A Greater Dar al-Islam and an Ever Shrinking Dar al-Harb / a resurgent Islam TL

  • A Greater Dar al-Islam and an Ever Shrinking Dar al-Harb
    This timeline is partly inspired by the Muslim World: The True Faith timeline and by an in-development mod for Hearts of Iron 4 called Bayt al-Hikmah, though with my own views and interpretations on how an Islam-dominated world would look. The point of divergence is the death of Charles Martel at the siege of Avignon in 737; from my reading, this is a perfect point to break the Carolingian empire before it began and cause a lot infighting in Francia.

    The point of this timeline is not necessarily to create a Muslim Europe (though that may end up happening) but instead to prevent Western Europe from becoming the world's dominant region, and so keep dominance in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

    Feel free to comment and offer criticism on the timeline.

    A note on naming: I will try to maintain a consistent approach to names of people and places but this of course can be tricky when dealing with transliteration from other scripts.
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  • Prelude

    Following the gradual collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the former provinces of Gaul hosted a variety of successor states of mixed provenance; they were mostly Germanic, Gallo-Roman, and Celtic. Among these states the Germanic Franks soon became the most dominant, conquering most of Gaul and embracing Christianity under the leadership of their Merovingian dynasty. The defeated enemies of the Franks included: the Gallo-Roman state ruled by Syagrius; the kingdom of the Burgundians; and the kingdom of the Visigoths. The latter though retained their hold on Hispania and their territory in southern Gaul, Septimania. The later Merovingian kings progressively lost their power to their mayors of the palace, an administrative role within each constituent kingdom of the growing Frankish empire. By the empire’s end the positions had become monopolised by a few influential families; Pippin of Herstal was the most powerful mayor, so much so that he was able claim the title of Duke and Prince of the Franks. Pippin was succeeded, after a brief civil war, by his son Charles, nicknamed Martellus “the hammer”, in 718 CE.

    Meanwhile in the Middle East, the Eastern Roman Empire and the Sasanian Empire of Iran continually fought each other for control of Syria and Armenia. Their final war, which occurred from 602-630 CE, exacerbated the internal instabilities of both states and left them completely unprepared for the appearance of Islam in Arabia. Muhammad, a member of the Quraysh tribe in the Hejaz, was expelled from Mecca along with his followers due to their new religious beliefs which drew inspiration from Judaism, Christianity, and Arab paganism, among other religions. Through a series of military campaigns and alliances, the Arabian Peninsula was united under the Prophet’s rule by the time of his death in 632 CE. Under his successors, the Rashidun (“Rightly Guided”) Caliphs, the Sasanian Empire was annexed in its entirety while the Roman Empire lost most of its territory in the Middle East and North Africa. Islamic expansion was briefly halted due to the civil war between Ali, the fourth Caliph and cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, and Muawiyah, a distant relation within the Quraysh tribe. Muawiyah and his supporters were victorious and proceeded to establish the hereditary Umayyad Caliphate. The Caliphate’s armies continued to expand across North Africa and into Visigothic Hispania. From there they began to conquer Gaul.

    By 713 CE the Visigoths had been pushed from Hispania into Septimania. The Umayyad governor of al-Andalus [Hispania], al-Samh ibn Malik al-Khawlani, led an army into Septimania in 719 CE and successfully besieged the city of Narbonne. Forces were garrisoned at the other conquered towns of Septimania and then al-Khawlani marched to the Duchy of Aquitaine. Its ruler Odo was officially a vassal of the Frankish king, and therefore also of Charles Martel, yet the duchy had achieved de facto independence during the brief Frankish civil war. The Umayyad army besieged Toulouse but were set upon by Odo’s army three months later; the Umayyads were defeated and al-Khawlani slain. Anbasa ibn Suhaym al-Kalbi, the succeeding governor of al-Andalus, immediately led an expedition to conquer the rest of Septimania. From this secured position he advanced into Frankish-ruled Burgundy and reached as far as Autun in the north, before succumbing to natural causes upon which his army retreated to friendly territory.

    During the consolidation of Umayyad control of Septimania, a Berber commander named Uthman ibn Naissa declared independence from the Umayyads in 731 CE and allied with Odo of Aquitaine. The Andalusian governor Abd al-Rahman ibn Abd Allah al-Ghafiqi led an army to defeat Uthman and then marched to face Odo. The Duke of Aquitaine was however fending off an invasion from the north by Charles Martel, leaving his subordinates to face al-Ghafiqi. The Umayyads were again victorious near Bordeaux. Odo’s defeat induced him to submit to the Duke and Prince of the Franks, and together they overwhelmed the Umayyad army near Tours and killed the Andalusian governor. Despite the setback the succeeding governor, Abd al-Malik ibn Katan al-Fihri, received fealty from Duke Maurontus of Provence. The latter feared the threat of the expansionist Franks, especially once Charles Martel allied with King Liutprand of the Lombards. The Frankish campaign into the Rhone valley began in 736 CE.
    The Siege of Avignon (737 CE) and its aftermath
  • The Siege of Avignon (737 CE) and its aftermath

    The city of Avignon was Charles Martel’s first target for his campaign; an Umayyad army of Arabs and Berbers had entered the city in 734 CE, bolstering the garrison of Goths and Gallo-Romans. Duke Childebrand of Burgundy, Charles’ brother, and his army was dispatched to besiege the city in 736 CE. At about the same time the armies of Liutprand of Lombardia invaded Provence from the east. The Duke and Prince of the Franks himself arrived soon after his brother’s commencement of the siege; the garrison were outnumbered. However the Umayyads controlled the seas, allowing the governor of Arbuna [Narbonne], Yusuf ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Fihri, to swiftly transport his army to Marseille where he convinced Duke Maurontus of Provence to ignore the Lombard forces in the east and instead concentrate on relieving the siege at Avignon; his reasoning being that Liutprand’s Frankish alliance would falter at the first sign of trouble. Maurontus reluctantly agreed and together their armies marched to Avignon. The Frankish besiegers were just about outnumbered by the arriving Umayyad army and failed to respond adequately to the surprise. The fast-moving Arab and Berber cavalry prevented the besieging soldiers from taking up defensive positions, giving the infantry time to close the gap. It was at that point the Avignon garrison sallied forth and joined the fray. Amidst the chaos both Charles Martel and Childebrand were killed,[1] leading to a mass rout among the Frankish survivors. With the Frankish threat removed the Umayyad army turned east to deal with the Lombards. The extent of the Lombard campaign was their ravaging of the farmland between Toulon and Marseille; when news reached them from Avignon, the army abandoned its campaign and retreated.

    The death of Charles Martel caused pandemonium within the Frankish empire, worsened soon afterwards by the death of the puppet King Theodoric IV. Charles had yet to divide the empire among his young sons Pippin, Carloman, and Grifo. The former two were in their early twenties while Grifo was not yet a teenager. Such weakness was immediately exploited by the vassal states: the dukes Hunald of Aquitaine, Odilo of Bavaria, and Theodebald of Alemannia rebelled in a coordinated attack against Frankish garrisons in their territories. Meanwhile Pippin and Carloman rallied their bases of support and fought each other across northern Francia. Sensing the opportunity to establish Bavarian hegemony over the Franks, Odilo proclaimed Grifo, his great-nephew, as king of the Franks. He did not consult his Aquitanian and Alemannic allies about this however and so soured his relations with them. Grifo was extracted from danger in Francia and brought to the Bavarian capital of Regensburg where he was crowned as king of Francia and demanded the submission of his brothers. Needless to say, his demands were ignored. In the midst of the Christian infighting, al-Fihri’s army marched further north along the Rhone subjugating towns, culminating in the siege of Lyon in 738 CE. The lord of Lyon surrendered when al-Fihri assured him Burgundian law would be respected. A large number of Berbers were garrisoned in the city, while the rest of the army divided to assert dominion over the outlying Burgundian towns to the south.

    Later depiction of Charles Martel and his sons Pippin and Carloman

    In response to the Bavarian declaration of Grifo as King of the Franks, Hunald felt betrayed by his ally and declared himself King of Aquitaine. To ensure his independence he sent an embassy to Andalusian governor Uqba ibn al-Hajjaj al-Sululi offering a treaty of non-aggression and non-interference in each other’s realms. While the status of Iruna [Pamplona] was left undecided, the governor accepted as there was growing unrest among his Berber troops. The Frankish civil war meanwhile had reached something of a stalemate: Carloman had solidified his power in the Frankish homeland of Austrasia, while Pippin ruled from Neustria in the west. Even though both of them had been enraged by their half-brother Grifo’s pretensions to all of Francia, their youthful arrogance prevented them setting aside their differences and working together.[2] In 739 CE Pippin was convinced by his allies to declare himself King of Neustria. Further enraged, Carloman proclaimed himself King of the Franks; though he certainly had a more tangible claim to the title than Grifo, he did not even control all of Austrasia as the region around Reims was still in contention with Pippin. The centuries-long Frankish empire had finally come to its end.

    [1] This, as you can probably tell, is the point of divergence.
    [2] OTL Carloman and Pippin did cooperate after Charles Martel’s death in 741 to dispossess Grifo.
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    The Berber Revolt
  • The Berber Revolt

    Before describing the events of the Berber Revolt it is worth explaining the intentions and nature of early Islamic rule. Islam was originally envisioned as an exclusively Arab religion, though there were exceptions of small groups of converts, such as captured Persian soldiers, who could easily fit into Islamic Arab society. The early Islamic state was supposed to be a two-tier system of a tribal military Islamic Arab elite ruling over a subject but protected non-Muslim population. This however was clearly unfeasible. The Arabs required the expertise of native power structures to govern a large, rapidly expanding and multicultural empire. Many administrators converted to enhance their career prospects while native nobility sought to maintain their status by escaping the burdens of the jizya and kharaj taxes on non-Muslims. The common folk, the rural peasantry and the urban poor, also wished to escape yet more taxes. On the other hand genuine religious conversion must not be discounted. The rapid victory of Islamic armies suggested that perhaps the divine was on their side, and the suspension of traditional state support for religious elites and hierarchies produced a vacuum of authority. To Jews and Christians, the Muslims claimed to be the latest (and correct) interpretation of God’s revelation. The Islamic Caliphate’s response to non-Arab conversion was inconsistent and confused; some governors were lenient in accepting converts, while others required strict overt displays of conversion. The problem however was that a large proportion of revenue was derived from dhimmi-related taxes. Solutions to this potential loss of income included the creation of new taxes, the assignment of mawla (client) status to new converts, or just the outright refusal to accept converts. Consequently, non-Arab Muslims were to a varying extent discriminated against.

    The Berber tribes and states of North Africa initially proved to be a strong obstacle to Islamic expansion and were only really subjugated just prior to the beginning of the invasion of Hispania in 711 CE. Many tribes converted to Islam, for the reasons already enumerated, though notable Christian and Jewish communities remained. The recent Berber converts played a major role in the conquest of Hispania: Musa ibn Nusayr, the Arab governor of Ifriqiya [Africa], appointed his Berber mawla Tariq ibn Ziyad as governor of the nascent al-Andalus and ordered him to conquer the Visigothic kingdom. Most, if not all, of Tariq’s army were Berbers; the second army, commanded by Musa, was a considerably more mixed composition of Berbers and Arabs. Berber armies, usually organised on a traditional tribal basis, were garrisoned throughout al-Andalus and Gaul. Echoing the problems across the Caliphate, the Muslim Berbers in the Maghreb, al-Andalus, and Ifriqiya were subject to conditions akin to the dhimmi. In response to the government’s mistreatment of non-Arab Muslims a number of religious movements appeared or grew in popularity. The most important in the west were the Kharijites; they were established after the khalifah Ali’s apparent betrayal when he agreed to negotiate the caliphal succession with Muawiyah. The founding belief of the Kharijites was that only God could judge one’s rule, and this was demonstrated through victory in battle. This belief led them to the conclusion that any pious Muslim could be the leader of the Islamic community, the Imam, and therefore all Muslims were equal. Such a belief system was, for obvious reasons, attractive to the downtrodden Berbers of the west.

    The Berber Revolt began in the Maghreb in 739 CE when its governor Umar ibn al-Muradi declared the Berbers in his province to be a “conquered people”. The tribes had had enough; they waited until Habib ibn Abu Ubayda al-Fihri[1] departed on his expedition to Roman Sicily before gathering their strength under the leadership of Maysara al-Matghari. Maysara, as leader of the prominent Matghari/Imteghren tribe, had previously conducted delegations to Dimashq [Damascus] to present the caliph with complaints about discrimination against the Berbers, though to no avail. Governor al-Muradi was killed and Maysara proclaimed as the amir al-mu’minin (commander of the faithful), a title that was exclusively held by the caliphs. The Berbers were therefore issuing a direct challenge to Umayyad authority. After seizing control of Tanja [Tangier], the Berber rebels marched east towards al-Qayrawan [Kairouan] collecting more soldiers along the way. Ifriqiyan governor Ubayd Allah ibn al-Habhab al-Mawsili, surprised though he was, recalled the Sicilian expedition and dispatched a small army of noble Arab cavalry to intercept the Berbers before they reached Tilimsan [Tlemcen]. The Arabs succeeded in intercepting the Berbers and attacked them near Tanja in 740 CE; Maysara momentarily hesitated but held firm and rallied his troops to respond in kind.[2] Even though the skilled Arab cavalry inflicted a serious number of casualties, the superior numbers and local knowledge of the Berbers gave them the advantage and resulted in a massacre of almost the entire Arab army. The returning Sicilian expedition arrived too late after the battle and so retreated to Tilimsan. There they found the city’s Berber population in open revolt after the governor began to round up Kharijite agitators. With the city’s Arab garrison in tow, al-Fihri’s army retreated to Tahert and sent a request for reinforcements.

    The situation in al-Andalus took a different direction. Upon hearing the news of the Arab defeat near Tanja the Berbers, who comprised most of the Muslim Andalusian soldiers, began leaving their posts and converging near Tulaytula [Toledo]. Fearing the confrontation with the Berbers, the Andalusian Arab nobility deposed governor Uqba ibn al-Hajjaj al-Sululi and raised in his place his predecessor Abd al-Malik ibn Katan al-Fihri, who had a more even-handed reputation. In the confusion a number of north-western forts and cities abandoned by the Berbers were conquered by King Alfonso I of Asturias, third in a line of Visigothic noblemen who had so far proven to be nothing more than a nuisance. At the far edge of Umayyad control in Burgundy, the Berber garrisons were also growing mutinous. Yusuf ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Fihri, effectively governor of all of Islamic-ruled Gaul, recognised that the Berber Revolt had the potential to threaten all of the gains he had made over the previous years. Yet he recognised that he also had an opportunity; he was popular among his men, both Arab and Berber, and he had cultivated connections among the Christian vassal lords. With this in mind, he forwarded messages to his Berber garrison commanders promising the end of discrimination if they supported his accession to governor of al-Andalus. After a tense period of waiting, replies arrived from his subordinates; they agreed to his plan. Leaving a garrison in Lyon, Yusuf marched south at the head of a Berber army.

    A depiction of Yusuf ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Fihri's Berber cavalry, along with their attendants

    Meanwhile, Habib ibn Abu Ubayda al-Fihri’s plea to Dimashq for reinforcements had been heeded. Caliph Hisham raised a large army of Arabs from al-Sham [Syria] and Misr [Egypt], commanded by Kulthum ibn Iyadh al-Qushayri who was to take governorship of Ifriqiya, the Maghreb, and al-Andalus when he arrived. The advance party of the Umayyad army reached al-Qayrawan in 741 CE. Its commander Balj ibn Bishr al-Qushayri clashed with the city’s garrison commanders and billeted his troops without the city’s permission. The tension was partly caused by the old conflict between the “northern” Qays Aylan tribal confederation, to which the arriving reinforcements belonged to, and the “southern” Qahtan tribal confederation, to which the original Islamic Arab conquerors of the west belonged. Kulthum ibn Iyadh arrived before the conflict turned serious, and collected his vanguard and marched to meet Habib ibn Abu Ubayda al-Fihri near Tahert. Habib ibn Abu Ubayda however had heard of Balj ibn Bishr’s provocations in al-Qayrawan and the two, along with their troops, would have started a new civil war if not for the mediation of the new governor. The larger, but fractious, army marched west to force the Berbers into battle; the two armies met at Baqdura, near the modern city of Fes. The eastern reinforcements ignored the advice of those they had allegedly come to save, leading to their cavalry being isolated and massacred by the Berbers, while the Arab infantry were overwhelmed by the substantially larger enemy army. Kulthum ibn Iyadh and Habib ibn Abu Ubayda were among the dead. Balj ibn Bishr gathered the paltry remains of the army and marched north to Sabtah [Ceuta], where they fortified themselves and begged the Andalusians for safe passage.

