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FAILURES OF THE LATE UMAYYAD EMPIRE AND ITS FALL

by Mazaher Muraj

ABSTRACT
The death of Muawiyah b. Yazid, the grandson of the founder of the Umayyad dynasty, determined the end of the Sufyanid rule and the transferral of the caliphate into the hands of Marwan b. Hakam whose lineage of caliphs came to be known as the Marwanid caliphs. This line still considered to be of the first dynasty of Islam, ruled over the Muslims for a further 66 years (AD 684-750) and thus saw the rise and fall of a total of 11 caliphs. This essay seeks to discuss the failure of the late Umayyad empire hence determining the reasons which led to its fall in AD 750.

INTRODUCTION
The late Umayyad empire began with the installation of Marwan b. Hakam as caliph of the Muslims in AD 684, the cousin of Muawiyah b. Abi Sufyan. Indicative of this period of Umayyad history is that from the very inception of Marwanid rule, problems within the empire were displaying themselves in this case, the revolt of Abduallah ibn Zubayr. Marwan by this time was an old man and his rule lasted only 6 months thus with his death came to power his eldest son Abd al-Malik b. Marwan who would rule for 20 years (AD 685 705). What was strange about the ascension to the caliphate of his successors is that 4 of them would be his sons only to be interrupted by the emergence of Umar b. Abd al-Aziz (Umar II), the son of his cousin Abd al-Aziz. At the initiation of Yazid II, the third son of Abd al-Malik, succession was snatched from the line of the long reigning caliph, Hisham (AD 724 43) and given to his own son, Walid II. By this time, due to various problems within the empire (as will be discussed) an internal struggle began within the Umayyad family but eventually was won and lost by Marwan b. Muhammad who was the grandson of the first Marwan. [1] This essay seeks to discuss the failures of the late Umayyad empire which effectively led to its fall in AD 750. In order to determine this it is important to analyse a number of factors which would display the state of the empire prior to its fall. They are (1) the issue of factionalism and (2) the problem of poor statesmanship. The first point will seek to analyse the attitude of the empire towards the Umayyads from a number of groups which had emerged as a result of factionalism from the caliphate of Abd al-Malik b. Marwan but further intensified during the caliphate of Sulayman. The second point will look to assess the character and political affiliations of certain caliphs which played a role in the downfall of the government. The sources used in order to complete this essay are mostly from distinguished western scholars in the field of Islamic studies, such as Gerald Hawting, who have carried out extensive research enabling researchers of the future to view Islamic history with a different perspective. An analysis has been conducted from their works in order to produce this essay and so references will be given where appropriate.

MAIN DISCUSSION
Factionalism Among the problems faced by the later Umayyad caliphs that played a significant role to their downfall was the issue of factionalism. The failure of the government to maintain unity as Muwayyah had done played a significant role in the downfall of the empire. Three main groups emerged: a) Emergence of rival political groups As has been already stated, it can be seen from the very inception of the Marwanid government that there existed rival groups within the empire supporting one person over another. This can be seen by the fact that the son of Yazid b. Muawiyyah was not seen as a suitable candidate for the caliphate since it is said that he was not recognised due to his mother being a Kalbite and so the Qaysites opted to support Marwan instead [2] and thus Sufyanid rule effectively ended. It has been indicated by the author of The prophet and the Age of the Caliphates that the confusion to the succession of Muawiyyah II had led to the emergence of separate parties each in favour of their own preferred candidate due to the political leanings of the candidate. Thus due to the political differences of the time, the empire was at war with each other even if the differences were hitherto fairly harmless. These types of divisions would later be used as political propaganda in order to manoeuvre a situation towards the advantage of the enemies of the Umayyads i.e. the Abbasids [3]. It can be seen throughout the later period of Umayyad rule that support by a caliph for a single party was never consistent and that a caliph would support one party over another for various reasons, predominantly exchanging allegiances between the Qaysites and the Yamanites. This play of supporting one party over another created a significant amount of tension within the empire and usually resulted in skirmishes however it can be felt that great wars were a resultant factor of one caliph using a party as a military force in his bid for the caliphate e.g. the case of Marwan II. The temporary cease of the caliphate from the Umayyads at the death of Yazid allowed Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr (a son of one of the companions of the Holy Prophet and a claimant to the caliphate) to assume the position of caliph of the Muslims, thus controlling the Hijaz (where he established his rule), Iraq, Southern parts of Arabia, Egypt and parts of Syria. He controlled a vast amount of territory with the support of the Qaysite leader al-Dahhak ibnQays al-Fihri while support for Marwan b. Hakam came from Kalbite (including Yamanite) opponents and it was at this point that the Marwanids emerged as candidates for the caliphate. The revolt of ibn al-Zubayr continued throughout the rule of Marwan and continued into the caliphate of Abd al-Malik lasting 9 years [4]. Ibn al-Zubayr was finally killed in the reign of Abd al-Malik under his governor, al-Hajjaj in AD 692. The revolt of ibn al-Zubayr was but only the first of many however factionalism was not developed solely as a result of revolts. Another cause for factions within the empire was due to hostility shown by the subjects as a result of the actions performed by the caliphs and their governors. This can clearly be seen during the governorship of al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf al-

