Basra (BGN: Al.Basrah, also called Basorah, Abillah and Uruk), or IRAQ: The name that British colony has adopted for Basra, Baghdad, and Mosul states after British Mandate of Mesopotamia and Sykes–Picot Agreement to create Kingdom of Iraq 1921. Albasra is the second largest province in Iraq, with an estimated population of 2,600,000 while the population of Basra City was 1,880,100 in 2003. The capital city of Basra Province is Basra City, and, since they share the same name, many people cannot distinguish between the two. Basra has Iraq's main ports. Basra is also the location of the Garden of Eden, Sumeria, as well as home to Sinbad the sailor. It also played an important role in early Islamic history, being built in 636 CE, or 14 AH.
The city is located along the Shatt al-Arab
waterway near the Persian Gulf
, from the Persian Gulf and from Baghdad
, Iraq's capital and largest city.
The area surrounding Basra has substantial petroleum resources and many oil wells. The city also has an international airport, which recently began restored service to Baghdad with Iraqi Airways—the nation's flag airline. Basra is in a fertile agricultural region, with major products including rice, maize corn, barley, pearl millet, wheat, dates, and livestock. The city's oil refinery has a production capacity of about 140,000 barrels a day (22,300 m³).
Muslim adherents of the area are primarily members of the Jafari Shi`a sect. A sizable number of Sunnis, 35% of Basra, also live there—although after the war it decreased to less than 10%, as well as a small number of Christians. There are also remnants of the pre-Islamic gnostic sect of Mandaeans, whose headquarters were in the area formerly called Suk esh-Sheikh.
A network of canals flowed through the city, giving it the nickname "The Venice of the Middle East" at least at high tide. The tides at Basra fall by about . For a long time, Basra was known for the superior quality of its dates.
Islamic theology and scholarship
notes that by contrast with Medina (and to a lesser extent Syria
), in Iraq there was no unbroken Muslim population dating back to the Prophet's time. Therefore, Maliki (and Azwaʿi) appeals to the practice (ʿamal
) of the community could not apply. Instead, the people of `Iraq relied upon those Companions of the Prophet who settled there, and upon such factions of the Hijaz whom they respected most.
Shirazi's "Tabaqat", which Wael Hallaq labels "an important early biographical work dedicated to jurists", covered 84 "towering figures" of Islamic jurisprudence, to which Basra contributed 17. It was therefore a center surpassed only by Medina (with 22) and Kufa (20). Among the Companions who settled in Basra were Abu Musa and `Anas ibn Malik. Among its jurists, Hallaq singles out Muhammad ibn Sirin, Abu `Abd Allah Muslim ibn Yasar, and Abu Ayyub al-Sakhtiyani. Qatada ibn Di`ama (680-736) attained respect as a traditionist and Qur'anic interpreter. In the late 750s, Sawwar ibn Abd Allah began the practice of paying salaries to the court's witnesses and assistants, ensuring their impartiality. Hammad ibn Salama (d. 784), mufti of Basra, was a teacher of Abu Hanifa. Abu Hanifa's student Zufar ibn al-Hudayl later moved from Kufa to Basra. Basran and Kufan law, under the patronage of the early `Abbasids, became a shared jurisprudence called the "Hanafi Madhhab"; as opposed to others, like the practice of Medina which became the Maliki Madhhab.
Sufyan al-Thawri and Ma`mar ibn Rashid collected many legal and other teachings and traditions into books, and migrated to the Yemen; there 'Abd al-Razzaq included them into his Musannaf during the 9th century. Back in Basra, Musaddad ibn Musarhad compiled his own collection arranged in "Musnad" form.
Basra also spawned heterodox interpretations of Islam. Rabi`ah al-`Adawiyya al-Qaysiyya (born 717), lived there and became popular as poet, mystic, and teacher. It was also among the first bases of the Qadariyya.
