Skip to main content

The Sufyānī in Early Islamic Kerygma: An Enquiry into His Origins and Early Development*


The present study aims to contribute to the quest for the origins of belief in the eschatological figure of the Sufyānī, a matter of hot debate since the late nineteenth century. To this end, three different bodies of evidence are produced and analysed: reports indicating that the Sufyānī was, indeed, thought of as a redemptive personality in some Syrian quarters, traditions on him in the Muslim endtimes literature that contain an ex eventu pronouncement, and reports concerning the propaganda activities of the first Sufyānī claimant, Abū Muḥammad Ziyād ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Yazīd “al-Sufyānī”, in the historical record. Making use of hitherto unavailable sources and looking afresh at the previously studied sources, it is argued that the myth of the Sufyānī emerged during the counterrevolutionary revolt of Abū Muḥammad al-Sufyānī in 132 ah, with vague residues of it traceable to his earlier military activities, against the Umayyad caliph Yazīd III, in 126 ah.

Hide All

I am most grateful to Sean Anthony (Ohio State University), Mushegh Asatryan (University of Calgary), Ahab Bdaiwi (Universiteit Leiden), and Christopher Melchert (University of Oxford) for their exacting comments on various drafts of this paper. It need not be stressed that all the remaining shortcomings and infelicities are solely to blame on me.

Hide All

1 On the association between this region and the Sufyānī, see Cook David, Studies in Muslim Apocalyptic (Princeton, 2002), p. 124 ; and Aguadé Jordi, “La figura escatológica del Sufyānī en el Kitab al-Fitan de Ibn Ḥammād”, in Khoury R. G., Monferrer-Sala J. P., and Viguera Molins M. J. (eds), Legendaria medievalia: En honor de Concepción Castillo Castillo (Córdoba, 2011), pp. 351376 , at pp. 367-368. The only objective information we have about Wādī al-Yābis is that “it is a locality in Syria, so called after a man” (mawḍiʿun bi-l-Shām mansūbun ilā rajulin); al-Athīr Ibn, al-Lubāb fī tahdhīb al-ansāb (Beirut, 1414/1994), iii, p. 404 , s.v. “al-Yābisī”. That Ibn Thaqāla deliberately attempted to enact the prophecies about the Sufyānī has been noted by Cook David, “Early Islamic and Classical Sunni and Shi‘ite Apocalyptic Movements”, in Wessinger C. (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Millennialism (Oxford, 2011), pp. 267283 , at p. 276.

2 The affair has been recorded by two contemporary historians, al-ʿAsqalānī Ibn Ḥajar, Inbāʾ al-ghumr bi-abnāʾ al-ʿumr, (ed.) Ḥabashī Ḥasan (Cairo, 1389/1969), iii, pp. 910 ; and al-Dīn al-Maqrīzī Taqī, al-Sulūk li-maʿrifat duwal al-mulūk, (ed.) al-Qādir ʿAṭā Muḥammad ʿAbd (Beirut, 1418/1997), pp. vi, p. 351 (who has Ṣafad instead of Ṣarkhad); as well as by al-Dīn al-Sakhāwī Shams, al-Ḍawʾ al-lāmiʿ li-ahl al-qarn al-tāsiʿ (Beirut, 1412/1992), v, pp. 125126 ; and al-Ḥanbalī Ibn ʿImād, Shadharāt al-dhahab fī akhbār man dhahab, (ed.) al-Arnāʾūṭ ʿAbd al-Qādir and al-Arnāʾūṭ Maḥmūd (Beirut and Damascus, 1408/1988), ix, p. 171 . Cook, “Early Islamic Apocalyptic Movements”, p. 276, mistakenly states that Ibn Thaqāla was put to death by Mamlūk authorities, but this is not the case.

3 For a summary of his feats and fate, see Cook, Studies, pp. 122-136.

4 Lammens, “Le ‘Sofiânî’: héros national des Arabes syriens”, Bulletin de l'Institut français d'archéologie orientale 21 (1923), pp. 131144 ; Wellhausen, Das arabische Reich und sein Sturz (Berlin, 1902), p. 346 (translated by Weir Margaret G., The Arab Kingdom and Its Fall [Calcutta, 1927], pp. 555556). Their position has recently been reaffirmed by Borrut Antoine, Entre mémoire et pouvoir: l'espace syrien sous les derniers Omeyyades et les premiers Abbassides (v. 72-193/692-809) (Leiden, 2011), pp. 133 , 182-183.

5 Hartmann, “Der Sufyānī”, in Studia Orientalia Ioanni Pedersen Septuagenario (Copenhagen, 1953), pp. 141151 (Hartmann fails to cite Nöldeke, though); “Der Mahdi” Hurgronje, in idem, Verspreide Geschriften (Bonn, 1923), i, pp. 147181 , at p. 155, fn. 3 (originally published in Revue coloniale internationale 1 [1886], pp. 25-59); Nöldeke, “Zur Geschichte der Omaijaden”, ZDMG 55 (1901), pp. 683-691, at p. 689 and p. 691, fn. 1. This view is also shared by van Vloten Gerlof, Recherches sur la domination arabe, le chiitisme et les croyances messianiques sous le khalifat des Omayades (Amsterdam, 1894), p. 61 (translated by Bayḍūn Ibrāhīm, al-Sayṭara al-ʿarabiyya wa-l-tashayyuʿ wa-l-muʿtaqadāt al-mahdiyya fī ẓill khilāfat banī Umayya [Beirut, 1996], p. 107).

6 Lammens, “Le Sofiânî”, pp. 140-141.

7 Hartmann, “Der Sufyānī”, pp. 148-149.

8 This passage will be investigated in due course.

9 This tradition has been treated in Madelung, “ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Zubayr and the Mahdi”, JNES 40 (1981), pp. 291-305; its relationship with the legend of the Sufyānī has been explored in idem, “The Sufyānī between Tradition and History”, Studia Islamica 63 (1986), pp. 5-48, at pp. 9-10; and idem, “Sufyānī”, EI2 . It must, however, be emphasised that whereas Madelung thinks that only the first half of the tradition is historical and the second part reflects Zubayrid attempts at “whipping up support” for their cause by inventing fantasies about a future clash with the supporters of one of Yazīd's descendants, the tradition appears to be entirely historical, as I have argued elsewhere. See my “ʿAbd Allāh ibn al-Zubayr and the Mahdī: Between Propaganda and Historical Memory in the Second Civil War”, forthcoming in BSOAS 80 (2017).

10 Madelung, “The Sufyānī”, p. 47. He has recently found a follower in Cobb Paul M, White Banners: Contention in ʿAbbāsid Syria, 750-880 (Albany, 2001), pp. 47, 55 ; and, apparently, also in Roggema Barbara, The Legend of Sergius Baḥīrā: Eastern Christian Apologetics and Apocalyptic in Response to Islam (Leiden, 2009), pp. 7275 .

11 Thus he declares al-Walīd ibn Muslim responsible for a tradition, as he was, “not an entirely reliable transmitter”, whilst, “the other two transmitters are. . . both considered reliable”; “The Sufyānī”, p. 15, fn. 37. Or, “it is unlikely that” Muʿāwiya ibn Saʿīd, who is likewise lauded as “reliable”, “is responsible for the tradition”; ibid., p. 20. Some of his datings have already been questioned by Elad Amikam, “The Struggle for the Legitimacy of Authority as Reflected in the ḥadīth of al-Mahdī”, in Nawas J. (ed.), Abbasid Studies II: Occasional Papers of the School of ‘Abbasid Studies, Leuven, 28 June-1 July 2004 (Leuven, 2010), pp. 3996 , at pp. 47-48.

12 Madelung, “The Sufyānī”, p. 9.

13 Idem, “Mahdī”, EI2 , lays down the case.

14 Idem, “The Sufyānī”, pp. 47-48.

15 Nagel, Rechtleitung und Kalifat: Versuch über eine Grundfrage der islamischen Geschichte (Bonn, 1975), pp. 253-257, especially p. 257, fn. 1. The more recent studies by Cook (Studies, pp. 122-136) and Aguadé (“La figura escatológica”) are of a descriptive nature and do not touch upon the issue of the emergence of the myth. The latter confines himself to simply stating, rather generally and without specifying any timeframe, “la transformación del personaje en una especie de Anticristo no es el resultado de especulaciones tardías sino que es contemporáneo a la aparición de expectativas mesiánicas en torno a esta figura” (Ibid., p. 375).

