73-86 A.H.   /   692-705 A.D.

'Abd al-Melik universally recognized, 73 A.H. 692 A.D.

ON the death of Ibn az-Zubeir, who for thirteen years had held his ground as rival of successive Caliphs, the Umeiyad rule was anew recognised, without dispute, over the whole Muslim realm, and 'Abd al-Melik named as Caliph in the prayers of every Mosque from east to farthest west. In his reign the Arab dominion reached its high-water mark. They were the ruling race whose sway Muslims of all other races were obliged to acknowledge. He was able at last to turn his arms again towards the north, where the Muslims now obtained material victories over the Greek forces in Asia Minor and also in Armenia; so that apprehension in that direction was for the present at an end. But the feud between Keis and Kelb did not cease. Out of it sprang another between the Christian tribe of Taghlib and Suleim, and the tribe of Fezara was also brought in. The scene of the endless series of acts of vengeance was Mesopotamia, and the feud was carried on with the utmost cruelty. In Al-Basra the feud between Rabi'a and the Azd on one side and Temim and Keis on the other spread to Khorasan, a Basrite colony. But it was as yet a far cry to Khorasan, and it says much for 'Abd al-Melik that he held together both Keis and Kelb in Syria, for when revenge was afoot, all political and religious bonds were thrown to the winds.

Hajjaj governor in Arabia.

But throughout the remainder of this reign the leading figure was unquestionably Al-Hajjaj, whose cruelties have stamped him as the worst tyrant of the age. For sometime after the sack of Mecca he remained governor of Arabia. Having removed the unhallowed vestiges of the sacrilegious


siege from the precincts of the Ka'ba, which was by him restored to its previous dimensions, he visited Medina. There he denounced in no measured terms the city in which 'Othman had been murdered, and even branded certain of the citizens, known as hostile to the Umeiyad line, with the mark used for a subject race.

Azarika rebels in 'Irak, 74 A.H. 693 A.D.

In the following year a branch of the Khawarij, called the Azarika,1 assumed a threatening attitude on the Persian frontier, and Al-Muhallab was deputed from Khorasan, with heavy contingents from Al-Basra and Al-Kufa, again to light against them. But on the governor of Al-'Irak, Bishr, the youthful brother of the Caliph, dying shortly after, the troops from both cities began to desert Al-Muhallab and, despite remonstrance, return to their homes. The Caliph now saw that none but a strong hand could curb the license of the men of Al-'Irak, and so, to the joy of Al-Muhallab, Al-Hajjaj was appointed governor.

Hajjaj appointed to 'Irak, 75 A.H., 695 A.D.

He forthwith set out from Medina with a small mounted escort, and crossing the desert by forced marches arrived in the early dawn unknown at Al-­Kufa. He entered the Mosque as men were assembling for early prayer, and mounting the pulpit sat down, with face concealed behind the folds of his red turban. "To prayers! to prayers!" he cried aloud, and still sat muffled. Some thinking him a Khariji adventurer, took up stones to cast at him. But they dropped them in terror as, uncovering his stern features, they recognised that it was Al-Hajjaj. In verses full of threat and fury, he upbraided the city for its treachery; "Beware," he said, "for verily it is as if I saw many a head before me all gory in its blood!" Then he commanded the Caliph's rescript to be read aloud. It opened with the greeting of Peace; but there was no response. "Stop!" said Al-Hajjaj in anger, to the reader; "is it come to this, that ye respond not to the greeting of the Caliph? I will teach you soon to mend your ways." The affrighted company at once joined in the loyal response, "Peace and blessing on the Caliph!" The letter read, Al-Hajjaj resumed his threatening tone;—"If ye reform not forthwith," he said, "there will soon be widows and orphans enough amongst you. Unless ye depart within three

1 So called from a leader of the name of Al-Azrak, who flourished some fifteen or twenty years before.


days for Al-Muhallab's army, I swear that I will slay every man of you I find behind."

His severe administration.

And he was as good as his word. The citizens streamed day and night across the bridge; some who failed to hasten their departure, an aged man amongst them,1 were barbarously put to death. At Al-Basra, the same scene, with even increased severity, was enacted. It was emphatically now the reign of terror.2

Hajjaj in jeopardy.

