|Caliphs of the Umayyad Caliphate
2nd Caliph of Umayyad Dynasty
Umayyad Caliph in Damascus
|Full name||Yazīd ibn Mu‘awiya ibn Abī Sufyān|
|Born||20 July 647 (11 Shawwal 26 AH)|
|Died||14 November 683 (15 Rabi ul-Awwal 64 AH)|
|Mother||Maysun bint Bajdal al-Kulaibi al-Nasrania (The Christian)|
'Yazīd ibn Mu‘āwiya ibn Abī Sufyān, Arabic: يزيد بن معاوية بن أبي سفيان ( 20 July 647 – 14 November 683), commonly known as Yazid I, was the second Caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate (and the first one through inheritance). Yazid was the Caliph as appointed by his father Muawiyah I and ruled for three years from 680 CE until his death in 683 CE.
Rise to power
According to some sources Muawiyah warned his son Yazid against mistreating Hussein ibn Ali, grandson of Muhammad. His final warning to Yazid was: "Be careful O my son, that you do not meet God with his blood, lest you be amongst those that will perish"  Robert Payne quotes Muawiyah in History of Islam as telling his son Yazid to defeat Hussein, who was surely preparing an army against him, but to deal with him gently thereafter as Hussein was a descendent of Muhammad; but to deal with Abdullah al-Zubair switfly, as Muawiyah feared him the most.
The appointment of Yazid was unpopular in Madina too. Narrated by Yusuf bin Mahak:
Marwan had been appointed as the governor of Hijaz by Muawiyah. He delivered a sermon and mentioned Yazid bin Muawiyah so that the people might take the oath of allegiance to him as the successor of his father (Muawiya). Then 'Abdur Rahman bin Abu Bakr told him something whereupon Marwan ordered that he be arrested. But 'Abdur Rahman entered 'Aisha's house and they could not arrest him. Marwan said, "It is he ('Abdur Rahman) about whom Allah revealed this Verse: 'And the one who says to his parents: 'Fie on you! Do you hold out the promise to me..?'" On that, 'Aisha said from behind a screen, "Allah did not reveal anything from the Qur'an about us except what was connected with the declaration of my innocence (of the slander)."
Oath of allegiance of Yazid
Upon succession, Yazid asked Governors of all provinces to take an oath of allegiance to him. The necessary oath was secured from all parts of the country. Husayn ibn Ali (grandson of Muhammad) and Abdullah ibn Zubayr (grandson of Abu Bakr) refused to declare allegiance. Yazid sent Marwan, a soldier in his army, to assist in this task. An early historical account of the issue of obtaining bai'ah (pledge of allegiance) by Yazid I was chronicled by 9th Century CE historian Al-Tabari who recorded that Yazid's only concern, when he assumed power, was to receive the oath of allegiance from the individuals who had refused to agree with Muawiyah's demand for this oath of allegiance for his son Yazid. Muawiyah had summoned the people (i.e., the Islamic shura or council) to give an oath of allegiance to him that Yazid would be his heir. Yazid's concern was to bring their attitude (of this refusal) to an end. Yazid's paternal first cousin Waleed bin Utbah bin Abu Sufyan was the Governor of Madinah, where Husayn bin Ali and the Hashimite family resided as did Abdullah ibn Zubayr. Yazid had sent his fellow Umayyad kinsman, Marwan bin al-Hakam (who served as a vizier to Muawiyah and now to Yazid), to Waleed bin Utbah bin Abu Sufyan with the following message written in a parchment:
Seize Husayn (Grandson of Muhammad), Abdullah ibn Umar (Son of Umar), and Abdullah ibn Zubayr (Grandson of Abu Bakr) to give the oath of allegiance. Act so fiercely that they have no chance to do anything before giving the oath of allegiance. Peace be with you.
