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Home arrow Library arrow Personalities arrow Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan

Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan PDF Print
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(646-705)

(Arabic: عبد الملك بن مروان‎) was the 5th Umayyad Caliph. He was born in Mecca and grew up in Medinah. Abd al-Malik was a well-educated man and capable ruler, despite the many political problems that impeded his rule. Ibn Khaldun states: "Abdul Malik Ibn Marwan is one of the greatest Arab and Muslim Caliphs. He followed in the footsteps of `Umar Ibn Al-Khattab RA, the Commander of the Believers, in regulating state affairs."
 
In his reign, all important records were translated into Arabic, and for the first time a special currency for the Muslim world was minted, which led to war with the Byzantine Empire under Justinian II. The Byzantines were led by Leontios at the Battle of Sebastopolis in 692 in Asia Minor and were decisively defeated by the Caliph after the defection of a large contingent of Slavs. The Islamic currency was then made the only currency exchange in the Muslim world. Also, many reforms happened in his time as regards agriculture and commerce. Abd al-malik was a capable ruler, who consolidated Muslim rule and extended it, made Arabic the state language, and organized a regular postal service.

Campaigns in Iraq and Hejaz: Abd al-Malik became caliph after the death of his father Marwan I in 685. Within a few years, he dispatched armies, on a campaign to reassert Umayyad control over the Islamic empire. He first defeated the governor of Basra Mosaab Ibn al-Zubair. Abd al-Malik then appointed one of his most able generals and administrators who would later change the face of the Umayyad Empire, al-Hajjaj bin Yousef to march against Abd-Allah ibn al-Zubayr, the caliph of Hejaz. He besieged Makkah in 692 C.E. with almost 12,000 Syrian troops. He advanced unopposed as far as his native Taif, which he took without any fighting and used as a base. The caliph had charged him first to negotiate with Abd-Allah ibn al-Zubayr and to assure him of freedom from punishment if he capitulated, but, if the opposition continued, to starve him out by siege, but on no account to let the affair result in bloodshed in the Holy City. Since the negotiations failed and al-Hajjaj lost patience, he sent a courier to ask Abd al-Malik for reinforcements and also for permission to take Makkah by force. He received both, and thereupon bombarded the Holy City using catapults from the mountain of Abu Qubays. The bombardment continued during the month of the Pilgrimage or Hajj.

After the siege had lasted for seven months and 10,000 men, among them two of Abdullah Ibn al-Zubair's sons, had gone over to al-Hajjaj, Abd-Allah ibn al-Zubayr with a few loyal followers, including his youngest son, were killed in the fighting around the Kaaba (Jumadah I 73/October 692).

Hajjaj's success led Abd al-Malik to assign him the role of governor of Iraq and give him free rein in the territories he controlled. Hajjaj arrived when there were many deserters in Basra and Kufa. He promptly and forcefully impelled them to return to combat. Hajjaj, after years of serious fighting, quelled religious disturbances, including the rebellion launched by Salih ibn Musarrih and continued after Salih's death by Shabib. These rebels repeatedly defeated more numerous forces and at their height entered Kufah. However, Abd al-Malik's Syrian reinforcements enabled Hajjaj to turn the tide.

Under Hajjaj, Arab armies put down the revolt of Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn al-Ash'ath in Iraq from 699 to 701 CE, and also took most of Turkestan. Abd al-Rahman rebelled following Hajjaj's repeated orders to push further into the lands of Zundil. After his defeat in Iraq, again achieved through Abd al-Malik's dispatch of Syrian reinforcements to Hajjaj, Abd ar Rahman returned east. There one city closed its gates to him and in another he was seized. However, Zundil's army arrived and secured his release. Later, Abd ar Rahman died and Zundil sent his head to Hajjaj who sent it to Abd al-Malik. These victories paved the way for greater expansions under Abd al-Malik's son Al-Marwan.

Campaigns in North Africa: Caliph Abd al-Malik was effective in increasing the size of the empire. In Maghreb (western North Africa) in 686 CE a force led by Zuhayr ibn Qais won the Battle of Mamma over Byzantines and Berbers led by Kusaila, on the Qairawan plain, and re-took Ifriqiya and its capital Kairouan.

In 695 Hasan ibn al-Nu'man captured Carthage and advanced into the Atlas Mountains. A Byzantine fleet arrived, retook Carthage but in 698 Hasan ibn al-Nu'man returned and defeated Tiberios III at the Battle of Carthage. The Byzantines withdrew from all of Africa except Ceuta.