Qadarism in Islam corresponds to the doctrine of human free will in Christianity, as opposed to such doctrines of predestination as later proposed by, for instance, John Calvin. The traditionist Yahya ibn Ya`mar attributed the introduction of Qadari doctrines into Basra to a Ma'bad al-Juhani (d. 80). Al-Hasan (scholar) developed a moderate form of this in his Risala: God may command, forbid, punish, and test; but He does not force ordinary mortals to evil or good despite that He has the power. According to al-Dhahabi (Siyar A`lam al-Nubala 6:330 #858), al-Hasan's student Abu `Uthman `Amr ibn `Ubayd (d. ~144) left al-Hasan's teaching circle and "isolated" himself by taking these doctrines further. In Syria, the reigning Marwanids relied on predestination to justify their hold on secular authority. Imam Malik in his Muwatta recorded (with approval!) that caliph `Umar ibn `Abd al-Aziz had recommended putting Qadarists "to the sword". Syrian hadith transmitters invented traditions of the Prophet that denounced Qadarism as a heresy, and labeled its believers and Basra as a whole as "monkeys and swine"—as sura 5 had said of the Jews.
Under Abu 'l-Hudhayl al-`Allaf (d. 841), the Basrans are also credited (or blamed) for the Mutazilist school, a form of rationalism which included the Qadari doctrines of al-Hasan and attracted the support of `Abbasid caliph al-Ma'mun.
According to Arthur Jeffery, Basra also at first held to an idiosyncratic pronunciation of the Qur'an, which they put to paper as the "Lubab al-Qulub" and attributed to Abu Musa. For instance, this codex used the more Biblically correct "Ibraham", as against the "Ibrahim" which is forced by sura 21's rhyme; in addition there are no Abu Musa variants recorded for sura 21. This was also the reading of Ibn Al-Zubayr when he came to Mecca (although his variants did encompass sura 21). The likely solution is that the first Qur'an text at Basra was "defective", which is to say it lacked long vowel signs; and that Basra accepted sura 21 as part of Qur'an later than it accepted other suras—most likely during or after the mid-680s.
The present city was founded in 636 as an encampment and garrison for the Arab tribesmen constituting the armies of amir `Umar ibn al-Khattab, a few kilometres south of the present city, where a tell still marks its site. While defeating the Sassanid forces there, the Muslim commander Utba ibn Ghazwan first set up camp there on the site of an old Persian settlement called Vaheštābād Ardašīr, which was destroyed by the Arabs . The name Al-Basrah, which in Arabic means "the over watching" or "the seeing everything", was given to it because of its role as a Military base against the Sassanid empire. Other sources however say its name originates from the Persian word Bas-rāh or Bassorāh meaning "where many ways come together" .
639: Abu-Musa al-Asha'ari
established this encampment as a city with five districts, and appointed Abu-Musa al-Asha'ari
as its first governor. Abu Musa led the conquest of Khuzestan
from 639 to 642. After this, `Umar ordered him to aid `Uthman ibn Abu al-`As, then fighting Iran from a new, more easterly misr
650: `Abdallah ibn `Amir
In 650, the amir `Uthman
reorganised the Persian frontier, installed `Abdallah ibn `Amir as Basra's governor, and put the invasion's southern wing under Basra's responsibility. Ibn `Amir led his forces to their final victory over Yazdegard III
, king of Persia. Basra accordingly had few quarrels with `Uthman and so, in 656, sent few men to the embassy against him. On `Uthman's murder, Basra refused to recognise `Ali ibn Abu Talib
; instead supporting the Meccan aristocracy then led by `Aisha, al-Zubayr, and Talha. `Ali defeated this force at the Battle of the Camel
In 656, the Sayabiga (possibly of Indian/Indonesian origin) were ordered to guard the treasury.
6??: `Uthman ibn Hanif
Ali first installed `Uthman ibn Hanif as Basra's governor and then `Abd Allah ibn `Abbas. These men held the city for `Ali until the latter's death in 661.
661: Umayyad `Abd Allah
held Basra until Yazid I
's death in 683. Their first governor there was an Umayyad `Abd Allah, who proved to be a great general (under him, Kabul was forced to pay tribute) but a poor mayor.
