Abdullah Eki̇nci̇

Keywords: Middle East, History, Islam, İsma'ili, Karmati


The Middle Eastern İsma'ili-Karmati movement was a very strong movement that shook the Islamic world to its core. The Karmatis created a messianic movement that promised the Islamic world of the Middle Ages a better future based on equality and justice. The revolutionary and messianic (even though in this case it would be more correct to talk about a mehdi rather than a messiah) movement of the İsma'ilis gained a great deal of support among the followers of the Twelve Imam cult, who were not happy about their sect's passivity and political weakness. As a result of the intense debate among Shia groups, many followers of the İmamiyye sect, in Southern Iraq and in other regions, passed on to the ranks of the İsma'ilis. The 4th century of the Islamic Era, known as Islam's century of development, was witness to the Karmatis' dramatic spread in Kufe, Syria, Rey, Khorasan, Maveraünnehr, Multan, Sind, the Magrib, Yemen and Bahrain. İsma'ili groups gained significant success, from the propaganda point of view, within the Islamic world, beginning from the second half of the 3rd century of the Islamic Era (9th century A.D.). In 289 (901-902), the Karmatis gained a strong foothold in Iraq and more precisely in Kufe and environs. From there, their propaganda spread to Bahrain, Syria, Rey, Khorasan, Maveraünnehr, Multan, Sind and Yemen. Wherever they went, İsma'ili-Karmati groups offered an alternative social model. In Bahrain the Karmatis even gave birth to a strong and radical revolutionary movement, leading to their own state. This state was perceived as an example of governing with justice and in respect of equality. For these reasons, one cannot deny the social nature of their current. Many men of authority of the Islamic world during the Middle Ages struggled to put an end to the activities of the İsma'ili and Karmati groups. Among these, the repression by the Tolunoğulları, Sacoğulları, Gazne and Seljuk dynasties are important from the point of view of Turkish history. The conquest of Multan and of Sind by Mahmud from Gazne (388-421/998- 1030) and the conquest of el-Hasa, after a long siege, by the Seljuks in 1077- 1078, with the help of local tribes, put an end to the two-century long Karmati domination. The ruling classes of the Islamic world could finally breathe easier after the long lasting political and social pressure by İsma'ili and Karmati groups.