Hasan met trouble from the Zenata tribe of Berbers under al-Kahina. They inflicted a serious defeat on him and drove him back to Barqa. However, in 702 Abd al-Malik strongly reinforced him.Now with a large army and the support of the settled population of North Africa, Hasan pushed forward. He decisively defeated the Zenata in a battle at Tabarka, 85 miles west of Carthage. He then developed the village of Tunis ten miles from the destroyed Carthage. Around 705 Musa ibn Nusayr replaced Hasan. He pacified much of North Africa, though he failed to take Ceuta.

Reforms: Abd al-Malik instituted many reforms such as: making Arabic the official language of government across the entire empire, instituting a mint that produced a uniform set of aniconic currency, expansion and reorganization of postal service, repairing the damaged Kaaba and beginning the tradition of weaving a silk cover for the Kaaba in Damascus.

Art and Architecture: He also built the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, but parts of that city were also destroyed when Abd al-Malik's armies put down an uprising there. The Muslim scholar al-Wasiti reports this incidence:

Dome of the Rock, Constructed by Abd al-Malik - "When Abd al-Malik intended to construct the Dome of the Rock, he came from Damascus to Jerusalem. He wrote, "Abd al-Malik intends to build a dome (qubba) over the Rock to house the Muslims from cold and heat, and to construct the masjid. But before he starts he wants to know his subjects' opinion." With their approval, the deputies wrote back, "May Allah permit the completion of this enterprise, and may He count the building of the dome and the masjid a good deed for Abd al-Malik and his predecessors." He then gathered craftsmen from all his dominions and asked them to provide him with the description and form of the planned dome before he engaged in its construction. So, it was marked for him in the sahn of the masjid. He then ordered the building of the treasury (bayt al-mal) to the east of the Rock, which is on the edge of the Rock, and filled it with money. He then appointed Raja' ibn Hayweh and Yazid ibn Salam to supervise the construction and ordered them to spend generously on its construction. He then returned to Damascus. When the two men satisfactorily completed the house, they wrote to Abd al-Malik to inform him that they had completed the construction of the dome and al-Masjid al-Aqsa. They said to him "There is nothing in the building that leaves room for criticism." They wrote him that a hundred thousand dinars was left from the budget he allocated. He offered the money to them as a reward, but they declined, indicating that they had already been generously compensated. Abd al-Malik orders the gold coins to be melted and cast on the Dome's exterior, which at the time had a strong glitter that no eye could look straight at it."

The two engineers Yazid ibn Salam, a Jerusalemite, and Raja' ibn Hayweh, from Baysan, were ordered to spend generously on the construction. In his Book of the Geography, Al-Muqaddasi reported that seven times the revenue of Egypt was used to build the Dome. During a discussion with his uncle on why the Caliph spent lavishly on building the mosques in Jerusalem and Damascus, al-Maqdisi writes:

"O my little son, thou has no understanding. Verily he was right, and he was prompted to a worthy work. For he beheld Syria to be a country that had long been occupied by the Christians, and he noted there are beautiful churches still belonging to them, so enchantingly fair, and so renowned for their splendour, as are the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the churches of Lydda and Edessa. So he sought to build for the Muslims a mosque that should be unique and a wonder to the world. And in like manner is it not evident that Caliph Abd al-Malik, seeing the greatness of the martyrium of the Holy Sepulchre and its magnificence was moved lest it should dazzle the minds of Muslims and hence erected above the Rock the dome which is now seen there."

Death: The last years of his reign were generally peaceful. Abd al-Malik wanted his son al-Walid I to succeed him, ignoring his father's decree that Abd al-Malik should be succeeded by his brother, Abd al-Aziz. However, Abd al-Malik accepted advice not to create disturbances by carrying out this design. In the event, Abd al-Aziz died before Abd al-Malik. Abd al-Malik then had his sons al-Walid and Sulayman, in that order, accepted as heirs to the throne. To history, Abd al-Malik is known as the "Father of Kings": his four sons succeeded him as the caliph one after another[6]. Abd al-Malik died at al-Sinnabra in 705.

References:

1. ^ Classical Islam G.Gunebam
2. ^ Abu-Bakr al-Wasiti, Fada'il Bayt al-Maqdis, pp. 80-81, vol 136.
3. ^ Nasser Rabbat, The Dome of the Rock Rvisited: Some Remarks on al-Wasiti's Accounts, Muqaranas, Vol. 10, Essays in Honor of Oleg Grabar, pp. 66-75, 1993
4. ^ Shams al-Din al-Maqdisi, Ahsan al-Taqasim fi Mar'rifat al-Aqalim, 2nd ed. (Leiden, 1967) pp. 159-171.
5. ^ le Strange, 1890, p.117
6. ^ Masudul Hasa, History of Islam
7. ^ Bacharach in Necipogulu, 1996, p. 38.
 
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