Popular Revolts against the Abbasid Caliphs
The Muslims hated the ‘Abbasid government, were very indignant with it, and had wished that the Umayyad government would have return to them regardless of its cruelty and torture, for they (the Abbasids) ruled the community with oppression and tyranny. ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Afrïqi said to al-Mansur al-Dawaniqi: “Oppression has appeared in our country, so I have come to inform you (of it). Suddenly, (I have seen) oppression comes out of your country; I have seen evil deeds and widespread oppression. I think that oppression has occurred because the country is far from you. The more I approach you, the more dreadful the matter is!”
Al-Mansur was very displeased with these words of ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Afrïqi and ordered him to be driven out.
Al-Mansur asked b. Abu Dhu’ayb: “Which a man am I?”
He answered him with the statement of the free one who does not submit to authority, saying: “By Allah, you are the most wicked man in my opinion! You have seized the property of Allah and His Apostle, the share of the near of kin, the orphans, the needy! You have destroyed the weak and followed the strong and taken hold of their properties!”
The policy of the ‘Abbasid kings was the same in oppression and tyranny. Ahmed b. Abu Na‘ïm says:
I do not thing that tyranny will terminate while over the people is an Emir from the family of ‘Abbas!
Because of this line poetry, al-Ma’mun banished him to al-Sind. Abu ‘Ata’ al-Sindi says:
I wish that the tyranny of the Banu of Marwan lasted for us and wish that the justice of the Banu of ‘Abbas was in the Fire!
Salïm al-‘Adawi urged the community to revolt against the ‘Abbasid government, saying:
Till when will we not see justice pleasing us and not see helpers for those who undertake the truth?
We are clinging to the truth and undertaking it when the tyrants are changeable.
O men, surely this is an illness for which there is no medicine, and a blind leader who leads blind people!
Sudayf, the poet of the free, says:
We hope that our friendliness will return after the alienation, the enmity, and the malice, and that the state -
whose leaders (implement) among us laws like those of people worshipping idols - will terminate.
This poetry spread and al-Mansur heard of it, so he ordered his governor ‘Abd al-Samad to bury him (Sudayf) alive, and he did.
Dr. Ahmed Mahmud Subhi says: “However, that ideal of justice and equity for which the people waited from the ‘Abbasids was one of the imaginations, for the wildness of al-Mansur and al-Rashïd, their greediness, the oppression of the sons of ‘Ali b. ‘isa and their playing with the properties of the Muslims remind us of al-Hajjajj, Hisham, and Yusuf b. ‘Amru al-Thaqafi. Displeasure dominated the people when Abu ‘Abd Allah better known as al-Saffah and al-Mansur started (their government) with going too far in shedding blood in a manner which had never been known before.”
The Muslims were indignant with the ‘Abbasid government, for it did not achieve their aims and hopes. Rather it was busy with recklessness, violence and forcing the people to do what they hated.
Discords and Popular Revolts
Discords surged over Islamic world and popular revolts spread in it. Without doubt, these discords and revolts resulted from the evil ‘Abbasid policy, which did not take care of the interests of society and its ambitions aiming at achieving political and social justice among the people. The following is an example of the important revolts which broke out during the time of Imam al-Rida:
The Revolt of Abu al-Saraya
As for the revolt of Abu al-Saraya, it was among the most important revolts which broke out in that time. At this revolt the Muslims lost two hundred fighters. We will talk about some characteristics of this revolt as follows:
The Leader of the Revolt
As for the leader, designer, and planner of this revolt, he is the great ‘Alawide, Mohammed b. Ibrahïm, better known as al-Tabataba’i. This great, noble ‘Alawide saw that the ‘Alawides and the Muslims were liable to oppression, persecution, exemplary punishments, and exhaustion, so he got ready to announce his revolt in order to save them from the ruling ‘Abbasid band. The historians said that he was gentle and kind to the poor and the deprived. One day while he was walking in a street in Kufa, he saw an old woman following the loads of dates, picking up those falling dates and putting them into a ragged garment. He asked her about that and she answered him: “I am a woman with a husband who undertakes my provisions, and I have daughters who do nothing, so I follow these dates on the road. My children and I live on them.”
