IBRAHIM AND MERWAN II., LAST OF THE UMEIYADS
126-130 A.H. / 744-748 A.D.
IBRAHIM can hardly be said to have succeeded his brother Yezid. He assumed indeed the government at Damascus, and held it for three or four months. He was addressed by some as Caliph, by others only as Amir. No general homage was done to him. It seems to have been felt that, unless in South Syria, he had no proper hold on the Caliphate, as events, in point of fact, did soon determine.
For Merwan immediately on receiving tidings of Yezid's decease, started from his home in Harran, in the centre of the Keis country, with a heavy force for Syria. At Kinnasrin, the Modari party joined his standard. Strengthened by their adherence, he advanced on Hims, which, refusing to acknowledge Ibrahim, had been invested by his troops. Raising the siege, and with an army now of 80,000 men, he continued his march upon the Capital. A force had already started from thence to stay his approach. It was commanded by Suleiman son of Hisham, and composed chiefly of the Yemeni and other adherents of the late Caliph, numbered 120,000 men. Merwan's ranks, however, were full of veterans used to the field. They met in a valley between Baalbek and Damascus. Merwan astutely demanded of his enemy homage to two sons of Al-Welid, now in confinement at Damascus. They were in the enemy's hands, and he knew their fate was sealed in any case. Homage was refused, and the armies joined battle.
They fought all day, but Merwan, used to warlike tactics, in the evening sent a column by a circuit, which, taking his enemy in the rear, put them to a disastrous flight; 17,000 were left on the army.
field and as many more taken prisoners. Damascus thus left defenceless, Ibrahim and Suleiman made their escape to Tadmor, the seat of the Beni Kelb, but not before they had plundered the treasury and put the two sons of Al-Welid to death, also Yusuf ibn 'Omar, the late tyrant of Al-Kufa. They had no sooner fled than the adherents of Al-Welid rose upon the relatives of the fallen ruler with slaughter and riot, and having exhumed the body of Yezid III., impaled it at the Jabiya gate of the city. Merwan, on coming up, had the bodies of Al-Welid's sons honourably buried, as also that of Yusuf.
And, there being now none with a better claim, he was saluted Caliph, and thereafter returned to his palace at Harran. His policy was one of conciliation and clemency. Thabit ibn No'eim, who had mutinied against him in the Caucasus, was, with his consent, chosen Wali of Filastin. Ibrahim, who survived only a year or two, was admitted to amnesty; and so also was Suleiman, who to outward appearance was reconciled, and in token thereof gave his sister in marriage to the son of Merwan. His accession was a blow to Kelb and Koda'a, as his interests were those of Keis. He was also opposed to the Kadariya, who held the doctrine of free will, whom his predecessor had fostered.
His success notwithstanding, embers of disaffection were ever bursting into flame around Merwan. The support accorded him by the Modar (northern) clan, and the sanguinary defeat inflicted by them, rankled in the breast of the Yemeni (or southern) tribes. Khariji adventurers sprang up in every quarter of the Empire; and the Hashimi (or 'Abbasid) conspiracy spread with alarming rapidity, especially in the East. Disaffection brooded over the Empire. Merwan, with all his strength and warlike prowess, was ever endeavouring to stem the rising wave. Even the men of Kelb, till now "the loyalest of the loyal," and the Syrian troops became disaffected. His reign was one continual struggle, which, spite of all his difficulties, would without doubt have put rebellion down, had the Syrian forces held a united and faithful front; but that, from the tribal jealousies prevailing, they failed to do, and the result was fatal to Umeiyad rule.
Harran, Merwan's home, where his father had lived and
where he had grown up, now became the Capital instead of Damascus. This aroused the jealousy of the Syrians and united their opposing parties against the Caliph.
First Hims rose in rebellion. As soon as Merwan approached it submitted and surrendered to him 1000 riders of Kelb who had come from Tadmor to its relief. They were, it seems, spared. At the same time, the Kelb tribes who were settled in and about Damascus, attacked the city; but they were discomfited by a detachment from Hims, and their villages in the beautiful vale of the Barada burned to the ground. Shortly after, a serious insurrection breaking out in Palestine, threatened Tiberias; the rebel leader, Thabit ibn No'eim, was taken prisoner with three sons, and executed. Tadmor, the chief town of Kelb, also rose against the Caliph, but on the arrival of Merwan made peace. Merwan's two sons were now declared heirs-apparent, and, to conciliate the other branches of the Umeiyad family, married to daughters of Hisham. But he had not rested long when fresh troubles arose.
