96-99 A.H.   /   715-717 A.D.

Suleiman 96 A.H. 715 A.D.

SULEIMAN succeeded at once to the throne. It went as a saying at Damascus that Al-Welid's turn was for art; Suleiman's for the harim and good living; 'Omar's (the next to follow) for devotion. The fashion of the Court changed accordingly. With the first, the talk was of culture; with the second, of slave-girls, marriage, and divorce; with the third, of austerity, and recitation of the Kor'an by night. The prowess of the Empire waned under Suleiman. He was called, indeed, the Key of Blessing,—but only because he nominated 'Omar for his successor.

Declension in Spain and the East.

Suleiman weakened the administration of Spain by conniving at,—if indeed he did not actually order,—the murder of 'Abd al-'Aziz, the able follower of his father Musa; the Christians, profiting by the neglect that followed, rose upon their conquerors in the Asturias, and the mountainous region in the north. Mohammad ibn al­-Kasim, the successful invader of India, recalled as a follower of the hated Al-Hajjaj, came to an evil end. And under one of the sons of Al-Muhallab the Azdi (now the favoured house) who succeeded, the progress of Islam in the far East slackened, and its prestige declined.

Rebellion and end of Koteiba,97 A.H.

With Koteiba, the death of Al-Welid caused the utmost consternation. Appointed by Al-Hajjaj, he well knew the bitterness of Suleiman towards all his adherents, and the danger in which they stood from the enmity of Yezid, the favourite of the day. In an evil hour he set up for himself, and called on the army to join him against the Government. But miscounting his influence, he fatally overshot the mark.


The Azd were his enemies all through, and he had deeply offended Temim. Fighting thus with but a scanty following, he was slain, and his head, with those of eleven of his brethren, sent a welcome offering to the Caliph. And so the conqueror of Bokhara, Samarkand, and Kashghar, came to an untimely and dishonoured end. It was said of him by a Turk, Koteiba at the world's end was more terrible to us than Yezid at our very door. He had been one of the greatest heroes of Islam, were not his name stained by treachery and bloodshed, and his career cut short by a heedless rebellion.

Yezid succeeds in 'Irak, 96 A.H.;

Yezid son of Al-Muhallab, the Caliph's minion, was at first appointed to Al-'Irak, but unwilling to incur unpopularity in collecting the severe assessments of Al-Hajjaj, which barely sufficed for the now lavish expenditure at Damascus, he obtained the nomination of a financial officer to undertake the ungrateful task. He was Salih ibn 'Abd ar-Rahman, the Maula' of Sijistan, who had procured the change of language in the government offices. Finding, however, the exchequer thus closed against his own extravagance, Yezid prevailed on the Caliph, by the vain boast that his conquests would cast Koteiba's into the shade, to give him Khorasan.

and Khorasan 98 A.H.

With him, the Azd again come to power, and Temim take second rank. He also introduced Syrian government troops into Khorasan, a thing which Al-Hajjaj had not done. Arriving at Merv nearly a year after the outbreak of Koteiba, he felt bound to make good his boast; and casting aside his luxuries, took the lead of an immense army, recruited chiefly from Syria and Al-'Irak. His efforts were directed to Jurjan, on the south-eastern recess of the Caspian Sea, which, as we have seen, had been overrun by Sa'id ibn al-'As so long ago as the reign of 'Othman. But though tributary in name, the native rulers, conscious of their strength, were ever withholding payment of their dues, and no one dared to set foot within that inaccessible and rebellious region. This region formed a barrier to communication between Al-'Irak and Merv, and a southern circuit had consequently to be made by troops and travellers for Central Asia. It was therefore an important object to reduce the intervening space. Starting from Merv, Yezid first attacked Jurjan and its defenders were driven back into their defiles, where, after suffering much hardship, they came to terms. Here


Yezid's campaign in Jurjan and Tabaristan, 98 A.H. 716 A.D.