    The army of Yusuf ibn Abd al-Rahman al Fihri took ship from Provence to Balansiyya [Valencia] and from there marched to Tulaytula, which the Berber rebels were besieging. The ambitious commander presented the rebels with the same proposal as the one to his own troops. Though they were more sceptical, the Berber rebels eventually agreed. With the city’s Berber population near revolt, the garrison accepted Yusuf ibn Abd al-Rahman’s offer to surrender. After reinstating Tulaytula’s Berber garrison, the rebels marched south to the provincial capital of Qurtuba [Cordoba]. Before beginning the siege, Yusuf ibn Abd al-Rahman implored his relative, the governor Abd al-Malik ibn Katan, to resign voluntarily and join him in establishing responsible government. The governor considered the situation; the Umayyad reinforcements were too far away and also were mostly comprised of the hated Qays,[3] while he himself could only rely on a small and still dispersed Arab army. Abd al-Malik reluctantly agreed to his kinsman’s terms and surrendered the city to his command. Yusuf had little time to rest on his laurels however, as news reached them of the Umayyad defeat at Baqdura and Balj ibn Bishr’s flight to Sabtah. The new governor faced a dilemma: giving refuge to the rival Qays would seriously aggrieve his Berber soldiers and thus threaten his newfound power; on the other hand, this early in his tenure Yusuf was keen to receive caliphal recognition of his governorship. On a more personal note his father Abd al-Rahman ibn Habib was serving with the trapped army. The solution was a risky one: he would transport the Umayyad army from Sabtah to Tunis in Ifriqiya. Though this would weaken the Berber Revolt in Ifriqiya and displease some of Yusuf’s own Berber troops, it would at least appear to the central government that he was fighting the rebels.

    After the Battle of Baqdura, the revolt began to spread further east. A Kharijite preacher named Uqasha ibn Ayub al-Fezari assembled a Berber army and conquered Gabis and Gafsa in southern Ifriqiya. At the end of 741 CE Caliph Hisham ordered Misri governor Handhala ibn Safwan al-Kalbi to take his army west and restore order. Even though al-Fezari’s army was defeated by the Ifriqiyan garrison, the latter were too small to pursue and decisively end the threat the rebels posed. The Misri reinforcements arrived at al-Qayrawan in 742 CE at approximately the same time as Balj ibn Bishr’s army. This was just as well, as a large army commanded by the Berber chief Abd al-Wahid ibn Yazid al-Hawwari marched east toward al-Qayrawan. Al-Fezari met the incoming rebels and the two commanders agreed to come at the provincial capital from two directions. Al-Kalbi dispatched his cavalry to harass the larger army under al-Hawwari while he led most of his forces against al-Fezari; the latter’s army was defeated and the Kharijite preacher was captured. The Umayyad army retreated to al-Qayrawan and conscripted most of the city’s able-bodied population. The enlarged army marched out to meet the rebels and a battle of epic proportions followed. Even with the reinforcements the Umayyad army only just defeated the rebels, both sides suffering grievous losses. Al-Hawwari was killed in battle and the survivors of his army retreated west. Ifriqiya had been saved and the Berber Revolt ended, but the Maghreb was forever lost to the Umayyad Caliphate.

    [1] Grandfather of Yusuf ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Fihri.
    [2] OTL, Maysara retreated from the battle which led to him being overthrown and killed by the other Berbers.
    [3] The Battle of Baqdura had not yet happened.
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    Stabilisation of the West
  • Stabilisation of the West

    The authority of the Umayyad Caliphate had been extirpated from the Maghreb. Under the influence of Kharijite ideology a large number of Berber tribes formally proclaimed Maysara al-Matghari as their Imam.[1] Notable exceptions included: the Banu Ifran, who settled in Tilimsan; the Banu Midrar, who founded the city of Sijilmasa in Tafilalt; and certain tribes of the Barghawata confederacy, even though the ruling Matghari hailed from the group. Some of the Barghawata tribes even migrated to al-Andalus in order to avoid conflict with pro-Maysara tribes within the confederacy. For his part Maysara considered a realm governed the least, to be governed the best. After the heavy-handed nature of Umayyad governance, it was perhaps for the best that the tribes were given mostly-free rein. The jizya was still collected from the Christian and Jewish communities, though that was the extent of the imposition upon them. The mostly urban dhimmi even filled the important mercantile role between the Berber tribes and the Umayyad Caliphate. But not all the tribes were content with peace; some were still gripped with zeal to liberate their Berber compatriots in Ifriqiya and al-Andalus. This was however a minority opinion, though it did have its prominent supporters like Khalid ibn Hamid al-Zanati and Abu Qurra. As an Islamic realm free from the Umayyad Caliphate, the Maghreb would soon become attractive to various heterodox figures and outcasts from the central Islamic lands who would utilise the anti-establishment sentiments for their own ends.

    Yusuf ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Fihri had finally achieved peace in al-Andalus. His official appointment as governor of the province was slow in arriving however; khalifah Hisham died in 743 CE, soon after the end of the Berber Revolt. His successor al-Walid dispatched the investiture documents shortly after his succession. The new governor was true to his word and ceased the collection of jizya from all the non-Arab Muslims in the province, though this did lead to a substantial reduction in income. Al-Fihri’s first major issue to contend with was the migration of the Barghawata tribes from the Maghreb. During the revolt, the Asturian King Alfonso’s campaign had depopulated the north-western borders and created a buffer zone; most of the immigrant Berber tribes were directed to settle here.[2] The Berbers maintained a semi-nomadic existence and regularly raided the borders of Asturias, which perfectly suited al-Fihri and provided his government with an irregular source of revenue. The rest of the Berber tribes were garrisoned in the newly-conquered cities of Burgundy under agreeable commanders. The Frankish civil war was still ongoing, with Odilo of Bavaria harassing the south-eastern borders of Austrasia. King Hunald of Aquitaine renewed the treaty of non-aggression with al-Andalus, but this time the issue of the border fort of Iruna was resolved: Aquitaine took possession of the city in return for a yearly indemnity. 743 CE was also the year in which Theodemir died. The prominent Visigothic nobleman was the archetype for the establishment of Muslim suzerainty over Christian vassal lords in Europe. He was succeeded by his son Athanagild who, remaining a Christian, promised to fulfil the same obligations as his father.

    The province of Ifriqiya was the least stable in the west following the end of the Berber Revolt. Numerous small Berber uprisings occurred over the years, but most of the trouble was caused by Arab infighting. The Qays-dominated army of Balj ibn Bishr al-Qushayri had already clashed with the local Qahtan-descended Arabs of al-Qayrawan when they first arrived during the revolt. The tensions between the two groups flared up again, though this time the local Arabs’ leader was Abd al-Rahman ibn Habib al-Fihri, father of the Andalusian governor and son of the famous commander killed during the revolt. The two parties prepared for battle, but governor Handhala ibn Safwan al-Kalbi impressed his authority upon the malcontents. Balj ibn Bishr’s army was dispatched to the south in 743 CE to prevent further Berber rebellion. Al-Fihri on the other hand was sent on another expedition to Sicily. Even though the expeditionary army was smaller compared to the previous expedition, the island’s main cities Syracuse and Catania fell relatively easily; unbeknownst to the Arabs, the Roman Emperor Constantine V was preoccupied with a civil war. By the end of the year however, the Armenian usurper Artabasdos was defeated and reinforcements were transported to Sicily. Al-Fihri made the mistake of splitting his army between the two cities; the large Roman army retook Catania then Syracuse. Abd al-Rahman ibn Habib al-Fihri was captured and executed along with most of his soldiers. The Qahtan faction in Ifriqiya were thus left without effective leadership allowing the Qays to become dominant.

    Depiction of Abd al-Rahman ibn Habib al-Fihri's ill-fated expedition to Sicily

    [1] Fairly important PoD, the OTL Berber tribes went their separate ways almost immediately after the revolt. Here we have some degree of unity that will remain for a time.
    [2] OTL, the region was repopulated a century later by Asturias.
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    The Third Fitna and the Abbasid Revolution
  • The Third Fitna and the Abbasid Revolution

    The reign of Caliph al-Walid ibn Yazid ibn Abd al-Malik was a short one. Before his reign he was fond of vices such as drinking, gambling, and promiscuity for which he was admonished by his uncle and predecessor Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik. After his elevation to the position of khalifah in 743 CE, there was no attempt to moderate his excesses. Al-Walid’s relatives and governors were displeased by his behaviour, and became incensed when he imprisoned his cousin Sulayman ibn Hisham out of jealousy. A conspiracy to assassinate the caliph was revealed to al-Walid by the former governor Khalid ibn Abdallah al-Qasri. Instead of heeding the warning the caliph imprisoned al-Qasri and sold him to his successor and rival Yusuf ibn Umar al-Thaqafi, who tortured the former to death. The coup against al-Walid began with Sulayman’s allies seizing control of Dimashq and declaring the caliph’s cousin Yazid ibn al-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik to be the new khalifah. Al-Walid fled and raised an army at Hims; they were however defeated and al-Walid executed, just over a year after beginning his rule.[1]

    Even though Yazid’s reign was much shorter than his cousin’s, he was popular for the reasons that al-Walid was not: he was pious, and denounced favouritism, discrimination, and the squandering of wealth. Moreover he pledged to return caliphal succession to the elective principal. Half a year later Yazid succumbed to illness during which, despite his rhetoric, he appointed his brother Ibrahim as his successor. Ibrahim only lasted two months before abdicating and going into hiding. Marwan, governor of Armenia and Azarbayjan [Azerbaijan], and a distant cousin of al-Walid, Yazid, and Ibrahim, would eventually succeed as the new caliph. He had been a somewhat reluctant supporter of al-Walid, urging him to cease his bad habits while also trying to convince their relatives to drop their plot to overthrow al-Walid. Upon Yazid’s usurpation, Marwan initially planned to resist but then thought better of it. The death of Yazid and the succession of the ineffective Ibrahim reignited his ambitions however and so he marched an army of Qays Arabs towards Dimashq. Along the way a contingent led by Sulayman ibn Hisham was routed, which induced the latter’s allies to execute the imprisoned sons of al-Walid. Marwan finally entered Damascus without issue at the end of 744 CE and was proclaimed as the new caliph.

    Marwan’s reign began peacefully and with a forgiving tone; rebels such as Sulayman ibn Hisham and former caliph Ibrahim were allowed to travel to Dimashq to pay fealty to the new amir al-mu’minin. However the transfer of the capital to Harran in al-Jazira angered the Arabs of al-Sham, including even the Qays Arabs who had supported al-Walid and Marwan. The first revolt began in Filastin [Palestine] in 745 CE and was commanded by the province’s governor. Soon enough most of the major cities of al-Sham had revolted, forcing Marwan to besiege and re-take each one individually. After this campaign was complete he named his two sons as heirs and raised an army to assert control of Iraq. The army mutinied almost immediately though and pledged its allegiance to Sulayman ibn Hisham. Marwan recalled his troops from Iraq and defeated the rebels, yet Sulayman escaped once again. The remnants of his army retreated to Hims where Marwan besieged them and took the city in 746 CE. Enraged at the constant rebellion the caliph had the walls of the major cities of al-Sham demolished to prevent further dissidence.

    Meanwhile unrest in Misr centred on the governor Hafs ibn al-Walid al-Hadrami and his attempt to regain power for the original Arab settler community. Recent Qays immigrants were expelled from the province and an army of local converts supportive of al-Hadrami was established. In 744 CE the newly-enthroned Marwan dispatched a new governor to Misr; al-Hadrami’s loyalists however overthrew the new governor and re-appointed their reluctant leader. Marwan responded by sending another replacement with an even larger army. Al-Hadrami surrendered to the incoming Hawthara ibn Suhayl al-Bahili against the wishes of his supporters, whereupon al-Hadrami and his prominent lieutenants were purged. On the other hand, the revolt in Iraq originated from the Shia claimant Abdallah ibn Muawiyah.[2] The Shia successfully captured Kufa but were soon afterwards defeated and forced to flee east where they established control over most of the central Iranian plateau. Marwan appointed a new (Qays) governor for Iraq but the old governor, Umayyad prince Abdallah ibn Umar, and his mostly Qahtan army resisted. The two enemies agreed to a ceasefire when a Kharijite revolt began in al-Jazira.

    At this juncture, that is at the eve of the Abbasid Revolution, the various anti-Umayyad groups of the Islamic east deserve exploration. The Umayyad dynasty’s Arab-centric policies and discrimination towards the growing non-Arab Muslim population had led to brewing discontent; the Berber Revolt was the western expression of this sentiment. In the east the province of Khurasan was the focal point. The Kharijite revolt in al-Jazira was briefly very successful, with Iraq being conquered and the governor Abdallah ibn Umar submitting to the Kharijite leader al-Dahhak ibn Qays al Shaybani. However once Marwan emerged victorious in al-Sham, he marched east and defeated the Kharijites in 747 CE; they fled first to central Iran and then Khurasan under the leadership of Shayban ibn Salama. Abdallah ibn Muawiyah was also defeated and fled to Khurasan, hoping to join the expanding anti-Umayyad coalition. Another major group in Khurasan were the Murjites; they agreed with the Kharijite principal belief that only God could judge one’s rule and faith, but came to the alternate conclusion that the mere confession of faith was enough to mark one as a Muslim. As such, the Murjites also supported the parity of non-Arab Muslims with Arabs. Murjite missionaries had been involved in a few anti-Umayyad revolts, but the major one was commanded by al-Harith ibn Surayj and began in 734 CE. Al-Harith gained control of northern Khurasan and was only routed by Umayyad authorities with much difficulty. In 738 CE he took refuge with the Turgesh Turks to the north and bided his time. Caliph Yazid attempted to reconcile with al-Harith but died before any agreement could be concluded. As a consequence al-Harith restarted his revolt.

    The Abbasids, much like the Kharijites and the Murjites, directed their recruiting propaganda primarily towards the converted (or near-converted) locals. Even though there were a significant number of Arab settlers who had integrated well with the locals, they were still a minority compared to the native Iranians. Furthermore the Arab garrison at the provincial capital of Merv remained loyal to the Umayyads, in part due to the judicious work of governor Nasr ibn Sayyar al-Laythi al-Kinani. The original goal of the conspirators at the centre of the Abbasid plot was to enthrone Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Abdallah ibn al-Abbas as the caliph and Imam. In 744 CE Muhammad died and the designated claim passed on to his son Ibrahim. Abbasid propaganda in Khurasan however had never actually specified who was to be enthroned; the rhetoric had instead focused on the Ahl al-Bayt (family of the house of the Prophet) as a whole. Meanwhile the military contingent of the Abbasid conspiracy was led by Abu Muslim Abd al-Rahman ibn Muslim al-Khurasani, a mawla of Iranian origin who had been skilfully uniting the preceding Shia, Kharijite, and Murjite forces under his command. In 748 CE Abu Muslim defeated Nasr ibn Sayyar and captured the capital of Merv. Abu Muslim’s subordinates pursued the Umayyad armies across Iran while the Abbasid commander himself asserted control over Khurasan and Fararud [Transoxiana]. It was during this time that the Umayyads executed Ibrahim ibn Muhammad; subsequently Abu Salama, one of the main conspirators, attempted to convince a descendant of Ali to claim the caliphate. Abu Muslim’s armies were swifter though, as they conquered Kufa in 749 CE and immediately proclaimed another son of Muhammad, Abu'l-Abbas Abdallah, as khalifah al-Saffah. The armies of the Abbasids and Umayyads engaged in a final decisive battle at the Zab River further north; the Abbasids were victorious. Members of the Umayyad family, including Marwan, fled but most were hunted down and executed. The Umayyad Caliphate had thus been overthrown and replaced with that of the Abbasid dynasty.

    A dirham issued during the reign of Caliph al-Saffah

    [1] Caliph Abd al-Malik had at least four sons, al-Walid, Sulayman, Hisham, and Yazid, all of whom became caliph at some point. They each had their own sons, some whom also ruled as caliphs.
    [2] Though Abdallah ibn Muawiyah was descended from Ali’s brother Ja’far, he claimed that the spirit of God had transferred through a succession of Imams and finally came to him.

    The events of this section are pretty much OTL, but they're of such importance that I felt the need to describe/explain them. The aftermath on this TL's changed west will be dealt with in the next update.
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    The Western Reaction to the Abbasid Revolution
  • The Western Reaction to the Abbasid Revolution

    Following the Abbasid assumption of power there was a reshuffle of the provincial governors. The eastern provinces of Iran, Khurasan, Fararud, and Sind were left under the purview of Abu Muslim. Most of the new governors of the central Dar al-Islam were members of the Abbasid dynasty, while others were drawn from the traditional political groups or from the newly-empowered Khurasani Arabs and Iranians. When news reached al-Andalus of the Abbasid Revolution, Yusuf ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Fihri became fearful; to pre-empt a potential attempt to depose him al-Fihri dispatched a party of ambassadors to the new caliphal capital of Kufa. When they arrived the ambassadors presented al-Saffah with expensive gifts and proclaimed the governor’s undying loyalty to the Abbasid dynasty. The caliph was sufficiently placated but sent a contingent of Kufan Arab soldiers back with the ambassadors in order to “help expand the borders of the Dar al-Islam”. Al-Fihri, with his customary healthy amount of suspicion, garrisoned the new Arabs in Burgundy and thus far away from the capital of Qurtuba.

