Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A History of Islamic Bahrain and The Qarmatian Republic

The Birth of Islamic Bahrain:

Bahrain had been amongst the first nations to embrace Islam. This was done via the sending of the Prophet Mohammed(PBUH)’s representative Al-Ala'a Al-Hadhrami. Bahrain was thought to have embraced Islam in 629 AD. During the Caliphate of Umar I, the companion of the Prophet , Abu Huraiya  was appointed as the governor of Bahrain.

Local legends here say he came to Bahrain , a man with no proper shoes or sandals, and had left with pearls and items that were fit for a mighty governor (or even king). .

The Al Khamis Mosque, one of the earliest mosques in the region, was built in 692 AD. And (as wikipedia says it) The expansion of Islam did not affect Bahrain's reliance on trade, and its prosperity continued to be dependent on markets in Mesopotamia. After Baghdad emerged as the seat of the caliph in 750 and the main centre of Islamic civilization, Bahrain greatly benefited from the city's increased demand for foreign goods especially from China and South Asia.
Al Khamis Mosque

During the early Islamic period, Bahrain had become a centre for spiritual knowledge and Islamic Scholarships in the Middle Eastern region, attracting would-be Clerics from all reaches of the region including Yemen and Egypt.

Perhaps, the most notable of all Bahraini clerics was Sheikh Maitham Al Bahrani (died in 1299). (The mosque of Sheikh Maitham and his tomb can be visited in the outskirts of the capital, Manama, near the district of Mahooz).

Sheikh Bahrani was a leading Shia Twelver Scholar, the sort that were normally oppressed in other regions (but the Mongols took care of the Abbassids , if I recall correctly ) , he had been known to be an advocate of Rationalism and was widely associated with Philosophy at the time.

He is known to have written widely on such theology related philosophical issues as epistimology and ontology.


But before this Islamic Golden Age of Bahrain had occurred , a very dark and , as one contemporary account describes it, a “Century of Terrorism”. The Rise of the Qarmatians.

The Qarmatian Republic:

To begin with, the Qarmatians were self-proclaimed Ismailis (a Shia branch) from the Khuzestan region (SW) of Persia and from around Kufa. Except, they practically weren’t, They were radicals or thought to be break-away radicals from the Fatamid Dynasty. In the 3rd Hijri Century (899 AD, approx.), they had launched the Qarmatian revolution in the Bahrain region (Which at the time, also included Eastern Arabia).

The leader, Abu Sa'id al-Hasan al-Janaby, tried to make a Utopian society in the region and had reasoned that he planned to build a society based on reason and equality. The state was governed by a council of six with a chief who was a first among equals.

All property within the community was distributed evenly among all initiates. The Qarmatians were organized as an esoteric society but not as a secret one; their activities were public and openly propagated, but new members had to undergo an initiation ceremony involving seven stages. The Qarmatian world view was one where every phenomenon repeated itself in cycles, where every incident was replayed over and over again.

However, the thing that made them so horrible was that they had used Bahrain as a raiding base. True it is, the Qarmatians launced deadly raids on the unsuspecting caravans of Arabia, often being pilgrim caravans. In the year 906 AD, A devastating assault on a caravan was thought to have led to atleast 20,000 casualties. Under the brutal rule of Abu Tahir Al-Jannabi they came close to capturing Baghdad in 923 and sacked Mecca in 930. The sacking of Mecca signified their official breakage from Islam.

Unable to gain entry to the city initially, Abu Tahir called upon the right of all Muslims to enter the city and gave his oath that he came in peace. Once inside, his troops set upon massacring the citizens and pilgrims of Mecca, killing pilgrims and dumping their bodies into the Zam Zam as well as desecrating other holy sites. Tahir even stole the Black Stone, a sacred part of the Kaaba of Mecca, from Mecca and had brought it to Bahrain.

This was a complete embarrassment for the Abbasids , they were the masters of the Islamic Caliphate and their most sacred city had been sacked. On the other hand, The attack on Mecca symbolized the Qarmatians’ break with the Islamic world – it was believed to have been aimed to prompt the appearance of the Mahdi who would bring about the final cycle of the world and end the era of Islam. Tahir had soon set about the burning of all religious texts, Muslims and Christian alike, as well as instituting the worship of fire (He was believed to have secretly been a Zorastarian).

According to historian Al-Juwayni, the Stone was returned twenty-three years later, in 952. The Qarmatians held the Black Stone for ransom, and forced the Abbasids to pay a huge sum for its return.

It was wrapped in a sack and thrown into the Friday Mosque of Kufa, accompanied by a note saying "By command we took it, and by command we have brought it back." Its abduction and removal caused further damage, breaking the stone into seven pieces.

Its abductor, Abu Tahir, is said to have met a terrible fate; according to Qutb al-Din, "the filthy Abu Tahir was afflicted with a gangrenous sore, his flesh was eaten away by worms, and he died a most terrible death." It was believed that he died of Smallpox. The Abbasids later crushed the Qarmatian republic. Soon after, its citizens tried to forget its ways and had adopted the quieter life of Twelver Shia Islam.

And now, the Dark Age of Bahrain has subsided and the Golden Enlightment age has begun!


I'm open to all criticism or feed backs.

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