When he heard these words, his strength collapsed, he burst into tears, turned to her and said to her warmly: “By Allah, you and the like of you will make me go out (with the sword) and my blood will be shed.”
This mercy toward the poor moved him to announce his revolt, that he might save them from the oppressive who plundered the properties of the community.
Accordingly, Mohammed began making arrangements through communicating with men of opinion and influence from among Arab leaders and Muslim great figures. He asked them to join him and to take part in resisting oppression and overthrowing the standing government, and hence he met the great Arab leader Nasr b. Shayth and presented the matter before him, and he began announcing his support to him and urging him to revolt against the government, saying to him: “Till when will you be submissive, your Shï‘ites oppressed, and your right usurped?”
These words moved the sentiments and feelings of Mohammed and he hurried to revolt against the ‘Abbasid government. That was when he saw that the ‘Abbasids were different, their word was separated, and their unity was broken up because of the dreadful discord which took place between al-Amïn and al-Ma’mun, and which split the government and made society think of a revolt against them to save itself from the persecutions of the ‘Abbasid government.
Abu al-Saraya joins the Revolt
The revolt increased in strength and firmness when Abu al-Saraya, the experienced leader, joined it. Abu al-Saraya was an ‘Alawide in opinion, so he felt burning desire for the ‘Alawides who suffered from the persecutions of the ‘Abbasids. It is an act of good to talk about some affairs of this inspired leader.
He is al-Sari b. Mansur al-Shaybani. He was a brave revolutionist from among the ‘Usami commanders. He took part in many battles. When the discord took place between al-Amïn and al-Ma’mun, he joined the army of Herthama b. ‘Ayun along with two thousand fighters. Then he was given the title of Amïr (i.e. commander). When al-Amïn was killed, Herthama decreased the gifts and salaries of the army. This step displeased Abu al-Saraya, and he decided to leave him. Abu al-Saraya asked Herthama for permission to make the pilgrimage, he permitted him and gave him twenty thousand dirhams. He took this sum of money and divided it among his followers, and with this he was able to make their hearts incline to him, and then he ordered them to follow him to ‘Ayn al-Tamr.
When they arrived at it, they captured its governor and took his belongings. They met another ‘Abbasid governor and took his properties and divided them among themselves. When Herthama heard of this news, he lost his mind and sent an army to fight against Abu al-Saraya. When the two armies met, a violent battle occurred between them, hence the army of Herthama suffered heavy casualties and turned the back in flight. Then Abu al-Saraya headed for al-Anbar (a city in Iraq). When he arrived in it, he controlled the local administration, killed its governor Ibrahïm al-Sharwari, and confiscated all his properties.
Abu al-Saraya meets Mohammed
Abu al-Saraya and his army continued their advance towards the ‘Abbasid centers. When they arrived in a certain country, they killed its ‘Abbasid governor. Then they reached al-Riqqa and therein they met the great leader Mohammed b. Ibrahïm. They held talks and discussed the oppression of the ‘Abbasids toward the Muslims. As a result they decided to put an end to the ‘Abbasid government and to summon (the Muslims) to pledge allegiance to al-Rida from among the family of Mohammed, may Allah bless him and his family.
Mohammed entrusted the general military leadership to Abu al-Saraya, gave him confidence, and entrusted him with all the affairs and plans of the revolt.
The Declaration of the Revolt
Abu al-Saraya declared the revolt against the ‘Abbasid government; he took his army and advanced towards Naynawa. Then he headed for the Holy Shrine of the Father of the free and master of martyrs, Imam al-Husayn, peace be on him. He visited the Pure Shrine for a long time. Then he recited the following poetry lines of al-Nimry, saying:
May my own soul be sacrificed for al-Husayn when he
left early in the morning for death running, not returning.
That day attacked with its sword the hump and shoulder of Islam.
You hurried (to death) lest an urgent vengeance should befall the people.
Allah does not hasten when you hasten; your Lord is not heedless of what you see.
She (Fatima) is wronged and the Prophet, her father, turns (his) eye in all directions, (and he is) interested (in the tragedy).
Are there any brave men to rise for her through drawing their sharp swords and spears?
Then he said in a loud voice: “If there is anyone of the Zaydiya, let him rise!”
