Islamic History, part 22: the Caliphate of Harun al-Rashid (786-809)

Islamic History Series It's not my intention to spend a lot of future entries on individual caliphs, because that would take forever and because, from this point on, there aren't a lot of caliphs who warrant that much space. But Harun al-Rashid does. If there's one caliph from the Abbasid period who epitomizes what the … Continue reading Islamic History, part 22: the Caliphate of Harun al-Rashid (786-809)

Islamic History, part 21: The Abbasids take over (750-786)

Islamic History SeriesWell, it's been a while since I had time to put one of these together. Sorry about that. Trying to eke out some freelance work and desperately looking for a regular gig kind of saps your will for big projects, I find.Aside from lacking the time to undertake another chapter of this series, … Continue reading Islamic History, part 21: The Abbasids take over (750-786)

Islamic History, Part 20: the Islamic Opposition and the Abbasid Revolution (705-750), Part II

Islamic History Series before you read this, first read part I As I said earlier, the Umayyads were able to operate on a religious level in their claim on authority primarily because they were the symbolic embodiment of the communal unity that Muhammad had established decades earlier. What it meant to be a "Muslim" still … Continue reading Islamic History, Part 20: the Islamic Opposition and the Abbasid Revolution (705-750), Part II

Islamic History, Part 19: the Islamic Opposition and the Abbasid Revolution (705-750), Part I

Islamic History Series (this got really out of control long, so I split it into two pieces; part II is here) The Arabic word dawlah means "state" in modern parlance, and prior to the rise of the modern nation-state it was often used to describe dynasties. Its root (dawala) is a verb that means "to … Continue reading Islamic History, Part 19: the Islamic Opposition and the Abbasid Revolution (705-750), Part I

AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH: Islam and the American Slave Experience

Hey, I’ve moved! If you enjoy this post you can find more of my writing at Foreign Exchanges, a Substack newsletter covering a variety of topics in history and foreign affairs. Check it out today and become a subscriber! As we approach the end of African-American History Month, I thought it worth discussing the one … Continue reading AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH: Islam and the American Slave Experience

Islamic History, Part 15: the Second Fitna (680-692) and, finally, some stability

Islamic History Series Early Islamic history is a mess. And here I don't mean that the study of early Islamic history is a mess, although it is, as we've already talked about. But even if we just stick to the traditional narrative, we are now approaching a half-century since the death of Muhammad and already … Continue reading Islamic History, Part 15: the Second Fitna (680-692) and, finally, some stability

Islamic History, Part 14: Muʿawiyah’s Caliphate (661-680) and the Onset of Dynastic Rule

Islamic History Series We can actually close off our first mini-period in Islamic history at this point. Isn't that exciting? See, the first four Caliphs--Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali--are collectively known in later Islamic historiography as the Rashidun Caliphs, from the Arabic word rashid, which means "rightly-guided" or "righteous." This is an incredibly loaded … Continue reading Islamic History, Part 14: Muʿawiyah’s Caliphate (661-680) and the Onset of Dynastic Rule