White Banners: Contention in 'Abbasid Syria, 750-880

SUNY Press
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Using Arabic, non-Arabic and newly available local Syrian sources, this richly detailed study examines the central events of medieval Islamic history: the fall of the Syrian Umayyad caliphate and the rise of the ‘Abbasid state. As the ‘Abbasids forged their new state from Iraq, Syrians raised their white banners of opposition and violently contested the changes that occurred under the ‘Abbasid rule. As a result, the Syrian population quickly gained a reputation as uniquely contentious. White Banners traces the divergent fates of Syria’s populace in their shift from center to periphery, rooting the many sources of Syrian contention in the nature of early Islamic provincial government. The book also provides answers to key questions concerning the history of medieval Syria: what strategies did the ‘Abbasid government use to rule their new province? What was the fate of the Umayyads in Syria who survived the revolution? How did Syria’s tribal-military elite cope under new masters? What pushed the common folk to violence?
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About the author

Paul M. Cobb is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Pages
249
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ISBN
9780791491096
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / Medieval
History / Middle East / General
Religion / Christian Theology / General
Religion / Comparative Religion
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Many of the events treated in this volume have become part of the historical consciousness of Muslims. The first civil war of Islam, the Fitnah, is widely seen as of decisive importance in dividing the Muslims into three major traditions, Sunnis, Shi'is, and Kharijis, which have persisted until today. Although this division may be an over-simplification of a much more complex process of community formation, the events narrated here are certainly of great importance in the early history of Islam.

The volume is focused on the struggle between the caliph 'Ali and his rival and eventual successor as caliph, Mu'awiyah, the first caliph of the Umayyad dynasty. About half of the material is concerned with the confrontation between the two at the battle of Siffin in 657, the fighting, the ending of the battle when the Syrian supporters of Mu'awiyah are described as having attached Qu'ranic texts to their lances, and the subsequent negotiations between the two rivals which resulted in the dispute's being put to arbitration. Much detail is also provided about 'Ali's struggle against the Kharijis, his former supporters who had turned against him as a result of his agreement with Mu'awiyah to accept arbitration; the revolt against 'Ali in regions of Iraq and Persia around the northern edges of the Persian Gulf, which involved Christians, as well as Muslims, Arabs, and such non-Arab groups as Kurds; the events in Egypt that led to the burning of 'Ali's representative there in the skin of a donkey; and the murder of 'Ali by Ibn Muljam, the account of which sometimes reads as if it were a popular story.

Al-Tabari's text makes available a wealth of detail in narratives collected from the now lost compilations of scholars of earlier generations. The bulk of the material is cited from the famous Abu Mikhnaf, who died in A.D. 774, but there are also many reports from other traditionists and narrators whose materials would be largely unknown to us if it were not for the work of al-Tabari. The volume contains a number of speeches and letters attributed to the Prophet's son-in-law and cousin 'Ali, including his deathbed speech to his sons, and there is also a version of the document drawn up by 'Ali and Mu'awiyah in which they agreed to appoint arbitrators.

The Arabic text of the Leiden edition of al-Tabari has been compared with the more recent Cairo edition and with the substantial parallel passages in such other works as the Waq'at Siffin of al-Mingari and the Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah of Ibn Abi' l-Hadid, as well as other sources, in an attempt to provide a secure text for translation. Individuals and places are identified in the footnotes, further references to sources and secondary literature are provided, and textual problems and historical matters are discussed. The volume contains a bibliography and index.
In 1099, when the first Frankish invaders arrived before the walls of Jerusalem, they had carved out a Christian European presence in the Islamic world that endured for centuries, bolstered by subsequent waves of new crusaders and pilgrims. The story of how this group of warriors, driven by faith, greed, and wanderlust, created new Christian-ruled states in parts of the Middle East is one of the best-known in history. Yet it is offers not even half of the story, for it is based almost exclusively on Western sources and overlooks entirely the perspective of the crusaded. How did medieval Muslims perceive what happened? In The Race for Paradise, Paul M. Cobb offers a new history of the confrontations between Muslims and Franks we now call the "Crusades," one that emphasizes the diversity of Muslim experiences of the European holy war. There is more to the story than Jerusalem, the Templars, Saladin, and the Assassins. Cobb considers the Arab perspective on all shores of the Muslim Mediterranean, from Spain to Syria. In the process, he shows that this is not a straightforward story of warriors and kings clashing in the Holy Land, but a more complicated tale of border-crossers and turncoats; of embassies and merchants; of scholars and spies, all of them seeking to manage a new threat from the barbarian fringes of their ordered world. When seen from the perspective of medieval Muslims, the Crusades emerge as something altogether different from the high-flying rhetoric of the European chronicles: as a cultural encounter to ponder, a diplomatic chess-game to be mastered, a commercial opportunity to be seized, and as so often happened, a political challenge to be exploited by ambitious rulers making canny use of the language of jihad. An engrossing synthesis of history and scholarship, The Race for Paradise fills a significant historical gap, considering in a new light the events that distinctively shaped Muslim experiences of Europeans until the close of the Middle Ages.
Usama Ibn Munqidh (1095-1188) was a Syrian poet and warrior whose life coincided with some of the most dramatic moments in Islamic history: the invasion of the Turks into the Middle East, the collapse of the Shi'ite political power, and above all, the coming of the Crusades. Often at the frontline of such events whilst on military service representing one of his many Lords, including on occasion the legendary Saladin, Usama was nonethless best-known to his contemporaries as a poet.

Covering his exquisite anthologies of Arabic poetry, his witty and well- loved memoirs, and his political adventures, this comprehensive biography examines both the literary works of the famous "Arab- Syrian Gentleman" and the tumultuous life which inspired them. With a guide to further reading, a dynastic family tree and a glossary of the principal characters encountered in the book, it offers an indispensable window into Usmama's life, times and world of thought.

CONTENTS
Preface

Introduction

1 THE YOUTH AND THE CASTLE

The setting of Shayzar

Childhood

Hunting at Shayzar

Shayzar’s bad neighbors

Nizaris attack Shayzar

Relations with the Franks

Quiet moments

Exile

Service to Zangi

Last days in Hama



2 THE OUTCAST AND THE KINGS

Damascus (1138–1144)

Usama among the Franks

Trouble in Damascus

Egyptian adventures (1144–1154)

The lesson of Ridwan

A new patron

An expedition to Syria

Conspiracy in Cairo

The final straw

Damascus and Nur al-Din (1154–1164)

Calamity



3 THE POET AND THE TOMB

Diyar Bakr (1164–1174)

Literary output

Denouement in Damascus (1174–1188)

Intellectual pursuits



4 ORDER AND CHAOS

God’s will and the vicissitudes of Time

Usama’s Islam

Pious exemplars and the miraculous

Women’s honor

Male honor and social status

The manners and customs of animals

Conclusion



5 FRANKS AND MUSLIMS

Usama, ethnographer

Usama and the coming of the Crusades

Usama on Antioch

Social relations with the Franks

Medicine

Frankish justice

Usama and Christianity

Afterword

Further reading

Works cited

Principal people encountered in this book

Simplified lists of principal dynasties and rulers in Usama’s lifetime

Index
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