Yazid b. Mu'awiya

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Yazid b. Mu'awiya
2nd Umayyad caliph
Full Name Yazid b. Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan
Lineage Banu Umayya
Well-known Relatives Mu'awiya, Abu Sufyan
Birth 25/645
Place of Birth Syria
Place of Residence Syria
Death/Martyrdom 64/683
Burial Place Huwwarin
Era Umayyad dynasty
Known for 2nd Umayyad dynasty, killing Imam al-Husayn (a), tragedy of Harra, Demolishing Ka'ba
Notable roles Caliph

Yazīd b. Muʿāwīya (Arabic: یزيد بن معاویة), (b. 25/645 - d. 64/683) was the second caliph of the Umayyad dynasty, who ruled after his father Mu'awiya for almost four years (60/680 - 64/680) and died in Damascus. He was appointed as the next ruler by his father Mu'awiya, who forced people, including the companions of the Prophet (s), to pay allegiance to Yazid.

The reign of Yazid included some horrible events:

Lineage and Family Background

Historians have recorded Yazid's genealogy, who is from the Banu Umayya clan of the tribe of Quraysh, as follows: Yazid b. Mu'awiya b. Sakhr b. Harb b. Umayya b. 'Abd Shams b. 'Abd Manaf. 'Abd Manaf had two sons, Hashim and 'Abd Shams, who were the ancestors of Banu Hashim and Banu Umayya respectively. There is not much information about Yazid's mother, except that her name was Maysun bt. Bahdal (ca. d. 80/699-700), she belonged to the clan of Banu Haritha b. Janab al-Kalbi, she was a bedouin, and went from Damascus back to her family after getting divorce from Mu'awiya.

Yazid's grandfather, Abu Sufyan, and his grandmother, Hind bt. 'Utba, were among the arch-enemies of the Prophet (s) before the conquest of Mecca. In the Battle of Uhud, when Hamza b. 'Abd al-Muttalib was killed and his liver was taken out by Wahshi, Hind bit into Hamza's liver out of anger and hatred.

After the conquest of Mecca, the Prophet (s) forgave his enemies including Abu Sufyan and Hind, and called them Tulaqa' (the Freed). This epithet was later applied to them disparagingly. In some hadiths, Imam 'Ali (a) states that Mu'awiya and his father never believed in Islam but only accepted it out of fear, and therefore do not deserve to be successors of the Prophet (s).


According to some sources, Yazid's mother, Maysun bt. Bahdal was a Bedouin, who married Mu'awiya and went to Damascus. But soon, she missed her family, and so Mu'awiya divorced her, and she returned to the desert. At this time, Yazid was either an infant or not yet born. Yazid spent his early childhood with the tribe of Maysun, whose people were of the tribes of Huwwarin (in Hums area) with a Christian or polytheist background before Islam. They also had literary and poetic inclinations. Some believe that growing up under the influence of these formerly Christian converts influenced Yazid and accounts for his later support for Christians and especially Christian poets, for hiring Christian consultants at his court, and for his peace agreement with Europeans.


After ruling for three years and eight months, Yazid died on Rabi' I 14, 64/November 13, 683 at the age of 38 and was buried in Huwwarin. It has been said that the cause of his death was that he had put his monkey on a wild running donkey; Yazid himself was chasing the donkey while being drunk and riding on a horse until he fell off and broke his neck.

Personal Characteristics

In many sources, Yazid has been introduced as an immoral and corrupt person. Al-Baladhuri (d. 279/892-3), regards him as the first Islamic ruler who openly drank wine. Al-Mas'udi quotes Abu Mikhnaf that in the reign of Yazid, drinking and immoral acts were widely committed by his governors even in Mecca and Medina. Yazid's reputation for immorality was so widespread that some famous companions of the Prophet (s) and also Imam al-Husayn (a) straightforwardly called him a Fasiq (grave sinner). Because of this bad reputation, figures like Imam al-Husyan (a), 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr, and 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar, refused to pay allegiance to Yazid. It is reported that 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar said in this regard, "Shall we pay allegiance to a person who plays with monkeys and dogs, drinks wine, and commits grave sins openly?! What would be our excuse before God?"