Thaqafi. With his arrival in Kufa he began with the following sentence, O people of Kufa! Certain am I that I see heads ripe for cutting, and verily I am the man to do it. [5] This indicates that there was opposition to the Umayyad government. Al-Hajjaj killed as many as 120,000 people mainly from the Shiites and even the great companion of the Holy Prophet, Anas b. Malik was not free from being subject to the torture of al-Hajjaj. It is possible that acts such as these may have caused the people to have a hostile attitude toward the Umayyad government thus taking sides with their opponents. The revolt of Yazid b. al-Muhallab during the reign of al-Hajjaj is of importance since he was a southerner from the tribe of Azd and thus was an enemy of the northerners. This is evidenced by the fact that whilst al-Muhallab was governor of Khurasan, he rounded up and sent northerners to al-Hajjaj for punishment. During the caliphate of Umar b. Abd al-Aziz (Umar II), he was deposed as governor and imprisoned. However he was able to escape and form a body for a revolt. The revolt ended with a confrontation with the Syrian forces and thus did not achieve its intended goal since al-Muhalab was killed. The result was that further factions were created since Qaysites tooke up leadership positions whilst the SyrianMesopotamian army, formerly a predominantly Kalbi and Yamanite became Qaysi due to its composition in the areas it had settled. The Yamanites saw this as a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Umayyads and thus supported the Abbasids. Incidents such as these provided material as propaganda for rival contenders to the caliphate [6]. b) The mawali A second group to have a hostile attitude towards the Umayyads were those considered to be mawali. In order to escape heavy taxation such as the Jizyah (poll tax) and the Kharaj (land tax), mawali would convert to Islam and in order to receive further subsidies would flock away from their lands and head towards the city where they would be able to join the military. This became a problem for the government since it reduced tax revenues and so alHajjaj made sure that the mawali were sent back to their villages where they would continue to be forced to pay the taxes. They were also deprived of the right to accept Islam thus paying the taxes incurred upon non-Muslims. Therefore it may be assumed that some tension had been created among the mawali and could be the determining factor to why they supported the Abbasids during the revolution which eventually led to the fall of the Umayyads [7]. Non-Arabs and Persians were the most aggrieved by the treatment they received at the hands of the Umayyads. Even though they had become Muslims, they were still treated as second class citizens and sometimes were still subjected to the taxes only to be paid by nonMuslims. Therefore it is no surprise that the Abbasid revolution consisted of many nonArabs, especially Persians from Khurasan [8]. c) Religiously influenced groups The third group to have a hostile attitude towards the Umayyad caliphs were those concerned with the religious behaviour of the caliphs. This group generally emerged during the last years of Umayyad rule e.g. the Qadariyah and Ghaylaniyah believed in the notion of free will while the caliphs supported the idea of pre-destination. Although this group manifested itself during the last years of Umayyad rule, it cannot be concluded that the earlier subjects disregarded religion since many groups such as the Shiites and the Kharajites

