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29
CALIPHATE

this relative was Khālid, the son of Abdarrahmān, is absurd inasmuch as Moawiya made this Khālid commander against the Greeks in succession to his father. In the third case—that of Malik Ashtar—the evidence is equally inadequate. In fact, since Moawiya did not turn the weapon of assassination against such men as Abdallah b. Zobair and Hosain b. Ali, it is unlikely that he used it against less dangerous persons. These two men were the chief obstacles to Moawiya’s plan for securing the Caliphate for his son Yazid. The leadership with the Arabic tribes was as a rule hereditary, the son succeeding his father, but only if he was personally fit for the position, and was acknowledged as such by the principal men of the tribe. The hereditary principle had not been recognized by Islam in the cases of Abu Bekr, Omar and Othman; it had had some influence upon the choice of Ali, the husband of Fatima and the cousin of the Prophet. But it had been adopted entirely for the election of Hasan. The example of Abu Bekr proved that the caliph had the right to appoint his successor. But this appointment must be sanctioned by the principal men, as representing the community. Moawiya seems to have done his best to gain that approbation, but the details given by the historians are altogether unconvincing. This only seems to be certain, that the succession of Yazid was generally acknowledged before the death of his father, except in Medina. (See Mahommedan Institutions.)

Moawiya died in the month of Rajab 60 (A.D. 680). His last words are said to have been: “Fear ye God, the Elevated and Mighty, for God, Praise be to Him, protects the man that fears Him; he who does not fear God, has no protection.” Moawiya was, in fact, a religious man and a strict disciple of the precepts of Islam. We can scarcely, therefore, credit the charges made by the adversaries of his chosen successor Yazid, that he was a drinker of wine, fond of pleasure, careless about religion. All the evidence shows that, during the reign of the Omayyads, life in Damascus and the rest of Syria was austere and in striking contrast to the dissolute manners which prevailed in Medina.

2. Rule of Yazid.—When Moawiya died, the opposition had already been organized. On his accession Yazid sent a circular to all his prefects, officially announcing his father’s death, and ordering them to administer the oath of allegiance to their subjects. In that sent to Walīd b. ‛Otba, the governor of Medina, he enclosed a private note charging him in particular to administer the oath to Hosain, Abdallah b. Omar and Abdallah b. Zobair, if necessary, by force. Walid sent a messenger inviting them to a conference, thus giving them time to assemble their followers and to escape to Mecca, where the prefect Omar b. Sa‛īd could do nothing against them. In the month Ramadan this Omar was made governor of Medina and sent an army against Ibn Zobair. This army was defeated, and from that time Ibn Zobair was supreme at Mecca.

On the news of Yazid’s accession, the numerous partisans of the family of Ali in Kufa sent addresses to Hosain, inviting him to take refuge with them, and promising to have him proclaimed caliph in Irak. Hosain, having learned that the majority of the inhabitants were apparently ready to support him strenuously, prepared to take action. Meanwhile Yazid, having been informed of the riotous behaviour of the Shi‛ites in Kufa, sent Obaidallah, son of the famous Ziyād and governor of Basra, to restore order. Using the same tactics as his father had used before, Obaidallah summoned the chiefs of the tribes and made them responsible for the conduct of their men. On the 8th of Dhu’l-Hijja Hosain set out from Mecca with all his family, expecting to be received with enthusiasm by the citizens of Kufa, but on his arrival at Kerbela west of the Euphrates, he was confronted by an army sent by Obaidallah under the command of Omar, son of the famous Sa‛d b. Abi Waqqās, the founder of Kufa. Hosain gave battle, vainly relying on the promised aid from Kufa, and fell with almost all his followers on the 10th of Muharram 61 (10th of October 680).

No other issue of this rash expedition could have been expected. But, as it involved the grandson of the Prophet, the son of Ali, and so many members of his family, Hosain’s devout partisans at Kufa, who by their overtures had been the principal cause of the disaster, regarded it as a tragedy, and the facts gradually acquired a wholly romantic colouring. Omar b. Sa‛d and his officers, Obaidallah and even Yazid came to be regarded as murderers, and their names have ever since been held accursed by all Shi‛ites. They observe the 10th of Muharram, the day of ‛Ashūra, as a day of public mourning. Among the Persians, stages are erected on that day in public places, and plays are acted, representing the misfortunes of the family of Ali.[1] “Revenge for Hosain” became the watchword of all Shi‛ites, and the Meshed Hosain (Tomb of the martyr Hosain) at Kerbela is to them the holiest place in the world (see Kerbela). Obaidallah sent the head of Hosain to Damascus, together with the women and children and Ali b. Hosain, who, being ill, had not taken part in the fight. Yazid was very sorry for the issue, and sent the prisoners under safe-conduct to Medina. Ali remained faithful to the caliph, taking no share in the revolt of the Medinians, and openly condemning the risings of the Shi‛ites.

Ibn Zobair profited greatly by the distress caused by Hosain’s death. Though he named himself publicly a refugee of the House of God, he had himself secretly addressed as caliph, and many of the citizens of Medina acknowledged him as such. Yazid, when informed of this, swore in his anger to have him imprisoned. But remembering the wisdom of his father, he sent messengers with a chain made of silver coins, and bearing honourable proposals. At the same time he received a number of the chief men of Medina, sent by the prefect, with great honour and loaded them with gifts and presents. But Ibn Zobair refused, and the Medinians, of whom the majority probably had never before seen a prince’s court, however simple, were only confirmed in their rancour against Yazid, and told many horrible tales about his profligacy, that he hunted and held wild orgies with Bedouin sheikhs, and had no religion. A characteristically Arabic ceremony took place in the mosque of Medina. “I cast off the oath of allegiance to Yazid, as I cast off my turban,” exclaimed the first, and all others followed, casting off one of their garments, till a heap of turbans and sandals lay on the floor. Ibn Ḥanẓala was made commander. The Omayyads, though they with their clients counted more than 1000 men, were not able to maintain themselves, and were allowed to depart only on condition of strict neutrality.

At last the patience of Yazid was exhausted. An army—the accounts about the number vary from 4000 to 20,000—was equipped in all haste and put under the command of Moslim b. ‛Oqba, with orders first to exact submission from the Medinians, if necessary by force, and then to march against Ibn Zobair. Moslim, having met the expelled Omayyads at Wādi ‛l-Qorā, encamped near the city (August 683) and gave the inhabitants three days in which to return to obedience, wishing to spare the city of the Prophet and to prevent the shedding of blood. When, however, after the lapse of three days, a final earnest appeal had been answered insultingly, he began the battle. The Medinians fought valiantly, but could not hold out against the well-disciplined Syrians. Moreover, they were betrayed by the Medinian family of the Banū Ḥāritha, who introduced Syrian soldiers into the town. Medina lies between two volcanic hills, called harra. After one of these the battle has been named “The Day of Harra.” For three days the city was given up to plunder. It is said that a thousand bastards (the “children of the Harra”) were born in consequence of these days. The remaining citizens were compelled to take the oath of allegiance to Yazid in a humiliating form; the few who refused were killed. Ali b. Hosain, who had refused to have anything to do with the revolt, was treated with all honour. Mahommed b. al-Hanafiya, the son of Ali, and Abdallah b. Omar had likewise abstained, but they had left Medina for Mecca.

Moslim then proceeded towards Mecca. He was already ill, and died about midway between the two cities, after having given the command, according to the orders of the caliph, to Hosain b. Nomair. It is quite natural that the man who delivered up the city of the Prophet to plunder, and at whose hands so many prominent Moslems fell, should have been an object of detestation

  1. See Chodzko, Théâtre persan (Paris, 1878).