Khurramism & Mobed Sunpadh
There are various theories regarding the origins of the word Khurramdin or Khurram-dinan. One theory in that Khurramites called themselves Khorram-Dinan, based on the Persian term meaning 'those of the Joyful Religion'. Khorram also means happy or cheerful. Din means religion and dinan means those of a religion. Another theory is that Khurram is the name of a well-known district in Azarbaijan / Ardabil, the region where the sect was most prevalent. Yet another theory is that Khurrama was the name of Mazdak's wife. There are places called Khurramabad / Khorramabad (Luristan) and Khurramshahr / Khorramshahr in Khuzestan. Khurramites were alternatively known as Surkh-ja-magan, the red (surkh) magan or jamagan, after their red dress. However, this could be the name of an allied group.
Regardless of the roots of the name, Arabic writers note that the Khurramdins were Zoroastrians (Magian) and of the Mazdakite school.
Some ascribe the founding of Khurramism to the mobed Sunpadh (also Sinbad سندباد or Sinbad the Majus / Magus in Arabic). However, the movement had already existed prior to the assassination of Sunpadh's patron, Abu Muslim Khorasani at the orders of the Abbasid caliph. Sunpadh did however, use and strengthen the movement upon the death of Abu Muslim. Sunpadh, also from Khorasan, was born in a small village called Ahan near Nishapur and lived in the century following the Arab Islamic invasion, i.e. he lived in the seventh century CE.
According to Brill's Encyclopaedia of Islam, al-Masudi (d. 956) stated that the Khurramiyya in his time were divided into two sects: 1. Kudakiyya (perhaps after Abu Muslim's grandson or great-grandson via his daughter Fatima, was known as kudak-e dana, the omniscient boy) and 2. Ludshahiyya (also known as Kudshahiyya and Kurdshahiyya). These two groups are mentioned in other sources as constituting the majority of Khurramiyya in western Iran. Abu Hatim al-Razi (d. 924) states that the groups that developed out of Abu Muslim's revolutionary movement were known by different names in different regions. In Isfahan they were known as Kudakiyya and Khurramiyya; in Rayy and elsewhere in the Jibal as the Mazdakiyya and Sunbadiyya; in Dinawar and Nihawand as Muhammira, and in Adarbaijan (Azarbaijan) as Dhakuliyya or Dafuliyya. Abu Dulfa bin Muhalhil who visited Badhdh in the mid 900s mentions a place where the Muhammira, known also as Khurramiyya, consecrate their flags (cf. red flags above) and expect the coming of the Mahdi (and that would be a reincarnation of Abu Muslim or a descendant).
Abu Taher al-Maqdisi in his Kitab ul-bad wa-al-Tarikh (Book of Creation and of History) calls the Khurramites "Mazdaeans ... who cover themselves under the guise of Islam". He bases his observation on personal acquaintance with members of the sect and his reading of some of their books.
Al-Maqdisi mentions several facts. He observes that "the basis of their doctrine is belief in light and darkness"; more specifically, "the principle of the universe is Light, of which a part has been effaced and has turned into Darkness". They "avoid carefully the shedding of blood, except when they raise the banner of revolt". [The related principle was that of being vegetarian and to avoid the shedding of blood except in self defence.]
They are "extremely concerned with cleanliness and purification, and with approaching people with kindness and beneficence".
A few of them "believed in free sex, provided that the women agreed to it, and also in the freedom of enjoying all pleasures and of satisfying one's inclinations so long as this does not entail any harm to others" (sic). This is perhaps why their name is derived from the Persian word khurram meaning happy and cheerful (sic!). [On the contrary, it is also known that Mazdak and Babak and their followers were inclined towards abstinence and asceticism cf. Bandali Jawji, Interpreting Islam.]
Regarding the variety of faiths, they believe that "the prophets, despite the difference of their laws and their religions, do not constitute but a single spirit". Prophetic revelation never ceases and the same divine spirit is inhered in all prophets.
Naubakhti states that they also believe in reincarnation (metempsychosis) as the only existing kind of afterlife as well as retribution. They believed in the transmigration of souls from animals to humans to angels.
They also believe in the cancellation of all religious prescriptions and obligations. In their rituals, which are rather simple, they "seek the greatest sacramental effect from wine and drinks".
