Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
35
CALIPHATE

of Constantinople began from the land side, and two weeks later from the sea side. A few months before, Leo the Isaurian had ascended the throne and prepared the city for the siege. This lasted about a year. The besieged were hard pressed, but the besiegers suffered by the severe winter, and were at last obliged to raise the siege. Maslama brought back the rest of his army in a pitiful state, while the fleet, on its return, was partly destroyed by a violent tempest. The Moslems regard this failure as one of the great evils that have befallen the human race, and one which retarded the progress of the world for ages,[1] the other calamity being the defeat in the battle of Tours by Charles Martel.

Maslama was still on his way back when Suleiman died at Dābiq in northern Syria, which was the base of the expeditions into Asia Minor. He seems not to have had the firmness of character nor the frugality of Walid; but he was very severe against the looseness of manners that reigned at Medina, and was highly religious. Rajā b. Haywa, renowned for his piety, whose influence began under Abdalmalik and increased under Walid, was his constant adviser and even determined him to designate as his successor his devout cousin Omar b. Abdalazīz. Suleiman was kind towards the Alids and was visited by several of them, amongst others by Abu Hāshim, the son of Mahommed b. al Ḥanafīya, who after his father’s death had become the secret Imam (head) of the Shi‛ites. On his way back to Hejaz this man visited the family of Abdallah b. ‛Abbās, which resided at Ḥomaima, a place situated in the vicinity of ‛Ammān, and died there, after having imparted to Mahommed b. Ali b. Abdallah b. Abbas the names of the chiefs of the Shi‛a in Irak and Khorasan, and disclosed his way of corresponding with them. From that time the Abbasids began their machinations against the Omayyads in the name of the family of the Prophet, avoiding all that could cause suspicion to the Shi‛ites, but holding the strings firmly in their own hands.

8. Reign of Omar II.—Omar b. Abdalazīz did his best to imitate his grandfather Omar in all things, and especially in maintaining the simple manner of life of the early Moslems. He was, however, born in the midst of wealth; thus frugality became asceticism, and in so far as he demanded the same rigour from his relatives, he grew unjust and caused uneasiness and discontent. By paying the highest regard to integrity in the choice of his officers, and not to ability, he did not advance the interests of his subjects, as he earnestly wished to do. In the matter of taxes, though actuated by the most noble designs, he did harm to the public revenues. The principle of Islam was, that no Moslem, whatever might be his nationality, should pay any tax other than the zakāt or poor-rate (see Mahommedan Institutions). In practice, this privilege was confined to the Arabic Moslems. Omar wished to maintain the principle. The original inhabitants had been left on the conquered lands as agriculturists, on condition of paying a fixed sum yearly for each district. If one of these adopted Islam, Omar permitted him to leave his place, which had been strictly forbidden by Hajjāj in Irak and the eastern provinces, because by it many hands were withdrawn from the tilling of the ground, and those who remained were unable to pay the allotted amount. Omar’s system not only diminished the actual revenue, but largely increased in the cities the numbers of the maula’s (clients), mainly Persians, who were weary of their dependency on their Arabic lords, and demanded equal rights for themselves. Their short dominion in Kufa under Mokhtār had been suppressed, but the discontent continued. In North Africa particularly, and in Khorasan the effect of Omar’s proclamation was that a great multitude embraced Islam. When it became necessary to impose a tribute upon the new converts, great discontent arose, which largely increased the number of those who followed the Shi‛ite preachers of revolt. Conversion to Islam was promoted by the severe regulations which Omar introduced for the non-believers, such as Christians and Jews. It was he who issued those humiliating rescripts, which are commonly but unjustly attributed to Omar I. But he forbade extortion and suppressed more than one illegal impost. He endeavoured above all to procure justice for all his subjects. Complaints against oppression found in him a ready listener, and many unlawfully acquired possessions were restored to the legal owners, for instance, to the descendants of Ali and Talḥa. Even to the Kharijites he contrived to give satisfaction, as far as possible. In all these matters he followed the guidance of divines and devotees, in whose congenial company he delighted. It is, therefore, not to be wondered at that these men saw in Omar the ideal of a prince, and that in Moslem history he has acquired the reputation of a saint.

