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Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan

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Abd al-Malik
Khalīfat Allāh
Obverse of golden coin depicting a standing, robed and bearded figure holding a long object, with Arabic inscriptions along the coin's rim
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
BornJune/July 646
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
Yazīd II
ʿAbd Allāh
Saʿīd al-Khayr
Marwān al-Akbar
Marwān al-Aṣghar
Abū Bakr Bakkār
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

Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan ibn al-Hakam (Arabic: عبد الملك ابن مروان بن الحكم‎, romanizedʿAbd al-Malik ibn Marwān ibn al-Ḥakam; June/July 646 – 9 October 705) was the fifth Umayyad caliph, ruling from April 685 until his death. A first generation born-Muslim, his early life in Medina was occupied by pious pursuits. He held various administrative or military posts under Caliph Mu'awiya I (r. 661–680), founder of the Umayyad Caliphate, and his own father, Caliph Marwan I (r. 684–685). At the time of Abd al-Malik's accession, Umayyad authority had collapsed across the caliphate as a result of the Second Muslim Civil War and had been reconstituted in Syria and Egypt during his father's reign.

Following a failed invasion of Iraq in 686, Abd al-Malik focused on securing Syria before further attempts to conquer the rest 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 the reinvigorated Byzantine Empire in 689, fended off a coup attempt in Damascus by his kinsman, al-Ashdaq, in the following year and reincorporated into the army the rebellious Qaysi tribes of the Jazira (Upper Mesopotamia) in 691. He then conquered Zubayrid Iraq and dispatched his general al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf to Mecca where he killed Ibn al-Zubayr in late 692, thereby reuniting the caliphate under Abd al-Malik's suzerainty. As his viceroy in the east, al-Hajjaj firmly established the caliph's authority in Iraq and Khurasan by 702, having stamped out opposition by the Kharijites and the Arab tribal nobility. In the west, Abd al-Malik's brother, Abd al-Aziz, maintained peace and stability in Egypt while Umayyad troops retook Qayrawan, the launchpad for the later conquests of western North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. The caliph's final years were marked by the domestically peaceful and prosperous consolidation of power.

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. The most consequential of Abd al-Malik's reforms were the introduction of a single Islamic currency in place of Byzantine and Sasanian coinage and the establishment of Arabic as the language of the bureaucracy in place of Greek and Persian in Syria and Iraq, respectively. These measures led to renewed war with Byzantium, this time ending in Umayyad advances into Armenia. His Muslim upbringing, the conflicts with external and local Christian forces and rival claimants to Islamic leadership all 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, the earliest archaeologically-attested religious structure built by a Muslim ruler and the possessor of the earliest epigraphic proclamations of Islam and the prophet Muhammad. The foundations established by Abd al-Malik enabled his son and successor, al-Walid I (r. 705–715), who largely maintained his father's policies and highly depended on al-Hajjaj, to oversee the Umayyad Caliphate's territorial and economic zenith.

Early life[edit]

Abd al-Malik was born in June/July 646 in the house of his father Marwan ibn al-Hakam in Medina.[1][2] His mother was A'isha, a daughter of Mu'awiya ibn al-Mughira.[3][4] Both of his parents belonged to the Banu Umayya,[3][4] one of the strongest and wealthiest clans of the Quraysh tribe.[5] The latter had been ardent opponents of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, a member of the Quraysh, but embraced Islam in 630 and gradually dominated Muslim politics.[6] Abd al-Malik belonged to the first generation of born-Muslims and his upbringing in Medina, Islam's political center at the time, was generally described as pious and rigorous by the traditional Muslim sources.[1][7] He took a deep interest in Islam and possibly memorized the Qur'an.[8]

Abd al-Malik's 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,[3] an "event [that] had a lasting effect on him", according to historian A. A. Dixon.[9] Six years later, he distinguished himself in a campaign against the Byzantines as commander of a Medinese naval unit.[10] He was appointed to the role by Caliph Mu'awiya I (r. 661–680), founder of the Umayyad Caliphate.[3] 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.[3] The revolt was part of the wider anti-Umayyad rebellion that became known as the Second Muslim Civil War.[3] 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.[3] He provided Ibn Uqba intelligence about Medina's defenses.[3] The rebels were defeated at the Battle of al-Harra in August 683, but the army withdrew to Syria after Yazid's death later that year.[3]

