The Decline

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Keyword: Engineering and Technology, Civil Engineering, Geotechnical Engineering, Teknik och teknologier, Samhällsbyggnadsteknik, Geoteknik, Buwayhids period, Seljuks, Iqta, Iraq, Soil Mechanics
Publication year: 2020
Relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
SDG 15 Life on landSDG 9 Industry, innovation and infrastructureSDG 11 Sustainable cities and communities
The SDG label(s) above have been assigned by


Declining stage of the Abbasid Khilafa is followed meticulously until its collapse in the fall of Baghdad to the Mongols in 1258. The full sequence of events, which had resulted in this most important event to Mesopotamia is followed and the decline in agriculture in the whole of al- Sawad during this is period, is carefully described. Agriculture had formed the main contributor to the economy and strength of the Khilafa State, but it had continuously suffered neglect and destruction during this period due to negligence of the central governments of the irrigation systems and the destruction of these systems during conflicts and revolts that became dominant during the last phase of al- Khilafa State. The large spending of the late Khalifahs and the depletion of the treasury, and their dependence on foreign military troops, who were mainly Turks, to support their rule, mark the beginning. By loss of sizable revenues, this had interacted again with the Khalifahs weakness causing more revolts and anarchy by various unsatisfied groups and by the troops themselves over their unpaid salaries. The war between al-Muntasir and his brother al- Mu’tazz over the thrown following the assassination of their father al-Mutawakkil is detailed by giving full attention to the large damages it caused to irrigation canals and flooding of large areas between Baghdad and Samarra. Following this the revolt of Zanj in Southern al- Sawad and the long conflict with the Qarmatians are then outlined by reporting the reasons and describing the consequences of those important wars in details, accounting at the same time the high costs of these wars and the extent of severe damages to population centres, cultivation lands and their irrigation works. During the Buwayhids period, the Abbasid Khlilafa experienced its worst moments as the Buwayhids did not contribute much to the welfare of the people, nor could they do much to reverse the trend of decline that was progressing. As a matter of fact they had committed their biggest mistake in tearing apart the land ownership system prevailing till that time by introducing a new form of Iqta’ known as the Military Iqta’s. New methods of land and crops tax collection system were introduced and thus disrupting long established procedures that were followed since the Sassanid era and had proved their success. Conflicts and wars during the Buwayhid rule and the large-scale corruption, which are fully reported here, had undermined the central power needed for the proper management of agriculture and for the well keep of the irrigation canal systems. Finally, when the Buwayhid strength was drained they were expelled under a new rising power in the Seljuks. The Seljuks proved during this period to be not much different from the Buwayhids and their Sultans kept the real power in their hands making the Khalifah a titular head of state only. The conditions of the economy was as bad as it was before, and the people complained much over the recurrent crises of extremely high food prices during these times. Worst of all the Seljuk Sultans surpassed the Buwayhids in practicing the Iqta’ of the cultivated land by distributing qati’as not only to the military leaders as the Buwayhids did but they extend this to an unprecedented levels for the Seljuk Sultans had granted all the land to their Seljuk soldiers, their relatives and friends who were only Seljuks. To comprehend the magnitude of this; the number of the soldiers only in the time of Malik Shah who benefited from this system was forty six thousand horsemen; many more high ranking Seljuk persons were also entitled to qati’as under the same rules. With the passage of time the basic principle of this system were violated, and most of the beneficiaries succeeded in keeping the land as their own , used all sorts of abuses towards their farmers and even passed it in inheritance to their children. Some others encroached on neighboring qati’as, which belonged to others, and injustice and corruption became widespread. Negligence to repair these canals in so many cases leading to the permanent abandonment of land is also cited illustrated with many examples. In addition, many striking cases of failures of canals and their head works after large floods are fully described based on the reports given by contemporary writers. The details presented give an insight to the scale of the large fertile areas and the cities and towns that were badly affected and give evidence to the very low level that the State had reached during its last days after losing so much fertile lands and their agriculture.


Nasrat Adamo

Consultant Engineer, Norrköping, Sweden
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Nadhir Al-Ansari

Luleå tekniska universitet; Geoteknologi
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