16 For their role and function, see Collins John J., “Pseudonymity, Historical Reviews and the Genre of the Apocalypse of John”, Catholic Biblical Quarterly 39 (1977), pp. 329343 ; Rowland Christopher, The Open Heaven: A Study of Apocalyptic in Judaism and Early Christianity (London, 1982), pp. 136155 ; and DiTommaso Lorenzo, “Pseudonymity and the Revelation of John”, in Ashton J. (ed.), Revealed Wisdom: Studies in Apocalyptic in Honour of Christopher Rowland (Leiden, 2014), pp. 305315 .

17 The methods for treating apocalyptic material have been set out by Alexander Paul J. in his classic article, “Medieval Apocalypses as Historical Sources”, The American Historical Review 73 (1968), pp. 9971018 ; cf. also Rowland's even more nuanced methodology as spelt out in his The Open Heaven, pp. 248-267. For the Muslim endtimes literature, see Cook Michael, “Eschatology and the Dating of Traditions”, Princeton Papers in Near Eastern Studies 1 (1992), pp. 2347 .

18 Rowland, The Open Heaven, pp. 250-251. A particularly illustrative example of how to best treat this sort of material is to be found in Neujahr Matthew, “When Darius Defeated Alexander: Composition and Redaction in the Dynastic Prophecy”, JNES 64 (2005), pp. 101107 .

19 Particularly forthcoming in the present context is the latter. Form criticism, as developed by scholars of the Bible, involves a) identification of the literary form of the passage under investigation; b) situation of the passage in its Sitz im Leben; and c) reaching for the passage's earliest, oral components. However, for reasons that will become clear in the course of this study, I break with traditional from-critics by not taking it as a priori that the shorter, less elaborate versions of a narrative are necessarily earlier than the more coherent ones. I owe my understanding of form criticism to Sweeney Marvin A., “Form Criticism: The Question of the Endangered Matriarchs in Genesis”, in LeMon J. M. and Richards K. H. (eds), Method Matters: Essays on the Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Honor of David L. Petersen (Atlanta, 2009), pp. 1738 . Several scholars have recently attempted to apply the method to the Qurʾān, amongst them Shoemaker Stephen J., The Death of a Prophet: The End of Muhammad's Life and the Beginnings of Islam (Philadelphia, 2012); Witztum Joseph, “Variant Traditions, Relative Chronology, and the Study of Intra-Quranic Parallels”, in Sadeghi B. et al (eds), Islamic Cultures, Islamic Contexts: Essays in Honor of Professor Patricia Crone (Leiden, 2015), pp. 150 , without actually elaborating on the method(s) used and with mixed results; and Stewart Devin J., “Wansbrough, Bultmann, and the Theory of Variant Traditions in the Qurʾān”, in Neuwirth A. and Sells M. A. (eds), Qurʾānic Studies Today (London, 2016), pp. 1751 , which is in fact a reassessment of John Wansbrough's form-critical analysis of several quranic narratives.

20 In the first two accounts he remains anonymous.

21 al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh al-rusul wa-l-mulūk, (ed.) Abū al-Faḍl Ibrāhīm Muḥammad (Cairo, 1387/1967), viii, p. 652 ; Ibn Abī Ṭāhir, Kitāb Baghdād, (ed.) al-Ḥasan al-Kawtharī Muḥammad Zāhid ibn (Cairo, 1368/1949), pp. 144145 (in somewhat garbled, but still intelligible, terms); cf. Ibn ʿAsākir, Taʾrīkh madīnat Dimashq, (ed.) al-Dīn al-ʿAmrawī Muḥibb (Beirut, 1417/1996), lxviii, pp. 3435 .

22 Cobb, White Banners, p. 6.

23 Ibn Abī Ṭāhir's Kitāb Baghdād, of which only a fragment is extant, originally ended with the reign of al-Muhtadī (d. 256 ah) and must have been composed around the same time; Franz Rosenthal, “Ibn Abī Ṭāhir Ṭayfūr”, EI2 .

24 al-Zubayrī Muṣʿab, Nasab Quraysh, (ed.) Lévi-Provençal É. (Cairo, 1953), p. 129 .

25 al-Faraj Abū, Kitāb al-Aghānī, (ed.) ʿAbbās Iḥsān, al-Saʿāfīn Ibrāhīm, and ʿAbbās Bakr (Beirut, 1423/2002), xvii, pp. 245246.

26 innamā waḍaʿahu Khālid ibn Yazīd ibn Muʿāwiya ibn Ṣakhr. . . mimmā ḥakamahu ʿalā ʿAbd al-Malik [read: mimmā ḥakama ʿalayhi ʿAbd al-Malik] ibn Marwān li-kay lā yanqatiʿa rijāl ahl al-Shām min dhikr āl abī Sufyān. He does not cite his reference, but is apparently reliant on Muṣʿab; al-Jubbāʾī, Kitāb al-Maqālāt, MS Library of the mosque of Shahāra (Yemen), fol. 168a (my thanks to Sean Anthony for bringing this text to my attention). For a profile of the author, along with a description of the manuscript and its contents, see Hassan Ansari, “Abū ʿAlī al-Jubbāʾī et son livre al-Maqālāt”, in Adang C., Schmidtke S., and Sklare D. E. (eds), A Common Rationality: Muʿtazilism in Islam and Judaism (Würzburg, 2007), pp. 2137 . A critical edition of the tractate is being prepared by Hassan Ansari and Wilferd Madelung.

27 al-Masʿūdī, al-Tanbīh wa-l-ishrāf, (ed.) al-Ṣāwī ʿAbd Allāh Ismāʿīl (Cairo, 1357/1938), pp. 291292 ; cited by Lammens, “Le Sofiânî”, p. 143.

28 In the words of Paul Cobb, the existence of such a book, “implies a preexisting corpus of pro-Umayyad literary material”; Cobb, White Banners, p. 170, fn. 49. But note that his identification of the book as an “Andalusī” composition is a misunderstanding, presumably stemming from the reference to Andalus in al-Masʿūdī’s quotations therefrom; cf. Borrut Antoine, “Vanishing Syria: Periodization and Power in Early Islam”, Der Islam 91 (2014), pp. 3768, at p. 51.

29 al-Ghazālī , Faḍāʾiḥ al-bāṭiniyya [wa-faḍāʾil al-mustaẓhariyya], (ed.) ʿAlī al-Quṭb Muḥammad (Beirut, 1422/2001), p. 71; cited by Lammens, “Le Sofiânî”, p. 139. Actually, eight people are enumerated here.

30 Hartmann, “Der Sufyānī”, p. 149, fn. 27.

31 Ibn ʿAsākir, Taʾrīkh, xliii, p. 31 (quoted in Madelung Wilferd, “Abū ’l-ʿAmayṭar the Sufyānī”, JSAI 24 [2000], pp. 327342 , at p. 332); also recounted by al-ʿAdīm Ibn, Bughyat al-ṭalab fī taʾrīkh al-Ḥalab, (ed.) Zakkār Suhayl (Beirut, 1988/1408), iii, p. 1495.

32 Wilferd Madelung, “Ḳāʾim āl Muḥammad”, EI2 .

33 Ibn ʿAsākir, Taʾrīkh, xliii, p. 31.

34 Reading saddan instead of al-sadd.

35 Ibn ʿAsākir, Taʾrīkh, xxxiii, p. 437.

36 Ibid ., lxviii, pp. 219-220.

37 Himmelfarb Martha, “‘Az mi-lifnei vereishit’: The Suffering Messiah in the Seventh Century”, in Franklin A. E. et al (eds), Jews, Christians and Muslims in Medieval and Early Modern Times: A Festschrift in Honor of Mark R. Cohen (Leiden, 2014), pp. 369384 , at pp. 377-378 (I am grateful to Sean Anthony for reminding me of this fact).

