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Uprising of Ibrahim b. 'Abd Allah

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Uprising of Ibrahim b. 'Abd Allah
Part of Uprising against Abbasid
Date 145/763
Location Bakhamra, near Kufa
Result Defeat of Ibrahim
Alawis Abbasid
Ibrahim b. 'Abd Allah Mansur al-Dawaniqi
'Isa b. Musa
4000-40000 18000
Ibrahim was killed and beheaded

The uprising of Ibrāhīm b. ʿAbd Allāh (Arabic:قیام ابراهیم بن عَبدالله) was the second uprising of Shi'a against Abbasids which took place at the time of Imam al-Sadiq (a). After his brother, al-Nafs al-Zakiyya, Ibrahim b. 'Abd Allah who was among the descendants of Imam al-Hasan (a), raised against al-Mansur al-'Abbasi in Basra. Many of Zaidis and Mu'tazilites participated in this uprising and even Abu Hanifa backed them, but finally, the uprising was defeated and Ibrahim was killed in Bakhamra near Kufa in 145/763.

Grounds of the Uprising

Toward the end of Umayyad government, 'Abd Allah al-Mahd (the father of Ibrahim and al-Nafs al-Zakiyya) introduced his son, al-Nafs al-Zakiyya as Mahdi in the presence of Banu Hashim and other Alavids and also Banu 'Abbas in Al-Abwa' region and asked people to pledge allegiance with him. However, after Umayyads fell, Banu Abbas took the power. Thus in the first period of Abbasids, i.e. the time of Saffah, 'Abd Allah and his sons began to oppose them in disguise.

After al-Mansur al-Abbasi took the power and al-Nafs al-Zakiyya and other Alawis were forced to meet the caliph and give allegiance to him, Alawis began to openly oppose Abbasids. Thus, al-Mansur ordered to arrest 'Abd Allah and his sons. In 144/761, he sent Riyah b. 'Uthman b. Hayyan to arrest Ibrahim and Muhammad and moved 'Abd Allah al-Mahd and his family to a prison in Iraq. This made Ibrahim and Muhammad to intensify their opposition and al-Nafs al-Zakiyya made an uprising in 145/762.

At the same time, Ibrahim took the allegiance of different regions for his brothers. They had decided to make uprising in two different regions in an appropriate time. According to historical reports, Ibrahim went among the soldiers of the Abbasid caliph and provoked Alavis of the army against the caliph. He did the same in Baghdad which had just formed, but as soon as Mansur became aware of that, tried to arrest Ibrahim, but his friends helped him to escape from Baghdad.

After different trips to invite people to give allegiance to al-Nafs al-Zakiyya, Ibrahim settled in Basra. Following his hidden invitations in Basra, 4000 people joined him.

Ibrahim's Uprising in Basra

Based on some reports, al-Nafs al-Zakiyya made an uprising in Medina while Ibrahim was not aware. The news of al-Nafs al-Zakiyya's uprising did not make Ibrahim happy; however, Ibrahim too made an uprising on Ramadan 1st, 145/762, and could take over Dar al-Imara of Basra with least of resistance. He also opened the prison of Basra and released the prisoners. Exaggerated reports suggest obedience of 40 thousand people from Ibrahim.

First, al-Mansur al-Abbasi intended to go to Medina himself to suppress the uprising of al-Nafs al-Zakiyya, but when he received the news about Ibrahim's uprising, went to Kufa with 2000 soldiers and ordered all people of Kufa to wear black which was the symbol of Abbasids. On the opposite, Alavis, led by Ibrahim, wore white and prepared themselves to fight Abbasids in Kufa. Since Ibrahim's soldiers wore white, their title was Mubayyada. Before moving his army toward Kufa, Ibrahim sent some military groups to Wasit, Fars and Ahwaz and expelled the agents of al-Mansur al-Abbasi from those regions. When Ibrahim received the news of al-Nafs al-Zakiyya's death, three days before Eid al-Fitr 145/762, his determination for fighting Abbasids grew stronger; thus, he began to recruit soldiers and prepare for battle. According to some reports, after al-Nafs al-Zakiyya was killed, Ibrahim called himself Amir al-Mu'minin [Commander of the Faithful] and invited everyone to his own leadership.

