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Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan

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Abd al-Malik
Khalīfat Allāh
First Umayyad gold dinar, Caliph Abd al-Malik, 695 CE.jpg
Gold dinar minted by the Umayyads in 695, which likely depicts Abd al-Malik
5th Caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate
Reign12 April 685 – 9 October 705
PredecessorMarwan I
SuccessorAl-Walid I
Medina, Rashidun Caliphate
Died9 October 705
Damascus, Umayyad Caliphate
Outside of Bab al-Jabiya, Damascus
SpouseWallāda bint al-ʿAbbās ibn al-Jazʾ al-ʿAbsīyya
ʿĀtika bint Yazīd I
ʿĀʾisha bint Hishām ibn Ismāʿīl al-Makhzūmīyya
Umm Ayyūb bint ʿAmr ibn ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān
ʿĀʾisha bint Mūsā ibn Ṭalḥa ibn ʿUbaydallāh
Umm al-Mughīra bint al-Mughīra ibn Khālid
IssueAl-Walīd I
Marwān al-Akbar
Yazīd II
Marwān al-Aṣghar
Abū Bakr Bakkār
ʿAbd Allāh
Saʿīd al-Khayr
Umm Kulthūm (daughter)
ʿĀʾisha (daughter)
Fāṭima (daughter)
Full name
Abū al-Walīd ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Marwān ibn al-Ḥakam
FatherMarwān I
MotherʿĀʾisha bint Muʿāwiya ibn al-Mughīra

ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Marwān ibn al-Ḥakam (Arabic: عبد الملك ابن مروان‎, 646/47–9 October 705) was the fifth Umayyad caliph, ruling from 685 until his death. At the time of his accession, Umayyad authority had disintegrated throughout the caliphate and had begun to be reconstituted in Syria and Egypt during the short reign of his father, Caliph Marwan I (r. 684–685). Abd al-Malik's early focus was to consolidate Syria before attempting to reconquer the remainder of the caliphate from his principal rival, the Mecca-based caliph Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr. To that end, he concluded an unfavorable truce with a reinvigorated Byzantine Empire in 689, fended off a coup attempt in Damascus by his kinsman the following year and reconciled with the disaffected Qaysi tribes of Upper Mesopotamia in 691. He subsequently conquered Zubayrid Iraq and dispatched one of his generals, al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, to Mecca where he killed Ibn al-Zubayr and restored Umayyad rule in Arabia by late 692. Al-Hajjaj ultimately became the caliph's viceroy in the east and firmly established Abd al-Malik's authority in Iraq and Khurasan, having stamped out opposition by the Kharijites and the Arab tribal nobility by 702. In the west, Abd al-Malik's brother, Abd al-Aziz, maintained peace and stability in Egypt while his troops retook Qayrawan, which served as the launchpad for the conquests of western North Africa and Hispania under the caliph's sons and successors.

In a significant departure from his predecessors, rule over the caliphate was centralized under Abd al-Malik, following the elimination of his rivals. Gradually, loyalist Arab troops from Syria were tasked with maintaining order in the provinces as dependence on less reliable, localized Arab garrisons receded. In tandem, the traditional military stipends to veterans of the early Muslim conquests and their descendants were abolished, with salaries being restricted to those in active service. Furthermore, Abd al-Malik introduced a single Islamic currency in place of Byzantine and Sassanian coins and established Arabic as the language of the bureaucracy, replacing Greek and Persian in Syria and Iraq, respectively. These measures led to renewed war with Byzantium, this time ending in Umayyad advances into Armenia. Conflict with external and domestic Christian forces and rival claimants to Islamic leadership, along with his Muslim upbringing, influenced Abd al-Malik's aforementioned efforts to proscribe a distinctly Islamic character to the Umayyad state. Another manifestation of this initiative was his founding of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, which is the earliest known religious structure built by a Muslim ruler and the possessor of the earliest epigraphic proclamations of Islam and the prophet Muhammad. Abd al-Malik was succeeded by his eldest son al-Walid I, who extensively relied on al-Hajjaj and whose reign was largely a continuation of his father's policies.

Early life[edit]

Abd al-Malik was born in 646/647 in the house of his father Marwan ibn al-Hakam in Medina.[1] His mother was A'isha, a daughter of Mu'awiya ibn al-Mughira.[2][3] Both of his parents belonged to the Banu Umayya,[2][3] one of the strongest and wealthiest clans of the Quraysh tribe.[4] The latter had been ardent opponents of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, a member of the Quraysh, but embraced Islam in 630 and subsequently came to dominate Muslim politics.[5] Abd al-Malik belonged to the first generation of born-Muslims and his upbringing and adult life in Medina, Islam's political center at the time, was described as pious and morally rigorous by historian Hugh N. Kennedy.[1] His father was a senior aide of their Umayyad kinsman, Caliph Uthman (r. 644–656).[1] In 656, Abd al-Malik witnessed Uthman's assassination in Medina.[2] Six years later, Abd al-Malik was appointed by Caliph Mu'awiya I (r. 661–680), founder of the Umayyad Caliphate, to command a Medinese army unit participating in a campaign against the Byzantines.[2] Afterward, he returned to Medina, where he operated as an assistant of his father, who had become governor of the city.[1]

