105-125 A.H.   /   724-743 A.D.

Hisham, 105 A.H. 724 A.D.

HISHAM now entered peaceably on a long reign. His mother was of Makhzum, once the principal gens of Koreish, and he showed favour to her brothers. Exemplary as a true believer, he banished, like 'Omar II., from his Court all things inconsistent with the profession of Islam, and his mild and generally upright administration might have restored prosperity to the Empire, had not the evil genius of his predecessors still cast its blight upon the throne. There was much besides to cause depression. His lieutenants were not always happily chosen, and they so played upon his two defects of character, avarice and suspicion, as sometimes to betray him into unguarded and cruel action, as well as cause him to miss the friendship and popularity which a well-timed liberality would have secured. Military enter­prise was nowhere successful in his reign, and indeed repeatedly suffered severe disaster. From the first Hisham threw himself into the arms of the Yemeni party, and thus alienated from his rule the Northern faction.

Antagonism between the house of Hashim and Umeiya.

From early times, anterior even to the birth of Mohammad, there existed a rivalry between the two chief stocks of Koreish, the descendants namely of Hashim and of Umeiya.1 The Prophet, sprung from the former, suffered bitter opposition, both in field and forum, from the Umeiyads, till the conquest of Mecca converted the whole body of Koreish, and welded friend and foe equally within the bonds of Islam.

1 Life of Mohammad, pp. cx ff. The accompanying table will


In the first enthusiasm of the faith, all distinctions of the kind vanished. But they gradually came to life again, and burst out fiercer than ever on the murder of 'Othman, and in the struggle between Mu'awiya and 'Ali; while the Khawarij, who were continually rising in rebellion, recognised neither the one house nor the other, but demanded a purely theocratic rule. Things calmed down in the lengthened reign of Mu'awiya. But the tragic end of Al-Hosein and his family at Kerbala caused a strong reaction towards the house of 'Ali; and so there arose the party (called at first "the Party (Shi'a) of 'Ali," and then simply the Shi'a), advocating the divine right of succession in the line of 'Ali and in it alone; a doctrine which began to be busily but secretly circulated by a widely scattered and disloyal body.

Claim of Mohammad descendant of 'Abbas

But now another and more dangerous aspirant came upon the scene. This was Mohammad, great-grandson of Al-'Abbas, the Prophet's uncle. No pretensions had been hereto-fore advanced by this branch of the Hashim stock. The idea of their right to the sovereignty was of recent growth, and it was not till the present reign that it took definite shape in supersession of the house of 'Ali. The 'Abbasid advocates, to conciliate the Shi'a interest, spread a report that Abu Hashim, son of 'Ali's son Mohammad (the "Hanefi"), had on his deathbed bequeathed his right to Mohammad. Whether this be so or no, the plea of both parties was based in common on the immeasurable superiority claimed for the branch from which the Prophet sprang, over the Umeiyad. These latter were now incessantly maligned by 'Alids and

explain the relation between the two branches, the Hashimite and the Umeiyad:


Hashimids alike, as sprung from the enemies of Mohammad, persecutors of his descendants, a wicked and dissolute race of tyrants, neglectful of the sanctions of Islam, given to wine and hounds, music, singing, and revelry, in short to every kind of profanity;—charges, indeed, for which that dynasty had too often given good ground.

'Abbasid canvass.

Deputations from Mohammad, who lived in a retreat south of Palestine, frequently visited Khorasan, in the garb of merchants. They plotted in secret, and though often discovered and put to a cruel death, persevered in their canvass and nursed the cause. Such emissaries burrowed busily in the purlieus of all the great towns throughout the East, and the 'Abbasids began to gain in name and popularity throughout Al-'Irak and Persia, as well as Khorasan.1

Khalid governor of Kufa, 105 A.H. March, 724 A.D.

One of Hisham's first acts was to supersede the Keisi 'Omar ibn Hubeira in the government of Al-'Irak, to which he nominated Khalid ibn 'Abdallah, a protégé of Al-Hajjaj, who was of Bajila, a neutral tribe though of Yemeni origin.

1 The relation of the Shi'a, or 'Alid, family to that of the 'Abbasids, as descended respectively from Al-'Abbas and Abu Talib, uncles of the Prophet, will appear from this tree:—

Abu'l-'Abbas (Saffah) and Abu Ja'far were the first two 'Abbasid Caliphs. 'Ali, Mohammad's father, having given offence to the Caliph Abd al-Melik by marrying a wife divorced by him, and being on that account ill-treated at court, had retired to Al-Homeima a village on the borders of Arabia, where the alleged transfer of the claims of Ibn al-Hanefiya is said to have taken place.


Ibn Hubeira met the too common fate in those days of fallen rulers, being cast into prison and tortured for arrears of revenue. He escaped, but was pursued and murdered. The Caliph caused the murderer to be put to death; but contented himself with an expression of displeasure towards Khalid, who had apparently instigated the deed. Khalid gave his brother Asad the command in Khorasan, and himself continued for fifteen years in the government of Al-'Irak.