With the view of encouraging Al-Muhallab in his harassing campaign, Al-Hajjaj with a column from Al-Basra encamped in his vicinity. There his troops mutinied for an increase of pay, such as had been given them by Mus'ab; and at one time Al-Hajjaj, refusing it and left almost alone, was in peril of his life. In the end, order was restored, and an amnesty proclaimed. Not many were put to death, but amongst them was the son of Anas, once body-servant of the Prophet, and now an aged citizen of Al-Basra.

Harsh treatment of Anas the Prophet's servant.

Not content with executing his son, Al-Hajjaj confiscated the possessions of the father also, and, on his expostulating, covered him with invective. Stung by his reproaches, Anas appealed to the Caliph, who upbraided his lieutenant in terms of such gross indecency as few but Arabs know how to give, and ordered him on pain of personal chastisement to withdraw his words, and treat Anas with the honour due to one who had in person served the Prophet. Al-Hajjaj, much disconcerted, made the best amend he could. Anas accepted the apology, but added what should have touched the despot more even than the Caliph's reprimand:—"Had a Nazarene, with all his infidelity, seen one who had served the Son of Mary but for a single day, truly he had done him honour, as thou hast not done to me, who served the Prophet of the Lord for full ten years." It is the last link that connects the pages of tradition with the person of the Prophet.3

1 'Omeir ibn Dabi' partly on account of the part his father had played in the assassination of 'Ottman.

2 Ibn al-Athir notices the growing barbarity of public excuitions. With the early Caliphs, the culprit's turban was simply removed and the head barred just as the falchion was about to strike it off. Mus'ab had the hair and beard shaved off; and the victim exposed thus to public derision, was decapitated. Now he was pinioned and often suspended by wedges to the wall and so struggling with his hands torn by the nails or hooks his head was struck off."

3 Life of Mohammad pp. 202, 526.


Though Al-Hajjaj escaped these recent dangers, his viceroyalty was during the next two or three years seriously disturbed by Khawarij of various shades.

Khariji insurrection. Shebib. 76-77 A.H. 695-697 A.D.

Some were dissatisfied with a government that seemed to trample on the sanctions of Islam, and preferred return to the days of 'Omar, under a Caliph to be chosen (some still holding to Koreish, and others not) by the voice of the people at large. The Theocrats, on the other hand, would none of any Caliph—their cry, as of old, was No rule but the Lord's alone. But all were nerved to action by the tyranny of Al-Hajjaj, and by the countenance accorded him by the Caliph. The most dangerous was the latter class. These had no worldly views. As a matter of conscience, they fought with equal bravery whatever the chances of success, goaded by a wild fanaticism. They belonged for the most part to one tribe, the proud Beni Sheiban of Bekr, who had migrated from their settle­ments on the right bank of the Euphrates to new pasture grounds in northern Mesopotamia. Their leader Shebib ibn Yezid, with his few hundreds, put to flight the thousands of Al-Hajjaj. By rapid counter-marches, he outmanœuvred his enemy, and with desperate bravery over and again dis­comfited the columns which, for two years, were continually sent against him. He repeatedly stormed the walls of Al-Kufa, and on one occasion effecting an entrance, made havoc in the city, and slew many of the worshippers assembled in the Mosque. Abusing the Kufans in his despatches to the Caliph, for their cowardice, Al-Hajjaj was reinforced by a contingent of Syrian troops.

Khawarij dispersed.

With their aid he succeeded at last in dispersing the followers of Shebib, who was drowned, at the end of the year 77 A.H. (Spring, 697 A.D.), by his horse stumbling on a bridge of boats over the river at Al-Ahwaz.1

The land-tax.

Under Al-Hajjaj the revenues from the kharaj or land tax began to fall off owing to the peasantry flocking into the towns; and he adopted the drastic remedy of forbidding them to migrate and of compelling those who had done so

1 There is a story that his body was sent to Al-Hajjaj, who had his heart taken out. It was hard as a stone, rebounding when cast on the floor; and within was found a drop of coagulated blood, such as that from which the Kor'an tells us man was evolved. Sura xxii. 5; xcvi. Ibn Khallikan i. 617. His mother was a Greek captive girl.


to return. The names of their lands were even branded upon their hands. Such measures aroused resentment, and so contributed to swell the ranks of the disaffected under Ibn al-Ash'ath. Under 'Omar II. another plan had to be tried.