It is a sign of the restlessness of Muslim feeling at this time, that besides the claims of the representatives of Al-'Abbas, the uncle, and of 'Ali, the cousin and son-in-law, of Muhammad, a pretender from another branch of which we hear nothing before, now appeared at Al-Kufa, in the person of Ibn Mu'awiya, great-grandson of Ja'far, 'Ali's brother who was killed in the battle of Muta.1 This man was honoured on account of his birth by the governor Ibn 'Omar in Al-Hira, who even provided for his support. His pretensions to the throne were warmly espoused by the citizens, especially by the erstwhile supporters of Zeid ibn 'Ali. When, then, Ibn Mu'awiya stepped forth to claim his pretended right, crowds followed after him, so that the plain from Al-Kufa to Al-Hira was white with them.
But immediately a force was sent against him, his brave supporters, after the fashion of the fickle city, fell away. The Zeidites alone did not yield until he was allowed, with his adherents, to depart across the Tigris to Al-Medain. There many flocked to his standard, including crowds of
1 Life of Mohammad, p. 395. Ja'far was the son of Abu Talib;
see table, supra, p. 385. He was killed two years before Mohammad's death.
1 Life of Mohammad, p. 395. Ja'far was the son of Abu Talib; see table, supra, p. 385. He was killed two years before Mohammad's death.
Persian slaves and Mawali from Al-Kufa.
With their aid he gained possession of Holwan and the hill-country east of the Tigris. In the next two years, supported by the Khawarij, he played a marvellous rôle in Persia, establishing his court at Istakhr, and being acknowledged in Ispahan, Ar-Reiy, Kumis, and other chief cities in the East. In 129 A.H., however, the Khawarij having been subdued by Ibn Hubeira, his followers were dispersed by the Syrian columns and he himself forced to fly to the far East.1
By this time Abu Muslim (of whom we shall here more shortly) had established himself in the Hashimi ('Abbasid) interest at Merv and Ibn Mu'awiya, learning that he was fighting for the house of Hashim, repaired to the governor of Herat and urged his claims as a scion of that descent. "Give us thy pedigree," said the Governor, "that we may know who thou art." "The son of Mu'awiya, who was the son of 'Abdallah, who was the son of Ja'far."2 But Mu'awiya, as the reader will understand, was a name of evil omen to a Hashimite; and so the answer ran,"'Abdallah we know, and Ja'far we know; but as for Mu'awiya, it is a name we know not of." "My grandfather," explained the fugitive, "was at the court of Mu'awiya when my father was born, and the Caliph bade him call the infant by his name, and for that received the gift of 100,000 dirhems." "An evil name, verily, for a small price," was the reply; "we recognise thee not."
On the matter being reported to him, Abu Muslim bade them release the rest of the party; but Ibn Mu'awiya, as a descendant of Abu Talib, was too dangerous a competitor to be spared, and so by command of the 'Abbasid viceroy, the fugitive was smothered under a mattress, and buried at Herat, where, says the historian, his tomb has become a place of pilgrimage. Abu Muslim had cause to rue the cruel deed.
No sooner had Ibn Mu'awiya quitted Al-Kufa, than a serious rebellion broke out in Al-'Irak under a leader named Ad-Dahhak, one of the Khawarij, who now cease to he a merely religious body, seeking to save their souls, and join in the free fight for the Empire of the Muslim world. To
1 His following must still have been great, as 40,000 are said to have
been taken prisoners, but released by Ibo Hubeira.
2 See table, p. 385.
1 His following must still have been great, as 40,000 are said to have been taken prisoners, but released by Ibo Hubeira.
2 See table, p. 385.
suppress this, Merwan gathered a force at Kirkisiya to be led by Yezid ibn Hubeira.1 But as it was assembling, 10,000 of the number, Yemenis from Syria, passing by Ar-Rusafa, persuaded the bellicose but ungrateful Suleiman to put himself at their head. Crowds of disloyalists flocked to his banner at Kinnasrin, and Merwan had to recall Ibn Hubeira from pursuit of Ad-Dahhak to oppose the army, now swelled to 70,000, led by his new and formidable rival.