38 Abū Muḥammad al-Sufyānī in 132 ah (see infra). Abū Muḥammad's nephew, al-ʿAbbās ibn Muḥammad al-Sufyānī, in 133 ah; Ibn al-ʿAdīm, Zubdat al-ḥalab min taʾrīkh Ḥalab, (ed.) al-Manṣūr Khalīl (Beirut, 1417/1996), pp. 3233 ; Cobb, White Banners, pp. 48-49. Al-Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, (ed.) Suhayl Zakkār and Riyāḍ Ziriklī (Beirut, 1417/1996), iv, p. 223, seems to be aware of the nephew's rebellion when he reports on the confusion between him and the uncle. Abū al-ʿAmayṭar al-Sufyānī in 195 ah (see further infra). Abū Ḥarb al-Mubarqaʿ in 227 ah, who apparently claimed to be both the Yamānī (a minor apocalyptic figure) and the Sufyānī and called to al-amr bi-l-maʿrūf wa-l-nahy ʿan al-munkar; al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, ix, pp. 116-118; see also Cobb, White Banners, pp. 116-118; and Eisenstein Herbert, “Die Erhebung des Mubarqaʿ in Palästina”, Orientalia 55 (1986), pp. 454458 . An unnamed person in 294 ah, said to suffer from mental illness; al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, x, p. 135. Another one, equally unnamed, in 385 ah; Maqrīzī al, Ittiʿāẓ al-ḥunafāʾ bi-akhbār al-aʾimma al-Fāṭimiyyīn al-khulafā ʾ, (ed.) al-Dīn al-Shayyāl Jamāl (Cairo, 1416/1996), i, p. 287 . Ibn Thaqāla (discussed above) in 816 ah. Yet another anonymous one in 848 ah; al-Sakhāwī, al-Ḍawʾ al-lāmiʿ, vii, p. 70.

39 The definitive study on the Bar Kokhba rebellion is now Mor Menahem, The Second Jewish Revolt: The Bar Kokhba War, 132-136 ce (Leiden, 2016); a possible cause has been succinctly put forward in Goodman Martin, “Trajan and the Origins of the Bar Kokhba War”, in Schäfer P. (ed.) The Bar Kokhba War Reconsidered: New Perspectives on the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome (Tübingen, 2003), pp. 2329 . On Abū ʿĪsā, see Anthony Sean W.’s lapidary investigation, “Who Was the Shepherd of Damascus? The Enigma of Jewish and Messianist Responses to the Islamic Conquests in Marwānid Syria and Mesopotamia”, in Cobb P. M. (ed.), The Lineaments of Islam: Studies in Honor of Fred McGraw Donner (Leiden, 2012), pp. 2159 . On the Mahdist movement, see Searcy Kim, The Formation of the Mahdist State: Ceremony and Symbols of Authority: 1882-1898 (Leiden, 2011). The issue of messianic rebellions among conquered peoples, with reference to the post-conquest Iranian experience, has recently received a masterful treatment in Crone Patricia’s magisterial tome, The Nativist Prophets of Early Islamic Iran: Rural Revolt and Local Zoroastrianism (Cambridge, 2012).

40 The relationship between messianism and egalitarianism has been explored in Cohn Norman, The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages (Oxford, 1970); and Adas Michael, Prophets of Rebellion: Millenarian Protest Movements against the European Colonial Order (Chapel Hill, 1979); see also Crone, Nativist Prophets, pp. 162-177.

41 Nuʿaym, Kitāb al-Fitan, (ed.) al-Zuhayrī Samīr ibn Amīn (Cairo, 1412/1991), p. 202 (unless otherwise specified, all references to Nuʿaym will be to this edition).

42 Ibn ʿAsākir, who quotes a mutilated version of this tradition, further identifies this Abū ʿAbd Allāh as Nāfiʿ, a mawlā of the Umayyads, but this is incorrect. His actual name is Nāṣiḥ, known for having transmitted ḥadīth from al-Walīd ibn Hishām and also as one of al-Walīd ibn Muslim's authorities; Ibn ʿAsākir, Taʾrīkh, lxi, pp. 385-386.

43 The reading of the isnād in the Zakkār edition (Beirut, 1414/1993), pp. 115-116, which is based on the same manuscript, is problematic, evidently because of a haplographic error on the part of the editor. Ibn ʿAsākir, Taʾrīkh, vi, p. 161, gives the correct isnād too.

44 al Balādhurī, Ansāb, iv, p. 223.

45 ibn Khayyāṭ Khalīfa, Taʾrīkh, (ed.) al-ʿUmarī Akram Ḍiyāʾ (Riyadh, 1405/1985), pp. 319 , 323, 324; Ibn ʿAsākir, Taʾrīkh, lxiii, pp. 309-317. Madelung's extrapolation (“The Sufyānī”, p. 16, fn. 38), based on a quotation of Ibn ʿAsākir’s text in Ḥajar's Ibn Tahdhīb al-tahdhīb, (ed.) al-Zaybaq Ibrāhīm and Murshid ʿĀdil (Beirut, 1416/1995), iv, p. 327 , that he died during Marwān II's caliphate is, of course, reading too much into Ibn ʿAsākir's statement.

46 Ibid ., lxxiv, p. 202; al-Mizzī , Tahdhīb al-kamāl fī asmāʾ al-rijāl, (ed.) ʿAwwād Maʿrūf Bashshār (Beirut, 1400/1980), xxxii, p. 405.

47 Provided, of course, that the tradition's isnād has not been tampered with after its fabrication – which seems plausible in this case, as otherwise there would be just too many coincidences. Al-Walīd ibn Muslim (119-194 ah), a mawlā of the Umayyads and one of Nuʿaym's principal authorities, was a mere adolescent at the time of the ʿAbbāsid revolution, and thus cannot be a candidate. On him, see Ibn ʿAsākir, Taʾrīkh, lxiii, pp. 274-295.

48 The text has Ḥusayn here, but Ḥasan elsewhere; I have followed Madelung, “The Sufyānī”, p. 17, fn. 46, in opting for the latter variant; cf. Elad, “The Struggle for Legitimacy”, pp. 44-45.

49 A word seems to be missing here.

50 Thus in the Zakkār edition, p. 426; Baniyya in the Zuhayrī edition. Bathaniyya is a locality near Damascus; al-Ḥamawī Yāqūt, Muʿjam al-buldān (Beirut, 1397/1977), i, p. 338 .

51 For no clear reason, Madelung, “The Sufyānī”, p. 18, takes this to mean that the people of Ḥimṣ will be on the side of the easterners. The text, of course, does not warrant this reading.

52 Presumably all of the people of the east.

53 The text has ʾLBDYN. Al-Badiyya is a stream between Salamya and Aleppo and two days journey from the latter, according to Yāqūt, Muʿjam, i, p. 360. Abū ʿUbayd al-Bakrī al-Andalusī knows of it as somewhere on the route connecting Aleppo to al-Raqqa and outside Salamya; Muʿjam mā istaʿjam min asmāʾ al-bilād wa-l-mawāḍiʿ, (ed.) Muṣṭafā al-Saqqā (Beirut, 1403/1983), i, p. 234; ii, p. 629.

54 This is only recorded in the shorter version.

55 Seventy thousand in the shorter version.

56 Nuʿaym, Fitan, pp. 699-701; with a shorter version in ibid., p. 301.

57 Or variously said to have still been on the banks of the Abū Fuṭrus. According to this version, it was the news of Abū Muḥammad al-Sufyānī’s rebellion that prompted him to massacre all the captured members of the Umayyad family. This divergent report has the uprising of Ḥabīb ibn Murra follow that of Abū Muḥammad – presumably in spontaneous unison with it.

58 According to Dionysius of Tel-Maḥrē, it was Ḥabīb ibn Murra himself who captured Damascus and expelled the ʿAbbāsids. Dionysius’ account is preserved in the anonymous Chronicon Anonymum ad Annum Christi 1234, (ed.) I. B. Chabot (Paris, 1920), vol. i, p. 333 (translation in Hoyland Robert G., Theophilus of Edessa’ Chronicle and the Circulation of Historical Knowledge in Late Antiquity and Early Islam [Liverpool, 2011], p. 287).

59 The presence of the yamaniyya in this particular incident is recorded by Ibn al-ʿAdīm, Bughyat al-ṭalab, ix, p. 3930 (quoting al-Haytham ibn ʿAdī). The role of the Yemeni faction in the revolution has been explored in Moshe Sharon, Black Banners from the East, ii: Revolt: The Social and Military Aspects of the ʿAbbāsid Revolution (Jerusalem, 1990), who perhaps overstates the case; see also Cobb, White Banners, pp. 74-75.