had emerged which argued the belief that a leader should be a religious one however in the case of the Kharajites, a leader neither had religious powers or secular powers since this belonged solely to God. Thus the lifestyle of the Umayyad caliphs may have caused some uproar within the religious community of the empire since some of the caliphs were said to have engaged in the consuming of alcohol, gambling and music. For example the caliph Walid II is said to have regularly gone swimming in a pool of wine which he would drink as he swam. This was not the behaviour of a Muslim and nor did the people feel that a caliph should behave in such a way [8]. Life during the Umayyads had become highly un-Islamic since cities known for their holiness such as Makkah and Medina became cities where song and music was widespread. The caliphs each one after the other except Umar II and possibly Yazid III engaged in festivities which involved alcohol and merrymaking. This un-Islamic behaviour along with the lifestyle of the caliphs became an effective argument in the propaganda towards the government during the Abbasid revolution [9]. A concern for Muslims in particular during Umayyad rule would have been the extensive privileges given to Christians in Syria. One can only imagine the anger the Muslim masses may have felt as a result of favours being shown to them and may have led the people to question the priorities of the government in aiding their own. An example of Christian favours can be seen in the rule of Hisham under the governor Khalid al-Qasri who was seen as too favourable to Christians. According to Hawting in his book, The First Dynasty of Islam, Khalid al-Qasri is said to have declared Christianity superior to Islam [10]. Therefore it can be seen that factionalism was a significant issue during the period of the later Umayyad caliphs and their failure to control the divisions within the empire without doubt played a major role in the collapse of the empire. The loss of support from the Syrian army, which the Caliphs had relied on heavily for military support, displayed the inability of the rulers to even maintain unity within those groups which initially supported them and thus major consequences resulted. The author of Islamic History: A New Interpretation describes the situation as chaos being spread almost throughout the empire [11].

Poor Statesmanship A great failure of the later Umayyad caliphs was their poor administration skills which often led to external division within the empire thus creating factions however the collapse of the government was also due to internal divisions within the family. The Marwanid period of rule did see the rise of capable leadership in the form of Abd al-Malik and his sons Walid I and Hisham and although they were able to maintain control of the masses for a long period, the problems facing the empire had not been eliminated. An example of this can be seen by the fact that under Hisham accounting of government revenue was not properly conducted thus governors such as Khalid al-Qasri were able to misuse the funds. It is said that he had in his possession 13, 000, 000 Dirhams [12]. However the leaders who had the most severe impact on the empire are listed below: a) Sulayman

While Walid I tended to allow the Qaysites certain favours, his brother Sulayman supported the Yamanites and this can be seen via his appointments to government positions of Yamanites. Factionalism was spreading from city to city during this period as different tribes were coming under the banner of Qaysites or Yamanites. Sulayman, not following the example of his predecessors by trying to keep a balance between factions displayed poor leadership by favouring one group over another and thus created tension between different parties all over the empire so much that Kennedy suggests that by the reign of Hisham, if not before, it was virtually impossible for any political or military leader to avoid relying on one faction or the other [13]. b) Walid II Walid b. Yazid II ascended to the seat of caliphate at the death of Hisham in AD 743 at the specification of his father that he should rule after Hisham. Although initially he was welcomed since his predecessor had become very unpopular, Walid II quickly became the subject of conflict both internally within the Umayyad family and externally among the Muslims which was to lead to his downfall. The very inception of his being appointed as the heir apparent of Hisham may very well have caused internal conflict between him and the descendants of Walid I who may have felt aggrieved that caliphate was stolen from them by their uncle Yazid II and so a plot may have been formed to dispose the caliph from his position. Also the imprisonment of his cousin Sulayman b. Hisham may have further intensified a cause for his dismissal among the supporters of Sulayman from his family who was seen as a strong rival to the caliphate. In the same way, Hisham had suppressed the Qadariyyah and Ghaylaniyyah movements, it is said that Walid II continued their suppression since the caliph had supported the view that due to the predestination of Gods will, the caliph is in power whilst these groups supported the idea of free will. This theological threat led to the continuation of suppressing such religious groups and so a religious opposition was formed. The threat of the Khawarij was also still ever present since they didnt support any group nor did they favour the caliph [14]. Furthermore, Walid II had Qaysite leanings as evidenced from his approval of the torture of Khalid al-Qasri which caused more factionalism and this time a real opposition from the Yamanites was to be formed because Khalid al-Qasri died from the torture he received from Yusuf b. Umar at the hands of Walid II. Hugh Kennedy describes Walid II as a caliph not concerned with administration duties and this negligence was to lead to his demise because he left administration duties in the hands of the Qaysites appointed by his predessors who were already unpopular and faced constant opposition from the Yamanites. His death came as a result of internal family conflict and was declared unfit to rule by his cousin, Yazid III, son of Walid I [15]. c) Marwan II (al-Himar) The caliphate of both Yazid III and his brother Ibrahim were very short and so it would be unwise to suggest that they had an impact towards solving or even further intensifying the problems within the empire especially since Yazid III was seen in the same light as Umar II, a righteous person. This is evident from his manifesto when he came to leadership in which he promised to serve the people and interestingly suggested that he was willing to give up the seat of caliphate if there was somebody more capable than him. It is mentioned in The

