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From Abd al-Malik to Hisham. Islamic History: the First 150 Years. Session Plan. Unity Restored Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz Hisham and the End of Expansion Rumblings of Thunder Readings. Section I: Unity Restored. Unity Lost.

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From abd al malik to hisham l.jpg

From Abd al-Malik to Hisham

Islamic History: the First 150 Years


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Session Plan

  • Unity Restored

  • Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz

  • Hisham and the End of Expansion

  • Rumblings of Thunder

  • Readings



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Unity Lost

  • During the first 3 sessions, we looked at the evolution of the early Muslim community

  • We saw that the central question facing the Muslim state was that of leadership

  • In sessions one and two we looked at the differing responses to these questions under Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali

  • We then looked at the break down of the patriarchal caliphate

  • The first fitna: Ali & Mu’awiya

  • The second fitna: Umayyads, Husayn and Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr

  • We also saw the emergence of a fourth trend, if you will, that of the ‘neutrals’


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Unity Restored

  • As we saw last week, with the death of Ibn al-Zubayr, Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan became the undisputed caliph

  • The reign of Abd al-Malik is an important one for a number of reasons

  • Firstly, it is with him that the Umayyad empire takes its concrete form

  • Secondly, his twenty year rule allowed relative peace and stability to return

  • Thirdly, a number of important religious developments occur in his reign

  • Fourthly, his reign (and that of his son Hisham) mark the effective zenith of the Umayyad empire


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Unity Restored

  • However, despite his importance, we will not be exploring his reign in fine detail

  • I intend to explore a number of key elements, which, it is hoped, will paint a representative picture

  • These include:

  • Relationships with Religious Notables

  • Iraq

  • Jerusalem

  • Further reading: C.F. Robinson Abd al-Malik


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Relationships

  • Abd al-Malik’s relations with the religious elite are marked by ambiguity

  • Unlike earlier caliphs, Abd al-Malik had grown up in Islam

  • As a young man, he had shown a particular interest in the study of Prophetic Traditions and in the biography of Muhammad

  • Some reports also state that he had memorised the entire Quran (hafiz al-Quran)

  • Tradition, however, relates that his accession brought about a change

  • He is said to have subordinated everything to policy

  • That is, he seems to have taken the running of the empire seriously

  • Raja ibn Haiwa al-Kindi, an early religious figure, seems to have been influential under him

  • Moreover, he also patronised ibn Shihab al-Zuhri, the early hadith scholar and historian (whom we met last week)

  • Despite this, it is from his reign onwards that we begin to see learned Muslims effectively staying away from involvement with the government

  • In other words, it was considered somewhat disreputable for a religious scholar to be associated with the state

  • This may well be due to the increasingly negative view of the Umayyad dynasty


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Iraq

  • In Iraq, Abd al-Malik’s drive for stability and order effectively meant the repression of rebellious elements

  • His governor, al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf al-Thaqafi, was infamous for his use of naked force

  • His command began with what Hodgson describes as ‘terrifying violence’ in which 1000s are said to have died

  • A major Kharijite revolt was also defeated

  • However, his harsh measures eventually prompted sections of the army itself to revolt under ibn al-Ash’ath

  • Al-Hajjaj also built a number of canals and irrigation channels


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Other Measures

  • Abd al-Malik also reformed the coinage

  • The earlier method of using existing Byzantine and Sassanid coinage was replaced

  • A new Islamic coinage was introduced

  • They were of a standard weight and metal standard and helped stabilise the economy

  • They also carried ideological/religious messages

  • They were aniconic

  • Contained passages from the Quran and statements of Islamic belief

  • They were so successful that they quickly became the standard form of Muslim coinage



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Mecca & Jerusalem

  • The Ka’ba at Mecca the central shrine of Islam

  • Islamic tradition describes the sanctuary as being built by Abraham and Ishmael

  • The Arab tribes who inherit the site eventually fall into paganism

  • Key idols of Mecca:

  • Manat: literally meaning ‘fate’, this ‘deity’ was widely worshipped throughout Arabia