Muhallab's campaign against Azarika, 76-78 A.H. 695-697 A.D.

Al-Muhallab was still engaged in Persia with Khawarij of the Azraki sect. Driven out of Fars, they fell back on Kirman, and for a year and a half eluded or defied the Caliph's forces. Their chronic rebellion might have lasted longer, had they not fallen out among themselves, and broken up into parties that were soon effectively dispersed. Thus the Azarika, having kept Al-'Irak and Persia more or less in turmoil for a period of twenty years, were at last put an end to. In recognition of his success, Al-Hajjaj received Al-Muhallab with great honour at Al-Basra, and invested him with the governments of Khorasan and Sijistan, which had lately (73 A.H.) come under his jurisdiction. From Merv, Al-Muhallab crossed the Oxus, and with his sons warred for two years against the Turkomans in that direction, who, notwithstanding previous campaigns waged with various success, were yet but partially brought under Muslim influence.

His death 82 A.H. 701-702 A.D.

He died 82 A.H., and was succeeded by his sons. His services to Islam in the long and obstinate struggle with the Khawarij were great; and the name he left behind was singularly fair and unsullied.

Ibn al-Ash'ath rebels against Hajjaj, 80 A.H. 699 A.D.

Al-Hajjaj was yet to be exposed to another danger: the great King beyond Sijistan, named Zunbil, when attacked drew the Muslim forces into difficult passes of Afghanistan, from which they were allowed to retire only on the payment of humiliating ransom. To avenge the affront, an army was raised, named "the peacock army," so splendidly was it equipped at the cost of a heavy war cess on Al-­Basra and Al-Kufa. The command was unwisely placed in the hands of the ambitious grandson of 'Al-Ashath, who marched against Zunbil, 80 A.H., put him to flight, and ravaged his land. Mindful, however, of the recent misfortune, Ibn al Ash'ath (for so he is commonly called) would have held his hand for a time till the country settled down; but Al-Hajjaj, upbraiding him with faint­heartedness, peremptorily bade him to war on; and when expostulated with, threatened supersession. The army,


equally with their Commander, resented the action of the "Enemy" (as they called him) "of God and man"; and, declaring war against both him and his Master, swore allegiance to Ibn al-Ash'ath, who, making favourable terms with Zunbil, forthwith marched on Al-'Irak. The Caliph, in alarm, sent reinforcements, which Al-Hajjaj pushed on to the frontier. But Ibn al-Ash'ath beat them back at Tostar, and crossing the Tigris, advanced on Al-Basra.

Takes Basra 81 A.H. Jan.,701 A.D.

The rebel, entering the city, was received with open arms.1 Al-Hajjaj, determined not to be beaten, retired with a few people of Thakif and Koreish, until reinforcements of his Syrians under their Kelbite leader defeated their assailants, who thereupon fell back on Al-Kufa, which had already thrown off its allegiance under a Temimite captain.

Defeat of Ibn al-Ash'ath, 82 A.H. March, 701 A.D.,

Al-Basra being now at his mercy, Al-Hajjaj took a signal revenge by treacherously slaying (so we are told) 11,000 of the inhabitants after promising them quarter. Meanwhile crowds of the discontented citizens streamed forth to Ibn al-Ash'ath, who was able once more to meet Al-Hajjaj, half-way between the two cities, with 100,000 men. The Caliph was now so alarmed that he offered terms to the rebels by the hand of his son and brother. Al-Hajjaj was to be superseded, the pensions of the 'Irakites were to be made equal to those of the Syrians, and suitable provision made for Ibn al-Ash'th. Al-Hajjaj remonstrated with the Caliph, reminding him of 'Othman's fate, but he was firm. Ibn al-Ash'ath was inclined to accept the offer; but his army rejected it with scorn, and prepared for battle.

who is beaten, vi. 82 A.H.

