Al-Karkh: the Development of an Imāmī-Shīʿī Stronghold in Early Abbasid and Būyid Baghdad (132-447/750-1055)

In: Studia Islamica
Nassima Neggaz New College of Florida

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Following the foundation of Baghdad by Caliph al-Manṣūr (r. 136-158/754-775) in 145/762, the neighbourhood of al-Karkh attracted many Imāmī scholars, becoming the centre of the Imāmī wikāla (network of deputies of the Imām) in the late 3rd/9th century, and then the heart of the Imāmī ḥawza (seminary) and the rationalist school of theology which developed under the Būyids (333-447/945-1055). Al-Karkh also became the centre of a popular movement of Imāmī-Shīʿa; from the Būyid period onward, the latter played a significant role in the social and political life of the city until its fall under the Mongol invasion of 656/1258. From the point of view of the micro-history, this article investigates the incubation of the Imāmī-Shīʿī movement in this suburban area of the city, bringing together topography and social history data from medieval geography manuals, historical chronicles, local histories, biographical dictionaries, poetry, and travellers’ accounts. More than a quarter, al-Karkh acted as a city within Baghdad; repeatedly destroyed and burnt down, its history sheds light on urban life in the Abbasid capital, and on the development of Imāmī-Shīʿism during its formative period.

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