A group of the army rose and he delivered a long sermon in which he lauded the members of the House (ahl al-Bayt), peace be on them, mentioned their laudable deeds and excellent merits, oppression and persecution caused to them by their opponents and enemies, and then he reminded them of the master of martyrs, Imam al-Husayn, peace be on him, saying: “People, suppose that you were not present with al-Husayn and did not help him, then what has prevented you from (helping) him whom you have met and followed, while he will tomorrow go out (in revolt) to avenge his blood, his right, the heritage of his fathers and to establish the religion of Allah? What has prevented you from helping and supporting him? From this direction of mine, I am heading for Kufa to carry out Allah’s command, to defend His religion, and to help the members of the House (ahl al-Bayt)? So if you intend to go, then follow me!”
The Zaydiya and others responded to him, so Abu al-Saraya and his army headed for Kufa.
As for Mohammed, he declared the revolt on the same day when Abu al-Saraya declared his revolt, and many people supported him. He impatiently waited for the arrival of Abu al-Saraya. Many days passed to the extent that Mohammed’s followers scattered from him and blamed him for seeking help from Abu al-Saraya. Mohammed was sad because of Abu al-Saraya’s delay. While he was anxious and worried, Abu al-Saraya and his army reached them. So he became very pleased. He rose for him and embraced him. He stayed with him for some days, then they headed for Kufa. When they arrived in it, they were warmly received by its people who were delighted at their arrival and pledged allegiance to them.
The army of Abu al-Saraya occupied Kufa and plundered the palace of al-Fadl b. ‘isa, the governor of Kufa, of all things available in it. As for Abu al-Saraya, he was displeased with this behavior of his army, so he ordered it to refrain from taking anything and to return the looted things to their owners.
Al-Hasan b. Sahl, who was appointed by al-Ma’mun as a ruler over Iraq, dispatched three thousand horsemen under the leadership of Zuhayr b. al-Hasan in order to fight against Abu al-Saraya. When they arrived in Kufa, they met the army of Abu al-Saraya at a violent battle. As a result, they turned the back in flight, and the army of Abu al-Sarayatook all their weapons. Abu al-Saraya gained a marvelous victory over the ‘Abbasids, hence fear and terror spread among them, most of them were sure that the revolt was successful, and that they would face a dreadful fate.
The Death of their Leader
Unfortunately, Mohammed b. Ibrahïm, the great leader, died. Most historical sources believed that he died a natural death, but some sources said that Abu al-Saraya put poison in food and gave it to him in order to assassinate him and get rid of him. More likely, he died a natural death, and Abu al-Saraya had no role in his death, for the revolt was at the beginning. It was not possible, any how, for Abu al-Saraya to assassinate him in those critical circumstances, for he was not sure of the success of the revolt.
Any how, Abu al-Saraya prepared Mohammed’s pure corpse for burial. He ordered it to be washed and shrouded. Then the people carried it to the cemetery of al-Ghary in the darkness of night. They buried it there, and then they returned to Kufa. In the morning Abu al-Saraya gathered they people and announced the death of the great leader Mohammed b. Ibrahïm and condoled them. The people wept in loud voices, so Abu al-Saraya turned to them and said: “Abu ‘Abd Allah has appointed Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali b. ‘Ubayd Allah as his testamentary trustee. If you consent to him, then he is the consent; otherwise, choose (someone else) for yourselves.”
The members of the army kept silent. So Mohammed b. Mohammed, an ‘Alawide young man, addressed the ‘Alawides, saying: “O family of ‘Ali, surely the religion of Allah is not supported by failure, and the hand of this man (i.e. Abu al-Saraya) is not evil with us, for he has given vent to our anger and avenged (the blood of al-Husayn).”
Then he turned to ‘Ali b. ‘Ubayd Allah and asked him: “What do you say, Abu al-Hasan? For he advised us (to choose) you. Stretch out your hand, that we may pledge allegiance to you.”