When summoned by the Governor of Madinah, Waleed bin Utbah, Husayn bin Ali answered the summons. However, Abdullah ibn Zubayr did not. When Husayn bin Ali met Waleed and Marwan (who was present) in a semi-private meeting at night, he was informed of the late Caliph Muawiyah's passing and Yazid's accession to the Caliphate. When asked for his pledge of allegiance to Yazid, Husayn responded that giving his allegiance in private would be insufficient, such a thing should be given in public. Waleed agreed to this, but Marwan interrupted demanding that Waleed imprison Husayn and not let him leave until he gives the pledge of allegiance to Yazid. At this interruption, Marwan was soundly upbraided by Husayn who then exited unharmed. Husayn bin Ali had his own retainer of armed supporters waiting nearby just in case a forcible attempt was made to apprehend him. Immediately following Husayn's exit, Marwan emphatically admonished his kinsman Waleed, the governor of Madinah, who in turn rebutted Marwan, justifying his refusal to harm Husayn ibn Ali by stating "that on the Day of Resurrection a man who is (responsible) for the blood of Al-Husayn (will weigh) little in the scale of God." As for Abdullah ibn Zubayr, he had left Medina at night heading for Mecca. In the morning Waleed sent men after him, a party of eighty horsemen under the command of a retainer of the Banu Umayyah. They pursued Ibn al-Zubayr but did not catch up with him, so they returned. As for Husayn ibn Ali, Tabari records that he too left for Mecca shortly after, having not given an oath of allegiance to Yazid.
Husayn ibn Ali and Abdullah ibn Zubayr
Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, along with many other prominent Muslims, not only disapproved of Yazid's nomination for caliph but declared it against the spirit of Islam. While the nomination issue was deliberated upon in Medina, Abdullah ibn Zubayr went with Husayn to Mecca because some prominent Muslims thought that Mecca would be the best base for launching a campaign to build up public opinion against Yazid's nomination. However, before any significant work could be done in this regard, Muawiyah died and Yazid took over the reins of government.
Kufa, a garrison town in what is now Iraq, had been Caliph Alī's capital and many of his supporters lived there. Husayn ibn Ali received letters from Kufa expressing its offer of support if he claimed the caliphate. As he prepared for the journey to Kufa, Abdullah ibn Umar, Abdullah ibn Zubayr and Abdullah ibn Abbas argued against his plan and, if he was determined to proceed to Kufa, asked him to leave women and children in Mecca, but Husayn ignored their suggestions. On the way to Kufa, Husayn received the report of Muslim ibn Aqeel's death at the hands of Yazid's men and that the Kufans had changed their loyalties to Yazid, pledging support to him against Husayn and his followers.
Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad, governor of Basrah, executed one of Husayn's messengers and warned the citizens to avoid the insurgency. He sent a message to Husayn, at instruction of Yazid, stating "You can neither go to Kufa nor return to Mecca, but you can go anywhere else you want." Despite this warning, Husayn continued towards Kufa and during the trip, he and many members of his family were killed or captured at the Battle of Karbala.
Many Sahaba, the most prominent being Abdullah ibn Zubayr, refused to give their oath of allegiance to Yazid as they saw it as usurpation of power and not the proper way of choosing a Caliph by the Shura.
Both Yazid and Hussein had been involved in the siege of Constantinople a few years earlier. Hussein was in the army that laid siege to al-Qustanteeniyyah (Constantinople) under the command of Muawiyah's son Yazeed in 51 AH. After the peace treaty with Muawiya Hussein would frequently visit Muawiya with his brother and he would show great hospitality in return. Following Hassans death, Hussein would travel to see Muawiya every year and in return Muawiya would show great hospitality. When the governor of Kufa, Ibn Ziyad sent the head of Hussein to Yazeed. The Servant of Muawiya bin Abu Sufyan is reported ho have said: "When Yazeed came with al-Husain's head and placed it in his hands, I saw Yazeed crying and he said: 'If there had been any relationship between Ibn Ziyad and al-Husain then he would not have done this (referring to Ibn Ziyad).'"
