Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan

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Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan
The First Umayyad caliph
Kunya Abu 'Abd al-Rahman
Epithet Khal al-Mu'minin
Lineage Umayyads
Well-known Relatives Abu Sufyan, Yazid
Birth 5 years before Bi'tha/605
Place of Birth Mecca
Place of Residence Mecca, Damascus
Death/Martyrdom 60/680
Burial Place Damascus
Era Early Islam
Notable roles Representative of 'Umar and 'Uthman in Damascus, 1st caliph of Umayyad dynasty
Activities Battle of Siffin against Imam 'Ali (a), Peace Treaty with Imam al-Hasan (a)

Muʿāwīya b. Abī Sufyān (Arabic: معاویة بن ابي سفیان) (b. 18 BH/605 - d. 60/680) is the first Umayyad caliph who ruled in Damascus after the Peace Treaty of Imam al-Hasan (a).

In the conquering of Mecca, he became Muslim and he was among Tulaqa'. He attended the conquering of Syria at the time of Abu Bakr. At the time of 'Umar b. al-Khattab, Mu'awiya was the governor of Jordan and he then became the governor of all Syria. In the rebellion against 'Uthman b. 'Affan, disregarded his request for help and did not go to help him. At the time of Imam Ali's (a) caliphate, on the pretext of taking revenge for 'Uthman, he waged the Battle of Siffin. In the peace treaty with Imam al-Hasan (a) after the martyrdom of Imam 'Ali (a), Mu'awiya took the caliphate of Muslims and made Damascus as his capital. At his time, victories were mostly expanded in the west and north of Africa and in the eastern lands, he just tried to stabilize previous victories.

Mu'awiya changed caliphate to kingdom and made great efforts to take allegiance of people for his son, Yazid. To manage the country, he established new institutions. He encountered several uprisings of Kharijites and Shi'a and suppressed all of them.

Birth and Lineage

Abu 'Abd al-Rahman, Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan Sakhr b. Harb b. Umayya b. 'Abd Shams b. 'Abd Manaf b. Qusay al-Qurayshi al-Umawi was born five years before the beginning of the mission of the Holy Prophet (s) (605 CE), In some reports, his birth is mentioned 7 or 13 years before the beginning of the mission of the Holy Prophet (s) (615 CE or 608 CE). His mother was Hind, daughter of 'Utba b. Rabi'a b. 'Abd Shams b. 'Abd Manaf.


He is described as white-skinned and good-looking. He used to dye his beard. In a report, it is said that he dyed his beard yellow as if it was golden.

In the Time of the Prophet (s)

It is famously reported that he was among Tulaqa' and those who became Muslim after conquering of Mecca. In some other reports, it is mentioned that he became Muslim on Yawm al-Qada'. According to the later report, he hid the fact that he was a Muslim. Some reports regarded him among the writers of revelation. The Holy Prophet (s) cursed him not to be satiated from food. Many hadiths have been forged to respect and esteem Mu'awiya.

Among the Holy Prophet's (s) brother-in-laws, he was the only person who was called Khal al-Mu'minin [uncle of the believers] (Umm Habiba, the Holy Prophet's (s) wife was Mu'awiya's sister so he was called Khal al-Mu'minin.)

Mu'awiya narrated hadiths from Abu Bakr, 'Umar, 'Uthman, and his sister, Umm Habiba; while, some Companions and Followers narrated hadiths from him.

In the Time of the First Three Caliphs

Mu'awiya participated in the Battle of Yamama and then together with his brother, Yazid, went to Syria in the army of Abu Bakr. In conquering the coastal cities of Sidon, 'Araqa, Byblos, Beirut, Acre, Tyre, and Qubadiyya.

Mu'awiya earned 'Umar b. al-Khattab's trust and he appointed Mu'awiya as the governor of Jordan and appointed Mu'awiya's brother, Yazid as the governor of all Syria. After Yazid died in the plague of 'Amuas, 'Umar appointed Mu'awiya as the governor of all Syria. Some historians expressed their surprise from 'Umar's compromise with Mu'awiya. Al-Hasan al-Basri said that Mu'awiya prepared himself for caliphate from the time of 'Umar. 'Umar left all Syria regions to Mu'awiya. Mu'awiya said, "By God I swear that it was just out of my position before 'Umar that I gained such a control over people."

When 'Uthman b. 'Affan became the caliph, he reappointed Mu'awiya for the same region. Against the objections 'Uthman received about Mu'awiya, said, "how do I dismiss him while 'Umar has appointed him." During the rule of 'Uthman, Syria was considered his safe region. He exiled the reciters of Kufa and also Abu Dhar to Syria; although Mu'awiya sent them out of Syria to secure his position and to avoid their influence over people.