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.[11] Most provinces declared their allegiance to the rival Mecca-based caliphate of Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr.[12] 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.[12] 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.[12] The tribal nobility elected Marwan as caliph and the latter became dependent on the Kalb and its allies, who collectively became known as the "Yaman".[12] Their power came at the expense of the Qaysi tribes that dominated northern Syria and had defected to Ibn al-Zubayr.[12] The Qays were routed by Marwan and his Yamani backers at the Battle of Marj Rahit in 684, leading to a long-standing blood feud and rivalry between the two tribal coalitions.[12] Abd al-Malik did not participate in the battle on religious grounds, according to the contemporary poems compiled in the anthology of Abu Tammam (d. 845).[13]



Abd al-Malik became a close adviser of Marwan,[1] who appointed him governor of Palestine.[14][15] He remained headquartered in Damascus and became its deputy governor during Marwan's expedition to conquer Zubayrid Egypt in late 684.[16] He was designated by the caliph as his chosen successor, to be followed by Abd al-Malik's brother, Abd al-Aziz.[17] This designation abrogated the succession arrangements reached in Jabiya, which stipulated that Yazid's son Khalid would succeed Marwan, followed by another Umayyad, the former governor of Medina, Amr ibn Sa'id al-Ashdaq.[18] Nonetheless, Marwan secured the oaths of allegiance to Abd al-Malik from the Yamani nobility.[17] While historian Gerald Hawting notes Abd al-Malik was nominated despite his relative lack of political experience, Dixon maintains he was chosen "because of his political ability and his knowledge of statecraft and provincial administration", as indicated by his "gradual advance in holding important posts" from an early age.[16] Marwan died in April 685 and Abd al-Malik's subsequent accession as caliph was peacefully managed by the Yamani nobles.[1][7] 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".[15]

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 from al-Qarqisiya,[19] a Euphrates river fortress strategically located at the crossroads of Syria and Iraq. 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, while Abd al-Aziz maintained peace and stability as governor of Egypt until his death in 705.[1][20] During this period, Abd al-Malik heavily relied 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 chief minister or wazīr of the later Abbasid caliphs.[21] Furthermore, a Yamani always headed Abd al-Malik's shurṭa (elite security retinue).[22] The first to hold the post was Yazid ibn Abi Kabsha al-Saksaki and he was followed by another Yamani, Ka'b ibn Hamid al-Ansi.[22][23][24] The caliph's ḥaras (personal guard) was typically led by a mawlā (non-Arab Muslim freedman; pl: mawālī) and staffed by the mawālī.[22]

Failure in Iraq[edit]

Re-establishing Umayyad authority across the caliphate was the major priority of Abd al-Malik.[19] His initial focus was the reconquest of Iraq, the caliphate's wealthiest province.[22] Iraq was also home to a large population of Arab tribesmen,[22] the group from which the Umayyad military derived the bulk of its troops.[25] In contrast, Egypt, which provided significant income to the treasury, possessed a small Arab community and was thus a meager source of troops.[26] The demand for soldiers 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.[25] 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.[25] He was tasked by Abd al-Malik with the reconquest of Iraq.[19]

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.[3][19] 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.[3][19]

Abd al-Malik shifted his focus to consolidating control of Syria.[19] His 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.[25] 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.[27] The Taghlib killed Umayr in 689 and delivered his head to Abd al-Malik.[28]

Byzantine attacks and the treaty of 689[edit]

Along Syria's northern frontier, the Byzantines had been on the offensive since the failure of the First Arab Siege of Constantinople in 678.[29] In 679, a thirty-year peace treaty was concluded, obliging the Umayyads to pay an annual tribute of 3,000 gold coins, 50 horses and 50 slaves, and withdraw their troops from the forward bases they had occupied on the Byzantine coast.[30] The outbreak of the Muslim civil war allowed the Byzantine emperor Constantine IV (r. 668–685) to extort territorial concessions and enormous tribute from the Umayyads. In 685, the emperor led his army to Mopsuestia in Cilicia, and prepared to cross the border into Syria, where the Mardaites, an indigenous Christian group,[note 1] were already causing considerable trouble. With his own position insecure, Abd al-Malik concluded a treaty whereby he would pay a tribute of 1,000 gold coins, a horse and a slave for every day of the year.[32]

