ABD AL-MALIK
  • Book Title:
 Abd Al Malik
  • Book Author:
Chase Robinson
  • Total Pages
116
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ABD AL-MALIK – book Sample

CONTENTS – ABD AL-MALIK

  • List of illustrations Preface Acknowledgments Glossary Chronology
  • INTRODUCTION: JERUSALEM IN 692
  • When and Why the Dome?
  • ABD AL-MALIK AND THE MARWANIDS
  • The Marwanid Background
  • The End of the Sufyanids and the Beginning of the Marwanids
  • THE CALIPHATE OF IBN AL-ZUBAYR
  • The Case for Ibn al-Zubayr The Rebellion of ‘Abd al-Malik
  • THE IMAGES OF ‘ABD AL-MALIK
  • ABD AL-MALIK’S EMPIRE
  • Sufyanid Arrangements Innovations
  • ABD AL-MALIK AS IMAM The Problem of Evidence The Caliph
  • ABD AL-MALIK AND THE ISLAMIC STATE
  • Sermons and Letters
  • Public Islam and the Marwanid State Conclusion
  • CONCLUSION: THE LEGACY OF ‘ABD AL-MALIK
  • Further Reading Bibliography Index
  •  ILLUSTRATIONS

‘ABD AL-MALIK AND THE MARWANIDS

Muhammad b. ‘Abd Allah was born in the western Arabian town of Mecca in about 570, and there, perhaps first in 610, he began to receive revelations from God, who was telling him to preach monotheism to the pagan Arabs. In the end, the message did not go down well in Mecca, and within a decade the town’s polytheist establishment had forced him to flee to the neighbouring town of Yathrib, where he had much more success.

 Indeed, history was on his side. From there – the “Prophet’s city” or “Medina,” as it came to be known – he carried out a series of raids and battles that expanded his authority over much of the Arabian Peninsula, including the conquest of Mecca in 629 or 630. In 632 he died suddenly in Medina, which he had made the capital of his small polity.

In his time Muhammad was charismatic, persuasive, pragmatic and principled; he commanded respect and inspired followers. And after his death he continued to exert enormous authority over how Muslims saw the world and themselves – so much so, that by the ninth century his conduct had come to function paradigmatically for the law.

For Muslims of that and subsequent periods, the law consisted of what God had said in the text assembled out of His revelations to Muhammad (the Qur’an) and what Muhammad had said and done as recorded in collections of Traditions (the hadith) – tens of thousands of them. How does one effect a marriage contract? How much does a daughter inherit?

Who is subject to taxation? How does one pray? Answers could be found in Prophetic Traditions. Now there is little clear evidence that the first generations of Muslims thought that the law had to be based on Prophetic Traditions or that these Traditions existed in any number, but it is impossible to imagine a variety

of Islamic belief in any period that was not informed in one way or another by a memory of who Muhammad was and what he had done.

This was certainly the case for seventh- and eighth-century Muslims – and not just because the memory of the Prophet was still fresh for them. It was also because seventh-century history was so contentious and the stakes so high.

For Muhammad had made some steep demands on behalf of God, and he succeeded only in the face of some very fierce opposition, first within Mecca and, after his emigration to Medina, outside of it too. In later centuries, conquest generally led only indirectly to conversion, with the result that most Islamic states through the tenth and eleventh centuries governed large (and frequently majority) non- Muslim populations.

But the demands were greater early on, when Muhammad was preaching amongst the pagan Arabs of the Peninsula. Muhammad may frequently have been diplomatic, but his message of radical monotheism was uncompromising: he insisted on nothing less than obedience to God, and what this meant in practice was declaring God’s oneness, acknowledging his prophecy, and signalling this acknowledgment by paying a tribute of one kind or another to him or one of his representatives.

(This distinction between the fate of the pagan Arabs of the Peninsula, for whom conversion was required, and that of non-Arabs outside of it, for whom it was not, came to be expressed in a Prophetic Tradition that “No two religions shall meet in the Arabian Peninsula” – a good example of the Prophet being made to articulate the law.) Conversion to Islam was thus an expression of belief and an act of politics.