As with the rest of the Umayyads in the Hejaz (western Arabia), Abd al-Malik lacked close ties with Mu'awiya, who ruled from his power base in Damascus.[1] Mu'awiya belonged to the Abu Sufyan line of the Umayyad clan, while Abd al-Malik belonged to the larger Abu al-'As line. When a revolt broke out in Medina against Mu'awiya's son and successor, Caliph Yazid I (r. 680–683), the Umayyads, including Abd al-Malik, were expelled from the city.[2] The revolt was part of the wider anti-Umayyad rebellion that became known as the Second Muslim Civil War.[2] On the way to the Umayyad capital in Syria, Abd al-Malik encountered the army of Muslim ibn Uqba, who had been sent by Yazid to subdue the rebels in Medina.[2] He subsequently provided Ibn Uqba intelligence about Medina's defenses.[2] The rebels were defeated at the Battle of al-Harra in August 683, but nonetheless the army withdrew to Syria after Yazid's death later that year.[2]

The deaths of Yazid and his son and successor Mu'awiya II in relatively quick succession in 683–684 precipitated a leadership vacuum in Damascus and the consequent collapse of Umayyad authority across the caliphate.[6] Most provinces declared their allegiance to the rival Mecca-based caliphate of Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr.[7] In parts of Syria, however, Arab tribes that had secured a privileged position in the Umayyad court and military, in particular the Banu Kalb and its allies, scrambled to preserve Umayyad rule.[7] Marwan and his family, including Abd al-Malik, had since relocated to Syria where Marwan met the pro-Umayyad stalwart Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad, who had just been expelled by the Zubayrids from his governorship in Iraq. Ibn Ziyad persuaded Marwan to forward his candidacy for the caliphate during a summit of pro-Umayyad tribes in Jabiya hosted by the Kalbi chieftain Ibn Bahdal.[7] The tribal nobility elected Marwan as caliph and the latter subsequently became dependent on the Kalb and its allies, who collectively became known as the "Yaman".[7] Their power came at the expense of the Qaysi tribes that dominated northern Syria and had defected to Ibn al-Zubayr.[7] The Qays were routed by Marwan's supporters at the Battle of Marj Rahit in 684, leading to a long-standing blood feud and rivalry between the two tribal coalitions.[7]



Abd al-Malik became a close adviser of Marwan,[1] who appointed him governor of Palestine.[8][9] He was designated by the caliph as his chosen successor, to be followed by Abd al-Malik's brother, Abd al-Aziz.[10] This designation abrogated the succession arrangements reached in Jabiya, which stipulated that Yazid's son Khalid would succeed Marwan followed by another Umayyad and former governor of Medina, Amr ibn Said al-Ashdaq.[11] Nonetheless, Marwan secured the oaths of allegiance to Abd al-Malik from the Yamani nobility during his lifetime, despite Abd al-Malik's relative lack of political experience.[10] Marwan died in 685 and Abd al-Malik's subsequent transition as caliph was peacefully managed by the Yamani nobles.[1] He was proclaimed caliph in Jerusalem, according to a report by 9th-century historian Khalifa ibn Khayyat, which modern historian Amikam Elad considers to be seemingly "reliable".[9]

Early challenges[edit]

A map of the Islamic political scene in the Middle East in 685–687. The area highlighted in orange represents the territory controlled by Abd al-Malik, namely Syria and Egypt, while the blue and gray-shaded areas depict the lands controlled by the rival contenders of the caliphate, al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi and Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, respectively.

Though Umayyad rule had been restored in Syria and Egypt, Abd al-Malik faced several challenges to his authority.[1] Most provinces of the caliphate continued to recognize Ibn al-Zubayr as caliph while the Qaysi tribes regrouped under Zufar ibn al-Harith al-Kilabi and resisted Umayyad rule in the Jazira (Upper Mesopotamia) from the Euphrates fortress of al-Qarqisiya.[12] At the time of his accession, important administrative offices were held by members of Abd al-Malik's family.[1] His brother, Muhammad, was charged with quelling the Qaysi revolt in the Jazira, while Abd al-Aziz maintained peace and stability as governor of Egypt and its dependencies in North Africa until his death in 705.[1][13]

Reestablishing Umayyad authority across the caliphate was a major priority of Abd al-Malik.[12] His initial focus was the reconquest of Iraq, the wealthiest province of the caliphate.[14] Iraq was also home to a large population of Arab tribesmen,[14] the group from which the Umayyad military derived the bulk of its troops.[15] In contrast, Egypt, which provided significant income to the treasury, possessed a small Arab community and was thus a meager source of troops.[16] The demand for troops was pressing for the Umayyads as the backbone of their military, the Syrian army, remained fractured along Yamani and Qaysi lines. Though the roughly 6,000 Yamani troops of Abd al-Malik's predecessor were able to consolidate the Umayyad position in Syria, they were too few to reassert authority throughout the caliphate.[15] Ibn Ziyad, a key figure in the establishment of Marwanid power, set about enlarging the army by recruiting widely among the Arab tribes, including those which nominally belonged to the Qays faction.[15] He was tasked by Abd al-Malik with the reconquest of Iraq.[12] At the time, the province and its eastern dependencies were split between the pro-Alid forces of al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi in Kufa and the forces of Ibn al-Zubayr's brother Mus'ab in Basra. In August 686, Ibn Ziyad's 60,000-strong army was routed at the Battle of Khazir and he was slain alongside most of his deputy commanders at the hands of al-Mukhtar's much smaller pro-Alid force led by Ibrahim ibn al-Ashtar.[2][12] The decisive defeat and the loss of Ibn Ziyad represented a major setback to Abd al-Malik's ambitions in Iraq. He refrained from further major campaigns in the province for the next five years, during which Mus'ab defeated and killed al-Mukhtar and became Iraq's sole ruler.[12][2]