60 al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, vii, pp. 443-446; al-Balādhurī, Ansāb, iv, pp. 223-224; al-Marʿashī al-Thaʿālibī Abū Manṣūr al-Ḥusayn ibn Muḥammad, Ghurar al-siyar, (ed.) Zakkār Suhayl (Beirut, 1417/1996), pp. 302303 ; Ibn ʿAsākir, Taʾrīkh, xii, pp. 61-62; lvii, pp. 46-48; Ibn al-ʿAdīm, Bughyat al-ṭalab, ix, pp. 3927-3932; Cobb, White Banners, pp. 46-51, pp. 75-78.

61 Salamya was indeed one of its districts and one day's march to its east; al-Fidāʾ Abū, Taqwīm al-buldān, (ed.) Reinaud M. and de Slane M. Mac Guckin (Paris, 1840), p. 236, p. 264.

62 Apud the anonymous Chronicon ad Annum 1234, vol. i, p. 333 (translation in Hoyland, Theophilus, p. 287). Chabot and Hoyland render it as ḥarmā (“forbidden” or “accursed” in Syriac), and the former accordingly translates it as Pratum execrandum (Chronicon ad Annum 1234, vol. iii [Paris, 1937], p. 260); but in the light of the explanation propounded above this seems unlikely.

63 shakhaṣa. . . ilā Ḥimṣ wa-nazala fī marjin sharqīhā; Agapius, Kitāb al-ʿUnwān, (ed.) Alexandre Vasiliev, in Patrologia Orientalis 5 (1909), p. 270.

64 Ibn al-ʿAdīm, Bughyat al-ṭalab, ix, p. 3927.

65 Ibid ., p. 3930.

66 al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, vii, p. 445.

67 al-Balādhurī, Ansāb, iv, p. 224.

68 Two modern Arab writers, Kurd ʿAlī Muḥammad, Khiṭaṭ al-Shām (Damascus, 1403/1983), i, p. 148 ; and al-Khūrī ʿĪsā Asʿad Munīr, Taʾrīkh Ḥimṣ, vol. ii: min ẓuhūr al-Islām ḥattā yawminā, 622-1977 (Ḥimṣ, 1984), pp. 129130 , also locate Marj al-Akhram near Salamya, but without citing any source.

69 Madelung, “ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Zubayr”, pp. 294-297; Shaddel, “ʿAbd Allāh ibn al-Zubayr”, especially Appendix II.

70 Nagel, Rechtleitung und Kalifat, pp. 254-255.

71 See on him al-Dhahabī, Siyar aʿlām al-nubalāʾ, (ed.) Shuʿayb Arnāʾūṭ and Muḥammad Nuʿaym al-ʿIrqsūsī (Beirut, 1417/1996), x, pp. 223-225. Note that the complete version begins only with the phrase wa-qāla bn ʿAyyāsh, which here presumably should be understood as “Ibn ʿAyyāsh continued”, since its previous tradition is related with two different asānīd, the second being Abū al-Mughīra < Ibn ʿAyyāsh.

72 See Ibn ʿAsākir, Taʾrīkh, ix, pp. 35-50.

73 al-Dhahabī, Siyar, vii, pp. 64-65.

74 Nuʿaym, Fitan, p. 282.

75 Madelung, “The Sufyānī”, p. 19. Probably because he considers Ibn Abī Maryam a “weak” traditionist, whilst Abū al-Mughīra is regarded as “highly reliable”; Ibid., p. 16.

76 Fitan, p. 280. On Baqiyya, see Ibn ʿAsākir, Taʾrīkh, x, pp. 328-354.

77 See infra, Section III.

78 al-Dānī, al-Sunan al-wārida fī al-fitan wa-ghawāʾilihā wa-l-sāʿa wa-ashrāṭihā, (ed.) al-Mubārakfūrī Riḍāʾ Allāh (Riyadh, 1416/1995), pp. 978979.

79 Discounting the abortive coup d’état of ʿAmr ibn Saʿīd al-Ashdaq against ʿAbd al-Malik in 69 AH, on which see Dixon ‘Abd al-Ameer ‘Abd, The Umayyad Caliphate 65-86/684-705: A Political Study (London, 1971), pp. 124128 .

80 Notable studies on the Third Civil War include Wellhausen, Das arabische Reich, pp. 218-247 (The Arab Kingdom, 350-396); Shaban M. A., Islamic History, A.D. 600-750 (ah 132): A New Interpretation (Cambridge, 1971), pp. 153164; Steven C. Judd, The Third Fitna: Orthodoxy, Heresy and Coercion in Late Umayyad History (unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Michigan, 1997); idem, “Narratives and Character Development: al-Ṭabarī and al-Balādhurī on Late Umayyad History”, in S. Günther (ed.), Ideas, Images, and Methods of Portrayal: Insights into Classical Arabic Literature and Islam (Leiden, 2005), pp. 209-226; idem, “Reinterpreting al-Walīd ibn Yazīd”, JAOS 128 (2008), pp. 439-458; Hawting Gerald R., The First Dynasty of Islam: The Umayyad Caliphate, AD 661-750 (London, 2000), pp. 90103 ; a succinct review could be found in Cobb, White Banners, pp. 71-75; and Kennedy Hugh, The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates: The Islamic Near East from the Sixth to the Eleventh Century (Harlow, 2004), pp. 112115 ; the role of the religious factor in the civil war has been explored in van Ess Josef, “Les Qadarites et la Ġailānīya de Yazīd III”, Studia Islamica 31 (1970), pp. 269286.

81 Ibn ʿAsākir, Taʾrīkh lvii, p. 330. I owe this intriguing reading to Sean Anthony. A less appealing reading, apparently also adopted by the text's editor, is innā li-llāh; inna[humā] kānā ḥamalayn al-ladhayn. . . . In any case, this is of no consequence for our purpose.

82 Khalīfa, Taʾrīkh, p. 374. This comes after an initial statement that the boys were “the two lambs”; Ibid., p. 373; Ibn ʿAsākir, Taʾrīkh, p. 329.

83 Nuʿaym, Fitan, p. 194, p. 695; note also another reference to the killing of “the two lambs of the Quraysh” in Ibid., p. 195.

84 Qutayba Ibn, al-Maʿārif, (ed.) ʿUkāsha Tharwat (Cairo, 1388/1969), p. 366 . An apocalypse attributed to the Old-Testament prophet Nathan (Nāthā) in Nuʿaym, Fitan, p. 707, calls al-Walīd II “the father [lit., ‘owner’] of two cubs” (dhū al-jarwayn).

85 al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, vii, pp. 316-321; Laura Veccia Vaglieri, “al-Ḍaḥḥāk b. Ḳays al-Shaybānī” EI2 .

86 The association is too well-known and has even become the title of a famous book on the ʿAbbāsid revolution, Sharon Moshe’s Black Banners from the East: The Establishment of the ʿAbbāsid State: Incubation of a Revolt (Jerusalem, 1983).

87 al-Maqdisī, al-Badʾ wa-l-taʾrīkh, (Port Said, n.d.), vi, p. 51; al-Dīnawarī, al-Akhbār al-ṭiwāl, (ed.) al-Rāfiʿī Muḥammad Saʿīd (Cairo, 1330/1912), p. 332 .

88 On him, see Ibn ʿAsākir, Taʾrīkh, vii, pp. 246-252; for his nickname, see al-Balādhurī, Ansāb, ix, p. 199; Khalīfa, Taʾrīkh, p. 374; al-Azdī, Taʾrīkh al-Mawṣil, (ed.) Ḥabība ʿAlī (Cairo, 1387/1967), p. 131 ; Taʾrīkh-i Sīstān, (ed.) Muḥammad-Taqī Bahār (Tehran, 1381/2002), p. 154.

89 al-Munādī Ibn (d. 336 AH), Kitāb al-Malāḥim, (ed.) al-ʿUqaylī ʿAbd al-Karīm (Qumm, 1418/1997), 309.