They had no religious laws but had recourse to the wisdom of the religious leaders. They highly revere Abu Muslim and their 'imams', i.e. religious leaders.
The name of the movement first appears in Islamic historiography in 736 CE. It was then strengthened by Sunpadh after Abu Muslim's murder, when Abu Muslim used it as a vehicle for marshalling followers to his revolt.
Sunpadh had been a friend and confidant of the Persian general Abu Muslim Khorasani. Khorasani in turn was the general who commanded the Abbasid troops in the Abbasid's revolt against the Arab caliphate in 747 CE. Writer Nizam al-Mulk states in his Siyasatnama that prior to journeying to Baghdad, Abu Muslim had delegated his authority and coffers in Rayy to Sunpadh. Abu Muslim was eventually murdered by order of the second Abbasid Caliph, al-Mansur. As an advisor to Abu Muslim, Sunpadh is sometimes credited as being the mastermind behind Abu Muslim's leadership in Khorasan and Abu Muslim's part in the Abbasid revolt. Regardless of Sunpadh's involvement with the Abbasid-Abu Muslim revolt, he is certainly credited with inciting a revolt subsequent to Abu Muslim's assassination.
Nizam al-Mulk (1018-1092 CE) in his Siyasatnama / Siyasat-nama, Book of Government (1091), writes that after Abu Muslim's assassination, Sunpadh told his followers, "Abu Muslim has not died, and when Mansur meant to slay him, he chanted God's great name 'nam-e mahin Khodai ta'ali' (Persian: نام مهين خداى تعالى), turned into a white dove and flew away. Now he (Abu Muslim) dwells with Mahdi and Mazdak in a castle of copper (brazen castle). Soon they will appear and their chief will be Abu Muslim with Mazdak as his vazir. He (Sunpadh) professed to have received messengers and letters from Abu Muslim.
"When the Rafidis heard mention of the Mahdi, and the Mazdakites the name of Mazdak, a great multitude of Rafidis and Khurram-dins gathered at Rayy, and Sinbad's (Sunpahd's) affair grew in magnitude and eventually 100,000 people joined him, mounted and on foot. Whenever he was alone with Zoroastrians he would say, 'According to one of the books of the Sassanians which I have found, the Arab empire is finished. I shall not turn back until I have destroyed the Ka'ba, for this has been wrongly substituted for the sun. We shall make the sun our qibla as it was in the olden days.' And to the Khurram-dins he would say, 'Mazdak has become a Shiite and his command is that you make common cause with the Shia.' By saying the former things to the Zoroastrians and the latter to the extreme Shia and the Khurram-dins, he kept all three groups happy."
With the support of the Zoroastrian ispahbad (governor-prince) of Tabaristan (Mazandaran and Gorgan), Sunpadh threatened the Abbasid position in northeast and central Iran.
Al-Mulk continues: "He (Sunpadh) defeated al-Mansur's (the Islamic Arab caliph in Baghdad) forces on several occasions and killed some of his generals; so after seven years al-Mansur appointed Jahwar 'Ijli to fight him. Jahwar summoned the troops of Khuzestan and Pars, and went to Isfahan, Arabs from Qum and 'Ijlis from Karaj. The he moved to Rayy and there he fought a fierce battle for three days with Sinbad (Sunpadh). On the fourth day, Sinbad was slain in single combat at the hand of Jahwar and all his company were routed and dispersed to their homes. After Jahwar had killed Sinbad (754 / 755 CE), he entered Rayy and slaughtered all the Zoroastrians, plundering their houses and carrying off their women and children into captivity. Then the Khurram-din religion became mixed with Zoroastrianism and Shiism, and they held conversations in secret, and gradually became more organized until they reached the stage where Muslims and Zoroastrians began to call the sect Khurram-din."
Sunpadh apparently preached a syncretism melding Shi's Islam, Mazdakism and Zoroastrianism. However, his stated goal of advancing towards Hijaz and razing the Kaaba would not make him much of a Muslim unless this comment is a gratuitous insertion by Al-Mulk.
If it is correct that Sunpadh was the founder of a Zoroastrian-based sect, then he took part in Khorasani's suppression of a peasant rebellion led by a Bihafarid (Behafarid), yet another Zoroastrian-based self-styled prophet. Apparently, Sunpadh was instrumental in Abu Muslim receiving Zoroastrian support in crushing the Behafarid movement.
