THROUGHOUT history, there are inspirations and lessons that can be obtained and learnt from, especially when it comes to the rise and fall of dynasties or rather empires.
In this regard, the greatest inspirations and lessons can be learnt from the story of the rise and fall of the Ummayyad Dynasty, which emerged in the year 41 AH (after the migration of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) from Makkah to Madinah). It corresponds to the year 662 AD when Ali bin Abi Talib and Mu’awiyah bin Sufyian (may Almighty Allah be pleased with them) differed over the right to rule.
This disagreement was captured in a well-known incident that took place between two companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) – Abu Musa al-Ash’ari and Amr bin al-Aas (May Almighty Allah be pleased with them). It led the resourceful Arab – Mu’awiyah – to become the caliph, and he embarked immediately on building state institutions such as public administrations and post offices, and launched the era of conquests.
However, these achievements started to crumble when Yazid bin Muawiya ascended to power in succession to his father.
Yazid’s reign began with great sedition through the killing of Hussein bin Ali (May Almighty Allah be pleased with him), sparking chaos throughout the dynasty, especially when Abdullah bin Al-Zubayr refused to pledge allegiance to Yazid. This had in turn intensified the strife and rendered Ibn Al-Zubayr to take refuge in the Kaaba, Makkah. However, it did not prevent Yazid from sending his army, which besieged Ibn Al-Zubayr in Makkah.
This situation continued until the death of Yazid in the year 64AH. Throughout those years, the conditions in the caliphate did not settle down, except after Abdul-Malik bin Marwan inherited the failure of the two successors to rule.
At the beginning of his reign, strife, unrest and divisions ravaged the country, but he put them down and chose powerful governors, such as Al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf, who eliminated the dynasty of Ibn Al-Zubayr and killed him in the year 73 AH after he besieged Makkah. He then governed Iraq and eliminated all opposition there. Within 20 years, Abdul-Malik ibn Marawan achieved many victories, and was considered the second founder of the Ummayyad Dynasty and unifier of the Islamic world under his banner.
However, all this was lost by his two sons Al-Walid and Suleiman until the caliphate went to a just ruler named Omar bin Abdulaziz. He was called the Fifth of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, but his rule also did not last long due to the opposition he faced within the ruling family, and he was killed by poison. His successor, Yazid bin Abdul-Malik, was not less corrupt than those who took power before him.
It is said that he loved a maid named Hababa and spent most of his time having fun with her to such an extent that when she died, he did not leave her, and instead stayed with her corpse for three days and refused to bury her until people censured him for this reprehensible action. Forty days later, he died of grief.
Nonetheless, during the reign of Hisham bin Abdul-Malik, the state became an empire. At that time, its borders extended from the outskirts of China in the east to southern France in the west. He was also able to conquer North Africa, Morocco, Andalusia, southern Gaul, Sindh, and beyond.
Throughout those decades, the Ummayad Empire swung between stability and strife, as every ruler had his vision, and the dynasty did not transform, except that Hisham bin Abdul-Malik, who was considered at that time as the last revered ruler, left a state on which the sun did not set. His succession was a promise despite Al-Walid bin Yazid being unqualified to run the state, as he was corrupt and drunk, but bin Abdul-Malik could not break his promise.
With the reign of Al-Walid bin Yazid, weakness began to creep into the pillars of the caliphate, because he was devoted to leisure. His rule lasted only a year, after which he was succeeded by Yazid bin Al-Walid (the slasher), who was known for slashing the salaries of soldiers and state employees, after corruption ramped up in the caliphate and prevented the governors from handling the revenues. This prompted the opposition to expand, and paved the way for looting, as well as resulted in an increase in insecurity.
The last of the Ummayyad caliphs was Marwan bin Muhammad, also known as Marwan the donkey, and he was devoted to fighting the Kharijites during his reign.
Diseases multiplied all over the caliphate, the most important of which was the uprising of Abu Muslim al-Khorasani, the owner of the Abbasid call, and the grandson of the last of the Khosro, Yazdegerd the third. The Al-Abbas clan had used religion as a cover to build their dynasty.
When the rule of Khorasani ended, his army exhumed the remains of the Ummayads and scattered them in the desert, but his death in the hands of the second Abbasid caliph Abi Jaafar Al-Mansour was the one that ended the Persian control of the state, when he discerned their tendency to hijack the new caliphate.
One of the most fatal mistakes was that the Ummayyad rulers deliberately kept their enemies close under the hope that they would win their loyalty but unaware that the one aspiring to rule was waiting for the slightest opportunity to snatch the throne, and they removed sincere friends, believing that the loyalty of these people was sufficient for them to remain faithful to the rule.
However, this led to provoking tribal and sectarian strife, and widening debauchery in the palaces of the caliphs and their governors in various parts of the land.
The Ummayyad Caliphate witnessed several uprisings, especially in Syria and Iraq, the most notable of which was the Kufa Revolt during which some succeeded in development and creativity, while others drenched themselves in corruption and did not preserve this great dynasty, which was one of the greatest empires in global history.
May Almighty Allah have mercy on King Abdulaziz bin Saud, who was a good reader of history. He read the story of the Ummayyad Dynasty, and during the unification of his Kingdom, he worked to avoid all the loopholes in which some of the Ummayyad caliphs fell, and established this great state with the presence in many international fields.
Here, it is imperative to ask – Have the rulers of the Arabian Gulf states read the history of the rise and fall of the Ummayyad Dynasty? Can the methods of rule that prevailed at that stage be applied in our time? Indeed, it is a question of history.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times