The Umayyad caliphs during the era of Imam al-Baqir


Which of the Umayyad caliphs ruled during the time of Imam al-Baqir?‎

Quick Answer:‎

It was mentioned previously that Imam al-Baqir lived contemporaneously with five of the ‎Umayyad caliphs. We will mention the particularities of each during their time of rule and ‎their administration of the society. This will make evident the social and political conditions ‎and circumstances which Imam al-Baqir lived in during his life.‎

Detailed Answer:‎

It was mentioned previously that Imam al-Baqir lived contemporaneously with 5 of the ‎Umayyad caliphs. We will mention the particularities of each during their time of rule and ‎their administration of the society. This will make evident the social and political conditions ‎and circumstances which Imam al-Baqir lived in during his life.‎

Walid ibn ‘Abd al-Malik

Walid ibn ‘Abd al-Malik was the first contemporary caliph during the time of Imam al-Baqir. ‎The period of the caliphate of Walid was a period of the victory and conquest of the Muslims ‎over their opponents. During this time, the territory which the Umayyad government had ‎control over, increased from both the east and the west. Since his caliphate occurred in a ‎period where calm prevailed in the Muslim nation, Walid was able to take up where the ‎previous caliphs had left off and make considerable gains in terms of battle and conquest. ‎The lands under Walid’s dominion expanded from both east and west; he was able to ‎conquer parts of India, as well as Kabul, Kashgar, Tus, and various other territories. He even ‎pushed in to Andalusia, and the army of the Andulusians were defeated by the Muslims ‎‎(under the command of Musa ibn Nusayr; thus, Andulusia was added to the list of Muslim ‎territories as well.‎

Sulayman ibn ‘Abd al-Malik

The period of the caliphate of Sulayman ibn ‘Abd al-Malik was short in duration; it lasted ‎approximately 3 years. During the early period of his caliphate, Sulayman showed much ‎flexibility; he opened the doors to the prisons of Iraq (whom Hajjaj ibn Yusuf had filled to ‎the brim with innocent people) and released thousands of individuals. He also removed the ‎tax agents of Hajjaj, and nullified many of the oppressive measures which were in place.‎

Sulayman’s initiative in freeing innocent prisoners in Iraq was one of his early actions. ‎Unfortunately, he changed his methods and reversed many of them completely. He began ‎engaging in actions of personal vengeance and engaged in oppression and various criminal ‎behaviors. He also began to support certain tribes over others. He put the tribe of c under ‎pressure and supported their tribal rivals (Qahtani). He also killed some of the heads of the ‎army, as well as some of the notable personalities of the time. Musa ibn Nusayr and Ṭariq ‎ibn Ziyad, champions of the victory of Andalusia, were also shown disfavor and exiled.‎

The compiler of the text ‘The History of Political Islam’ has written: ‘Sulayman would treat his ‎governors in various different ways. He would pay attention to some of them, while plotting ‎to eliminate others. Sulayman had enmity towards individuals such as: Muhammad ibn ‎Qasim, the governor of India, Qutaybiyah ibn Muslim, the governor of Transoxiana, and ‎Musa ibn Nusayr, the governor of Andalusia.’ All of Sulayman’s animosity and enmity were ‎based on his own personal whims and tribal rivalries.‎

Sulayman ibn ‘Abd al-Malik was a man who was especially avaricious, gluttonous, pleasure ‎seeking, and loved opulence and luxury. He would eat an amount which several people ‎would ordinarily eat and his journeys were always colorful and displayed luxurious airs. He ‎would wear very flashy clothing, which were expensive and had designs embroidered in to ‎them. He would engage in so much excess, that he would not even allow his servants and ‎butlers to approach him with ordinary clothing; they were forced to wear embroidered and ‎colorful clothing. This love of extravagance and splendor soon went beyond the palace ‎gates; it began to permeate throughout the cities of the Muslim nation, and the wearing of ‎extravagant clothing was soon a common occurrence amongst the common people of ‎Yemen, Kufah, and Alexandria.‎