90 al-Nuʿmānī, Kitāb al-Ghayba, (ed.) al-Ghaffārī ʿAlī-Akbar (Tehran, 1397/1977), pp. 268269 . Here we have a caliph who, “will be killed and will have no one to intercede for him in the heavens, nor anyone to help him on earth” (mā lahu fī al-samāʾ ʿādhirun wa-mā fī al-arḍ nāṣirun), a reference to al-Walīd II's reputedly sinful lifestyle and his isolation; another caliph, “who will be deposed while he walks on earth without exercising authority over any part of it” (the text reads: yukhlaʿu khalīfatun ḥattā yamshiya ʿalā wajh al-arḍ laysa lahu min al-arḍ shayʿun, but it has to be emended to yukhlaʿu khalīfatun yamshī. . .), an allusion to Ibrāhīm's virtually non-existent hold over the realm; succeeded by a caliph who is, “the son of a slave concubine” (ibn al-sabiyya) – Marwān II. This episode culminates in, “the return of the rule to those entrusted with prophethood” (ahl al-nubuwwa; that is to say, the prophet's family) – a confirmatory reference to the ʿAbbāsid revolution.

91 For these identifications, see my “ʿAbd Allāh ibn al-Zubayr and the Mahdī”.

92 First attested in ibn Sulaymān Muqātil (d. 150 or 158 ah), Tafsīr, (ed.) Maḥmūd Shiḥāta ʿAbd Allāh (Beirut, 1423/2002), iii, p. 539 . It then entered the received version of the account of the Sufyānī’s expedition against the Ḥijāz; Cook, Studies, pp. 129-132. On Muqātil, see Crone Patricia, “A Note on Muqātil b. Ḥayyān and Muqātil b. Sulaymān”, Der Islam 74 (1997), pp. 238249.

93 Sadly enough, the tradition's tradents are all obscure people.

94 For these battles, see Cook, Studies, pp. 49-54.

95 This part has only been recorded by al-Ṭūsī, al-Majlisī (who appears to rely on al-Ṭūsī’s text), and, in a heavily abridged version, by Nuʿaym, Fitan, p. 222. It is evidently a later insertion.

96 Only recorded in Nuʿaym, Fitan, p. 222.

97 Thus in al-Sulamī’s version, tatruku in al-Dānī’s text; badw al-Turk bi-l-Jazīra in the shorter variant reported by Nuʿaym, Fitan, p. 222.

98 al-Dānī, Fitan, pp. 936-937; al-Sulamī, ʿIqd al-durar fī akhbār al-muntaẓar, (ed.) Muhayb al-Būrīnī (al-Zarqāʾ, 1410/1989), p. 116 (quoting al-Dānī); al-Ṭūsī, Kitāb al-Ghayba, (ed.) al-Ṭihrānī ʿIbād Allāh and Nāṣiḥ ʿAlī Aḥmad (Qumm, 1417/1996), p. 463 ; al-Majlisī Muḥammad-Bāqir, Biḥār al-anwār, (ed.) Bāqir Maḥmūdī Muḥammad et al. (Beirut, 1403/1983), lii, p. 208 .

99 The military history of this period has been treated extensively in Blankinship Khalid Yahya, The End of the Jihād State: The Reign of Hishām ibn ʿAbd al-Malik and the Collapse of the Umayyads (Albany, 1994); a vivid, briefer description is to be found in Hoyland Robert G., In God's Path: The Arab Conquests and the Creation of an Islamic Empire (Oxford, 2015), pp. 178195.

100 Francesco Gabrieli, “Hishām”, EI2 ; see also al-Jāḥiẓ, Kitāb al-Bukhalāʾ (Book of the Misers), (ed.) al-Sātir ʿAbbās ʿAbd (Beirut, 1419/1998), p. 34 (for his avarice) and p. 198 (for his meanness).

101 Recorded, inter alios, by Theophilus’ dependants; see Hoyland, Theophilus, p. 230.

102 These internal problems have been reviewed in Brubaker Leslie’s and Haldon John’s definitive tome, Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era, c. 680-850: A History (Cambridge, 2011), pp. 156167.

103 Nuʿaym, Fitan, pp. 220, 285. In Ibid., p. 288, this becomes yasquṭu jānib masjidihā al-gharbī. These versions are shorter and with a different isnād, but are unmistakably the same tradition.

104 Also noted by Hawting, The First Dynasty, p. 93. A discussion of the messianic significance of riding on ass can be found in Bashear Suliman, “Riding Beasts on Divine Missions: An Examination of the Ass and Camel Traditions”, JSS 37 (1991), pp. 3775; Reeves John C., Trajectories in Near Eastern Apocalyptic: A Post-rabbinic Jewish Apocalypse Reader (Leiden, 2006), pp. 712 . ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb is also said to have entered Jerusalem, upon the city's capitulation, riding an ass.

105 On the numerological significance of the number seven, see Conrad Lawrence I., “Seven and the tasbīʿ: On the Implications of Numerical Symbolism for the Study of Medieval Islamic History”, JESHO 31 (1988), pp. 4273 , especially pp. 43-53.

106 The numerological significance of this number in near-eastern religious traditions is well-known; for the case of Islamic apocalyptic, see Rubin Uri, “Apocalypse and Authority in Islam: The Emergence of the Twelve Leaders”, al-Qanṭara 18 (1997), pp. 1142.

107 It is, nonetheless, possible that it is our sources that are trying to cast Yazīd III's actions in a messianic light, but even in that case it would have very likely been a conscious, contemporary attempt with official sanction for propaganda purposes (I am indebted to Mushegh Asatryan for this alternative scenario).

108 According to ibn Aḥmad al-Muhallabī al-Ḥasan (d. 380 ah), al-Kitāb al-ʿAzīzī aw al-masālik wa-l-mamālik, (ed.) Khalaf Taysīr (Damascus, 1426/2005), p. 91 , the qibla of this mosque faces an inordinately easterly direction (munḥarifatan. . . ilā naḥw al-mashriq kathīran). He then (Ibid., p. 92) states that the Green Palace is located “behind” (fī ẓahr) the grand mosque, which evidently means in the direction opposite to its qibla; in other words, in its west-northwest; contra Flood Finbarr Barry, The Great Mosque of Damascus: Studies on the Meaning of an Umayyad Visual Culture (Leiden, 2001), pp. 149150 , who misinterprets Ibn Jubayr's (divergent) description.

109 al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, vii, pp. 239-241; al-Balādhurī, Ansāb, ix, pp. 172-173; Fragmenta historicorum arabicorum (al-ʿUyūn wa-l-ḥadāʾiq fī akhbār al-ḥaqāʾiq), (ed.) Jan de Goeje Michael (Leiden, 1871), pp. 135136 (only the latter two record the application of adverbs derived from the terms rāshid and mahdī to him). Some of the messianic elements in Yazīd's actions have already been noted by Arjomand Saïd Amir, “Islamic Apocalypticism in the Classic [sic] Period”, in McGinn B., Collins J. J., and Stein S. J. (eds), The Continuum History of Apocalypticism (New York, 2003), pp. 380413 , at p. 394.

110 Nuʿaym, Fitan, p. 194; cf. Ibid., p. 695.

111 al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, vii, p. 243; Fragmenta, pp. 138-139 (mistakenly calls him “Abū Muḥammad Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Yazīd”).

112 Ibn ʿAsākir, Taʾrīkh, xix, pp. 153-155; lvii, pp. 307-309; al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, vii, pp. 262-266; al-Balādhurī, Ansāb, ix, pp. 203-204.

113 al-Azdī, Taʾrīkh al-Mawṣil, p. 58, only knows of one expedition. So does Khalīfa, Taʾrīkh, p. 364, followed by Rabbihi Ibn ʿAbd, al-ʿIqd al-farīd, (ed.) al-Tarḥīnī ʿAbd al-Majīd (Beirut, 1404/1983), v, p. 205 , who, however, mentions al-ʿAbbās ibn al-Walīd I, a brother of Yazīd III, as the leader of this expedition. For his own part, al-Yaʿqūbī, Taʾrīkh, (ed.) al-Amīr Muhannā ʿAbd (Beirut, 1431/2010), ii, p. 266 , states that the ahl Ḥimṣ were led by al-ʿAbbās, but that he was accompanied by Abū Muḥammad, as well as Sulaymān ibn Hishām ibn ʿAbd al-Malik. But the presence of this latter in an expedition to restore or avenge al-Walīd II is a virtual impossibility, given that he harboured an unflinching grudge against al-Walīd after being lashed on his orders and was also the very person who, according to other reports, blocked Abū Muḥammad's advance outside Damascus.

114 al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, vii, pp. 265-266.

