Home > Free Essays > History > Asia > Ma’Mun – To What Extent Does History Make Great Individuals or Great Individuals Make History

Ma’Mun – To What Extent Does History Make Great Individuals or Great Individuals Make History Essay

Exclusively available on IvyPanda Available only on IvyPanda
Updated: Apr 29th, 2022

History has often treated historical changes as personal achievements of great individuals. According to this view, history is created and dictated for better or for worse, by strong individuals like Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln, Hitler, etc. For example, individuals such as George Washington, Robespierre and Lenin are held historically responsible for great mass revolutions. However, there are experts who feel that history follows a path that no individual influences but individuals become great when their actions are performed under historical conditions. “We cannot make history,” wrote Bismarck, “We must wait while it is being made.”

The first view which holds that history is made by individuals seems to emphasize that people who rule are born with special qualities that give them the ability to rule. The problem with the second view is that it seems to justify brutal exploitation and suffering. How can you a ruler whose actions are historically determined be held accountable? However, both of these ideas contain a little bit of truth in them. Al-Mamun was a man made by history as he was born to a Muslim ruling family, was the seventh caliph of the Abbasid dynasty with his beliefs shaped by circumstances and he was also a man who tried to create history by the designation of Alī al-Ridā as heir apparent, and the Abbasid Inquisition.

Arab Caliph Al-Mamun c.786 – 833 was the son of Harun al-Rashid. He was born in Baghdad in 170/786, reportedly on the very night his father al-Rashīd succeeded to the caliphate. The Abbasid dynasty, of which Abd Allāh al-Ma mūn (r. 198–218/813–833) was the seventh caliph, was descended from the Prophet’s uncle al- Abbās. The family came to power after anti-Umayyad missionaries rebelled against the rulers with the support of Khurasani forces.

His mother Marājil, a Persian concubine, died soon after his birth. Details about Al-Mamun can be had from the book titled “Classical Arabic Biography: The Heirs of the Prophets in the Age of Al-Mamun” by Michael Cooperson who has relied on various other books such as Goldziher’s “Muslim Studies”; Daniel’s “Political and Social History”; Kennedy’s “Early Abbasid Caliphate” and Shaban’s “Abbasid Revolution”. These books in turn depended on traditional Arabic texts.

Muslim historians such as Al-Tabari, collected vast quantities of material and set it down in roughly chronological order. Al-Tabari wrote in Baghdad in the later ninth century and his work includes fragments of many earlier accounts (Stone, 2005). Al-Mas‘udi added to this collection. More than any other Muslim historian, Al-Mas‘udi tried to keep his books lively with stories and anecdotes, and this gave him great appeal to readers in his day. The works of these historians provide vital details regarding Al-Mamun (Stone, 2005).

Al-Mamun faced a lot of difficulty in rising to power. While Abd Allāh was only half Arab, his half step-brother Muhammad was of full-blooded Qurashī descent through his mother Zubayda, who pressed al-Rashīd to name her son heir apparent. Abd Allāh (with the title of al-Ma mūn) was named to follow as second successor. An elite of Arab and Arabized commanders, called the abnā al-dawla or “sons of the revolution” came to play an important role in the new Abbasid government.

The abnā prided themselves on their record against the Umayyads, and on their terrifying appearance. They believed they were created to topple dynasties, obey the caliphs, and support the state. Once settled in Baghdad, they took it as their home, calling it “the Khurasan of Iraq”. Though the Abassid caliphs came to power with the help of the Khurasani forces, they tried to wring them for revenue. This lead to a rebellion. The ailing caliph alRashīd marched east to suppress the rebellion but died while on campaign, leaving the empire to be ruled by his son Muhammad al-Amīn. His other son, Abd Allāh al-Mamūn, served as governor of Marv till five years later, a second Khurasani revolution broke out.

The abnā al-dawla who had not followed the Abbasids to Iraq and had remained in Khurasan when the war broke out were recruited to fight for Al-Mamūn. Al-Mamūn’s commander, Tāhir Al-Husayn, was apparently a descendant of one of the original abnā al-dawla. Success in the war made Al-Mamun the seventh caliph of the Abbasid dynasty.

Major events of Al-Mamun’s period include the struggle with his relatives for control of the caliphate, the designation of Alī al-Ridā as heir apparent, and the Abbasid Inquisition. The failure of both his major initiatives – the designation of al-Ridā as heir apparent, and the Inquisition – set the stage for the eventual compromise with Sunnism. He was good in administration. Al-Mamun appointed Tāhir to the governorship of Khurasan, where for the first time it was made possible to spend provincial revenues locally.

He was the greatest patron of philosophy and science in the history of Islam. He encouraged on holding disputes in court on logical, theological, and legal matters. Al-Mamun established in Baghdad his famous ‘Bayt al-Hikmah’ (House of Wisdom), combining a library and an academy. The library contained books on all subjects, such as literature, natural sciences, and logic. His reign saw many territorial consolidations. There were gains in India and Afghanistan, while lands of Persia and Turkestan were secured.

Many sources credit Al-Mamun with supporting the BanūMūsā’s work in astronomy, al-Khwārizmī’s composition of the foundational treatise on algebra, and the translation of Greek science and philosophy into Arabic. Al-Ma mūn’s own biographers say that he held debate-sessions with scholars of various persuasions. He had a critical attitude toward the Sunna, the reported normative practice of the Prophet and the Companions.