‎‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‎‘‎Aziz

Although the will of ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (the father of Sulayman) stated that the ‎successor to Sulayman would be his brother Yazid ibn ‘Abd al-Malik, this was later changed. ‎When Sulayman took ill and knew that he would soon die, he chose ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‎‘‎Aziz ‎as his successor.‎

‎‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‎‘‎Aziz was immediately faced with the troubled situation of the masses, and ‎was witness to the waves of rage and enmity which the people expressed towards the ‎Umayyad government. From the beginning of his caliphate, he acted with an attitude of ‎appeasement towards the deprived and oppressed masses; in his directives to his governors ‎and representatives throughout the Muslim nation, he wrote the following: ‘The people are ‎afflicted with difficulties and various strains; they are victims of oppression and the religion ‎has been enacted amongst them in an irregular manner. Previous oppressive governors and ‎representatives, through their regulations and changes, have concentrated less on enacting ‎the people’s rights and on acting with moderation and goodness towards them; they have ‎taken the people to the very edge.‎

Therefore, the past must be compensated for and these types of actions must be stopped. ‎Henceforth, whenever someone wishes to go to the Hajj pilgrimage, you must give them ‎their stipend from the public treasury sooner, so that they can depart on their journey. Until ‎you have consulted with me, none of you has the right to punish anyone, or cut off their ‎hand, or to hang them from the gallows.’‎

The Struggle against Corruption and Discrimination

In addition to this, after strengthening and stabilizing his government, ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-’Aziz ‎put up all of the horses and quadrupeds of the caliphate for immediate auction, and he then ‎deposited the money from their sale in to the public treasury. He then ordered his wife ‎Fatimah (the daughter of ‘Abd al-Malik) to return all of her jewelry, wealth, and expensive ‎gifts back to the public treasury; these were all things which her father and brother had ‎gifted to her from the public treasury. Fatimah was warned that if she could not do such a ‎thing, then she should leave the house. Fatimah obeyed and returned all of the jewelry and ‎ornaments which belonged to the public treasury.‎

After returning the money that had been hoarded in the public treasury, he took back the ‎money that the Umayyads had accumulated for themselves unjustly and he also stopped the ‎public cursing of Imam ‘Ali, which had been turned in to a religious tradition by that time. ‎Fadak was also returned to the Bani Hashim and the prohibition of recording the prophetic ‎traditions was lifted (it is perhaps for this reason that Imam al-Baqir called him the noble one ‎from the Banu Umayyad). Due to all of these reforms, his rule did not last more than two ‎years.‎

Yazid ibn ‘Abd al-Malik

After the death of ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‎‘‎Aziz, Yazid ibn ‘Abd al-Malik succeeded the caliphate. ‎Yazid was a pleasure seeking, sensual, and reckless individual who was not concerned with ‎the religious or ethical precepts of Islam. The period of his rule is counted as being one of ‎the darkest periods during the rule of the Umayyads; in addition, nothing of importance ‎came about during his caliphate.‎

ibn Qutaybah Daynawari has written: ‘Initially, Yazid was liked by the Quraysh (due to his ‎deceitful behavior which caused them to think of him as a worthy person). If he had ‎behaved in the same manner as ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‎‘‎Aziz, then the people would have similarly ‎accepted and welcomed him. Unfortunately, he acted in a manner contrary to what was ‎expected when he reached the reins of power; in essence, he continued the behavior of his ‎brother Walid. His behavior soon raised a wave of hatred from the Muslims against him; this ‎went on to the point that the people decided to depose him from the caliphate. Yazid paid ‎so little attention to the rights and wishes of the people that even a group of the Quraysh ‎and a number of the Umayyads protested against his actions.‎