Ishaq / Eshaq Tork
Like Sunpadh, Ishaq (Eshaq Tork) was another closet-Zoroastrian who was a close supporter of Abu Muslim who he served as a propagandist to the Turkish people of Transoxania. Perhaps a Turk himself, he was nevertheless a Zoroastrian and Khorramdini supporter if not a Zoroastrian himself (as a high official in an Islamic government, many Zoroastrians were nominal Muslims). After Abu Muslim's murder, like Sunpadh, started a revolutionary movement against his previous employers - the Abassids. He proclaimed that he had been appointed by Zoroaster to inform others that Abu Moslem had been an apostle of Zoroaster all along, and that Abu Muslim was not dead but alive in the mountains of Ray, of where he would return to claim the Iranian throne (Ebn al-Nadim,ed. Tajaddod, p. 408). Like Ustad Sis, Ishaq gained support from the Abu Muslim supporters, Zoroastrians and the Turkish population.
Mary Boyce in Zoroastrians p. 130 suggests that the ever increasing religious observances and the clergy's demands for gifts and due may have become oppressive for ordinary Zoroastrians more concerned in surviving and supporting their families. The priestly class had become large-scale landowners and according to Boyce employed peasants and slaves.
Mazdakism may have been a response to an increasingly hierarchical Zoroastrian leadership and one that did not tends to the spiritual and social needs of the more disadvantaged members of society. As we note from Baghdadi's account, it remained one of the four Zoroastrian sects or denominations that continued to exist and influence other sects even after the Arab invasion and occupation.
Primary Source - Shahrestani
Our Primary source for Mazdakite beliefs and cosmogony is its description in the Ketab al-melal wa'l-nenal, written by Abu'l-Fath Mohammad bin 'Abd-al-Karim Shahrestani (pp. 192-94; tr. pp. 663-66) in 1227. The date of this account places in seven hundred years after Mazdak's life. Given this gap in time, we do not know to what extent Shahrstani's explanations coincide with Mazdak's own teachings.
Mazdak is mentioned in Pahlavi writings but only as an object of abuse.
All our information about Mazdak comes from sources not sympathetic to him (including Shahrestani) and we have no option but to rely on the available accounts.
We don't have a date for Mazdak-e Bamdad's birth, we can assume in was in the second half of the fifth century CE/ Mazdak is said to have died between 524 and 528 CE. In his early years, Mazdak was a member of the Zoroastrian priesthood, a mobed (magha, majus مجوس or magus).
Sassanian Patronage - Kavad I
Mazdak was said to have had a charismatic personality and was a persuasive speaker. As had Zarathushtra gained the royal patronage of King Vishtasp and Mani that of King Shahpur I, Mazdak's developed a royal patron in the person of King Peroz's son, Kavad I. The latter succeed to the Sassanian throne in 488 CE. Most nobles, notables and clergy opposed Mazdak fiercely, branding his teachings as heresy. Indeed, surviving Pahlavi texts brand Mazdak as the arch-heretic. Kavad lost support of the king-makers and had to flee his throne in 494, taking refuge with the Hephthalites, the so-called White Huns (in the kuhistans of Khorasan?), the group that his father died fighting and would had previously held him as hostage for a couple of years when Kavad was crown prince. The Hephthalites helped Kavad regain his throne, but having learnt that supporting Mazdak could cause him a lot of grief, Kavad abandoned his support for the reformer.
Towards the end of his reign Kavad allowed his heir apparent, Prince Khosrow to arrange a banquet honouring Mazdak, but one that was a trap to get Mazdak and his followers together so that they could be slaughtered.
The Great Zoroastrian Conundrum
This entire episode would be the start of the great conundrum for Zoroastrians and perhaps the start of the great divisions that would weaken Iranian community and leave it vulnerable to the Arab hordes who would devastate Iran-Shahr a hundred or so years later. On the one hand reform was desperately needed. On the other hand, the reform eventually caused even greater harm and that by the corrupt order.
Survival of Mazdakism
Mazdakism did not die with Mazdak. Indeed, it flourished in the back waters of Iranian society giving rise to other syncretic movements such as the Khurramdin. When opposition and revolts against the Arabs started to sprout a century after the Arab invasion, it was not by mainstream Zoroastrian groups who were hiding in the hills or congregating in Yazd and Kerman. It was the Khurramdins who led the charge, the final and valiant attempt being by Babak Khorramdin.