After a heavy battle, Suleiman was completely defeated, losing his sons and 30,000 men; for Merwan would allow no quarter to be given nor prisoners taken. Suleiman fled to Hims; and thence, leaving his brother Sa'id there, to Al-Kufa. Merwan was still held back from attacking the Khawarij by the rebellion of Hims.
Though surrounded by eighty catapults, which threw shot day and night over the walls, it held out for nearly five months, but at last capitulated. Its walls, as well as those of Baalbek, Damascus, Jerusalem, and other towns, were dismantled, a fact which shows how widespread the rebellion had been. But Merwan had taken the clay from the foundations to repair the walls.
Meanwhile Al-'Irak also was in a state of dangerous rebellion. It began in the north in the territory of Rabi'a, not among Keis in the south. Rabi'a bore a grudge against Modar, who had dispossessed them of their territory, especially their leading clan Sheiban, round about Mosul, who were, since the time of Shabib, the chief Khariji tribe. On the death of Welid II. they set up a Caliph of their own. On his death he was succeeded by Ad-Dahhak, also of the same family as Shabib. After the expulsion of Ibn Mu'awiya, the never-ending feud broke out with redoubled violence at Al-Kufa,Modar siding naturally with Merwan's governor, the Yemen with his ousted predecessor, the son of 'Omar, who took possession of Al-Hira; and thus for four months a civil war was kept up between Al-Kufa and its suburb. Ad-Dahhak, who with a large body of the Khawarij, Sofriya, and other separatists, had taken advantage of the troubled times to ravage Mesopotamia, now hearing of this state of things, seized the opportunity
1 Yezid was son of 'Omar ibn Hubeira, murdered by Khalid (p. 386);
but like his father he is ordinarily called simply Ibn Hubeira.
1 Yezid was son of 'Omar ibn Hubeira, murdered by Khalid (p. 386); but like his father he is ordinarily called simply Ibn Hubeira.
for attacking Al-Kufa; and, although both sides joined to resist him, they were beaten, and the invaders took possession of the city. Ibn 'Omar fled to Wasit, but after three months he gave in and joined Ad -Dahhak, in whose ranks he found Suleiman also. Ad-Dahhak had now been above a year and a half master of the greater part of Al-'Irak when he returned to his home in Mosul and drove out the government troops. Merwan, still at Hims, sent his son 'Abdallah with a column of 8000, to hold him in check; but he had no sooner, with this view, thrown himself into Nasibin than Ad-Dahhak besieged him there with an army of 100,000.
Hims having surrendered, it was now high time for Merwan himself to take the field; and this he did with all the force at his disposal. The two armies met at Kefertutha between Harran and Nasibin raged all day and well on into the night, when search being made on the field, the body of Ad-Dahhak, who with 6000 sworn followers dismounted to fight to the death, was found pierced through with twenty wounds. Next day, the battle renewed, the leader of the Khawarij, by a wild onset on the Imperial centre, placed Merwan in such peril, that he fled for several miles; but returning, he found the wings holding firm, and the enemy completely routed.1 The leader of the charge, having penetrated to the camp, was there despatched by the cudgels of the servants.
Having sent the rebel's head all round Mesopotamia, Merwan pursued the Khawarij, who, under a new Bekri leader, still held together 40,000 strong, to Mosul, drove them across the Tigris, and dispersed them in the East. Suleiman escaped, but only to meet his end at the hands of the coming dynasty.2 The position upon the Tigris had become impossible owing to Al-'Irak having
1 We are told that after this engagement, the old Arab battle
in line (sufuf) as given up, and fighting carried on by battalions (karadis). This was one
of the changes introduced by Merwan.
2 We may here follow Suleiman to his end. He escaped with
his family and retainers to Sind, and eventually presented himself, as an enemy of the Umeiyads,
before the Hashimi Caliph, who at the first received him graciously. One of his courtiers seeing
this, recited verses warning the Caliph against appearances, and the danger of sparing any
Umeiyad. Thereupon he retired, and shortly after gave orders for Suleiman, like the rest of his
race, to be put to death.