Rebellion Against 'Uthman

Since the beginning of the rebellion against 'Uthman, Mu'awiya was trying to use it for his own benefit. Once, he asked 'Uthman to come to Syria to him so that he would be safe from dissidents, but 'Uthman did not accept it. Later when the rebellions became more intense, Mu'awiya found the solution in the death of 'Uthman. So, he did not help 'Uthman, so that 'Uthman found it out in the middle of his troubles and wrote an admonitory letter to him. Later, Mu'awiya mentioned Umayyads true inheritors of 'Uthman and rose up against Imam 'Ali (a) to take revenge of 'Uthman. After the death of 'Uthman and flee of his wife to Syria, Mu'awiya proposed to marry her but she did not accept.

In his letters to Imam 'Ali (a), Mu'awiya stressed that, "Our caliph, 'Uthman, was killed being oppressed and God said, 'and whoever is killed wrongfully, We have certainly given his heir an authority'[Note 1] So, we deserve to succeed 'Uthman and his children." Through his propagation, Mu'awiya called himself the successor of 'Uthman.

At the Time of Imam 'Ali (a)

In the very beginning of caliphate, Imam 'Ali (a) told Mu'awiya's representative, "Tell Mu'awiya that I am not pleased with his rule over Syria and people will never be consent with his caliphate." Before the Battle of Jamal, Mu'awiya wrote to al-Zubayr that he has taken the allegiance of the people of Syria for al-Zubayr and if he conquers Iraq, he would not have any problem in Syria. Al-Zubayr was pleased with this letter. Mu'awiya tried to attract one of those political figures from Quraysh especially those who were rejected in the Six-Member Council and cannot be the caliph. In a letter to Imam 'Ali (a), Mu'awiya mentioned this issue about the Council.

Imam (a) wanted to send 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas as the governor of Syria, so, he (a) wrote to Mu'awiya and in reply, Mu'awiya only sent a blank letter to Imam (a) and the representative of Mu'awiya said that he was coming from people who believed that Imam 'Ali (a) had killed 'Uthman and would not be pleased to anything less than killing of Imam (a). Mu'awiya used the Battle of Jamal and referred to the encounter of Talha, al-Zubayr and Aisha and preached Imam's (a) role in the murder of 'Uthman.

After the Battle of Jamal, Imam (a) settled in Kufa, because a confrontation with the army of Syria was very likely. Except Syria, other regions had given allegiance to Imam 'Ali (a). In several letters, Imam (a) tried to convince Mu'awiya to obey; however, Mu'awiya said that he was appointed by 'Umar and disobeyed Imam 'Ali (a). Mu'awiya asked Imam (a) to leave Syria and Egypt to him and does not ask him to attract anyone's allegiance to Imam 'Ali (a) and instead, Mu'awiya gives allegiance to Imam 'Ali (a). Imam (a) replied to him, "God will never find me taking those who lead astray as my assistant."

He first accepted allegiance of people in Syria as "Emir" [Ruler] not "Amir al-Mu'minin" [Commander of the Faithful]. Mu'awiya wrote to the ruler of Homs that people shall give allegiance to him the same way as the people of Syria gave allegiance to him. Elders of Homs did not agree to give allegiance to Mu'awiya as Emir. They said that they would not revenge the blood of 'Uthman without having a caliph. This way, people of Homs were the first people who gave allegiance to Mu'awiya as the caliph. Later, people of Syria also gave allegiance to him as the caliph.

Since Mu'awiya was among the Tulaqa', the issue of his caliphate was complicated. In Syria, Mu'awiya introduced himself as "Khal al-Mu'minin" [Uncle of the Believers] and "the scribe of revelation" and tried to make up for it.

Once in Syria, Mu'awiya said, "why would 'Ali (a) be better than me for caliphate? If Hijaz has given allegiance to him, Syria has given allegiance to me. Hijaz and Syria are of the same level." In letter to Imam (a), he wrote the same message, "As far as people of Hijaz observed the truth, their opinion was compelling; but, now that they have abandoned the truth, people of Syria have the rights." Imam (a) replied, "But about that you said, 'now people of Syria rule over the people of Hijaz'; show me a man from Quraysh who would be accepted in the council or can be the caliph. If you claim so, Immigrants and the Helpers will deny you…. Allegiance with me was nationwide and no opposition exist in it and no re-election would be available."

Battle of Siffin

Main article: Battle of Siffin

After correspondences and efforts of Imam (a) for removing Mu'awiya or convincing him were unsuccessful, Imam (a) decided to make jihad. Imam (a) summoned the elders of his companions from the Immigrants and the Helpers and in a sermon, he (a) called people to jihad. The battle took place in a place called Siffin. In the middle of the war when the army of Mu'awiya was about to be defeated, they held up pieces of the holy Qur'an on their spears and so, the army of Imam 'Ali (a) stopped fighting. Finally, arbitrators were chosen to arbitrate between the two parties and the war ended without any certain results.

Invasions of the Army of Syria

After the Battle of Nahrawan, Imam (a) tried to mobilize people of Iraq for a new war with Syria. The number of people who agreed to accompany Imam (a) was few. There are sermons narrated from Imam (a) in which he (a) has reprimanded people. "I have been entangled with people who do not obey when I give order and when I call them, they do not answer." Mu'awiya was aware of the weakness of the people of Iraq in battle with him. In this situation, he decided to invade different places under control of Imam (a) in the peninsula and even Iraq and weaken the power of Imam (a) and pave the way for opening Iraq. Mu'awiya said, "these killing and looting scare the people of Iraq and make those who oppose or decide to make division serious in their intention and summons those who fear disputes to us." These invasions are called "gharat" (Arabic: غارات). Abu Ishaq al-Thaqafi makes a list of these invasions in Kitab al-gharat:

  • Invasion of Egypt: Egypt was the first region that the army of Syria attacked. Qays b. Sa'd was the governor of the Egypt and accompanied Imam 'Ali (a) at the time of the Battle of Siffin. After Siffin, Muhammad b. Abi Bakr became the governor of Egypt, but later due to chaotic situation of Egypt Imam (a) sent Malik al-Ashtar to Egypt. Knowing this, Mu'awiya plotted to kill Malik and got him martyred in Qulzum. Mu'awiya promised Egypt to 'Amr b. al-'As. 'Amr moved to Egypt with a great army. Kinana b. Bushr went to fight him with 2000 soldiers, but he was defeated and killed. In Egypt, people abandoned Muhammad b. Abi Bakr. Mu'awiya b. Khadij, the commander of pioneering soldiers of the army of Syria found him in ruins, beheaded him and put his head in a dead animal and set it on fire. This way, Egypt went out of the control of Imam (a) and 'Amr al-'As ruled over there until 43/663-4 when he died.
  • Invasion of Basra: after consulting with 'Amr b. al-'As, Mu'awiya sent 'Abd Allah b. 'Amir al-Hadrami to Basra to gather his supporters of taking revenge of 'Uthman and seize the city. Ibn 'Amir gathered Banu Tamim tribe. Dahhak b. 'Abd Allah al-Hilali objected him in support of Imam 'Ali (a). Most people of Banu Tamim rose up in support of Ibn 'Amir. Mu'awiya had asked Ibn 'Amir to trust Egyptians and this irritated Azdis. Ziyad b. 'Ubayd the deputy to governor of Basra wrote to 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas, the governor of Basra who was in Kufa. Having the support of Azdis, Ziyad led the Friday Prayer and asked them to stand against Banu Tamim. Imam (a) sent Ziyad b. Dabi'a al-Tamimi to Basra to prevent Banu Tamim from supporting Ibn 'Amir. Following his efforts, some people of Banu Tamim returned, but he was killed by Kharijites. Imam (a) sent Jariya b. Qudama with 50 people of Banu Tamim origin to Basra. He read Imam's (a) letter to Shi'a. A war occurred in which Banu Tamim were defeated.
  • Invasion of Iraq: Mu'awiya sent Dahhak b. Qays to Iraq and advised him to loot and kill followers of Imam 'Ali (a) everywhere he arrived and then rush to somewhere else. Dahhak arrived in Kufa, looted the property of people and attacked the caravan of hajj pilgrims. Imam (a) sent Hujr b. 'Adi with 4000 soldiers to run Dahhak down. Hujr reached Dahhak in Tadmur and in a battle 19 soldiers of the army of Syria and two of the companions of Hujr were killed. Dahhak escaped at night.

An attack of an army led by Nu'man b. Bashir to 'Ayn al-Tamr near the Euphrates was another invasion under command of Mu'awiya. This attack ended with short fight and the escaping of Nu'man. After these invasions, 'Adi b. Hatam with 2000 soldiers made some attacks at the lands south of Syria.

Also Mu'awiya sent an army to Dumah al-Jandal to collect zakat. Imam (a) also sent an army under the command of Malik b. Ka'b. The two armies fought on the same day and the army of Syria returned.

Another invasion was the invasion of Sufyan b. 'Awf al-Ghamidi to Hit by 6000 soldiers. From there, they went to al-Anbar. The companions of Imam (a) in the city were few. Attackers looted al-Anbar. Imam (a) sent Sa'id b. Qays al-Hamdani with 8000 to track them, but they had entered Syria.

  • Invasion of Hijaz: During the rituals of hajj in 39/660, Mu'awiya sent an army to Mecca led by Yazid b. Shajara al-Rahawi to invite people to Mu'awiya during rituals of hajj. On the opposite side, Imam (a) went an army led by Ma'qil b. Qays al-Riyahi to Mecca. The army of Syria returned to Syria after the rituals of hajj without having any fight. Ma'qil followed them up to Wadi l-Qura and captured only few of their soldiers who had stayed behind. They were later exchanged with some captives from Iraq.

The invasion of Busr b. Artat of Hijaz and Yemen was among the most savage looting of Mu'awiya. Mu'awiya had asked Busr to kill followers of Imam 'Ali (a) wherever he found them. After some disputes in Iraq, supporters of 'Uthman in Yemen rose up against 'Ubayd Allah b. 'Abbas, the governor of Yemen and asked Mu'awiya for help. Busr first went to Medina and Abu Ayyub al-Ansari escaped from there because he did not have enough soldiers. Busr burnt Abu Ayyub's house and forced people to give allegiance and appointed Abu Hurayra as the governor of the city. He then went to Mecca and Ta'if. He killed a group of Shi'a in Tabala. People escaped in fear of Busr. Busr arrested the wife and children of 'Ubayd Allah b. 'Abbas and beheaded his children. He then went to Najran and killed 'Abd Allah b. 'Abd al-Madan, the father-in-law of 'Ubayd Allah. Then, Busr went to Yemen. Few of Shi'a made little resistance and many of them were killed. Busr beheaded 100 Shi'a of Iranian origin. He then moved towards Hadramut where it was said that many Shi'a were living. After Imam (a) heard about the invasions of Busr, sent Jariya b. Qudama with an army to follow him, but when he arrived in Mecca, Busr had left the city. It is said that before Jariya arrived in Kufa, Imam 'Ali (a) had been martyred and so he gave allegiance to Imam al-Hasan (a) when he arrived in Kufa.

Establishment of Umayyad Caliphate

Main article: Umayyad Caliphate

After the martyrdom of Imam 'Ali (a), in Jerusalem, people of Syria gave allegiance to Mu'awiya as the caliph and called him Amir al-Mu'minin. Then, Mu'awiya rushed to Iraq. In Kufa, Imam al-Hasan (a) moved towards Madain with an army of 12000 soldiers including 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas. When he (a) arrived in Sabat, doubted in the loyalty of his companions, especially after the efforts of Mu'awiya to bribe the commanders of the army and being successful in appeasing 'Ubayd Allah b. 'Abbas. At that time, Imam al-Hasan (a) stopped the war and in the conversations he had with Mu'awiya, Imam al-Hasan (a) left the caliphate to Mu'awiya. Imam (a) accepted the peace with Mua'wiya provided that the caliphate of Muslims after Mu'awiya would be for Imam al-Hasan (a). After the peace treaty, Mu'awiya entered Kufa and Imam al-Hasan (a) and Imam al-Husayn (a) gave allegiance to him. For the gathering of people around him, that year was called "'Am al-Jama'a" [Year of Community], because all the Ummah except Khawarij gave allegiance to one caliph. Pointing to the fact that Mu'awiya ruled the whole Islamic state and ruled over other members of the assembly of Immigrants and the Helpers, al-Jahiz says, "Mu'awiya called that year Am al-Jama'a' while it was 'the year of division, separation, oppression, and dominion'; the year in which Imamate turned into kinghood and prophetic system turned into Kasra-like system [dictatorship] and caliphate was seized and became Caesar-like."

The government of Mu'awiya was the first experience of a ruler who gained power by force and political tricks in religio-political and even tribal and regional conflicts. Mu'awiya openly said that he received caliphate neither through love nor the content of people, rather by sword. This way, Umayyad caliphate was established and Mu'awiya became the caliph of the Islamic Umma. Umayyads ruled for 91 years (41/661 – 132/750). During these years, 14 people ruled, the first of whom was Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan and their last one was Marwan b. Muhammad.

Political Approach

After the peace treaty with Imam al-Hasan (a), the first round of Mu'awiya's caliphate was finished and Umayyad era began. Mu'awiya made Damascus the capital of his government. He tried to strengthen the roots of his government according to his goals. His serious efforts included: changing in the foundation of the political system and making important roles for the army, tribal balance, crown prince, suppression of oppositions, lenience and generosity towards important Islamic figures, providing security through using dictator governors, direct management of government affairs and seeking his expansionist policies.

Using Religious Principles to Reinforce the Caliphate

To reinforce his caliphate, Mu'awiya used some religious principles as well. He regarded his achievement of power a will of God, since all things are done by will of God. Once Mu'awiya said that, "This caliphate is a will of God and a decree among divine decrees." Against the objection of Aisha with making Yazid the crown prince, Mu'awiya said, "this is a divine decree and no one has any will against the divine decree." Ziyad b. Abih who was appointed by Mu'awiya as the governor of Basra and Kufa, said in his famous speech that, "O people! We are politician and defending you and rule over you with the government God has given us." Also in his first speech, Yazid said, "His father was a servant of God, and God honored him and gave him caliphate… and now God has appointed us to this government." Son of 'Uthman who objected to appointment of Yazid as the crown prince and told Mu'awiya that, "you came to power because of our father!" Mu'awiya answered him, "This is the kingdom God has given us."

Mu'awiya loved to use the word "Mulk" [kingdom]. He said, "I am the first of kings." He saw kingdom just a political system and said that he did not care about religion of people. It is narrated from him saying, "By God I swear! My war was not for the establishment of prayer, fasting, hajj, or zakat for you did them! I fought you to rule over you and God gave me that while you were not happy with it."

Syria was trained by Mu'awiya; and this is a fact revealed in total loyalty of the people of Syria to Umayyads during their rule. It is said that chiefs of Umayyads attested before al-Saffah that they knew no relatives for the Holy Prophet (s) except Umayyads!

It is narrated from Mu'awiya saying that, "we are the tree of the Prophet (s)." Also through spread his titles as the writer of revelation and Khal al-Mu'minin [uncle of the believers], he tried to reinforce his religious position. He forced some narrators of hadiths to forge tens of hadiths about his merits and spread among people.

Official Policy of Mu'awiya

Mu'awiya used his skills in using advantageous official procedures and establishing offices for the government. Offices developed during the time of Mu'awiya. The relations with Rome and Iran were influential for that. Umayyads followed the official system of 'Umar b. al-Khattab without promoting it. Mu'awiya benefited from Sergio b. Mansur and his son, Mansur b. Sergio, in development of the financial office.

Mua'wiya established Khatam and Barid offices. He established Khatam office so that no correspondence would not remain without a seal [signature], no one knows about them other than the caliph, and that letters would not be distorted. Moreover, Khatam office received reports which were sent by governors. Barid office was established to speed up the connection between the caliph and his agents. In addition to sending and receiving letters, the office workers of the two offices were also spies of the caliph. They controlled the affairs of governors and sent reports to the caliph. Mu'awiya spent too much money for the management of this office.

Civil Political Events


Even with the force and violence of governors towards Kharijites, they were always a cause of disorder during the time of Mu'awiya. Mu'waiya hated them more than Imam 'Ali (a) did. They regarded Mu'awiya deviated from Islam. Their actions made the caliph distressed while they opposed peaceful solutions and thus Mu'awiya stood against them with violence.

Kharijites contemporary with the time of transferring the center of caliphate from Kufa to Damascus took a more moderate and agreeable position and this moving of their activity center from Haruriyya from Kufa to Basra revealed their weakness and deviations in their movement before its establishment and turning into an ideological party. Divergence of ideological sects of Khawarij made negative effect on their military forces and provided an opportunity for Umayyad government to conquer them. Battle of Nahrawan was the first and last battle in which Khawarij gathered against one enemy under one banner and after that they were scattered.

Khawarij of Kufa led by Farwa b. Nawfal al-Ashja'i objected to the peace treaty between Imam al-Hasan (a) and Mu'awiya and revolted against Mu'awiya who was still in Kufa and camped in Nukhayla. They fought with soldiers of Mu'awiya for several times.

In 43/663-4, Mustawrad b. 'Alqama led the biggest revolt of Khawarij against Mu'awiya. al-Mughira b. Shu'ba, the governor of Kufa crushed them in Madhar. Scattering of Khawarij tribes and people of Kufa, power of the central government and the harsh policies it took against them in Iraq and the inclination of the people of Kufa towards Imam 'Ali (a) in suppressing Khawarij helped al-Mughira. Although Khawarij tried to unite the people of Kufa with themselves, but the people of Kufa preferred to fight with them over political benefits.

Khawarij of Kufa were at peace for some years until in 58/677-8 Hayyan b. Zabyan al-Sulami revolted. In the next year, the revolt ended with killing of all of them in al-Qadisiyyah.

Khawarij of Basra sometimes revolted like Khawarij of Kufa. In 41/661-2, they revolted under the command of Sahm b. Ghalib and Khatim al-Bahili. The Umayyad governor, Ibn 'Amir crushed them. Due to his lenience with Khawarij, Ibn 'Amir was removed by Mu'awiya. In 45/665-6, Ziyad b. Abih became the governor of Basra and took harsh policies against Khawarij. After the death of Ziyad in 53/672-3, the activities of Khawarij of Basra were continued. In 55/674-5, 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad became the governor of Basra, followed them, imprisoned, exiled, and killed them.

Political Situation out of Iraq

Political situation out of Iraq did not make any major problem for Mu'awiya and governors ruled without any objection. 'Amr b. al-'As ruled in Egypt for two years and died in 63/682-3 and his son ruled after him for two years. Then, 'Utba b. Abi Sufyan, Mu'awiya's brother and after him, Mu'awiya b. Hudayj ruled in Egypt.

In Hijaz, there were significant personalities such as Imam al-Hasan (a), Imam al-Husayn (a), 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr, etc. Therefore, Mu'awiya controlled the region himself and appointed an Umayyad governor for it as a political agent who acts as Mu'awiya decided. Medina was governed by Marwan b. Hakam and Sa'id b. al-'As. They promoted non-political activities there such as poetry, music, singing, and religious studies. This made Mecca and Medina two of the most important centers for social life at that time.

Attitude Toward Shi'a

Undoubtedly, Shi'a were among enemies of Mu'awiya. He and his agents fought with them in different ways.

  • Suppression

The policies of Mu'awiya about the people of Syria could not be successful about Shi'a of Iraq. Therefore, he chose the path of torture and killing Shi'a. A famous title of Shi'a of 'Ali (a) at the time of Umayyads was Turabiyya.

Killing Shi'as by Umayyads began since the time of Imam 'Ali's (a) rule. Mu'awiya sent Busr b. Artat, Sufyan b. 'Awf al-Ghamidi, and Dahhak b. Qays to Iraq and Hijaz and asked them to kill Shi'a wherever they find any.

From 41/661-2 until 49/669-670 or 50/670-671, al-Mughira was the governor of Kufa. He treated Shi'a with compromise and this way, could sustain political situation calm. After al-Mughira died, Mu'awiya left Kufa to Ziyad b. Abih who was already the governor of Basra. In his first action, he cut the hands of 80 people who did not give allegiance to him. Muslim b. Zaymur and 'Abd Allah b. Naji were among Shi'a he martyred. After the martyrdom of Hujr, Imam al-Husayn (a) wrote a letter to Mu'awiya and mentioned their martyrdom as well.

The mission of Ziyad was suppressing Shi'a in Kufa and the whole Iraq. Ibn A'tham said that, "he [Ziyad] was always looking for Shi'a and killed them wherever he found them and he killed many. He cut hands and feet of people and blinded them. In addition, Mu'awiya himself also killed many Shi'a. It is narrated that Mu'awiya ordered to hang some Shi'a. Ziyad gathered Shi'a in the mosque to denounce 'Ali (a)." In a letter to Mu'awiya, Imam al-Hasan (a) objected to the behavior of Ziyad. Mu'awiya also wrote to his agents that, "kill anyone among you who is Shi'a of 'Ali (a) and a lover of him, even if you have to find slightest reason for that through assumption."

One of the most important methods of Mu'awiya was making hatred from Imam 'Ali (a) among people. In later periods, Mu'awiya and other Umayyads were seriously active in removing the fame of Imam 'Ali (a) in the society and introducing him as a warmonger and bloodthirsty person. They expressed their hatred in gatherings and cursed him. In Sharh nahj al-balagha, Ibn Abi l-Hadid refers to forged hadiths which Mu'awiya made against Imam 'Ali (a).

Swearing and cursing Imam 'Ali (a) continued after Mu'awiya as a common custom up to the time of 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz, when it ended. It was so that when Marwan b. al-Hakam was asked why 'Ali (a) was sworn at on the pulpits, he said, "the rule of Umayyads does not continue without cursing 'Ali (a)". Mu'awiya said, this must expand so much that children grow up with this slogan and youths grow old with it and no one mentions any merits from him. Mu'awiya gave 400 thousand Dinars to Samura b. Jundab so that he says that "though he is the staunchest of enemies"[Note 2] was revealed about 'Ali (a). Mu'awiya made some of the Companions and Followers to forge hadiths against Imam 'Ali (a) including Abu Hurayra, 'Amr b. al-'As, al-Mughira b. Shu'ba and 'Urwa b. al-Zubayr. He cursed Imam 'Ali (a) and removed agents who did not do so and had made such a fear among people that no one names his child after Imam 'Ali (a).

When al-Mughira and others cursed Imam 'Ali (a) on the pulpit, Hujr b. 'Adi al-Kindi and 'Amr b. Hamiq al-Khuza'i and their companions raised and returned the curse and spoke about it. After al-Mughira, Ziyad b. Abih became the ruler of Kufa and sought to arrest them. 'Amr b. Hamiq al-Khuza'i and some of his companions fled to Mosul, but Hujr b. 'Adi and 13 men of his companions were arrested and sent to Mu'awiya. In his letter to Mu'awiya, Ziyad wrote that these people have objected to cursing Abu Turab (Imam Ali's (a) kunya), have slandered against governors and thus have broken the rules. When they arrived at Maraj 'Adhra' near Damascus, Mu'awiya ordered to behead them there. Since some interceded for six of them, they were kept alive, but seven others were killed including Hujr b. 'Adi al-Kindi, Sharik b. Shaddad al-Hadrami, Sayfi b. Fasil al-Shaybani, Qabisa b. Dabi'a al-'Abbasi, Muhriz b. Shihab al-Tamimi, Kadam b. Hayyan al-'Anzi, and 'Abd al-Rahman b. Hassan al-'Anzi.

Hearing this was very saddening for Imam al-Husayn (a) so that in a letter to Mu'awiya, Imam al-Husayn (a) mentioned killing of Hujr as one of his heinous acts.

Aisha also objected to Mu'awiya for that action and when Mu'awiya said that he did so for the good of people, she said, "I heard from the Prophet (s) that, 'after me, some will be killed in 'Adhra' from the murder of whom God's wrath will be aroused.'"

Al-Hasan al-Basri said, "Mu'awiya had four attributes, one of which is enough for destruction:

  1. Ruling over Muslims with sword as he reached the rule without a council while meritorious Companions were still alive.
  2. Enthroning his drunk son who wore silk and played tambour.
  3. Calling Ziyad his brother while the Prophet (s) had said, "son of a woman belongs to her official husband and adulterous does not earn anything but stone."
  4. Killing of Hujr. [he then said twice] 'Woe be to him about Hujr and his companions.'

Taking Allegiance of People to Yazid for Being Crown Prince

Taking allegiance for the caliphate of his son, Yazid, more than anything else made people stand against Mu'awiya and criticize him. He broke Muslim style for choosing the caliphs since the time of Abu Bakr and to preserve the system he created, he had to make a hereditary rule. Practicing such a decision was not easy, because Arabs were not familiar with hereditary rule and obviously Mu'awiya feared that his 30 years of efforts for establishing Umayyad rule fail. He believed that choosing the caliph must stay among Umayyads and therefore he appointed Yazid. On the other hand, he also believed that the center of caliphate must be in Syria because their political inclination was towards Umayyads.

At that time, there were three groups: those who were incline towards the first three caliphs and objected to Umayyads and waited for the death of Mu'awiya to show their negative stance. They regarded hereditary regime out of Islamic traditions. The second group were those who backed Umayyad rule and were allied with them. They made no serious problem for Mu'awiya. The third group were Shi'a who were against Umayyads and regarded the rule among the religious and political rights of the Ahl al-Bayt (a).

According to a famous report, al-Mughira b. Shu'ba was the one who led Mu'awiya to think this way. But, it seems that Mu'awiya himself also believed so, but he said that al-Mughira spread this thought among people. Ziyad b. Abih had a different position. He believed that Yazid was a weak person and loved hunting more than caliphate and was not the right person for caliphate while the opposition group were still powerful.

Mu'awiya accepted Ziyad's advice in order to prevent the uprising of Imam al-Hasan (a) and children of the Companions and postponed announcing Yazid as crown prince until the situation turns in favor of them. In 50/670, Imam al-Hasan (a) was martyred and this emboldened Mu'awiya to take allegiance of people for his son, Yazid. However, he made it conditioned to the decision of his allied tribes in Syria, most important one of which were those of Dahhak b. Qays al-Fihri and Hassan b. Bajdal al-Kalbi.

Obstacles for Yazid as the Crown Prince

Most important obstacles against Yazid's position as crown prince were as follows:

  • Convincing notable personalities of Hijaz, especially the children of Companions such as Imam al-Husayn (a), 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr, 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar, and 'Abd al-Rahman b. Abi Bakr and even some Umayyad figures such as Marwan b. al-Hakam and Sa'id b. al-'As. To convince notable personalities of Hijaz, Mu'awiya wrote a letter to Marwan b. al-Hakam to know the opinion of people about his successor, without mentioning Yazid. When he received a positive response, he wrote another letter to Marwan to inform him about appointment of Yazid. He also wrote a letter to his agents and ordered them to praise Yazid and send delegations from small and big cities to him. Therefore, delegations from Iraq and different cities of Syria went to Yazid to give allegiance to him.

Soon it appeared that Medina was more opposite against Yazid than other Islamic cities, so that a group led by 'Abd al-Rahman b. Abi Bakr emerged against him. Also, Imam al-Husayn (a), 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr and 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar stood against preparations for the caliphate of Yazid and Marwan informed Mu'awiya about that. These four people agreed with each other that if a hereditary caliphate is going to be established, they would have more rights than Yazid to be the caliph if better people are to be the caliph. Mu'awiya had to attract the allegiance of the people of Hijaz. He first showed lenience. In 50/670-1, he went to Medina and spoke with four of the children of the Companions, 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas, 'Abd Allah b. Ja'far, 'Abd al-Rahman b. Abi Bakr and 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr. Mu'awiya failed in convincing them to give allegiance to Yazid. Before making any move for taking allegiance, Mu'awiya once again did the same and Sa'id b. al-'As took harsh actions against those who opposed giving allegiance. Except few people, especially Banu Hashim, everyone gave allegiance to Yazid. Mu'awiya tried to attract people to himself by giving so much money to people. Through the payment of Mu'awiya, poets such as 'Aqaba al-Asadi and 'Abd Allah b. Humam al-Saluli who hated Yazid, changed their position.

In 56/675-6, Mu'awiya officially announced allegiance of people to Yazid. A great ceremony was held in Damascus. To prevent any revolt in Hijaz, Mu'awiya went to Medina and wanted to ensure inclination of those who opposed allegiance with Yazid towards himself. When he arrived near Medina, dissidents went to Mecca and the rest of people gave allegiance to Yazid. This made Mu'awiya very angry and he decided to go after dissidents. He met them in al-Masjid al-Haram and talked to them. When Ibn al-Zubayr showed his opposition, the dialogue failed. Afterwards, Mu'awiya forced dissidents except Imam al-Husayn (a) and 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr to give allegiance to Yazid by threatening and punishing them.

  • Preparing Yazid for accepting this responsibility: To prepare Yazid for accepting this responsibility, he sent Yazid as the commander of an army to Rome to help Islamic armies. He also sent some notable figures such as Ibn 'Abbas, Ibn 'Umar, Ibn al-Zubayr and Abu Ayyub al-Ansari with him. He wanted to introduce Yazid as a soldier of Islam.
  • Changing election of caliph through council to hereditary regime: Using political strategies, Mu'awiya became successful in convincing dissidents and by opposing conditions for caliphate, he could change it into hereditary caliphate.

Foreign Policy

In contrast to the time of early caliphs, during the time of Mu'awiya, there were not great expansions of Islamic territory either. Mu'awiya made great efforts to make Iranians Muslim and establish Umayyad caliphate. To do so, he settled tens of thousands Arab families in different parts of Iran, especially in Khurasan. He prioritized the policy of reinforcing expanded regions and spreading Islam in eastern regions over new expansions. This policy was successful in Eastern regions. Due to the power of Rome in western regions, he devised a special military strategy.

  • Eastern fronts: Except marginal victories in the eastern regions, most confrontations were mostly suppression of revolts. In his battles, Muhallab b. Abi Safara reached Lahore and reconquered Qays b. Haytham, Badghis, Herat, and Balkh and forced them to obey him. At the time of Ziyad b. Abih, Kabul was conquered. 'Abd Allah b. Ziyad passed Seyhun and reached Baykand and defeated Malaka Khatun. After the rule of Sa'id b. 'Uthman b. 'Affan over Khurasan, Malaka Khatun broke the peace treaty and battle began. Sa'id b. 'Uthman conquered Bukhara, Samarkand, and Termez.
  • Rome Front: After the victory of Muslims in the Battle of Dhat al-Sawari in 34/654-5, new military relations were developed between Muslims and Romans. Romans tried to take back their positions and began military development. That time, Mu'awiya had two goals in mind: first, establishing a permanent system for securing the borders and Islamic coastlines; and second, conquering Constantinople, the capital of Roman Empire. Mu'awiya made advanced forts near borders. He also worried about Antakya which was under invasion and moved some Iranians and people of Baalbek, Homs, Basra, and Kufa there in 42/662-3. He sent some others to Tyre. He developed the cities between Alexandria and Tartus. He also took over many fortresses at the border and rebuilt them. Regular invasions were made to Roman lands in Asia Minor in winter and summer times. Most of these battles were from the sea and Mu'awiya strengthened his naval power. At the time of 'Uthman, Cyprus was conquered in 28/648-9. In 49/669-670, Mu'awiya made a great attack on land to besiege Constantinople, but they could not conquer it. In 52/672, they took Rhodes Island and completed the siege of Constantinople from the sea by taking other places as well. In 54/674, they besieged Constantinople for the second time. This continued for 7 years until 60/679-680. Mu'awiya did not reach his goal and pulled back his army and finally Mu'awiya signed a peace treaty with Rome.
  • North Africa Front: Mu'awiya began taking lands in the north of Africa since 45/665-6 and ordered Mu'awiya b. Hadij al-Sakuni to attack Waqi'a on the west of Tripoli. In 49/669-670, Barqa and Tripoli were divided from Egypt and 'Aqaba b. Nafi' became the governor there. He established the city of Qirwan to preserve the victories. This city had a major role in spreading Islam to the west and taking the lands on the north of Africa and going to Andalus. Abu Muhajir Dinar al-Ansari succeeded 'Aqaba in 55/674-5 and opposite to 'Aqaba showed lenience to Barbars. This helps spreading Islam there. Abu Muhajir focused his attacks to borders of Roman Empire and conquered Mila and the people there accepted Islam. He then made a battle with the Barbarian Urbai tribe in Talmasan who had a great army and defeated them. Their commander, Kasila b. Mulzam was arrested, but Abu Muhajir treated him nicely and he accepted Islam following the request of Abu Muhajir. Yazid b. Mu'awiya once again chose 'Aqaba b. Nafi' as the governor and removed Abu Muhajir and this way, the fourth stage in taking the north of Africa began.


When Mu'waiya was inflicted to the illness which led to his death, his son Yazid was not in Damascus. He summoned Dahhak b. Qays and Muslim b. 'Utba and told them about his will for Yazid and died in Rajab of year 60/680. Before he died, he was worried about opposing leaders i.e. Imam al-Husayn (a), 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr, 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar, and 'Abd al-Rahman b. Abi Bakr.


  1. Do not kill a soul [whose life] Allah has made inviolable, except with due cause, and whoever is killed wrongfully, We have certainly given his heir an authority. But let him not commit any excess in killing, for he enjoys the support [of law]. (Quran 17:33)
  2. و هُوَ ألَدُّ الخِصام (Quran 2:204)