population genetics

The Indo-Europeanization of the Abbasid Caliphate

It is easy to think that the Abbasid caliphate was an “Arab” empire. The emperors themselves were proud to trace their lineage back to Abbas, uncle of Prophet Muhammad. Yet within 150 years of its founding, Arab genes made up 2% of the genetic makeup of the emperors, and this remained so until the very end.

The first significant emperor with Indo-European genes was the half-Persian al-Ma’mun, who had his capital at the Persian city of Merv in Central Asia for ten years before moving to Baghdad. During his reign a trend started for preferring Greek and Persian concubines for producing the next generation of emperors, so that the amount of Arab genes declined to insignificant amounts. Al-Muqtadir, who reigned from 908 – 929 CE was nearly 98% Indo-European.

It can be seen from the table below that the Abbasid caliphate was an Arab empire at its beginning, transformed into an Indo-European empire (with four successive emperors having 97%+ Indo-European genes!) during its Golden Age, then started to increasingly mix with Turkic genes during its decline.

Reign Name Father Mother Race Indo-European Percentage*
750 – 754 Al-Saffah Muhammad (Arab) Raita (Arab) 100% Arab 0%
754 – 775 Al-Mansur Muhammad b. Ali (Arab) Sallamah (Berber slave) 50% Arab, 50% Berber 0%
775 – 785 Al-Mahdi Al-Mansur Arwi (Yemeni Arab) 75% Arab, 25% Berber 0%
786 – 809 Harun al-Rashid Al-Mahdi Al-Khayzuran (Arab slave) 87.5% Arab, 12.5 Berber 0%
813 – 833 Al-Ma’mun Harun al-Rashid Marajil (Persian slave) 50% Persian, 43.75% Arab, 6.25% Berber 50%
833 – 842 Al-Mu’tasim Harun al-Rashid Marida (Turkic slave) 50% Turkic, 25% Persian,  21.875% Arab, 3.125 Berber 25%
842 – 847 Al-Wathiq Al-Mu’tasim Qaratis (Byzantine Greek slave) 50% Greek, 12.5% Persian, 10.9375% Arab, 1.5625% Berber 62.5%
847 – 861 Al-Mutawakkil Al-Mu’tasim Shuja (Persian slave) 56.25% Persian, 25% Greek, 5.46875% Arab, 0.78125% Berber 81.25%
870 – 892 Al-Mu’tamid Al-Mutawakkil Fityan (Persian slave) 78.125% Persian, 12.5 Greek, 2.734375% Arab, 0.390625% Berber 90.625%
892 – 902 Al-Mu’tadid al-Muwaffaq, son of Al-Mutawakkil and Umm Ishaq, a Greek slave. Race: 56.25% Greek, 39.0625% Persian, 1.3671875% Arab, 0.1953125% Berber) Dirar (Greek slave) 78.125 Greek, 19.53125% Persian, 0.68359375% Arab, 0.09765625% Berber 97.655%
902-908 Al-Muktafi Al-Mu’tadid Jijak (Greek slave) 89% Greek, 9.7% Persian, 0.34% Arab, 0.04% Berber 98%
908 – 929 Al-Muqtadir Al-Mu’tadid Shaghab (Greek slave) 94.5% Greek, 4.88% Persian, 0.17% Arab, 0.02% Berber 98%
946 – 974 Al-Muti Al-Muqtadir Slavic slave 50% Slavic, 47.26% Greek, 2.44% Persian, 0.08% Arab, 0.01% Berber 98%
974 – 991 Al-Ta’i Al-Muti’ Unknown 50% Unknown, 25% Slavic, 23.6% Greek, 1.22% Persian 49.82%
991 – 1031 Al-Qadir Al-Muttaqi, son of al-Muqtadir. Race: 50% Unknown, 47.2% Greek, 2.44% Persian, 0.08% Arab Slave of uknown origin 75% Unknown, 23.6% Greek, 1.2% Persian (Al-Qadir is described as being “white” in history books, therefore it is likely that his mother was Greek or Persian) 24.8%
1031 – 1075 Al-Qa’im Al-Qadir Badr al-Daji (Armenian slave) 50% Armenian, 37.5% Unknown, 11.8% Greek, 0.6% Persian 62.4%
1075 – 1094 Al-Muqtadi Al-Qa’im Urjuman (Armenian slave) 75% Armenian, 18.75% Unknown, 5.9% Greek 80.9%
1094 – 1118 Al-Mustazhir Al-Muqtadi Altun Khatun (Turkic woman, prob. Seljuk princess) 50% Turkic, 37.5 Armenian, 9% Unknown, 2.95% Greek 40.45%
1118 – 1135 Al-Mustarshid Al-Mustazhir Kumush Khatun (Turkic woman, probably Seljuk princess) 75% Turkic, 18.75% Armenian, 4.8% Unknown, 1.47% Greek 20.22%
1136 – 1159 Al-Muqtafi Al-Mustazhir Fatima Khatun (Turkic woman, probably Seljuk princess) 87.5% Turkic, 9.375% Armenian, 2.34% Unknown, 0.73% Greek 10.1%
1160 – 1170 Al-Mustanjid Al-Muqtafi Tawus (“Thawus”) al-Karaji, slave (Most likely Persian, al-Karaji refers to the city of Karaj in Iran in Medieval last names) 50.019% Persian, 43.75% Turkic, 4.68% Armenian, 1.1% Unknown, 0.3% Greek 55%
1170 – 1180 Al-Mustadi Al-Mustanjid Ghaddah (Armenian slave) 52.3% Armenian, 25% Persian, 21.8% Turkic 77.3%
1180 – 1225 Al-Nasir Al-Mustadi Zumurrud (Turkic slave) 60.9% Turkic, 26.1% Armenian, 12.5% Persian 38.6%
1226 – 1242 Al-Mustansir Az-Zahir, son of al-Nasir and unknown mother. Race: 50.14% Unknown, 30.4% Turkic, 13.08% Armenian, 6.25% Persian) Turk Khatun (Turkic slave) 65.2% Turkic, 25% Unknown, 6.5% Armenian, 3.1% Persian 9.6%
1242 – 1258 Al-Mustasim Al-Mustansir Concubine of unknown origin 62.5% Unknown, 32.6% Turkic, 3.2% Armenian, 1.5% Persian 4.7%

Sources: Wikipedia, The Slave Girls of Baghdad by F. Matthew Caswell, Islam in History by Bernard Lewis, Islamic Culture, Volume 2 (1928), various Arabic-language sources.

The table omits emperors who ruled for very short periods of time and/or who did not contribute to the genes of succeeding emperors.

* The values in this column are capped to 98%: Due to the fact that the Y-chromosome can only be inherited from one’s male relatives, and due to the fact that it makes up 2% of the genome, the Y-chromosome of the emperors would have been necessarily Arab, and therefore their percentage “Arab-ness” couldn’t have fallen below 2%, so that the most Indo-European that an Abbasid emperor could be would have been 98% realistically.