‘Ali b. ‘Ubayd Allah replied: “Surely, Abu ‘Abd Allah (i.e. Mohammed b. Ibrahïm), may Allah have mercy on him, chose (me). He had confidence in himself, and he did his best to (accomplish) Allah’s right. (As for me), I will not refuse his will neglect his command and leave this (matter). However, I fear that I may busy myself with it and leave other things which are more praiseworthy and better than it in the final result. So undertake leadership, may Allah have mercy upon you. We have entrusted you with leadership over us. You are the consent with us and confidence in ourselves.”
Then he turned to Abu al-Saraya and asked him: “What do you see? Are you content with him?”
“My consent conforms with your consent and my view conforms with your view,” replied Abu al-Saraya.
Mohammed b. Mohammed stretched out his hand, and the people pledged allegiance to him. In the meantime he began organizing the affairs of his government with firm resolution, and then he appointed governors over the Islamic cities conquered by Abu al-Saraya as follows:
1. He appointed Isma‘ïl b. ‘Ali as governor over Kufa.
2. He appointed Ibrahïm b. Imam Musa b. Ja‘far as governor over Yemen.
3. He appointed Zayd b. Musa as governor over Al-Ahwaz.
4. He appointed al-‘Abbas b. Mohammed as governor over Basrah.
5. He appointed al-Hasan b. al-Hasan al-Aftas as governor over Mecca.
6. He appointed Ja‘far b. Mohammed b. Zayd as governor over Wasit.
He also appointed Rouh b. al-Hajjajj as commander over the police and entrusted the judiciary to ‘Asim b. ‘Amir.
Currency was minted in Kufa and it was written in it this holy verse: Surely Allah loves those who fight in His way in ranks as if they were a firm and compact wall.
The Muslims were tired of the ‘Abbasid government, so they happily responded to the ‘Alawide government, and the revolt quickly began to spread in Islamic world.
The ‘Abbasids understood the danger which would threaten their lives and remove their authority. The ruler of Iraq, al-Hasan b. Sahl, was defeated, so he wrote to Tahir b. al-Husayn in order to join him in the fighting against Abu al-Saraya. But a letter was written to him in which were the following poetry lines:
Certainty uncovers the mask of doubt; and the sedate opinion is your best scheming.
Act carefully before he will execute against you an affair whose evil will excite a hidden illness.
Do you entrust Tahir with fighting the people while he has adopted support for them and obedience to them?
He will cause to you difficulties which will result in a fierce war.
And he will send out the things hidden in his heart; when the safeguarded things manifest, they will not disappear.
So take care of sureness, for its features have become luminous, while doubts have become dark.
Then take what you want through a decisive opinion; consider it carefully and leave that which does not occur.
When al-Hasan read these poetry lines, he changed his mind and wrote to Herthama b. A‘yun asking him to come quickly to him and delegated al-Sindi b. Shahik to meet him. There was an enmity and mutual alienation between al-Hasan and Herthama. When al-Sindi met him and handed him the letter. He read it and said: “We paved the way to the caliphate and cleared its sides for them, and then they took hold of the affairs and possessed alone the direction over us. When they face a certain attitude because of their bad direction and their losing the affairs, they want to set it right through us. No, by Allah, we will not honor them until the Commander of the faithful (i.e. al-Ma’mun) know their evil traces and ugly deeds.”
Al-Sindi turned away from him and despaired of him. Then a letter came to him from al-Mansur b. al-Mahdi. When he read the letter, he responded and returned to Baghdad. When he arrived at al-Nahrwan, the people of Baghdad went out to receive him. At the head of them were the prominent figures and the commanders of the army. When they saw him, they dismounted. He stopped at his house. Al-Hasan b. Sahl ordered the records of the army to be brought to him. They were brought to him and he chose whomever he liked of men. The public Muslim treasuries were opened for him. So Herthama gathered an army and made arrangements to fight against Abu al-Saraya. When he completed his army, which was composed of thirty thousand fighters raging between horsemen and infantry soldiers, he took them and advanced towards Kufa. In the first place, he passed through al-Mada’in,defeated its governor and occupied it. Then he advanced towards Kufa and his army met the army of Abu al-Saraya. They clashed and terrible fights occurred between them. Many followers of Abu al-Saraya were killed and his military forces collapsed. Abu al-Saraya was unable to protect Kufa, his Capital, so he left it for al-Qadisiya (in Iraq), and then heleft it for al-Sus, whose inhabitants closed the gates at his face. He asked them to open the gates and they did. Then a fight took place between the inhabitants of al-Sus and Abu al-Saraya, who was forced to leave the city for Khurasan. He stopped in a village called Barqana.The governor of Khurasan went to him and gave him security, and he responded to him. In the meantime the governor sent Abu al-Saraya to al-Hasan b. Sahl, who was then in al-Mada’in. When Abu al-Saraya arrived in al-Mada’in, al-Hasan b. Sahl ordered him to be killed, and he was killed. Then he ordered his head to be crucified at the eastern side of Baghdad as well as he ordered his body to be crucified at the western side of it. The period between Abu al-Saraya’s revolt and his murder was ten months.
