The last few Ummayads conclude chapter 18. The seizure of the Damascus church was plainly not straightforward. It looks rather as if at least some of the Muslims felt that the failure to honour the guarantee by Khalid ibn al-Walid was dishonourable, for the matter came up again under the next caliph, Omar. Omar also made moves to conciliate the Shia by removing the anathemas against Ali from public worship. In the reign of Hisham, the melkite patriarch of Alexandria, an illiterate named Cosmas, started the evil tradition of appealing to the Muslims to settle disputes with the monophysites. The caliph Yazid was the son of the Persian princess, descended from the emperor Maurice and the Sassanid Persian kings (!). The line comes to an end with Marwan II, who dies in a Persian uprising.
CALIPHATE OF OMAR IBN ABD AL-AZIZ (99-101/717-720)
1. The bay’ah was given to Omar ibn Abd al-Aziz b. Marwan b. al-Hakam – his mother was Umm Asim, daughter of As ibn Omar b. al-Khattab – in the month of Safar in the ninety-ninth year of the Hegira.
2. He disdained to follow the behaviour of the members of his family, and removed the curse that used to be launched against Ali ibn Abi Talib from the pulpit. From the days of the Caliphate of Mu’awiya ibn Abi Sufyan, in fact, until the time of the caliphate of Omar ibn Abd al-Aziz, the Umayyad caliphs were accustomed to curse Ali ibn Abi Talib from the pulpits, maliciously calling him “Abu Turab”.
3. [Omar ibn Abd al-Aziz] was caliph for thirty months. In his day there was king of the Rum Anastasius, who reigned only a year and a half. The Christians said to Omar ibn Abd al-Aziz that by virtue of the protection granted to them, their churches should neither be destroyed nor used as dwelling places. In this regard they showed him the letter of Khalid ibn al-Walid. Omar ibn Abd al-Aziz suggested that they take the money, abandon the church and construct another anywhere in Damascus they liked. But the Christians refused. Then the Caliph signed a decree which he allowed them to keep the church with its boundaries and be able to repair it. The Muslims believed that this measure was onerous and said: “Must we return to them our mosque, where we have been called to prayer from the top of the minaret, and where we have actually prayed, fulfilling our obligation to raise prayers to Allah? Must it be destroyed and go back to being a church?” Then Abu Idris al-Hulwāni interjected and said: “The Christians have our protection for only one half of the city of Damascus and only for the churches that are in that half; the other half of the city, in fact, was conquered by the sword. Also the churches and monasteries that are located on the outskirts of Damascus starting from Ghūtah belong to the Muslims, because they were conquered by the sword. If the Christians want us to give back to them this their church, we will return it to them, but on one condition, namely that we will destroy every church that is in the other half of the city of Damascus and every church and monastery which are outside the town, at Ghūtah. But if they leave us this church, we will give them all the rest.” With these last words he alluded to the churches of Ghūtah and “Dayr Murran” in which the Muslims were accustomed to stop and stay. The Christians then, fearing that their churches and monasteries would be destroyed, left their church. Omar ibn Abd al-Aziz wrote them a decree which ensured that their churches that were at Damascus, and the churches and monasteries that were outside Damascus, in Ghūtah, were neither destroyed nor used as dwelling places, and that no Muslim would ever be able to claim rights over them. For all this he made his solemn oath.
4. Omar ibn Abd al-Aziz died in the month of ragab in the year 101 of the Hegira, at the age of thirty-nine. He was of medium height, handsome of body and face with premature signs of gray hair and a scar on his forehead. In one text he is said to be buried in Dayr Sim’an, in Homs. The leader of his bodyguard was Ruwah Yazid ibn as-Saksaki and his hāgib was the freedman Hubaysh.
CALIPHATE OF YAZĪD IBN ABD AL-MALIK (101-105/720-724)
1. The bay’ah was given to Yazid ibn Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan ibn al-Hakam – his mother was Atika, daughter of Yazid ibn Mu’awiya -. He was caliph for four years and one month and was the first caliph to take a singer. For he had taken a singer named Habbābah, very dear to him, who appointed and deposed the governors without waiting for any order from him. [Yazid ibn Abd al-Malik] died in the month of Ragab in the year 105 of the Hegira, at the age of thirty-one (In another text it says “thirty-seven years”), and was buried in Damascus. The leader of of his bodyguard was Ka’b ibn Khalid al-Absi and his hāgib was the freedman Khalid.
CALIPHATE OF HISHĀM IBN ‘ABD AL-MALIK (105-125/724-743)
1. The bay’ah was given to Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik – his mother was Umm Hashim, daughter of Hisham ibn Isma’il b. Hashim b. al-Walid b. al-al-Mughira Makhzūmi -. He was caliph was for nineteen years and seven months. In his day there was king of the Rum Theodosius. He reigned a year and a half and died.