After the failure of the siege of Constantinople, the advanced posts in Asia Minor were withdrawn, but the raids were continued regularly. It has been said that it was Omar’s intention to give up his Spanish conquests, but the facts argue the contrary. The governor, named by Omar, Samḥ b. Abdallah, even crossed the Pyrenees and took possession of Narbonne; but he was beaten and killed at Toulouse in July 720. But Omar did all he could to prevent the degradation of the Holy War, which, instead of being the ultimate expedient for the propagation of Islam, if all other means had failed, had often degenerated into mere pillaging expeditions against peaceful nations.

9. Reign of Yazid II.—Omar’s reign was as short as that of his predecessor. He died on the 24th of Rajab 101 (A.D. 9th February 720). Yazid II., son of Abdalmalik and, by his mother ‛Ātika, grandson of Yazid I., ascended the throne without opposition. He had at once, however, to put down a dangerous rebellion. Yazid b. Mohallab had returned to Irak, after the conquest of Jorjān, when Suleiman was still alive. Shortly after, Adī b. Artāt, whom Omar II. had appointed governor, arrived, arrested Yazid, and sent him to Omar, who called him to account for the money he had mentioned in his letter to Suleiman, and imprisoned him when he pretended not to be able to pay the amount. Yazid II. had personal grounds for ill-will to Yazid b. Mohallab. One of the wives of the new caliph, the same who gave birth to that son of Yazid II. who afterwards reigned as Walid II., was niece to the celebrated Ḥajjāj, whose family had been ill-treated by the son of Mohallab, when he was governor of Irak under Suleiman. Aware that Yazid b. Abdalmalik, on ascending the throne, would spare neither him nor his family, Yazid b. Mohallab had succeeded in escaping to Basra, the home of his family, where his own tribe the Azd was predominant. Meanwhile ‛Adī b. Artāt had all the brothers of Yazid and other members of the family of Mohallab arrested, and tried to prevent Yazid from entering the city. But ‛Adi was too scrupulous to employ the public money for raising the pay of his soldiers, whilst Yazid promised mountains of gold. Yazid stormed the castle and took ‛Adī prisoner, the public treasury fell into his hands, and he employed the money to pay his troops largely and to raise fresh ones. A pardon obtained for him from the caliph came too late; he had already gone too far. He now proclaimed a Holy War against the Syrians, whom he declared to be worse enemies of Islam than even the Turks and the Dailam. Notwithstanding the warnings of the aged Hasan al-Basrī, the friend of Omar II., the religious people, took the part of Yazid, and were followed by the maulas. Though the number of his adherents thus increased enormously, their military value was small. Ahwāz (Khūzistān), Fārs and Kirman were easily subdued, but in Khorasan the Azd could not prevail over the Tamīm, who were loyal to the caliph. As the rebellion threatened to spread far and wide, Yazid II. was obliged to appeal to his brother, the celebrated Maslama. With the approach of the Syrians, Yazid b. Mohallab tried to forestall them at Kufa. He took his way over Wāsit, which he mastered—the Syrian garrison seems to have been withdrawn in the days of Omar II.—but, before he could get hold of Kufa, the Syrian troops arrived. The meeting took place at ‛Aqr in the vicinity of Babel, and Yazid was completely defeated and fell in the battle. His brothers and sons fled to Basra; thence they went by sea to Kirman and then to Kandabīl in India; but they were pursued relentlessly and slain with only two exceptions by the officers of Maslama. The possessions of the Mohallabites were confiscated.

Maslama was rewarded with the governorship of Irak and

  1. Seyid Ameer Ali, A Critical Examination of the Life and Teachings of Mahomet, pp. 341-343.