Khariji outbreaks in 'Irak, 118-119 A.H.

Towards the end of that period there were several Khariji outbreaks. One of these, led by a sorcerer, though followed by only a few disciples, is remarkable for certain strange doctrines, such as the divinity of 'Ali, held by them, as well as for their barbarous end. They were burnt to death at the stake with faggots steeped in naphtha. Another of a more serious character was raised by a man from Wasit, who declaimed against the use of wine, and denounced Khalid as "the son of a Christian (his mother being of that faith), who let mosques go to ruin while he built churches and synagogues, gave office to Zoroastrians, and allowed Christians and Jews to take Muslim wives." The cause was popular. Great numbers rallied under his black standard, and fought with determined bravery. Twice they routed considerable columns sent against them, and it was only by an army drawn at once from Syria, Al-Kufa, and Mosul, that they were at last dispersed and their leader slain. Several other equally fanatical insurrections had to be put down by military force. The leader of one of these, after committing many outrages, was brought in wounded, with a body of followers. Khalid, astonished by his doctrine and knowledge of the Kor'an, sought to spare him; but the Caliph resented his repeated intercession; and so with his whole company the rebel was committed to the flames, all the while reciting passages from the Kor'an. He died with this verse on his lips: "Say, the fire of Gehenna is fiercer in its heat, if they but knew it."1 Such was the wild fervour of these fanatics.

Fall of Khalid, 120 A.H. 737 A.D.

Apart from insurrections, which in themselves caused some anxiety, Khalid, after many years of faithful service, at last lost the favour of his Master, who either suspected embezzlement, or was jealous, perhaps not without cause,

1 Sura ix. 82.


of disloyal attachment to the house of Hashim.1 He therefore appointed Yusuf ibn 'Omar, of Thakif and related to Al-Hajjaj, governor of the Yemen, to succeed him. Without warning, as was often done, Yusuf appeared at Al-Kufa, to Khalid's dismay, carrying with him the Caliph's command to realise with all due severity the last farthing of arrears, from "the son of the Nazarene" and his lieutenants. Yusuf was nothing loth to execute his commission; for he sorely hated Khalid as the persecutor of his clansman, 'Omar ibn Hubeira. It was now the turn of the officers of Khalid to be cruelly treated, and on himself a demand was made altogether beyond his power to liquidate. He was tortured (meet reward for the cruel treatment of his predecessor) and cast into prison. After a year and a half, the Caliph ordered his release, and allowed him, against the reclamations of Yusuf, to join the army then fighting against the Greeks. But in the next reign, as we shall see, he was again pursued by the relentless hate of Yusuf.

Yusuf appointed to succeed him, v. 120 A.H. May, 738 A.D.

The supersession of Khalid was highly unpopular, especially with the Yemeni clan in Al-'Irak. His successor Yusuf, a little man with a long beard, besides being of Modar blood, had already distinguished himself by a tyrannous administration in south Arabia. He is praised, indeed, for restoring the prestige of Islam, and humiliating the Jewish and Christian faiths. But though devout and given to long prayers, soft in speech, and a master in poetry, Yusuf was of a cruel and even savage nature.2 In the course

1 He possibly was so in reality, though not openly. When accused of partiality towards the house of 'Ali, and of lending them money, he answered how could that be, when every day he cursed 'Ali in the public prayers; but that the people said was merely to curry favor.

2 For example, he was capricious about his garments, and chastised the tailor if they were not fitting to his taste. He would draw his nail across the stuff, and if it stuck anywhere, have the weaver beaten, or even his hand cut off. His secretary one day, slack at work, complained of toothache as the cause; the barber removed the suffering tooth, and the next also as a punishment. One of the tales passes belief. Pre­paring for a journey, he asked one of his slave-girls whether she wished to follow; on her answering in the affirmative he abused her as thinking of nothing but love, and had her beheaded; a second, preferring to stay with her child, shared the same fate. A third replied in terror that she knew not what to say, as either way she must give offence, and


of his inquiries he discovered that Khalid had made over large sums of money to Zeid ibn 'Ali, a grandson of Al-­Hosein, suspected of pretensions to the throne.

Zeid, grandson of Hosein, aspires to Caliphate.

The Caliph summoned him to his presence, and, dissatisfied with his attitude, sent him for further inquiry to Yusuf. Zeid, however, managed to retire into privacy, and canvassed the Arab tribes in Al-'Irak, living now with one and now with another, and ingratiating himself especially by frequent matrimonial alliances with maidens of the Yemeni line.1 He soon accepted homage as the rightful Caliph from thousands in Al-Kufa and its vicinity, with the pledge to fight under his banner. This went on for months. At last his followers urged him, "now that the full time had come for the down­fall of the Umeiyad house," no longer to delay. It is significant of the yet undefined relation of the two branches of the Hashimi stock,—the descendauts of 'Ali and those of Al-'Abbas—that Da'ud ibn 'Ali, one of the latter, sought to dissuade him from a step so premature. He bade him not to trust in his twenty, or even forty thousand2 "for think," he said, "how many of the 80,000 fickle Kufans pledged to fight for Al-Hosein stood by him in the hour of need?" The advice was good, but unheeded. In one respect the theocratic zealots were dissatisfied with Zeid; for, like Az ­Zubeir, he declined to say that Abu Bekr and 'Omar were usurpers of the Caliphate. Apart, however, from any such scruples, the light-hearted and pleasure-loving Kufans were hardly prepared for a serious rising. They were ready

for presuming thus to argue, she too was beheaded. The currency of such tales, even if not actually founded on fact, shows what a tyrant they had to deal with, and also throws a lurid light on the habits and morals of the day.