With that this important revolt ended and about two hundred thousand fighters were killed during it. Without doubt this revolt and the like resulted from the bad ‘Abbasid policy which spared no effort to oppress the people and to force them to lead a life of abasement and enslavement.
Any how, the political life in the time of the Imam, peace be on him, was disorderly and ugly, for disorders spread and rebellions against the ‘Abbasid government dominated most regions ofIslamic world.
Severe Punishments on the ‘Alawides
The ‘Abbasids openly persecuted the ‘Alawides, inflicted severe punishments on them, and killed them. As for Imam al-Rida, peace be on him, he witnessed some of these severe punishments.
Al-Mansur al-Dawaniqi was the first to bring about the discord between the ‘Alawides and the ‘Abbasids. It was he who said: “I killed one thousand or more (persons) of the progeny of Fatima, and I left their master, protector, and Imam, Ja‘far b. Mohammed.”
He killed this number of the children of Allah’s Messenger, may Allah bless him and his family, that he might make them provisions for him through offering them to Allah, the Exalted, and their grandfather, Allah’s Messenger, may Allah bless him and his family. It was he who left behind him the case of the heads of the ‘Alawides, and attached to each head a piece of paper on which he wrote the name of the ‘Alawide. The case contained the heads of old men, children, and youths.
He said to Imam al-Sadiq, peace be on him: “I will kill you and your family, that I may leave none of you on earth!”
When Abu al-Qasim al-Rassi escaped from al-Mansur and went to al-Sind, he said:
The tyrant is not satisfied with our blood which he sheds every where, and he does not fall short of looking for (us).
Nothing will quench his thirst except that he will not see on earth a son belongs to the daughter of the Prophet.
Al-Sayyid Amïr ‘Ali said: “Shedding the blood of the children of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, is the worst page in the history of the ‘Abbasid state.”
In the time of al-Hadi, the ‘Alawide family suffered from fear and terrorism, for he (al-Hadi) terrified them, looked for them, stopped their livelihoods, and wrote to (the governors of) the distant regions in order tosummon them. He was the leader at the Battle of Fakh, which was similar to the Battle of Karbala’ in tragedies, for the number of the heads which were sent to him was more than one hundred. Children and women were captured. The captives along with the children were killed.
In the time of al-Rashïd, the ‘Alawides suffered fromsevere and cruel oppression. In this regard al-Fakhri said: “He (i.e. al-Rashïd) was not afraid of Allah and His acts with respect to the leading members of ‘Ali, while they were the innocent children of the daughter of his Prophet. He swore (by Allah) that he would kill them and their followers. He said: ‘Till when will I be patient toward the family of Abu Talib? By Allah, I will kill them and their followers.’” He ordered his governor over Medina (Yathrib) to force the ‘Alawides to guarantee each other. It was he who demolished the grave of the master of martyrs and sweet basil of Allah’s Apostle, may Allah bless him and his family, Imam al-Husayn. He ordered the nabk in whose shade the visitors sat to be cut down. This was done by his governor over Kufa Musa b. ‘isa al-‘Abbasi.
The most dreadful sin which he committed was his assassinating the Imam of the Muslims and master of the Allah-fearing, Musa b. Ja‘far, peace be on him. That was after he had spent many years in his (al-Rashïd’s) prisons.