Instead of responding to the criticism of the people and changing his ways, he only ‎increased the harshness of his government’s actions against the people; he ended up ‎accusing a group of the Qurayshi notables and elders of upsetting the public order, rebellion, ‎and of planning a coup. He ordered his uncle Muhammad ibn Marwan to arrest them and ‎place them in prison. This group ended up imprisoned for a period of two years, until ibn ‎Marwan had them killed through the use of poison.‎

In addition to this group, Yazid arrested another group from the notables of the Quraysh ‎‎(thirty individuals), and after fining them a great deal, he confiscated their possessions, ‎wealth, and real estate. They were subject to torture and exiled to various points of Syria ‎and other areas, and they lived in poverty and indigence. Yazid did not suffice with even ‎these actions; he ordered that all the people who had any contact with them were to be ‎hung on the charge of collaboration with rebels and anti-governmental forces.‎

The early Umayyad caliphs would fill their times of leisure with hearing news of war, stories ‎of brave acts of the past Arabs, and verses of poetry. During the time of the Umayyads ‎‎(such as Yazid ibn ‘Abd al-Malik), these things were replaced with singing, dancing, and ‎various types of gambling.‎

Hisham ibn ‘Abd al-Malik

Hisham was miserly, crude, audacious, tyrannical, merciless, as well as an eloquent ‎individual. He eagerly engaged in accumulating wealth and land, and during the time of his ‎caliphate, some of the industries present in the Muslim nation flourished. Since he was a ‎cold-hearted individual and did not care much for the people, life became rather difficult for ‎the masses. This lack of emotion and feeling also affected the population in a negative ‎manner and they began to reflect these qualities in turn. The custom of doing good works ‎and cooperating with others ceased to be acted upon, and this reached a point where the ‎people did not really care for one another, nor did they attempt to help each other with their ‎problems and issues.‎

The Influence of Corrupt and Deviant Individuals

Sayyid Amir ‘Ali, the famous scholar and historian, has described the social and political ‎conditions in the society of that time in detail. He has described the behavior and actions of ‎Hisham in the following words: ‘With the death of Yazid the second, the caliphate reached his ‎brother Hisham. Hisham took hold of the caliphate during a time when he was able to quell ‎domestic rebellions and upheavals, and also to quench the fires of foreign wars. During this ‎time period, the central government was threatened by the Turkmens and Khazars from the ‎north. From the East, the leaders of the Abbasids were quietly plotting the beginning of the ‎destruction of the Umayyads and the establishment of their own caliphate. Inside the interior ‎of the country, the masses were angry, and the flames of the Kharijites, who were ‎courageous and warrior spirited, were blazing.‎

In these internal and external conflicts, the best youths of the Arabs were being killed. ‎Internal politics and personal grudges were also taking their toll. Due to the previous caliph’s ‎blind reliance on his governors and local advisors, these positions had fallen to an unworthy ‎and selfish group of individuals. Due to these individuals, the people’s ire had been raised, ‎and the masses were disgusted with the situation at hand.‎

During these important times, the Muslim society was in need of a helping hand to save the ‎government from its course of destruction. There is no doubt that Hisham was better than ‎the previous caliph (Yazid). During the time of Hisham, the governmental system was ‎purified of many impure individuals, and a more sober poise was adopted in place of the ‎previous frivolous and capricious attitude.‎

Still, the severity and raw treatment of Hisham reached the point of harshness, and his ‎frugality gave him a name as a miser. He also had some behavioral shortcomings, which ‎made the situation even worse: he was an individual who was despotic, sceptical, short-‎sighted, trusting of no one, and pessimistic. In order to neutralize the plots that were ‎hatched against him, he engaged in deceptive behavior, and spied on various groups of ‎people. He also was quick to believe things about others, and with one doubtful thought, he ‎would kill the best people from the Muslim nation. This excess in pessimism caused a series ‎of short-lived nominations and removals in various governmental posts, and these later ‎proved to have very negative consequences for Hisham and his rule.‎ ‎