First Dynasty of Islam by Hawting that even though during this time the subjects within the empire didnt have a problem towards Yazid III, internal divisions within the Umayyad family existed since the last Umayyad caliph Marwan II began a putsch and eventually became caliph after a series of civil wars. The title al-Himar meaning the ass is given to Marwan II for various reasons but a likely opinion that can be put forward is that he made it easy for the Hashimiyyah movement and the Abbasids to overthrow the government by eliminating all other candidates for the caliphate from the Umayyad family who may have had reasonable support for a claim [16]. A possible cause for the fall of the Umayyads and where the later caliphs failed especially Marwan II was that the earlier Umayyads respected the allegiance of one another which is why we can see that the sons of Abd al-Malik, although all had a strong claim to power, remained in their positions until their designated time to rule had arrived. This is contradictory to the time of Yazid III and Marwan II in which we can see that allegiance to each other wasnt respected and so a war between the Umayyad family broke out for the prize of caliphate [17]. Thus the rule of the last 4 caliphs began with conflict whist earlier caliphs ruled unrivalled. Such was the hatred between the late caliphs that Jalaluddin alSuyuti mentions in his Tarikh al-Khulafa that the first thing Marwan II did as caliph was to exhume the grave of Yazid III and crucify him as an act of revenge for the killing of Walid II. Although unlikely, a claim that can be forwarded is that the downfall was inevitable since the stronghold of the Umayyads, Syria, was lost as well as the support of the Syrian military. The residence of the Umayyads ceased to be Syria by the caliphate of Sulayman and other caliphs too chose not to reside there e.g. Hisham resided in al-Rusafa from where he reigned and where he was buried. It is interesting to see that at the time of Marwan II the state of Syria had been reduced to fragments at his feet compared to the Umayyad stronghold it was when Muawiyyah became caliph. This shift may be of particular importance because the destruction of cities such as Hims and Damascus where much Umayyad opposition had grown (Kharijites, Shiites, Kalbites, Ummayads and some Abbasids) led to further revolts and eventually the overthrow of Marwan II and the Umayyads [18]. Although Marwan II had both power and military support from his Mesopotamian counterparts, he was constantly engaged in warefare first from the revolts of Hims and Damascus as well as a Kharijite emergence in the form of Dahhak b. Qays who had been given the allegiance from among themselves. After MArwan II had finished with them he faced an open revolt from Abu Muslim of the Hashimi clan in AD 746. By AD 750 the government was lost and Marwan II was defeated.

CONCLUSION
This essay sought to discuss two contentious areas; factionalism and leadership during the Marwanid period, with the aim of making it clear that these failures of the late Umayyad caliphs were the primary causes which made it relatively easy for the Hashimiyyah and the Abbasids to overthrow the government. Some would argue that the failings were the result of the Umayyad caliphs actions themselves however a more lenient approach would be to suggest that the later caliphs had to live with the circumstances with regards to the conditions of the empire. Certainly after the caliphate of Sulayman, it may have become necessary to support one group over another, making it foreseeable that problems such as factions would occur, but the behaviour of the caliphs towards the people which resulted in hostility and their general lifestyle was of their own doing. The first point discussed is the issue of factionalism in which light is shed upon the disunity that had been created within the empire which led to the inevitable hostility shown towards the government by the different segments of the Muslim population. This point seeks to show that due to the rivalry of one group towards another it seems predictable that revolts and civil wars would follow. Thus due to the infighting between the parties, it seems apparent that the Muslim world, after its restoration from the days of Jahilliayh (Ignorance) by the Holy Prophet of Islam, was heading back in that direction. This is because we are told in some sources that a lengthy battle had taken place in Damascus between the Muaddites and the Yamanites because one had stolen a watermelon from the other. Other such incidents led to skirmishes across the empire [19]. Therefore it can be seen that a major failure of the late Umayyad caliphs was to ensure unity as there had been during the caliphate of Muawiyyah the Sufyanid caliph and to some extent Abd al-Malik b. Marwan after the death of ibn al-Zubayr. Due to the lack of control of the empire or negligence e.g. Walid II, towards administrative duties, the opponents of the Umayyads, in particular the Abbasids were able to overcome them. The second point discussed is that one of the greatest failings of the late Umayyad caliphs is that they were weak leaders in regards to the fact that they were not able to balance their support with parties such as the Qaysites, Yamanites and the Kalbites as well as religious opposition. Another point noted is that the later caliphs not only struggled against external but also from opposition from within their family e.g. Yazid III killed Walid II and Marwan II revolted against Yazid III, all for the prize of caliphate. Therefore this issue seeks to demonstrate that the Umayyad dynasty fell due to their own doing since the earlier caliphs respected the allegiance of one another e.g. when Umar II was appointed by Sulayman, there was initial opposition from the family but at the command of Sulayman they accepted. This lack of respect for one another led the later caliphs to revolt against one another. Marwan II had the power, military strength and probably the capability to rule as Hisham had, but for him it was too late since the Abbasid revolution was in its most advanced stages. In conclusion, it can be argued that the enemy of the late Umayyad caliphs were not the people or the Abbasids but they were the enemy of themselves and due to their lack of

