Civil War in Palestine (793-796)

Civil War in Palestine (793-796)

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The Civil War in Palestine occurred between two Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 tribal federations in Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

, Mudhar
Mudhar or Mudar , is one of two major branches of the "North arabian" tribes, the other branch being Rabi'ah....

 and Yamani, between 793-796, under the rule of the Abbasid Caliphate.


The Abbasid Caliphate rose to power after the defeat of the Umayyad
The Umayyad Caliphate was the second of the four major Arab caliphates established after the death of Muhammad. It was ruled by the Umayyad dynasty, whose name derives from Umayya ibn Abd Shams, the great-grandfather of the first Umayyad caliph. Although the Umayyad family originally came from the...

s in 750. The capital of the Islamic Caliphate thus moved from Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 to Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

, and Palestine lost its central position and became a distant district whose affairs were not tended as carefully as they were under the Umayyads.

In the 8th century CE, Palestine was divided into two administrative districts: Jund Filastin
Jund Filastin
Jund Filastin was one of several sub-provinces of the Ummayad and Abbasid Caliphate province of Syria, organized soon after the Muslim conquest of Syria in the seventh century. According to al-Biladhuri, the main towns in the district at its capture by the Rashidun Caliphate, were Gaza, Sebastiya,...

 and Jund al-Urdunn
Jund al-Urdunn
Jund al-Urdunn was one of the five districts of Bilad ash-Sham during the period of the Arab Caliphates. It was established under the Rashidun and its capital was Tiberias throughout its rule by the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates. It encompassed southern Mount Lebanon, the Galilee, the southern...

. The former stretched from Rafah
Rafah , also known as Rafiah, is a Palestinian city in the southern Gaza Strip. Located south of Gaza, Rafah's population of 71,003 is overwhelmingly made up of Palestinian refugees. Rafah camp and Tall as-Sultan form separate localities. Rafah is the district capital of the Rafah Governorate...

 to Lajjun
Lajjun was a Palestinian Arab village of nearly 1,300 people located northwest of Jenin. The village along with nearby Umm al-Fahm and seven hamlets, had a total land area of 77,242 dunams or , of which were built-up, while the rest was used for agricultural purposes...

, encompassing much of the coastal plain of Palestine and included Samaria
Samaria, or the Shomron is a term used for a mountainous region roughly corresponding to the northern part of the West Bank.- Etymology :...

 and Mount Hebron
Mount Hebron
Mount Hebron is a geographic region and geologic formation in the southern West Bank, with its western foothills extending into Israel. The area was in biblical times a center of the Israelite and Hasmonean kingdoms. The region lends its name to the Mount Hebron Regional Council....

, while Jund al-Urdunn covered most of the Galilee
Galilee , is a large region in northern Israel which overlaps with much of the administrative North District of the country. Traditionally divided into Upper Galilee , Lower Galilee , and Western Galilee , extending from Dan to the north, at the base of Mount Hermon, along Mount Lebanon to the...

, southern Lebanon
Southern Lebanon
Southern Lebanon is the geographical area of Lebanon comprising the South Governorate and the Nabatiye Governorate. These two entities were divided from the same province in the early 1990s...

, and Transjordan
The Emirate of Transjordan was a former Ottoman territory in the Southern Levant that was part of the British Mandate of Palestine...

 east of the Jordan River. Both districts were a part of the larger province of Bilad ash-Sham.

Various Arab tribes populated the region and formed federations. The Mudhar
Mudhar or Mudar , is one of two major branches of the "North arabian" tribes, the other branch being Rabi'ah....

, or Qais
Qais , also spelled Qays or Kais, were an Arabian tribe branched from the Mudhar Adnani groups.-Main branches of Qais:The main branches of the Qais tribes are the Banu Sulaym, Hawazin and the Banu Ghatafan. These three main groups remained in the Eastern Hejaz until the 7th century...

 faction dominated the north, while the Yamani faction controlled the south. Enmity and skirmishes between the two tribal federations were reported as early as 790. Ibrahim bin Salih, the governor of Bilad ash-Sham and a cousin of the caliph al-Mahdi
Muhammad ibn Mansur al-Mahdi , was the third Abbasid Caliph who reigned from 158 AH to 169 AH . He succeeded his father, al-Mansur....

, regularly dealt with the affairs in Jund Filastin. He and his aide, Ishaq bin Ibrahim inclined to favor the Yamani tribe in disputes with the Mudhar.

