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Violence in Islamic Thought from the Qur'an to the Mongols$
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Robert Gleave and István Kristó-Nagy

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780748694235

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748694235.001.0001

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ʿAbbāsid State Violence and the Execution of Ibn ʿĀʾIsha

ʿAbbāsid State Violence and the Execution of Ibn ʿĀʾIsha

(p.128) Chapter 8 ʿAbbāsid State Violence and the Execution of Ibn ʿĀʾIsha
Violence in Islamic Thought from the Qur'an to the Mongols

John A. Nawas

Edinburgh University Press

In what follows, an otherwise obscure incident in Islamic history – the execution of a leading member of the ʿAbbāsid family by an ʿAbbāsid caliph in the third ah/ninth ad century – is discussed to explicate the bounds of what can be considered ‘legitimate state violence’ at the time. The execution and the manner in which the caliph carried it out were intended to serve as a warning for a recalcitrant wing of his ʿAbbāsid family – the pro-al-Amīn faction. In the long run, however, the episode would have repercussions for Islamic history, and this pro-al-Amīn faction (which included the executed ʿAbbāsid) ultimately won the day after al-Muʿtaṣim was appointed caliph, rather than a son or other progeny of al-Maʾmūn – the caliph in question, who executed the ʿAbbāsid.1 This article first recounts the background and circumstances surrounding the arrest and execution of Ibn ʿĀʾisha – a not very well-known member of the ruling ʿAbbāsid family.2 Following this, I will undertake an analysis of how al-Maʾmūn, the ʿAbbāsid caliph who executed Ibn ʿĀʾisha, conceptualised the institution of the caliphate and the role of its incumbent, the caliph. The narrative ends by relating Ibn ʿĀʾisha’s execution to al-Maʾmūn’s political reasoning, delineating this caliph’s understanding of what constituted legitimate state violence.

Keywords:   ʿAbbāsid State Violence, Execution, Ibn ʿĀʾisha, Civil War, Caliphate

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