661: Ziyad ibn Abu Sufyan
In 664, Mu`awiyah replaced him with Ziyad ibn Abu Sufyan
, often called "Ibn Abihi (son of his own [unknown] father)", who became famed for his Draconian methods of public order.
673: Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad
On Ziyad's death in 673, his son Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad
became governor. In 680, Yazid I
ordered Ubayd Allah to keep order in Kufa as a reaction to Hussein ibn `Ali's popularity there; Hussein had already fled, and so Ubayd Allah executed Hussein's cousin Muslim ibn Aqeel
684: Abd-Allah ibn al-Harith
In 683, Abd Allah ibn Zubayr
was hailed as the new caliph
in the Hijaz. In 684 the Basrans forced Ubayd Allah
to take shelter with Mas'ud al-Azdi
and chose Abd Allah ibn al-Harith
as their governor. Ibn al-Harith swiftly recognised Ibn al-Zubayr's claim, and Ma'sud made a premature and fatal move on Ubayd Allah's behalf; and so `Ubayd Allah felt obliged to flee.
Ibn al-Harith spent his year in office trying to put down Nafi' ibn al-Azraq's Kharijite uprising in Khuzestan. Islamic tradition condemns him as feckless abroad and corrupt at home, but praises him on matters of doctrine and prayer.
684: Umar ibn Ubayd Allah
In 685, Ibn al-Zubayr required a practical man, and so appointed Umar ibn Ubayd Allah ibn Ma'mar
684: Mus`ab ibn al-Zubayr
Finally, Ibn al-Zubayr appointed his own brother Mus`ab. In 686, the self-proclaimed prophet Mukhtar
led an insurrection at Kufa, and put an end to Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad near Mosul
. In 687, Mus`ab defeated Mukhtar, with the help of Kufans whom Mukhtar had exiled .
reconquered Basra in 691, and Basra remained loyal to his governor al-Hajjaj during Ibn Ash`ath's mutiny 699-702. However, Basra did support the rebellion of Yazid ibn al-Muhallab against Yazid II
during the 720s. In the 740s, Basra fell to al-Saffah
of the `Abbasids.
During the time of the Abbasid dynasty Basra became an intellectual center as it was the home city of the Arab universal genius Ibn al-Haytham
, the Arab literary
, and the Sufi
mystic Rabia Basri
This was a rebellion by the low land slaves who were agricultural slaves, brought from different fringes of the empire.
In 871, the Zanj sacked Basra.
In 923, the Qarmatians, an extremist Muslim sect, invaded and devastated Basra (Encyclopaedia Britannica).
In 965, Alhazen, was born in Basra.
From 945 to 1055, a Buwayhid dynasty ruled Baghdad and most of Iraq (from Buwayhid page). Abu al Qasim al Baridis, who still controlled Basra and Wasit, were defeated and their lands taken by the Buyids in 947.
Sanad Al-Daula (al-habashi) was the governor of Basra and built a library of 15,000 books.
Diya' al-Daula was the Buyid ruler of Basra during the 980s. He was the son of 'Adud al-Daula: see Samsam al-Daula page for more details as there appears to have been a great deal of rivalry in the al-Daula group.
The Great Friday Mosque was constructed in Basra.
In 1122, Zengi received Basra as a fief. (Penny Encyclopedia)
In 1126, Zengi suppressed a revolt.
In 1129, Dabis looted the Basra state treasury.
A 1200 map "on the eve of the Mongol invasions" shows the Abbasid Caliphate as ruling lower Iraq, and presumably Basra.
In 1258, the Mongols sacked Bagdhad and end Abbasid reign. By some accounts, Basra capitulated to the Mongols to avoid a massacre.
The Mamluk Bahri Dynasty map (1250–1382) shows Basra as being under their area of control, and the Mongol Dominions map (1300-1405) shows Basra as being under their control.