    The imposition of Abbasid rule in Ifriqiya was considerably less successful however. The official governor was still Handhala ibn Safwan al-Kalbi but his old age and his preference for compromise had led to the slow accretion of power by Balj ibn Bishr al-Qushayri. The first Abbasid governor of Egypt, Salih ibn Ali ibn Abdallah ibn al-Abbas (uncle of Caliph al-Saffah), marched into Ifriqiya with his army and demanded the fealty of the province. Al-Kalbi was inclined to give bay’ah (allegiance) to al-Saffah but Balj ibn Bishr was vociferously opposed to the idea. Instead he seized power in al-Qayrawan, killed al-Kalbi, and declared his allegiance to Abd al-Rahman ibn Muawiyah ibn Hisham, one of the few Umayyad princes to survive the Abbasid purge. Apparently Balj ibn Bishr had been in contact with the Umayyad prince and had helped him hide in Ifriqiya. The army of Balj ibn Bishr sallied forth from al-Qayrawan and clashed with that of Salih ibn Ali. The battle was indecisive but the Abbasid army retreated back to Barqah [Cyrenaica] to regroup.

    Abd al-Rahman travelled to al-Qayrawan and was proclaimed as the khalifah. The capital and its mostly Arab population were not unanimous in their support for the Umayyad restoration, if only because of the age-old opposition to Balj ibn Bishr and his Qays partisans. Abd al-Rahman was soon approached by Urwa ibn al-Zubayr al-Sadifi who offered the support of the more numerous Qahtan Arabs as well as the Berber tribes to the south and west, if he assented to the assassination of Balj ibn Bishr. The young prince, out of his depth, reluctantly agreed to the plot; Balj was killed and his soldiers driven out of the city. The Berber Nafza tribe, to which Abd al-Rahman’s mother belonged, travelled to al-Qayrawan though more out of curiosity than genuine loyalty. Soon after them came the Maghrawa/Imeghrawen who had grown tired of peace under Maysara al-Matghari. Abd al-Rahman claimed that the Abbasids had lied about their intent to end discrimination against non-Arab Muslims; instead they were replacing one tyrannical elite with an even worse group: infidel Iranians. Umayyad propaganda portrayed the Khurasani army as crypto-Zoroastrians seeking to destroy Islam and restore the Persian Empire of old.[1] The propaganda proved to be successful, as more Berber tribes swore their allegiance to Abd al-Rahman, as did defectors from the scattered Qays. In 753 CE another Abbasid expedition marched into Ifriqiya. The identity of its commander seemed to confirm the Umayyad accusations against the Abbasids, for he was Abu Awn Abd al-Malik ibn Yazid al-Khurasani, a native of Gurgan and an ally to the formerly Buddhist Barmakid family who were dominant at the caliphal court. The morale of the Umayyad army was strengthened by their own perceived righteousness and in an evenly-matched battle they emerged victorious. Abu Awn retreated back to Misr in disgrace, his army harried along the way by Arab and Berber cavalry. The existence of the reborn Umayyad Caliphate was secure, for now.

    In al-Andalus Yusuf ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Fihri, following his submission to the Abbasids, was granted an interesting opportunity. The town of Nicaea [Nice] was embroiled in a dispute with the other Ligurian towns of the Genoese League. The dispute had become violent and the militias of Nicaea and Genua had already fought a series of small indecisive battles. Then in 751 CE the ruling magnates of Nicaea appealed to Duke Nicetas of Provence for aid.[2] As an Andalusian vassal, the request was relayed to al-Fihri. The Kufan Arab troops were redeployed to Provence, where al-Fihri joined them with a contingent of Berber cavalry; Nicetas and his army were also drafted. The expedition marched east to Nicaea where al-Fihri offered to grant them power over the League if they submitted to his suzerainty. They agreed and contributed part of their militia to the expedition. From there they marched to Savona and besieged the town. Even though the towns of the Genoese League were officially subordinate to King Aistulf of the Lombards, he was at that time engaged in a campaign against the Roman Exarchate of Ravenna who he considered to be a more significant threat. As a result Lombard messengers were dispatched to the Abbasid army demanding that they vacate Lombard territory. Al-Fihri responded that he was merely restoring law and order to a bandit-riven region. Without reinforcement Savona presently surrendered and allowed the establishment of an Arab garrison. The expedition pressed on to their target of Genua and began the siege. The city’s defenders resolutely refused to surrender, even when an Abbasid fleet blockaded the port. Their efforts proved to be insufficient however and the city was breached after a few months and subject to a rapacious sacking; perhaps unsurprisingly the Nicaeans were the most brutal of the conquerors. The Dar al-Islam had gained its first foothold in Italia.

    [1] Despite the hysterical nature of this propaganda, there is perhaps a kernel of truth within. The Abbasid missionaries and recruiters tolerated some of the pre-Islamic beliefs in their recruits as long as they fought for the Abbasid cause. Some groups within the Khurasani army exhibited extreme messianic attachments to the Abbasid Caliphs and Abu Muslim. Later on Khurasan IOTL would be wracked by syncretic revolts led by those who had direct involvement in the Abbasid Revolution.
    [2] I think this may be the timeline’s first fictional character; he is the successor to Maurontus.
    The Abbasid Revolution Complete?
  • The Abbasid Revolution Complete?

    Caliph al-Saffah died in 754 CE of smallpox while the Umayyad problem was still unresolved. Before his death he had appointed his brother Abu Ja’far Abdallah as his heir; the latter was raised to the khilafah (caliphate) with the regnal name al-Mansur. The continued existence of the Umayyad Caliphate posed a serious threat to the legitimacy of the Abbasid dynasty. Even though many had acclimatised to Abbasid rule in a short time, the Umayyad propaganda’s focus on Iranian domination of the Abbasid Caliphate could potentially prove to be its downfall. Al-Mansur decided that it was imperative to destroy the competing Umayyad Caliphate. To achieve this however he was forced to make a deal with the proverbial devil: Abu Muslim. The military commander of the Abbasid Revolution was, to many people, the most visible face of the movement. While other conspirators, including the Abbasid dynasty themselves, were plotting in secret Abu Muslim and his lieutenants were openly spreading the Abbasid message among the people and finally led them in overthrowing the tyrannical Umayyads. Al-Mansur would personally have preferred to execute Abu Muslim and bring an end to his seemingly unassailable power, but the re-emergence of the Umayyad Caliphate was a problem that the commander was uniquely suited to solving. Abu Muslim was summoned to Kufa and acquiesced to the command despite his supporters’ warning that it was a trap. After arriving al-Mansur ordered Abu Muslim to conquer Ifriqiya and exterminate the Umayyad dynasty; the commander was promised access to all the resources necessary for the venture.

    Abu Muslim’s first action was to appoint fellow veteran of the revolution Humayd ibn Qahtaba ibn Shabib al-Ta’i as his deputy over Khurasan while he was engaged in the west. A large number of Khurasanis, both Arabs and Iranians, were assembled at Kufa, where they were joined by an equal number of Iraqi Arabs. The army was then redeployed to al-Sham to collect more Arab soldiers from the Qays and Qahtan constituencies. The men were finally transported to Misr which was to act as the expedition’s staging area. Abu Muslim knew that the major aspect in which this campaign would differ from the one in the east, was the Mediterranean ocean. Marching the army through Barqah to Ifriqiya was possible but also carried some risks; on the other hand a naval landing at Ifriqiya itself could prove to be decisive. Control of a naval base was therefore imperative: the archipelago of Melita [Malta] was chosen, though it was still ruled by the Roman Empire. In 755 CE a small naval expedition departed for the archipelago and landed on the largest of the three inhabited islands. The commander of the expedition informed the local population that the islands were now under the authority of Caliph al-Mansur and in return for their loyalty and submission they would be exempt from the customary jizya tax and any further impositions. Meanwhile another Abbasid fleet patrolled the waters to the east of the archipelago to keep watch for Roman reinforcements; as Emperor Constantine V was campaigning against the Bulgars, the expedition was for the time being in the clear.

    Soon after the bloodless seizure of Melita was confirmed, a third of the Abbasid army embarked at the port of al-Iskandariyya [Alexandria] and set sail for Melita. The rest of the army departed for Barqah where they were to neutralise the province’s intermittent Kharijite Berber threat, thus keeping their rear safe. The overall strategy planned for the land-based army to advance into Ifriqiya to lure the Umayyads into battle far from al-Qayrawan and hold their attention. Meanwhile the fleet would disembark its army at Tunis, whereupon the city would be captured and from there the army would conquer al-Qayrawan. While there, the Umayyad family were to be liquidated; the task was delegated to Abu Muslim’s most trusted Khurasanis. With the north under Abbasid control, the two armies would encircle the Umayyad rebels and destroy them for good. The plan was ultimately a success and resulted in the end of the Umayyad dynasty as a serious threat to Abbasid power. The expedition did however have unintended political consequences at the centre of the Dar al-Islam.

    In 756 CE the expedition commenced and the Berbers of southern Barqah were defeated as expected, though not as quickly as Abu Muslim had hoped. The army, commanded by al-Mansur’s uncle Abdallah,[1] pushed on towards Tarabulus [Tripoli] where they were met by the Umayyad vanguard. The result was a decisive Abbasid victory which allowed them to begin besieging Tarabulus. The goal of course was not to capture the city but to draw forth the main Umayyad army. The plan worked as the Umayyad army, commanded by Abd al-Rahman himself, was not far behind their now defeated vanguard. Abdallah’s army was larger but the Umayyad propaganda stiffened the resolve of the rebels. At Tunis Abu Muslim’s army had disembarked and began the siege. Unlike al-Qayrawan, Tunis was not founded as an Arab garrison town and so had a considerably larger population of dhimmi African Latins and Berbers; they had so far maintained indifference to what they viewed as an irrelevant Muslim civil war. Repeating the Melita expedition’s tactics though, Abu Muslim vowed to cease collection of the jizya if they surrendered. The dhimmi population were suddenly thrust into the heart of the conflict and quickly grew restless. The Arab garrison panicked when confronted by angry protesters and the outbreak of violence spiralled into a massacre. In the confusion the city gates were opened and the Abbasid army stumbled into a bloodbath in which they lost precious time in bringing to an end. An Iranian garrison was left at the city while the remainder of the army marched to al-Qayrawan and put the city to siege. Simultaneously a group of riders were sent south to ascertain the status of Abdallah’s army. The result of the Battle of Tarabulus was too close for comfort: the Abbasids had won and Abd al-Rahman slain, but Abdallah’s losses were too severe to see him through another. Fortunately for the Abbasids the tribal Berber supporters gave up the Umayyad cause and drifted back to the home territories. Consequently the Abbasid army held position and half-heartedly besieged Tarabulus. The real prize of al-Qayrawan was finally breached in 757 CE and the city subject to a ruthless sacking. Abd al-Rahman’s family were nowhere to be seen, but the Umayyad Caliphate had been defeated for a second and final time.

    [1] OTL Abdallah led a rebellion against al-Mansur soon after al-Saffah’s death (754 CE) but because of the Umayyad threat ITTL the Abbasid family is considerably more united.
    The Internal Dynamics of Islamic Europe (757 CE)
  • The Internal Dynamics of Islamic Europe (757 CE)

    andalus detail 757.png

    The Islamisation of al-Andalus was a very slow process in the first few decades of Islamic rule. On the one hand, the overwhelming majority of Muslim conquerors were Berbers who generally maintained their semi-nomadic pastoral existence away from the larger towns and cities. There was some contact between Berbers and native rural villages however, which resulted in some integration and intermarriage. This was in addition to the Berbers who were garrisoned in the cities. The northern border with the Kingdom of Asturias was depopulated by Asturian forces during the Berber Revolt but wali (governor) Yusuf ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Fihri had repopulated the region with newly-arriving Berber tribes. Arabic settlement was therefore sparse outside of the largest cities like Qurtuba and Gharnatah [Granada]. However Arab immigration to the province of Arbuna, formerly known as Septimania to the Christians, increased after the defeat of Charles Martel’s campaign. Likewise there was Arab migration to Provence as well, though to a lesser extent. The chaos caused by the Berber Revolt and the later Abbasid Revolution only accelerated the rate of migration. The Kufan Arabs dispatched by Caliph al-Saffah were only a small amount compared to the rest of Arab migrants, the latter of whom were mostly merchants and artisans looking for work rather than soldiers.

    On the other hand, the relatively generous terms of surrender given to many Visigoth lords provided no impetus for them to convert. The most famous of these vassals was Theodemir who retained his moderately-sized territory in the southeast in return for paying the jizya; the region eventually became known as Tudmir and was still ruled by the family as of 757 CE. The most notable of the local lords to convert to Islam was Cassius; his family soon came to be known as the Banu Qasi and fulfilled the important role of guarding the frontier against the Basques. Further afield in the former region of Gaul, the exigencies of rapid conquest also resulted in the autonomous rule of the local lords after their submission. The Duke of Provence had submitted voluntarily to Islamic rule when under threat from the Carolingians, while the death of Duke Childebrand of Burgundy left the region without a central authority that could be co-opted or usurped. The unexpected gift of the Ligurian coast, reorganised under the hegemony of Nicaea, was left to their own devices as al-Fihri surmised that the mercantile city-states knew their business better than anyone else, though their security (and loyalty) was assured through Muslim garrisons and an Abbasid fleet at Nicaea. Even though these lords and their subjects paid the jizya, their armies were commonly involved in Islamic campaigns and a not insignificant amount of Christian soldiers converted to Islam in order to gain access to more loot.
    Political Restructuring in the Centre of the Dar al-Islam
  • Political Restructuring in the Centre of the Dar al-Islam

    With the final defeat of the Umayyad Caliphate Abu Muslim, Abdallah ibn Ali, and their subordinates gathered in Tunis to re-establish order to the wayward province of Ifriqiya. The two commanders agreed that the provincial capital would be moved to Tunis; the garrison town of al-Qayrawan had proved to be too much of a hotbed for anti-government sentiment, so it was hoped that the more multicultural city of Tunis would be less coherent in its political leanings. Arguably the most important issue was who would become the new governor. After much heated debate, Abu Muslim and Abdallah appointed Abu Awn Abd al-Malik ibn Yazid al-Khurasani, the commander of the first westward expedition. Abu Awn had thrown himself with reckless abandon into the new expedition as a way of reclaiming his lost honour; he had apparently succeed enough in the eyes of his commander Abu Muslim. During the war a contingent of Khurasani Iranians were garrisoned in Tunis after the Arabs engaged in a slaughter of the local dhimmis; this policy was extended to all of the major cities of the province. Even though some of the population, influenced by the Umayyad anti-Iranian propaganda, detested these interlopers, many others welcomed a neutral party with no vested interests in the province. Once the province appeared to be stable, the expedition began their long journey home.

    Abu Muslim and Abdallah travelled by ship together to Akka [Acre]. They spent most of their trip secluded in conversation and agreed on many subjects, despite their position as nominal rivals at the height of the Abbasid administration. The main topic of their discussion was the caliphal succession: they agreed that a return to the strictly hereditary principle of the Umayyad Caliphate was unacceptable, yet the khilafah had to remain with the Ahl al-Bayt. Abu Muslim broached the possibility of the Alids being included within the succession; Muhammad ibn Ali had after all been designated as the successor to Abu Hashim.[1] Abdallah was opposed but in order to keep things civil he merely argued that the new caliphate should be stabilised before the potentially disruptive Shia were included in the dynasty’s power structure; Abu Muslim provisionally agreed. The question then fell to who would be al-Mansur’s heir. Abdallah claimed that al-Saffah had promised him the succession shortly before his death, but Abu Muslim was sceptical. However Abdallah was the brother of the original Abbasid claimant and had proven to be a popular and skilled governor and commander, so the two were agreed. The issue of the secondary heir was immediately resolved: both men supported the candidacy of Isa ibn Musa ibn Muhammad, al-Mansur’s nephew and governor of Kufa. The fleet finally arrived at Akka where the two commanders were greeted as heroes, after which they made haste towards to the capital of Kufa.