2. After him there reigned over Rum Leo for twenty-four years and died. In the third year of Caliph Hisham there was made patriarch of Constantinople Constantine. He held the office for twenty-eight years and died. In the seventh year of the caliphate of Hisham there was made patriarch of Alexandria Cosmas. He held the office for twenty-eight years. The Melkite Christians in Alexandria were praying in the church of St Saba because the Jacobites had seized all the [other] churches in the city. When Cosmas was made Patriarch he was an illiterate, he could neither read nor write. He was a tailor. He went to Damascus to the presence of Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik and claimed from him, with the help of some scribes, the return of the churches that the Jacobites had made their own. Hisham wrote to his prefect in Egypt, who was then Abdullah ibn al-Gigan as-Sakwī, to get the churches that were in the hands of the Jacobites and return them to the Patriarch Cosmas together with all that had belonged to them. Cosmas then took the churches from the Jacobites, including the church of al-Qaysāriyyah. All this had happened because, from the time that the patriarch George had fled from Alexandria to Constantinople, in the third year of the caliphate of Omar ibn al-Khattab, until Cosmas became patriarch of Alexandria, in the seventh year of the caliphate of Hisham, the see of Alexandria had been without a Melkite Patriarch for ninety-seven years. The Jacobites, therefore, had been able to take possession of all the churches of Egypt and Alexandria. In addition, as the inhabitants of Nubia needed bishops, the patriarch of the Jacobites began to ordain bishops for them, and the Nubians became Jacobites also after then, and every time the bishop died in any city in Egypt, the patriarch of the Jacobites appointed another, so that all of Egypt, from the Upper to the Lower, became Jacobite. The only exception was the Mika’il church in Qasr ash-Shama. The Melkites, in fact, had managed to keep it, carrying on prayer and when their bishop died they referred to the Metropolitan of Sur, who ordained for them a [new] Bishop. Things continued to go well for the Melkites of Egypt and Alexandria until Cosmas was no longer patriarch. In the seventeenth year of the caliphate of Hisham there was made patriarch of Jerusalem Elia. He held the office for thirty-four years and died.
3. Hisham died in the month of Rabi al-Akhar in the year 125 of the Hegira, at the age of fifty-three years. He was buried in ar-Rusafah, in the district of ar-Raqqah. He was of fair complexion, cross-eyed, ugly, bad tempered, stingy, and greedy for wealth. The leader of his bodyguard was Ka’b ibn Hamid and his hāgib the freedman Ghālib. His influential adviser was Sa`īd ibn al-Walid al-Abrash al-Kalbi and his katib was Salim ibn Abd al-Aziz.
CALIPHATE OF AL-WALĪD IBN YAZĪD (125-126/743-744).
1. The bay’ah was given to al-Walid ibn Yazid b. Abd al-Malik b. Marwan – his mother was Umm al-Haggag, daughter of Muhammad b. Yusuf b. al-Hakam b. Abi Uqayl ath-Thaqafi -. He was wild, wasteful and addicted to entertainment. He ruled one year and three months. Then the people could not stand his behaviour any more and killed him in the month of ğumādà al-akhar in the year 126 of the Hegira. He was struck down in al-Buhayra, in Damascus. He was forty years old. There followed a revolt that shook the whole of Syria. He was handsome of face, eloquent, with a perfect complexion. The leader of his bodyguard was Abd ar-Rahman ibn Hamid al-Kalbi and his hāgib was the freedman Qatr.
CALIPHATE OF YAZĪD IBN AL-WALĪD (126/744)
1. The bay’ah was given to Yazid ibn al-Walid an-Nāfid, i.e. Yazid ibn al-Walid b. Abd al-Malik b. Marwan – his mother was a Persian, i.e. Shāhqūd, daughter of Firuz Kisra, King of Persia, son of Yazdağard, son of Shahrayān, whose grandmother was the daughter of Maurice, king of the Rum -. [Yazid ibn al-Walid] thus used to say: “I am the son of Kisra and of Marwan; Maurice is my grandfather and my grandfather is [also] Shashan”. He was made caliph in the month of Ragab, he ruled five months and died at the end of the month of dhu’l-qa’da in the year 126 of the Hegira, at the age of thirty. He was buried in Damascus. The leader of his bodyguard was Yazid ibn ash-Shammākh al-Lakhmi and his hāgib was the freedman Sallam.
CALIPHATE OF MARWAN IBN MUHAMMAD AL-GA‘DĪ (127-132/744-750)
1. Upon the death of Yazid an-Naqid, those of Syria gave the bay’ah to Ibrahim b. al-Walid b. Abd al-Malik (238). He ruled for four months, then they deposed him. Then arose Marwan ibn Muhammad b. [Marwan] al-Hakam, the son of an Armenian – his mother’s name was Izya and she had been the wife of Mus’ab ibn az-Zubayr and after the killing of this man she had been taken as wife by Muhammad ibn Marwan b . al-Hakam. When he arrived in Syria, Marwan ibn Muhammad was hailed as caliph by many of the inhabitants of Syria, but he was opposed by Suleiman ibn Hisham b. Abd al-Malik and other Umayyads. The inhabitants of Syria united against him and in Khurasan the number of supporters of the Banu Hashim greatly increased. His troops were put to flight, and his soldiers were killed. Those of Khurasan killed many men of Syria and Iraq, seizing their property and making their wives and children captives. Marwan ruled five years, through continuous wars and the opposition of the populations of the countries hostile to him. Then he fled from az-Zab to Mosul and finally into Mesopotamia, then through Syria to reach Egypt. The soldiers of the Banu Hashim penetrated Upper Egypt and began following him everywhere giving chase. He was surprised in a village of Ashmūr called Abusir Lūrinds and was killed there. He was sixty nine. Amir ibn Isma’il as-Salmi [= al-Maslami?] was responsible for his killing. Marwan was nicknamed “al-Ga’di” because he who had great influence on him and on his decisions was al-Ga’d ibn Dirham. The leader of his bodyguard was al-Kawthar ibn al-Aswad al-Anawi and his ‘hāgib’ was the freedman Saqlāb.
- I.e. the Shia, meaning here the Persians.↩