chapter  1
32 Pages

The ʿAbbāsid crucible: the historical background to al-Muḥāsibī’s life

Al-Muḥāsibī was born in a highly interesting and well-chronicled era known as the Abbāsid period. Bearing in mind that individual works have been entirely dedicated to this rich historical part of history, it is diffi cult to represent in a short chapter such as this. Nevertheless, this section of the book concentrates on the factors within the reign of the ʿAbbāsids that may have directly affected the life of al-Muḥāsibī. This chapter will begin, therefore, by providing a brief impression of the ʿ Abbāsids, so as to furnish the reader with an overview of the rulers of this particular period of Islamic history. Similarly, the early ʿ Abbāsid period is often regarded as the ‘Golden Age’ of Islamic learning and thus an assessment of intellectual life under these caliphs will also be made. Thirdly, since al-Muḥāsibī spent his formative years in Basra and the better part of his life in Baghdad, both these geographical locations will be discussed to assess their infl uence on our author. Finally, perhaps the single most important religio-political event in this period was the miḥna, commonly termed the ‘Inquisition’, which affected religious praxis during a large proportion of al-Muḥāsibī’s life and therefore this event will also be examined.