Under Justinian II (r. 685–695, 705–711), the Byzantines became more aggressive, though it is unclear whether they intervened directly as reported by the 9th-century Muslim historian al-Baladhuri or used the Mardaites to mount pressure on the Muslims:[33] their depredations extended throughout Syria, as far south as Mount Lebanon and the Galilee uplands.[34] These raids culminated with the short-lived Byzantine recapture of Antioch in 688.[35] The setbacks in Iraq had weakened the Umayyads, and when a new treaty was concluded in 689, it greatly favoured the Byzantines: according to the 9th-century Byzantine chronicler Theophanes the Confessor, the treaty repeated the tribute obligations of 685, but now Byzantium and the Umayyads established a condominium over Cyprus, Armenia and Caucasian Iberia, whose revenue was to be shared between the two states. In exchange, Byzantium undertook to resettle the Mardaites in its own territory. The 12th-century Syriac chronicler Michael the Syrian however mentions that Armenia and Adharbayjan were to come under full Byzantine control. In reality, as the latter regions were not held by the Umayyads at this point, the agreement probably indicates a carte blanche by Abd al-Malik to the Byzantines to proceed against Zubayrid forces there. This arrangement suited both sides: Abd al-Malik weakened his opponent's forces and secured his northern frontier, and the Byzantines gained territory and reduced the power of the side that was apparently winning the Muslim civil war.[36] About 12,000 Mardaites were indeed resettled in Byzantium, but a large number remained behind, only submitting to the Umayyads in the reign of al-Walid I (r. 705–715). Their presence disrupted Umayyad supply lines and obliged them to permanently keep troops on standby to guard against their raids.[37]

The Byzantine counteroffensive represented the first challenge against a Muslim power by a people defeated in the early Muslim conquests.[29] 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.[29] The modern historian Khalid Yahya Blankinship described the treaty of 689 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.[38]

Revolt of al-Ashdaq and end of the Qaysi rebellion[edit]

In 689/90, Abd al-Malik used the respite from the truce to initiate a campaign against the Zubayrids of Iraq, but was forced to return to Damascus when his kinsman al-Ashdaq launched a rebellion in the city.[3][17] 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.[17] Abd al-Malik confronted al-Ashdaq, promising him safety and freedom if he relinquished the city.[3][17] Though al-Ashdaq agreed to the terms and surrendered, Abd al-Malik remained distrustful of the former's ambitions and executed him personally.[3]

Zufar's control of al-Qarqisiya, despite earlier attempts to dislodge him by Ibn Ziyad in 685/86 and the caliph's governor in Homs, Aban ibn al-Walid ibn Uqba, in 689/90, remained an obstacle to the caliph's ambitions in Iraq.[39] Moreover, in revenge for Umayr's slaying, Zufar had intensified his raids and inflicted heavy tolls against the caliph's tribal allies in the Jazira.[40] Abd al-Malik resolved to command the siege of al-Qarqisiya in person in the summer of 691 and ultimately secured the surrender and defection of Zufar and the pro-Zubayrid Qays in return for privileged positions in the Umayyad court and army.[3][41][42] The integration of the Qaysi rebels strongly reinforced the Syrian army, and Umayyad authority was restored in the Jazira.[3] From then onward, Abd al-Malik and his immediate successors attempted to balance the interests of the Qays and Yaman in the Umayyad court and army.[43] 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.[44]

Defeat of the Zubayrids[edit]

An old photograph showing a black, cubic structure enclosed by rectangular arcade surrounded by buildings and hills
The Ka'aba in Mecca (pictured in 1917) 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

With threats in Syria and the Jazira neutralized, Abd al-Malik was free to focus on the reconquest of Iraq.[3][41] While Mus'ab 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.[27] 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.[27] 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.[27] Many Syrian nobles held reservations about the campaign and counseled Abd al-Malik not to participate in person.[27] Nonetheless, the caliph was at the head of the army when it camped opposite Mus'ab's forces at Maskin, along the Dujayl Canal.[41] In the ensuing Battle of Maskin, most of Mus'ab's forces, many of whom were resentful at the heavy toll he had inflicted on al-Mukhtar's Kufan partisans, refused to fight and his leading commander, Ibn al-Ashtar, fell at the beginning of hostilities.[41][45][46] Abd al-Malik invited Mus'ab to surrender in return for relinquishing Iraq, but the latter refused and was killed in action.[47]