Several months were spent in skirmishing and single who is combats; and it was not till the middle of 82 A. H. that a

1 The reason assigned for this sudden acceptance of the pretender is singular, and is illustrative of the progress of Islam in Al-'Irak. Al- Hajjaj, finding that the Jewish and Christian cultivators, to escape the Jizya or capitition-tax, embraced Islam and flocked in crowds to the cities, so that the revenues were from this cause seriously depressed, ordered his governors to send all such back to their villages and farms, and to take the tax from them as before. There was, in consequence, great lamentation among these village refugees, who went about crying, O Mohammad! O Mohammad! and knew not whither to go. The population were deeply touched at their lamentations, especially the "Kor'an-Readers" and this was one of the reasons, we are told, which led to the sudden acquiescence of Al-Basra in the revolt against Al-Hajjaj and the Caliph.


great battle was fought. The leader of the Kor'an-Readers of the day, and mainstay of the rebels falling early in the fight, his followers fled in dismay, and the army, thus disheartened, was totally discomfited. Ibn al-Ash'ath retired hastily to Al-Basra, and was there joined by many followers, who, though an amnesty was proclaimed, covenanted to fight under him to the death. Pursued by Al-Hajjaj, he was again beaten in a heavy engagement on the Persian border, and thence effected his escape to Kirman.

His death, 85 A.H.

Eventu­ally he took refuge with Zunbil, who a year or two afterwards sent his head to Al-Hajjaj. He is said to have died or committed suicide.

Yezid, son of Muhallab, 83 A.H.

In his flight Ibn al-Ash'ath had been followed to the East by some 60,000 of his defeated troops, who, either hating Al-Hajjaj, or too deeply compromised in rebellion refused the amnesty. These, failing to induce Ibn al ­Ash'ath to leave his protector and again try the fortune of war, set out on their own behalf, and, under 'Abd ar-Rahman ibn al-'Abbas al-Hashimi, took possession of Herat. Yezid, son of Al-Muhallab, governor at Merv, ordered them to evacuate the place and move elsewhere; but, choosing rather to fight, they were by him defeated and dispersed. Many were taken prisoners, and those of note sent to Al-Hajjaj at Wasit, which was then a-building; and he, both now and after the recent engagements in Al-'Irak, shed the blood of his captives with unsparing hand and heartless cruelty. He was on this occasion vexed with Yezid for having pardoned some leading men, because, as he suspected, they were of his own Yemeni blood, while Al­-Hajjaj himself was of Keis;

Superseded by Koteiba

and this is assigned as the reason for his shortly after superseding Yezid and his brothers by the famous Koteiba.

The rebellion of Ibn al-Ash'ath was a revolt of the Arabs of Al-'Irak against their Syrian masters, an aftermath of the old enmity between the kings of Ghassan and those of Al-Hira. Ibn al-Ash'ath himself was of Kinda, a descen­dant of a race of kings, and he looked upon Al-Hajjaj as a plebeian; but the tribes of Hamdan, Temim, Bekr, and others were on his side. The question of pensions also came in, the 'Irakites demanding equality with the Syrians in that respect.


Wasit founded 83A.H. 702 A.D

In this year the military station of Wasit was founded, so called, as midway (wasit) between Al-Kufa and Al-Basra, Al-Medain and Al-Ahwaz. The main object was, no doubt, to have an independent cantonment holding in check the restless cities. The pretext, however, assigned by Al-Hajja­j was the desire to check the license of the Syrian soldiers quartered in the country. Conveniently situated in the well-watered plain betwixt the Tigris and Euphrates, Wasit became the chief military centre of the Empire, and so continued as long as the Caliphate itself; but it was a confession that the Syrians felt that they were occupying a hostile country, and so widened the breach between the two.

Hostilities with Greece, 73-84 A.H. 692-703 A.D.

While these events were passing in the east, 'Abd al-Melik was able after the fall of Ibn az-Zubeir to throw aside with the humiliating treaty concluded with the Emperor; and, from the year 73 A.H., his generals, some of them his own sons, prosecuted with vigour, but not always with success, yearly campaigns in Asia Minor, Armenia, and the coast of Africa. Up to 76 A.H., the relations between the two Courts were friendly; but then, after an interval of fifteen years, a singular incident broke the peace. The Greeks imported their papyrus from Egypt and exported dinars to the Arabs. Before 'Abd al-Melik the papyrus was stamped with a cross and Christian sentences, but now the words of the Kor'an "Say, He alone is God" were used for a water-mark. The Emperor threatened that if such affront were repeated, he would strike coins with words respecting Mohammad grievous to his followers. Heretofore the Arabs had used gold and copper Byzantine coins and silver coins copied from the Sasanian, with the addition of the three letters b s m (In the name of [God]) on the margin. Mu'awiya had indeed instituted an independent coinage, but the coins were rejected, having no cross and so withdrawn.