1 The names of two are given. A charming lady, but of mature years, came to do homage as an ardent Shi'iya; and Zeid, her age notwithstanding, asked her to be his bride. Excusing herself on the ground of her being no longer young, she suggested that her daughter, fairer and more elegant than she, would be more suitable. Zeid laughed, and was well pleased to accept the daughter in her stead.

2 The numbers are variously given at from 15,000 to 40,000. These all took an oath "to set up the Book and the testimony and godly discipline, to follow the descendants of the Prophet, and to fight against their enemies both in secret and in public." Whereupon the covenanter placed his hand within Zeid's, and the obligation and homage were complete.


His rebellion at Kufa, 122 A.H. Jan, 740 A.D.

enough to covenant, but lacked the covenanting spirit. At last Zeid fixed the day. Secret information reached Yusuf, who, from his palace in the vicinity of Al-Hira gave command for the citizens to be gathered, both for safety and lest perchance they too might rise, into the court of the great Mosque. During the night the Shi'ite banner paraded the city, with the old battle-cry, Ya Mansur! In the early morning, Zeid issued forth, expecting to find a multitude ready to salute him. There were but 218. Nevertheless, he made his progress through the streets, driving the police and soldiery before him, from quarter to quarter, but with little other result; He was watched by Yusuf and the chief men of Al-Kufa from afar. "Where are my men," he cried, "the 40,000 men that pledged their troth to me?" but none responded to the martial call. A follower answered, more sanguine than the rest, " They are shut up within the Mosque; let us march and set them free." Arrived there, they waved their banners high over the gates, and shouted, "Come from shame to glory; come forth for this world and also for the next; of neither have ye yet any part or lot!" But the answer was only a shower of stones. Darkness coming on, Zeid retired to the great storehouse of the city, where with his little company he passed the night. Next morning he was attacked by a Syrian column, which he bravely met, and killing seventy drove them back from place to place.

Defeated and slain.

So passed the day; but as night set in, an arrow struck him on the temple. He was carried to the house of a follower, where, so soon as the arrow was withdrawn, he died. They buried him secretly; but Yusuf discovering the place, sent the head to Hisham, and had the body, with those of the other leaders, crucified in the church. The head was stuck for a time on one of the gates of Damascus, and then sent to be similarly exhibited at Medina. The body remained exposed at Al-Kufa till Al-Welid II., on his accession, had it taken down and burned.

'Abbasid way cleared thereby.

This émeute, though apparently unimportant in itself proved the turning-point in the destiny of the house of 'Ali. Although Yahya, the youthful son of Zeid, escaped, to the Caliph's great mortification, the 'Alid cause had, for the moment, hopelessly collapsed. Yahya perished fighting in the Caliphate of Al-Welid II. Up to this time, the


aspiration of the 'Abbasids, as descendants of the Prophet's uncle, had paled before that of the 'Alids, in whose veins ran the blood of the Prophet himself. The Hashimi interest in the impending canvass now centred in the 'Abbassids, and they were able to enter upon it with invigorated hope and redoubled effort. The Umeiyads could have done their antagonists no better service than thus rid them of such dangerous rivals in the struggle for the throne.1 Al-Kufa was the centre of their propaganda, and at first all the leading conspirators were not Arabs, but Mawali of the shopkeeping class and tradesmen. Khorasan was worked from Al-Kufa. There the majority were stranger merchants of the Mawali, but the first leading representatives were Arabs. One of the chief of these was of the tribe of Khoza'a, which had settlements in Merv, and was related to the Azd and allied to the family of Mohammad. A communistic movement, that of the Khurramiya, resembling that of Mazdak of earlier days, ran parallel, and the 'Abbasids fished in all waters to gain their end. Money also played a large part.

Various campaigns in Khorasan.

Throughout the twenty years of this reign, the Muslim arms suffered many reverses beyond the Oxus, where things at the last remained pretty much as at the first.

Asad, brother of Khalid, 105-109 A.H.

Asad had been early appointed by his brother Khalid as lieutenant there, but he was a tyrant, and having inflicted chastisement on certain leading men who had incurred his displeasure, was recalled. During this period, the Khakan with his hordes kept the country in chronic disquiet; and there was at least one serious defeat, the Muslim host being surrounded for many days, and with difficulty effecting its escape. An émeute also, causing some anxiety, broke out in the East between the Yemeni and Modar tribes,

1 It is true that there was extant another branch descended from 'Ali the progeny namely of Al-Hasan, brother of Al-Hosein but like Al-Hasan himself, who resigned the Caliphate into the hands of Mu'awiya, they had but little ambition. An amusing, but not very edifying account preserved of a disputation held before Khalid (who is supposed to have had leanings towards the Shi'a) between Zeid as descendant of Al-­Hosein, and the head of the house of Al-Hasan, who both, in gross Arab style, fell to abusing each other's mothers. But the descendants of Al-Hasan never seem as yet to have taken any practical step as aspirants to the throne.