115 For these events, consult the works cited in fn. 80 supra.

116 Thābit is not, contrary to what Crone Patricia, Slaves on Horses: The Evolution of the Islamic Polity (Cambridge, 1980), p. 161 , thinks, of unknown origins. His genealogy is given by al-Balādhurī, Ansāb, ix, p. 225 (against other, late authorities adduced by Fierro Maribel, “al-Aṣfar”, Studia Islamica 77 [1993], pp. 169181 , at p. 170 and fn 7. thereto). He was a great grandson of Abū Zurʿa Rawḥ ibn Zinbāʿ, a lifelong servant of the Umayyads and ʿAbd al-Malik's police chief, on whom see Ibn ʿAsākir, Taʾrīkh, xiix, pp. 240-251; and Hasson Isaac, “Le Chef judhāmite Rawḥ ibn Zinbāʿ”, Studia Islamica 77 (1993), pp. 95122.

117 However, I deem it necessary to state that no source known to me refers to either of them as such, neither could any tradition mentioning the abqaʿ be easily connected to them – or, for that matter, to any other historical personage.

118 This elusive slogan is very hard to render into English. Riḍā al-jamāʿa (and not al-riḍā wa-l-jamāʿa, as commonly misstated by scholars, both mediaeval and modern) could roughly be translated “communal consensus”, and frequently recurs, in the shorthand form al-riḍā – or al-riḍā wa-l-shūrā – from the time of the First Civil War onwards as a slogan adopted by rebels who question the authority of a reigning caliph or pretender, as pointed out by Crone Patricia in her classic, “On the Meaning of the ‘Abbasid Call to al-riḍā ”, in Bosworth C. E. et al. (eds), The Islamic World, from Classical to Modern Times: Essays in Honor of Bernard Lewis (Princeton, 1989), pp. 95111 . The concept of riḍā al-jamāʿa later became one of the focal points of the classical Sunni theory of caliphate, as is clear, perhaps above all, from the recurring references to it in the Muʿtazilī theologian al-qāḍī ʿAbd al-Jabbār's treatise on imamate (volume 20 of his al-Mughnī fī abwāb al-tawḥīd wa-l-ʿadl, [ed.] Maḥmūd Muḥammad Qāsim).

119 Sharon, Black Banners, ii, pp. 127-142; Bernheimer Teresa, “The Revolt of ʿAbd Allāh b. Muʿāwiya, ah 127-130: A Reconsideration through the Coinage”, BSOAS 69 (2006), pp. 381393 ; Tucker William F., Mahdis and Millenarians: Shīʿite Extremists in Early Muslim Iraq (Cambridge, 2008), pp. 88108 ; Crone, Nativist Prophets, pp. 92-95; Antoine Borrut, “ʿAbd Allāh b. Muʿāwiya”, EI3 .

120 On which see Wilferd Madelung, “Zayd b. ʿAlī”, EI2 ; idem, “Yaḥyā b. Zayd”, EI2 ; Agha Saleh Said, The Revolution which Toppled the Umayyads: Neither Arab nor ʿAbbāsid (Leiden, 2003), pp. 2633 ; Haider Najam, The Origins of the Shīʿa: Identity, Ritual, and Sacred Space in Eighth-Century Kūfa (Cambridge, 2011), pp. 193201 ; Marsham Andrew, “Attitudes to the Use of Fire in Executions in Late Antiquity and Early Islam: The Burning of Heretics and Rebels in Late Umayyad Iraq”, in Gleave R. and Kristó-Nagy I. T. (eds), Violence in Islamic Thought: From the Qurʾān to the Mongols (Edinburgh, 2015), pp. 106127 , at pp. 111-113 and pp. 120-122.

121 On pro-ʿAlid rebellions of the period in general, see Ibid., pp. 109-113 and pp. 120-125; and Judd, The Third Fitna, pp. 272-278; as well as Tucker, Mahdis and Millenarians.

122 Apart from the hāshimiyya movement that brought the ʿAbbāsids to power, a number of these rebels succeeded in establishing their authority over some areas and minted coins in their own name. The legends on their coinage bear ample testimony to their efforts at legitimisation by appeal to their blood relations with the prophet; Treadwell Luke, “Qur'anic Inscriptions on the Coins of the ahl al-bayt from the Second to Fourth Century AH”, Journal of Qur'anic Studies 14 (2012), pp. 4771 .

123 Nuʿaym, Fitan, pp. 302-303; cf. al-Ṭūsī, Ghayba, p. 464; al-Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, lii, p. 208; cf. also al-Nuʿmānī, Ghayba, pp. 279-282 (this last version is a highly embellished, late elaboration).

124 The editors emend the phrase to tafarraqa kulluhum, which does not make much sense in this context.

125 al-Nuʿmānī, Ghayba, p. 255; al-Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, lii, pp. 231-232, pp. 234-235. Another case in point is Nuʿaym, Fitan, p. 210 (see Madelung, “The Sufyānī”, p. 33, for its analysis), and yet another al-Nuʿmānī, Ghayba, pp. 262-263. For apocalyptic anxieties generated by the Fourth Civil War, consult Cook David, “The Apocalyptic Year 200/815-16 and the Events Surrounding It”, in Baumgarten A. I. (ed.) Apocalyptic Time (Leiden, 2000), pp. 4167 ; and now Yücesoy Hayrettin, Messianic Beliefs and Imperial Politics in Medieval Islam: The ʿAbbāsid Caliphate in the Early Ninth Century (Columbia, 2009).

126 al-Nuʿmānī, Ghayba, p. 259.

127 Hichem Djaït, “Kūfa”, EI2 ; cf. Jacob Lassner, “al-Hāshimiyya”, EI2 .

128 Pace Cook, “Apocalyptic Year 200”, p. 52 and fn. 48 thereto; and Yücesoy, Messianic Beliefs, p. 76, who, neglectful of Kūfa's position in this ḥadīth, mistakenly date the tradition to the time of the Fourth Civil War and misidentify its Khurāsānī with al-Maʾmūn himself or his commander, Ṭāhir ibn al-Ḥusayn Dhū al-Yamīnayn. While a staggering number of studies have been dedicated to Abū Muslim's role in the revolutionary movement, his career in Khurāsān in the years following the hāshimiyya’s triumph has received scant, if any, attention. One of the few exceptions to this rule is Karev’s YuryLa politique d'Abū Muslim dans le Māwarāʾannahr: nouvelles données textuelles et archéologiques”, Der Islam 79 (2002), pp. 146 . The author has recently published a thorough study on the subject, Samarqand et le Sughd à l'epoque ‘abbaside: histoire politique et sociale (Leuven, 2015), which, unfortunately, I was unable to consult before submitting this article. See also de la Vaissière Étienne, Samarcande et Samarra: élites d'Asie centrale dans l'empire abbaside (Paris, 2007), pp. 5458 .

129 Apparently the primarily Shīʿī concept of qāʾim and the Islamic idea of mahdī had yet to coalesce at this time. Mahdī appears to have been a rather ill-defined appellative of amorphous salvific acceptation prior to the messianically-charged rebellion of Muḥammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya in 145 ah, as evidenced by a monumental inscription of the first ʿAbbāsid caliph, Abū al-ʿAbbās al-Saffāḥ, dated 136 ah – that is, exactly contemporary with the above tradition. This highly important inscription, one of the only two living testimonies to al-Saffāḥ’s adoption of the title of mahdī, commemorates the renovation of the grand mosque of Ṣanʿāʾ on the caliph's orders and reads thusly at one point: “the mahdī, servant of God ʿAbd Allāh, commander of the believers, may God glorify him, has ordered the rebuilding and renovation of mosques” (amara l-mahdī ʿabd Allāh ʿAbd Allāh amīr al-muʾminīn akramahu llāh bi-iṣlāḥ al-masājid wa-ʿimāratihā); Mittwoch Eugen, “Eine arabische Bauinschrift aus dem Jahre 136 AH.”, Orientalia 4 (1935), pp. 235238 (see Sharon Moshe, Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae, ii: B-C [Leiden, 1999], pp. 214219 , for the other inscription, from Baysān, in the historical region of jund al-Urdunn). This publicity statement shows that at the time what was generally expected from a mahdī was such pious acts as reconstruction of mosques, and perhaps also ruling justly, in accordance with the “prophetic sunna”, however it was conceived of at this early date. Slightly earlier, in 126 ah, Yazīd III had been asked to “stand up mahdī-like” (qum. . . mahdiyyan; see above, sub num. 4), with the term applied as an adverb (ḥāl), thereby signifying that it predominantly denoted acts and behaviours rather than a specific personality (or personalities). Cf. also the cases adduced by Crone Patricia and Hinds Martin, God's Caliph: Religious Authority in the First Centuries of Islam (Cambridge, 1986), pp. 3640, pp. 102-103. Literary evidence for al- Saffāḥ’s arrogation of the title of mahdī has been collected in al-ʿAzīz al-Dūrī ʿAbd, “al-Fikra al-mahdiyya bayn al-daʿwa al-ʿabbāsiyya wa-l-ʿaṣr al-ʿabbāsī al-awwal”, in al-Qāḍī W. (ed.), Studia Arabica et Islamic: Festschrift for Iḥsān ʿAbbās (Beirut, 1981), pp. 123132 , at pp. 127-128, to which we may add al-Ḥayy Gardīzī Abū Saʿīd ʿAbd (d. ca. 442 ah), Zayn al-akhbār, (ed.) al-Ḥayy Ḥabībī ʿAbd (Tehran, 1363/1984), p. 134 .

