did not prevent them from fighting amongst themselves. The country was too like their old home, and Temim especially kept up the old traditions.
Khorasan was conquered under 'Othman by Arabs of Al-Basra, and it remained a colony of that city, whose
governor generally regarded the governor of Khorasn as his lieutenant.1
The western part of the country came to be occupied by Keis, the eastern by Bekr and Temim. The western
capital was Nisabur, the eastern Merv. Sijistan to the south went along with it, and both were under Al-Basra.
Ziyad and his sons ruled them for long. It was in Sijistan that the feud between Rabi'a (Bekr) and Modar (Temim)
broke out afresh over the choice of an Amir. It spread to Khorasan where Al-Muhallab had been left in charge.
His tribe, the Azd, were not strong in Khorasan, however, and the other chiefs deprived him of one part of
his province after another. Temim supported 'Abdallah ibn Khazim, who was not one of them, but of Suleim,
another Modar tribe and opposed to Bekr. Ibn Khazim drove Bekr out of Khorasan into Sijistan. This was
in the year 684 A.D. (64-65 A.H.), and was simultaneous with the feud between Kelb and Keis in the west.
Ibn Khazim tried to prevent Temim settling in Herat, so they waged a guerilla warfare upon him until he
perished. But immediately the clans of Temim began to fight amongst themselves, until the Khorasan Arabs,
foreseeing that these incessant feuds would end in their ruin, begged 'Abd al-Melik to send them a governor
who would stand above party strife. He sent them a Koreishite of the house of Umeiya, "a jovial and
generous man," but no soldier.
1 Wellhausen remarks that along with the campaigns of the tribes as
a whole, there went many anonymous expeditions of individual tribes. This reminds us of the conquest
of Canaan as related in the book of Joshua and in that of Judges.
1 Wellhausen remarks that along with the campaigns of the tribes as a whole, there went many anonymous expeditions of individual tribes. This reminds us of the conquest of Canaan as related in the book of Joshua and in that of Judges.
But it was not till the year 700 AD. (81 A.H.) that the feud ceased, and even then Musa the son of Ibn Khazim was still independent beyond the Oxus.
The result of these intertribal wars was that not only was the territory beyond the Oxus lost, but the Turkish tribes began to raid Khorasan as far as Nisabur. 'Abd al-Melik's Koreishite stadtholder had resumed the offensive, but with such disastrous results that he abdicated (78 A.H. 697 A.D.). In his place Al-Hajjaj named Al-Muhallab, who had fought so bravely against the Khawarij. He did not effect anything but he brought his tribe the Azd to Khorasan. These joined themselves here as in Al-Basra to Rabi'a (Bekr), to the loss of Modar (Temim and Keis). Al-Muhallab was succeeded by his son Yezid, who resented being under the Keisite Al-Hajjaj, and befriended the Yemeni fugitives from Al-Ash'ath's rebellion. His half-brother Al-Mufaddal was then put in his place, since Al-Hajjaj dared not appoint a Keisite as long as the Keisite Musa remained independent beyond the Oxus; since corbies do not peck out corbies' e'en, Al-Mufaddal foolishly "sawed off the branch on which he sat." As soon as Musa was put out of the way he and his brothers lost their posts, and the Azd and Bekr their supremacy. His successor Koteiba, being of a neutral and insignificant tribe, was entirely dependent on the government, and so sided with Keis. The Azd hated him for his treatment of the sons of Al-Muhallab. When Koteiba's turn came, they with Rabi'a plotted his overthrow in secret, for, had they done so openly, Temim would have taken his part. These, however, he had estranged by his conduct to their leaders, and their chief headed the mutiny. The Persian Mawali, who formed a corps by themselves in the Muslim army, were devoted to him, but they could be brought round. It was an Azdite who despatched him.
