10 posts / 0 new
Last post
Joined: 25-11-06
Feb 18 2011 20:30

In reading about Bahrain, I came upon a note about the Qarmatians, a utopian sect which controlled the area in the middle ages:

"The Qarmatians' goal was to build a society based on reason and equality. The state was governed by a council of six with a chief who was a first among equals.[7] All property within the community was distributed evenly among all initiates."

It sounds somewhat similar to European millenarian sects. Anyone have any more concrete information than the Wikipedia entry?

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Joined: 4-11-09
Feb 18 2011 22:56

Yeah, Zizek in his latest book sings a hymn about them, but I came across a pretty negative reference to them somewhere, can't remember though (ICC text maybe surprised ).

Joined: 31-12-10
Feb 18 2011 23:55
Noa Rodman wrote:
Yeah, Zizek in his latest book sings a hymn about them


gram negative's picture
gram negative
Joined: 24-11-09
Feb 19 2011 00:59

from Kenneth Rexroth's Communalism:

Contemporaneously with the establishment of the Fatimid dynasty at the end of the ninth century in Tripoli and the conquest of Egypt in 972 AD the closely related sect of the Carmathians developed in the lower end of the Mesopotamian valley along the north-western shores of the Persian Gulf. The orthodox Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad was preoccupied with a great revolt of Negro slaves, the Zanj insurrection. The Carmathians attempted an alliance with the Zanj leaders. This proved to be impossible, but they were able to pursue a parallel opposition and after the suppression of the Zanj revolt the Carmathians not only were in secret control of the north shores of the Persian Gulf, but had organized subversion in Yemen, Syria, and even Baghdad itself. In 900 AD, the troops of the caliphate were defeated at Basra and from then on the Carmathians controlled Bahrayn, sometimes Basra, and many other towns between Mesopotamia and Arabia, cutting the pilgrim routes to Mecca, and usually the sea connections of Baghdad. Here they established what was probably the only communist society to control a large territory, and to endure more than a generation, before the twentieth century.

The Carmathians also raided the pilgrim caravans to Mecca, often killing thousands of people, and laid siege to cities as far away as Damascus, where they seem to have had a considerable body of secret followers. Finally they attacked Mecca itself and carried away the sacred Black Stone, the holiest object in Islam, as well as immense loot (928 AD). Within Bahrayn itself there was complete absolutist communism. The citizens paid no tribute or tax; their welfare was guaranteed from birth to death, in sickness or health. All hard, menial, or unpleasant work was performed by the Negro slaves, who seem at first to have been the defeated remnants of the Zanj revolt who fled to heir quasi-allies and voluntarily chose slavery with the Carmathians rather than extermination with the Sunnites. The orthodox accused the Carmathians of community of women and all manner of orgies. As a matter of fact they were strictly monogamous, a military caste something like Plato's guardians or the Teutonic Knights, who led a pure, severely regulated life. The use of wine and all minor vices were strictly forbidden. Women unveiled and circulated freely in public and enjoyed considerable influence. The specific ordinances of Islam, however, were not enforced, not even the Friday meeting, the daily prayers, or the eating of food that was taboo. The exoteric practices of Mohammedanism were replaced by a cult of Light, a contemplative mysticism related to Sufism, and very that of the greatest Sufi theologian, Ibn el Arabi. Like the Sufis the Carmathians dressed exclusively in white and placed great emphasis on moral and physical purity. We are still in the world of the Essenes, the Theapeutae, and the Light by LIght emanatonism of Philo Judaeus. If any of the accusations of their persecutors or any of the secret traditions of the occultists are true of the Knights Templars, this is their source.

Joined: 9-03-06
Feb 19 2011 03:49

An earlier revolt in Mesopatamia:

gram negative's picture
gram negative
Joined: 24-11-09
Feb 19 2011 05:12
Peter wrote:
An earlier revolt in Mesopatamia:

thanks for this; after reading rexroth, i had always wondered if there were as any more material on the zanj

Entdinglichung's picture
Joined: 2-07-08
Feb 19 2011 10:52

as far as I can remember, there is some stuff about the Qarmatians and other groups on the fringes of Ismailism in Farhad Daftary's The Isma'ilis: Their History and Doctrines

Joined: 11-02-07
Feb 19 2011 11:20

Does anyone know if the Shia population in Bahrain and eastern Saudi has its origin in the Qarmatians?

xslavearcx's picture
Joined: 21-10-10
Feb 19 2011 12:18

Most of the shia in Bahrain are ithna-asheri (12er). There was a tendency for people to go from ismaili towards 12er due to the fact that the 12er with their occultation of imam concept meant that they were generally 'quietist' towards political authority whereas actually having a tangible imam around would present challenges to political regimes. Nevertheless, even at its most quietest 12er shiism does not fully accept the legitimacy of any regime which can have the tendency to flair up from time to time, especially if regimes are not seen to be ruling with 'justice'. Will be interesting to see what the ulamas role in all this will be...

A good book to read for an overview of the various shia currents history is Momen's Introduction to Shia Islam.

Joined: 3-08-05
Sep 1 2017 13:39

That whole period is really interesting. Does anyone know of a good history of that period / a history of communalist movements around the world?