He allegedly defended his caliphate using the Murji ī argument that those who serve as caliphs are legitimate, evidence of their unworthiness notwithstanding. The most important creed he espoused, however, was the so-called Jahmī doctrine that the Qurān was created by God as opposed to being co-eternal with Him. In practice, this probably meant that they certified notary-witnesses without questioning them about their views on the Qurān. He condemned people who opposed his views.

In 201/817, Al-Ma mūn named an Alid, that is, a descendant of the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law Alī b. AbīTālib, to succeed him as caliph. Al-Mamūn was sympathetic towards the descendants of Alī and his gift of his daughter in marriage to Alī al-Ridā’s son affirmed this tie. The allegiance of Al-Mamun to Ali was controversial. The Abbasids, admittedly, could trace their lineage back to the Prophet’s uncle, al- Abbās.

However, this claim lacked the charismatic appeal of direct descent through Alī and Fātima. Alī al-Ridā, the designated heir apparent by Al-Mamun was regarded by many contemporary Shiites as the eighth of a line of legitimate Imams descended from Alī and Fātima. The Abbasids and the abnā were appalled by the designation of al-Ridā. In Baghdad, the Abbasids annulled their allegiance to Al-Mamūn. Al-Mamun died under mysterious circumstances.

On his deathbed, Mamun exhorted his heir al-Mutasim to treat the Alids kindly and to continue the Inquisition. Al-Mutasim (r. 218–227/833–842) carried out this testament by overseeing the interrogation and flogging of Ibn Hanbal, the only surviving Baghdadi dissident. The next caliph, al-Wāthiq (r. 227–232/842–47), executed the proto-Sunni insurrectionist Ahmad b. Nasr al-Khuzāī. The legacy of al-Mamūn ended only with the accession of al-Mutawakkil (r. 232–47/847–61), who lifted the Inquisition, extended caliphal patronage to the proto-Sunnis, and demolished the tomb of the Alid martyr al-Husayn b. Alī b. AbīTālib.

Although Al-Mamūn did not live long enough to do more than set the Inquisition in motion, it remains the most controversial episode of his reign. Crone and Hinds conclude that the failure of the Inquisition marks the permanent separation of religious and political authority in Islam. Al-Mamun was also one who seeded the rivalry between the Shiites and the Sunnis. The rivalry created a civil war situation within Iraq that allowed foreign countries to enter the country and declare war. These facts mark Al-Mamun as one of the most influential characters in early Islamic history.

Bibliography

Cooperson, Michael (2000). Classical Arabic Biography: The Heirs of the Prophets in the Age of Al-Mamun. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, England.

Crone, Patricia and Martin Hinds (1986). God’s Caliph: Religious Authority in the First Centuries of Islam. University of Cambridge Oriental Publications No. 37. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

Daniel, Elton (1979). The Political and Social History of Khurasan under Abbasid Rule, 747–820. Bibliotheca Islamica: Minneapolis and Chicago.

Goldziher, Ignaz (1967). Muslim Studies: 2 vols. George Allen and Unwin. London.

Kennedy, Hugh (1981). The Early Abbasid Caliphate: A Political History. Croom Helm. London.

Shaban, M. A. (1970). The ‘Abbasid Revolution’. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

Stone, Caroline (2005). . Saudi Aramco World. Web.

This essay on Ma’Mun – To What Extent Does History Make Great Individuals or Great Individuals Make History was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.
Removal Request
If you are the copyright owner of this paper and no longer wish to have your work published on IvyPanda.
Request the removal

Need a custom Essay sample written from scratch by
professional specifically for you?

801 certified writers online

Cite This paper
Select a referencing style:

Reference

IvyPanda. (2022, April 29). Ma'Mun - To What Extent Does History Make Great Individuals or Great Individuals Make History. https://ivypanda.com/essays/mamun-to-what-extent-does-history-make-great-individuals-or-great-individuals-make-history/

Reference

IvyPanda. (2022, April 29). Ma'Mun - To What Extent Does History Make Great Individuals or Great Individuals Make History. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/mamun-to-what-extent-does-history-make-great-individuals-or-great-individuals-make-history/

Work Cited

"Ma'Mun - To What Extent Does History Make Great Individuals or Great Individuals Make History." IvyPanda, 29 Apr. 2022, ivypanda.com/essays/mamun-to-what-extent-does-history-make-great-individuals-or-great-individuals-make-history/.

1. IvyPanda. "Ma'Mun - To What Extent Does History Make Great Individuals or Great Individuals Make History." April 29, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/mamun-to-what-extent-does-history-make-great-individuals-or-great-individuals-make-history/.


Bibliography


IvyPanda. "Ma'Mun - To What Extent Does History Make Great Individuals or Great Individuals Make History." April 29, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/mamun-to-what-extent-does-history-make-great-individuals-or-great-individuals-make-history/.

References

IvyPanda. 2022. "Ma'Mun - To What Extent Does History Make Great Individuals or Great Individuals Make History." April 29, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/mamun-to-what-extent-does-history-make-great-individuals-or-great-individuals-make-history/.

References

IvyPanda. (2022) 'Ma'Mun - To What Extent Does History Make Great Individuals or Great Individuals Make History'. 29 April.

Powered by CiteTotal, best referencing maker
More related papers