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Portrayals of the Later Abbasid Caliphate: A Reappraisal of the Buyid-Era Caliphs in Arabic Chronicles, 334/945-447/1055

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Like other decline narratives, the alleged decadence of the Abbasid caliphate after its loss of military power in the mid-fourth/tenth century has been seen historically as an index of the “decline” of Islamic civilization generally, and remnants of these images still remain. However, a contextual examination of the key Buyid-era sources, namely Arabic chronicles, reveals little consciousness that the caliphate had lost its meaning. Chroniclers such as Miskawayh (d. 421/1030) provide a Buyid-centric narrative, but sources closer to the caliphate indicate that the power and authority of the caliphate had been re-shaped rather than fatally undermined. A broader conception of power is necessary to understand the transformed position of the caliphs, taking into account “soft” cultural and diplomatic power rather than military force alone, as caliphs continued to lead by managing the religious and legal-judicial spheres.

Affiliations: 1: The Ohio State UniversityScharfe.1@osu.edu

10.1163/22142371-12340008
/content/journals/10.1163/22142371-12340008
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/content/journals/10.1163/22142371-12340008
2014-10-01
2018-06-23

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