Abd al-Malik shifted his focus to consolidating control of Syria.[12] Along the province's northern frontier, the Byzantines had been on the offensive, capturing Antioch in 688 and encouraging the Mardaites, a Christian group indigenous to Syria, to launch deep raids into Umayyad territory in the Orontes Valley.[2] The Byzantine counteroffensive, which began in 678, represented the first challenge against a Muslim power by a people defeated in the early Muslim conquests.[17] Moreover, the Mardaite raids demonstrated to Abd al-Malik and his successors that the state could no longer depend on the quiescence of Syria's Christian majority, which until then had largely refrained from rebellion.[17] To neutralize the Byzantine threat, Abd al-Malik concluded a ten-year truce with Emperor Justinian II in 689.[2] It stipulated a freeze in hostilities and the withdrawal of 12,000 Mardaite warriors to Byzantine territory in return for an annual Umayyad tribute of 365,000 gold coins, 1,000 slaves and 1,000 war horses to the empire.[18] Historian Khalid Yahya Blankinship described it as "an onerous and completely humiliating pact" and surmised that Abd al-Malik's ability to pay the annual tribute in addition to financing his own wartime army relied on treasury funds accrued during the campaigns of his Sufyanid predecessors and revenues from Egypt.[18]

In 689/90, Abd al-Malik used the respite from the truce to initiate a campaign against the Zubayrids of Iraq, but he was forced to return to Damascus when his kinsman al-Ashdaq launched a rebellion in the city.[2][10] The latter viewed Abd al-Malik's accession as a violation of the agreement reached in Jabiya and took advantage of the caliph's absence to seize Damascus.[10] Abd al-Malik confronted al-Ashdaq, promising him safety and freedom if he relinquished the city.[2][10] Though al-Ashdaq agreed to the terms and surrendered, Abd al-Malik remained distrustful of the former's ambitions and executed him personally.[2]

Defeat of the Zubayrids[edit]

Abd al-Malik's early efforts in Iraq had been undermined by the Qaysi–Yamani schism when a Qaysi general in Ibn Ziyad's army, Umayr ibn al-Hubab al-Sulami, defected with his men mid-battle to join Zufar's rebellion in the Jazira.[15] Umayr's subsequent campaign against the large Christian Banu Taghlib tribe in the Jazira sparked a series of tit-for-tat raids and further deepened Arab tribal divisions with the previously neutral Taghlib throwing in its lot with the Yaman and the Umayyads.[19] The Taghlib killed Umayr in 689 and delivered his head to Abd al-Malik.[20] The latter then besieged al-Qarqisiya for a few months in 690/91 and ultimately secured the surrender and defection of pro-Zubayrid Qaysis in return for privileged positions in the Umayyad court and army.[2][21] The integration of the Qaysi rebels strongly reinforced the Syrian army and Umayyad authority was restored in the Jazira.[2] From then onward, Abd al-Malik and his successors attempted to balance the interests of the Qays and Yaman in the Umayyad court and army.[22] This represented a break from the preceding seven years during which the Yaman, and particularly the Banu Kalb, were the dominant force of the army.[23]

With threats in Syria and the Jazira neutralized, Abd al-Malik was free to focus on the reconquest of Iraq.[2][21] While Mus'ab and his loyalists had been bogged down fighting Kharijite rebels and contending with disaffected Arab tribesmen in Basra and Kufa, Abd al-Malik was establishing contacts with these same Arab nobles to win them over.[19] Thus, by the time Abd al-Malik led the reconstituted Syrian army into Iraq in 691, the struggle to recapture the province was virtually complete.[19] Unlike in the previous Iraqi campaign, command of his army was held by members of his family, with Muhammad ibn Marwan leading the vanguard and Yazid I's sons Khalid and Abd Allah leading the right and left wings, respectively.[19] Many Syrian nobles held reservations about the campaign and counseled Abd al-Malik not to personally participate.[19] Nonetheless, the caliph was at the head of the army when it camped opposite of Mus'ab's forces at Maskin, along the Dujayl Canal.[21] In the ensuing battle, most of Mus'ab's forces, many of whom were resentful at the heavy toll he inflicted on al-Mukhtar's Kufan partisans, refused to fight and his leading commander, Ibn al-Ashtar, fell at the beginning of hostilities.[21][24][25] Abd al-Malik invited Mus'ab to surrender in return for relinquishing Iraq, but the latter refused and was killed in action.[26]

