ESḤĀQ TORK, propagandist sent by Abū Moslem Ḵorāsānī (q.v.), governor of Khorasan and leading figure in the ʿAbbasid revolution, to the Turkish people of Transoxania. He had Zoroastrian or Ḵorramdīnī inclinations (see BĀBAK ḴORRAMĪ) and, after the caliph al-Manṣūr had Abū Moslem murdered in 137/755, preached that Abū Moslem had been an apostle of Zoroaster and remained alive in the mountains of Ray, whence he would return (Ebn al-Nadīm,ed. Tajaddod, p. 408). He thus gained the allegiance of certain groups who accepted Abū Moslem as imam and even as an emanation of divinity. His message could have been received and spread only among people with Zoroastrian sentiments or those who used such sentiments to promote their own struggle against the Arabs.

W. W. Barthold assigned responsibility for the assassination of Abū Dāwūd, who succeeded Abū Moslem as governor of Khorasan, to Esḥāq or his followers (Turkestan3, p. 199), on the basis of a report by Gardīzī (ed. Ḥabībī, p. 123), which, however, he misinterpreted. The earliest author who wrote about Esḥāq’s life, Ebn al-Nadīm (ed. Tajaddod, p. 408), made no mention of any such armed insurrection.

Esḥāq’s followers, like most other groups of the Moslemīya, have been identified also as supporters of the Ḵorramdīnī movement, an outgrowth of the Zoroastrian Mazdakite sect, in which Abū Moslem was also revered (Maqdesī, Badʾ IV, p. 30; cf. Bausani, pp. 155-56). This identification may have been prompted by Esḥāq’s call for abolition of certain prohibitions of the Zoroastrian religion. Ebn al-Nadīm’s contradictory reports about Esḥāq (ed. Tajaddod, p. 408; cf. Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia I, pp. 314-15) are similar to those about the identity and lineage of Abū Moslem himself (Spuler, Iran, index, s.v.), and it may be that Esḥāq dissembled on the recommendation or in imitation of Abū Moslem. It is doubtful that he was an illiterate commoner, and the report that he was the son of Yaḥyā b. Zayd b. ʿAlī b. Ḥosayn must also be rejected, as it is unlikely that the grandson of a Shiʿite Imam would be propagating Zoroastrian beliefs.

Gholam Hossein Sadighi’s idea (p. 152; cf. Amoretti, p. 496) that the name Eṣhāq may have reflected an Arab or Jewish origin is unconvincing, as the name was common among people of incontestable Persian origin in the Omayyad and ʿAbbasid periods (e.g., the Samanid prince Esḥāq b. Aḥmad and the traditionist Esḥāq b. Rāhūya). Esḥāq probably received the sobriquet Tork because of his frequent visits among the Turks of Transoxania. His missionary activities seem to have helped prepare the ground for the revolt of Moqannaʿ and his Mobayyaża (Sapīd-jāmagān) movement in Transoxania during the reign of al-Mahdī (158-69/775-85).


Bibliography (for cited works not given in detail, see “Short References”):

B. S. Amoretti, “Sects and Heresies,” Camb. Hist. Iran IV, pp. 481-519.

A. Bausani, Persia religiosada Zaratustra a Bahâ’ullâh, Milan, 1959.

E. L. Daniel, The Political and Social History of Khurasan under Abbasid rule, 747-820, Minneapolis, Minn., 1979, pp. 132, 139.

G. H. Sadighi, Les mouvements religieux iraniens au IIe et au IIIe siècle de l’hégire, Paris, 1938.

(ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Zarrīnkūb)

Originally Published: December 15, 1998

Last Updated: January 19, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. VIII, Fasc. 6, p. 598