The fate of Koteiba, like that of 'Obeidallah, shows that with the Arabs the man apart from the tribe is nothing. The Persians took the opposite view, and in this case they were right; for the fall of Koteiba meant the fall of the Arab dominion in the lands which he had won for them. With the arrival of Yezid, son of Al-Muhallab, in Khorasan in the year 98 A.H., the Azd recovered the hegemony there; but with his deposition by 'Omar II., a condition of
equilibrium supervened. Then with the fall of the Muhallabis under Yezid II., all Azdi officials were dismissed and their chiefs reviled. Bahila, Koteiba's clan, had their revenge. Modar, with Temim at their head, returned to power. The stadtholders were, however, generally of Keis. Even these had feuds amongst themselves, chiefly over money matters. In the spring of the year 105 A.H. (724 A.D.), the governor sent an expedition against Ferghana; but the Azd and Rabi'a mutinied under Koteiba's brother Amr. Hisham removed the Keisite governor of Al-'Irak, Ibn Hubeira, to make way for Khalid ibn 'Abdallah of Bajila, a tribe closely related to the Azd; and Asad, a young brother of the latter, became governor of Khorasan. Bajila was, however, a neutral tribe. Asad was superseded in 109 A.H. by a Keisite. The unjust treatment of the Soghdians had effects outside of that country. Al-Harith ibn Sureij took up the rights of the Persian Mawali to exemption from taxation and a share in the pensions, as Abu's-Saida had done before him, and many of the Azd and Temim gathered to his black standard. When Asad returned to Khorasan in 177 A.H. (735 A.D.) he freed the imprisoned officials of Al-Juneid, though Keisites opposed to himself, and adopted a neutral policy. The fall of Khalid hastened that of the Umeiyad dynasty. His successor Yusuf was an out-and-out Keisite of the family of Al-Hajjaj, and he would have named a lieutenant like himself for Khorasan, had not the Caliph Hisham nominated the Kinanite Nasrone of the few old men who play a part in these fierce times. Like Koteiba he had no powerful tribe at his back, and so was dependent on the Caliph. His officials were, however, mostly of Temim, to which tribe Kinana is related.
Al-Welid II. ruled in the Keis interest. Nasr did not recognise his murderer and successor Yezid III., but asked to be recognised as Amir of Khorasan until the civil war should end. To that even the Azd and Rabi'a agreed. Yet Nasr continued to hold the balance even between both parties. But Yezid III. had been placed on the throne by the Yemen, and the Azd and Rabi'a were not long in finding an excuse for mutiny. Under Al-Kirmani they raised the cry of vengeance upon the Umeiyads for their treatment of the family of Al-Muhallab. Nasr now unwisely invited Al-Harith ibn Sureij from his exile among the Turks, and he,
arriving in Merv in July, 745 AD. (ix. 127 AH.), was joined by some thousands of his own tribe of Temim. Nasr was obliged to retire to Nisabur, the chief town of Keis, and left Merv to Al-Harith and Al-Kirmani. Quarrels, however, broke out, and the Azd vanquished Temim in April, 746 A.D. (vii. 128 A.H.). Al-Harith was slain. He was the forerunner of Abu Muslim, and did more than anyone else to overthrow the sway of the Umeiyads and the Arabs. In the following year Nasr, now eighty years of age, set out with all his force to recover Merv from Al-Kirmani; but Abu Muslim and the Shi'i supporters of the 'Abbasid cause, mostly Persians, were encamped not far from the town. Dread of a common enemy drew the Arabs together for once. The Azd and Temim, the Yemen and Modar were at last at one, and Nasr entered Merv at the end of the year 129 A.H. (August, 747 A.D.). Abu Muslim was in a critical position, but he succeeded in bringing over the Azd to his side, and entered Merv in December, 747 AD. (iv. 130 A.H.). Nasr fled to Nisabur. The Umeiyad cause was lost in Khorasan.
The Caliphate: Its Rise, Decline, and Fall [Table of Contents]
Answering Islam Home Page