Following his victory, Abd al-Malik received the allegiance of Kufa's nobility and appointed governors to the caliphate's eastern provinces.[note 2][47] 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.[47] To that end, he dispatched a 2,000-strong Syrian contingent, at the head of which was al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf,[50][51] who had risen through the ranks to become a highly competent and efficient supporter of the caliph.[43] According to 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.[52] Al-Hajjaj remained encamped for several months in Ta'if, east of Mecca, and fought numerous skirmishes with Zubayrid loyalists in the plain of Arafat.[51] Abd al-Malik sent him reinforcements led by his mawlā, Tariq ibn Amr, who had earlier captured Medina from its Zubayrid governor.[53] In March 692, al-Hajjaj besieged Ibn al-Zubayr in Mecca and bombarded the city and the Ka'aba, the holiest sanctuary in Islam.[50][53] 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.[50][53] Ibn al-Zubayr's death marked the end of the civil war and the reunification of the caliphate under Abd al-Malik.[50][54][55] In a panegyric that the literary historian Suzanne Stetkevych asserts was intended to "declare" and "legitimize" Abd al-Malik's victory, the caliph's court poet al-Akhtal eulogized him on the eve or immediate aftermath of Ibn al-Zubayr's fall as follows:

To a man whose gifts do not elude us, whom God has made victorious, so let him in his victory long delight!
He who wades into the deep of battle, auspicious his augury, the Caliph of God through whom men pray for rain.
When his soul whispers its intention to him it sends him resolutely forth, his courage and his caution like two keen blades.
In him the common weal resides, and after his assurance no peril can seduce him from his pledge.
— Al-Akhtal (640–708), Khaffat al-qaṭīnu ("The tribe has departed")[56]

In the aftermath of his victory, Abd al-Malik aimed to reconcile with the Hejazi elite, including the Zubayrids and the Alids, the Umayyads' rivals within the Quraysh.[57] He relied on the Banu Makhzum, another Qurayshi clan, as his intermediaries in lieu of the Umayyad family's absence in the region due to their exile in 682.[57] Nevertheless, he remained wary of the Hejazi elite's ambitions and kept a vigilant eye on them through his various governors in Medina.[57] The first of these was al-Hajjaj, who was also appointed governor of Yemen and Yamama (central Arabia) and led the Hajj pilgrim caravans of 693 and 694.[50] 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.[50] A member of the Makhzum and Abd al-Malik's father-in-law, Hisham ibn Isma'il, was ultimately appointed. During his tenure in 701–706 he was also known for brutalizing Medina's townspeople.[8]

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.[43] He had withdrawn the Syrian army and entrusted to the Iraqis the defense of Basra from the Kharijite threat.[27][58] However, most Iraqis had become "weary of the conflict" with the Kharijites, "which had brought them little but hardship and loss", according to Gibb.[3] 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.[52][59] 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.[20] Neither governor was up to the task, but the Iraqis eventually defeated the Najdiyya Kharijites in Yamama in 692/93.[58][60] The Azariqa in Persia were more difficult to rein in,[60] and following Bishr's death in 694, the Iraqi troops deserted the field against them at Ramhormoz.[61]

Abd al-Malik's attempt at family rule in Iraq had proven unsuccessful, and he installed al-Hajjaj in the post instead.[43] 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 governing Iraq effectively.[43] Al-Hajjaj backed al-Muhallab ibn Abi Sufra al-Azdi, a Zubayrid holdover with long experience combating the Azariqa, whom he defeated in 697.[43] Concurrently, a Kharijite revolt led by Shabib ibn Yazid al-Shaybani flared in the heart of Iraq, resulting in the rebel takeover of al-Mada'in and siege of Kufa.[60] Al-Hajjaj responded to the unwillingness or inability of the war-weary Iraqis to face the Kharijites by obtaining from Abd al-Malik Syrian reinforcements led by Sufyan ibn al-Abrad al-Kalbi.[27][60] A more disciplined force, the Syrians repelled the rebel attack on Kufa and killed Shabib in early 697.[60][62] By 698, the Kharijite revolts had been stamped out.[63] 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.[43] Al-Hajjaj made al-Muhallab deputy governor of Khurasan, a post he held until his death in 702, after which it was bequeathed to his son Yazid.[63][64] During his term, al-Muhallab recommenced the Muslim conquests of Central Asia, though the campaign reaped few territorial gains during Abd al-Malik's reign.[60]

