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38
CALIPHATE

It is not certain that Walid also suspected Khālid al-Qasrī of having intrigued against him. But Yusuf b. Omar did not rest until he had his old enemy in his power. It is said that he guaranteed Walid a large sum of money, which he hoped to extort from Khālid. This unfortunate man died under torture, which he bore with fortitude, in Muharram 126 (November 743).

Walid designated his two sons as heirs to the Caliphate. These were still under age and were not the children of a freeborn, noble mother. Both circumstances, according to the then prevailing notions, made them unfit for the imamate. Moreover, it was an affront, in particular, for the sons of Walid I., who already had considered the nomination of Yazid II. as a slight to themselves. A conspiracy arose, headed by Yazid b. Walid I., and joined by the majority of the Merwanid princes and many Kalbites and other Yemenites who regarded the ill-treatment of Khālid al-Qasrī as an insult to themselves. Various stories were circulated about the looseness of Walid’s manner of life; Yazid accused him of irreligion, and, by representing himself as a devout and God-fearing man, won over the pious Moslems. The conspirators met with slight opposition. A great many troops had been detached by Hisham to Africa and other provinces, the caliph himself was in one of his country places; the prefect of Damascus also was absent. Without difficulty, Yazid made himself master of Damascus, and immediately sent his cousin Abdalazīz with 2000 men against Walid, who had not more than 200 fighting men about him. A few men hastened to the rescue, among others ‛Abbās b. Walid with his sons and followers. Abdalazīz interrupted his march, took him prisoner and compelled him to take the oath of allegiance to his brother Yazid. Walid’s small body of soldiers was soon overpowered. After a valiant combat, the caliph retired to one of his apartments and sat with the Koran on his knee, in order to die just as Othman had died. He was killed on the 17th of April 744. His head was taken to Damascus and carried about the city at the end of a spear.

On the news of the murder of the caliph, the citizens of Ḥoms (Emesa) put at their head Abu Mahommed as-Sofiānī, a grandson of Yazid I., and marched against Damascus. They were beaten by Suleimān b. Hishām at a place called Solaimānīa, 12 m. from the capital. Abu Mahommed was taken prisoner and shut up with several of his brethren and cousins in the Khadrā, the old palace of Moawiya, together with the two sons of Walid II. One or two risings in Palestine were easily suppressed. But the reigning family had committed suicide. Their unity was broken. The holiness of their Caliphate, their legitimate authority, had been trifled with; the hatred of the days of Merj Rāhiṭ had been revived. The orthodox faith also, whose strong representative and defender had hitherto been the caliph, was shaken by the fact that Yazid III. belonged to the sect of the Qadaris who rejected the doctrine of predestination. The disorganization of the empire was at hand.

12. Reign of Yazid III.—Yazid III., on his accession, made a fine speech, in which he promised to do all that could be expected from a good and wise ruler, even offering to make place immediately for the man whom his subjects should find better qualified for the Caliphate than himself. He cancelled, however, the increase of the pay granted by Walid and thus earned the nickname of the Nāqiṣ (diminisher). As he owed his position to the aid of the Kalbites, he chose his officers from among them. The governorship of Irak was confided to a Kalbite, Manṣūr b. Jomhūr, a hot-headed and unscrupulous man. Yūsuf b. Omar was unable to offer resistance, and was ultimately taken and confined in the Khadrā. Manṣūr had hardly been three months in office when Yazid replaced him by Abdallah, son of Omar II. The distant provinces, with the exception of Sind and Sijistan, renounced the authority of the new caliph. In Africa Abdarrahman b. Habīb, a descendant of the famous ‛Oqba b. Nāfī’, was almost independent. In Spain every amir tried to free himself from a suzerainty which appeared to him only nominal. Naṣr b. Sayyār, the governor of Khorasan, had not yet decided whether he ought to take the oath of allegiance when Yazid died, after a reign of only five months and a half, on the 12th of Dhu’l-Ḥijja A.H. 126 (25th September A.D. 744).