Shahrestani describe Mazdakite beliefs follows:
God ruled the world through letters, which held the key to the Great Secret that should be learnt.
God had placed the means of subsistence on earth so that people could share in their division equally. But the strong had wronged the weak by seeking domination and thereby causing inequality (cf. Darius' inscription about a just law: "It is not my desire that the weak be wronged by the strong, nor is it my desire that the strong be wronged by the weak, what is right, that is my desire.")
Light and darkness are the two modes of being and principles that existed before the world. Light acts intentionally and voluntarily and is endued with knowledge and perception, whereas darkness acts blindly and at random. Darkness is therefore, ignorant, blind and indiscriminate. The mixture of light and darkness itself came about by chance and at random. At the end of the world the separation of these principles will also come about by chance and not through free will.
From the mingling of the two arose the Manager of Good and the Manager of Evil.
Humankind's role in this life is to release those parts of being that belonged to Light through good conduct. Where Manichaeism saw the mixture of good and bad as a cosmic tragedy, Mazdak viewed this mixture in a more neutral, even optimistic way - as an opportunity.
The three primal elements are water, earth, and fire. The mixture of these elements has resulted in a guiding force of good and a guiding force of evil. However, these forces are not to be equated with the two principles. This is because they effect good and the evil in the elements and can be therefore be regarded as demiurges - creative forces that have formed the world.
Shahrestani next describes the Mazdakite 'object of veneration' and hierarchy. The 'object(s) of veneration' is compared with royal advisors or guiding principles. Human beings like kings have four powers arrayed and available before them: discernment, understanding, preservation or memory, and joy. The four principles are like four courtiers: the Mobedan Mobed or high priest, the chief herbad or wise teacher, the esbahbed / espahdeh / sepahbad or military commander, and the rameshgar or musician / entertainer.
The four powers govern the world through seven ministers: the commander (salar), the teacher (peshkar / peshgah), the balwen (?), the Barven (? messenger), the doer / expert (kardan), the maintaining of law (dastur), and the page (kodag, i.e. little one).
The seven ministers revolve within the twelve spiritual beings (ruhaniyun) - the twelve signs of the zodiac. It appears that the seven powers revolving within the twelve are the planets within the zodiac.
When the Four, the Seven and the Twelve are united in a human being, there is no longer any need for religious duties and rituals. A true religious person was the one who understood and related correctly to the principles of the universe. Apparently, he had all the fire temples closed except the three major ones.
In summary, Mazdak proposed a peace-loving, classless and egalitarian society. The doctrines of his teachings included not taking life and not eating flesh - a pacifist and vegetarian doctrine. Metaphorically, the guiding principle was to increasing the light over darkness through tolerance, justice, kindness, friendship and love (cf. Mithraic traits in Zoroastrianism). Greed and envy were seen as agents of darkness and that an insatiable desire for material goods and pleasures was a source of greed and envy. Up to this point all the ethical principles were in concert with mainstream Zoroastrianism. Where it diverged was in the application of the principles. In order to eliminate greed and envy, Mazdak proposed social reform, the giving up a quest for material wealth, and owning what property was needed in common. These principles would greatly alleviate the burdens placed on peasants and artisans and the movement quickly gained popularity amongst them. According to some sources, the spirit of sharing included sexual partners. Since this is a standard accusation against heretical sects, its veracity has been doubted by researchers. However, this could have been an interpretation amongst splinter sects.
Most authors believe Mazdakism transformed itself to Khurramdin and consequently provided the belief system for Babak Khorramdin and his supporters.
Babak Khorramdin (c 795/798-838) was born to a Zoroastrian family of Azerbaijan close to the city of Artavilla (modern Ardabil) in north-western Iran and the southwest Caspian region. The name Babak (also Papak) was the name of the founder of the Sassanian dynasty c 200 CE.
