Arabs in the Early Islamic Empire

Exploring al-Azd Tribal Identity

Brian Ulrich

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Explores what tribal identity meant to Arabs at different stages of the caliphate's evolution

  • Examines al-Azd in Arabia on the eve of Islam
  • Contributes to the debate over centralisation in the early Islamic conquests
  • Reconsiders the careers of the crucial Muhallabid family in Umayyad politics
  • Asks what al-Azd identity meant to literate elites under the early Abbasids
  • Critically analyses multiple narratives concerning the early Marwanid period

Examining a single broad tribal identity – al-Azd – from the immediate pre-Islamic period into the early Abbasid era, this book notes the ways it was continually refashioned over that time. It explores the ways in which the rise of the early Islamic empire influenced the peoples of the Arabian Peninsula who became a core part of it, and examines the connections between the kinship societies and the developing state of the early caliphate. This helps us to understand how what are often called ‘tribal’ forms of social organisation identity conditioned its growth and helped shape what became its common elite culture.

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Chapter I: The Azd in Pre- and Early Islamic Arabia

Chapter II: The Azd and the Early Islamic State

Chapter III: The Muhallabids: War, Politics and Memory

Chapter IV: Eastern Conquests and Factionalism

Chapter V: The Azd of Mosul





Here, in the first history of the "Arab" tribe of al-Azd in late antiquity and early Islam, Ulrich convincingly shows how individuals and groups used the affiliation to al-Azd to shape identities and establish positions of power. This book offers many new insights and is an important contribution to the debate on the emerging Islamic Empire.

Jens Scheiner, University of Göttingen
Brian Ulrich is an Associate Professor of History at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. He received his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin in 2008 and his interests include early Islamic history and the history of the Gulf.

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