    On their way to Kufa Abu Muslim dispatched a messenger to ride ahead and inform Isa ibn Musa of their plans. When he received the message the Kufan governor’s first reaction was one of shock; before his eyes Abu Muslim and Abdallah ibn Ali appeared to have admitted to plotting treason. As he considered it however the more he realised that what the two commanders were proposing was actually in the true spirit of the Abbasid Revolution: providing the Islamic community with political and spiritual authority that had genuine divine guidance. Allowing for the uncertainties of reproduction and heredity would be a betrayal of the values for which they had fought. Once he had reached his conclusions Isa ibn Musa manoeuvred his loyal troops in preparation for Abu Muslim and Abdallah’s arrival. When the two commanders of the expedition arrived they were escorted to al-Mansur’s court by Isa ibn Musa. The three men delivered their demands to the khalifah, who remained impassive throughout their speech; the conspirators did not explain what would happen if al-Mansur refused their demands. The caliph stayed silent for some time. He had suspected Abu Muslim and Abdallah both of “treachery”, but he never expected that they would work together. Even more of a shock was the defection of Isa ibn Musa, who had so far acted without any hint of disloyalty towards al-Mansur. Finally the caliph broke his silence: he assented to all of the triumvirate’s demands and, reportedly, slumped back into his seat, face ashen with defeat. The next Friday when the khutbah was delivered, al-Mansur’s name was followed by Abdallah ibn Ali and Isa ibn Musa. With their goals achieved Abu Muslim and Abdallah returned to govern their respective provinces of Khurasan and al-Sham, while Isa ibn Musa stayed in Kufa and kept an eye on the caliph.

    Left politically impotent Caliph al-Mansur descended into a depression from which he was rarely roused. The bureaucracy based at Kufa suggested a construction project for a new capital partly as a means of alleviating the caliph’s condition, but also because the bureaucracy was beginning to outgrow the confines of the city. Isa ibn Musa was suspicious that the project was an attempt to escape from the triumvirate’s authority, so he insinuated himself into the planning of the new city. The new city was to be named Madinat al-Salam (city of peace) and the proposed site of its construction was just south of the old Sasanian capital of Ctesiphon. Two Iranian astrologers, one formerly Zoroastrian and the other Jewish, determined the date to begin construction while the project was overseen by the Barmakid family. The round design of the city was a conscious imitation of Sasanian cities, complete with its four gates. The city’s Iranian architects and builders unofficially named the city Baghdad, to which it is widely known today. Construction was completed in 763 CE, upon which al-Mansur and his court relocated there.[2] The project reinvigorated the caliph somewhat, resulting in him turning his attention to a number of construction and public works projects including the repair of the irrigation system in southern Iraq.

    A modern recreation of Baghdad's layout

    Despite Abu Muslim’s suggestion of further inclusion of the Alids, periodic repression of the Shia continued during the early Abbasid Caliphate. The repressions, combined with their enduring belief in their claim to leadership, led to a rebellion in 762 CE. Its leader Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Hasan ibn Hasan ibn Ali, known as al-Nafs al-Zakiyya (the pure soul) to his followers, revealed himself at Madinah and gained the allegiance of the local prominent families. Due to a lack of coordination Muhammad’s brother Ibrahim started his rebellion in Basra considerably later. The Basran rebellion was considerably more successful as Isa ibn Musa was at the time besieging Muhammad in Madinah; the latter was easily defeated and slain during battle. Ibrahim’s rebellion soon began to fracture as his supporters were hopelessly divided on what course of action to take. The prospective Imam eventually decided to march to Kufa but stopped, again due to infighting in his camp. Isa ibn Musa caught up with the second band of rebels and put them to the sword. Ibrahim died soon afterwards in 763 CE of the wounds he sustained in battle. Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya was survived by his son Abdallah al-Ashtar who had stayed in Sind. Governor Umar ibn Hafs Hazarmard al-Muhallabi, who was a friend of the family, sent Abdallah away to a tributary Hindu state where he established a Shia community.[3] During most of this period Ja’far al-Sadiq was considered by most of the Shia to be the legitimate Imam. The Imam was widely popular among both Shia and non-Shia communities, but the revolt of Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya hardened the Abbasid government’s attitude towards all of the Alids. Harassment of Ja’far al-Sadiq increased until he suddenly died in 765 CE, likely poisoned on the orders of Caliph al-Mansur. The Imam’s death resulted in even more factionalism within the Shia community due to an unclear succession.

    [1] Abu Hashim was the son of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah, son of the Imam Ali by Khawlah bint Ja’far.
    [2] OTL construction was 762-766 CE, but with al-Mansur being near-powerless and having nothing else to do the project occurs earlier ITTL.
    [3] OTL al-Mansur reappointed new governors of Sind to hunt down and kill Abdallah al-Ashtar. ITTL Abu Muslim holds undisputable power over the east and ignores the situation. Thus, Islamisation in Sind gets a bit of a boost compared to OTL.
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    The Frankish Civil War and its Consequences
  • The Frankish Civil War and its Consequences

    The intermittent civil war between Neustria, Austrasia, and Bavaria had been ongoing since the death of Charles Martel in 737 CE. The sons of the former mayor of the palace had established themselves in the constituent realms of the former Frankish empire: Pippin as King of Neustria; Carloman as King of the Franks (in Austrasia); and Grifo spirited away to Bavaria where he was the first to be declared King of the Franks. As the war drew on, the young Grifo proved himself to be an adequate commander but an even better politician. When his great-uncle Duke Odilo died in 748 CE Grifo was in a position to establish himself as regent over the succeeding young Duke Tassilo. Bavaria may not have been as worthy a prize as the eventual goal of Austrasia and Neustria, but it served Grifo’s interests for the time being. The war had unsurprisingly focused the belligerents’ attention away from their neighbours; the Frisians and Saxons regularly raided Austrasia, while the dukes of Alemannia were imposing their hegemony over the Thuringians. It was also during this period when Christianisation was making progress among the Bavarians, Alemannians, and Thuringians, though not without some resistance.

    In 750 CE Grifo negotiated an alliance with the Duke of Alemannia, the purpose of which was to carry out an offensive into Austrasia. The two states had prepared their armies by the following year and invaded Alsace. The town of Strasbourg was conquered in a reasonable amount of time, but Grifo’s Alemannian allies sacked the town against his wishes. Distrust therefore set in between the two armies which would soon have dire consequences for Grifo. Afterwards the two armies marched toward the Austrasian capital of Metz. Carloman had been campaigning near Reims, but retreated with all speed back to Metz when he heard of the siege of Strasbourg. Rather than take his chances with an unpredictable siege, Carloman marched his army out to meet Grifo on the field. The two sides were evenly marched but Carloman had the advantage of surprise over Grifo’s forces, who had expected to settle in for a siege. Then the unthinkable happened; the Alemannians retreated. Their desire for plunder was stronger than their desire to lose men in a Frankish civil war. Without the Alemannian support, Grifo’s army were overwhelmed and routed. Grifo himself fled straight into the clutches of the Alemannians, whereupon they captured him and turned him over to Carloman in return for the recognition of Alemannia’s independence. The now sole King of the Franks agreed and Grifo spent the short remainder of his life imprisoned. The Alemannians plundered Alsace as they left while Bavaria had no further role in the Frankish civil war.

    A later (anachronistic) depiction of battle between the Neustrians and Austrasians

    Once Austrasia’s eastern borders were finally safe, Carloman could finally focus all of his energy on the campaign for Reims. In response Pippin approached King Hunald of Aquitaine to request a defensive pact against Carloman. Hunald was apprehensive though because a Frankish civil war diverted attention away from his realm, yet one of the contenders winning without his intervention could potentially see a return to old Francia’s expansionist policy. Furthermore Aquitaine’s non-aggression treaty with al-Andalus was still in effect, which gave Hunald an idea: instead of using his own soldiers, he would hire Muslim mercenaries. Negotiations with Neustria were stalled while Hunald dispatched an embassy bearing his proposal to al-Andalus. Governor Yusuf ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Fihri was at that time on his Italian expedition, so the Aquitanian embassy were granted an audience with his aging deputy Abd al-Malik ibn Katan al-Fihri. The deputy, always on the lookout for lucrative opportunities, gladly agreed to the deal and promised to furnish Hunald with a contingent of Berber cavalry when he was ready to go to war. Most of the money al-Andalus received was subtly embezzled by Abd al-Malik. King Hunald resumed his negotiations with Pippin in 752 CE and promised to send them aid.

    The Berber cavalry, drawn from the immigrant Barghawata tribes, arrived in Aquitaine by the end of the year and were sent on to Neustria along with guides and interpreters. Pippin was less than amused with Hunald’s reinforcements and briefly considered dismissing them before his commanders reminded him of how their own cavalry arm was lacking. The Berbers’ prowess was tested at a small battle near Tertry against an Austrasian raiding party; the Austrasian archers were run off by the Muslim mercenaries, allowing the Neustrian infantry to advance on their counterparts without any losses, thus winning the battle. Most of the retreating Austrasians were pursued and easily killed by the Berbers, yet Pippin was still unconvinced and so ordered the Berbers to plunder their way towards Alsace. The main Neustrian army marched to Reims and fortified their position there, expecting Carloman to muster his forces for a siege. Carloman did not disappoint his brother and besieged the city with the largest army he had yet commanded. The Neustrian king may have made a miscalculation, for the siege carried on for months without the Austrasians appearing to falter. In late 753 CE however the Austrasians’ supply situation began to deteriorate, though this was unknown to Pippin at the time. The areas from which Carloman’s soldiers foraged were being raided by an enemy force; fields of crops were burned, while livestock was driven off. Even more worrying were the attacks on the Austrasian supply convoys travelling to and from Metz. Ever superstitious, soldiers in the Austrasian army shared stories of black devils materialising during the night and disappearing before dawn. In hindsight it was obvious that the Berbers had returned.

    Realising that his brother’s mercenaries were more troublesome than he first realised, Carloman detached a cavalry force from his besieging army to track down and eliminate the Berbers. The Austrasian horsemen returned not long afterwards having sustained moderate casualties. The second party was led by Carloman himself. In a dramatic turn of events the Austrasians were ambushed, like their preceding party, and many horsemen slain; Carloman was captured. The Neustrian troops attached to the Berber mercenary army sent messages to Pippin and the Austrasian besiegers declaring that Carloman had been defeated and taken prisoner. The commanders of the besieging army agreed to a truce with Reims in order to negotiate the release of their king. Pippin hastily moved to join his mercenaries so he could parley with his brother in person. The Neustrian king’s demands were relatively lenient: Carloman would forfeit his claim to all of Francia, thereby remaining king of Austrasia, renounce his claim to Reims and the surrounding area, and pay a yearly tribute to Neustria. The king of Austrasia allegedly spat in his brother’s face and refused to accede to his demands. Pippin would go on to ask his brother three more times over as many days to accept the terms; Carloman refused each time. With a heavy heart Pippin knew he had no choice but to punish his brother. He refused to murder his kin however and instead ordered his Berber mercenaries to blind Carloman and escort him to al-Andalus where he was to be kept a prisoner. Afterwards Pippin declared Carloman’s son, Drogo, to be the new king of Austrasia and presented him with the same peace terms. Though furious at his father’s exile, Drogo accepted the demands and so brought the long Frankish civil war to an end in 754 CE.

    The Berber mercenaries dutifully carried out their orders and brought Carloman to Qurtuba, where he was treated as an honoured guest. The former Frankish king became something of a curiosity at the Andalusian court. He never gave up his desire to retake Francia and loudly declaimed so to anyone who broached the subject. The governor and other members of the Islamic ruling elite regularly conversed with him on the topic of European and Christian politics. As a guest of the governor, Carloman had free run of most of the city and cultivated ties with the Christian community and clergy, which he often put to use by interceding on their behalf with the Muslim authorities. On the other hand, Abd al-Malik ibn Katan al-Fihri was sacked and unceremoniously stripped of his wealth by governor Yusuf ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Fihri. Part of the wealth was redistributed amongst the commanders of the Berber expedition, while some were granted governorships of their own. The majority of the mercenaries returned to their land in the northern border region with Asturias.
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    The New Governor of al-Andalus
  • The New Governor of al-Andalus

    After twenty years of ruling as the governor of al-Andalus Yusuf ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Fihri died of natural causes in 761 CE. Of his sons al-Qasim was the only one present at Qurtuba. The young man declared himself the new governor and distributed what were, in effect, bribes to the local Arab nobility to gain their support. His brothers, spread throughout the province, were understandably angry at the turn of events but were shrewd enough to realise that a civil war would provide an opening for the Abbasids to assert greater control. One by one they travelled to Qurtuba to affirm their allegiance to the new governor. Al-Qasim ibn Yusuf al-Fihri was advised to send a delegation to the caliphal court with all haste to confirm his status as governor. Though he was no great politician like his father, al-Qasim was intelligent enough to know when to heed sound advice. Once again the ambassadors plied the caliph, this time al-Mansur, with gifts and proclaimed loyalty to the Abbasid dynasty; the delegation returned with investiture documents confirming Fihrid governorship of al-Andalus. As an experienced military man rather than a politician, al-Qasim was keen to begin his rule with the conquest of Aquitaine. His brothers dissuaded him however, and turned his attention instead towards Islam’s weak position in Italia; the governor demurred to his brothers’ judgement. In recent years the Lombards had expelled Roman authority from northern Italia, with the exception of the Duchy of Rome which was undergoing a power struggle between the clerical Patriarch of Rome [AKA the Pope] and the appointed Duke of Rome.

    Governor al-Qasim oversaw the mustering of the army himself: Barghawata Berbers from the north, and Arabs and muwalladun[1] from the area around Qurtuba, were gathered at Balansiyya. The island of Corsica was the first target of the expedition. Officially it was part of the Roman Empire but it had been conquered by the Lombards during Liutprand’s reign. Part of the Andalusian army was transported by ship to the Corsican town of Adiacium [Ajaccio] where they defeated the small Lombard garrison. The expeditionary force marched across the northern section of the island but faced no further resistance. Meanwhile the large remainder of the army redeployed to Nicaea and waited for the return of the Corsican expedition. Once the army, commanded by al-Qasim himself, was reunited it marched to Savona in early 762 CE and from there to lay siege to Taurinum [Turin]. Capturing the city would protect the mountain passes leading to Burgundy and allow reinforcements to be brought from there. During the siege scouting parties composed of Berber cavalry were sent east to keep watch on King Desiderius’ movements. The Lombard king was raising an army between the cities of Papia [Pavia] and Mediolanum [Milan]. To draw the attention of the mustering army the Berber scouts raided the region to the south, between Dertona [Tortona] and Placentia [Piacenza], which included the sacking of the famous Abbey of Bobium [Bobbio]. The action successfully lured Lombard cavalry away from the main army, after which they were lead on a fruitless pursuit of the Berbers through Liguria; the Lombards sustained significant casualties during this escapade. In the meantime the Andalusian army had breached Taurinum and sacked the city, after which they installed a garrison.

    King Desiderius dispatched part of his army westward to Taurinum while he waited for reinforcements from Spoletum and Beneventum. Reinforcements were not forthcoming however. The two duchies had recently revolted against northern authority; even though the revolt had been defeated, Desiderius’ power was not yet solidified. The death of his ally Duke Gisulf of Spoletum resulted in a conflict between pro-northern and anti-northern factions, while the deposed Duke Liutprand of Beneventum returned and accepted the abdication of his son Arechis. Desiderius had sorely underestimated the size of the Andalusian army, as the Lombard detachment was easily defeated near Asta [Asti]. After hearing the news of his subordinates’ defeat Desiderius withdrew his army to Mediolanum and waited for the inevitable siege. Al-Qasim ibn Yusuf refused to oblige however and instead besieged Dertona, while Berber horsemen plundered the countryside around Papia. Lombard commanders attempted to persuade their king to take the fight to the Muslims, but Desiderius was adamant that breaking the invaders at a siege of Mediolanum was the best plan. Following the conquest of Dertona, the Andalusians moved on to Placentia and began their siege there. After that it was Cremona and from there Brixia [Brescia]. By 764 CE Bergamus [Bergamo] had also fell and the Lombard army were trapped in Mediolanum. During the encirclement various Lombard commanders had broken their orders and attempted to break through the encroaching blockade before it could be completed. They were all failures though and only succeeded in draining the defenders of manpower. At this point a coup among the Lombard nobles occurred in which Desiderius and his son and co-king Adalgis were killed. In their place was appointed Duke Peter of Friuli, who had been among the commanders advocating an aggressive policy.

    The Lombard army, commanded by the new king Peter, marched towards Bergamus to engage the Andalusian army. Rather than meet the enemy in open battle however, most of the Andalusian army took a defensive position in the foothills near Bergamus while a small force delayed the Lombards at the Adda River. Though they were bloodied from the skirmish the Lombards pressed on into the hills. The battle was a decisive defeat for the Lombards: their cavalry were lured further into the mountains by the Berbers, while many of the infantry were fatally vulnerable to the Andalusian archers during the steep advance. King Peter and some of his compatriots fought to the end, while many others fled in a disorganised mass to the south and east. After the battle Peter stoically awaited his expected execution, yet al-Qasim was impressed by his courage in battle and willingness to fight for his country. The Andalusian governor therefore extended an offer to Peter: convert to Islam and help conquer the rest of the Lombard kingdom, and he would be allowed to continue ruling over his lands. Peter accepted and from then on was known as Abdallah Butrus ibn Muniq al-Rumi;[2] the other captured commanders were given the same offer and many also accepted. With organised Lombard resistance broken at Bergamus and the Andalusian army accompanied by the addition of new Lombard soldiers and nobles, the rest of the Italian campaign was relatively straightforward. Most cities surrendered at the sight of the former king among the invading army, though the territories of the former Roman Exarchate of Ravenna provided more resistance. By 770 CE all of the former Lombard territory north of the duchies of Rome and Spoletum were under Islamic control.

