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BY-NC-ND 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter 2020

Preliminary Notes on the Term and Institution of al-Shākiriyya in Early Islam (ca. 14–218 H/635–36–833 CE) Mainly According to the Arabic Sources

Amikam Elad


The aim of this paper is to study the nature of the term and institution of al-Shākiriyya by re-examining the Arabic sources pertaining to the Umawī and early ʿAbbāsī caliphate. It is difficult to discern the character of the Shākiriyya in the service of the Arab commanders in Central Asia from the Arabic sources. They provide no information on ethnic composition, mobilization, military training or potential ties between a commander/master and his Shākir. This applies mainly to the Umawī period, but also to the first ʿAbbāsī period up to al-Maʾ- mūn’s rule (813-833). It is also impossible to determine from them the possible connections between the ancient Central Asian military institutions and military institutions in the Islamic world. From evidence about the Shākiriyya in the Arabic sources we can usually discern a distinct military character, though it is noteworthy that in some cases the term Shākirī can be translated as meaning a loyal adherent, or even a servant.While relatively extensive, the evidence at hand from the Umawī and the early ʿAbbāsī periods is too limited to fully demonstrate that a) the Shākiriyya units denote Turks and b) that these allegedly Turkish units performed their service for the ʿAbbāsī caliphs according to concepts and practices derived from the Central Asian steppe.

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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