In an effort to reduce expenditure, al-Hajjaj had reduced the Iraqis' pay to less than that of their Syrian counterparts in the province.[43] Moreover, upon becoming governor, he immediately threatened with death any Iraqi who refused to participate in the war efforts against the Kharijites.[43] 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.[43] Indeed, conflict with the muqātila (Arab tribal forces who formed Iraq's garrisons) came to a head beginning in 699 when al-Hajjaj ordered the governor of Kirman, Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn al-Ash'ath, to lead an expedition against Zabulistan for refusing to pay the annual tribute.[63][65] Ibn al-Ash'ath and his commanders were wealthy and leading noblemen and bristled at al-Hajjaj's frequent rebukes and demands and the difficulties of the campaign.[65] In response, Ibn al-Ash'ath and his army revolted in Sistan, defeated al-Hajjaj's loyalists in Tustar in 701 and entered Kufa soon after.[65] Al-Hajjaj held out 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.[65] Alarmed at events, Abd al-Malik offered the Iraqis a pay raise equal to the Syrians and the replacement of al-Hajjaj with Ibn al-Ash'ath.[65] Due to his supporters' rejection of the terms, Ibn al-Ash'ath refused the offer and al-Hajjaj took the initiative, routing Ibn al-Ash'ath's forces at the Battle of Dayr al-Jamajim in April.[65][66] Many of the Iraqis had defected after promises of amnesty if they disarmed, while Ibn al-Ash'ath and his core supporters fled to Zabulistan where they were dispersed in 702.[65]

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.[60][66] Iraqi divisions and the utilization of disciplined Syrian forces by Abd al-Malik and al-Hajjaj voided the Iraqis' attempt to reassert power in the province.[65] Determined to prevent further rebellions, al-Hajjaj founded a permanent Syrian garrison in Wasit, situated between the long-established Iraqi garrisons of Kufa and Basra, and instituted a more rigorous administration in the province.[65][66] 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.[65] Furthermore, the surplus taxes from the agriculturally rich Sawad lands were redirected from the muqātila to Abd al-Malik's treasury in Damascus to pay the Syrian troops in the province.[66][67] This reflected a wider campaign by the caliph to institute greater control over the caliphate.[67]

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

A topographic map of central Asia Minor and northern Syria and Upper Mesopotamia with administrative regions labeled and black fort-shaped markers indicating fortress locations
Map of the Arab–Byzantine frontier zone during the 7th–10th centuries, with major fortresses indicated

Despite the ten-year truce of 689, war with Byzantium resumed following Abd al-Malik's victory against Ibn al-Zubayr in 692.[60] Emperor Justinian II had abrogated the truce in response to the caliph's discontinuation of Byzantine currency in favor of a Muslim currency introduced that year.[60] 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 advanced into Anatolia and Armenia, laying the foundation for further conquests of these territories under Abd al-Malik's successors.[60][68] The military defeats inflicted on Justinian II contributed to the downfall of the emperor and his Heraclian dynasty in 695.[69]

Meanwhile, in the west, the Byzantines and their Berber allies had reconquered Ifriqiya and slew its governor, Uqba ibn Nafi, in the Battle of Vescera in 682.[70] Abd al-Malik charged Uqba's deputy, Zuhayr ibn Qays, to reassert the Arab position in 688, but after initial gains, including the slaying of the region's Berber ruler Kasila at the Battle of Mams, Zuhayr was driven back to Barqa (Cyrenaica) by Kasila's partisans and slain by Byzantine naval raiders.[71] In 695, Abd al-Malik dispatched Hassan ibn al-Nu'man with a 40,000-strong army consisting of the Arab troops of Fustat to retake Ifriqiya.[60][71][72] Hassan captured Byzantine-held Qayrawan, Carthage and Bizerte.[71] With the aid of naval reinforcements sent by Emperor Leontios (r. 695–698), the Byzantines recaptured Carthage by 696/97.[71] After the Byzantines were repelled, Carthage was captured and destroyed by Hassan in 698.[60][72] Qayrawan was firmly secured as a launchpad for later conquests, while the port town of Tunis was founded and equipped with an arsenal on the orders of Abd al-Malik, who was intent on establishing a strong Arab fleet.[60][72] Hassan continued his campaign against the Berbers, defeating them and killing their leader, the warrior queen al-Kahina, sometime between 698 and 703.[71] Afterward, Hassan was dismissed by Abd al-Aziz, and replaced by the former's lieutenant, Musa ibn Nusayr,[72] who went on to lead the Umayyad conquests of western North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula during the reign of al-Walid I.[73]