  • Al-`Uzza: literally meaning ‘the mighty one’ (feminine)

  • Al-Lat: ‘the Goddess’

  • These three goddesses are the ‘deities’ named in the Satanic Verses story

  • Believed to have power of intercession with Allah


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Mecca & Jerusalem

  • Islamic tradition holds that Allah was recognised by the pagan Arabs as a ‘High God’

  • Hubal: an imported ‘deity’ originally from Palestine

  • The tradition holds that on the conquest of Mecca, Muhammad cleared the Kaba of some 360 idols

  • A suspiciously round number

  • Not impossible of course, but seems to represent a ‘god’ for every day of the solar year

  • The Meccan shrine, according to the tradition, was thus the ritual centre of Islam from the beginning


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Mecca & Jerusalem

  • Indeed there are numerous references to the ‘House’ in the Quran

  • Some modern authorities, however, understand this development differently

  • Crone and Cook – Hagarism

  • Within the Islamic framework, Mecca holds a particular importance

  • During the early period of Islam (and indeed the whole of Islamic history) control of the Meccan shrine was politically important

  • Within our context, Abdullah in al-Zubayr’s control of Mecca enabled him to claim a large degree of legitimacy

  • That is, God Himself, the ‘Lord of this House’ (surah quraysh), had given control of his sanctuary to ibn al-Zubayr

  • Important propaganda value


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Mecca and Jerusalem

  • Once in control of Umayyad Syria, Abd al-Malik began to develop the Temple Mount area of Jerusalem

  • The Temple Mount had been empty for quite some time

  • Abd al-Malik built the Dome of the Rock

  • This is a deeply fascinating building

  • It is not a traditional mosque: it’s a hexagonal building built around a central mount

  • This is believed to be the spot where Muhammad ascended to heaven

  • Al-Zuhri cites a report in which Abd al-Malik allegedly built the Dome of the Rock to compete with Mecca (then under Zubayrid control)

  • A somewhat defaced inscription on the Dome of the Rock reads: ‘The servant of God, Abd al-Malik, the Amir al-Mumineen, built this Qubba in the year 72 hijri’

  • Al-Ma’mun (an Abbasid Caliph) had Abd al-Malik’s name removed and his own put in its place


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Mecca and Jerusalem

  • The most interesting question regarding the Dome of the Rock is why?

  • Why build such an unusual sanctuary there, at this time?

  • The Dome is also adorned with Quranic calligraphy and is one of the earliest uses of the Quran on architecture

  • The Quranic texts used on the Dome are also interesting and probably point towards Abd al-Malik’s actual intentions

  • They quote passages from the Quran which refer to the Islamic understanding of Jesus Christ

  • Specifically, they refer to Islam’s understanding that he was not divine, but a human prophet

  • In other words, the Dome is thus part of a wider theological debate

  • It was also probably meant to physically assert Islam’s religious, theological and political superiority over both Judaism and Christianity








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Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz

  • Abd al-Malik had a large family and because of this four of his children became caliphs after him

  • However, the most famous ruler after him was not actually his son, but his nephew Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz

  • Umar is an interesting character and is the only Umayyad caliph to be viewed positively by later Muslim tradition

  • Indeed, some even felt that he was the fifth ‘rightly guided caliph’ after Muhammad

  • Although there are a number of reasons for this, perhaps the most significant of them is the perception of Umar’s motives

  • In other words, Umar is perceived to ruled through adherence to Islamic norms

  • Or, again, he ruled in accordance with what our sources felt were Islamic norms

  • In assessing Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, we must therefore take our sources’ biases into account

  • Nevertheless, it does seem that Umar was personally committed to his religious principles and seems to have attempted to rule by them


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Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz

  • Wellhausen, an early 20th century writer, has this to say:

    ‘Sulaiman was a luxurious profligate, Umar almost an ascetic; to the former the ruling power offered unlimited means of enjoyment; upon the latter it imposed a a weight of responsibility. In everything he did judgement loomed before his eyes, and he was always afraid of coming up short of the requirements of God’ (p. 268)