When Husayn was killed in Karbala, Abdullah ibn Zubayr collected the people of Makkah and made the following speech:
"O people! No other people are worse than Iraqis and among the Iraqis, the people of Kufa are the worst. They repeatedly wrote letters and called Imam Husayn to them and took bay'at (allegiance) for his caliphate. But when Ibn Zeyad arived in Kufa, they rallied around him and killed Imam Husayn who was pious, observed the fast, read the Quran and deserved the caliphate in all respects" 
When he heard about this, Yazid had a silver chain made and sent to Makkah with the intention of having Walid ibn Utbah arrest Ibn al-Zubair with it.
In Mecca and Madina Husayns family had a strong support base the people were willing to stand up for them. Husayns remaining family moved back to Madina.
Abdullah launched an insurgency in the Hejaz and the Tihamah. Yazid sent armies against him in 683. Yazid tried to end Abdullah ibn Zubayr's rebellion by invading the Hejaz, and took Medina after the bloody Battle of al-Harrah followed by invading the Tihamah and the siege of Mecca but his sudden death, in 683, ended the campaign and threw the Umayyads into disarray with civil war eventually breaking out.
Abdullah ibn Zubayr consolidated his power by sending a governor to Kufa. Soon, Abdullah ibn Zubayr expelled Yazid's army from Iraq, southern Arabia and in the greater part of Syria, and parts of Egypt. But then ran into trouble with the Kharijites in Iraq who were very extreme in their views.
Yazid's son Muawiya II did not want to associate himself with the policies of his father Yazid. Muawiya II chose to abdicate rather than assume the responsibility of conducting what would likely be a bloody military campaign in Mecca. In Damascus Marwan then became the ruler and then his son Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan.
Ibn Zubayr was finally defeated by Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, who sent Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf to reunite the Islamic empire. Hajjaj defeated and killed Ibn Zubayr on the battlefield in 692, beheading him and crucifying his body, reestablishing Umayyad control over the Islamic Empire.
On his last hour he asked his mother Asmā' bint Abu Bakr what he should do. Asmā' bint Abu Bakr replied to her son, she said: "You know better in your own self that if you are upon the truth and you are calling towards the truth go forth for people more honourable than you were killed and have been killed and if you are not upon the truth, then what an evil son you are, you have destroyed yourself and those who are with you. If you say what you say, that if you are upon the truth and you will be killed at the hands of others then you will not truly be free, for this is not the statement of someone who is free".
Then Asmā' bint Abu Bakr said to her son, this is the statement of the mother to her son, "how long will you live in this world, death is more beloved to me than this state you are on/ this state of weakness".
Then this conversation between Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr and his mother continued.
Then Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr said to his mother after she had told him to go forth and fight.
He said, "I am afraid I will be mutilated by the people of Sham, I am afraid that they will cut up my body after they have killed me".
So she said to her son, "after someone has died it won't make any difference what they do to you if you have been killed". Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr then said to his mother, "I did not come to you except to increase myself in knowledge".
He said to her, "I did not come to you except to increase me in knowledge, look and pay attention to this day for verily I am a dead man, your son never drank wine, nor was he fornicator, nor did he wrong any Muslim or Non Muslim, nor was he unjust, I am not saying this to you to show off or show how pure I am but rather as an honour to you".
So then Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr left by himself on his horse to take on Hajjaj and he was killed by the Army of Hajjaj. Then Hajjaj crucified him and said, "No one must put down his body except Asma, she must come to me and ask permission of me and only then will his body be put down".
Asma refused to go and ask permission to put down her sons body and it was said to her, "if you don't go his body will remain like that. So she said let it be then".
Until eventually, Hajjaj came to her and said, "what do you say about this matter" and she said, "Verily you have destroyed him you have ruined his life and with that you have ruined your hereafter".