Mint of Damascus.

Now 'Abd al-Melik issued a purely Muslim coinage, gold, silver, and copper, called by the Byzantine names dinar (denarius aureus), dirhem (drachma), and fals (follis). The dinar was about the size of a half­sovereign, the dirhem rather less than a sixpence; but the words came to mean gold and silver coins of whatever weight. They bore, besides the mint and date, sentences from the Kor'an, generally, "There is no god but God; He has no


partner." "God is the One, and the Eternal God: He did not beget, nor was He begotten." "Mohammad is the Apostle of God, sent with guidance and the religion of truth, to make it prevail over all other religions."1 The amity of the two Courts thus rudely broken, war was prosecuted vigorously. Its fortune varied. In 79 A.H., Antioch was seized by the Greeks for a time; and under Justinian severe reverses were inflicted on the Muslims. On the other hand, the latter took many strongholds in Asia Minor, and penetrated as far as Erzerum. The people on the border-lands of Syria and Armenia suffered greatly in this chronic warfare; and in 84 A.H., so many churches were set on fire that the year was called "The Year of Burning."

Offical language Arabic.

A second important innovation was that the Government business and accounts were carried on in Arabic instead of in Greek, as they had been in Syria, or in Persian, as they had been in Al-'Irak. The change was made at the suggestion of a Persian Maulŕ of Sijistan, Salih ibn 'Abd ar-Rahman.

Reverses in Africa, 62-69 A.H. 681-688 A.D.

With even greater energy, but more chequered fortune the Muslim forces were engaged in Africa. 'Okba pushed his armies from Kairawan to the verge of the Atlantic.2 At Tangier he heard from Count Julian a tempting account of the prize that lay across the strait; but the attempt on the Spanish coast was not to be just yet. The Berbers were

1 Weil, guided by discovery of Muslim coins prior to this reign, relates this incident somewhat differently from our Arab authorities. It is no doubt true that we find silver coins struck by 'Omar in the old Persian mints with short sentences as "Praise be to the Lord," etc.; and this went on, more or less, throughout the reign of Mu'awiya, who struck golden coins with the design of a sword. It may be true, also, that local governors coined Muslim money before this reign. But notwithstanding, the Greek and old Persian currencies held their ground throughout the Empire until now. It was not till this reign, as we are distinctly told by Arabian writers, that the Muslim coinage became trustworthy either in weight or touch. The mintage of Al-Hajjaj was held the purest even by 'Abbasid Caliphs; but the pietists objected to its use, because it had as its legend a verse of the Kor'an which might fall into the hands of the infidel, or of Muslims ritually unclean. For the defect of a single grain, each of the 100 workmen now employed in the mint received 100 stripes; making thus, we are told 10,000 stripes for a single grain." Ibn al-Athir's chapter on this subject contains some curious details on the new coinage, vol. iv. p. 337.

2 This expedition is probably an anticipation.


treated as an inferior race; and Kuseila, one of the chiefs who had embraced Islam, was embittered by being put in to some menial office.

Reverses in Africa.

Carrying his countrymen with him, and joining the Greeks, this rebel advanced with an over­whelming force against 'Okba, who was slain, and his whole army destroyed at a place called Tahudha, south-east of Biskra in Algeria, where the mosque containing his tomb may still be seen. Kuseila thereupon occupied Kairawan, but entered into an agreement to respect the Muslim families (now his co-religionists) settled there. Most of the Arabs then retired to Egypt, and it was not till 69 A.H. that anything further was attempted. In that year, 'Abd al-Melik sent an army under Zuheir, one of 'Okba's old commanders, who, in a great battle, having slain Kuseila, beat both the Greeks and Berbers. But these, reinforced by sea from Sicily, again advancing, took Zuheir unawares, and cut his entire force to pieces.

Conquests in West Africa, 74 A.H. 693 A.D.