Babak's Early Life
According to medieval writer Waqed bin Amr Tamimi's Akbar Babak, a lost text quoted in the Fehrest of Ibn al-Nadim, Babak's father was a Persian from Mada'in (Gk. Ctesiphon), 35 km south of modern Baghdad in Iraq. Mada'in was at one time a capital of Sassanian Persian Empire. Perhaps in order to distance himself from the increasing Islamic environment, Babak's father left Mada'in for the frontier region of Azerbaijan and settled in the village of Balalabad in the Maymadh district. According to another author Fasih, Babak's mother Mahru, was a native of Azerbaijan. On becoming a teenager, Babak received the tradition Zoroastrian rites of passage in a Zoroastrian fire temple (navjote?). At the age of 16, Babak went to the city of Tabriz to work before returning to Balalabad at the age of age of 18.
Babak's Introduction to Khurramdin
Shortly thereafter fate intervened in the shape a wealthy individual named Javidan Shahrak (or Shahrak). Javidan, had been travelling to Zanjan from Badd where he had been seeking the leadership of the Khorrami constituency in the highlands, could not travel any further with his accompanying servants because of a snow storm and was forced to find shelter. He knocked on the door of Babak's home and was afforded a place by the fire to keep warm. During his stay, Javidan became so impressed with Babak's manner and intelligence, that he offered to employ Babak and offered to give his destitute mother fifty dirhams a month as part of Babak's salary.
Javidan taught Babak the principles of the Khurramdin and at some point Babak appears to have adopted the name Babak Khorramdin.
Babak's Decision to Revolt
One of Babak's supporters was a prince, Afshin Kheydar. According to the medieval historian, Ibn Esfandyars book Tarikh-e Tabaristan, the History of Tabaristan (Mazandaran and Gorgan), they made a pact together stating "I, Afshin Kheydar son of Kavus, and Babak had made an oath and allegiance that we re-take the government back from the Arabs and transfer the government and the country back to the family of Kasraviyan (Sassanids)." Gardizi reports that Afshin was of Zoroastrian descent. He cites members of his family who were clearly Zoroastrian.
Babak's Revolt Against the Arabs
Around 816 CE, Babak began to recruit followers inciting the to hate the Arabs and rise in rebellion against the caliphate. Babak's campaign, however, was not just a military campaign but one to restore the Persian language and culture. The forces he put together soon seized castles and garrison outposts. The numbers at his command grew as others joined his campaign until it grew to 100,000 men (by Abu'l-Ma'ali's account), then 200,000 (by Mas'udi's account) and 300,00 (by Baghdai's account).
His army consisted of farmers who had shunned the taking of life and whose only weapons training was sling-shots. Nevertheless, Babak moulded them into a fighting force that took on the well trained and battle hardened Arabs. Soon people in Hamadan, Isfahan and Iraq were joining Babak's group of followers.
From 817 to 837, Babak's force fought hard. His insurrection developed into the most serious revolt the Arabs had faced since their invasion of the Aryan lands. Gardizi reports that Mazyar (d. 839 CE), the ispahbad (sepabad) of Mazandaran and Gorgan (Tabaristan), who had abandoned Zoroastrianism for Islam, decided to become a Khurramdin after learning of Babak's campaign and successes.
In 819-820, The Arab caliphate sent Yahya ibn Mu'adh to battle Babak, but Babak could not be defeated. Two years came armies under Isa ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Khalid and these too very defeated. In 824-825, the caliphate sent general Ahmad ibn al Junayd to subdue Babak, but Babak defeated and captured the Arab general instead. Then in 827-828 the caliphate dispatched Muhammad ibn Humayd Tusi to fight Babak and the Arabs gained victory but could not capture Babak. On June 9, 829, Babak returned the favour and defeated Muhammad ibn Humayd Tusi at Hashtadsar. This defeat cost ibn Humayd his life and the Arabs lost many soldiers as well. In 835-836 the caliph al-Mu'tasim sent one of his best generals Haydar bin Kavus Afshin (not to be confused with Babak's ally, though the name sounds suspiciously Iranian) against Babak.
Babak's Castle. Ghaleye Babak
Babak's Castle exists today as ruins on a mountain top and, it is known variously. It is known as Badd, Ghaley-e / Qale-e Babak and Qala-e Jomhur. In Turkish Azeri, it is also known as Bazz Galasi .
The castle itself was not built by Babak. Its origins goes back to the Sassanian era (c 249-650 CE) and possible even the Parthian era (c 227 BCE - 249 CE).