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.[60] The blood feuds between the Qays and Yaman, which persisted despite the former's reconciliation with the Umayyads in 691, had dissipated toward the end of his rule.[74] Dixon credits this to Abd al-Malik's success at "harnessing tribal feeling to the interests of the government, [while] at the same time suppressing its violent manifestations".[note 3][74] The remaining 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.[60] The latter consistently refused Abd al-Malik's entreaties to step down from the line of succession, but potential conflict was avoided when Abd al-Aziz died in May 705.[60] He was promptly replaced as governor of Egypt by the caliph's son Abd Allah.[78] Abd al-Malik died five months later, on 9 October, and was buried outside of the Bab al-Jabiya gate of Damascus.[79]


A map of northern Africa, southern Europe and western and central Asia with different color shades denoting the stages of expansion of the caliphate
A map depicting growth of the caliphate. The area highlighted in yellow depicts the expansion of territory during Abd al-Malik's reign

Abd al-Malik is referred to as the most "celebrated" Umayyad caliph by the historian Julius Wellhausen.[80] He was described by the 9th-century historian al-Yaqubi as "courageous, shrewd and sagacious, but also ... miserly".[23] His successor, al-Walid, largely continued his father's policies and his reign likely marked the peak of Umayyad power and prosperity.[52][81] Abd al-Malik's key administrative reforms, reunification of the caliphate and suppression of all active domestic opposition enabled the major achievements of al-Walid's rule.[82] Three other sons of Abd al-Malik, Sulayman, Yazid II and Hisham, would rule in succession until 743, interrupted only by the rule of Abd al-Aziz's son, Umar II (r. 717–720).[52] Moreover, with the exceptions of the latter and Marwan II (r. 744–750), all of the Umayyad caliphs who came after Abd al-Malik were directly descended from him, hence the references to him as the "father of kings" in the traditional Muslim sources.[80]

After his victory in the civil war, Abd al-Malik embarked on a far-reaching campaign to consolidate Umayyad rule over the caliphate.[67][83] 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 sustainable.[67] Thus, centralization was Abd al-Malik's solution to the fractious tribalism which defined the state of his predecessors.[60] According to Wellhausen, government "evidently became more technical and hierarchical" under Abd al-Malik, though not nearly to the extent of the later Abbasid caliphs.[84] As opposed to the freewheeling governing style of the Sufyanids, Abd al-Malik ruled strictly over his officials and kept interactions with them largely formal.[85] He may have inaugurated a number of high-ranking offices, and Muslim tradition generally credits him with the organization of the barīd (postal service), whose principal purpose was to efficiently inform the caliph of developments outside of Damascus.[86]

Abd al-Malik's concentration of power into the hands of his family was unprecedented; at one point, his brothers or sons held nearly all governorships of the provinces and Syria's districts.[87][88] Likewise, his court in Damascus was filled with far more Umayyads than under his Sufyanid predecessors, as a result of the clan's exile to the city from Medina in 682.[20] 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 his daughter A'isha.[20][89] Abd al-Malik also married Khalid's sister Atika, who became his favorite and most influential wife.[20]

Reorganization of the army[edit]

Abd al-Malik shifted away from his predecessors' utilization of Arab tribal masses in favor of an organized army.[83][90] 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.[83][90] 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.[83] According to Hawting, these do not represent the "tribes in arms" utilized by earlier caliphs; rather, they denote army factions whose membership was often (but not exclusively) determined by tribal origin.[83]