Ashras, 109-111 A.H.

which ended, not without bloodshed, in favour of the latter. Al-Ashras, the new governor, threw the entire country of Bokhara and Soghd into rebellion by his breach of faith, in first promising remission of the capitation-tax for all who embraced Islam, and then reimposing it. The rebels were supported by the Khakan, and the Muslims suffered greatly at his hands.1

Juneid succeeds

In 111 A.H., to better matters, Al-Juneid al-Murri was brought over from Sind2 but though an able warrior, he was less fortunate even than his predecessor. On his way to join the army at Bokhara, he narrowly escaped capture by the Khakan.

Samarkand attacked by the Khakan, 112 A.H.

In the following year, marching on Tukharistan, he received an alarming message from Saurak, governor of Samarkand, that the Khakan had surrounded the city, which, being from its great circuit beyond his power to defend, he must at all hazards, if not quickly relieved, go out and fight the enemy. Al-­Juneid resolved on marching to his relief, but the forces under his command being scattered about in all directions, he had but an inadequate column with which, against the reclamation of his officers, he at once set out. When about half-way, he was surrounded by the hordes of the Khakan, and the battle raged with terrible slaughter. Prodigies of valour, as of old, held the enemy at bay. At last he retired to a defile, threw up entrenchments, and called a council of war. "Either thou must perish," they said, "or Saurak." So he sent messengers to Saurak ordering him to march out of Samarkand, and so draw off the enemy.

Juneid sacrifices Saurak and garrison of Samarkand

Saurak remonstrated against the mad attempt; but on Al-Juneid angrily threatening to supersede him by one who was his bitter enemy, he issued forth with 12,000 men. After a

1 For example, Kamarja, "one of the greatest cities in Khorasan, and full of Muslims," was besieged by the Khakan for fifty-eight days with innumerable hordes drawn from Ferghana, Nasaf, and the country all around Bokhara. A chief having been killed by an arrow from the battlements, the Turks slew the Muslim prisoners, 100 in number, and cast their heads over the wall into the citadel, on which the Muslims in revenge slew 200 hostages in their hands. At last, driven to extremities for water, the siege was raised and the Muslims allowed to retire.

2 Al-Juneid owed his promotion (easy way of earning a command) to offering the wife of Hisham a rare and costly piece of Indian jewelry, which Hisham admired so much that Al-Juneid presented another like it to him.


long march, when close to Al-Juneid, the Khakan turned upon him, and a fierce encounter ensued. The day was hot, and the Turks set fire to the dry jungle behind. Saurak resolved on a dash through the enemy's host, hoping thus to reach Al-Juneid's camp now close at hand. The Khakan giving way, drew him into the midst of the burning grass, hidden by the clouds of dust raised by his horse. There, part enveloped in the flames, and part slain by the sword, ten or eleven thousand perished. The remnant escaped to a supposed friendly chieftain, who betrayed them to the Khakan. They were, all but seventeen, cruelly massacred; and in the end, but three out of the 12,000 got safely away. While thus sacrificing Saurak, Al-Juneid seized the oppor­tunity to emerge from his retreat; but, endangered by the flaming jungle he again retired, and then the Khakan came down upon him.

Juneid forces his way to Samarkand, ix. 112 A.H.

In this strait, he proclaimed that if the Persian slaves of his camp would fight with him, they should have their liberty; and they did fight with such prodigious bravery, that Al-Juneid was able to force his way to Samarkand. He had not, however, been long there when tidings came that the Khakan now threatened Bokhara. So leaving a garrison behind, he fought his way back again, carrying with him the families of the annihilated force, who were sent safely on to Merv. The Caliph was deeply affected by the loss of Saurak and his army; and reinforced Al-Juneid with five-and-twenty thousand troops from Al-'Irak,1 who were sent on to Samarkand.

Transoxiana, 113-115 A.H.

Al-Juneid seems during the next two years to have been occupied in restoring order beyond the Oxus.2 But he had no sooner done so than (such was the caprice of the rulers of the day) he was ignominiously deposed, for no other reason than that he had married a daughter of the rebel Yezid,

1 The campaign of Al-Juneid is told with much fervour by the historians: prodigies were seen in the sky at the battle of the defile, a pavilion in the heavens, smell of musk on the field of the slain, etc. Al-Juneid, in reporting his defeat to Hisham, laid the blame on Saurak, for not staying, as he had ordered him, by the stream which lay between them; but it would seem unjustly.

