Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik

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Sulayman bin Abd al-Malik
سلیمان بن عبدالملك بن مروان
سليمان بن عبد الملك.png
Caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate
Reign23 February 715 – 22 September 717
PredecessorAl-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik
SuccessorUmar ibn Abd al-Aziz
Died21 September 717 (aged 43)
Full name
Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik
HouseBanu Abd Shams
FatherAbd al-Malik ibn Marwan
MotherWalida bint Al-Abbas[1]

Sulayman bin Abd al-Malik (Arabic: سليمان بن عبد الملك‎) (c. 674 – 22 September 717) was an Umayyad caliph who ruled from 715 until 717. His father was Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, and he was a younger brother of the previous caliph, al-Walid I.

Early years[edit]

Under the rule of his brother al-Walid he had been the governor of Palestine.[2] In the tribal politics of the Near East at that time (the Qays-Yaman conflict) he allied himself to the Yamanis. When Yazid ibn al-Muhallab escaped from al-Hajjaj, he made his way to Sulayman in Palestine. Sulayman granted him refuge. Al-Hajjaj pressed al-Walid about this and the caliph commanded Sulayman to send him Yazid in chains. Sulayman had his own son chained to Yazid approach al-Walid and present Sulayman's forcefully written letter insisting on sanctuary for Yazid. Al-Walid accepted this and so informed al-Hajjaj.

Assumption of power as caliph and his appointments[edit]

Sulayman was hailed as caliph on February 23, 715, the day al-Walid died. He appointed Yazid ibn al-Muhallab governor of Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Salih ibn Abd al-Rahman financial administrator there. Salih was also instructed to arrest and execute the family of al-Hajjaj, one of two prominent leaders (the other was Qutaibah bin Muslim) who had supported the succession of al-Walid's son Yazid, rather than Sulayman. Al-Hajjaj had predeceased al-Walid, so he was no longer alive to pose a threat. However his nephew, Muhammad bin Qasim had to be eliminated by Sulayman in order to safeguard his own rule.

Qutaibah was considerably alarmed at the ascension of Sulayman to the throne. He first sent an envoy to the caliph with letters asserting his loyalty as he was loyal to previous caliphs, urging Sulayman not to replace Qutaibah as governor of Khurasan with Yazid ibn al-Muhallab and, finally, if the envoy saw Sulayman favouring Yazid, with Qutaibah's renunciation of allegiance to Sulayman. Sulayman sent the envoy back with a confirmation of Qutaibah's governorship. However, Qutaibah had already attempted to rebel. Qutaibah's troops rejected his appeal to revolt, killed him and sent his head to Sulayman.[3]

Sulayman appointed Yazid ibn al-Muhallab governor of Khurasan. Yazid was happy to escape the financial strictness of Salih ibn Abd al-Rahman in Mesopotamia (Iraq).[citation needed]

Policies as caliph[edit]

As he remained close to the Yamanis, Sulayman did not move to Damascus on becoming Caliph, but rather he remained in Ramla in Palestine. His Khurasani governor Yazid continued expansion into mountainous parts of Iran such as Tabaristan. Sulayman also sent a large army under Maslama ibn Abd al-Malik to attack the Byzantine capital, Constantinople. This was a determined attack that lasted through the winter. The caliph's armies also advanced beyond Byzantine territory and took a Slavic stronghold.[4] The siege of Constantinople occasioned hunger inside the city and among the besiegers. After the intervention of Bulgaria on Byzantine side it ultimately proved to be unsuccessful. Sulayman was on his way to attack the Byzantine border when he died in 717. Sulayman led a conquest of Dahlak Archipelago from Kingdom of Aksum, which became caliphate territory from that point on, although later recovered in the 9th century and vassal to the Emperor of Ethiopia.[5]

In the domestic scene, he had wells built in Mecca for pilgrims, and organized enforcement of prayers. Sulayman was known for his exceptional oratory skills and was fondly remembered.[6]

The Arab Umayyad Caliphate in 715 AD desposed Ikhshid, the king the Fergana Valley, and installed a new king Alutar on the throne. The deposed king fled to Kucha (seat of Anxi Protectorate), and sought Chinese intervention. The Tang dynasty Chinese sent 10,000 troops under Zhang Xiaosong to Ferghana. He defeated Alutar and the Arab occupation force at Namangan and reinstalled Ikhshid on the throne.[7]