    As he was never one for the apparent complexity and lack of excitement in actually governing, al-Qasim ibn Yusuf al-Fihri left the reorganisation of Italia to his brother Muhammad while he began to plot his next conquest. Muhammad honoured his brother’s promise to the converted nobles, appointing them as governors of their pre-conquest territories. The rest of Italia was divided between Arab and Berber nobles, most of whom belonged to prominent families since the conquest of al-Andalus while some were newly promoted commanders from the recent campaign. Muslim garrisons were established in cities across the new territory with the largest being at Auximum [Osimo], Mediolanum, Ravenna, and Clusium [Chiusi]. Despite the jubilation among the Muslims over the great conquest the more shrewd administrators and nobles were worried. It could be argued that the size of Italia warranted a whole new province within the Abbasid Caliphate; the central government in Baghdad would certainly make the argument and thus reduce the power of the Fihrids. Muhammad was able to delay the crisis for some time by maintaining the relatively small provincial divisions and by discouraging the development of a regional identity by insisting that Italia was an integral part of the wilaya of al-Andalus.

    [1] Native converts. With the considerably less Arab immigration ITTL the muwalladun are more prominent than OTL, but still treated as inferior to the Arabs and Berbers.
    [2] Peter was given the nisba al-Rumi because the Muslims considered Italy to still be part of the Roman Empire (unsurprising considering it’s where Rome is) and therefore the people there were still Romans regardless of whether they actually were or not.
    Successions in the Centre of the Dar al-Islam
  • Successions in the Centre of the Dar al-Islam

    The latter years of Caliph al-Mansur’s reign were mostly peaceful. The major event was the natural death of his uncle Abdallah ibn Ali in 768 CE: first heir to the khilafah, governor of al-Sham, and member of the triumvirate which had successfully challenged the caliph’s authority. The other two triumvirs, Isa ibn Musa and Abu Muslim al-Khurasani, met at Kufa to discuss their response to the situation. They agreed that Isa ibn Musa was to graduate to first heir, but the second heir should be appointed by a shura (council) comprised of the Abbasid princes and a select few other prominent nobles. The two rode to Baghdad to inform al-Mansur of their intentions; the khalifah, still disaffected from politics, absent-mindedly gave permission for the convocation of the shura. Alongside the gathered princes were non-Abbasid governors such as Abu Muslim, Khalid ibn Barmak, and members of the Muhallabid family. Al-Mansur’s failure to attend was the cause of much gossip, but it didn’t delay the proceedings. The debate itself was vigorous. Salih ibn Ali, uncle of the caliph and many-time governor, initially put himself forward as candidate for second heir but he faced criticism that he was too old for such a position; there was thus near-unanimous agreement that it should be awarded to one of the younger generation. With that in consideration Salih ibn Ali unsurprisingly argued that his sons were fit for the position, though the youngest were dismissed off-hand for being too young. After some more debate, the front-runners were whittled down to al-Fadl ibn Salih ibn Ali and Abd al-Wahhab ibn Ibrahim ibn Muhammad ibn Ali, the latter being the nephew of Caliph al-Mansur. Following even more debate on the qualities on the two candidates, some of which was heated, al-Fadl ibn Salih ibn Ali was unanimously chosen to be the second heir. With the shura finished, the participants departed to their provinces and the new succession was delivered via the khutbah.

    Caliph al-Mansur finally died in 771 CE. Having never truly recovered from his depression, his diet was often poor and left him vulnerable to illness. Upon hearing the news Isa ibn Musa ibn Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Abdallah ibn al-Abbas travelled to Baghdad and was elevated to the khilafah, taking the regnal name al-Rashid. The new caliph’s first point of order was reform of the taxation system. The kharaj tax, which had previously been an exclusively dhimmi tax, was transformed into a tax payable by all subjects. In concert with this change however was a re-evaluation of non-Arab Muslim taxation to ensure that they were no longer paying the jizya tax. After this there was a reshuffle of provincial governors, though once again the east remained under the control of Abu Muslim while al-Rashid refrained from interfering in Fihrid al-Andalus aside from issuing orders on the new taxation regime. Once these pressing issues were resolved, al-Rashid convened another shura to appoint a new second heir. Abd al-Wahhab ibn Ibrahim was once again the favourite but he faced stiff competition from al-Mansur’s son Abu Abdallah Muhammad.[1] The young prince’s opponents pointed out that his only accomplishments were constructing districts of Baghdad, while Abd al-Wahhab had served as a governor in al-Sham. Thus Abd al-Wahhab was in the end appointed as second heir. The succession of al-Rashid was therefore orderly and peaceful in a way that the caliphate hadn’t seen for decades.

    Succession to the leadership of the Shia community was anything but orderly however. Forced underground by intermittent Abbasid persecution, the disparate Shia groups were unable to react adequately to the death of Ja’far al-Sadiq in 765 CE. The problem of choosing a successor was complicated by the fact that Ja’far’s eldest son Abu Muhammad Ismail predeceased his father in 762 CE. A minority refused to accept his death and instead believed that he had entered hiding, while many others accepted the death and argued that the Imamate had passed on to his son Muhammad. On the other hand there were those who claimed that the mantle of the Imam had passed to Ja’far’s other son Musa al-Kadhim. Another Shia group had dispensed entirely with the idea of a lineage of Imams though and instead looked to the example of Zayd ibn Ali ibn Husayn ibn Ali who had led a revolt against the Umayyads in 740 CE. To this group the legitimate Imam was any learned descendent of Ali who led the community in rebellion against corrupt and usurping authorities. Entirely separate from this debate however were the flourishing Shia community in Sind, led by Abdallah al-Ashtar ibn Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya.

    [1] The OTL Caliph al-Mahdi.
    Islamic Conquests in Aquitaine
  • Islamic Conquests in Aquitaine

    Wali al-Qasim ibn Yusuf al-Fihri had begun planning his next conquest immediately after his Italian campaign. Even though his brothers had earlier warned against an invasion of Aquitaine, events in the bordering kingdom had made it an attractive target. Peace had reigned between the kingdoms of Neustria and Aquitaine after the Frankish civil war, despite Pippin’s annoyance at the substance of Aquitanian assistance. King Hunald of Aquitaine died in 763 CE and was succeeded by his son Waifar, who continued amicable relations with both Neustria and al-Andalus. In 768 CE Pippin died while on a punitive raid against the Bretons, and was succeeded by his son Charles. The new Neustrian king had a different perspective on foreign policy from his father however; he believed that the Frankish empire should be reunited under the Carolingian dynasty. With that goal in mind he raised an army and invaded Aquitaine in late 769 CE. Early on in the war King Waifar was killed in battle, allegedly by King Charles himself, leading to Waifar’s son Hunald taking the throne. The Neustrian army settled in for a siege of Poitiers while the Aquitanians were still reeling from the loss of their king and their early defeats.

    It was at that point the Andalusians had just finished their conquest of Italia. Al-Qasim ibn Yusuf al-Fihri looked at the situation in Aquitaine and realised that now was the best time to strike. Andalusian court chroniclers later justified the conquest by pointing out that in the confusion Aquitaine had not renewed the non-aggression treaty and therefore had passed from the Dar al-Sulh to the Dar al-Harb. The governor gathered some of the army involved in the Italian campaign, but raised the majority of troops from northern al-Andalus. He planned a two-pronged attack on Aquitaine: one army would capture Iruna and secure the pass over the western Pyrenees, while the other army would seize Tolosa [Toulouse]. The second army faced little resistance during its march into Aquitaine, as King Hunald was gathering his disparate forces at Bordeaux. The siege of Iruna however proceeded less smoothly. Though the local Basque garrison were not especially loyal to Aquitanian rule, they did prize their independence. The city of Tolosa fell to the Andalusian conquerors in a timely fashion but al-Qasim ibn Yusuf, who was in command of the army in Aquitaine, was hesitant to advance further along the Garonne River without the western pass secured. During this delay the Neustrians had taken Poitiers and advanced toward the Gironde estuary. In order to break the siege of Iruna the Andalusian commander, Muhammad ibn Yusuf al-Fihri, offered the defenders a deal in which they would be exempt from all taxes in return for allowing a Muslim garrison in the town. The defenders agreed, allowing the Andalusians to march with all due haste to besiege Baiona [Bayonne].

    With the western pass of the Pyrenees secured, al-Qasim ibn Yusuf marched his army to conquer Ausciorum [Auch], after which the two Andalusian armies united north of Baiona. The enlarged army then began to besiege the town of Aginnum [Agen] to secure a beachhead on the opposite bank of the Garonne. Meanwhile the Neustrians had stationed their army at Ascumbas [Saint-Emilion] which was within striking distance of Bordeaux. Rather than wait to be besieged in Bordeaux by two hostile armies, Hunald and the Aquitanians sallied forth towards Ascumbas and the Neustrians. Charles’ army met Hunald halfway and the two entered battle in 773 CE. The Neustrian army was noticeably larger while the Aquitanians were suffering from poor morale due to their early upsets; the result was a bloody defeat for the Aquitanians and their flight back to Bordeaux. Hunald’s nightmare scenario had come to pass; just as the Neustrians began to besiege Bordeaux from the east, the Andalusians arrived from the west. Unlike his ancestor Duke Odo, the Aquitanian king had no intention to surrender and join one side in the seemingly impossible envelopment, though this did not dissuade Charles from appealing to their shared Christian fraternity. In the end the decision was not Hunald’s to make, as his vassal Duke Lupus of Vasconia ordered the city garrison to open the eastern gates and allow the Neustrians to enter. Hunald was swiftly seized and executed on the orders of King Charles. In an instant the Kingdom of Aquitaine ceased to exist.

    Even though al-Andalus and Neustria had not been at war or engaged in hostilities with each other, both sides knew from the outset of the Andalusian invasion that such a war was near-inevitable. During the uneasy hostility-free interlude following the Neustrian conquest of Bordeaux, Frankish forces were ferried across the Gironde estuary whereupon they marched south towards the encamped Andalusian army. Berber scout cavalry had spied the ruse though, prompting al-Qasim ibn Yusuf to order a retreat from Bordeaux. With the element of surprise gone, Charles had no choice but to lead his army in an assault upon the retreating Andalusians. The experienced wali had expected such a manoeuvre though and prepared a rear-guard action to hold the Neustrians while the main portion of the army moved south. Even though the rear-guard were almost entirely wiped out during the battle, they inflicted relatively significant losses upon the Neustrians. The Frankish army would have pursued the Andalusians if not for a sudden outbreak of infighting. The strife was itself an extension of Frankish dynastic politics. Charles had brought his younger brother Carloman on the campaign and while the young prince was a capable commander, he had not yet been appointed to any official position within the Neustrian court, nor had he been allowed to consolidate his control over the land that was nominally his inheritance from their father Pippin. Seething at the slight against his honour, Carloman had secretly corresponded with his cousin King Drogo of Austrasia. The latter had only encouraged his cousin’s rebelliousness and suggested that he should claim rulership of Aquitaine during or after its conquest.

    The matter came to a head after the battle outside of Bordeaux. Carloman’s contingent had suffered the brunt of the casualties and so he demanded of his brother the Duchy of Aquitaine as a reward for his efforts. King Charles of Neustria merely laughed at his brother’s ultimatum. Something snapped in the prince and he struck his brother, knocking him down. Onlookers were stunned into inaction as the king lay motionless. Charles’ own shock subsided swiftly however and he retaliated against his brother; the confrontation devolved into a common fistfight until Carloman managed to draw his dagger and stab the king. In the chaos of the moment Carloman escaped, gathered his men, and fled south towards the Andalusians. Understandably going through a whirl of emotions, the Neustrian prince sought refuge with the Andalusian army. He offered the services of himself and his men in return for control of Aquitaine. Al-Qasim ibn Yusuf al-Fihri was surprised at the turn of events but knew to seize an opportunity when it presented itself. The future of the war was suddenly uncertain as the apparent death of the Neustrian king would surely disrupt the Frankish campaign. Though they did not know it at the time, Charles had survived his chest wound and was transported to Bordeaux for further treatment. Al-Qasim ibn Yusuf decided to accept Carloman’s offer though with the stipulation that he and his commanders converted to Islam; Carloman was reborn as Muhammad Qarulamun ibn Baban al-Qarula.

    A later Frankish image of King Charles of Neustria, recuperating from his brother's attack [1]

    Once King Charles’ condition was stable, he was moved to Poitiers to recuperate and thus no longer personally participated in the war. Command of the Neustrian army was granted to Count Gerard of Paris, who resolved to defend Bordeaux. With the Franks momentarily stalled, and al-Qasim ibn Yusuf believing Charles to be dead, the Andalusian army was divided into two. One half besieged Bordeaux from the west, while the other crossed the Garonne and besieged the city from the east. By the end of 774 CE the Andalusians on the west bank of the Garonne had breached the city gates and subjected the city to a vicious sacking. Frankish reinforcements from the north arrived too late to relieve the city’s defenders but they manage to surprise the eastern Andalusian army, inflicting severe casualties before withdrawing back across the Dordogne River. The war was becoming rather costly for al-Andalus; administrators in Qurtuba informed al-Qasim ibn Yusuf’s brothers of the depleting treasury, while Asturian raids were growing bolder. The wali and Muhammad Qarulamun ibn Baban, the former growing into the role of a mentor to the young Frankish prince, were keen to continue fighting the war however. The Andalusian army crossed the Dordogne and attacked the nearby Neustrian army commanded by Lupus of Gascony; the result was indecisive yet both sides suffered a staggering number of casualties. Following the battle al-Qasim’s brothers rounded on him and demanded an end to the war. By this time, news had reached the Andalusians that King Charles was in fact not only still alive but also raising a new army to march south. The governor relented in the face of his brothers’ intervention and dispatched a diplomatic delegation to Poitiers in 775 CE.

    Territorially speaking, the peace negotiations were smooth: the Kingdom of Neustria annexed the territory north of the Dordogne, while the wilaya of al-Andalus took the territory to the south including Bordeaux. The difficulties arose surrounding the person of Muhammad Qarulamun ibn Baban al-Qarula, formerly prince Carloman of Neustria. The Neustrian negotiators demanded that he be returned so that he could face justice for treason and attempted fratricide. The Andalusians argued that as a Muslim governor, the prince was subject only to the authority of Caliph al-Rashid and his qadi al-qudat (chief judge). The two sides appeared to be intractable until the Andalusian negotiators remembered the concept of weregild from Carloman the Elder’s time in Qurtuba.[2] The Neustrians were surprised but receptive to the offer. They wanted more though: Qarulamun was to renounce his rights to all of the Frankish lands (Neustria and Austrasia) and was banished from the Kingdom of Neustria. The Andalusian negotiators agreed. The treaty was composed and signed, and peace established between the two states. Once news of the peace was confirmed, al-Qasim ibn Yusuf al-Fihri tasked his brother Muhammad with overseeing the construction of a new garrison town in the newly-conquered territory. Muhammad ibn Yusuf chose a site just to the east of Bordeaux between the Dordogne and the Garonne,[3] and planned the districts for the soldiers and their families to be based on ethnicity: Arab, Berber, muwalladun, and Christian Frankish. In addition to these there were districts for local artisans, merchants, outfitters, and the various other camp followers that attach themselves to armies. The name of the new town was Rabat al-Faranj to emphasise its frontier nature.

    In Baghdad the news of the conquests in Aquitaine caused great celebration for many in the populace. For some in the administration however, it only exacerbated the precariousness of an ongoing situation which could potentially lead to disaster: the growing hegemony of the Fihrids in the west. Caliph al-Rashid decided to deal with the problem now rather than letting it fester and risk splitting the caliphate. To this end the khalifah mustered a large expeditionary force of Khurasani Iranians, and Arabs from Iraq and al-Sham. Command of the expedition was granted to Harthama ibn A’yan, an Iranian long-term ally of the caliph, who was to reorganise the conquered Italian territories as the new province of Ruma al-Gharbiya and establish himself as the new wali. The expedition departed from the port of Akka in 776 CE and travelled to Melita for resupply. From there the fleet sailed to the port servicing Luca [Lucca] and the army disembarked. Harthama ibn A’yan then dispatched messengers to Qurtuba and al-Qasim ibn Yusuf al-Fihri, who was at Rabat al-Faranj, informing them of the caliph’s new directives. Without waiting for a reply, the expedition marched to Ravenna and convinced the garrison to allow them entry. Harthama ibn A’yan decreed the city to be the new seat of government in Ruma al-Gharbiya and changed its official name to Rabina. His first act was to replace the Lombard administrators with the Romans [Byzantines] who had been barred from power following the Lombard conquest. No further changes were made to the province’s internal administration, besides notifying the multitude of governors that their taxes were from then on to be paid to Rabina rather than Qurtuba. The Fihrids were in no state to respond: the treasury was nearly empty, and their available manpower was in no fit state to fight another war. Unsurprisingly al-Qasim ibn Yusuf desired to fight back against the Abbasid “invasion”, but once again his brothers forcefully counselled him to accept the situation.