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.[83] 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.[83] It was following the revolt's suppression that the military became primarily composed of the Syrian army.[64] Consecrating this transformation was a fundamental change to the system of military pay, whereby salaries were restricted to those in active service. This marked an end to the system established by Caliph Umar (r. 634–644), which paid stipends to veterans of the earlier Muslim conquests and their descendants.[64] While the Iraqi tribal nobility viewed the 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.[64] Stipends were similarly stopped to the inhabitants of the Hejaz, including the Quraysh.[91] Thus, a professional army was established during Abd al-Malik's reign whose salaries derived from tax proceeds.[64] The dependence on the Syrian army by his successors, culminating under Hisham (r. 724–743), saw the army's scattering between the caliphate's multiple and isolated war fronts, most of them distant from Syria.[92] The growing strain and heavy losses inflicted on the Syrians by the caliphate's external enemies "led to the weakening and downfall of the Umayyads" in 750, according to Blankinship.[92]

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.[29] Abd al-Malik's response to the Byzantine and Christian resurgence combined military and ideological means.[29] 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.[93] Among these was the discontinuation of the Byzantine gold solidus as the caliphate's currency in Syria and Egypt.[29][60] 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.[94] To replace the Byzantine coins, he introduced an Islamic gold currency, the dinar, in 693.[60][95] Initially, the new coinage contained depictions of the caliph as the spiritual leader of the Muslim community and its supreme military commander.[29] 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 quotes and other Muslim religious formulas.[95] Similarly, the Muslims' issue of silver dirhams in the Sasanian design was abolished under Abd al-Malik, and depictions of the Sasanian king were removed from the coinage in 698/99.[94] However, Rebecca Darley and Matthew Canepa note that Abd al-Malik's new dirham still "owed its distinctive silver fabric and wide flan to Sasanian minting techniques".[67][96]

Shortly after the 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.[95][97][98] Al-Hajjaj had initiated the Arabization of the Persian dīwān in Iraq, three years prior.[98] 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.[60][94] 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.[97] 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".[60] 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.[99] 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.[94] This was a further testament to the ideological expansion of the Byzantine–Muslim struggle.[94]

The increasingly Muslim character of the state under Abd al-Malik was also a reflection of Islam's influence in the lives of the caliph and the chief enforcer of his policies, al-Hajjaj, both of whom belonged to the first generation of rulers born and raised as Muslims.[60] According to Wellhausen, though Abd al-Malik was careful not to offend his pious subjects "in the careless fashion of [Caliph] Yazid", from the time of his accession "he subordinated everything to policy, and even exposed the Ka'ba to the danger of destruction", despite the piety of his upbringing and early career.[8] Dixon challenges this view, opining that the Abbasid-era Muslim sources' portrayal of Abd al-Malik undergoing a radical change in character upon his accession and consequently abandoning his previously well-established piety was the result of their general hostility to Abd al-Malik, whom they variously "accused of being a mean, treacherous and blood-thirsty person".[13] Dixon, nonetheless, concedes that the caliph disregarded his early Muslim ideals when he felt political circumstances necessitated it.[13]

Foundation of the Dome of the Rock[edit]

An octagonal, multi-colored building, the upper trim of which is inscribed in Arabic, topped by a golden-plated dome
The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem was founded by Abd al-Malik in 691/92

Shortly after becoming caliph, Abd al-Malik initiated construction plans for the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem in 685/86 or 688.[100] Its dedication inscription mentions the year 691/92, which most scholars agree is the completion date of the building.[101][102] It is the earliest archaeologically-attested religious structure to be built by a Muslim ruler and the building's inscriptions contain the earliest epigraphic proclamations of Islam and of the prophet Muhammad.[103] The inscriptions proved to be a milestone as afterward they became a common feature in Islamic structures and almost always mention Muhammad.[103] The Dome of the Rock 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.[104]

Accounts by the medieval sources differ in deciphering Abd al-Malik's motivations to build the Dome of the Rock.[104] 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.[104][105] Thus, one series of explanations was that Abd al-Malik intended for the Dome of the Rock 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.[104][106] The other main explanation holds that Abd al-Malik, in the heat of the war with Ibn al-Zubayr, sought to build the structure 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.[104][105][106] 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.[104][105][106]

While his sons commissioned numerous architectural works, Abd al-Malik's known building activities were limited to Jerusalem, where, in addition to the Dome of the Rock, he is credited for expanding the boundaries of the Haram al-Sharif (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.[107][108]

Family and residences[edit]

The seasonal residences of Abd al-Malik during his caliphate, as shown in present-day Syria, Lebanon and Israel