The Ka'aba in Mecca was the headquarters of Ibn al-Zubayr where he was besieged and defeated by Abd al-Malik's forces led by al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf in 692

Following his victory, he entered Kufa, received the allegiance of its nobility and appointed governors to Iraq's dependencies in Khurasan and further east.[26] He encamped with the Syrian army outside the city, at Nukhayla, for forty days in preparation for the campaign to subdue Ibn al-Zubayr in the Hejaz.[26] To that end, he dispatched a 2,000-strong Syrian contingent, at the head of which was al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf,[27][28] who had risen through the ranks to become a highly competent and efficient supporter of the caliph.[22] According to historian Gerald R. Hawting, for the period between the end of the civil war and the years after Abd al-Malik's reign, al-Hajjaj became the "dominant figure" in the medieval sources, discussed more than the caliph himself.[29] Al-Hajjaj remained encamped for several months in Ta'if, east of Mecca, where he fought numerous skirmishes with Zubayrid loyalists in the plain of Arafat.[28] Abd al-Malik sent him reinforcements led by his mawlā (pl: mawālī), Tariq ibn Amr, who had earlier captured Medina from its Zubayrid governor.[30] In March 692, al-Hajjaj besieged Ibn al-Zubayr in Mecca and bombarded the city and the Ka'aba, the holiest sanctuary in Islam.[27][30] Though 10,000 of Ibn al-Zubayr's supporters, including his sons, eventually surrendered and received pardons, Ibn al-Zubayr and a core of his loyalists held out in the Ka'aba and were killed by al-Hajjaj's troops in September or October.[27][30] Ibn al-Zubayr's death marked the end of the civil war and the reunification of the caliphate under Abd al-Malik.[27][31]

In the aftermath of his victory, the caliph aimed to achieve reconciliation with the Hejazi elite, including the Zubayrids and the Alids, the Umayyads' rivals within the Quraysh.[32] He relied on the Banu Makhzum, another clan of Quraysh, as his intermediaries in lieu of the Umayyad family's absence in the region due to their exile in 682.[32] Despite seeking their good offices, he remained wary of the Hejazi elite's ambitions and kept a vigilant eye on them through his various governors in Medina.[32] The first of these was al-Hajjaj, who was also appointed governor of Yemen and al-Yamama and led the Hajj pilgrim caravans of 693 and 694.[27] Though he maintained peace in the Hejaz, the harshness of his rule led to numerous complaints from its residents and may have played a role in his transfer from the post by Abd al-Malik.[27] A member of the Makhzum and Abd al-Malik's father-in-law, Hisham ibn Isma'il (r. 701–706), was ultimately appointed and was also known for his brutal treatment of Medina's townspeople.[33]

Consolidation in Iraq and the east[edit]

Despite his victory, the control and governance of Iraq, a politically turbulent province from the time of the Muslim conquest in the 630s, continued to pose a major challenge for Abd al-Malik.[22] He had withdrawn the Syrian army and entrusted to the Iraqis the defense of Basra from the Kharijite threat.[19][34] However, most Iraqis had become "weary of the conflict" with the Kharijites, "which had brought them little but hardship and loss", according to Gibb.[2] Those from Kufa, in particular, had grown accustomed to the wealth and comfort of their lives at home and their reluctance to undertake lengthy campaigns far from their families was an issue that previous rulers of Iraq had consistently encountered.[29][35] Initially, the caliph appointed his brother Bishr governor of Kufa and another kinsman, Khalid ibn Abdallah, to Basra before the latter too was put under Bishr's jurisdiction.[13] Neither governor was up to the task, but the Iraqis eventually defeated the Najdiyya Kharijites in al-Yamama in 692/93.[34][36] The Azariqa in Persia were more difficult to rein in,[36] and following Bishr's death in 694, the Iraqi troops deserted the field against them at Ramhormoz.[37] Abd al-Malik's attempt at family rule in Iraq proved unsuccessful and he installed al-Hajjaj to the post instead.[22] Abd al-Malik combined Kufa and Basra into a single province under al-Hajjaj, who, from the start of his rule, displayed a strong commitment to govern Iraq effectively.[22] Al-Hajjaj backed the Azdi chieftain al-Muhallab ibn Abi Sufra, the Zubayrids' commander against the Kharijites, in his campaign against the Azariqa, whom he was able to defeat in 697.[22] This also allowed al-Muhallab to restart the Muslim conquests of Central Asia, though the campaign reaped few territorial gains during Abd al-Malik's reign.[36] Concurrently, however, a Kharijite revolt led by Shabib ibn Yazid of the Banu Shayban flared in the heart of Iraq, resulting in the rebel takeover of al-Mada'in and siege of Kufa.[36] Al-Hajjaj responded to the unwillingness or inability of the war-weary Iraqis to face the Kharijites by obtaining from Abd al-Malik 4,000–6,000 Syrian reinforcements led by commanders Sufyan ibn al-Abrad al-Kalbi and Abd al-Rahman ibn Habib al-Hakami.[36][19] A more disciplined force, the Syrians repelled the rebel attack on Kufa and killed Shabib in early 697.[36][38] By 698, the Kharijite revolts had been stamped out.[39] Abd al-Malik attached to Iraq Sistan and Khurasan, thus making al-Hajjaj responsible for a super-province encompassing the eastern half of the caliphate.[22] Al-Hajjaj kept al-Muhallab as deputy governor of Khurasan, a post he held until his death in 702, after which it was bequeathed to his son Yazid.[39][40]