First phase

Hostilities commenced after a quarrel occurred when a member of the northern Banu al-Qayn tribe came to grind his wheat at a various place in Transjordan and stole marrows and watermelons from one of southern tribesmen (most likely from the Banu Judham
Banu Judham
The Banu Judham is a Yemeni tribe that emigrated to Syria and Egypt and dwelled with the Azd and Hamdan Kahlani tribes. Most Arab genealogists are not sure whether they are a Kahlani or a Himyarite tribe.-Settling in Syria and Egypt:...

 or Lakhm tribes). Battles between the two sides sparked up throughout Palestine, particularly in the Jordan Valley
Jordan Valley (Middle East)
The Jordan Valley forms part of the larger Jordan Rift Valley. It is 120 kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide, where it runs from Lake Tiberias in the north to northern Dead Sea in the south. It runs for an additional 155 kilometer south of the Dead Sea to Aqaba, an area also known as Wadi...

 and around Jerusalem. During a major confrontation near Jerusalem, Ibn al-Athir stated there was no clear winner and that one side suffered 80 dead and the other 60 dead. Casualties rose considerably as tribes of the Golan Heights and Jund al-Urdunn joined the war as allies of the Yamani coalition. The strife was brought to an end and matters calmed down on December 29, 793, after decisive intervention by the caliph Harun al-Rashid
Harun al-Rashid
Hārūn al-Rashīd was the fifth Arab Abbasid Caliph in Iraq. He was born in Rey, Iran, close to modern Tehran. His birth date remains a point of discussion, though, as various sources give the dates from 763 to 766)....

 and his brothers.

Second phase

In 796, battles between the Mudhar and Yamani tribes broke out for unspecified reasons. It is believed by early Arab and Persian historians that northern Mudhar tribes instigated the hostilities and that the focus of their attacks was not directed only against the Yamani federation, but the Abbasid regime itself. Harun al-Rashid viewed this as a rebellion and sent a large army under Ja'far ibn Yahya al-Barmaki
Ja'far ibn Yahya
Ja'far bin Yahya Barmaki, Jafar al-Barmaki was the son of a Persian Vizier of the Arab Abbasid Caliph, Harun al-Rashid, from whom he inherited that position. He was a member of the influential Barmakids family...

 to quell the revolt. According to historian Moshe Gil, "he put down the rebels with an iron hand and much blood was spilled."

Throughout the revolt, anarchy became widespread in Palestine. The cities of Gaza
Gaza , also referred to as Gaza City, is a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip, with a population of about 450,000, making it the largest city in the Palestinian territories.Inhabited since at least the 15th century BC,...

, Bayt Jibrin
Bayt Jibrin
Bayt Jibrin was a Palestinian Arab village located northwest of the city of Hebron. The village had a total land area of 56,185 dunams or , of which were built-up while the rest remained farmland.The early inhabitants of Bayt Jibrin are the Canaanites...

, Ascalon
Ashkelon is a coastal city in the South District of Israel on the Mediterranean coast, south of Tel Aviv, and north of the border with the Gaza Strip. The ancient seaport of Ashkelon dates back to the Neolithic Age...

 in Jund Filastin and the town Sariphaea in Jund al-Urdunn were completely destroyed in the conflict by Bedouin
The Bedouin are a part of a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes or clans, known in Arabic as ..-Etymology:...

 tribes. Several towns and villages in western Palestine were also sacked. In addition, the main roads of the district were rendered impassable due to the presence of hostile Bedouin bands. Various Arab tribes who previously attempted to attack the Christian monasteries of the Jordan Valley region, but were prevented from doing so by the authorities, took advantage of the situation and raided several of them. The St. Chariton Monastery was robbed and twenty monks at Mar Saba
Mar Saba
The Great Lavra of St. Sabbas the Sanctified, known in Arabic as Mar Saba , is a Greek Orthodox monastery overlooking the Kidron Valley in the West Bank east of Bethlehem. The traditional date for the founding of the monastery by Saint Sabas of Cappadocia is the year 483 and today houses around 20...

 were reportedly suffocated to death. The monasteries of St. Cyriacus, St. Sabas, St. Theodosius
Al-Ubeidiya is a Palestinian town located east of Bethlehem. The town is a part of the Bethlehem Governorate in the central West Bank. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics , al-Ubeidiya had a population of over 10,753 in 2007....

, and St. Euthymius were also attacked. The combined casualties of the tribal federations in 796 totaled roughly 1,200.

Ja'far appointed Salih bin Sulayman as his representative in Balqa
Balqa is one of the governorates of Jordan. It is located northwest of Amman, Jordan's capital.The governorate has the fourth largest population of the 12 governorates of Jordan, and is ranked 10th by Area...

, Transjordan while he appointed Issa bin al-Akki as his representative for the whole province of al-Sham. The reason a separate person was put in charge of Jund al-Urdunn—which is normally under the administration of Damascus—was because of Ja'far's belief that the epicenter of the rebellion was in this area.