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.[109] She bore Abd al-Malik sons al-Walid I, Sulayman, Marwan al-Akbar and a daughter, A'isha.[109] He also married Caliph Yazid's daughter Atika, who bore them sons Yazid II, Marwan al-Asghar, Mu'awiya and a daughter, Umm Kulthum.[89][109] 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.[109] From his marriage to Umm Ayyub bint Amr, a granddaughter of Caliph Uthman, Abd al-Malik had his son al-Hakam, who died at a young age.[109][110] 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.[109][111] From one of his wives, Umm al-Mughira bint al-Mughira ibn Khalid, Abd al-Malik had his daughter Fatima, who would later wed Umar II.[109] Abd al-Malik also married and divorced Umm Abiha bint Abd Allah, a granddaughter of Ja'far ibn Ali,[109][112] and Shaqra bint Salama ibn Halbas, a woman of the Banu Tayy.[109] 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.[109] At the time of his death, fourteen of Abd al-Malik's sons had survived him, according to al-Yaqubi.[23]

Abd al-Malik divided his time between Damascus and a number of seasonal residences in its general vicinity.[113][114] 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 Qasyoun overlooking the Ghouta orchards of Damascus.[113][114] He would typically return to the city in March and leave again in the heat of summer to Baalbek in the Beqaa Valley before heading back to Damascus in early autumn.[113][114]


  1. ^ The home of the Mardaites, a Christian people of unclear ethnic origins, known in Arabic as the "Jarājima", was the mountainous spine along the Syrian coast, namely the Amanus, Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon ranges. There, they held a significant degree of autonomy and shifted their nominal allegiance between the Byzantine Empire and the Caliphate, depending on political circumstances along the Arab–Byzantine front.[31]
  2. ^ The semi-independent, pro-Zubayrid governor of Khurasan, Abd Allah ibn Khazim, rejected Abd al-Malik's entreaties in early 692 to recognize his caliphate in return for a confirmation of his governorship.[48] Ibn Khazim was soon after slain by the Tamimi leader of Abarshahr, Bahir ibn Warqa, but his head was sent to the caliph by the lieutenant governor of Merv, Bukayr ibn Wishah, to whom Abd al-Malik conferred the governorship of Khurasan.[49]
  3. ^ After the reconciliation of 691, violence between the Banu Kalb and the Qaysi Banu Fazara of the Hejaz flared until 692–694.[75] The blood feud between the Qaysi Banu Sulaym and the Yamani-allied Banu Taghlib persisted until 692.[76] Abd al-Malik intervened in both cases and put a definitive end to the tit-for-tat raids by means of financial compensation, threat of force and executions of tribal chieftains.[77]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Kennedy 2016, p. 80.
  2. ^ Dixon 1971, p. 15.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Gibb 1960, p. 76.
  4. ^ a b Ahmed 2010, p. 111.
  5. ^ Della Vida 2000, p. 838.
  6. ^ Donner 1981, pp. 77–78.
  7. ^ a b Dixon 1971, p. 20.
  8. ^ a b c Wellhausen 1927, p. 215.
  9. ^ Dixon 1971, p. 16.
  10. ^ Dixon 1971, p. 17.
  11. ^ Kennedy 2016, pp. 78–79.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Kennedy 2016, p. 79.
  13. ^ a b c Dixon 1971, p. 21.
  14. ^ Crone 1980, pp. 100, 125.
  15. ^ a b Elad 1999, p. 24.
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  62. ^ Kennedy 2001, pp. 33–34.
  63. ^ a b c Wellhausen 1927, p. 231.
  64. ^ a b c d e Kennedy 2016, p. 89.
  65. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Kennedy 2016, p. 88.
  66. ^ a b c d Kennedy 2001, p. 34.
  67. ^ a b c d e Kennedy 2016, p. 85.
  68. ^ Zetterstéen 1993, p. 408.
  69. ^ Blankinship 1994, p. 31.
  70. ^ Kaegi 2010, pp. 13–14.
  71. ^ a b c d e Kaegi 2010, p. 14.
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  78. ^ Becker 1960, p. 42.
  79. ^ Hinds 1990, pp. 125–126.
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  96. ^ Darley & Canepa 2018, p. 367.
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  104. ^ a b c d e f Grabar 1986, p. 299.
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  114. ^ a b c Bacharach 1996, p. 38.


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