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|Caliph of the Umayyad dynasty
3rd Caliph of Umayyad Dynasty
Umayyad Caliph in Damascus
Muawiyah II (or Mu'āwiya ibn Yazīd) (معاوية بن يزيد) (28 March 661 – January/February 684) was an Umayyad caliph for about four months after the death of his father Yazīd. The empire he inherited was in a state of disarray with Abdullah bin Zubayr claiming to be the true caliph and holding the Hejaz as well as other areas.
Birth and early years
Muawiya II was born on 28 March 661 and was the son of Yazid I of the Umayyad dynasty and on his mother's side a descendent of the Quraysh tribe in the Hejaz. His mother's father, Abu Hashim ibn Utbah ibn Rabi'ah was appointed Governor of Basra and his mother married Yazid I in 660. Mu'awiya was the eldest son to be born, out of six brothers and many (uncounted) daughters. When Mu'awiya I became Caliph in 661, it is said that on his day of accession he heard the news that his son had given birth to a son. The account is related in Al Nasab (890-949) in his History of the Wars:
At the same time as the birth (of Mua'wiya II), his grandfather had met with the Islamic Elders (i.e. the Shura) and when he heard that he had a grandson he said, "Surely this is a blessing from God and a sure sign, if there is any, that I am the true Caliph. For I shall establish a dynasty that shall be well-remembered. My son shall follow me, and his son shall follow him." And the child was named Mua'wiya in his honour.
According to al-Tabari, Muawiya II was 13 years old when he died. This means Muawiya must have been born in 671 when Yazid I his father was 25 years old.
Lewis Joseph in his article "Islamic Historiography during the Umayyad period 661-750", nevertheless argues that this was a later tradition created at a time when the Umayyad dynasty was facing extinction.
Mu'awiya was the first prince of the Umayyads to grow up entirely at the court of the Caliph, being kept there to protect him from potential assassins. He was the first to be given private scholars and teachers as is recorded in Al-Habah (854-905)'s Court of the Righteous Caliphs:
It is said, by many sources, that the first who was given scholars and teachers of his own was Mu'awiya bin Yazid, grandson of that Mu'awiya who turned the Successors of the Prophet (may God protect him) into a dynasty of despots. For as is related by the scholars of the past, the previous Caliphs had learnt with the companions as equals in the schools of the faith.
The fact that Mu'awiya was not sent to Mecca and Medina was also unpopular with Muslims. This growing unpopularity became worse with the campaigns against Husayn ibn Ali and Ibn al-Zubair. The latter war, leading to the capture of Medina and the siege of Mecca, was even more unpopular. Fortunately for the Arab Empire, Yazid I died soon afterwards in 683 and his son succeeded him.
The accession of Mu'awiya II was met first with indifference and trepidation by Muslims, for they didn't know anything about him as he had been kept away in the home of the Caliphs. Yet, when Mu'awiya declared that a truce would be made, it was met with almost universal acclamation, for it had ended the war in the Holy Places. Mu'awiya II declared that the war in Medina and Mecca had been foolish and blasphemous and that the damage to the Ka'aba was sacrilege. He is said to have declared:
For this is the City of God, of both East and the West. For when there is war here, there are earthquakes in heaven, and the angels scatter for protection. I shall not have blood shed here and there shall be no war. We shall become friends and allies again, and the community of the faithful shall be restored.
These words made him popular with those Muslims tired by war, even some supporting Ibn al-Zubayr. But the followers of Ibn al-Zubayr urged the rebel to break the truce and declare war, stating that the Caliph was a beardless boy and a coward, afraid to fight, and so easy to defeat. Yet the truce held officially for many months, though there was sporadic fighting in Mecca.
Personality and family
In the primary sources and modern histories, Mu'awiya II's reign is usually passed over quickly. The caliph is portrayed as being good-natured. He is said to have been opposed to many of his father's positions and declared upon news of his father's death, that this is the news he dreaded for now he was Caliph and did not wish to be. Mu'awiya was even prepared to summon the Shura and call on them to choose a Caliph of their own, and thus restore the non-hereditary traditions of the Caliphate. Many stories have been written in the sources of Mu'awiya's weak but good-willed nature, not all of them true.
The marriage of Mu'awiya was deemed contentious and problematic. His grandfather Mu'awiya I wished him to marry into another tribe and thus strengthen the power of the dynasty. This, Mu'awiya did but his wife died in 677. He then married again in 678 and 680, having two wives but he divorced both by 682 for providing no children. Yazid now forced him to marry a fourth wife in 683, a foreign princess, to extend the power of the Caliphate. It is said that Mu'awiya despised this woman, and as soon as Yazid had died, she was divorced.
Traditionally, Mu'awiya is shown to have had no interest in politics, perhaps with justification. He is said to have claimed that only by mistake of the hereditary principle was he Caliph and under no other means would he have ever been chosen. Yet it is said that his courtiers persuaded him to remain Caliph as he was kind and would do some virtuous deeds. Some say they did this to prolong their own power or because it was ungrateful for Mu'awiya to give back the power given to him by God.
Once a truce had been made in 683, Mu'awiya turned to domestic affairs. He did not involve himself for many months with Zubayr, even when fighting continued and when the truce had obviously been broken in all but name. Mu'awiyya passed three laws which he said were necessary. Firstly, he said that the rights of women should be protected, secondly that no man should be put to death because of a crime, and thirdly that the charity tax should be made compulsory. These laws were removed once he had died.
According to al-Tabari, Muawiya II reigned only 40 days before he died.
Conflict with Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr and Sunni version of his death
By the beginning of 684, the problem of Ibn al-Zubayr had worsened, and Mu'awiya was forced to turn his attention back to southern Arabia. He rejected any attempts to launch an attack, declaring that Medina and Mecca were sacred.
Instead he sent an emissary to Ibn al-Zubayr and declared that as he himself had no son, that Ibn al-Zubayr could be his heir. Zubayr rejected this for he knew that Mu'awiya was young and could have many children. "I shall not be a nursemaid", Ibn al-Zubayr is said to have answered.
The emissary was imprisoned and Ibn al-Zubayr continued the conflict. According to Al Nasab (890-949):
When news of this came, Mu'awiya wept openly. "Oh, that there should be peace in the Holy Places, in the East and the West, and in Heaven! I shall not be remembered as a Caliph with blood on my hands. I shall not preside over civil war!"
He died a few weeks after abdication.