In an effort to reduce expenditures, al-Hajjaj had reduced the Iraqis' pay to less than that of their Syrian counterparts in the province.[22] Moreover, upon becoming governor, he immediately threatened with death any Iraqi who refused to participate in the war efforts against the Kharijites in Khurasan.[22] By his measures, al-Hajjaj appeared "almost to have goaded the Iraqis into rebellion, as if looking for an excuse to break them", according to Kennedy.[22] Indeed, conflict with the muqātila (Arab tribal forces) of Iraq, whose men formed the province's garrisons, came to a head beginning in 699 when al-Hajjaj ordered the paramount Iraqi nobleman and governor of Kirman, Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn al-Ash'ath, to lead an expedition against Zunbil, the governor of Zabul in Sistan, who had refused to pay the annual tribute to the caliphate.[39][41] Many of Ibn al-Ash'ath's troops were wealthy and leading noblemen and bristled at the frequent rebukes and demands of al-Hajjaj and the difficulties of the campaign to which they were assigned.[41] In response, Ibn al-Ash'ath declared a rebellion while in Sistan and led his army westward through Fars, defeating al-Hajjaj's loyalists in Tustar in 701 and entering Kufa soon after.[41] Al-Hajjaj remained in Basra with his Banu Thaqif kinsmen and Syrian loyalists, who were numerically insufficient to counter the unified Iraqi front led by Ibn al-Ash'ath.[41] Alarmed at events, Abd al-Malik offered the rebels the replacement of al-Hajjaj with Ibn al-Ash'ath and a pay raise equal to the Syrians.[41] Due to his supporters' rejection of the terms, Ibn al-Ash'ath refused Abd al-Malik's offer and al-Hajjaj took the initiative and routed Ibn al-Ash'ath's forces at the Battle of Dayr al-Jamajim in April or July.[41][42] Many of the Iraqis had defected after promises of amnesty if they disarmed, while Ibn al-Ash'ath, with his remaining supporters, fled east to Zabulistan where they were dispersed in 702.[41]

The suppression of the revolt marked the end of the Iraqi muqātila as a military force and the beginning of Syrian military domination of Iraq.[36][42] Iraqi divisions and the utilization of disciplined Syrian forces by Abd al-Malik and al-Hajjaj halted the Iraqis' attempt to reassert power in the province.[41] Determined to prevent further rebellions by the Iraqis, al-Hajjaj founded a permanent Syrian army garrison in Wasit, situated between the long-established Iraqi garrison centers at Kufa and Basra, and instituted a more rigorous administration in the province.[41][42] Power thereafter derived from the Syrian troops, who became Iraq's ruling class, while Iraq's Arab nobility, religious scholars and mawālī were their virtual subjects.[41] Furthermore, the surplus taxes from the agriculturally rich Sawad lands of Iraq were redirected from the Iraqi muqātila to Abd al-Malik's treasury in Damascus to pay the Syrian troops in the province.[42][43] This reflected a wider campaign by the caliph to institute greater control over the caliphate.[43]

Renewal of Byzantine wars in Armenia and North Africa[edit]

Despite the ten-year truce of 689, war with Byzantium resumed following Abd al-Malik's victory against Ibn al-Zubayr in 692.[36] Hostilities were prompted by Emperor Justinian II, when he abrogated the truce in response to the caliph's discontinuation of Byzantine currency in his realm in favor of a Muslim currency introduced that year.[36] The Umayyads defeated the Byzantines at the Battle of Sebastopolis in circa 692 and through persistent raids in 694–695, the caliph's brother Muhammad and his Syrian troops advanced into Anatolia and Armenia, laying the foundation for further conquests of these territories under Abd al-Malik's successors.[36][44] The military defeats inflicted on Justinian II contributed to the downfall of the emperor and his Heraclian dynasty in 695.[45] Muhammad remained governor of the Jazira and Armenia and commander of military operations on the Anatolian front until 710.[46][44] Meanwhile, in the west, Abd al-Aziz had dispatched Hassan ibn al-Nu'man with the Arab troops of Fustat to retake southern Ifriqiya province after it was recaptured by the Byzantines and their Berber allies.[36][47] From his base in Tripolitania, he advanced toward Byzantine-held Carthage in 697 with naval backing.[36][47] After Byzantine naval reinforcements sent by Emperor Leontios (r. 695–698) were repelled and the Berbers led by the warrior queen al-Kahina were defeated, Carthage was captured and sacked by 698.[36][47] The Arab garrison town in Qayrawan was firmly secured as a launchpad for further conquests under later Umayyad rulers, while on the Ifriqiyan coast, the port town of Tunis was equipped with an arsenal on the orders of Abd al-Malik, who was intent on establishing a strong Arab fleet.[36][47] Hassan was dismissed by Abd al-Aziz around this time, and replaced by the former's lieutenant, Musa ibn Nusayr,[47] who went on to oversee the later Umayyad conquests of western North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula.[48]

Final years[edit]

The last years of Abd al-Malik's reign were generally characterized by the sources as the peaceful and prosperous consolidation of power.[36] The principal issue faced by the caliph was ensuring the succession of his eldest son, al-Walid I, in place of the designated successor, Abd al-Aziz.[36] The latter consistently refused Abd al-Malik's entreaties to step down from the line of succession. However, potential conflict was avoided when Abd al-Aziz died in May 705.[36] He was promptly replaced as governor of Egypt by the caliph's son Abd Allah. The caliph died five months later, on 9 October, and was buried outside of the Bab al-Jabiya gate of Damascus.[49] Al-Walid acceded and his reign,[36][50] which ended with his death in 715, was largely a continuation of his father's policies and likely marked the peak of Umayyad power and prosperity.[29][51] Three other sons of Abd al-Malik, Sulayman, Yazid II and Hisham, would rule in succession until 743, with the exception Abd al-Aziz's son Umar II who ruled in 717–720.[29]


A map depicting growth of the caliphate. The area highlighted in yellow depicts the expansion of territory during Abd al-Malik's reign

After his victory in the civil war, Abd al-Malik embarked on a far-reaching campaign to consolidate Umayyad rule over the caliphate.[43][52] According to Kennedy, the collapse of Umayyad authority after Mu'awiya I's death illustrated to Abd al-Malik that the decentralized Sufyanid system was not feasible.[43] Centralization was thus Abd al-Malik's solution to the fractious tribalism which defined the state of his predecessors.[36] According to historian Julius Wellhausen, government "evidently became more technical and hierarchical" under Abd al-Malik, though not nearly to the extent of the later Abbasid caliphs.[53] As opposed to the more amiable and freewheeling governing style of the Sufyanids, Abd al-Malik ruled strictly over his officials and kept interactions with them largely formal.[54] He may have inaugurated a number of high-ranking offices and Islamic tradition generally credits him with the organization of the barīd (postal route), whose principal purpose was to efficiently inform the caliph of developments outside of Damascus.[55]

Abd al-Malik's concentration of power into the hands of his family was unprecedented and at one point, his brothers or sons held nearly all governorships of the provinces and Syria's districts.[56][57] Likewise, his court in Damascus was filled with far more Umayyad kinsmen than his Sufyanid predecessors, as a result of the clan's exile to the city from Medina in 682.[13] He maintained close ties with the Sufyanids through marital relations and official appointments, such as according Khalid ibn Yazid a prominent role in the court and army and wedding to him one of his daughters.[13] Abd al-Malik also married Khalid's sister Atika, who became his favorite and most influential wife.[13] In the early part of his rule, Abd al-Malik was also heavily reliant on the Yamani nobles of Syria, including Ibn Bahdal al-Kalbi and Rawh ibn Zinba al-Judhami, who played key roles in his administration;[1] the latter served as the equivalent to the caliph's wazīr, a non-existent post at the time.[58] Furthermore, a Yamani always headed Abd al-Malik's shurṭa (elite security retinue).[14] The first to hold the post was Yazid ibn Abi Kabsha al-Saksaki, from a clan of the Kindah tribe,[50] and he was later followed by another Yamani, Ka'b ibn Hamid al-Ansi,[50][59] who went on to serve the same role in the administrations of Abd al-Malik's sons and successors al-Walid I, Sulayman, Yazid II and Hisham.[14] The caliph's ḥaras (personal guard) was typically led by a mawlā and staffed by the mawālī.[14] However, the specific function of the ḥaras and the shurṭa is unclear.[14]

From a military standpoint, Abd al-Malik shifted away from his predecessors' utilization of Arab tribal masses in favor of an organized army.[52][60] Likewise, Arab noblemen who had derived their power solely through their tribal standing and personal relations with a caliph were gradually replaced with military men who had risen through the ranks.[52][60] These developments have been partially obscured by the medieval sources due to their continued usage of Arab tribal terminology when referencing the army, such as the names of the tribal confederations Mudar, Rabi'a, Qays and Yaman.[52] According to Hawting, these do not represent the "tribes in arms" utilized by earlier caliphs; rather, they denote army factions whose membership was often determined by tribal origin.[52] Under Abd al-Malik, loyalist Syrian troops began to be deployed throughout the caliphate to keep order, which came largely at the expense of the tribal nobility of Iraq.[52] The latter's revolt under Ibn al-Ash'ath demonstrated to Abd al-Malik the unreliability of the Iraqi muqātila in securing the central government's interests in the province and its eastern dependencies.[52] It was following the revolt's suppression that the military became primarily composed of the Syrian army.[40] Further consecrating this transformation was a fundamental change to the system of military pay, whereby salaries were restricted to those who actively served in the army. This marked an end to the previous system established by Caliph Umar, which paid stipends to veterans of the earlier Muslim conquests and their descendants.[40] While the Iraqi tribal nobility viewed those stipends as their traditional right, al-Hajjaj viewed them as a handicap restricting his and Abd al-Malik's executive authority and financial ability to reward loyalists in the army.[40] Stipends were similarly stopped to the inhabitants of the Hejaz, including members of the Quraysh.[61] Thus, a professional army was established during Abd al-Malik's reign whose salaries derived from tax proceeds.[40]