  • Umar’s Policies…

  • Almost all outward expansion stopped and most advanced outposts withdrawn

  • However, the Narbonne region of southern France was fortified under Umar

  • Although he used existing men, Umar seems to have appointed provincial governors for their ability and honesty (Tab. 3. 1383)

  • Thus Abd al-Hamid ibn Abd al-Rahman of Umar I’s family became governor of Kufa

  • He also brought the emerging Islamic religious scholarly elite into the business of government

  • In a letter to his provincial governors, he is said to have named the pillars of government as:

  • The Wali (Executive Governor)

  • The Judge (or Qadi, i.e. someone learned in Islamic law)

  • The Tax Administrator

  • The Caliph


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Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz

  • He appointed the famous Hasan al-Basri Qadi (judge) of Basra

  • Hasan is an important early ascetic and ‘mystic’

  • Umar also reformed the tax system

  • Although his changes were rather complex, in essence we can say that he attempted to make taxation conform to Islamic ideals

  • Thus the mawali were given automatic entitlement to their Quranically allotted privileges

  • Land use was also reformed: common land was to be used for the communities to which it was originally intended

  • The sources report that Umar was an eager ‘missionary’

  • He is said to have invited the rulers of Sind (in modern Pakistan) and various Berber tribes (in Morocco and Algeria) to accept Islam

  • Umar also wrote to the Byzantine emperor Leo II, in an apparent attempt to convert him

  • He prohibited the cursing of Ali, which Mu’awiya had introduced

  • He is also said to have ordered the collation of Prophetic Traditions, in order to ensure their authenticity

  • This last measure presumably sprang from two motives…

  • A desire to preserve/record Muhammad’s words

  • A desire to preserve a key source of Islamic law (the Shariah)


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Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz

  • However, despite all of these energetic reforms, Umar’s reign was a short one

  • He died after a mere 2 years in office (715-717CE)

  • In some senses, this is another important factor in his enduring popularity

  • That is, had he ruled for longer, he may not have been able to maintain his momentum

  • Hisham, Umar’s effective (but not actual successor), undid all of these reforms and restored Umayyad dominance on its pre-existing lines

  • And, as we shall see, although he reigned for a long time in relative peace, his caliphate saw the beginnings of the end for the Umayyad dynasty




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Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik

  • As his name suggests, Hisham was a son of Abd al-Malik

  • He ruled the Muslim empire from 105-125AH (or 724-743CE)

  • His 20 year rule thus brought stability after another period of turmoil after Umar II’s death

  • Essential Readings for Hisham

  • K. Y. Blankinship The End of the Jihad State

  • J. Wellhausen The Arab Kingdom and its Fall


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Internal Opposition

  • Kharijite groups, spread to North Africa

  • Shiite discontent continued to manifest itself

  • In 740CE, Zayd ibn Ali revolted at Kufa against Hisham

  • Zayd ibn Ali (Zayn al-Abidin) ibn Husayn ibn Ali

  • Brother of Muhammad ibn Ali al-Baqir

  • Despite popular support, the revolt was soon crushed

  • However, despite its failure, Zayd’s revolt was significant in a number of ways

  • Firstly, it underlines continuing opposition to Umayyad rule from the Alid family and its supporters

  • Secondly, Zayd became another martyr to the Shiite cause

  • Thirdly, his rising marks the emergence of a new trend in Shiite thought regarding the nature of the imamate (more on this in a moment)

  • Fourthly, the Abbasid revolution (which we will come to in the next session) styled itself as vengeance for Zayd (and all other Shiite martyrs)


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Zayd’s Refrom Manifesto

  • Apply the Quran and Sunnah

  • Wage jihad against oppressors

  • Defend the weak

  • Provide for the deprived

  • Equally divide the income from Muslim property by right of conquest (fay’) among those deserving it

  • Satisfy complaints

  • Bring back those held in the field campaigning for more than one year

  • Support the Alids against those resisting or denying their rights


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The Concept of Imamate in Early Shii Thought

