Claims of Massacre and Persecution Attributed to Khurāsān Governor Qutayba Ibn Muslim al-Bāhilī Cover Image

Horasân Valisi Ḳuteybe b. Müslim el-Bâhilî İle İlişkilendirilen Katliam ve Zulüm İddiaları
Claims of Massacre and Persecution Attributed to Khurāsān Governor Qutayba Ibn Muslim al-Bāhilī

Author(s): Yunus Akyürek
Subject(s): Theology and Religion, History of Islam
Published by: Cumhuriyet Üniversitesi İlahyat Fakültesi
Keywords: History of Islam; Qutayba ibn Muslim; Massacres; Nizek Tarkhan; Tāloqān;

Summary/Abstract: Qutayba ibn Muslim al-Bāhilī is one of the leading soldier-bureaucrats of the Umayyads period. During the time he served as the governor of Khurāsān, he consolidated the Umayyad’s rule in Tokharistan and Transoxiana provinces, and expanded the borders of the state to China by conquering the Kashgar region. His activities for conversion of the people of the conquered regions have great importance in the history of Islam since the intense relations of the Turkish people with Islam fell upon the time of his governorship. It is possible to argue that by introducing the religion to these people Qutayba had played an important role in their conversion to Islam. It is also known that he had sent a delegation to the emperor of China for the same purpose. However, despite all his achievements, it is seen that the academic studies about Qutayba in our country are very rare. Besides, some of the recent studies about him claim that he was a fraud, a trickster, and an untrustworthy person in his military activities; and had committed mass murders and massacres, persecuted innocent people, destroyed and burned the cities of conquered lands. In this article, it is examined that whether these claims and accusations have their justifications or not by consulting the main sources. In fact, what is expected from constructive criticism in this subject and every other area is to clarify the matter and make it more comprehensible of its context. However, it should not be forgotten that some conclusions over Qutayba in these studies might have been drawn to quickly in order to manipulate the conquest movements of the Umayyad period.Summary: The religious interaction and change taken place in the Arabian Peninsula with the emergence of Islam and with the political, military and cultural activities of the Muslims performed during the periods of Prophet Muhammad and the Rāshidūn (rightly guided) Caliphs had significant effects upon the lands of Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Khurāsān where the ancient civilizations located.The success made by the Muslim-Arabs in such a short time is accepted of course as one of the important events of world history. The message of Islam spread rapidly with their extraordinary efforts, and reached quickly in the early days of Islam to the Amu Darya/Oxus River, which is considered to be the natural border between the Iranians and the Turks (Iran and Turan).Although the Turks who had been struggling to dominate the region for centuries gained an opportunity with the disappearance of the Sasanian Empire from history, they could not take advantage of this new situation because of their lack of political unity and a strong state, and the power held by the regional Turkish Sultans were not enough to make their dominance happen. In this conjuncture, the Muslim-Arabs who appeared in the stage of history in a relatively late period but had the ideal of being a regional and a global power had rapidly realised their political and military activities called “conquest” in the Islamic historical sources. When it comes to the period of Caliph ʿUthmān, it is seen that the conditions were very suitable for passing to the east of the Oxus River where the Turkish elements lived intensively. At the time, the absence of a strong Turkish state in the region, and China’s occupation with its own internal problems made an important contribution for the Muslim-Arab capture of the region. In this region, which is called as “Transoxiana” in the Arabic sources, it is seen that the Turks organized their political structures as city-states and regional sultanates. In the north-eastern parts of this region, there was a strong Turkish State called the Turgish State and it provided political and military support to the people of the region who rebelled occasionally the Umayyads.After solving the internal problems of the state largely and suppressing some dangerous revolts, the Umayyad Caliph ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Marwān became capable of initiating military activities beyond the borders of the state. Nevertheless, the period when the actual conquests were made was the period of his son Walīd (86/705-96/715). It is seen that the conquests made in his time were permanent, and the people who lived in the conquered lands accepted Islam to a large extent. The conquest made during Walīd’s time which extended from Kashgar to the Pyrenees, realised at an unprecedented pace. The most important name for the eastern side of the conquests is undoubtedly Al-Ḥajjāj ibn Yūsuf. Ḥajjāj (75/694-95/714) who acted as the supreme governor of Iraq for nearly twenty years, had achieved important successes in the regions of Transoxiana and Sindh located in the eastern part of the country by the hands of his appointed governors. However, many governors appointed by him to Khurāsān from 75/694 to 86/705 with the hope of reaching his goals in the east could not meet his expectations because of the political, social and economic problems that existed throughout the country, and because of the resulting rebellions in the regions that these problems caused.These unwanted conditions continued to be seen in the region until he appointed Qutayba ibn Muslim as the governor of Khurāsān (86 / 705-96 / 715) who was one of the young commanders and administrators educated by Ḥajjāj personally. Qutayba known as having a close relationship with Ḥajjāj and consulting him when taking important decisions acted in this direction throughout the time he stayed in this position.It is known that the internal conflicts in the region continued during the time when Qutayba was appointed as the governor of Khurāsān. However, he had brought together northern and southern Arabian tribes living in the region with religious, political and economical suggestions and had succeeded in persuading them for military activities that he decided to operate beyond the Oxus. For the Umayyads, these military operations were justified, because the regional sultans who ruled in the western and eastern sides of the Oxus repeatedly violated the agreements they had made before. The tendency of the people of Turkic, Iranian, and Tajik origin who were the real owner of these lands and lived in both sides of the rich Oxus basin for many centuries to violate these agreements was in fact result of a great concern. They now realized that the Muslim-Arabs who followed a systematic settlement policy in the region came to their lands this time without any intention of going back. Even though Qutayba followed a fair and reasonable policy towards them, they violated their agreements with him, formed alliances among themselves and waged military campaigns against Qutayba not to be the subjects of any change in their religion, worldview, and perception of existence.Qutayba, who is believed to have spent his its utmost efforts to make the religion of Islam and the Umayyad political cause permanent in the region under these unfavourable conditions, has been recently criticized by some researchers. The criticisms intensify around the claims that he persecuted people, committed massacres, and behaved unfaithfully by breaking his promises that he made with people. From the perspective of our own times, it is possible to think that sometimes he had taken extreme measures in punishing the sultans and the persons who raised armed struggles against him and caused riots by violating the agreements. However, when the period is compared with the others, it can be easily said that the Umayyads showed in these and other remote areas a considerable amount of tolerance that they had never shown it in their internal conflicts. It is a known fact that he generally clashed with the ones who disrupted agreements, sought help from external forces, established alliances against them, and refused to pay taxes. Based on historical sources, it does not seem to be possible to say that while doing these activities in the region, Qutabya did not behave entirely in a way that his behaviour could be classified as massacres committed against innocent civilians. On the contrary, it is known that Qutayba had given many chances to the people of the region in administrative and military affairs. As a matter of fact, he ruled the city of Bukhara for 20 years with a Turkish ruler whom he appointed and supported, and he included in his army a union of twenty thousand cosmopolitan soldiers assembled from the people of Bukhara, Baykend, Chach and Samarkand and paid a regular salary to them.The fact that his grave known as the “Imam Shaykh Qutayba Tomb” was turned later into a shrine and visited by the people even today despite the passage of long centuries after his death shows that he has been loved by the people of the region and that they have always considered him as a conqueror-bureaucrat who spent his life for the ideals of his religion.

  • Issue Year: 22/2018
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 515 - 542
  • Page Count: 28
  • Language: Turkish