In 1290, Buscarello_de_Ghizolfi page: internal fight erupted at the Persian Gulf port of Basra among the Geneose (between the Guelfe and the Gibelin families).
In 1327, Ibn Battuta visited Basra, which was in decline with the great mosque being 2 miles out of town. An Ilkhanid Governor received him.
In 1411, Jalayrid leader was ousted from Basra by Kara Koyunlu of the Black Sheep Turkmen.
In 1523, the Portuguese Antonio Tenreiro crossed from Aleppo to Basra.
By 1546, the Turks had reached Basra.
In 1550, the Portuguese threatened Basra.
In 1624, the Portuguese assisted Basra Pasha in repelling a Persian invasion. The Portuguese were granted a share of customs and freedom from tolls.
From about 1625 until 1668, Basra and the Delta marshlands were in the hands of local chieftains independent of the Ottoman administration at Baghdad.
1668: Ottoman Empire
Basra was, for a long time, a flourishing commercial and cultural center, until it was captured by the Ottoman Empire
in 1668, after which it declined in importance, but it was fought over by Turks and Persians
and was the scene of repeated attempts at resistance.
1911: Ottoman Empire
In 1911, the Encyclopaedia Britannica
reported some Jews and a few Christians living in Basra, but no Turks other than Ottoman officials. The wealthiest and most influential personage in Basra was the nakib
, or marshal of the nobility (i.e. descendants of the family of the prophet, who are entitled to wear the green turban). In 1884 the Ottomans responded to local pressure from the Shi'as
of the south by detaching the southern districts of the Baghdad vilayet and creating a new vilayet of Basra.
1914 : World War I
After the Battle of Basra (1914)
during World War I
, the occupying British
modernized the port (works designed by Sir George Buchanan
), which became the principal port of Iraq.
1939 : World War II
During World War II
it was an important port through which flowed much of the equipment and supplies sent to Russia
by the other allies. At the end of the second world war the population was some 93,000 people.
1945-1990: peacetime and the Iran–Iraq War
The University of Basrah
was founded in 1964.
By 1977, the population had risen to a peak population of some 1.5 million. The population declined during the Iran–Iraq War, being under 900,000 in the late 1980s, possibly reaching a low point of just over 400,000 during the worst of the war. The city was repeatedly shelled by Iran and was the site of many fierce battles, such as Operation Ramadan.
1991: Persian Gulf War
After the first Persian Gulf War
in 1991, Basra was the site of widespread revolt against Saddam Hussein
, which was violently put down with much death and destruction inflicted on the city.
1999: Second revolt
On January 25, 1999, Basra was the scene of scores of civilian casualties when a missile fired by a U.S. warplane was dropped in a civilian area. Eleven persons were killed and fifty-nine injured. General Anthony Zinni
, then commander of U.S. forces in the Gulf, acknowledged that it was possible that "a missile may have been errant". While such casualty numbers pale in comparison to later events, the bombing occurred one day after Arab foreign ministers, meeting in Egypt, refused to condemn four days of air strikes against Iraq in December of 1998. This was described by Iraqi information minister Human Abdel-Khaliq
as giving the United States and Britain "an Arab green card" to attack Iraq.
A second revolt in 1999 led to mass executions in and around Basra. Subsequently the Iraqi government deliberately neglected the city, and much commerce was diverted to Umm Qasr. These alleged abuses are to feature amongst the charges against the former regime to be considered by the Iraq Special Tribunal set up by the Iraq Interim Government following the 2003 invasion.
Workers in Basra's oil industry have been involved in extensive organization and labour conflict. They held a two-day strike
in August 2003, and formed the nucleus of the independent General Union of Oil Employees
(GUOE) in June 2004. The union held a one-day strike in July 2005, and publicly opposes plans for privatizing the industry.
2003: Iraq War and occupation
In March through to May 2003, the outskirts of Basra were the scene of some of the heaviest fighting in the 2003 invasion of Iraq
. British forces, led on foot by units of the 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment and supported by 7th Armoured Brigade
, took the city on 6 April 2003
. This city was the first stop for the United States
and the United Kingdom
, during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.