Some tribesmen had the very good sense to ally themselves with Muhammad and his movement early on; others did not. But whatever the individual circumstances – and these could vary greatly, with some individuals coming into fantastic wealth, others into ignominious disgrace – the decision had lasting consequences.

 For the speed and enthusiasm with which one converted to Islam, in addition to one’s subsequent conduct alongside and after Muhammad, went a long way towards determining the social status one’s descendants would enjoy in early Islamic society. Simply put, the earlier and more committed the conversion, and the more one’s forebears distinguished themselves in the cause of Islam, the better.

Those who had converted in Mecca and joined Muhammad in Medina were called the “Emigrants” (muhajirun), and those who converted in Medina, the “Helpers” (ansar); the words are capitalized because they are technical terms that denoted high-status Muslims, this status being inheritable.

Military service, which meant hazarding all on behalf of Islam, was similarly influenced by this idea of “precedence:” those who joined conquest armies early on were paid at higher rates than those who joined later, and their descendants would continue to claim the privilege.

 Little social status now attaches to membership in the “Daughters of the American Revolution,” at least outside of 200,000 women who claim direct descent from those who aided or served in the American Revolution; much more attached to early Muslims who could claim to descend from distinguished participants in Islam’s founding moments.

An apposite example of a high-status Muslim of the seventh century is a figure named Ibn al-Zubayr, about whom much more will be said in the next chapter. Like ‘Abd al-Malik and Muhammad himself, Ibn al-Zubayr was a member of the Quraysh, the leading tribe of seventh-century Mecca, and the tribe from which all caliphs were to be drawn.

Because tribes were large, effective kinship groups were actually smaller sub-lineages, which can be called clans; whereas Muhammad belonged to the clan of the Hashim and ‘Abd al- Malik to the Umayyad clan, Ibn al-Zubayr belonged to the ‘Abd al-‘Uzza clan. As a member of the Quraysh, Ibn al-Zubayr thus enjoyed a very advantageous tribal affiliation.

Even so, there were lots of Qurashis, and what made Ibn al-Zubayr special were his flawless credentials as an early and committed Muslim. Ibn al-Zubayr had had the great fortune to have been born in about 624, some eight years before Muhammad’s death.

 The timing was doubly significant. First, he could be counted amongst those old enough to remember Muhammad’s words and deeds. He was thus a Companion of the Prophet, and although we cannot be sure if this term was in operation in this sense in the seventh century, we can still be sure that having direct memory of Muhammad meant a great deal.

 Just as there were lots of Qurashis, so were there lots of Companions, however, and this takes us to the second respect in which the timing of Ibn al-Zubayr’s birth was significant.

Just as the first caliph Abu Bakr (r. 632–4) was reckoned by many to have been the first male to convert to Islam, so was Ibn al-Zubayr often considered to have been the first child born to the Emigrants. In other words, he enjoyed pride of place in that first generation of Muslims who were born under the new dispensation. As a young man, he is also said to have campaigned in Syria, participating in the early and pivotal battle at Yarmuk (636), where a Byzantine army was routed.

Ibn al-Zubayr thus had timing going for him. He had something more. He had been born to al-Zubayr, who was one of the Prophet’s closest Companions, and to Asma’, who was a daughter of none other than the caliph-to-be Abu Bakr, and a sister of ‘A’isha, one of Muhammad’s leading wives.

The connection between Ibn al-Zubayr’s family and ‘A’isha was political as well as familial. Al-Zubayr had joined ‘A’isha in leading a rebellion against ‘Uthman, the third (and first unpopular) caliph. In fact, Ibn al-Zubayr himself participated in that rebellion, which, though unsuccessful in the end, enjoyed wide support. He later returned

 to Medina, where he spent the next twenty-odd years in disdainful opposition to the rule of Mu‘awiya (‘Uthman’s successor), before making a claim to the caliphate during the Second Civil War. In sum, propitious timing and favorable circumstances of birth, followed up by political acuity, made for an imposing

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