In his poem al-‘Asma’, Di‘bil al-Khaza‘i lamented for Imam al-Rida, peace be on him, and described the sufferings of the ‘Alawides such as killing, prison, and torture at the hands of the ‘Abbasids. He says:
We know that all the districts which belong to Dhi Yaman, Bakr, and Mudar took part in shedding their blood
just as the gamblers take part in gamble.
They killed them, took them as captives, burnt them, and plundered them just as the invaders did toward the People of Rome and Khazar.
I think that the Umayyads were excused when they had done (what they did), but I think that the ‘Abbasids have no excuse.
Mansur al-Nimri says:
The family of the prophet and those who love them hide themselves out of fear of killing.
The Christians and the Jews feel secure, while they (the Prophet’s family) eternally belong to the community of monotheism.
In his poem in which he laments for Yahya, the immortal martyr, Ibn al-Rumi, a great poet, displays the sufferings of the ‘Alawides as follows:
O people, your harm has lasted (through your losing) the family of Allah’s Messenger. So fear (Allah) or hope for (Him).
Every time one of the pure (children) of the Prophet Mohammed is killed and stained (with his own) blood.
Through him, you sell the religion to evil Imams.So, by Allah, the religion of Allah is about to be corrupt and confused.
Then he says:
O children of the Chosen One (the Prophet), until when do the people kill your children?
Your tribulation will soon be dispelled.
Isn’t there anyone who conforms to the right of his Prophet and fears his Lord?
In their many poems, the free poets have shown that the tyrannical rulers persecuted and oppressed the ‘Alawides. We have mentioned many of their poems in our books on the Imams of the members of the House (ahl al-Bayt), peace be on them, that the dear reader may refer to them. We will end this research with the following letter, which shows the sufferings of the ‘Alawides.
The Letter of al-Khawarizmi
In his letter to the people of Nishabur, al-Khawarizmi demonstrated the ordeals and tribulations which befell the ‘Alawides. We will narrate some of the letter as follows: “When they (i.e. the Umayyads) violated that sanctity and committed that dreadful sin, Allah became angry with them and removed the dominion from them, so He sent against them (Abu Mujrim), not Abu Muslim, and he looked, may Allah not look at him, at the firmness of the ‘Alawides and at the leniency of the ‘Abbasids, so he left his reverential fear and followed his caprice, and sold his hereafter for his world through his killing ‘Abd Allah b. Mu‘awiya b. ‘Abd Allah b. Ja‘far b. Abu Talib, and empowered the tyrants of Khurasan, the Kurds of Asfahan, and the Kharijites of Sijstan over the family of Abu Talib. He killed them everywhere, and sought them in every plain and mountain until Allah empowered over him the most lovable of people to Him, and he killed him as he killed the people in obeying him, and punished him as he punished the people in pledging allegiance to him; it does not benefit him that he has made Allah angry through his pleasure, and committed what He does not desire. Al-Dawaniqi dominated the whole world, so he oppressed and wronged (the people) and treated (them) unjustly, hence his prisons were full of the members of the House of the Message (ahl Bayt al-Risala), the source of goodness and purity. He traced their absent and arrested their present until he killed ‘Abd Allah b. Mohammed b. ‘Abd Allah al-Husayni in al-Sind at the hand of ‘Umar b. Hisham al-Tha‘labi; then what do you think of those who were close to him and easy for him to arrest? This is little in comparison with those of them Harun killed, and with what Musa had done toward them before him. You have come to know what al-Husayn b. ‘Ali faced at the hand of Musa at (the Battle of) Fakh; (what) ‘Ali b. al-Aftas al-Husayni (faced) at the hand of Harun (al-Rashïd); (what) Ahmed b. ‘Ali al-Zaydi and al-Qasim b. ‘Ali al-Husayni (faced) in prison; (and what) Ghassan b. Hadir al-Khaza‘i (faced) when he ordered him to be taken. Generally speaking, before his death, Harun had reaped the Tree of Prophethood and uprooted the Plant of the Imamate; you, may Allah set you right, have a greater share in religion than al-A‘mash, for they have cursed him; more than Shurayk, for the they have removed him (from the office); more than Hisham, for they have frightened him; and more than ‘Ali b. Yaqtïn, for they have accused him....”