130 A summary of the developments leading to the Qaysī domination of this force is to be found in Hawting, The First Dynasty, pp. 101-103; and Cobb, White Banners, p. 72.

131 But in another account he simply states that a number of ahl Khurāsān deserted Ibn ʿAlī’s camp; al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, vii, p. 475. Al-Balādhurī, Ansāb, iv, p. 148, only knows of “a group of them” being killed (qatala minhum khalqan). Cf. Cobb, White Banners, pp. 23-26; Borrut, Entre mémoire et pouvoir, pp. 362-368.

132 al-Balādhurī, Ansāb, iv, p. 107.

133 Or, according to al-Kūfī Ibn Aʿtham, Kitāb al-Futūḥ, (ed.) Shīrī ʿAlī (Beirut, 1411/1991), viii, pp. 354355 , in Ḥarrān, which seems unlikely.

134 The whole episode has been extensively treated in Borrut, Entre mémoire et pouvoir, pp. 354-368.

135 The tradition's common link is ʿAbd Allāh ibn Lahīʿa (ca. 97-174 ah), chief qāḍī of Egypt under the caliphs al-Manṣūr and al-Mahdī, and he is in all probability responsible for it. On him, see Georges Khoury Raif, ʿ Abd Allāh b. Lahīʿa (97–174/715–790): juge et grand maître de l’école égyptienne: avec édition critique de l'unique rouleau de papyrus arabe conservé à Heidelberg (Wiesbaden, 1986).

136 On Kaʿb's profile as a visionary, see Reeves John C., “Jewish Apocalyptic Lore in Early Islam: Reconsidering Kaʿb al-Aḥbār”, in Ashton J. (ed.), Revealed Wisdom: Studies in Apocalyptic in Honour of Christopher Rowland (Leiden, 2014), pp. 200216 .

137 Zuhayrī mistakenly opts for raʾayta here, but Zakkār (p. 190) knows of no such variant.

138 Nuʿaym, Fitan, pp. 314-315.

139 For him, see Ibn ʿAsākir, Taʾrīkh, xiii, pp. 8-16.

140 The massacres of the Umayyads by the revolutionaries have been studied in Robinson Chase F., “The Violence of the Abbasid Revolution”, in Suleiman Y. and Al-Abdul Jader A. (eds), Living Islamic History: Studies in Honour of Professor Carole Hillenbrand (Edinburgh, 2010), pp. 226251.

141 al-Nuʿmānī, Ghayba, pp. 290-292; al-Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, lii, pp. 185, 246-247 (where presumably āl Mirdās should be emended to āl al-ʿAbbās, as suggested by the compiler himself).

142 yurfaʿu li-āl Jaʿfar ibn abī Ṭālib rāyatun ḍalālun thumma yurfaʿu [li-]āl al-ʿAbbās rāyatun aḍall minhā wa-asharr thumma li-āl al-Ḥasan ibn ʿAlī rāyātun wa-laysat bi-shayʿin thumma yurfaʿu li-wuld al-Ḥusayn rāyatun fīhā al-amr; reported by al-qāḍī al-Nuʿmān (d. 363 ah); Sharḥ al-akhbār fī faḍāʾil al-aʾimma al-aṭhār, (ed.) Muḥammad al-Ḥusaynī al-Jalālī (Qumm, 1409/1988), iii, p. 356. On the joint revolts of Muḥammad and Ibrāhīm, now see Elad Amikam, The Rebellion of Muḥammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya in 145/762: Ṭālibīs and Early ʿAbbāsīs in Conflict (Leiden, 2016). On this and other Ḥasanid-Zaydī uprisings of this period, see Najam Haider, The Origins, pp. 189-214. On the rivalry between Ḥasanids, Ḥusaynids, and other Ṭālibid factions in this period as vented through traditions and prophecies, see Elad, The Rebellion, pp. 425-446.

143 Fr. Buhl, “Hind bint ʿUtba”, EI2 .

144 Cf. Madelung, “The Sufyānī”, p. 22.

145 For al-Saffāḥ’s adoption of this title, see supra, fn. 129. It seems to have been the primary epithet by which he was known during his lifetime, as his official inscriptions testify. According to al-Ṣābiʾ, “there has been disagreement about his titulature (ukhtulifa fī laqabihi). Some say it was al-qāʾim, others say al-muhtadī, and still others al-murtaḍā; but [in the time since his death] he has come to be primarily known (lammā ghalaba ʿalayhi) as al-saffāḥ”; al-Ṣābiʾ, Rusūm dār al-khilāfa, (ed.) ʿAwwād Mīkhāʾīl (Beirut, 1406/1986), p. 129 ; quoted in al-Dūrī, “al-Fikra al-mahdiyya”, p. 128 (note that muhtadī and murtaḍā are, respectively, from the same roots as mahdī and riḍā, and have the same signification).

146 Nuʿaym, Fitan, p. 55.

147 Fierro Maribel, “al-Aṣfar again”, JSAI 22 (1998), pp. 196213 .

148 On this episode, see Bosworth Clifford E., Sīstān under the Arabs: From the Islamic Conquest to the Rise of the Ṣaffārids (30-250/651-864) (Rome, 1968), pp. 5563 ; Dixon, The Umayyad Caliphate, pp. 151-168; Sayed Redwan, Die Revolte des Ibn al-Ašʿaṯ und die Koranleser: Ein Beitrag zur Religions- und Sozialgeschichte der frühen Umayyadenzeit (Freiburg, 1977), especially pp. 192276 ; Laura Veccia Vaglieri, “Ibn al-Ashʿath”, EI2 .

149 The murder of ʿUthmān, the caliphate of Ibn al-Zubayr, and the revolt of Ibn al-Ashʿath have elsewhere been explicitly identified as three of five fitnas that are to afflict the Muslim umma; Nuʿaym, Fitan, p. 52.

150 For these and other similar traditions, see Cook, Studies, pp. 122-136, who does his best to offer an ironed-out account of his career, drawing on as many sources as possible. But this is no doubt a problematic approach, for the Sufyānī, being a fictional figure, has never lived a life whose accounts might need harmonisation.

151 For these, see Yücesoy, Messianic Beliefs, pp. 74-77.

152 Nuʿaym, Fitan, p. 283.

153 The textbook treatments of Hārūn's reign are Kennedy Hugh, The Early Abbasid Caliphate: A Political History (London, 1986), pp. 115134 ; and idem, The Court of the Caliphs: The Rise and Fall of Islam's Greatest Dynasty (London, 2004), pp. 51-84; for his last campaigns against Byzantium, see also Bonner Michael, Aristocratic Violence and Holy War: Studies in the Jihad and the Arab-Byzantine Frontier (New Haven, 1996), pp. 9699.

154 For him, see Cobb, White Banners, pp. 55-64; Madelung, “Abū ’l-ʿAmayṭar”. This tradition has also been investigated in idem, “The Sufyānī”, pp. 42-43; Nagel, Rechtleitung und Kalifat, pp. 255-256; Cook, “Apocalyptic Year 200”, p. 46; and Yücesoy, Messianic Beliefs, pp. 75-76.

155 al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, vii, p. 444.

156 Madelung, “The Sufyānī”, p. 14.

157 See, e.g., Collins, “Pseudonymity”; Rowland, The Open Heaven, pp. 61-70, pp. 240-247, et passim; and now DiTommaso, “Pseudonymity”.

