The Use of the Structural Resources of the Imamate by the ʿAbbāsids

  November 25, 2023   Read time 3 min
The Use of the Structural Resources of the Imamate by the ʿAbbāsids
The violence and humiliation experienced by the Shiʿites during Umayyad rule provided the rising ʿAbbāsids with potential power resources. The ʿAbbāsids confused many dāʿies and thus provided the rationale for those people to accept their daʿva, and thus paved their own ways to achieve power.

Some prominent dāʿies, such as Abu Salama and Soleymān ibn Kasir, called themselves “ʿAlawites” before the military revolt of Abu Moslem. As a result, the claims of the “Al-e Hashem va Abu Tāleb” after the rise of the ʿAbbāsids to the throne were not as Balʿami had identified because of “dāʿies falling into greed.” Calling themselves imams provides undeniable proof of the ʿAbbāsids’ taking advantage of the ʿAlawites’ structural resources of daʿva. “Imam” was a title that encompassed the accounts of a hundred years of Shiʿite revolts and struggles. The rich structural resources existing in the imamate provided the right conditions for grasping power. The unquestioning obedience to the ʿAbbāsid imam’s orders equipped the ʿAbbāsids with a political resource which they applied most effectively. Thus, the ʿAbbāsids began their social action program by designing an invitation program and using agents who were dissatisfied with the Umayyad Caliphate.According to Balʿami:

The whole account is that Mohammad ibn ʿAli ibn ʿAbdollāh ibn Al-ʿAbbās was the first descendant of ʿAbbās who invited people to himself. In 113 AH [731 AD], under the rule of Heshām ibn ʿAbdol Malek, Mohammad sent his dāʿies everywhere and told them, “Invite people to us secretly!” In his invitation, he asked whoever had pledged allegiance to him to renounce the allegiance to Heshām, Bani Marvān, and all Umayyads and to recognize Mohammad ibn ʿAli as his imam…. He asked the dāʿies to maintain all those pledges of allegiance until he [Mohammad] rose: “When he rises, fight with his enemies, and if he dies or is killed, fight with the enemies of his successor that is the next imam. And as long as it is not reveled, you need to hide this Hādith [issue] and do not say it to anyone except the one who believes in your religion and is with you in this allegiance.”

Unlike its literal meaning, the ʿAbbāsid daʿva was based on a sense of condemnation of the Umayyads. The ʿAbbāsid propaganda against Umayyad rule drew the attention of the members of society toward the transformation of the caliphate. This ʿAbbāsid policy caused the social agents who accompanied the ʿAbbāsid imam to use all their energy toward changing the existing structures. Therefore, the ʿAbbāsids were able to distract the Umayyads’ opponents from following their objectives after overthrowing the Umayyad structure. The ʿAbbāsids tried to understand how to reproduce the existing structures within a veil of ambiguity, and they gradually turned it to their advantage. They refrained from using positive slogans because the dāʿies would have expected a subsequent division of power. For this reason, the ʿAbbāsids pointed out the hatred of Hisham, Bani Marwān, and all the Bani Umayyads at the beginning of their invitation. This hatred included all the Umayyads, both those who, like Āl-e Marwān, were in power, and those who, like Āl-e Moʿāviya , did not have much power. The goal of the ʿAbbāsids was to recruit all the agents and structural resources that opposed the Umayyad Caliphate.

The ʿAbbāsid imam referred to the issue of paying zakāt (alms) to the poor, which is critical in the structural resources of the imamate: “And give zakāt and sadaqa [charity] to that leader who is the imam’s deputy in this city, so that he can give them to the poor believers of this religion in this city.”8 The economic aspects of the imamate’s structural resources equipped the ʿAbbāsid imam with the authority to receive and distribute zakāt and alms. The daʿva and allegiance’s first achievement was to determine the source of zakāt and sadaqa, and the ʿAbbāsid imam was well aware of that. He strengthened his legitimacy among his supporters by using the imamate’s structural resources and donating alms to those who had accepted his daʿva. The Shiʿite imams’ historical experience and charismatic personality gave the ʿAbbāsids a structural resource to gradually gain popularity.

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