  • As you might expect, during the century of Umayyad rule, the Shiite concept of Imamate underwent some development

  • Although charting the development in detail would take too long here, we can look at some key features

  • Those interested in this subject should consult…

  • S. H. Jafri The History and Early Development of Shia Islam

  • A. Lalani Early Shii Thought: the Teachings of Muhammad al-Baqir

  • M. Hodgson ‘How did the Shia become sectarian?’ (This is a journal article; I own a copy)

  • Ali as Imam and Amir al-Muminin

  • In other words, temporal and religious functions combined

  • The fact that his descendents did not hold power was problematic at first

  • However, probably first under Zayn al-Abidin, Shii thinkers began to separate these two aspect

  • That is, the authority of the imam did not depend on his holding power


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The Concept of Imamate in Early Shii Thought

  • Muhammad al-Baqir and later his son, Ja’far al-Sadiq, began to articulate this idea clearly

  • Thus although they were not involved in politics they still seem to have understood themselves to be the rightful imams of the Muslim community

  • They put forward two main arguments

  • Firstly, after Hasan’s death, the imamate could only run through Husayn’s line

  • Secondly, an imam could only be appointed by the explicit designation (known as nass in Arabic) of the incumbent

  • Essentially, this stabilised the charismatic leadership of the Alid house

  • As we saw last week, moreover, there were some within the Shia milieu that believed the imam to be more than human (we will look more at this in the next session)

  • However, this was not the only viewpoint

  • Zayd (Muhammad’s brother) seems to have strongly disagreed with this idea

  • He argued, in common with al-Baqir, that an imam can only come from the house of Ali


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The Concept of Imamate in Early Shii Thought

  • However, he did not restrict this to the line of Husayn

  • Rather, any suitably qualified Alid could be a potential imam

  • Two things were required to actualise this

  • Religious Knowledge

  • Public Declaration of Imamate

  • According to Zayd, the Imam had to arise ‘sword in hand’

  • These differences eventually led to the development of two different schools of thought within Shia Islam

  • Those who followed Muhammad al-Baqir’s ideas became known as the Imami Shia

  • From the Imami school of thought later emerged the Twelver Shia of Iran, as well as the Ismaili (and thus Druze) Shia – i.e. those who follow the Aga Khan

  • Those who followed Zayd became known as Zaydi Shia

  • Because they did not accept ‘designation’ as such, there were many small groups of independent Zaydis

  • During the course of time, Zaydi Shiites established imamates in northern Persia (on the shores of the Caspian Sea) in the Daylam region and in Yemen


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The Twelver Shia Line

  • Ali ibn Abi Talib

  • Hasan ibn Ali

  • Hussein ibn Ali

  • Ali ibn Hussein

  • Muhammad ibn Ali (known as al-Baqir, or ‘He who splits open [religious knowledge]’ and Zayd’s brother)

  • Ja’far ibn Muhammad (known as al-Sadiq, ‘the Truthful’)

  • Musa ibn Ja’far (al-Kazim)

  • Ali ibn Musa (al-Rida, or the ‘Chosen’)

  • Muhammad ibn Ali (al-Taqi, ‘the Godfearing’)

  • Ali ibn Muhammad (al-Naqi)

  • Hasan ibn Ali (al-`Askari)

  • Muhammad ibn Ali (al-Mahdi, the ‘Rightly Guided One’ or the Messiah)


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External Opposition

  • Hisham’s rule was also challenged by a number of external foes

  • As we saw, Hisham reversed Umar’s policy of disengagement and initiated an aggressive expansionist policy

  • At first this appeared to be largely successful

  • However, the strains caused by this expansionism soon began to show

  • Muslim armies met with a number of serious defeats in many of its main theatres of war

  • Moreover, new fronts also opened up

  • The effect of all of this was to place a serious burden on the Muslim empire’s available manpower

  • A brief glance at a map will help make this clear…



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External Opposition

  • Anatolia: war against the Byzantines continued throughout this period

  • Caucasus: Muslim forces suffer a number of serious setbacks against the Khazar confederation (in alliance with Byzantium)

