Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik
|Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik|
|10th Caliph of the Umayyad dynasty
Umayyad Caliph in Damascus
Coin by Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik
|Issue||Maslama, Mu'awiya, Sa'id, Sulayman|
|Dynasty||Umayyad, Marwanid branch|
|Father||Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan|
|Mother||Fatima bint Hisham|
|Died||6 February 743|
Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik (691 – 6 February 743) (Arabic: هشام بن عبد الملك) 10th Umayyad caliph who ruled from 724 until his death in 743. When he was born in 691 his mother named him after her father.
Inheriting the caliphate from his brother Yazid II, Hisham was ruling an empire with many different problems. He would, however, be effective in attending to these problems, and in allowing the Umayyad empire to continue as an entity. His long rule was an effective one, and it saw a rebirth of reforms that were originated by Umar bin Abd al-Aziz.
Like his brother al-Walid I, Hisham was a great patron of the arts, and he again encouraged arts in the empire. He also encouraged the growth of education by building more schools, and perhaps most importantly, by overseeing the translation of numerous literary and scientific masterpieces into Arabic. He returned to a stricter interpretation of the Sharia as Umar had, and enforced it, even upon his own family. His ability to stand up to the Umayyad clan may have been an important factor in his success, and may point to why his brother Yazid was ineffective.
On the military front his empire suffered a series of setbacks, especially in the Caucasus against the Khazars (the Battle of Marj Ardabil) and in Transoxiana against the Turgesh (the "Day of Thirst" and the Battle of the Pass). Hisham sent armies to end the Hindu rebellion in Sindh, and was successful when the Hindu ruler Jai Singh was killed. This allowed the Umayyads to reassert their rule over some portions of their provinces in India.
Under Hisham's rule, regular raids against the Byzantines continued. One regular commander of Arab forces was the redoubtable Maslama, Hisham's half-brother. He fought the Byzantines in A.H. 107 (725-726) and the next year captured Caesarea Mazaca. He also fought the Khazars in the Caucasus. In A.H. 110 he fought for a month against the Khaqan there and defeated him. Hisham's son Mu'awiyah ibn Hisham was another Arab commander in the almost annual raids against the Byzantine Empire. In A.H. 110 he took the fort of Samalu in Cilicia. The next year Mu'awiyah thrust left and Sa'id ibn Hisham right. In addition there was also a sea raid. In A.H. 112 Mu'awiyah captured Kharsianon in Cappadocia.
Mu'awiyah raided the Byzantine Empire in A.H. 113 (731-732). The next year he captured Aqrun (Akroinos), while Abdallah al-Battal took a Byzantine commander prisoner. Mu'awiyah raided Byzantium in A.H. 115, 116, 117 and 118. In A.H. 119 (737) al Walid ibn al Qa'qa al-Absi led the raid against the Byzantines. The next year Sulayman ibn Hisham captured Sindirah (Sideroun). In A.H. 121 (738-739) Maslama captured some of Cappadocia and also raided the Avars. Theophanes the Confessor (p. 103) states that while some Arabs raided successfully in 739 and returned home safely, others were soundly defeated at the Battle of Akroinon. He records that internal Byzantine strife (the struggle between Constantine V and the usurper Artabasdos) facilitated Arab raids by Sulayman ibn Hisham in 741-742 (p. 106) that resulted in many Byzantines made Arab captives. Al-Tabari refers to the same raid. (v. 26, p. 68)
In North Africa, Kharijite teachings combined with natural local restlessness to produce a significant Berber revolt. In 740 A large Berber force surrounded a loyal army at Wadi Sherif. The loyalists fought to the death. Hisham dispatched a force of 27,000 Syrians. This was destroyed in 741. In 742 Handhala ibn Safwan began successfully, but soon was besieged in Qairawan. He led a desperate sortie from the city that scattered the Berbers, killing thousands and re-establishing Umayyad rule.
Hisham also faced a revolt by the armies of Zayd bin Ali, grandson of Husayn bin Ali, which was however easily put down. Zayd had faced litigation. He had been initially favoured by Hisham, though the caliph was displeased by Zayd's suggestions that Zayd was superior. Kufans encouraged Zayd to revolt. Zayd was ordered to leave Kufah and though he appeared to set out for Mecca, he returned and dwelt secretly in Kufah moving from house to house and receiving the allegiance of many people. Yusuf ibn Umar, Iraq's governor, learned of the plot, commanded the people to gather at the great mosque, locked them inside and began a search for Zayd. Zayd with some troops fought his way to the mosque and called on people to come out. He then pushed back Yusuf's troops, but was felled by an arrow. Although his body was initially buried, the spot was pointed out and it was extracted, beheaded and the head sent to Hisham and later to Medina.
In Spain, the internal conflicts of the years past were ended, and Hisham's governor, Abd ar Rahman ibn Abdallah, assembled a large army that went into France. He besieged Bordeaux and pushed to the Loire. This marked the limit of Arabic conquest in Western Europe. The wave was halted at the Battle of Tours by Charles Martel who ruled the kingdom of the Franks.
Despite Hisham's successes, the Abbasids continued to gain power, building power bases in Khurasan and Iraq. However, they would not prove strong enough to make a move yet. Some of them were caught, punished or executed by eastern governors. Alī ibn Ḥusayn son of Husayn bin Ali resided in Medina, was poisoned by Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik on 25th of Muharram, 95 AH (approximately 23 October, 712).
Hisham died of diphtheria on Wednesday, February 6, 743. He impressed others with his simplicity and honesty. He wore the same green cloak he had worn since before becoming caliph. He demonstrated he knew how to make bread and to milk a goat. He was conscientious in administering the finances of the empire. As all the Marwanids, he did not draw the military stipend, unless actually on campaign. He dwelt in the desert to avoid plague. Near the Byzantine site of al-Rusafah he built two castles. Hisham was succeeded by his nephew al-Walid ibn Yazid ibn Abd al-Malik (Walid II).
- The End of Expansion: The Caliphate of Hisham A.D. 724-738/A.H. 105-120 by Jere L. Bacharach and Khalid Y. Blankinship, Albany, SUNY Press, 1989.
- Dr. Eli Munif Shahla, "Al-Ayam al-Akhira fi Hayat al-Kulafa", Dar al-Kitab al-Arabi, 1st ed., 1998, p. 238