1 We are told that after this engagement, the old Arab battle in line (sufuf) as given up, and fighting carried on by battalions (karadis). This was one of the changes introduced by Merwan.
2 We may here follow Suleiman to his end. He escaped with his family and retainers to Sind, and eventually presented himself, as an enemy of the Umeiyads, before the Hashimi Caliph, who at the first received him graciously. One of his courtiers seeing this, recited verses warning the Caliph against appearances, and the danger of sparing any Umeiyad. Thereupon he retired, and shortly after gave orders for Suleiman, like the rest of his race, to be put to death.
been seized by the Keisi Ihn Hubeira.
But though order was thus at last restored to the nearer parts of the Empire, the Khawarij had entire possession of Azerbijan, from which they drove out the Imperial troops. Throughout Arabia also they more or less prevailed; Abu Hamza their leader was so powerful that at one time he had possession of both the Holy Cities; and the Caliph was obliged to send a large force to restore order throughout Arabia. Though Abu Hamza appeared at the Pilgrimage with 700 followers against the Umeiyads, clad in black and with black banners, the emblem of the 'Abbasids, yet as
a Khariji he was equally opposed to the Hashimi pretender;
for neither the Umeiyad, nor as yet for the 'Abbasid race, did he profess any partiality or respect, but rather for the simple memory of Abu Bekr and 'Omar. It will thus appear that these Puritan covenanters, all over the Empire, if not in the ascendency, were yet powerful enough, even where baffled, to confuse and often paralyse the Government.
In the West, as elsewhere, the administration was weak and unsettled. The governors throughout Africa had to keep up a continual contest against the Berbers and the Khawarij.
In Spain, the Khariji element was weak, and the Hashimi unknown; but in all other respects Syria repeated itself in the Peninsula. The Arabs flocking thither in vast multitudes were taught to forget their native land, or rather to reproduce it in the West. Spain became to them a second home. Its landscape, to the Bedawi imagination, conjured up the lands of Syria and of Palestine, and the Bedawin seemed to nestle again in the scenes of their childhood. "Thus (we read) the Arabs spread themselves over the land; the men of Damascus settled in Albira (Elvira) because of its likeness to their native vale, and called it Damascus;" and so on with those who had come from Tadmor, Hims, Kinnasrin, and other cities of the East.1
1 Other places are mentioned, thus:"The men of Hims
settled in Ishbiliya (Seville), and called it Hims; of Kinnasrin, in Jaen, and called it Kinnasrin;
of the Jordan, in Reiya, and called it The Jordan; of Palestine, in Shadhuna, and called it Palestine;
of Egypt, in Todmir, and, from its similitude, called it Egypt," and so on. See Al-Ya'kubi,
Descripto Al-Magribi, ed. De Goeje, p. 14 f.
1 Other places are mentioned, thus:"The men of Hims settled in Ishbiliya (Seville), and called it Hims; of Kinnasrin, in Jaen, and called it Kinnasrin; of the Jordan, in Reiya, and called it The Jordan; of Palestine, in Shadhuna, and called it Palestine; of Egypt, in Todmir, and, from its similitude, called it Egypt," and so on. See Al-Ya'kubi, Descripto Al-Magribi, ed. De Goeje, p. 14 f.
But with the similitude of the old country, arose also its wretched feuds. The Yemen fought against Modar and Modar against the Yemen. The contest was maintained even more fiercely than against the infidel, till at last they agreed to appoint a neutral chief chosen from Koreish. But even this failed, and for some months, there being no Amir, anarchy was rife. Then they settled to have an Amir one year from the Modar, and the next from the Yemen tribe. But at the end of the first term the Modari ruler refused to resign. And so things went on in the distracted land, till, as we shall see, Spain slipped entirely from the grasp of the eastern Caliphate.
At various periods, the Greeks, taking advantage of the civil war, made inroads upon the border lands of Asia Minor and Syria, which Merwan, with trouble on his hands at home, had no means of opposing. He had also, for the same reason, to turn a deaf ear to Nasr's cry for help from Khorasan, where events, as will be shown in the next chapter, were rapidly hastening the downfall of the Umeiyad dynasty.
On the restoration of order in Mesopotamia and Al-'Irak, Merwan returned to Harran his residence in the Desert, and there remained in dangerous and inopportune repose, till he was called away by the fatal campaign of the Zab.
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