    [1] The OTL image is actually Charles Martel.
    [2] Carloman the former king of Austrasia, brother to Pippin, uncle to Charlemagne, and in later years a pampered prisoner in Qurtuba. He is dead by this point. Weregild was a fine in Germanic law to be paid in the case of injury or death of a person. OTL it was phased out by the High Medieval period, but ITTL with a weakened Christian Europe and the notion of Christendom barely in existence, weregild is likely to survive for much longer.
    [3] Approximately in the area of OTL Saint-Quentin-de-Baron.
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    The Death of Abu Muslim, Reorganisation of the East, and War with the Romans
  • The Death of Abu Muslim, Reorganisation of the East, and War with the Romans

    Abu Muslim Abd al-Rahman ibn Muslim al-Khurasani, wali of Khurasan and Fararud, supreme commander of the Abbasid Revolution, member of the triumvirate which decreed the new caliphal succession, and undisputed ruler of the eastern Dar al-Islam, died peacefully of natural causes in 777 CE. The amir’s political career began with ghulat Shia movements in Kufa and from there he attached himself to the nascent Abbasid movement.[1] During the Abbasid Revolution Abu Muslim and his colleagues proselytised their message in a way that appealed to the various denominations of non-Muslims and the recently converted in Khurasan while tolerating some of their pre-Islamic beliefs. As a result, many in the Khurasani army held syncretic and heterodox beliefs, often with strong messianic attachment to Abu Muslim and the Abbasid dynasty.[2] For the sake of the regime’s stability, Abu Muslim knew that he had to weaken the power of the heterodox troops though without provoking rebellion or neutralising them entirely. His solution was to disperse them throughout the Dar al-Islam, rather than leave them concentrated in Khurasan and Fararud. Whenever the caliphal government in Iraq organised armies for new expeditions Abu Muslim assigned the most extreme of his soldiers. The hope was that surrounded by orthodox Muslims and a foreign environment the heterodox troops would moderate their beliefs. In some cases this plan worked, while in others it didn’t. The policy did achieve its primary aim though, as the Islamic East remained quiescent following the amir’s death.

    To many contemporary historians the death of Abu Muslim marked the end of the Abbasid Caliphate’s opening era. Ultimately though Caliph al-Rashid’s policies remained the same and his gubernatorial appointments in the east mostly reflected a continuity with Abu Muslim’s tenure. Khalid ibn Barmak, the patriarch of the Muslim side of the Barmakid family,[3] was reappointed to his position as the wali of Fars. Stability in governance of the province was vital due to its substantial wealth, in part a result of the jizya collected from the still majority Zoroastrian population. On the other hand Kirman, though also a wealthy province, was home to unruly semi-nomadic Baluchi and Kufichi populations. Governorship was thus granted to Abu’l-Abbas Fadl ibn Sulayman al-Ta’i al-Tusi, a veteran Khurasani commander who fought during the Abbasid Revolution. Appointed to the provinces of Jibal and Azarbayjan were, respectively, Ali ibn Isa ibn Mahan and Jibril ibn Yahya al-Bajali, both prominent Khurasani commanders. The matter of Abu Muslim’s successors in Khurasan and Fararud were more delicate however. Caliph al-Rashid was aware of the heterodox elements of Abu Muslim’s following and knew that making appointments that appeared to ignore their interests could cause them to rebel. For Khurasan Mu’adh ibn Muslim, a native of Khuttal in the far frontier of Khurasan, was appointed as governor, while Fararud was granted to Hashim ibn Hakim, a commander and bureaucrat who had thrived under Abu Muslim’s administration.[4]

    On the other hand, khalifah al-Rashid’s policy towards Sind was a substantial break from Abu Muslim. The Muhallabid governors of Sind had been far too sympathetic towards the large Shia community, so al-Rashid dispatched Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn al-Mansur to assert himself as the new governor and supress the Shia. The Abbasid prince raised an army of Arabs from al-Sham and departed by ship from Iraq. When Abu Abdallah Muhammad arrived at the port of Daybul [Karachi] he sent a message to the incumbent governor, Umar ibn Hafs Hazarmard al-Muhallabi, demanding that he step down and return to Baghdad. In response Umar ibn Hafs declared his allegiance to the Shia Imam Abdallah al-Ashtar ibn Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya and summoned an army to the provincial capital of al-Mansurah. Included in the rebel army were the tributary Indian rajas and their soldiers, many of whom had converted to Shi’ism under the auspice of Abdallah al-Ashtar. The Abbasid army marched towards al-Mansurah and were attacked by the more numerous rebels just after the former had crossed the Indus. The Abbasids suffered devastating losses and retreated back to Daybul, where they were placed under siege by the rebel army. Fortunately for the defenders of Daybul, the rebels had no naval capacity and so could not fully blockade the city. Abu Abdallah Muhammad dispatched messengers to the neighbouring province of Kirman and to Iraq demanding reinforcements.

    Abu’l-Abbas Fadl ibn Sulayman al-Ta’i al-Tusi mobilised his army and left his deputy to govern Kirman in his absence, as he transited to Daybul. The Abbasid central government were unable to aid their forces in Sind however due to an invasion of al-Sham ordered by the new Roman Emperor Leo IV. Caliph al-Rashid ordered the governors of al-Sham to repel the invaders, while he personally raised an army drawn from Iraq, Iran, Arabiyya, and Misr. The Romans began their invasion with a siege of Marash, which was known to them as Germanikeia. The garrison managed to bribe the Roman commander Michael Lachanodrakon into lifting the siege, though he went on to raid the countryside and deport many of the Syriac population to Anatolia, from where they were eventually sent to Thrake. The Abbasid army of al-Sham attempted to stop Lachanodrakon’s raiding but other Roman armies converged on the area and soundly defeated the Muslims. Soon afterwards al-Rashid and his grand army reached Marash inducing the Romans to retreat and regroup at Koukousos [Goksun]. The Abbasid army pursued the Romans to Koukousos and defeated them there; the Shia rebellion had been all but forgotten by the khalifah as he appeared to have the Romans on the run. As the Roman army fled west, al-Rashid put Koukousos to siege and had conquered the town in early 779 CE. The Muslim army divided so it could simultaneously besiege the towns of Komana and Kiskisos, which surrendered in short order. The two armies then merged and marched toward the major fortress of Kaisereia [Kayseri].

    Later depiction of the Roman and Muslim cavalry in combat

    With the eastern frontier of his empire under serious threat for the first time in decades, Emperor Leo took command of his armies himself and moved to confront the Abbasids. The Roman army was bolstered with new troops from the western themes, in addition to mercenaries from the Slavic tribes which occupied former Roman territory in the southern Balkans. The Abbasids had failed to take Kaisereia before the Roman army arrived and the two sides engaged in battle just outside of the city. The result was a close victory for the Romans though both armies suffered significant casualties. The Abbasid army retreated to Komana while the Romans took what was supposed to be a short break in Kaisereia. However the rough conditions of the campaign had affected the emperor’s health, which was already weak due to his chronic tuberculosis. Leo’s physicians forced him to rest and recuperate but their efforts were in vain as his condition worsened, leading ultimately to his death in 779 CE. The commanders of the Roman army travelled back to Konstantinoupolis to partake in the politicking to choose a new emperor. Some of the army was left to reinforce the garrison of Kaisereia, but the war was otherwise temporarily forgotten. Leo was survived by his eight year-old son Constantine, who had been declared co-emperor two years previously. The declaration had however instigated a plot by Leo’s two brothers Nikephoros and Christopher; the plot was discovered and thwarted but the brothers were merely pardoned. With the current state of war, many nobles were less supportive of a regency for the young Constantine and instead supported a strong, decisive ruler. Leo’s eldest brother was thus enthroned as Nikephoros I, though not without opposition as Leo’s wife Irene wielded substantial political influence. Her power proved insufficient though and she was exiled to a convent in Thrake.

    In the meantime the Abbasids besieged Kaisereia again. This attempt was far more successful however, as a group of Syriac civilians, angered by Roman iconoclasm and the deportation of Syriacs from the frontier, managed to open the gates to the besiegers. The Abbasid army entered Kaisereia and overwhelmed the surprised garrison, all of whom were executed; no further action was taken against the city’s population however. A Muslim garrison was established in the city following which the rest of the army marched west towards Nyssa. After the succession was concluded in Konstantinoupolis the Roman army reconstituted itself, though some of the partisans of Irene and the young Constantine found excuses to withhold their troops from the army. The Roman army confronted the Abbasids as they were besieging Nyssa. In a reverse of their last meeting, the Abbasids emerged as the victors yet it was a close battle with many casualties on both sides. The siege of Nyssa was continued while the Romans retreated to Ankyra. Back in Konstantinoupolis opposition to Nikephoros had increased after his failure to decisively beat the Muslims; erstwhile supporters defected to the camp of Irene, resulting in her being liberated from exile. Upon hearing this news Nikephoros initiated peace negotiations with Caliph al-Rashid in 780 CE. The Roman Empire would cede the fortresses of Koukousos, Arabissos, Kiskisos, Komana, Tzamandos, Kyzistra, and Kaisereia,[5] in return for a large one-time indemnity. The khalifah agreed to the terms and set about garrisoning the new fortress-towns. The newfound peace gave Nikephoros the freedom to race back to Konstantinoupolis and have Irene and many of her co-conspirators arrested and executed.

    The forgotten conflict in Sind had progressed significantly less favourably towards the Abbasid Caliphate however. The rebel army had abandoned their siege of Daybul due to their inability to enforce a naval blockade. Instead part of the army retreated to Armabil [Bela] to prevent Abbasid reinforcements arriving by land through Makran, while the rest of the rebels returned to al-Mansurah. The Abbasid prince Abu Abdallah Muhammad insisted that the Abbasid army pursue the rebels to Armabil, but Abu’l-Abbas Fadl ibn Sulayman pointed out that not only would a pursuit leave Daybul vulnerable, but they themselves could also be pursued and surrounded outside of Armabil. The argument between the two governors almost reached physical violence, prevented only by the intervention of their commanders. As a result Abu’l-Abbas Fadl ibn Sulayman gathered his army and returned to Kirman by ship. With the rest of the caliphate embroiled in a war against the Romans, the deteriorating situation in Sind was ignored so Abu Abdallah Muhammad pushed forward with his ill-advised strategy. The small Abbasid army besieged Armabil and, as expected, the main rebel army reoccupied Daybul with minimal resistance. Through sheer luck the Abbasids managed to quickly conquer the town, but it soon proved to be a poisoned chalice: the nearest port, Daybul, was in enemy hands; to the north and east were rebels or governors who had so far stayed out of the conflict; and to the west was the unforgiving Makran desert. Refusing to return to Baghdad in disgrace Abu Abdallah Muhammad decided to make his last stand in Armabil. Little did he know that the rebels had no intention of granting him his wish.

    [1] Ghulat Shia, both OTL and TTL, are “extremists” who generally believe that the Imams are essentially the reincarnation of God.
    [2] OTL the murder of Abu Muslim by al-Mansur induced a lot of these groups to rebel. Needless to say, without the murder these revolts do not occur ITTL.
    [3] The other side of the family remained Buddhist and retained their position as pramukhas (abbots) of the monastery in Balkh.
    [4] Yes, Hashim ibn Hakim is the OTL infamous al-Muqanna who led one of the heterodox revolts. ITTL the long and peaceful rule of Abu Muslim has led to him becoming more orthodox in his beliefs.
    [5] I used this map for reference.
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    The Consolidation of Shi’ism in Sind
  • The Consolidation of Shi’ism in Sind

    The Abbasid army of Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn al-Mansur remained encamped in Armabil for some time. The siege by the rebels which they had been preparing for never came. Instead the Abbasid garrison was worn down by raids from Kufichi and Indian tribes from the north and west. As a result desertion from the army became a serious problem, to which the Abbasid prince had no solution. By 781 CE the Abbasid expedition was a shadow of its former self and would have had no hope against rebel besiegers. In addition to this, tensions between the soldiers and the local civilians, mostly over the army’s requisition of food, grew over time. The local population were mostly non-Muslim Indians and Iranians who were ambivalent to the rebellion and Abbasid rule; the Arab settler population was almost non-existent meaning that almost all of the town’s Muslim populace were Persians from central Iran and Khurasan whose loyalty was suspect in the eyes of the failing governor. The situation became so grave that in the end, Abu Abdallah Muhammad and his men withdrew from the town and began the long westward march through the Makran desert. After losing even more men the army eventually arrived at the port of Tis, from where they sailed to Iraq. When he arrived at the caliphal court in Baghdad Abu Abdallah Muhammad prostrated himself before Caliph al-Rashid and begged forgiveness for his failures. With the recent conquests in Rum the khalifah was noticeably more forgiving than he may otherwise have been; Abu Abdallah Muhammad was sacked from his position as governor of Sind and sent to Misr to assist wali Ibrahim ibn Salih ibn Ali al-Abbasi. In his place was appointed Abd al-Wahhab ibn Ibrahim ibn Muhammad al-Abbasi, the current second heir to Abbasid Caliphate.

    Following the rejection of Abbasid authority the rebels could begin to reorganise the former province into an independent Shia state. The elderly Imam Abdallah al-Ashtar moved to the capital of al-Mansurah where he was officially proclaimed as the Imam and amir al-mu’minin. Umar ibn Hafs Hazarmard al-Muhallabi was in turn appointed by the Imam as the amir al-umara (commander of commanders). From then on the khutbah featured their two names first. Even though the Shia rebellion had abandoned the region of Makran, which thus comprised the rump Abbasid province of Sind, the new state’s territory stretched from Armabil in the southwest to Multan in the northeast. All of the governors and Indian tributary rulers were summoned to al-Mansurah to give bay’ah to Abdallah al-Ashtar; only a few were recalcitrant and they were visited by Umar ibn Hafs and his army. Shia communities throughout the Dar al-Islam were energised as the news of the Abbasid failure to crush the rebellion spread. Many Zaydis migrated en masse to Sind to support the new Imam, yet most of the followers of Muhammad ibn Ismail and Musa al-Kadhim stayed where they were to plot rebellions in favour of their own claimants. Abdallah al-Ashtar’s government welcomed the Shia migrants and settled them throughout Sind.

    The Imam’s time in Sind prior to the rebellion was well spent. Initially he spent time hunting and partaking in the pleasures of the local raja’s court. Soon however he embraced an ascetic and Sufi lifestyle which actually endeared him more to the Hindu and Buddhist natives. Abdallah al-Ashtar’s host had already expressed admiration for the Prophet Muhammad and his family, so a formal conversion to Islam was sealed by the Imam’s display of personal devotion and piety. The Imam travelled to the courts of other rajas, accompanied by an ever increasing following, where he further evangelised Islam among all the people he came across. Those rulers who didn’t formally convert were nevertheless impressed by tales of the Prophet and the piety of Abdallah al-Ashtar, promising him their protection. After his death hagiographical works, some of which were authored by native converts, attributed miracles and other such fantastical feats to the Imam. On the other hand there was a degree of continuity in Islamic rule compared to the previous Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms in Sind: the Brahmin caste were integrated into the provincial administration, while a portion of taxes were allotted to mendicant and monastic groups. Even though the Muslim administration did not need the legitimacy of the dhimmi religious authorities, it certainly contributed to the stability of their rule. Such policies were continued under the rule of the Imam.

    The new Abbasid governor of Sind, Abd al-Wahhab ibn Ibrahim ibn Muhammad al-Abbasi, established his capital at Tis with his main priority being to secure Abbasid rule over Makran. To that end proper fortifications were constructed around Tis and the town’s port was expanded. Rather than opt for the glory-seeking route of pitched battles and seemingly overwhelming force, Abd al-Wahhab ibn Ibrahim’s strategy was one of long-term attrition warfare against the Shia. A central pillar of the strategy was a naval campaign that aimed to cut off both trade and the pilgrimage route to and from Sind; the wali hoped that such a manoeuvre would erode the Imam’s support. The initial phase of the campaign amounted to nothing more than state-sanctioned piracy in the northern Arabian Sea though, which drove amir al-umara Umar ibn Hafs Hazarmard al-Muhallabi to begin construction of a navy for the nascent Shia state. Soon enough a naval arms race and ongoing naval warfare between the two belligerents ensued. The Ibadi Imamate of Oman, which had a complex relationship with the Abbasid Caliphate,[1] was also pulled into the conflict in order to protect their trade around the Arabian Sea. This state of affairs continued for some time, though Abd al-Wahhab ibn Ibrahim assured Caliph al-Rashid that all was going to plan.