The Battle between Alawids with Abbasids

Ibrahim's army moved out of Basra toward Kufa on Dhu l-Qa'da 145/763. On the other hand, al-Mansur al-Abbasi sent 'Isa b. Musa with 18 thousand soldiers to fight with Ibrahim. The two armies met in Bakhamra region about 88 kilometers away from Kufa. At the beginning of the war, the first rows of Abbasid army were heavily defeated so that they retreated near Kufa. This retreat made al-Mansur, who was in kufa, worried so that some reports suggest that the caliph ordered to prepare a horse for him to escape from Kufa.

The Fate of War

The resistance of 'Isa b. Musa, al-Mansur's army commander against Ibrahim prevented al-Mansur's exit from Kufa. Toward the end of the war, Ja'far and Muhammad Sulayman b. Ali, sons of the Abbasid caliph's uncle and his agents in Basra at the time of Ibrahim's uprising, attacked Ibrahim's army from behind. They had previously resisted Ibrahim in Basra and were defeated, but he gave them safe conduct, so they remained alive.

Their sudden attack made a strong hit to Ibrahim's army. After an arrow hit Ibrahim's throat and he was killed on Dhu l-Hijja 145/763, the army of Alawis was weakened and the energy of Abbasids increased. Thus, Alawis and Ibrahim's uprising were defeated. After Ibrahim was killed, they beheaded him and took it to the caliph and buried his body in Bakhamra. According to some reports, al-Mansur sent Ibrahim's head to 'Abd Allah al-Mahd in prison and then sent it to Egypt.

Islamic Groups' Support for Ibrahim's Uprising

In his anti-Abbasid uprising, Ibrahim b. 'Abd Allah received support from famous groups and individuals such as:

  • Zaidis: at that time, Zaidis's importance was mostly political than religious and regarded any pious and brave Fatimid scholar an imam whose obedience was obligatory and even considered it permissible if two imams made uprisings against the government at the same time in two places; thus, they obeyed both al-Nafs al-Zakiyya and Ibrahim.
  • Mu'tazilites: They were among those who supported Ibrahim and even Ibn Numayla 'Abshami Mu'tazili became Ibrahim's substitute in Basra when he attacked Kufa. Mu'tazilite support for Ibrahim was not unrelated with his scientific relations, as a man of literature and a transmitter of hadiths, with Mu'tazilite scholars such as Wasil b. 'Ata and 'Amr b. 'Ubayd. Beside Mu'tazilites, scholars in fiqh and hadith such as Ibn Abi Wasil, 'Isa b. Ishaq Sabi'I, Abu Khalid Ahmar, Yunus b. Abi Ishaq, Yazid b. Harun and 'Ubbad b. 'Awam also joined Ibrahim.
  • Abu Hanifa: Abu Hanifa, the leader of Hanafis explicitly supported Ibrahim and issued a fatwa for his followers to join Ibrahim's uprising. Even after the battle of Bakhamra, he declared that its martyrs were of the same rank with the martyrs of the Battle of Badr. It is said that his support for Ibrahim and the letters he wrote to Ibrahim made al-Mansur al-Dawaniqi poison and kill him.

Reasons of the Movement's Defeat

Ibrahim's anti-Abbasid movement and the reasons of its defeat cannot be properly analyzed without considering the uprising of al-Nafs al-Zakiyya and Ibrahim's discord with al-Nafs al-Zakiyya, its results and even the condition of caliphate. Al-Nafs al-Zakiyya's early uprising and his Ibrahim's disharmony with him made the caliph able to suppress both. However, it seems that victory was not far from Ibrahim's reach, but his distance from killing and looting and not caring for consulting with nobles in the movement made the results to turn against him. However, Ibrahim's going to Kufa following the invitation of Abu Hanifa and some others weakened the main resistance in Basra, but if Ibrahim attacked Kufa just after his uprising against al-Mansur with all the army and equipment he had, he may be able to defeat the caliph with the helps of the people of Kufa who had escaped and joined him, especially because it is said that al-Mansur was afraid of such an attack and also was afraid that his companions leave him, but Ibrahim was also afraid that his attack may cause killing of ordinary people.

He avoided preparing for battle in Bakhamra. Even when Ibrahim pushed back the army of 'Isa, he ordered not to chase the defeated among the enemy, despite the advice of Abu Hanifa who believed that Ibrahim should not stop chasing those who escaped; while, that victory so much frightened al-Mansur that he wanted to escape from Kufa, but Ibrahim's lack of military knowledge and the disagreement happened between him and his companions, turned the primary victory, some called as Badr al-Sughra, to total defeat.

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