158 In fact, pseudonymity (and, more particularly, ascription to dead authorities) is a very common, if not defining, feature of the genre “apocalypse” – for the obvious reason that, among other things, it would help to assure the audience of its composition prior to the events referenced therein.

159 al-Balādhurī, Ansāb, iv, p. 223.

160 That such prophecies should be extant alongside reports in historiographical sources attesting to their circulation is indeed a rare occasion in pre-modern history and of considerable value in the study of apocalyptic literature and apocalypticism. The first-century rebel Ibn al-Ashʿath was said to be, “the Qaḥṭānī whom the Yemenis await, and he will reinstate their kingdom” (dhukira lahu annahu l-Qaḥṭānī alladhī yantaẓiruhu l-yamāniyya wa-annahu yuʿīdu l-mulk fīhā), al-Masʿūdī, al-Tanbīh, 272; or that he and Yazīd ibn al-Muhallab, “revolted to fulfil what had been related concerning al-Aṣfar al-Qaḥṭānī” (ʿalā taḥqīq al-riwāya fī al-Aṣfar al-Qaḥṭānī), as reported by al-Jāḥiẓ; quoted in Fierro, “al-Aṣfar again”, p. 199. But I know of no tradition on the Qaḥṭānī that could conceivably be connected to either of them.

161 Or, if we trust Ibn al-ʿAdīm, Sulaymān ibn ʿAbd al-Malik; Ibn al-ʿAdīm, Bughyat al-ṭalab, ix, p. 3928. According to one report adduced by Ibn ʿAsākir, she was originally the wife of the caliph Yazīd II and it was only after Yazīd's death that she married Hishām.

162 Ibn ʿAsākir, Taʾrīkh, lxix, pp. 263-265.

163 Presumably al-Madāʾinī (d. ca. 224 or 228 ah), the principal source of the two historians for this period; Lindstedt Ilkka, “al-Madāʾinī’s Kitāb al-Dawla and the Death of Ibrāhīm al-Imām”, in idem et al (eds), Case Studies in Transmission (Münster, 2014), pp. 103130 , at pp. 108-109.

164 al-Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, vii, p. 443; al-Balādhurī, Ansāb, iv, p. 223.

165 For this composition, see Nagel Tilman, Untersuchungen zur Entstehung des abbasidischen Kalifates (Bonn, 1972), pp. 969 ; and now Ilkka Lindstedt, al-Madāʾinī and the Narratives of the ʿAbbāsid dawla (forthcoming).

166 Ibn al-ʿAdīm, Bughyat al-ṭalab, ix, pp. 3928-3929. Though in none of these three accounts is the woman killed. The anonymisation of women who behaved ungenteelly or were treated uncouthly is an unfortunate predilection of mediaeval Muslim sources; cf. the case of the “harlots” of Ḥaḍramawt; Lecker Michael, “Judaism among Kinda and the ridda of Kinda”, JRAS 115 (1995), pp. 635650 , at pp. 646-649; or the Khazrajī harlot and her demonic paramour; idem, “Notes about Censorship and Self-Censorship in the Biography of the Prophet Muḥammad”, al-Qanṭara 35 (2014), pp. 233-254, at pp. 243-245. This predilection is all the more understandable in the light of the fact that reporting the mathālib of the kith and kin of noble families could get one into serious trouble: Ibn Isḥāq was twice flogged for digging up embarrassing details from people's past; Ibid., pp. 245-246; quoting al-Tamīmī Abū al-ʿArab, Kitāb al-Miḥan, (ed.) Wahīb al-Jabbūrī Yaḥyā (Beirut, 1427/2006), pp. 300301 .

167 al-Maqrīzī, Kitāb al-Nizāʿ wa-l-takhāṣum fīmā bayna banī Umayya wa-banī Hāshim, (ed.) Muʾnis Ḥusayn (Cairo, 1404/1984), p. 99.

168 Nuʿaym, Fitan, pp. 295-296, p. 695.

169 Ibid ., pp. 696-699.

170 Ibid ., pp. 295-296.

171 It may also be noted that some traditions record the Sufyānī’s name as ʿAbd Allāh ibn Yazīd; Ibid., p. 279.

172 The name of several localities (Yāqūt, Muʿjam, ii, pp. 187-188), of which none could have possibly served as Marwān's base of operations at any point during his long career.

173 A shorter version records this as hadm al-akālīl and glosses it as yaʿnī hadm al-mudun, “meaning destruction of cities”, and explicitly identifies the perpetrator as Marwān II; Ibid, p. 695; cf. 194. Iklīl (sing. of akālīl) denotes any round structure (Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān al-ʿArab, s.v. “k-l-l”; thus it could also mean “crown”) and here obviously refers to the round protective walls of mediaeval cities. Marwān II notoriously reduced the walls of several Syrian cities to rubble when they rose against him a second time.

174 His career has been studied by Daniel C. Dennet, Marwan ibn Muhammad: The Passing of the Umayyad Caliphate (unpublished PhD dissertation, Harvard, 1939; not consulted); see also Gerald R. Hawting, “Marwān II”, EI2 ; and the works cited in fn. 80 supra.

175 Nuʿaym, Fitan, p. 695.

176 The word used is yarjiʿu, “he will return”.

177 See also Rubin, “Apocalypse and Authority”, pp. 15-17, on this tradition. It must, however, be emphasised that Rubin's presupposition that all eschatological traditions that make mention of twelve kings/caliphs are to be envisaged as various facets of a single “apocalypse of the twelve” is gratuitous; rather, the “twelve kings/caliphs” of the Muslim community is merely a recurrent motif in Islamic apocalyptic, which has the numerological significance of the number twelve and the reference to the “twelve princes of Ishmael” in Genesis 17:20 to commend it (I am indebted to Sean Anthony for reminding me of the Genesis connexion).

178 Nuʿaym, Fitan, p. 287.

179 Thus Madelung, “The Sufyānī”, pp. 8-9.

180 Lammens, “Sofiânî”, pp. 138-139.

181 Vide supra, fn. 92.

182 Though that there were people opposed to Abū Muḥammad al-Sufyānī and his ambitions of restoring the Umayyad caliphate who composed traditions describing the Sufyānī in negative, if still humanlike, terms can hardly be doubted, even in the absence of tradition no. 6 above.

183 For the date of these texts, see now Shoemaker Stephen J., “The Tiburtine Sybil, the Last Emperor, and the Early Byzantine Apocalyptic Tradition”, in Burke T. (ed.), Forbidden Texts on the Western Frontier: The Christian Apocrypha in North American Perspectives (Eugene, OR 2015), pp. 218244.

184 As Gerrit J. Reinink argues in, inter alia, his “Alexandre et le dernier empereur du monde: les développements du concept de la royauté chrétienne dans les sources syriaques du septième siècle,” in Alexandre le Grand dans les littératures occidentales et proche-orientales: actes du colloque de Paris, 27-29 novembre 1999 (Paris, 1999), pp. 149-159, especially pp. 151-155; but now cf. Christopher Bonura, “When Did the Legend of the Last Roman Emperor Originate? A New Look at the Textual Relationship between the Apocalypse of pseudo-Methodius and the Tiburtine Sibyl”, Viator 47 (2016), pp. 47-100, who contends that the Endkaiser motif in the Sibylla Tiburtina is an eleventh-century interpolation that draws on pseudo-Methodius.

185 van Bekkum Wout J., “Jewish Messianic Expectations in the Age of Heraclius”, in Reinink G. J. and Stolte B. H. (eds), The Reign of Heraclius (610-641): Crisis and Confrontation (Leuven, 2002), pp. 95112 , at pp. 109-110; Reeves John C., Trajectories in Near Eastern Apocalyptic: A Postrabbinic Jewish Apocalypse Reader (Leiden, 2006), pp. 1922 ; Siverstev Alexei M., Judaism and Imperial Ideology in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, 2011), pp. 154158 .

* I am most grateful to Sean Anthony (Ohio State University), Mushegh Asatryan (University of Calgary), Ahab Bdaiwi (Universiteit Leiden), and Christopher Melchert (University of Oxford) for their exacting comments on various drafts of this paper. It need not be stressed that all the remaining shortcomings and infelicities are solely to blame on me.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society
  • ISSN: 1356-1863
  • EISSN: 1474-0591
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-royal-asiatic-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 2
Total number of PDF views: 32 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 241 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 9th May 2017 - 22nd November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.