    [1] OTL the Imamate of Oman was established just after Abbasid Revolution. For whatever reason the Abbasids didn’t conquer Oman. I’ve kept that situation, though there is regular raiding across the border of the two states.
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    Roman Resurgence in the West
  • Roman Resurgence in the West

    After the war with the Abbasids, Roman Emperor Nikephoros I had successfully stymied discontent against his rule. He was however wary of further plots against himself and so decided upon the re-conquest of Hellas [Greece] in order to consolidate his legitimacy in the eyes of his subjects and detractors. Before he embarked on the campaign however, he needed a wife to provide him with an heir; this was also another opportunity to build relations with the military nobility. During a bride-show the emperor decided upon the daughter of Michael Lachanodrakon, the strategos of the Thrakesion Theme and fierce enforcer of iconoclasm. Once the marriage was officiated and consummated, Nikephoros raised an army from the themes of the Thrakesioi, Opsikiou, Optimatoi, and the Thrakes. Under his personal command, the army marched west along the Makedonian coast defeating the Slavic tribes who ruled there; many were driven out while some accepted Roman rule. Subsequent to these victories, Nikephoros’ army pushed south into Thessalia where they defeated and subjugated more Slavic tribes. The Roman territories in Boiotia, Attike and the eastern Peloponnisos thus regained their land border with the rest of the empire. Following the reunification of the coast, the Roman army conquered the rest of the Peloponnisos. The Romans then marched back through the Isthmus of Korinthos and west into Epeiros; the Vayunite tribe that inhabited the region proved to more of a challenge than the previous Slavs though. While Nikephoros was victorious his army had suffered substantial casualties and so was forced to rest. Fortunately the cities of Dyrrhakhion to the north had remained loyal to Roman rule, though somewhat isolated. Thus by 782 CE Roman authority over Hellas had been restored.[1]

    Emperor Nikephoros returned to Konstantinoupolis and rewarded himself with a triumph; the loot and captives from the campaign were paraded through the city, and the ceremony ended with the Roman commanders and the new Slavic vassal arkhontes[2] prostrating themselves before the emperor. To further solidify Roman rule in Hellas, Nikephoros engaged in a program of re-Hellenisation. Even though Greeks were still the overall majority population of Hellas, the Slavic migrations (and the dislocation caused by them) had resulted in Slavs becoming a majority in some parts of the region. Furthermore, there was a clear divide between the cities and the rural hinterlands. To remedy this Nikephoros organised a series of population exchanges: tribes of Slavs were transported to the frontiers of Mikra Asia [Asia Minor/Anatolia], while rural Greeks and Armenians were brought back to the countryside of Hellas. There were more than a few revolts by the Slavs but they were easily repressed by local Roman armies. Afterwards new themes were established and strategoi appointed: in Makedonia, the new themes (from east to west) of Makedonia, Strymon, and Thessalonika; Thessalia was added to the pre-existing Thema Hellados while the Peloponnisos, Dyrrhakhion, and Epeiros were granted their own themes (the latter was renamed Nikopolis). During this period of reorganisation, Nikephoros’ wife Eudokia gave birth to twin boys; they were christened as Constantine and Leo.

    With the reclamation of Hellas and the restoration of stable Roman governance in the region, Emperor Nikephoros turned his attention to Italia. His peace with the Muslims prevented him from reasserting control over the north where the Exarchate of Ravenna formerly existed, but the empire still retained control over other regions of Italia: Thema Sikelias which comprised the island of Sikelia and the territories on the southern mainland; the Duchy of Rome; and Venetia, which was undergoing drastic changes in its governing structure due to its isolation from the empire. Nikephoros focused his attention on the Duchy of Rome; the duchy was ruled jointly by Duke Theodore and Patriarch Adrian I. Relations between the imperial authorities, represented by the dukes, and the clerical patriarchs had suffered a long decline. This was caused by the iconoclastic tendencies of the imperial Isaurian dynasty, which the patriarchs opposed, and the imperial refusal to aid the duchy against Lombard expansion. Previous patriarchs had attempted to solicit aid from the Franks and Aquitanians in defending against the Lombards, but Islamic successes in Gaul and Italia had ended those hopes. Therefore a reconciliation between the patriarchs and the emperors was becoming increasingly possible. Despite Emperor Nikephoros’ desire for reconciliation he was however just as supportive of iconoclasm as his predecessors. As such before Patriarch Adrian would discuss any further reconciliation he demanded the convening of an ecumenical council to resolve the issue of icons. With great reluctance the emperor agreed.

    The Second Council of Nicaea was held in 783 CE. The convention of an ecumenical council was deemed necessary because the Council of Hieria in 754 CE was considered to be ecumenical even though none of the five patriarchs were represented; this council had passed strict injunctions against the veneration of icons under the direction of Emperor Constantine V and thus was condemned by the patriarchs of Rome. The council in Nicaea was presided over by Patriarch Paul IV of Konstantinoupolis while Patriarch Adrian of Rome was represented by two legates. On the other hand, the patriarchs of Antiokheia, Hierosolyma [Jerusalem], and Aleksandreia were unable to send legates, though eastern monks acted as unofficial representatives. Paul had previously supported imperial iconoclasm but had apparently grown remorseful over his actions and so was supportive of attempts to reconcile with Rome. Besides the major issue of icons and their veneration, Adrian of Rome also raised the issue of the ecclesiastical sees of Sicilia, Calabria, and Illyricum and their transferral from the authority of Rome to that of Konstantinoupolis. Whatever happened with regards to iconoclasm, Emperor Nikephoros was determined to use the return of the ecclesiastical sees to leverage Rome’s support. Nikephoros himself chose not to attend the council sessions for fear of inciting the anger of the iconophiles. The first successful injunction of the council anathematised the Council of Hieria as a robber council and refuted its ecumenical claim, but its stance on icon veneration was ignored. The delegates, who were evenly divided between iconoclasts and iconophiles, argued vociferously over the permissibility of icon veneration. As the debate had stalled, the iconoclasts requested that the emperor attend the sessions, hoping that he would support their arguments. Nikephoros surprised all present by proposing a compromise: the status of icons would be determined by each bishop within their see only. The extremists of both parties were resolutely opposed but the moderates and careerists supported the proposal, and so were able to carry the compromise through with a slim majority. The final decision of the council was the return of the sees of Sicilia, Calabria, and Illyricum to Rome.

    Devotional icon of Saint Demetrios, spared from destruction at the hands of iconoclasts

    Patriarch Adrian I of Rome would have preferred the outright condemnation of iconoclasm, but the return of his old sees and the promise of imperial protection against the Muslims and the southern Lombards was enough to induce him to support the Second Council of Nicaea. Following his proclamation of assent, Roman soldiers from the Thema Sikelias were transferred to the Duchy of Rome. Emperor Nikephoros had over the previous years achieved his goal of reasserting Roman rule in the west. However this had resulted in increased tensions in the imperial centre. The debate over iconoclasm still had not been resolved and would continue to plague the administrations of future emperors and their nominally subservient clergy. This was partly due to the compromise Nikephoros had instituted tacitly giving permission to extremist iconoclasts, like his father-in-law Michael Lachanodrakon, to continue persecution of iconophiles in their territories. With regards to the re-Hellenisation of Hellas, the Slavic tribes who were deported to Mikra Asia proved to be inconsistent in their loyalty and efficacy in defending against future Islamic incursions.

    [1] This campaign pretty much follows the OTL campaign of Irene’s eunuch Staurakios.
    [2] Archons: governors with some autonomy, and outside of the theme system.
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    Muslim Military Adventurism in Europe
  • Muslim Military Adventurism in Europe

    Following the wars with Aquitaine and Neustria, and the subsequent Abbasid intervention which led to the creation of the wilaya of Ruma al-Gharbiya, the government of al-Andalus was in no position to do anything apart from waiting for their province to recover. This did not suit wali al-Qasim ibn Yusuf al-Fihri however, who was ever restless and on the search for his next great conquest. With the resources of his province denied to him, the governor handed temporary control of government to his brothers, gathered his personal retinue and, along with Muhammad Qarulamun ibn Baban al-Qarula and his retinue, travelled east to Ruma al-Gharbiya. When word of al-Qasim’s arrival in late 776 CE reached wali Harthama ibn A’yan, he immediately dispatched a moderately-sized force to intercept the intruders. Al-Qasim reluctantly submitted to questioning and answered that he and his companions intended to engage in a ghazwa (raid) against the Slavs and Avars to the east. Harthama ibn A’yan’s soldiers accepted the explanation but insisted on accompanying the ghuzat (plural of ghazi) to the frontier territory governed by Abdallah Butrus ibn Muniq al-Rumi. A messenger rode ahead to inform the governor in Rabina of the situation; Harthama ibn A’yan was still concerned, but the story was plausible given what he knew of al-Qasim ibn Yusuf al-Fihri. After all, back when Butrus ibn Muniq was still Duke Peter of Friuli, he was responsible for prosecuting raids against the Slavs and Avars and otherwise guarding the frontier.

    The Slavs immediately bordering Ruma al-Gharbiya were the Carantanians. Even though the majority of their population were still polytheistic, their rulers had converted to Christianity under the direction of the Bavarians in exchange for protection from Avar raids. Duke Tassilo of Bavaria had since proclaimed himself a king, and was eager to establish his suzerainty over the Carantanians. Further to the east were the Avars. Originally a nomadic power of diverse ethnic origins on the western Eurasian steppe, the Avars migrated west into the Pannonian basin where they subjugated the resident Slavs, Germans, Romans, and Bulgars. Their authority in the southern Balkans was eventually contested and overtaken by a new Bulgar migration. The Avars remained mostly nomadic and decentralised into a loose confederation of tribes, though still under the authority of their khagan. The Slavs, and the Germans to a lesser extent, occupied a peculiar place in the Avar Khaganate’s social structure: officially they were subject to the nomadic Avars. Over time however, partly due to their greater population size, the Slavs and Germans integrated more into the elite culture of the state, so much so that the elite became multi-ethnic and multi-lingual to the point that it was unclear just who the Avars were. This was the society that al-Qasim ibn Yusuf al-Fihri and his compatriots encountered during their excursions.

    Al-Qasim ibn Yusuf al-Fihri arrived in al-Thughur al-Sharqiya [Friuli] and informed wali Abdallah Butrus ibn Muniq al-Rumi of his intent to go on a ghazwa. Butrus ibn Muniq expressed his desire to join the ghuzat on their expedition, to which the Andalusian governor gladly agreed. The marcher lord raised an army, of whom many were still Christian, and they all marched off to the east. Harthama ibn A’yan was angered by the news; though it was their right, and some would argue their duty, to engage in jihad, al-Qasim ibn Yusuf was interfering in the affairs of another wilaya by distracting Harthama’s subordinates from their duties. He ordered Butrus ibn Muniq’s brother Abd al-Rahman Dubb,[1] who had recently converted to Islam, to replenish the garrisons of the frontier forts with men from Badwa [Padua] and the surrounding areas. The ghuzat encountered no serious resistance to their initial incursion and many villages and towns had poor defences; as such the loot they gained was considerable. Though there wasn’t much in the way of material wealth, the number of captives acquired was impressive. The region neighbouring al-Thughur al-Sharqiya was ravaged and the populace who weren’t captured, mostly fled further east. The adventurers returned to Qaysariyya [Cividale del Friuli][2] to partition the loot; many Christian soldiers converted to Islam in order to secure a larger share for themselves. Al-Qasim ibn Yusuf al-Fihri and his retinue escorted their share of the loot back to al-Andalus.

    The Andalusian governor, along with Muhammad Qarulamun ibn Baban al-Qarula, returned to Qaysariyya in the spring of 778 CE and once again joined with Abdallah Butrus ibn Muniq al-Rumi on a ghazwa to the east. This time they marched north to the Carantanian capital of Krnski Grad [Maria Saal], plundering villages along the way. The Carantanians, under their ruler Prince Valhun, put up more of a fight than they had during the last raid but the Muslims were once again victorious. Prince Valhun and his family fled north to request the aid of the Bavarians, while the ghuzat sacked Krnski Grad. The church of the local Christian missionaries, many of whom were Irish, was sacked while a three-headed pagan idol was destroyed.[3] King Tassilo of Bavaria was at that time at war with the Alemannians over Thuringia, but he spared some manpower to protect the southern border of his realm against Islamic raids. The Muslim army returned to Qaysariyya to deposit their substantial spoils and then marched off again. This time they ventured further east, into territory that was subject to the rule of the Avars though still populated by Slavs. Even though plundering the villages of the region was a simple enough endeavour, the Avar armies the ghuzat faced were comprised entirely of cavalry. The Muslims however were few in cavalry and so had trouble fighting the Avars; rather than engage in pitched battles, the Avars would retreat after ambushes and skirmishes. Consequently the ghuzat returned to Qaysariyya with their loot.

    The Andalusian contingent returned to al-Andalus and offloaded their loot. After a period of rest, al-Qasim ibn Yusuf and Qarulamun ibn Baban mustered an army mostly of Berber cavalry and marched north from Nur al-Faranj [Lyon][4]. They refrained from raiding for the time being however as their ultimate destination was Alemannia; additionally the Andalusian wali had been advised to maintain the tenuous peace with Neustria, who ruled over the territory around the Saone River. The ghuzat informed intervening Neustrian forces of their peaceful intentions; it is doubtful that the Muslims were believed, but miraculously conflict was avoided. Once the ghuzat reached the vicinity of Stratisburgum [Strasbourg] they began their plunder; the town of Colmar was stormed by Berber horsemen before its garrison could react, while the villages around Stratisburgum were razed. The city itself was left untouched, as the adventurers aimed to avoid any lengthy sieges. From there the ghuzat marched eastward to the region north of Lake Potamicus [Lake Constance] where they continued their pillaging. Even though the city of Constantia [Constance] and its enticing cathedral were protected by old Roman fortifications, the Muslims spotted an island in the lake and learned from their captives that it was home to a famous monastery [Reichenau Abbey]. Ironically the monastery was founded by a monk named Pirmin who had fled Arbuna before its Islamic conquest. Al-Qasim ibn Yusuf ordered his men to commandeer boats from the nearby villages so they could traverse along the eastern spur of the island. A group of soldiers remained with the horses and the previously captured loot, while the rest sacked the monastery and enslaved most of the monks and local villagers. Laden with their plunder, the ghuzat travelled back to Nur al-Faranj.

    While it may initially appear that al-Qasim ibn Yusuf al-Fihri shirked his responsibilities in governing while he embarked on his military adventures, the captured loot was a much-needed boost to al-Andalus’ economy. After the partition among the ghuzat, the wali’s portion of the stolen material wealth was sent straight to the Andalusian treasury, either directly or after being exchanged for currency. Many of the captives were transferred to what can be called palatine slavery: eunuchs, concubines, scribes and bureaucrats, bodyguards and soldiers, and other palace servants directly in the service of the varying tiers of government. Other captives were utilised as labour in public works projects or, less commonly in al-Andalus, agricultural labour. The rest of the slaves were sold to private owners. From there they entered either into similar roles as those in palatine slavery or into domestic servitude. Alternatively they were exported to other regions of the Dar al-Islam; provinces such as Iraq and Misr had high demand for slaves and therefore the sale value was considerably higher. Economic growth in coastal cities such as Balansiyya, Arbuna, and the constituents of the Nicaean League was driven by participation in this increased slave trade. Similarly in Ruma al-Gharbiya, where slavery was less prevalent in the province itself, the slave trade was also being embraced by the mercantile classes in cities such as Anquna [Ancona], Bayza [Pisa], and Babiyya [Pavia].

    Depiction of a slave market in al-Andalus

    [1] His Christian name is Ursus, which is Latin for bear, which in Arabic is dubb.
    [2] Cividale del Friuli’s name at the time was Forum Iulii (forum of Julius Caesar) so arguably the Arabs would rename it to Qaysariyya like they did with many other overtly Roman-sounding settlements.
    [3] The three-headed stone of Magdalensberg.
    [4] The new Islamic/Arabic name derives from Lugdunum and a popular belief at the time that “Lug” was a corruption of lux (light). The city’s name therefore is “light of the Franks”.
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    The Death of Caliph al-Rashid and the Early Reign of Caliph al-Qadir
  • The Death of Caliph al-Rashid and the Early Reign of Caliph al-Qadir

    Caliph al-Rashid finally fell victim to old age in 784 CE. Besides the naval campaign against the Shia community in Sind, and intermittent raiding on the frontiers, the Dar al-Islam was relatively peaceful at the time of his death. Isa ibn Musa ibn Muhammad, as he was known before he was raised to the khilafah, would continue to be remembered as one of the triumvirs who returned the caliphate to the ideal of rightly-guided succession through the shura. Furthermore, even before the death of his uncle, Caliph al-Mansur, the Abbasid prince had been the de facto regent of the caliphate since the triumvirate’s ultimatum of 757 CE. As such al-Rashid had arguably been the master of the Dar al-Islam for nearly thirty years. An appraisal of his rule is therefore necessary. The Dar al-Islam had been expanded: conquests in Rum and the regions formerly known as Gaul and Italia. Meanwhile Arab-centric policies and attitudes, especially with regards to taxation, were diminished. Linked to these developments were the establishment of a proper imperial bureaucracy to streamline and increase the efficiency of ruling the caliphate. On the other hand, there were issues which al-Rashid had ignored or failed to resolve. Due to the nature of the unofficial power of the triumvirate, power bases of governors and their extended networks had been allowed to grow. The obvious example was the Banu Fihr in the west but even the centre of the Dar al-Islam was riven with factions. The withdrawal of Caliph al-Mansur from governance combined with the triumvirs’ desire to maintain balance resulted in many governors holding their positions for long tenures. In al-Sham and Misr the family of Salih ibn Ali remained dominant, while the east was firmly under the control of the Khurasanis.

