Scombining dot belowāhcombining dot belowb al-khabar: Secret agents and spies during the first century of Islam

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The paper investigates the nature and function of the intelligence services as part of the civic bodies of the Islamic state in the fast century A.H. The older system of information - gathering, espionage, and night watch 'asas, of which the Arabs had already made use since the pre-Islamic era was drastically enhanced with the arrival of Islam. The ridda wars at the time of Abī Bakr also required the services of this body of informants and led to its development. It was during Omar's reign that this body was initially structured in such a way as to separate its tasks and functions from the immediate needs of wars and civil conflicts. It became, instead, the means by which information on the conditions of the general population was collected, and knowledge on their problems and complaints was obtained. At the time of the Umayyads, the intelligence network made great strides fonvard. Starting with Mu'āwiya, Caliphs became interested in gathering information, sending official "eyes" (intelligence agents) to the Islamic countries to report on various aspects of life, economy, and specifically internal security in order to be prepared to deal with the opponents of the state. The information-gathering activity expanded to include major figures and personalities of society and even the members of Umayyad family.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-176
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Asian History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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