Chinese General Tang Jiahui led the Chinese to defeat the following Umayyad Arab-Tibetan attack in the Battle of Aksu (717).[8] The attack on Aksu was joined by Turgesh Khan Suluk.[9][10] Both Uch Turfan and Aksu were attacked by the Turgesh, Arab, and Tibetan force on 15 August 717. Qarluqs serving under Chinese command, under Arsila Xian, a Western Turkic Qaghan serving under the Chinese Assistant Grand Protector General Tang Jiahui defeated the attack. Al-Yashkuri, the Arab commander and his army fled to Tashkent after they were defeated.[11][12]

Naming of his successor[edit]

In A.H. 98 (716–717) Sulayman named his son Ayyub heir to the throne. However, Ayyub died that same year. Sulayman considered naming a son to replace him. However, he received advice that it was uncertain the son fighting at Constantinople was still alive and others were too young. So, he passed these over, broke with tradition by not maintaining a hereditary dynasty and appointed Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz as his successor. Umar had a reputation as being one of the most wise, capable and pious persons of that era. This appointment is rare, although it technically fulfils the Sunni Islamic method of appointing a successor, whereas hereditary succession does not.[13][14]


Sulayman donned an impressive green robe and turban and seeing himself in the mirror commented on how he looked to be in the prime of life. A week later he was dead. He died on either September 22 or October 1, 717. Al-Tabari[15] records the following anecdote: "According to 'Ali--Suhaym b. Hafs: A slave girl belonging to Sulayman looked at him one day, and he asked, "How do you like what you see?" She recited:

You are the best object of delight—if only you would last./ But man does not possess immortality.

I do not know of any blemish in you / that other people have, except that you will pass away.

He was entombed at Dabiq following his death. The tomb was destroyed after the ISIS' takeover of the town in August 2014.


  1. ^ Dr. Eli Munif Shahla, "Al-Ayam al-Akhira fi Hayat al-Kulafa", Dar al-Kitab al-Arabi, 1st ed., 1998, p. 236
  2. ^ Crone 1980, p. 125.
  3. ^ re Qutaibah, al-Tabari v. 24 pp 5–25, head 30
  4. ^ al-Tabari v. 24, p. 42
  5. ^ Daniel Kendie, The Five Dimensions of the Eritrean Conflict 1941–2004: Deciphering the Geo-Political Puzzle. United States of America: Signature Book Printing, Inc., 2005, pp.228.
  6. ^ al-Tabari v. 24, p. 62
  7. ^ *Bai, Shouyi et al. (2003). A History of Chinese Muslim (Vol.2). Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company. ISBN 7-101-02890-X., pp. 235-236
  8. ^ Insight Guides (1 April 2017). Insight Guides Silk Road. APA. ISBN 978-1-78671-699-6.
  9. ^ René Grousset (1970). The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia. Rutgers University Press. pp. 114–. ISBN 978-0-8135-1304-1.
  10. ^ Jonathan Karam Skaff (6 August 2012). Sui-Tang China and Its Turko-Mongol Neighbors: Culture, Power, and Connections, 580-800. Oxford University Press. pp. 311–. ISBN 978-0-19-999627-8.
  11. ^ Christopher I. Beckwith (28 March 1993). The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia: A History of the Struggle for Great Power Among Tibetans, Turks, Arabs, and Chinese During the Early Middle Ages. Princeton University Press. pp. 88–89. ISBN 0-691-02469-3.
  12. ^ Marvin C. Whiting (2002). Imperial Chinese Military History: 8000 BC-1912 AD. iUniverse. pp. 277–. ISBN 978-0-595-22134-9.
  13. ^ Atyya, Bassam. Political Thought of Ibn Taymiya (in Arabic) (1st ed.). Amman: Yaqut. p. 169., page 169
  14. ^ Ibn Hazm. Al-fasl fil al-Milal wal-Nihal (in Arabic), page 28
  15. ^ v. 24 p. 63


Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik
Born: 674 Died: 22 September 717
Sunni Islam titles
Preceded by
Al-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik
Caliph of Islam
Umayyad Caliph

715 – 22 September 717
Succeeded by
Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz