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Marwan b. al-Hakam

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Marwan b. al-Hakam
4th caliph of Banu Umayya
Full Name Marwan b. al-Hakam b. Abi l-'As b. Umayya
Kunya Abu 'Abd al-Malik
Lineage Banu Umayya
Birth 2/623
Places of Residence Ta'if, Medina
Death/Martyrdom 65/685
Cause of
Killed by his wife
Era Early Islam
Known for Son on in law of 'Uthman
Notable roles 4th caliph of Banu Umayy, Secretary of 'Uthman
Activities Participating in battles of Jamal and Siffin, ...

Marwān b. al-Ḥakam b. Abī l-ʿĀs b. Umayya (Arabic: مروان بن الحکم بن أبي العاص بن أمیة) was the fourth Umayyad caliph and the head of Marwanids. In his childhood, Marwan and his father were exiled to Ta'if and were returned to Medina by the third caliph, 'Uthman b. 'Affan, where he received a position in the administration of the caliphate. In the battles of Jamal and Siffin, he stood against Imam Ali (a). Later he opposed burying the body of Imam al-Hasan (a) beside the grave of the Holy Prophet (s) who was his grandfather. He also later had an argument with Imam al-Husayn (a) as he (a) did not give allegiance to Yazid. After withdrawal of Mu'awiya b. Yazid from caliphate, Marwan took the caliphate and after about ten months, was poisoned by his wife and died in 65/685.

Birth and Lineage

Marwan b. Hakam b. Abi al-'As b. Umayya b. 'Abd Shams b. 'Abd Manaf was born in 2/623. His kunya was Abu 'Abd al-Malik and since he was tall while he had an unbalanced body, he became famous as "Khit al-Batil" (deviated lanky). He was the first person from among the children of Hakam b. Abi l-'As who reached caliphate and Banu Marwan are called after him.

The father of Marwan, Hakam b. Abi l-'As b. Umayya was cursed and exiled by the Prophet (s) because of exposing the Prophet's (s) secrets before the chiefs of Quraysh and thus Sunni scholars did not count him among the companions of the Prophet (s). Some reports have mentioned Ta'if as the birth place of Marwan. He settled in Ta'if together with his father and at the time of Abu Bakr and 'Umar stayed in exile.

Following the caliphate of 'Uthman, Marwan and his father returned to Medina and became a writer and among the favorites of 'Uthman's government and later became his son-in-law. It is reported that Imam Ali (a) told him, "woe be on you and on the people of Muhammad (s) from what you do."

Historical sources have mentioned his actions among the major causes of uprising against 'Uthman and his killing. One of his actions was his report about inviting people to uprising by 'Ammar b. Yasir which led to 'Uthman's order to assault and beat 'Ammar so much that 'Ammar dropped unconscious.

Opposing Imam Ali (a)

After Imam Ali (a) became the caliph in 35/656, Marwan did not give allegiance to him and escaped to Mecca and joined 'A'isha.

He was among the people who provoked Talha and Zubayr to revolt and make a government and asked them to force people to give allegiance to them. In the Battle of Jamal, he was in the army of Talha and Zubayr and sought the vengeance for the blood of 'Uthman. However, according to some historians, it was because Talha wanted to withdraw from war.

In the Battle of Jamal, Marwan was taken captive together with 'A'isha, 'Amr b. 'Uthman, Musa b. Talha and 'Amr b. Sa'id b. Abi l-'As, but Imam Ali (a) forgave them. However, according to some sources, Marwan escaped to Syria after the escape of his companions towards the end of the battle.

In the Battle of Siffin, Marwan, in Umayyad army, stood against Imam Ali (a). In this battle, Mu'awiya asked Marwan to stand against Malik al-Ashtar and fight with him but Marwan refused and excused. According to a report, after the battle, Imam (a) gave him safe conduct and Marwan gave allegiance to Imam (a) and returned to Medina and settled there.

Government of Medina

In 41/661, after Mu'awiya reached the caliphate, Marwan was appointed as the governor of Medina. After a while, Mu'awiya appended Mecca and Medina to the government of Marwan. Later, Mu'awiya dismissed Marwan and replaced him with Sa'id b. Abi l-'As. Some reports referred to Marwan's refusal of taking allegiance of people for Yazid, son of Mu'awiya as the cause of this dismissal.

In 54/674, Marwan was again appointed as the governor of Medina and later was dismissed again and was replaced with Walid b. 'Ataba. In that period as well, Marwan continued to oppose and act against Imams (a). In the burial of the body of Imam al-Hasan (a), Marwan prevented from burying his body beside the grave of the Holy Prophet (s). Also, after Yazid reached caliphate, Marwan made a great effort to take allegiance of Imam al-Husayn (a), so much that he had an argument with him before Walid b. 'Ataba, the governor of Medina.

After the revolt of the people of Medina against Yazid, Marwan was exiled from the city and then asked 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar to protect his family, but Ibn 'Umar refused it and so Marwan asked the same request from Imam al-Sajjad (a) and he (a) accepted his request and followed it up. Then, Marwan went to Syria and stayed there until the death of Mu'awiya b. Yazid b. Mu'awiya. According to some historical reports, the Event of Harra happened after the exile of Marwan and other Umayyads and their request for help from Yazid, when he sent an army to Medina.


After Mu'waya b. Yazid withdrew from caliphate, Umayyads gave allegiance to Marwan for caliphate. To strengthen his government, Marwan first went to Jabiya (north of Hawran) and called people to himself and in 64/683-684, people of Jordan gave allegiance to him. He then went to Syria and tried to correct affairs. In Syria, Dahhak b. Qays al-Fihri was calling people to give allegiance to 'Abd Allah b. Zubayr and this led to his battle with Marwan, when Dahhak was defeated and killed.

To expand his rule, Marwan sent an army to Egypt and brought the people there who wanted to give allegiance to 'Abd Allah b. Zubayr under his own control. He then appointed his son, 'Abd al-Malik to the government there. Then, he returned to Syria and died soon. One of the important actions he did during his short rule was minting Dinar coins of Syria, on which the verse "Qul Hu-wa Allah-u Ahad" ("Say, He is Allah, the One") was inscribed.


After Yazid died, Marwan married Umm Khalid bt. Hashim b. 'Ataba b. Rabi'a (wife of Yazid and mother of Khalid b. Yazid) so that Umm Khalid bear a child for him. One day, in a gathering, he swore at the mother of Khalid b. Yazid which made him angry and objected to his mother, but she asked him to keep silent and promised him the he would never again hear a bad word from Marwan. After this happening, Umm Khalid poisoned Marwan and killed him.

According to historical reports, Umm Khalid suffocated him with a pillow when he was sleeping. According to another report, Marwan was struck by plague and it killed him.

Caliphate of Marwan lasted nine or ten months. He died at the beginning of the month of Ramadan, 65/685 at the age of 64. Before his death, he had made his son 'Abd al-Malik as the crown prince and appointed his other son, 'Abd al-'Aziz as the second crown prince; so, after the death of Marwan, 'Abd al-Malik became the caliph and people of Syria gave allegiance to him.