Institution of Islamic currency and Arabization of the bureaucracy[edit]

Poat reform dinar of Abd al-Malik, AH 79, no mint name
A gold dinar of Abd al-Malik minted in 698/99. Abd al-Malik introduced an independent Islamic currency in 693, which initially bore depictions of the caliph before being abandoned for coins solely containing inscriptions

Despite Abd al-Malik's victory over his Muslim rivals, the Umayyad Caliphate remained domestically and externally insecure, prompting a need to legitimize its existence, according to Blankinship.[17] Abd al-Malik's response to the Byzantine and Christian resurgence combined military and ideological means.[17] Likewise, Abd al-Malik responded to the criticism of Muslim religious circles, which dated from the beginning of Umayyad rule and culminated with the outbreak of the Second Muslim Civil War, by issuing Islamization measures.[62] Among these was the discontinuation of the Byzantine gold denarius as the caliphate's currency in Syria and Egypt.[36][17] A likely impetus for Abd al-Malik's measure was the Byzantines' addition of an image of Christ on their coins in 691/92, which violated Muslim prohibitions on images of prophets.[63] To replace the Byzantine coins, he introduced an Islamic gold currency, the dinar, in 693.[36][64] Initially, the new coinage contained depictions of the caliph as the spiritual leader of the Muslim community and its supreme military commander.[17] However, this image proved no less acceptable to Muslim officialdom and was replaced in 696 or 697 with image-less coinage inscribed with Qur'anic and other Muslim religious creeds.[64] Similarly, the Muslims' issue of silver dirhams in the Sassanian design was abolished under Abd al-Malik, and depictions of the Sassanian king were removed from the coinage in 698/99.[63]

Shortly after the complete overhaul of the caliphate's currency, in circa 700, Abd al-Malik is generally credited to have decreed the replacement of Greek with Arabic as the language of the dīwān (bureaucracy) in Syria.[64][65][66] Al-Hajjaj had initiated the Arabization of the Persian dīwān in Iraq, three years prior.[66] The Arabization of the bureaucracy and currency was the most consequential administrative change undertaken by the caliph and Arabic ultimately became the sole official language of the Umayyad state.[36][63] However, it was not until the last years of Umayyad rule in the 740s that Arabic became the bureaucratic language in faraway provinces, such as Persian Khurasan.[65] According to Gibb, the decree was the "first step towards the reorganization and unification of the diverse tax-systems in the provinces, and also a step towards a more definitely Muslim administration".[36] Indeed, it formed an important part of the Islamization measures that lent the Umayyad caliphate "a more ideological and programmatic coloring it had previously lacked", according to Blankinship.[67] In tandem, Abd al-Malik began the export of papyri containing the Muslim statement of belief in Greek to spread Islamic teachings in the Byzantine realm.[63] This was a further testament to the ideological expansion of the Byzantine–Muslim struggle.[63] The increasingly Muslim character of the state under Abd al-Malik was also a reflection of the influence of Islam in the lives of the caliph and the chief enforcer of his policies, al-Hajjaj, who belonged to the first generation of rulers to have been born and raised as Muslims.[36]

Foundation of the Dome of the Rock[edit]

The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem was founded by Abd al-Malik in 691/92

Abd al-Malik founded the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, having planned its construction in 685/86 or 688, shortly after becoming caliph.[68] Its dedication inscription mentions the year 691/92, the year that most scholars agree is the completion date of the building.[69][70] It is the earliest archaeologically-attested religious structure to be built by a Muslim ruler and the building's inscriptions contain the earliest epigraphic proclamation of Islam and of the prophet Muhammad.[71] The inscriptions proved to be a milestone as afterward they became a common feature in Islamic structures and almost always mention Muhammad.[71] The Dome of the Rock itself remains a "unique monument of Islamic culture in almost all respects", including as a "work of art and as a cultural and pious document", according to historian Oleg Grabar.[72]

Accounts by the medieval sources differ in deciphering Abd al-Malik's motivations to build the Dome of the Rock.[72] At the time of its construction, the caliph was engaged in war with Christian Byzantium and its Syrian Christian allies on the one hand and with the rival caliph Ibn al-Zubayr, who controlled Mecca, the annual destination of Muslim pilgrimage, on the other hand.[72][73] Thus, one series of explanations was that Abd al-Malik intended for the dome to be a religious monument of victory over the Christians that would distinguish Islam's uniqueness within the common Abrahamic religious setting of Jerusalem, home of the two older Abrahamic faiths, Judaism and Christianity.[72][74] The other main explanation holds that Abd al-Malik, in the heat of the war with Ibn al-Zubayr, sought to build the dome to divert the focus of the Muslims in his realm from the Ka'aba in Mecca, where Ibn al-Zubayr would publicly condemn the Umayyads during the annual pilgrimage to the sanctuary.[72][73][74] Though most modern historians dismiss the latter account as a product of anti-Umayyad propaganda in the traditional Muslim sources and doubt Abd al-Malik would attempt to alter the sacred Muslim requirement of fulfilling the pilgrimage to the Ka'aba, other historians concede that this cannot be conclusively dismissed.[72][73][74]