Yezid gave first proof that he might vie with Koteiba in cruelty as well as conquest; for although all who had made terms were spared, the country was ravaged, innumerable captives taken, and multitudes slain in cold blood.1 Leaving 4000 in Jurjan, he marched south-west to Tabaristan, where the Prince, notwithstanding help from Jilan and the Deilem, was discomfited and driven into the hills. Thither the Muslims following were drawn within dangerous defiles, whence, severely punished, they were pursued again into the plain. This reverse encouraged the men of Jurjan, breaking their treaty, to fall upon the garrison, and slay them to a man. Alarmed at his rear being thus cut off from Merv, Yezid made peace with Tabaristan; and turning back again to Jurjan, swore a great oath (similar to that of Khalid) that he would not stay his sword till he had eaten bread of corn ground by the blood of his enemies. The city, strongly planted on an eminence, held out for seven months, and then fell into the hands of the inhuman conqueror,

His cruelty in Jurjan.

who, butchering thousands of his victims in am adjoining valley, turned the stream upon a mill that overlooked the ghastly scene, and so fulfilled his oath. He also lined the approaches to the city on the right hand and on the left, for miles, with impaled bodies.2 Yezid returning to Merv, reported his success to the Caliph, and with a vainglorious boast magnified the booty into an enormous sum, such as would have yielded four million dirhems for the fifth.3

Unsuccessful attack on Constantinople, 96-98 A.H. 714-716 A.D.

To counterbalance the victories in Central Asia, Suleiman had the mortification of finding the vast preparations made to storm Constantinople useless. Shortly before his death, Al-Welid had fitted out a fleet to attack the Byzantine capital by sea, while columns from Armenia and Asia Minor co-operated by land. Everything appeared to favour the project. Rebellion at home had paralysed the Greek power, while the disloyalty of Leo the Isaurian, who joined hands with Maslama the Caliph's brother in command, afforded the

1 Tradition places the number at 14,000, which seems hardly credible.

2 Tradition varies as to the numbers from 12,000 to 40,000; but here again the statement seems incredible.

3 Another tradition says six million. His secretary warned him of the danger of making so extravagant an estimate, a warning which, as we shall see, was not misplaced.


best prospect of success. Unexpectedly, Leo himself was raised to the throne, and threw the unnatural alliance over.

98 A.H.

The Muslim troops on both sides of the Bosphorus were defeated, and suffered such hardship from hunger, frost, and pestilence, that after lying before Constantinople for a year, the fleet was forced to retire, and the invasion came to a disastrous and inglorious end. Greek fire played a not inconsiderable part in the defeat.

Death of Suleiman, ii. 99 A.H. Sept., 717 A.D.

Suleiman retained as Caliph his residence at Ramleh in Palestine, but made frequent excursions to Dabik, the base of the army operating against Constantinople, and there he died early in 99 A.H. A son, nominated his successor, died before him. On his deathbed the Caliph wished to appoint another son, a minor; but he was persuaded by the saintly Rajit ibn Haya, whose influence had been felt under the two precedisig reigns also, to name instead 'Omar, son of his uncle 'Abd al-'Aziz, so long governor of Egypt, and after him his brother Yezid, to succeed. For the nomination of 'Omar, the memory of Suleiman is blessed, though he himself receives but little other praise.1

Suleimin cruel and dissolute.

Suleiman was not only cruel but dissolute and jealous; and as such was used to guard his harim by a watch of

1 The following incident illustrates his heartless cruelty, and how the manners of his Court did but follow suit. On pilgrimage to Mecca, he halted at Medina, where a convoy of 400 Greek captives were brought into his camp. Doomed to death, they were ranged before the royal assembly for the courtiers and poets in the Caliph's train, by way of sport, to try their hands upon. The turn came to Al-Farazdak; the poet, who was handed a sword the worse for wear. Once and again the blow failed of its effect, whereat the Caliph and those around him jeered. Upbraided thus for his awkwardness, Al-Farazdak cast the sword away, and extemporised some couplets which turned the laugh aside. The poetry is indubitable evidence of the cruel tale being founded on fact. The point of it lies in this, that a somewhat corresponding failure had once been experienced by a chief of the Beni 'Abs. These were the maternal relatives of the Caliph, who, joining their master, had exposed Al-Farazdak to the ridicule of the company; and so he adroitly turned the laugh against them in his stinging verses, which ridiculed the failure of their own chieftain.

The first captive brought up, a patrician, was assigned as a mark of honour to a great-grandson of 'Ali, to behead. The poet Jarir was also honoured with a captive of rank. It is incredible that such heartless despite should have been shown towards human life. But so we read, and that without any comment or expression of surprise.


eunuchs. Handsome in mien and feature, it is related of him that at Dabik, arrayed in a green robe and turban, he looked at himself in the mirror, and said, "Am I not the kingly youth?" A slave-girl stood admiring by. "What thinkest thou?" he said to her. "I was thinking," she sang in plaintive verse, "that thou art the best of joys, if thou wouldest but remain; yet for mankind there is no continuing here. No blemish can I see in thee that is in other men, excepting only that thou, like them, must pass away." And he died within the week—having reigned two years and a half.

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