2 Above all others Al-Juneid knew how to select his men, and his Generals are described as masters of war each in his own department The Arabic equivalent for Transoxiana is Mawara an-Nahr; lit. What is beyond the river, i.e. the Oxus.


son of Al-Muhallab; and 'Asim ibn 'Abdallah, a Keisi like himself; but an enemy of his, was appointed in his place.

Fall of Juneid, 116 A.H.

Al-Juneid at the moment was dying of dropsy; but Hisham was so enraged at the alliance he had formed, that, aware of his condition, he bade 'Asim, if breath still remained, to put the dying man to torture. Death happily released Al-Juneid from the hands of the new governor, who vented his spleen, according to the wont of the day, on those who had held office under his unfortunate predecessor.

Rebellion of Harith.

As one result of this harsh treatment, a leader named Al-Harith ibn Sureij, a Temimite, had raised the standard of revolt, with the old Khariji cry, "To the Book of God and to the tradition and the will of the people." He was in truth a Murjite who put politics before theology. He possessed himself of Balkh and all the surrounding country. Then followed by 60,000 Arabs, chiefly descended from the Azd, Bekr and Temim, he unwisely advanced on Merv, where, deserted by many of his followers, he suffered defeat and loss, and with the remnant was forced to recross the Oxus. Notwithstanding, several thousand Arabs still followed his banner, and the provinces in Central Asia, owing to the inaction of 'Asim, remained long in a state of open revolt.

Asad reappointed, 117 A.H. 735 A.D.

After a year of misgovernment and mishap, 'Asim was deposed, and Asad again appointed to Khorasan.1 His reappointed and was soon felt in the reduction of the country, and the defeat of Al-Harith and other rebellious leaders. The followers of Al-Harith came to a grievous end. A party of his relatives and their dependents were by Asad's troops captured in a fort, and sold, noble-born Arabs with the rest, as slaves to the highest bidder in the bazaar of Balkh. In another fortress, 450 dying of thirst had to surrender at discretion. The chiefest of these, fifty in number, were beheaded. The rest were, by Asad's order, divided into three lots, of which one was slain, a second had hands and legs both cut off; while the third their hands only. Such was the barbarity of Asad. Al-Harith himself effected his escape; and (a thing hitherto unheard of in Islam) joined himself to the pagan Turk.

1 The appointment of Viceroy was in the gift of his brother Khalid, governor of Al-'Irak. Khorasan was immediately under Al-'Irak though sometimes administered direct from Damascus.


Balkh made capital of Central Asia, 118 A.H. 736 A.D.

Balkh, which must have suffered badly throughout the insurrection, was now rebuilt and beautified and made his headquarters by Asad.1 The work was under the supervision of Barmek (father of the Barmeks).2 An exchequer, with offices of civil and military administration, was established at this new Capital; and thus Central Asia settled down at last into comparative order. Asad now set on foot a campaign into Khottal, which the Khakan hearing of, marched, with Al-Harith in his train, upon Balkh. He had surprised Asad's advanced column, taking the camp with much spoil and all the women, when Asad came up just in time to save the force from being cut to pieces, and a parley ensued. The Khakan, interpreted through one of Al-Harith's followers, charged Asad with the lust of conquest in seeking to wrest from him Khottal, which had been his people's for generations past: "Rest satisfied," he said, with what is beyond the river to the south, for that alone is yours. The conference ended without result; and Asad, not prepared for battle, retired to winter at Balkh, and the Khakan to Tukharistan.

Asad beats Khakan and Harith, 199 A.H.

In the following spring Asad went forth again with a strong army, completely routed the Khakan, and rescued from captivity all the Muslim prisoners, male and female. The enemy fled to Tukharistan, from whence the Khakan, supported by Al-Harith, was about to attack Samarkand, when he was waylaid and killed by one of his chiefs with whom he had a quarrel. The joy at Damascus was un­bounded. Hisham refused to believe the good tidings till confirmed by a second messenger; and then he prostrated himself in thanksgiving before the Lord.

Death of Asad.

In the following year Asad died, fortunately just before the fall of his brother Khalid, or he would have shared in the evils that befel him.3 The old Nasr ibn Seiyar, of the tribe of Kinana, and so identified with none of the great factions

1 The troops had previously been cantoned at Al-Barukan, two parasangs off.

2 Barmek is said to be the title given to the chief priest of a fire­-temple.—Browne, Lit. Hist. of Persia, i. 257.

3 The immediate cause of his death was indudulgence in pears, brought as a rare present from Herat, the first apparently which the Muslims had seen.


in the country, who succeeded, was a wise and able ruler.

Nasr pacified Transoxiana, 120 A.H.

He moved the capital back to Merv. Besides the four old capital towns, Nisabur, Merv, Merv ar-Rud, and Herat, there was a seat of government also at Balkh, Khwarizm, and Samarkand. He carried his arms into Ferghana. The task was now comparatively easy; for since the fall of the Khakan, the Turkoman hordes had broken up into parties, which offered no effective resistance. By the promulgation of a general amnesty, the Soghdians were brought back to their allegiance. Both Arabs and Mawali were conciliated by assessing unbelievers alone for the poll-tax. The Jews' tax was collected by the Chief Rabbi, that of the Christians by the Bishop, and that of the Magians by the Marzuban. The Muslims, on the other hand, both Arabs and Mawali, were made liable for the land-tax. Thus Nasr introduced into Khorasan the distinction of jizya (poll-tax) and kharaj (land-tax), which were originally identical, and neither of which was paid by Muslims. And so, after having been for so many years harassed by rapine and war, the provinces in Central Asia at last enjoyed repose until the outbreak of civil war in Syria.

