After the discovery of the Akhbar al-Abbas manuscript in the 1950s by Professor Husayn Amin in the library of the Abû Hanîfa Madrasa in Baghdad and its publishing by Abd al-Aziz Duri and A. J. al-Muttalibi in 1971, the understanding of the Abbasid Revolution changed. Many historians, such as F. Omar, M. Sharon, S. Agha have considered it as the main source for the Abbasid dawa (‘invitation’ or ‘mission’), and they have developed their theories on the revolution by means of the information given in this source. However, in addition to providing many details about the revolutionary phase, this historical report, arguably, founds a socio-political identity for revolutionaries and manipulates the reader by promoting Prophet Muhammad’s uncle Abbas and the Abbasid dynasty. The aim of this talk is to develop an understanding of the purpose behind the writing of Akhbar al-Abbas and to re-evaluate the Akhbar al-Abbas by regarding this source as a historical manipulative memory.
Ibn Battuta (1304-1370) represents the memory of his epoch, an unusual time of changes in Dar al-Islam, with an enlarged Christendom on the West, and peripheric invaders on the East. Through the pen of the Granadian poet Ibn Yuzayy, his words remain and embody the memory of an entire era, i.e. the turning point between the 13th and 14th centuries. Memory and remembrance become the most important tool for the traveller Ibn Battuta, a man that crossed the known Islamic world from his native Tangier to China, during more than 20 years. Travel memories will be the leitmotiv in some other writers before and after: Abu Hamid al-Garnati with his Gift of Spirits (1165); Ibn Jubayr and his Rihla (1183); John of Mandeville’s The Travels of Sir John Mandeville (c. 1360); Marco Polo and his famous Book of the Marvels of the World (1298), or Pedro Tafur with his Andanças and Viajes (1436/39). Their stories, although they may appear sometimes fanciful and somehow far from reality, represent after all the closest and reliable memory of a whole time period.
Preachers at the papal court at Avignon remembered ecclesiastical and biblical history in a variety of ways to support and conform to the messages they sought to communicate in sermons delivered before the pope and other ecclesiastical dignitaries. The ‘remembered pasts’ that the preachers invoked drew on different traditions and impulses, including the medieval affinity for schematic histories and established ways of approaching scriptural texts, and often resulted in the creation of new ways of remembering the sacred past, which could be used either to affirm the state of the 14th-century Church or to call for change.