did people from Arab peninsula serve in the military after end of Umayyads?

back in the 7th and 8th century the tribes of Arabian peninsula apparently provided a big and very competent army that allowed Mohammed, the Rashidun and the Umayyads to conquer the region. However, in the subsequent centuries it seems that the various middle eastern governments started using a lot of people from various Turkish groups as soldiers, e.g. the Mamlukes. Subsequently the Ottomans similarly used Slavs as “Janissaries”.

Well, great, but what was happening to the people from Arabian Peninsula at this point? Did that region suffer some sort of drastic demographic and/or cultural change that stopped it from both fielding armies of its own and even of supplying large numbers of mercenaries to the richer neighboring countries? Were these tribes subject to massive discrimination by outside nations?

Incidentally, the Wikipedia article on Arabian peninsula apparently thinks that the history ended with the Rashidun and then restarted in 18th century with the establishment of the Saudi dynasty. Did anything else happen over there during one thousand years in between?

The center of gravity of the area changed pretty quickly. It was during the Rahshidun Caliphate that the capital was moved to Damascus and then later to Baghdad.

The end of the Ummayads and the arrival of the Abbasids meant that the army became a professional force which anyone could join, as opposed to a force made up primarily of Muslim Arabs and a few auxillarys.

Arabia sort of returned to backwater status after the centers of power moved to places like Persia, Baghdad and Cairo. It wasn’t entirely, though, and there are some interesting stories, like the Qarmatians, an Ismaili group that set up a republic in eastern Arabia, centered around Bahrain, and went on to sack Mecca, desecrate the well of Zamzam and steal the Black Stone (they considered the Hajj superstitious and unIslamic), and were general pests to pilgrims in the 10th-11th centuries.

But for the most part, Arabia was under the control of empires centered in other places, usually Egypt (the Ayyubids, the Mamlukes) , who exercised direct control over the strip of Arabia bordering the Red Sea, and generally left the towns and Bedouins alone.

Remember, Arabia wasn’t ever all that densely populated, and the armies that took over Persia and Roman Egypt and the Middle East weren’t that big. Even at the battle of Firaz, which was the last big Persian stronghold, the Rashiduns only had about 15,000 troops. The invasion of Egypt was carried out with only about 4000 men. The Arabs won not because of their numbers, but because of their fanaticism, the supreme tactical skills of Khalid ibn al Walid and Amr ibn al-As, and the internal weaknesses of both Persia and Rome.

When Arab leaders saw the luxuries of Egypt, Persia, and Mesopotamia, compared to the way they lived in Arabia, they resettled themselves pretty quick.

The bastion of the Umayyads was the ahl al-Sham, the semi-professional Arab army of Syria, not the Arabs of the Arabian peninsula, who were in fact often hostile to the dynasty. This army was itself largely disbanded by the Abbasids.

In the early 9th century “the Arabs” ( probably mostly remnants of the ahl al-Sham, plus Arab troops from the Egyptian jund or military district/army ) made up one of five loose divisions of the professional army according to one source. While said source ( al-Jahiz ) is problematic in some respects, it is obvious by the relative level of attention given to them that they were no longer the center of the military establishment. Of primary importance were now Persian troops - the Khurasaniya, a geographic descriptor here referring specifically to Persian-style heavy calvary and Abna, also apparently originally from Khurasan ( Eastern Persia ), who seem to have been lighter dragoons of a sort.

In the wake of the highly destuctive fourth Islamic civil war, particularly from the reign of al-Mu’tasim ( 833-842 ) on, Turks ( about 50% of the elite Samarra army by the mid-9th ) and Faraghina ( Central Asian Persians from Ferghana ) began to pre-dominate, brought in as specialist troops from the fringes and outside the borders of the Caliphate. As outsiders they were thus politically secure, until they eventually acclimated and praetorianized in a generation or three. The Turks introduced horse-archery to the Islamic armies and soon became the militarily dominant branch.

But Arabs continued to serve for awhile - the Maghariba, who controlled their own quarter in the praetorian military capital of Samarra, appear to have been Arabs recruited ( quite possibly forcefully in the wake of rebellion ) from the Hawf districts of Egypt, i.e. the desert fringe of the Nile where some originally Syrian Bedouin had established themselves in the Umayyad period. They seemed to have been infantry, more poorly paid and lower in status than Turks or Faraghina and with no high-ranked commanders of their own. As an example of their relative importance one source claims there were 2,000 of them out of an army of 7,000 ( the rest Turks and Faraghina ) that were sent to assault Baghdad from Samarra in 865.

By the opening of the 10th century the Samarra army had become hopelessly praetorianzed, centralized control over most of the empire had been lost as noted above and the non-Turkish military elements of the central state ( such as it was ) largely disappeared.