After this part of his letter, al-Khawarizmi mentioned the Umayyads, and then he mentioned the ‘Abbasids, saying: “And say about the ‘Abbasids, for you, through praising Allah, will find a statement; pass through their wonders and you will see whatever you like.
“Their (the Imams’) war booties are collected and divided among the Daylami and the Turkish and they are carried to the Moroccan and the Forghani, but when one of the Imams of guidance or one of the ‘Alawides from among the Household of the Chosen One (al-Mustafa, i.e. the Prophet) dies, none follows his coffin or plasters his grave. However, if insignificant one of them (the ‘Abbasids) dies, men of justice and judges follow his coffin. The leaders and the governors go to mosque for condolences on his behalf. They (the ‘Abbasids) give security to him who is an atheist or sophisticate, and they do not oppose him who reads a philosophical or Mani book. However, they kill him who is a Shï‘ite and shed the blood of him who names his son ‘Ali.
“If none of the Shï‘ites of the ahl al-Bayt other than al-Mu‘lla b. Khanïs, killed by Dawud b. ‘Ali, was killed, and if none of them was imprisoned apart from Abu Turab al-Marwazi, then that would be a wound which never recovered, anger which never calmed, a crack which never closed, and an injure which never healed. It is sufficient for them that the poets of Quraysh in the pre-Islamic times composed poems in which they satirized the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him, and opposed the poems of the Muslims; yet their poems have been reported, and their stories have been recorded and transmitted by narrators like al-Waqidi, Wahab b. Munabbih al-Tamïmi, al-Kalbi, al-Sharqi b. al-Qatami, al-Haythem b. ‘Adi, and Da’b b. al-Kinani. Some Shï‘ite poets spoke of the laudable deeds of the Revelation; rather they mentioned the miracles of the Prophets, may Allah bless him and his family; nevertheless their tongues were cut off and their divans were torn, as it was done toward ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Ammar al-Barqi, as it was wanted toward al-Kumayt b. Zayd al-Asadi, as the grave of Mansur b. al-Zubrqan al-Nimri was dug up, and as it was schemed against Di‘bil b. ‘Ali al-Khaza‘i. They (the ‘Abbasids) associated with Marwan b. Abu Hafsa al-Yamami and ‘Ali b. al-Jahm al-Shami for nothing except for their extremism in opposition (to the Imams), and their worthiness of the detest of the Lord, to the extent that Harun b. al-Khayzaran and Ja‘far, who relied on Satan not on the Merciful (Allah), did not give money to anyone except to those who cursed ‘Ali b. Abu Talib and supported the creed of his opponents such as ‘Abd Allah b. Mas‘ab al-Zubayri, Wahab b. Wahab al-Bakhtari, and the poet Marwan b. Abu Hafsa al-Amawi. During the days of Ja‘far,there were (persons) such as Bakkar b. ‘Abd Allah al-Zubari, Abu al-Samt b. Abu al-Jawn al-Amawi, and Ibn Abu al-Shawarib al-‘Abshami.”
After this speech he (al-Khawarizmi) mentioned the Umayyads and their oppression toward the ‘Alawides, and then he continued his speech about the ‘Abbasids, saying: “And this is not more amazing than the shouting of the poets of the ‘Abbasids at their heads with the truth, even if they hated it. Giving details of him whom they (the ‘Abbasids) disparaged and killed, Mansur b. al-Zubarqan said on Harun’s carpet:
“‘The family of the prophet and those who love them hide themselves out of fear of killing.
The Christians and the Jews feel secure, while they (the Prophet’s family) eternally belong to the community of monotheism.’
“Di‘bil, the creature of the ‘Abbasids and their poet, said: ‘Do you not see that I have gone and come for thirty years, and I am always in sorrow? I see that their booty is divided among other than them, and their hands are void of their booty.’
“‘Ali b. al-‘Abbas al-Rumi, al-Mu‘tasim’s retainer, said: ‘I have sworn that none of you will be hit on the forehead. We will be patient toward you, O the Banu al-‘Abbas, just as the brave one heavily armed is patient toward the sword. Every time one of the pure (children) of the Prophet Mohammed is killed and stained (with his own) blood.’
“Ibrahïm b. al-‘Abbas al-Sawli, who was the scribe of the people and their governor, said concerning al-Rida when al-Ma’mun brought him near: ‘He bestows upon you through your properties, and you are given one percent.’
