The History of al-Ṭabarī Vol. 37

The ʿAbbāsid Recovery: The War Against the Zanj Ends A.D. 879-893/A.H. 266-279

Translated by Philip M. Fields
Notes by Jacob Lassner

Subjects: Islam
Series: SUNY series in Near Eastern Studies
Paperback : 9780887060533, 216 pages, August 1987
Hardcover : 9780887060540, 216 pages, August 1987

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Table of contents



Translator's Foreword

The Events of the Year 266 (879/880)

Provincial Appointments

The Cause of the Hostilities between Ja`farids and `Alids at al-Madinah

Why the Zanj Journied to Ramhurmuz

The Battle between the Zanj and the Kurds

The Events of the Year 267 (880/881)

The Victory of Abu al-`Abbas and His Activity against the Zanj in This Area

The Strategy of the Zanj

The Battle for Suq al-Khamis

How Abu Ahmad and His Troops Occupied Tahitha and How al-Jubba'i Was Killed

Siege of the Profligate's Camp

The Reason for the Requests of Safe Conduct

The Zanj Attack

The Reason for This Engagement

The Reason Why al-Muwaffaq Crossed over to the Profligate

The Events of the Year 268 (881/882)

The Battle against the Tribesmen

How Bahbudh Was Slain

The Events of the Year 269 (882/883)

Abu Ahmad Enters the Profligate's City

How Abu Ahmad's Troops Plundered the City

How Nusayr Drowned

The Reason for the Battle between Abu Ahmad and the Zanj and What Transpired

The Rebel's Situation and That of His Men When He Transferred from the West

How Abu Ahmad Came to Succeed in the Battle for the Abu Khasib Canal

The Account of This Battle

The Events of the Year 270 (883/884)

The Two Battles

The Profligate Flees

The Death of the Abominable

The Events of the Year 271 (884/885)

Pilgrims from Khurasan at Baghdad

The Battle Between Abu Ahmad and Khumarawayh

The Events of the Year 272 (885/886)

Abu al-`Abbas Ousted from Tarsus

An Escape from the Matbaq Prison

High Prices Cause Riots in Baghdad

The Events of the Year 273 (886/887)

Ibn Abi Dulaf Battles the Saffarid

Ibn Kundaj Routed

The Events of the Year 274 (887/888)

Abu Ahmad Goes to Kirman

The Events of the Year 275 (888/889)

A Military Force is Sent to Samarra

The Brigand al-`Abdi at Samarra

Abu Ahmad Imprisons al-Ta'i

The Events of the Year 276 (889/890)

'Amr b. al-Layth Encharged with Baghdad's Security

A Burial Place Discovered

The Events of the Year 277 (890/891)

Yazaman Calls for Allegiance to Khumarawayh

Fighting in Baghdad

An Appointment to the Court of Appeals (mazalim)

The Events of the Year 278 (891/892)

A Three-Sided Battle

Abu Ahmad Returns from al-Jabal

The Origins of the Qarmatians

The Events of the Year 279 (892/893)

Controversial Books Banned

Al-Mufawwad Stripped of His Right to Rule

Battle between Muhammad b. Musa and Maknun in Tarsus

Bibliography of Cited Works



This volume of Ṭabarī's annals deals almost exclusively with the final stages of the Zanj revolt, the most serious external challenge faced by the central authorities in the last half of the third/ninth century. The rebellion, which began as an 'Alid uprising, but soon gave way to Khārijite influences, was a movement that attracted the disenfranchised elements of society in lower Iraq. Their battle against the tested armies of the Caliphate continued over three decades. And while the Zanj were never able to translate their localized successes into any decisive victory, they caused widespread chaos and great concern for those who had a vested interest in political and economic stability.

In many respects, the Zanj resemble modern revolutionary movements that live off the countryside, and harass the authorities. They emerged occasionally for conventional battles, but, more often than not they resorted to unconventional warfare, taking advantage of the extremely difficult terrain in the marshy areas of the region that gave rise to them. To defeat them, the government armies had to improvise new tactics and a strategy based on the lessons of early defeats.