Such repeated calamities were sorely felt at Damascus; but some years elapsed before steps could be taken to restore the prestige of the Muslim arms. At last in 74 A.H. an army, "greater than ever before had entered the land of Africa," was despatched under command of Hassan ibn an-No'man al-Ghassani. From Kairawan they marched to Carthage, and put to flight the Greeks and Berbers massed in great numbers for its defence. Then they stormed the city,—the inhabitants escaping as best they could by sea to Sicily and Spain,—took much booty, and prisoners without number; and having destroyed many of the Roman buildings, and ravaged the country far and near, returned to Kairawan. But good fortune had not yet dawned on African adventure. A "priestess" (Kahina) wielding a mysterious influence had succeeded Kuseila: and she, inspiring the Berbers with new courage, inflicted signal defeat on Hassan, who was driven back on Barka, and there for five years forced to remain inactive.1 Then, reinforced by the Caliph, he overthrew the priestess, who was slain in the fight. Thereupon, her sons, with 12,000 of their army, joined the Muslim force, which then reoccupied Kairawan. Islam now spread rapidly amongst the natives. Hassan remained in command till

1 He fortified the place, and "The Castles of Hassan," says Ibn al Athir, "are known by his name to the present day."


89 A.H., when he was superseded by Musa, of whom we shall hear more anon.

Musa ibn Khazim's career in Khorasan.

The progress of the Muslim power during this Caliphate in the far East and beyond the Oxus, was paralysed for a time by the continued jealousies and discord of the Arab tribes that formed its garrison. The story of Musa, son of Ibn Khazim, illustrates both this feeling and the relation in which the independent or protected States beyond the frontier stood towards the Muslim Court. Ibn Khazim, it will be remembered, having put many of the Beni Temim to death, was deserted by his followers, and returning to Nisabur, sent Musa to save his property at Merv, and place it in some stronghold across the Oxus. This he did with a following of one or two hundred mounted men. The Prince of Bokhara, and other chiefs whom he approached, refused to meet him but Tarkhun, king of Samarkand, received him into friendship. One of his followers, however, having killed a Turkoman, he was obliged to fly to Tirmidh, where, treated kindly by the Chief, he took advantage of a feast to seize his fortress. Established there, the Keisites who had served under his father flocked to him, and refugees also from the army of Ibn al-Ash'ath, to the number of some 8000. With their aid, Musa beat back not only the Turkomans, but the Muslim columns sent from Merv to dislodge him. Thus prospering, his followers pressed him to recross the river and take possession of Khorasan. But he was content with the country beyond the Oxus, and with expelling the provincial residents sent from Merv. Al-Muhallab, and after him his sons, thought best to leave him alone; and so for fifteen years Musa was undisputed ruler of this great tract.

Defeated and slain 85 A.H. 704 A.D.

At last, one of Al-Muhallab's sons, thinking to please Al-Hajjaj, sent an army against him, which was joined by 15,000 of Tarkhun's Turks; and by these, after a long siege, Musa was defeated and slain, 85 A.H. But so inveterate were the tribal leanings of Al-Hajjaj—(who, as we have lately seen, was vexed at Yezid having spared some of Ibn al-Ash'ath's followers because they were of Yemeni blood)—that he was little pleased with tidings of the death of Musa. "I bade Yezid," he said, "to slay the Yemeni, and he replied that he had given him quarter ; and now his brother hastens to tell me of the death of this noble Keisite, Musa, son of Ibn Khazim, as if, instead


of grieving, that would rejoice my heart!" So strong was the clannish jealousy and party spirit of the Arab race.

Welid proclaim Heir-apparent, 85 A.H. 704 A.D.

'Abd al-'Aziz, brother of the Caliph, who had long been Governor of Egypt, held the next title to the throne, having been nominated by his father Merwan. 'Abd al-Melik now sought to set his claim aside in favour of his own son Al-Welid, and was supported in his desire by Al-Hajjaj. But 'Abd al-'Aziz would not surrender his right; nor would he agree to the nomination of Al-Welid even as his own successor; "For," said he, "do not I see in mine own son what thou seest in thine? Besides, we know not which of us may die the first; leave it therefore thus alone." The event anticipated did occur, for next year 'Abd al-'Aziz died; and Al-Welid was then done homage to as next the throne, throughout the Empire. The only opposition was at Medina, where a recusant, affirming the old doctrine of popular election, demurred even under threat of the sword, to the declaration of an Heir-apparent. The Caliph, however, contented himself with inflicting stripes upon the mal­content.

