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Abbasid History Podcast

Apr 12, 2021

In and around 869CE, African slaves used to cultivate the salt marshes of Basra in present-day Iraq revolted against their master. Led by an ʿAlī b. Muḥammad, a charismatic messianic figure, their uprising would prove to very damaging to an already beleaguered Abbasid caliphate before being finally crushed in 883CE.

To explain the cause, details and significance of the Zanj revolt is Dr. Philip Grant, co-author of the "Chains of Finance" published by Oxford University Press.


00.00 Introduction

02.09 The Zanj Revolt occurred in the salt marshes around Basra while the Caliphate was already preoccupied with their longtime Byzantine nemesis and other civil conflicts. What do we know about socio-political and economic context of the Zanj Revolt and the religio-cultural cauldron of the time?

09.55 There were prior unsuccessful revolts but the 869 revolt would prove devastating with siege and sacking of major cities. Narrate for us the contours of events.

28.07 An enigmatic leader emerges called ʿAlī b. Muḥammad who claims descent from the Prophet's household and other elements disenfranchised with the Caliphate join the revolt. What do we about this figure?

36.43 The long term consequences and analysis of events are disputed by historians some emphasising class over race, if it isn't anachronistic to use those term. The legacy of slavery is a sore point for many Muslims and Arabs today. How do you evaluate the Zanj revolt in the bigger scheme of things?

51.45 You are a co-author of "Chains of Finance" on a subject which seems a far call from medieval Iraq and Iran, that being contemporary investment management and you also translate Persian. What are other current projects our listeners can anticipate?


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We are also sponsored by Turath Publishing. Buy in time for Ramadan a limited edition of Mufti Taqi Usmani's new translation of the Quran with explanatory notes in a deluxe thermo-leather bound hard cover. Listeners get a 15% discount on all purchases. Visit Turath Publishing at and use discount code POD15 at checkout. Terms and conditions apply. Contact Turath Publishing for details.