13. Yazid III. left his brother Ibrāhīm as his successor. He was acknowledged as caliph only in a part of Syria, and reigned no longer than two months, when he was obliged to abdicate and to submit to the authority of Merwan II.

14. Merwan II., the son of Mahommed b. Merwan and cousin of Maslama, was a man of energy, and might have revived the strength of the Omayyad dynasty, but for the general disorder which pervaded the whole empire. In 732 Hisham had entrusted to him the government of Armenia and Azerbaijan, which he held with great success till the death of Walid II. He had great military capacity and introduced important reforms. On the murder of Walid he prepared to dispute the supreme power with the new caliph, and invaded Mesopotamia. Yazid III., in alarm, offered him as the price of peace the government of this province together with Armenia and Azerbaijan. Merwan resolved to accept those conditions, and sent a deputation to Damascus, which, however, had just reached Manbij (Hierapolis) when Yazid died. Leaving his son Abdalmalik with 40,000 men in Rakka, Merwan entered Syria with 80,000 men. Suleimān b. Hishām, at the head of 120,000 men, was defeated at ‛Ain al-Jarr, between Baalbek and Damascus. Merwan made many prisoners, whom he treated with the greatest mildness, granting them freedom on condition that they should take the oath of allegiance to the sons of Walid II. He then marched upon Damascus. But Suleimān b. Hishām, Yazid, the son of Khālid al-Qasri, and other chiefs, hastened to the Khadrā and killed the two princes, together with Yūsuf b. Omar. Suleiman then made himself master of the treasury and fled with the caliph Ibrāhīm to Tadmor (Palmyra). Only Abu Mahommed as-Sofiānī escaped the murderers. When Merwan entered Damascus this man testified that the sons of Walid II., who had just become adult, had named Merwan successor to the Caliphate, and was the first to greet him as Prince of the Believers. All the generals and officers followed his example and took the oath of allegiance (7th December A.D. 744). Merwan did all he could to pacify Syria, permitting the Arabs of the four provinces to choose their own prefects, and even acquiescing in the selection as prefect of Palestine of Thābit b. No‛aim, who had behaved very treacherously towards him before, but whom he had forgiven. He did not, however, wish to reside in Damascus, but transplanted the seat of government to his own town, Harran in Mesopotamia. Suleiman b. Hisham and Ibrahim tendered their submission and were pardoned.

But the pacification was only on the surface. Many Omayyad princes considered Merwan as an upstart, his mother being a slave-girl; the Damascenes were angry because he had chosen Harran for his residence; the Kalbites felt themselves slighted, as the Qaisites predominated. Thābit b. No‛aim revolted in Palestine, Emesa (Homs) and Tadmor were turbulent, Damascus was besieged by Yazid b. Khālid al Qasrī. Merwan, who wanted to march against Irak, was obliged to return to Syria, where he put an end to the troubles. This time Thābit b. No‛aim had to pay for his perfidy with his life. After this new pacification, Merwan caused the Syrians to acknowledge his two sons as heirs to the Caliphate, and married them to two daughters of Hishām. All the Omayyad princes were invited to the wedding, Merwan hoping still to conciliate them. He then equipped 10,000 Syrians, and ordered them to rejoin the army of 20,000 men from Kinnesrin (Qinnasrīn) and Mesopotamia, who, under Yazid b. Omar b. Hobaira, were already on the march towards Irak. When these Syrians came to Roṣāfa (Rusafa), Suleimān b. Hishām persuaded them to proclaim himself caliph, and made himself master of Kinnesrin. From all sides Syrians flocked to his aid till he had 70,000 men under his orders. Merwan immediately ordered Ibn Hobaira to stop his march and to wait for him at Dūrīn, and marched with the main force against Suleimān, whom he utterly defeated at Khosāf in the district of Kinnesrin. Suleiman fled to Homs and thence to Tadmor and on to Kufa, leaving his brother Sa‛id in Homs. The siege of this place by Merwan lasted nearly five months. After the victory the walls