Attempt to make Jerusalem the centre of Islam

Jerusalem is to Jews and Christians the holiest place on earth. It was only by an accident that it was not so to Muslims as well, and one constant aim of the earlier Umeiyads was to shift the religious centre of Islam from the Hijaz to Syria.1 Mu'awiya had already attempted to remove Mohammad's pulpit to Damascus, and, when prevented, explained that he merely wished to see if it were worm eaten. He was proclaimed Caliph at Jerusalem and on that occasion performed prayers at Golgotha, Gethsemane, and the grave of Mary. 'Abd al-Melik is said to have for­bidden the pilgrimage to Mecca on the pretext of danger, and ordered that it should be to Jerusalem. In the year 72 A.H. (691-692 A.D.) he built the Dome of the Rock which still stands, round which runs the inscription, "This dome was built by the servant of God 'Abd[allah the Imam Al-Ma'mun A]mir of the Faithful, in the year 72. May God be pleased with him." The letters in brackets are a later insertion crowded into a space too narrow for them. Originally there stood "al-Melik A" as the spacing and date show. Even

1 De Goeje considers this is impossible, but the weight of evidence seems to be for it.


after the Umeiyads had obtained undisputed sway, Al-Welid made efforts in the same direction, but in vain.

'Abd al Melik dies, 14 ix. 86 A.H. Sept. 8, 705 A.D.

In the following year 'Abd al-Melik died, sixty years of age, having reigned twenty-one years, during the first portion of which, however, his title was disputed by Ibn az-Zubeir. From his deathbed he enjoined on his sons mildness and concord, and bade them make much of Al-Hajjaj;—"For," said the dying Caliph, "it is he that hath made our name to be named in every pulpit throughout the Homeland of Islam, and subdued our enemies under us." He was buried at the Jabiya Gate of Damascus.

His character,

Of 'Abd al-Melik the Arabian historian says:—He was the first Caliph that resorted to treacherous execution, as in the case of 'Amr ibn Sa'id; the first to conduct the exchequer in Arabic instead of Persian; the first to prohibit men from talking in the Caliph's presence; the first to play the miser; the first to declare, as on the death of Ibn az-Zubeir, "Let no one enjoin equity and the fear of God upon me, or I will strike his head from off his shoulders." But if such things were really spoken of him, we must attribute it in great part to the prejudice of 'Abbasid writers, and to the odium naturally attaching to his siege of the Holy City, and the destruction of the Ka'ba. Apart from the case of 'Amr ibn Sa'id, we are told of nothing in his personal control incon­sistent with a wise, mild, and just administration; although, by the support accorded to Al-Hajjaj, he must undoubtedly be held responsible, at second hand, for the cruelty and injustice of his lieutenant. The charge of penuriousness, too, appears equally unfounded; for at least in one respect he was lavish. Himself a composer of no mean merit, he encouraged poets by a princely liberality. Many stories are told of literary contests held before him by such bards as Jerir, Al-Farazdak, Kutheiyir 'Azza, and Al-Akhtal the Christian, and of the largesses conferred on such occasions. Of niggardliness in any branch of the administration, no instance has been given. His piety was a matter of policy.

and successful reign.

Upon the whole, the verdict on 'Abd al-Melik must be in his favour. His life was a stormy one. As a boy he witnessed the tumultuous scenes at Medina ending in the outrage on 'Othman's life,—scenes as we know from his addresses to the inhabitants of that City, which made a


lasting impression on him. He was early employed in the affairs of Mecca, and accompanied his father Merwan thither in the negotiations held with Ibn az-Zubeir. During the first half of his reign the throne was often in jeopardy, and a coalition of his adversaries would probably have overthrown it. Yet, with but one exception, we never hear of his being betrayed into acts of bitterness and retaliation: on the contrary, before resorting to extremities, he repeatedly made offers of pardon and reconciliation. Like 'Othman, most of his stadtholders were relatives of his own, but they were able men, and there was none left to oppose. He seemed to like to give iniquitous governors to Medina, like Hisham ibn Isma'il. In the end, having triumphed over all his enemies, he left to his sons a splendid inheritance, and with it the ample and ready means for extending the kingdom on every side.1

1 He had fifteen sons by eight wives, besides slave-girls. Four of his sons, as we shall see, succeeded to the throne.

The Caliphate: Its Rise, Decline, and Fall [Table of Contents]
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