“And how does a group of people not revolt against them (the ‘Abbasids), while they have killed their cousins, filled the houses of the Turks and the Daylamis with silver and gold, ask for the help of the Maghribi and the Farghani; the black Nabatis have undertaken their ministries; the non-Arabs (‘ajam) and the Timtimis have surrounded their leadership; nevertheless the family of Abu Talib have been deprived of the inheritance of their mother and of the booty (fayya’) of their grandfather; the ‘Alawide feels appetite for a certain meal, but he is deprived of it; he asks the days for the appetite but he does not get it. The land tax (kharajj) of Egypt and of al-Ahwaz, the alms of the two sacred cities (Mecca and Medina) and of al-Hijaz are spent on Ibn Maryam al-Madïni, Ibrahim al-Mousili, Ibn Jami‘ al-Sahmi, Zalzal al-Darib, and Barsoma al-Zamir. The feudal estates of Bakhtishiyu‘ al-Nasrani, Jari al-Turki, and al-Afshïn al-Ashrawasani are enough to be the food of a country and sufficient to numerous communities.
“They claim that al-Mutawakkil spends the night with twelve thousand mistresses, while the Sayyid from among the Sayyids of the Household is chaste through a Negro or a Sindi woman; the choice of the fund of land tax is confined to the provisions of the Safa‘ina, the dining tables of the Makhatina,the foods of the Kallabïn, the rites of the Qarradïn, Makhariq, ‘Ilwiya the singer, Zarzar, and ‘Umar b. Bana al-Mahlabi, while they (the ‘Abbasids) are miserly toward the Fatimids through a meal or a drink. They (the ‘Abbasids) spent it on a Danek (weight) of a meal; they buy the songstress for ten thousand dirhams and spend on her (an amount) sufficient to the provisions of an army.
“While the people to whom one-fifth (khums) is lawful, alms is unlawful, dignity and love is obligatory, beg out of distress and perish owing to poverty; they mortgage their swords, sell their garments, look at their booty (fayya’) with a satisfied eye, and are strong toward their time through weak souls. They have no guilt except that their grandfather is the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family, their father is the testamentary trustee (wasi), their mother is Fatima, their grandmother is Khadïja, their creed is faith, and their Imam (leader) is the Qur’an; yet their rights are spent on the woman housekeeper, the barmaid, the masseuse, and the dressmaker; and their one-fifth (khumus) is divided among the pecking of the blood roosters, monkeys, the heads of the games, and the she-camel of journey.
“What shall I say concerning the people who incited the wild animals and birds to attack the Muslim women, plowed the grave of al-Husayn, peace be on him, and banished his visitors from their regions? What shall I say in the description of the people who were the sperms of the drunk in the wombs of the songstresses? What shall I say concerning the household from whom prostitution stemmed, through whom effeminacy spread, and through whom sodomy was known? Ibrahim b. al-Mahdi was a singer; al-Mutawakkil was lowly and womanish; al-Mu‘tazz was feminine; Ibn Zubayda was an idiot masseur; al-Ma’mun killed his brother; al-Muntasir killed his father; Musa b. al-Mahdi poisoned his mother; and al-Mu‘tazid killed his uncle.”
After this paragraph al-Khawarizmi presented the tragedies which the Umayyads committed, and then he ended his letter with mentioning the defects of the ‘Abbasids, saying: “These defects - though big, many, ugly and horrid - are small and few in comparison with the defects of the ‘Abbasids, who built the city of the tyrannical and spent the funds of the Muslims on amusement centers and sins.”
I (i.e. the author) think that there is no inclusive political document similar to this one, for it contains all qualities of the ‘Abbasid kings and gives an account of their evil policy of which is the extreme cruelty towards the ‘Alawides and depriving them of their natural rights, to the extent that they could not bear poverty; the ‘Abbasids spent enormous funds on lusts, the mischievous, the singers, and the dissolute, whereas the Household (of the Prophet) and their followers were unable to find a loaf of bread, a garment, and other life requirements.
Similarly, this document gives an account of affairs of great importance; there is no need to explain them, for their meanings are clear.