2004: Car bomb
On 21 April 2004
, a series of bomb blasts
ripped through the city, killing 74 people.
The Multi-National Division (South-East), under British Command, is engaged in Security and Stabilization missions in Basra Governorate and surrounding areas.
Political groups and their ideology which are strong in Basra are reported to have close links with political parties already in power in the Iraqi government
, despite opposition from Iraqi Sunnis
and the more secular Kurds
. January 2005 elections saw several radical politicians gain office, supported by religious parties.
September 3rd: UK troops withdraw to Basra Airport
British troops pull out of Basra city and the palace and move to a base at Basra International Airport.
December 16th: UK troops transfer control to Iraqi authorities
British troops transfer control of Basra province to the Iraqi authorities, four-and-a-half years after the invasion. A BBC survey of local residents finds that 86% think the presence of British troops since 2003 has had an overall negative effect on the province.
New Police Chief
Abdul Jalil Khalaf
was appointed Police Chief by the central government with the task of taking on the militias. He has been outspoken against the targeting of women by the militias.. Talking to the BBC, he said that his determination to tackle the militia has led to almost daily assassination attempts . This has been taken as sign that he is serious in opposing the militias.
In March 2008, the Iraqi Army launched a major offensive, code-named Saulat al-Fursan (Charge of the White Knights), aimed at forcing the Mahdi Army
out of Basra. The assault was planned by Gen Mohan Furaiji and approved by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
Security commanders removed
In April 2008, following the failure to disarm militant groups, both Maj-Gen Abdul Jalil Khalaf and Gen Mohan Furaiji are removed from their positions in Basra.
Killing of Rand Abdel-Qader
In March 2008, Rand Abdel-Qader, a 17 year old local girl, was killed by her father in a so-called honour killing
after she developed a friendship with a 22 year old British soldier. Her mother Leila Hussein said "When he entered the house, his eyes were bloodshot and he was trembling. I got worried and tried to speak to him but he headed straight for our daughter's room and he started to yell at her. He asked if it was true that she was having an affair with a British soldier. She started to cry. She was nervous and desperate. He got hold of her hair and started thumping her again and again. I screamed and called out for her two brothers so they could get their father away from her. But when he told them the reason, instead of saving her they helped him end her life. I just couldn't stand it. I fainted. I woke up in a blur later with dozens of neighbours at home and the local police". Sergeant Ali Jabbar said "Not much can be done when we have an 'honour killing' case. You are in a Muslim society and women should live under religious laws. The father has very good contacts inside the Basra government, and it wasn't hard for him to be released and what he did to be forgotten. Sorry, but I cannot say more about the case". In 2007, according to the Basra Security Committee, 47 Basra women were killed by "honour killings", resulting in only three convictions for murder.
On September 11, 2008, during a routine tour of Basra, the Iraqi Parliament’s Human Rights Commission found up to 200 malnourished and disease-stricken Iraqi detainees locked in a secret prison in Basra. The commission’s spokesman, Amer Thamer
, stated that many of the detainees bore signs of torture. The prison is operated by the Defense Ministry, and none of the inmates has ever been tried or given access to legal assistance. Thamer said that the 200 prisoners only had access to one flooded and dirty latrine, and the commission has demanded the authorities shut down the prison immediately.
H.G. Wells and Basra
The city of Basra has a major role in H.G. Wells' 1934 future history "The Shape of Things to Come", where the Iraqi city is at the center of a world state emerging after a collapse of civilization, and becomes in effect the capital of the world (see ).
- Hallaq, Wael. The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law. Cambridge University Press, 2005
- Hawting, Gerald R. The First Dynasty of Islam. Routledge. 2nd ed, 2000
- Madelung, Wilferd. "Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr and the Mahdi" in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies 40. 1981. pp.291-305.
- Vincent, Stephen. Into The Red Zone: A Journey Into the Soul of Iraq. ISBN 1-890626-57-0.