A few years later the people of Kufa called Zayd ibn Ali the grandson of Husayn over to Kufa. Zaydis believe that on the last hour of Zayd ibn Ali was also betrayed by the people in Kufa who said to him: "May God have mercy on you! What do you have to say on the matter of Abu Bakr and Umar ibn al-Khattab?" Zayd ibn Ali said, "I have not heard anyone in my family renouncing them both nor saying anything but good about them...when they were entrusted with government they behaved justly with the people and acted according to the Qur'an and the Sunnah".
During the caliphate of Yazid, Muslims suffered several military setbacks. In 682 AD Yazid restored Uqba ibn Nafi as the governor of North Africa and Uqba won battles against the Berbers and Byzantines. Uqba then marched westward towards Tangier and then marched eastwards the Atlas Mountains. With cavalry numbering about 300, he proceeded towards Biskra where he was ambushed by a Berber force . Uqba and all his men died fighting and the Berbers launched a counter-attack and drove Muslims from North Africa. This was a major setback for the Muslims as lost supremacy at sea and had to abandon the islands of Rhodes and Crete.
Yazid was killed by his own horse after it lost control, his remains were never confirmed to have been found. Yazid died at the age of 36 (age 38 in Hijri-Lunar calculation) after ruling for three years and was succeeded by his son Muawiyah II. Yazid was buried in Damascus. Although it is thought that his grave no longer exists, few believe that it is located in a small street near Umayyad Mosque without any mark or distinction.
Some scholars regard Yazid as a just, noble, religious and administratively efficient ruler and that his nomination by his father Muawiya as Caliph was proper.
He participated in various wars against the Byzantines in the time of his father. He was a brave man fond of hunting.
Nonetheless, most Islamic scholars during the Abbasid Caliphate regarded Caliph Yazid I as a tyrant who was directly responsible for three major historical atrocities in standard Islamic history: The Karbala massacre of the Hashimite caravan of Husayn ibn Ali, the pillage and plunder of the city of Madinah (by Yazid's general Ibn Uqbah al-Murri) in which over 10,000 Muslim citizens were slaughtered and Muslim women were indiscriminately raped, and the siege of Mecca in which Yazid's commander Ibn Numayr ordered his troops to catapult fireballs to the shrine of the Kaaba.
The above Abbasid scholarly consensus was summed up with the following evaluation of Caliph Yazid I:
- He was strong, brave, deliberative, full of resolve, acumen, and eloquence. He composed good poetry. He was also a stern, harsh, and coarse Nasibi. He drank and was a reprobate. He inaugurated his Dawla with the killing of the martyr al-Husayn and closed it with the catastrophe of al-Harrah. Hence the people despised him, he was not blessed in his life, and many took up arms against him after al-Husayn such as the people of Madînah - they rose for the sake of Allâh -
Yazid and Mohammed's prophecy
Other Islamic scholars point out that in the original literary source of Prophet Muhammad's tradition which was from Sahih Bukhari (Sahih Muslim author Muslim bin Al-Hajjaj's teacher), Muhammad made two consecutive statements:
- "The army from my people who will first perform jihad through water has made Paradise obligatory for itself."
Alluding to the above sahih hadith, the very first jihad ("endeavour") of a Muslim army via the sea was in 647 CE, in an amphibious landing of additional troops in sea vessels that assisted the main ground army in the second Muslim military invasion of Tripoli, Libya. This conquest of Tripoli and the subsequent expansion into Libya was personally organized and led by Abdullah bin Saad bin Abi Sarh, launched from the coastal city of Barca, Cyrenaica; notable sahabah Abdullah ibn Zubayr and Uqbah bin Nafi participated in this military campaign. In quick succession, Abdullah ibn Zubayr then went on to defeat Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Exarch Gregory the Patrician in the Battle of Sufetula to capture the city of Sbeitla, Tunisia. Chronologically, the very first Muslim navy was the Egyptian Muslim naval fleet, founded in Egypt by Abdullah bin Saad bin Abi Sarh in 645 CE; in December 644 CE, Abdullah bin Saad bin Abi Sarh had been appointed Governor of Egypt by his foster-brother, the new caliph Uthman bin al-Affan al-Umawwi. The second Muslim naval fleet was the Syrian Muslim naval fleet, founded in 647 CE by Syria's governor Muawiyah bin Abu Sufyan (later Caliph Muawiyah I), whose first launch resulted in the capture of Cyprus in 649 CE; although, Muawiyah did not personally lead this naval campaign.