    This was the situation inherited by al-Fadl ibn Salih ibn Ali ibn Abdallah ibn al-Abbas when he succeeded to the khilafah as al-Qadir. Fortunately however the various powerful factions were at least united by their support for the ideal of an Arab-ruled Abbasid Caliphate. There were those who were violently opposed to this reality though; the Shia success in Sind had inspired the underground Shia communities within the caliphate and the death of the Abbasid Caliph was an opportune time for their rebellions. The Shia rebels had learned from the failure of the uprising of Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya and so cooperated to organise a series of co-ordinated rebellions. Soon after the death of Caliph al-Rashid, the Shia rose up simultaneously in Madinah, Basra, and Kufa; the rebellion was under the nominal command of Muhammad ibn Ismail ibn Ja’far al-Sadiq in Madinah. This was arguably the greatest threat the Abbasid Caliphate had yet faced. Al-Qadir raised an army from Baghdad, mostly comprising Khurasanis, and retreated west to al-Sham. The reason for this was because the family of Salih ibn Ali had successfully appropriated the political support base of the Umayyad dynasty in al-Sham for themselves. In the context of a pro-Alid rebellion the troops of al-Sham were a natural choice for the khalifah to make use of.

    Once again southern Iraq and Madinah had fallen easily to Shia forces, and Baghdad had been abandoned with only a token garrison to protect it, an act which the city’s bureaucrats would not soon forget. After Caliph al-Qadir reached Dimashq and expanded his army with recruitment from Qays and Qahtan Arabs, he faced a choice: to march on Madinah, or to reinforce Baghdad. Madinah, Makkah [Mecca], and the Hejaz were of course the religious centre of the Dar al-Islam, and from a military perspective would be easier to retake. Baghdad however was the caliphate’s administrative centre and had eclipsed the Hejaz in terms of political importance. A delay in retaking either would be a severe blow not only to his legitimacy but also that of the Abbasid dynasty as a whole. Al-Qadir decided to march to Baghdad and ordered his brother, wali Ibrahim of Misr, to retake the Hejaz. Al-Qadir stopped in al-Jazira on his way to Baghdad, where he was reinforced by troops from Arminiya [Armenia] and Jibal; the soldiers of al-Jazira were ordered to stay in their province and defend against any Shia incursions. Meanwhile the Shia army in Iraq, commanded by Idris ibn Abdallah al-Kamil (a brother of Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya)[1], was engaged in urban warfare through the southern suburbs of Baghdad. Upon hearing the news that a much larger Abbasid army was bearing down on them, the Shia army retreated to their traditional stronghold of Kufa and fortified there.

    Ibrahim ibn Salih ibn Ali and his Misri army marched into the Hejaz and encountered a substantial Shia army. The Abbasids emerged victorious, but only just and so halted outside of Madinah. Ibrahim sent forth messengers to the city demanding Muhammad ibn Ismail’s surrender; unsurprisingly the Imam refused and countered with his own demand for Ibrahim’s surrender. After a short pause, the Shia army sallied forth from Madinah and attacked the Abbasid forces. The ensuing battle justifiably took on epic proportions in the works of later chroniclers; the Abbasids won but both sides suffered heavy losses. Muhammad ibn Ismail was wounded during the course of the battle and was evacuated by his most loyal followers. Survivors from the Shia army fled to other parts of Arabiyya, where they remained in hiding from the caliphal authorities. Caliph al-Qadir meanwhile returned to Baghdad, left a contingent of men to bolster the city’s garrison, and left immediately to pursue the rebels. During the early stages of the revolt, the Shia had managed to capture the fortress of al-Ukhaydir to the west of Karbala. As it was one of Caliph al-Rashid’s most prized constructions, its loss was a severe blow to al-Qadir’s prestige. Consequently he dispatched part of his army to besiege al-Ukhaydir while the rest besieged Kufa; both locations proved to be tough to break. In the meantime al-Qadir ordered sections of his army to break off from the siege and retake Wasit and Basra; the latter surrendered shortly after the Abbasid arrival, but Wasit remained firm. The army besieging Kufa eventually breached the gates resulting in a harsh sacking of the city by the troops from al-Sham; al-Qadir did nothing to rein them in, for which he was castigated by later historians. All of the defenders, including Idris ibn Abdallah al-Kamil, were slaughtered as were many of the civilian population. Wasit surrendered when it heard the grave news, but al-Ukhaydir held out for most of 785 CE.

    Caliph al-Qadir’s policies after the revolt took a draconian turn. The survivors of the siege of Kufa were deported and the city repopulated by Arabs from al-Sham, Misr, and Iran. The refugees spread east and west; the former spread throughout Iran or went to Sind, while the latter made their way to al-Andalus and the Maghreb. Persecution of the Shia was increased everywhere within the centre of the Dar al-Islam. On the other hand, al-Qadir’s standing had increased dramatically among the Abbasid dynasty and those who were strongly opposed to the Alids. Taking advantage of this upsurge in personal support al-Qadir swiftly convened a shura to appoint a new second heir. At the shura Mukhallad ibn Yazid al-Fazari, a prominent governor in al-Sham, suggested the candidacy of the khalifah’s brother Abd al-Malik ibn Salih ibn Ali. Other princes of the Banu Salih branch of the family immediately voiced their support as did their partisans. Once it was clear that they were in the majority Caliph al-Qadir, with apparent reluctance, supported his brother’s candidacy. The opponents realised that they had been outmanoeuvred and so reluctantly acquiesced to Abd al-Malik’s appointment. The whole affair had been stage-managed: al-Qadir knew that there would be greater opposition to his choice if he proposed it himself, but having it come from a family with a pro-Umayyad history gave him sufficient plausible deniability.

    The caliph’s strengthening of his family continued in his gubernatorial appointments. Harthama ibn A’yan, the long-time ally of Caliph al-Rashid, was recalled from his position as wali of Ruma al-Gharbiya and was not reassigned to a new post. He was replaced by the new second heir Abd al-Malik, officially to give the prince more experience in ruling, but it was more likely that the khalifah had ulterior motives. The elderly Abu Awn Abd al-Malik ibn Yazid, wali of Ifriqiya and another veteran Khurasani, was replaced by Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn al-Mansur who had ingratiated himself with the Banu Salih during his time in Misr. To maintain an appearance of balance however, al-Qadir appointed Yahya ibn Khalid al-Baramika, who had previously succeeded his father as wali of Fars, to the newly-created position of wazir [vizier], officially making him head of the caliphal bureaucracy. This would eventually prove to be a major mistake on al-Qadir’s part, as it led to an alliance between the hostile bureaucracy and the Khurasanis. In Yahya ibn Khalid’s place as governor of Fars was appointed Musa, one of Caliph al-Rashid’s sons. Al-Qadir hoped that the new governor would be grateful for the prestigious position, but instead he was drawn towards the Khurasanis and the newer converts in Fars. Factional politics in the Abbasid Caliphate had thus only been worsened in the opening years of Caliph al-Qadir’s reign.

    [1] OTL Idris fled to the Maghreb after a failed Shia revolt in 786 CE, where he founded the Idrisid dynasty.
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    The Reign of Caliph al-Qadir
  • The Reign of Caliph al-Qadir

    In order to distract from the growing factionalism in the caliphate, khalifah al-Qadir resumed the annual summer raids against the Roman Empire, beginning in 786 CE, with himself taking personal command. The army for the first raid was comprised mostly of Khurasanis and Arabs from al-Sham, and commanding the army alongside the caliph was Harthama ibn A’yan. The expedition departed west from Tarsus and besieged Seleukeia; the city was captured, sacked, and looted. The Romans responded by dispatching a fleet which raided al-Iskandarun while the Abbasid army was returning to Tarsus. The next year’s raid was less successful; smaller Roman units continually harassed the Abbasid ghuzat, preventing them from effectively sieging the fort of Podandos and thus reducing the amount of loot they were able to seize from the surrounding area. Inspired by Abd al-Wahhab ibn Ibrahim al-Abbasi’s naval campaigns against Sind, the raid of 788 CE was carried out by a fleet. The town of Kibyrrha, for which the Roman Thema Kibyrrhaioton was named, was raided and many of its docked ships destroyed. This annual alternation between naval and land raids became the norm for the Abbasid Caliphate outside of periods of truce with the Romans.

    Meanwhile in Ruma al-Gharbiya the new wali, second heir Abd al-Malik ibn Salih al-Abbasi, was attempting to cultivate relations with the Banu Fihr of al-Andalus as he had been instructed to by his brother. Caliph al-Qadir was not naïve enough to expect the full subordination of al-Andalus, for they had been autonomous for too long, but he at least sought their support in case of any complications for his rule in the central Dar al-Islam. An opportunity presented itself in 787 CE when wali al-Qasim ibn Yusuf ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Fihri died during a hunting trip with Muhammad Qarulamun ibn Baban al-Qarula and other courtiers from Qurtuba. Abd al-Malik ibn Salih supported al-Qasim’s brother Muhammad as the new wali, and made it clear that he acted with the authority of Caliph al-Qadir. Almost all of the Banu Fihr accepted Muhammad ibn Yusuf, as he had been his brother’s deputy throughout his tenure, but the deceased governor’s eldest son Habib ibn al-Qasim disagreed and came out in revolt. His following was small however because it only attracted support from some muwalladun. Consequently the revolt was easily crushed personally by Muhammad ibn Yusuf, with aid from soldiers from Ruma al-Gharbiya.

    The death of al-Qasim ibn Yusuf al-Fihri also reignited a situation that had been dormant since the Islamic conquest of southern al-Faranj, then known as Aquitaine: the status of the province of al-Faranj and Muhammad Qarulamun ibn Baban al-Qarula. Upon the Frankish prince’s defection he had demanded control of Aquitaine. Following the war’s end Qarulamun was instated as the wali of al-Faranj but the province was subordinated to the authority of al-Andalus and its governor. This was unproblematic during the tenure of al-Qasim ibn Yusuf due to the close relationship between the two amirs, but afterwards Qarulamun ibn Baban travelled to Rabina to petition Abd al-Malik ibn Salih to separate al-Faranj from al-Andalus. In ordinary circumstances the Abbasid prince would have relished the opportunity to bring more territory under closer supervision from the central caliphal government. However his directive from the caliph regarding the Fihrids was clear. So instead Abd al-Malik gambled by revealing his orders to Qarulamun and promising to raise his status in future if he rendered service to the Abbasids when called upon. Apparently Qarulamun’s loyalty was to al-Qasim ibn Yusuf alone rather than the whole of the Banu Fihr, as he accepted the Abbasid governor-prince’s terms. With the matter settled, Qarulamun ibn Baban returned to Rabat al-Faranj to resume governing his province.

    The Abbasid Caliphate was struck with a crisis in 789 CE. Abd al-Wahhab ibn Ibrahim al-Abbasi, first heir to the khilafah and wali of Sind, died in a naval battle against the Shia rebels who controlled most of the province. The governor’s death thus elevated the caliph’s brother Abd al-Malik to the position of first heir; the prospect of the caliphate returning to a hereditary succession was therefore a distinct probability. The khalifah was obliged to convene another shura to elect a new second heir, but weeks passed without the summons. Finally al-Qadir called for a shura and the realm’s elite breathed a collective sigh of relief. The goodwill the caliph had accrued for his personal victory over the Shia revolt had rapidly dissipated due to his centralisation of power into the hands of the Banu Salih and the tardiness with which he convened the shura. Consequently he could only rely on the support of his close relatives and direct allies, and so his opponents were able to seize the initiative in the meeting. They immediately demanded that Musa ibn Isa al-Rashid ibn Musa, son of the previous caliph, be appointed as the second heir. Al-Qadir however was still vexed over the lack of gratitude Musa ibn Isa al-Rashid had shown for his appointment to the lucrative and relatively stable governorship of Fars. The Salihids countered with the candidacy of Abu Abdallah Abdallah ibn al-Mansur; the anti-Salihid faction opposed him because even though he was not of Salih ibn Ali’s lineage he was very much seen as a lackey of their family, in addition to being incompetent. To break the deadlock al-Qadir proposed Abu Ya’qub Ishaq ibn Sulayman ibn Ali as a compromise candidate; Ishaq had been governor of a few minor provinces and so far avoided had most of the factional strife. As with many compromises no one was enthused with the outcome, but both parties reluctantly agreed and went their separate ways.

    Caliph al-Qadir’s immediate concern was the appointment of a new wali of Sind. Though Imam Abdallah al-Ashtar had died shortly before Abd al-Wahhab ibn Ibrahim, the khalifah was under no illusions as to the ease of re-conquering Sind. The Imam had been succeeded by his young and vigorous son Abu al-Hasan Muhammad, who had expended a lot of effort into integrating the vassal rajas into the state bureaucracy and military. Even though the Shia state was an enemy of the Abbasid Caliphate, they had emulated the caliphate’s system of a standing army of professional soldiers who were paid a regular wage. After all, the caliphate (though divided into three periods) was the only Islamic state to have existed to this point (not including the Berber tribes of the Maghreb). Therefore any breakaway or secessionist states were going to imitate the caliphate in terms of its political structure. Due to Sind’s strategic place in the profitable Indian Ocean trading network, the Shia army and navy had grown considerable indeed. Furthermore the eastern provinces of the caliphate were still under the control of the Khurasanis and their allies, meaning that a pro-Salihid governor, or at least one who appeared to be so, was unlikely to gain support from his neighbouring governors in any campaigns against the Shia. With all of this in mind, al-Qadir appointed Abu Ya’qub Ishaq ibn Sulayman ibn Ali as the new wali of Sind and ordered him to refrain from grandiose or ambitious plans of re-conquest. He was instead to maintain the territorial integrity of the province, which in reality was limited to Makran, and to limit his military activity to raids. Ishaq ibn Sulayman found this plan to be agreeable.

    Caliph al-Qadir’s relationship with the bureaucracy of Baghdad started off poorly when he abandoned them during the Shia revolt at the beginning of his reign. The relationship deteriorated even further when the prominent Khurasani Yahya ibn Khalid al-Baramika was appointed as the wazir. While mawali (plural of mawla) and dhimmis had served in the caliphal bureaucracy of the Rashidun and Umayyad periods, the Abbasid period saw a marked increase in the representation of these two groups; many of the mawali bureaucrats were Khurasani in origin. The bureaucracy as a whole had expanded and diversified during the Abbasid period and as such could be considered to be a political faction of its own. Even though the caliph had nominal control of the administration, the size of it gave it an autonomy which was exploited fully by Yahya ibn Khalid. During his term as wazir there was an influx of employees from Khurasan and Iran in general. Alongside more members of the Barmakid family, some of the notable bureaucrats include: Vandad Hurmuzd, son of the ispahbadh Khurshid of Tabaristan;[1] Sahl ibn Zadanfarrukh and his sons Fadl and Hasan; and Tahir ibn al-Husayn.[2] Yahya ibn Khalid and his allies subtly undermined the power of Caliph al-Qadir: army deployments were delayed, provincial revenues misplaced, and so on, all with the goal of making al-Qadir look ineffective. The khalifah was not entirely powerless against the bureaucracy however. The mazalim court was a forum for the subjects of the caliphate to interface directly with the caliph and appeal the decisions of lesser courts or accuse members of the administration of negligence and misconduct. The latter function was weaponised by al-Qadir in his long-running dispute with Yahya ibn Khalid and the bureaucracy, leading to a number of the latter’s allies being convicted and punished; some were even executed. In 795 CE al-Qadir was poisoned by one of his concubines. Though she was executed before she could be interrogated, it is likely that Yahya ibn Khalid had plotted the assassination.

    [1] Without the murder of Abu Muslim and the subsequent revolt of Sunpadh, the Dabuyid dynasty don’t get the opportunity to claim their ill-fated attempt at independence from the caliphate. Therefore they remain a tributary state.
    [2] Founder of the OTL Tahirid dynasty of governors.
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