Sind and India, 107 A.H., 725 A.D.

In Sind and Western India there is little to record of progress during the present reign. Al-Juneid, the governor, afterwards transferred to Merv, made some successful raids in the East; but he injured the Muslim name by warring against Jeishaba, an Indian prince, who, notwithstanding his profession of the faith, was made prisoner in a sea-fight and put to death.1 His brother set out for Al-Kufa to lodge complaint against this unjust attack, when he too was caught on the way in the tyrant's toils and put to death. The result of such treatment was that, under his successor, a general revolt arose against a rule hateful to the Indians; and so it became necessary to found in the tract bordering on the Indus, two strongly fortified garrisons, Al-Mahfuza and Al-Mansura.2 By these the surrounding country was long held in check, and forward movement made into the rich provinces of the Deccan.

Hisham revived the war against the Romans which had

1 Ibn al-Athir, under the year 107 ad init. The incident is not mentioned by Tabari.

2 That is, the Protected and the Victorious.


Asia Minor.

been in abeyance since the accession of 'Omar II., the expeditions being generally under his sons Mu'awiya and Suleiman, but the hero of the campaigns was Al-Battal ("the fighter"). Mu'awiya was killed by a fall from his horse in 118 or 119 A.H. (736 or 737 AD.). The Byzantine Empire being at this time weakened by opposition to the iconoclastic energy of Leo, the Muslims were, upon the whole, more successful here than elsewhere. But fortune was varied by severe reverses; and on one occasion a whole column of 1000 men was cut to pieces.

Battal, a famous general, killed 123 A.H.

Al-Battal took captive a Greek prince, who was sent to Jerusalem, and there, an unwonted sight, allowed to walk abroad. After a famous career, in which Al-Battal struck such terror throughout Asia Minor that mothers used to frighten their crying children by his name, he lost his life in a serious defeat in 122 AH. (740 A.D.).

Armenia and Caspian border.

In Armenia, the Muslims were hard pressed by the Alans and Khazar. The conquests already achieved were retained with difficulty and not without some terrible disasters.

Jarrah and his army slain, 112 A.H. 730 A.D.

Peace had been restored, and the country to the shore of the Caspian made tributary, when war again broke out and Al-Jarrah, the commander (who had been removed from Khorasan), was overtaken and with his whole army destroyed. A new levy was forthwith despatched, swelled by Kor'an Readers on its way. The calamity was thus retrieved; after repeated engagements, the Khazar were driven back, and the family of Al-Jarrah and other Muslim ladies recovered.


Maslama, then sent by his brother to take the command, ravaged the country north as far as Derbend, when he too was surrounded by Turkomans, and in the ignominious flight lost his life. The Mesopotamian border was by this

1 The sight, however, might not have been so unwonted, as pilgrims still flocked thither from the West, though clad, no doubt, in pilgrim garb, and therefore not distinguishable in race or rank. The Greek prince is named Constantine, afterwards Emperor; but, as the Byzantine authors say nothing, it must surely have been some less notable person.

Of Al-Battal marvellous Stories are told. Falling sick on a journey, he was carried insensible into a convent, and tended by a nun. A neighbouring Patrician, angry at her attention to a Muslim, was set upon by Al-Battal, who singly put his whole retinue to flight, slew the Patrician, cast his head into the convent, and carried the whole body of nuns to the army. He married the nun who had tended him, and she was known long after as "the mother of Al-Battal's children."


defeat so seriously threatened, that Merwan,1 who was with the discomfited army, hastened in person to inform his cousin Hisham of the disaster. A great army of 120,000 men was gathered from every quarter, with which Merwan, appointed to the command, beat back the enemy, and recovered the country as far as the Caspian Sea.

Merwan's victories, 118-122 A.H.

The chief of the Khazar now submitted to the terms imposed by Merwan. These among other things included the tribute of 1000 head of cattle, 500 slaves, and 500 "black-haired" girls, the first of the fair Circassian maidens that were in the future so plentifully to grace the harims of the East. In 118, and again in 122 A.H., Merwan carried the Muslim arms against the hordes to the south of the Caspian as far as Tabaristan, thus effecting a junction with Khorasan. But beyond successful raids and siege of towns, with the slaughter of men and slavery of women falling into the conqueror's hands, little further is to tell.

Reverses in Africa, 116-124 A.H.