and the following:
- "The first army amongst my followers who will invade Caesar's City will be forgiven their sins."
Technically, the location of the subject of this sahih hadith of Prophet Muhammad is the city of Homs (Emesa), Syria. Before its capture in Muharram 15 AH (March 636 CE) by the Muslim forces sent by Caliph Umar bin al-Khattab, Homs (Emesa), Syria was the headquarters of Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Emperor Heraclius (i.e. Caesar or Qaisar). The Muslim army that captured in quick succession the Eastern Roman Empire’s cities (Tiberias, Baalbek, and Homs), was led by Abu Ubaydah bin al-Jarrah al-Thaqafi (father of the Karbala & Madinah avenger Mukhtar al-Thaqafi); some notable sahabah who participated in these military campaigns were Miqdad bin al-Aswad al-Kindi, Bilal bin Rabah, and most prominently, Khalid bin al-Waleed. Consequently, the first army to invade “Caesar’s City” was led by Abu Ubaydah bin al-Jarrah al-Thaqafi; if "Caesar's City" meant a city named after a Caesar, then Constantinople or Qustuntunia (named after its founder, Roman Emperor Constantine the Great) still would not qualify, as the very first city (not town or village) which was invaded by a Muslim army that was named after a Roman emperor was Tiberias (in honour of Tiberius Caesar). Tiberias surrendered to Abu Ubaydah's army in Zulhijjah 13 AH (January 635 CE).
Furthermore, Abbasid historiographers of standard Islamic history unanimously recorded the following summary of the military campaigns on "Caesar's City" in Christian Byzantium during Muawiyah I's Caliphate (chronological order):
• 42 AH - Led by Abdullah bin Abi Artaat
• 43 AH - Led by Busr bin Abi Artaat
• 44 AH - Led by Abdul Rahman bin Khalid bin al-Waleed
• 46 AH - Led by Malik bin Abdul Rahman and Abdul Rahman bin Khalid bin al-Waleed
• 47 AH - Led by Malik bin Hubaira and Abdul Rahman bin Qaiymi
• 49 AH - Led by Sufyan bin Awf; noted for at least three (3) significant battles commanded by Malik bin Hubaira, Fazala bin Ubair, and Yazid bin Shajara Ar-Rahawi
• 50 AH - Led by Yazid bin Muawiyah (Caliph Yazid I)
According to 12th Century biographer & historian Ibn Al-Athir, in year 49 AH, Caliph Muawiyah I sent a huge army towards Eastern Rome (Byzantium). He made Sufyan bin Awf it’s leader and he ordered his son Yazid to go with them, however Yazid feigned illness and declined to go. When the (Umayyad) warriors were struck with harsh conditions (hunger and diseases), Yazid mockingly recited this poetry:
At Farqudwana immense wrath covered them, whether they had fever or whatever I don’t care because I am sitting on a high carpet and Umm ul Kulthum [one of Yazid's wives] is between my armpits.
When Caliph Muawiyah I heard these phrases, he made Yazid take an oath and join Sufyan bin Awf in Byzantium so that he could also be struck by these same difficulties his soldiers had faced. Yazid had no options and had to go, and so Caliph Muawiyah I sent another army under Yazid’s command in 50 AH.
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680 – 683