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The Post-Rebellion Life of Yahya b. ‘Abd Allah (d. 187/802-3)
This proposed paper examines historical narratives documenting the final thirteen years in the life of Yahya b. ‘Abd Allah (d. 187/802-3). Yahya first came to prominence as a leader in the uprising of Sahib Fakhkh Husayn b. ‘Ali in 169/786. After the uprising was defeated, Yahya eluded capture for a number years before settling in Daylam where he unsuccessfully rebelled against the ‘Abbasids in 176/791-2. He was granted an aman from Harun al-Rashid (r. 170-93/786/809), which guaranteed him freedom of movement and access to considerable financial resources. Over the next decade, Yahya worked tirelessly to rebuild Zaydi and Alid political networks. This irked al-Rashid who eventually found a means to circumvent the aman, resulting in Yahya’s arrest and execution. This paper focuses on the historiographical treatment of the last thirteen years of Yahya’s life, drawing on both Zaydi (al-Natiq, Isbahani) and non-Zaydi (Tabari, Baladhuri, Yaqubi, etc) sources. The first part carefully reconstructs Yahya’s movements in this important period with a particular emphasis on his political and religious goals. A number of modern studies (cf Jarrar, Haider) have examined this topic but it remains largely undeveloped. The second part disentangles the motives of competing historical narratives. Zaydi sources are primarily interested in establishing Yahya’s credentials as an Imam while downplaying his complicity with Abbasid power. Non-Zaydi sources, by contrast, minimize Yahya’s importance by integrating his death into a narrative of shifting Abbasid political coalitions. The paper concludes with a set of general observations regarding Muslim historical writing.
Geographic Area
All Middle East
Sub Area
Islamic Studies