More serious were the disasters in Africa and Spain, where the Muslim arms not only suffered frequent defeat, but, worse than all, the bond of subjection to Damascus became daily weaker. In the year 116 A.H. there was a general rising of the Berbers along the coast of Africa, caused partly by the reimposition of taxes on the Muslim converts, as though they had been heathen, and partly by the outbreak of new Khariji factions.2 The loyalist armies were again and again beaten with great loss, and victory in the end hardly won. A famous battle, known as "the Field of Idols," was fought a few miles from Kairawan, 117 A.H., against 300,000 Berbers; the issue, long doubtful, was at last gained by the Arabs, urged forward by the "Readers," and cries of the women from fear of the fate that might await them.3 The western

1 Grandson of Merwan I., and nephew of 'Abd al-Melik; afterwards Merwin II., and last of the Umeiyads.

2 A new branch arose, called, from its founder the Sofriya cf. Shahrastani's Book of Sects, ed. Cureton, Part II., p. 102. These and the other sects that swarmed along the coast recognised the claim neither of the Hashimids nor of any other branch to the Caliphate, but were pure Theocrats, or it may be Socialists.

3 "180,000 were counted on the battlefield; there was no such battle since the days of Bedr as the battle of the Field of Idols." Another


provinces of Africa continued all in uproar till 124 A.H., when the governor of Egypt was sent to stem the insur­rection, and peace was at last restored. During this period the navy was not inactive. In the year 111 A.H., a descent was made on Sicily, and great spoil brought back; but three years after the fleet was wrecked, when the Admiral, for exposing it to the winter storms, was cast into prison and publicly beaten in the streets of Kairawan. In 117 A.H., Sardinia was ravaged; and in 122, Sicily was again invaded, and Syracuse laid under tribute. A project set on foot for reducing the island was dropped, owing to the troubled state of Africa.


Spain, as a dependency of Africa, was closely affected by the insurrection there, and by the constant change of governors. It was also distracted by the disloyalty of the Berber population, which streamed across the strait, vastly outnumbering the Arabs, who, as elsewhere, were divided among themselves by their chronic tribal enmity. Ele­ments of trouble thus rife all round produced the natural result of disorder and revolt.

Campaign in France, 108 A.H. 726 A.D.

'Anbasa, appointed to the government of the Peninsula early in this reign, occupied himself at first in restoring order within its bounds. Afterwards he crossed the Pyrenees, with the view of restoring the shattered prestige of the Muslim arms in France. Carcassone was stormed; Nismes fell into his hands; the south of France was overrun; and the churches and convents were despoiled. Shortly after, he was killed; and the restless state of Spain prevented further action for the time.

Abd ar-Rahman, 113 A.H.

Some six years after, 'Abd ar-Rahman, appointed to command, renewed offensive operations, and chastised 'Othman ibn Abi Nes'a, a Berber chief, who had joined Count Eudo.1 For the Berbers, as Muslims and fighting men, claimed equal treatment with the Arabs. In the following year he marched to the North with an enormous force, and overran the land as far as Poitiers. It was then that Charles Martel, in answer to the bitter cry of Eudo for help, hurried south to stem the sweeping Muslim wave.

engagment was named "the battle of the Nobles, from the vast number of Arab chiefs slain in it." It would be unprofitable to follow these campaigns further in their wearisome and often fabulous detail.

1 Abu-nes'a is changed by European writers to Munuza.


Between Tours and Poitiers the armies met; the day was hotly contested, but at last the invaders were driven back and fled in confusion, leaving 'Abd ar-Rahman dead upon the field.

Overthrown by Charles Martel, ix 114 A.H., Oct, 732 A.D.

Next morning, the Conqueror, ready to renew the contest, found not a single soldier within sight; all had disappeared.1 The fate of France, perhaps of Christendom, hung on the issue of that day. And in God's good providence Christendom was saved.

Further campaign in France, 116-119 A.H. 734-737 A.D.

Two years later, 'Okba son of Al-Hajjaj2 returned to the charge, and effecting a junction with a body of Frank nobles hostile to Eudo, again invaded France. Arles, Avignon and other places were surrendered into his hands, Valencia and Lyons besieged, Burgundy and Dauphiné ravaged all along the Rhone. But Charles Martel, freed now from the Saxon war, again came to the rescue, recon­quered Avignon, and drove the Arabs back as far as Narbonne. Hostages were then taken from the disloyal chiefs of southern France, binding them not again to make common cause with the enemy.

Misrule in Spain.

'Okba died soon after, in the midst of Spanish anarchy. One general after another usurped command. Meantime the Berbers, stirred up by Khariji emissaries, had risen from Morocco to Tunis, and 'Okba had been compelled to cross over to the assistance of the Arabs. Syrian troops arrived in Morocco in 123 A.H. (741 A D), but were routed by the half-naked Berber horsemen at the river Nauam, with the loss of their leader, and two-thirds of their number. It was a more crushing defeat than that of Tours. The Arabs, also, were split up amongst themselves. Order was not restored till after the death of Hisham. Meanwhile the Christians in the mountainous regions of the North, profiting by misrule elsewhere, maintained their independence.3

Hisham's just reign.