Today, Babak has become a national hero and the castle's ruins have become a Iranian nationalist symbol and the castle is also known as the Castle of the Republic or the Immortal Castle. Every July 10th, many Iranians journey to the castle to celebrate the life and ideals of Babak and his companions. Their sacrifice in the giving of their lives while seeking to free Iran from Arab domination as well as their efforts for the preservation of Iranian culture are also honoured.
The citadel's ruins are located in East Azarbaijan Province some 50 km north Ahar city some5 km southwest of Kalibar town as the crow flies. It overlooks the left bank of a tributary of the river Qarasu. The surrounding mountains are called the Jomhur mountains and the mountains are home to the Arasbaran or (in Turkish, Qaradag) forest, a UNESCO registered biosphere.
The structure was built on a mountain-top 2,300-2,600 m above sea level, and is surrounded on all sides by ravines 400-600 m deep.
Access to the castle is a narrow track that winds its way across patches of dense forest, through gorges, and up steep slopes. The final approach to the castle's gate is through a narrow defile wide enough for only one person to walk at a time. Large military equipment can be carried up this path. The citadel itself was located a further 100 m climb from the castle's walls via a narrow path along a ridge, and the path once again was wide enough for only one person. The ridge is surrounded by a forested ravine some 100 m deep.
Babak had other castles as well (Nafisi, pp. 69-71; Tabatabai, pp. 472-75).
Babak's Defeat & Execution
The curtains now began to close for Babak and Hatdar Afshin captured Babak's stronghold of Badhdh. Babak, however, managed to escape and did not surrender despite an offer for amnesty saying, "Better to live for just a single day as a ruler than to live for forty years as an abject slave." Besides the Arabs seldom kept their word and lived by deceit. Babak sought refuge in Armenia. Enticed by a large reward and perhaps the fear of retribution as well, the Armenian Prince of Khachen, Sahl Smbatean (Sahl ibn Sunbat in Arab sources) delivered Babak to Afshin.
Babak asked Afshin if he could spend a last night at his castle at Badhdh and Afshin consented. That castle would come to be known as Ghaleye Babak. Haydar Afshin delivered Babak as a prisioner to the Abbasid Caliph who with characteristic Arab cruelty had his executioners first cut off his legs and then his hands. Legend has it that as a final act of defiance, Babak rinsed his face with the blood that poured from his severed limbs before succumbing to his wounds.
A year after Babak's execution in 838 CE, Mazyar of Mazandaran was captured and killed. A similar fate awaited Afshin, whose sincere adherence to Islam and allegiance to the caliphate was questioned.
After the defeat of the Khurramdins, there is no longer any mention of non-Muslim uprisings in Iran. Even references to Zoroastrians in Muslim documents become rare.
Babak & Khurramdin's Humane Reputation
Arab historians tell us that it was Babak and Zoroastrianism / Khurramdin's social message that attracted these followers. An example of the expression of his faith was the manner in which his army treated prisoners fairly and humanely (cf. Cyrus' treatment of prisoners - he was more a liberator than conqueror). This was in marked contrast to the brutality with which the caliph's army treated their prisoners. Babak's prisoners were often set free on the promise that they would not fight against Babak's army again. His administration improved the treatment of women and children giving them legal rights as people identical as men. When Babak was taken in shackles to be tortured and executed, women demonstrated their mourning without restraint, striking their faces and crying.
Abu Mansur al-Baghdadi who was a mortal enemy of Babak states that Babak and his followers, most of whom were Zoroastrians, practiced great religious tolerance and (despite the harm that Muslims had caused Zoroastrians) allowed Muslims to freely practice their religion and even helped them build a mosque. Abu Mansur mentions that the Khurrami were of the Mazdakite school. When we put the Baghdadi and Mansur statements together, we have that Babak and his Khurrami followers were of the Mazdaki school (denomination) in Zoroastrianism.
Mazdakite influence seems evident in the social order he and his followers were trying a build - a classless society where rich landowners and military lords did not oppress the common person. He divested landowners of land they had obtained through illegal means and distributed the land free to farmers. https://heritageinstitute.com/zoroastrianism/sects/babak.htm
Ishaq was killed in about 758 CE, but his movement persisted slightly longer under the leadership of Baraz (d. 759 CE), who seems to have been a member of Khorasan's aristocracy. The movement was even supported by the governor of Khurasan, Abd al-Jabbar (d. 759 CE), who decided to turn against Khorasan's governor turned caliph al-Mahdi (d. 785 CE).