While many of his sons were responsible for numerous Umayyad architectural works, Abd al-Malik's known building activities were largely limited to Jerusalem, where, in addition to the Dome of the Rock, he is credited for expanding the boundaries of the Haram al-Sharif (the Temple Mount) to include the Foundation Stone around which the dome was built, building two gates of the Haram (possibly the Mercy Gate and the Prophet's Gate) and repairing the city's streets.[75][76]

Family and residences[edit]

Abd al-Malik had a number of children from several wives and slave women. He was married to Wallada bint al-Abbas ibn al-Jaz, a fourth-generation descendant of the prominent Banu Abs chieftain Zuhayr ibn Jadhima.[77] She bore Abd al-Malik sons al-Walid I, Sulayman, Marwan al-Akbar and a daughter, A'isha.[77] He also married Atika, a daughter of Yazid, who bore them sons Yazid II, Marwan, Mu'awiya and a daughter, Umm Kulthum.[77][78] Another of his wives, A'isha bint Hisham ibn Isma'il, belonged to the Banu Makhzum clan and mothered Abd al-Malik's son Hisham.[77] From his marriage to Umm Ayyub bint Amr, a granddaughter of Caliph Uthman, Abd al-Malik had his son al-Hakam, who apparently died at a young age.[77][79] Abd al-Malik also married A'isha bint Musa, a granddaughter of Talha ibn Ubaydallah and together they had a son, Bakkar, who was also known as Abu Bakr.[77][80] From one of his wives, Umm al-Mughira bint al-Mughira ibn Khalid, Abd al-Malik had his daughter Fatima, who would later wed his nephew and future caliph Umar II.[77] Abd al-Malik also married and divorced a certain Umm Abiha, a granddaughter of Ja'far ibn Ali.[77][81] Abd al-Malik's sons from his slave women, collectively referred to as ummahāt awlad (sing. umm walad), were Abd Allah, Maslama, al-Mundhir, Anbasa, Muhammad, Sa'id al-Khayr and al-Hajjaj.[77] By the time of his death, fourteen of Abd al-Malik's sons had survived him, according to 9th-century historian al-Yaqubi.[50]

Abd al-Malik divided his time between Damascus and a number of seasonal residences in its general vicinity.[82][83] According to medieval and modern-day sources, he spent the winter months mostly in Damascus and al-Sinnabra near Lake Tiberias, then to Jabiya in the Golan Heights and Dayr Murran, a monastery village on the slopes of Mount Qasyun overlooking the Ghuta orchards of Damascus.[82][83] He would typically return to the city in March and leave again in the heat of summer to Ba'albak in the Biqa'a Valley before heading back to Damascus in early autumn.[82][83]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Kennedy 2016, p. 80.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Gibb 1960, p. 76.
  3. ^ a b Ahmed 2010, p. 111.
  4. ^ Della Vida 2000, p. 838.
  5. ^ Donner 1981, pp. 77–78.
  6. ^ Kennedy 2016, pp. 78–79.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Kennedy 2016, p. 79.
  8. ^ Crone 1980, pp. 100, 125.
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  16. ^ Kennedy 2016, pp. 80–81.
  17. ^ a b c d e f Blankinship 1994, p. 28.
  18. ^ a b Blankinship 1994, p. 27–28.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g Kennedy 2001, p. 33.
  20. ^ Wellhausen 1927, p. 204.
  21. ^ a b c d Kennedy 2016, p. 84.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Kennedy 2016, p. 87.
  23. ^ Kennedy 2016, p. 86—87.
  24. ^ Fishbein 1990, p. 181.
  25. ^ Wellhausen 1927, pp. 195–196.
  26. ^ a b c Wellhausen 1927, p. 197.
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  29. ^ a b c d Hawting 2000, p. 58.
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  31. ^ Wellhausen 1927, p. 200.
  32. ^ a b c Ahmed 2010, p. 152.
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  35. ^ Wellhausen 1927, p. 229.
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  37. ^ Wellhausen 1927, pp. 228–229.
  38. ^ Kennedy 2001, pp. 33–34.
  39. ^ a b c Wellhausen 1927, p. 231.
  40. ^ a b c d e Kennedy 2016, p. 89.
  41. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Kennedy 2016, p. 88.
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  45. ^ Blankinship 1994, p. 31.
  46. ^ Wellhausen 1927, pp. 216–217, 222.
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  59. ^ Crone 1980, p. 163.
  60. ^ a b Robinson 2005, p. 68.
  61. ^ Elad 2016, p. 331.
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Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan
Born: 646/47 Died: 9 October 705
Preceded by
Marwan I
Caliph of Islam
Umayyad Caliph

12 April 685 – 9 October 705
Succeeded by
Al-Walid I