Track Persia- August 25, 2017

The concept of “Arab Corridor” emerged in Iran with a fatwa (Muslim religious decree) issued by Iran’s late Supreme Leader and the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ayatollah Rouhallah Khomeini in the first half of 1979.

Khomeini decreed Iran’s Islamic Revolution must be exported to any part in the world through “Corridors”, starting by the countries closest to the Islamic Republic.

In an interview by pan-Arab TV channel Al-Arabiya on July 29, 2017, Muhammad Ali al-Husseini, the Secretary-General of the Shi’i Beirut-based Islamic Arab Council described the Iranian theocracy as a modern anti-Islamic version of the Qarmatian theocracy that was founded in the 10th century AD in Bahrain and the Saudi Eastern Province.

Abu Taher Suleiman al-Jannabi (906–944AD) was the ruler of the Qarmatian state in Bahrain  and Eastern Arabia, who in 930 led the sacking of Mecca. The brother of Abu Saʿid Hassan ibn Bahram al-Jannabi, founder of the Qarmatian state, Abu Taher became leader of the theocracy in 923. He immediately began an expansionist cycle, raiding Basra in that year. He raided Kufa (where Imam Ali ibn Abu-Taleb was killed in the 7th century), in 927 and defeated the local Abbasid army and threatened Baghdad in 928. Abu Taher pillaged much of Iraq, as he could not enter.

In 930, Abu Taher led a Qarmatians’ pillaging of Mecca and desecrated Islam’s holiest sites. He had urged all Muslims to enter the city and later swore he came in peace. Once inside Mecca’s walls the Qarmatians massacred the pilgrims, taunting them with verses of the Qur’an. The bodies of the pilgrims were left to rot in the streets or thrown into the Well of Zamzam. The Ka’ba (Black Rock) was taken by Abu Taher who later brought it to Qatif, capital of al-Ihsa’.

Abū Taher’s brother, Abu Saʿid, was a tribal chief of Banu-Janab, a branch of the Banu Kalb tribe, he had militarised the Qarmatians. Abu Saʿid began preaching against Sunni Islam around 890 after being taught by his mentor Hamdan Qarmat, a native of Syria, from whose name the Qarmatian sect was derived.

Abū Taher was influenced by his brother and learned to fight early on, along with his followers. Both had begun plundering caravans, traders and Persian pilgrims en route to Mecca before gathering a large following. They soon mobilised an army and set out to lay siege to Basra. The governor of Basra, however, learned of their preparations and informed the Abbasid Caliph, al-Muktafi in Baghdad. The Caliph then sent a Persian general, Abbas bin Umar, to save Basra, but Abbas was defeated and his men were executed. Basra fell to the Qarmatians after a siege. The much of southern Iraq fell to the Qarmatians.

Abu SaʿId’s success in capturing most of Eastern Arabia encouraged him to lay siege to Hajr, a strategic city near the Persian Gulf, after doing so he made his son Saʿid crown prince. That angered Abu Taher, and he soon assassinated his elder brother and declared himself chief of the Qarmatians in 923.

Soon after succeeding al-Muktafi, Caliph al-Muqtader re-captured Basra and ordered the city’s re-fortification. Abu Taher successfully laid siege to the city again, defeating the Abbasid army. After capturing Basra, the Qarmatians loot it and then left.

Abu Taher returned again and ravaged it totally, destroying the grand mosque and reducing the market-place to ashes. He ruled Bahrain successfully and entered into contact with local and foreign rulers as far as North Africa, but continued to fight off assaults from Persians allied with the caliph in Baghdad.

After taking Kufa, Abu Taher forced the Abbasids to pay large sums of money for him to leave the town in peace. On his way home he ravaged the outskirts of Kufa. On his return home, he began building palaces in Qatif not only for himself but also for his allies and declared the city his permanent capital.

In 928 Caliph al-Muqtader was confident to once again confront Abu Taher, calling in his generals Yusuf bin Abi-as’Saj from Azerbaijan, Munis Khadem, Muzaffar and Harun. After a heavy battle, all were beaten and driven back to Baghdad.

Abu Taher destroyed al-Jazira (in Iraq’s north-west) as a final warning to the Abbasids and returned to al-Ihsa’. At home, he thought he had identified the Mahdi (the 12th Imam for Shia who the latter believe he has been in hiding since the 10th century for his safety) as a young Persian prisoner from Isfahan named Abu’l-Fadl al-Isfahani, who claimed to be the descendant of the Persian kings.

Isfahani, a Persian who secretly hated the Arabs and Islam, had been brought back to Bahrain from the Qarmatians’ raid into Iraq in 928. In 931, Abu Taher turned over the theocracy to this Mahdi-Caliph, Isfahani. However, as a Zoroastrian, Isfahani re-instituted the worship of fire and the burning of religious books during an 80-day rule. His reign culminated in the execution of members of Bahrain’s notable families, including members of Abu Taher’s family. Fearing for his own life, Abu Taher announced he had been wrong and denounced Isfahani as a false Madhi. Begging forgiveness, Abu Taher had him executed, but the latter was killed years later.

Iran’s Safawi shahs, whose ancestors Shi’i converts from Sunni Islam, with the help from Shi’i Arab clerics mainly for Jabal Amel of southern Lebanon, called for another theocracy in Persia.

The Persians  who had retained their Zoroastrian faith and who, when they did not feel strong enough to throw off control, either out of fear of local rivals or of rebellion by their subjects, co-operated with the caliphs or shahs. As such, Shiism  tended to be revolutionary; the first Safawi theocracy expanded its territory rapidly thanks to the appeal of its Shiism among non-Sunni Muslims.

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.