possessing shrewd (hilm) political skills as Muawiyyah had in order to maintain a united empire, opponents emerged seeking a more capable government with more capable leaders.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Rasul Jafarian, History of the Caliphs. Translated by Ali Ebrahimi, Ansariyan Publications, 2007 M. A. Shaban, Islamic History: A New Interpretation, 1, AD 600 750, Cambridge University Press, 1971. G. R. Hawting, The First Dynasty of Islam: The Umayyad Caliphate AD 661 750, 2nd Ed, Routledge, 2000. Hugh Kennedy, The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates, 2nd Ed, Pearson, 2004. Phillip K Hitti, History of the Arabs, 10th Ed, Macmillan Press Ltd, 1970. Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies, 2nd Ed, Cambridge University Press, 2002. Chase F. Robinson, The New Cambridge History of Islam, V.1, 1st Ed, Cambridge University Press, 2010. Jalaluddin al-Suyuti, History of the Caliphs (Tarikh al-Khulafa), Translated by Major H S Jarret, Oritental Press, 1970.

REFERENCES
[1] View Appendix 1. Hawting, G R, 2000. The First Dynasty of Islam: The Umayyad Caliphate AD 661-750. 2nd ed: Routledge. [2] Hitti, P K, 1970. History of the Arabs. 10th ed. pg 280-281: Macmillan Press Ltd. [3] Kennedy, H, 2004. The Prophet and The Age of the Caliphates. 2nd ed. pg 90-92: Pearson. [4] Hitti, P K, 1970. History of the Arabs. 10th ed. pg 192-193: Macmillan Press Ltd. [5] Hitti, P K, 1970. History of the Arabs. 10th ed. pg 207-208: Macmillan Press Ltd. [6] Hawting, G R, 2000. The First Dynasty of Islam: The Umayyad Caliphate AD 661-750. 2nd ed. pg 73-76: Routledge. [7] Hitti, P K, 1970. History of the Arabs. 10th ed. pg 218-219: Macmillan Press Ltd. [8] Hitti, P K, 1970. History of the Arabs. 10th ed. pg 283: Macmillan Press Ltd. [9] Hitti, P K, 1970. History of the Arabs. 10th ed. pg 226-227: Macmillan Press Ltd. [10] Hawting, G R, 2000. The First Dynasty of Islam: The Umayyad Caliphate AD 661-750. 2nd ed. pg 81: Routledge. [11] Shaban, M A, 1971. Islamic History: A New Interpretation AD 600-750. 5th ed. pg 160: Cambridge University Press. [12] Hitti, P K, 1970. History of the Arabs. 10th ed. pg 223: Macmillan Press Ltd. [13] Kennedy, H, 2004. The Prophet and The Age of the Caliphates. 2nd ed. pg 105: Pearson. [14] Hawting, G R, 2000. The First Dynasty of Islam: The Umayyad Caliphate AD 661-750. 2nd ed. pg 90-94: Routledge. [15] Kennedy, H, 2004. The Prophet and The Age of the Caliphates. 2nd ed. pg 112-113: Pearson. [16] Hawting, G R, 2000. The First Dynasty of Islam: The Umayyad Caliphate AD 661-750. 2nd ed. pg 95-96: Routledge. [17] Ja'farian, R, 2003. History of the Caliphs. 1st ed. pg 614: Ansariyan Publications. [18] Hawting, G R, 2000. The First Dynasty of Islam: The Umayyad Caliphate AD 661-750. 2nd ed. pg 101: Routledge. [19] Hitti, P K, 1970. History of the Arabs. 10th ed. pg 281: Macmillan Press Ltd.

APPENDIX 1