  • Khazar forces manage to raid Armenia and threaten Mosul (northern Iraq)

  • Central Asia: the Turgesh confederation inflicted a number of defeats on Muslim forces

  • Sijistan: a number of expensive campaigns against the Zunbil

  • Sind/India: Muslim forces faced a number of resurgent Hindu kingdoms and were effectively driven back

  • Khurasan: at the Battle of the Defile, Muslim casualties are reported to have been approximately 20,000 dead

  • Mediterranean Area: Sicily and Sardinia attacked

  • Spanish Frontier: Frankish attacks drive Muslims out of southern France (Narbonne)


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External Opposition

  • These defeats swallowed up much of the available manpower

  • Moreover, they also placed a great strain on the Syrian forces

  • Because these were, in some senses, ‘crack’ troops they had been used to keep the peace in Iraq and other places

  • With these defeats, more Syrian contingents began to be sent to different frontiers

  • This weakened the internal hold of the Umayyad dynasty significantly

  • Indeed, this only exacerbated the problem as Syrian troops became too thinly spread to prevent further revolts

  • The Great Berber Revolt: 122-125AH (740-743CE)

  • Excessive taxation and the illegal removal of Muslim Berbers as slaves seem to have been the immediate causes

  • In any case, an enormous rebellion eventually proved successful and Umayyad control of the Maghreb region was lost


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External Opposition

  • This also considerably weakened the government’s hold of Spain

  • However, a fugitive Umayyad eventually took control of the province in the aftermath of the Abbasid revolution

  • Hisham dies in 125AH (743CE)

  • Yazid III

  • His revolt soon crushed, but, his apparent programme is interesting

  • A self-conscious return to the past?

  • Main points include…

  • Not to build any buildings of brick or stone, nor to dig any new canals

  • Not to hoard wealth

  • Not to give wealth to wives or children

  • To transfer wealth to other provinces only after first is fully taken care of

  • Spend any surplus in nearest province


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External Opposition

  • Not to keep troops in the field for more than 1 year

  • Not to lock out petitioners

  • To reduce non-Muslim taxation

  • To give all Muslim troops equal stipends

  • To acknowledge the right of Muslims to reproach the Caliph should he stray

  • In some senses, this is reminiscent of Zayd ibn Ali’s programme

  • And, is probably best seen as an attempt to address the perceived social ills of the day via a return to Islamic norms

  • As Blankinship says, ‘This program is redolent of irritation with the policies of Hisham…’ (p.227)



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Rumblings of Thunder

  • As we have seen, by the time of Hisham’s death the Muslim empire had reached something of an impasse

  • It had suffered several important military defeats

  • Moreover, these defeats meant a significant drop in the level and amount of booty

  • In many ways, it was this drop in income which caused the most significant problems for the Umayyad regime

  • Large scale war booty had effectively masked the underlying difficulties of the period and with their removal, they began to surface

  • Firstly, Hisham’s death saw another return to civil war, as a number of factions fought for control

  • This resulted in the accession and death of a number of candidates

  • This led to military revolts and provincial insecurities, further exacerbating the economic situation


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Rumblings of Thunder

  • Secondly, this period again saw the re-emergence of a number of Shia uprisings

  • However we will look more closely at that in the following session

  • Thirdly, this political instability was made worse by the continuing feud between the Quda’a and Qays tribal groupings

  • Fourthly, during Hisham’s reign, the scholarly class (ulama) had once again begun to withdraw from public office

  • This effectively removed an important support for the Umayyad regime

  • And, indeed, became the breeding ground for active opposition

  • There were, furthermore, a number of Kharijite revolts



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Readings

  • Your reading packs contain a number of readings

  • P. Crone Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam

  • Oleg Grabar Ceremonial and Art at the Umayyad Court

  • Oleg Grabar The Formation of Islamic Art

  • Pre-Islamic Poetry (The Hanged Poems)

  • A short passage attributed to Hasan al-Basri


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