Such was the long and chequered reign of Hisham; a reign, with all his demerits,—if we accept occasional outbreaks of cruel tyranny,—one of the most exemplary

1 Ramadan 114 A.H., or Oct., 732 A.D. The victory is ascribed to the Franks finding their way to the enemy's camp, when the invaders, fearing the loss of their spoil, hurried back to save it.

2 Latinised in the Spanish chronicles Aucupa.

3 As regards the invasion of France, the Arabian authorities are very brief. I have borrowed largely from Weil and Reinaud.


of the Caliphate either before or after. It was not his fault that the Empire, already undermined, continued sinking. 'Abbasid emissaries on the one hand, and Khariji theocrats on the other, labouring in the dark, left no stone unturned to overthrow the dynasty, casting the blackest and often undeserved obloquy upon it. His virtues failed to arrest the downward progress. The archives of State were during his reign kept with a scrupulous care unequalled in any other. There was no extravagance, and he left the im­perial treasury full. Indeed, it was unwillingness to scatter largesses, and parsimony degenerating often into a mean and miserly habit, that injured his popularity and impaired his influence.1

Dissolute character of Welid, heir-apparent.

As an instance of his justice, he refused to let a Christian be punished for having chastised a Muslim servant, and chided his son for urging it. Scandalised at the dissolute character of his nephew Al-Welid, the heir ­apparent, who even on the pilgrimage to Mecca indulged in wine and hounds,—abomination to the true believer,2—he had some thoughts of superseding him by his own son, till he found that he was little better. Al-Welid was not only intemperate in his life, but impatient of control, and insolent in his attitude towards his uncle; and so leaving the Court, he betook himself to a country retreat in Pales­tine. Hisham removed from him his evil advisers, and im­prisoned his secretary, after inflicting stripes upon him. Al-Welid, resenting the indignity, addressed the Caliph a satire breathing hatred and contempt. He remained in his retreat during the rest of his uncle's reign.

When Hisham was on pilgrimage, the year after his

1 As a specimen of his meanness, a man is said once to have brought as an offering two rare and beautiful birds, expecting a present in return. "What shall I give thee?" said the Caliph. "Whatever thou pleasest," he replied. "Then take one of the birds for thine own." He chose the most beautiful. "So thou art leaving me the worse of the two," said the Caliph; "I will keep them both." And he ordered him the shabby gift of a few silver pieces.

2 This was nine years before Hisham's death. The wild youth had even thought of pitching a pavilion hard by the Ka'ba; wherein to have a carousal with his boon companions; but was dissuaded from the mad design. The tale is almost incredible, and may have been invented or coloured by 'Abbasid historians, always ready to blacken this dynasty. But no doubt he was bad enough.


accession, he refrained in the public services from the customary imprecation on the name of 'Ali.

Hisham refrained from reviling 'Ali.

He was urged by one of 'Othman's descendants to resume it;—"This is the Holy Place," he said, "and it becomes the Commander of the Faithful to rescue the memory of the murdered Caliph here." Hisham, displeased at his words, replied,—"I came not here to speak ill of any one, nor to curse; but to perform the rights of pilgrimage." On another occasion having unadvisedly reviled a Courtier, he was much distressed, and humbly made apology.

Occassional acts of cruelty.

Although thus in general disposition mild and upright, the reader will remember instances in which he was severe and cruel, not to say unjust, towards lieutenants who had fallen under his displeasure. A Muslim citizen of the old type, he was opposed to the rising school of the Kadariya, who advocated the doctrine of the freedom of the will, and indulged in philosophical speculations upon religious subjects. One such heretic he caused to be put to death for denying that the Kor'an was uncreate. Another, who rejected the doctrine of inspiration, was by his command impaled after his limbs had first been cut asunder. There is the less doubt about such accounts, for though handed down by the unfriendly pen of 'Abbasid writers, they would be regarded by most believers as not discreditable to the Umeiyad race, but rather as meritorious acts of faith.

Death of Hisham, iv. 125 A.H. Feb, 743 A.D.

Damascus was much exposed to epidemic plague, and to avoid contagion the Caliphs with their families were in the habit of seeking the purer air of the desert. Such favourite retreat was Ar-Rusafa, a city adorned with Roman buildings, four days south of Ar-Rakka. There Hisham spent much of his time; and there he died of quinsy in the twentieth year of his reign, aged fifty-six. To his Christian subjects he was not unfriendly. One of his friends was a Christian monk, Stephanus, for whom he obtained the Patriarchate of Antioch; another the Muslim traditionist Az-Zuhri. He disliked publicity, and transacted much of his business through his trusty Kelbite Al-Abrash. Yet he had all the business at his finger ends, and his ministry of finance was the admiration of the 'Abbasid Mansur. His chief concern was to increase taxation to the utmost limit, and he spent the


revenue in making canals, building castles, and laying out pleasure gardens. Like Khalid, he was interested in agriculture, but he was chiefly concerned about the price at which he could sell his corn. The result was that he was everywhere disliked; the 'Abbasid propaganda spread rapidly during his Caliphate; and he left the realm in a worse state than that in which he found it.1

1 Wellhausen, Das arabische Reich, p. 116 ff.

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