Yazid was so shameless that in one of his poems he composed during the time of his father, he said that he does not care if Muslims die because of fever, small-pox, or cholera.

Politics and Rule

The short reign of Yazid was a period of great unrest, in which he tried to mercilessly extinguish any disagreeing current. Social and political freedom at his time was so limited that according to al-Mas'udi, "The conducts of Yazid was the same as those of Pharaoh; rather, Pharaoh was more just than him among his people and more fair to the elite and masses." "In the first year of his rule, he killed al-Husayn (a) and the Ahl al-Bayt (a) of the Prophet (s); in the second year, he disrespected the sanctuary of the Messenger of God (s) in Medina, and made it permissible for his soldiers [to do what they wanted with its people]; and in the third year, he attacked Ka'ba and burned it."

The oppression and crimes that Yazid committed during his short reign marked the beginning of a series of uprisings and revolts against the Umayyad dynasty, and finally overthrew it.

Tragedy of Karbala

Main article: Tragedy of Karbala

Of the most horrible crimes in Islamic history for which Yazid was responsible were the catastrophic incidents that marked the tragedy of Karbala. On Dhu l-Hijja 60/680, after receiving many letters from the people of Kufa, promising allegiance and support, Imam al-Husayn (a) together with his family and companions started traveling to Iraq. Yazid commanded his governor 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad to stop the Imam (a) and make him pay allegiance to the Yazid or kill him. The Imam (a) refused to pay allegiance to Yazid, and the people of Kufa, fearing the consequences of supporting the Imam (a), left him alone. The army of Yazid's governor, 'Ubayd Allah b. Ziyad, killed Imam al-Husayn and his companions and took their women and children as captives.

Incident of Harra

Main article: Incident of Harra

Yazid's rule led to increasing dissatisfaction of the people of Hijaz, which was due to his policies that did not pay due attention to Mecca and Medina. This situation gradually led to a crisis. In order to alleviate the situation, the young governor of Medina, 'Uthman b. Muhammd b. Abi Sufyan, sent a group of Medinan nobles to Damascus, so that Yazid takes reconciliatory measures by honoring them.

Many of Medinan elites and nobles, including 'Abd Allah b. Hanzala and his sons, 'Abd Allah b. 'Amr, and Mundhir b. al-Zubayr, were in that group. Upon their arrival in Damascus, the group received many gifts from Yazid. However, Yazid committed inappropriate actions in the presence of the group, which offended them greatly. When the group returned to Medina, they openly cursed Yazid and talked about his immoral character, and thus an unrest broke out.

Following the unrest in Medina, Yazid wrote a threatening letter to the people of Medina, but the letter only intensified the unrest and led to the beginning of a revolt. Yazid sent an army of twelve thousand men to Medina with Muslim b. 'Uqba as its commander. When they reached Medina, They gave a three-day ultimatum to the people to stop the revolt and pay allegiance to Yazid again. But the people refused and the battle started, which led to the defeat of the Medinans and the killing of thousands of people and looting the city by the soldiers of Yazid for three days. This incident happened in 63/683.

Meccan Revolt

About the same time when the people of Medina revolted against Yazid, 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr and his companions took control of Mecca. So after the battle of Harra, the Syrian army moved towards Mecca to defeat Ibn al-Zubayr. The Syrian army besieged Mecca, and during the siege they attacked the city using catapults. As a result of these attacks, Ka'ba was damaged and burned. The siege lasted until the news of Yazid's death reached his army.

Military Conquests

During the reign of Yazid, due to internal conflicts, the expansion of Muslim territories stopped. Yazid put aside confrontational policies with European Christians; he even retreated from some of the lands that had been conquered at the time of Mu'awiya. He summoned his soldiers from Cyprus in return for money. He commanded Yazid b. Janada to destroy the Muslim fortress in Arwad Island and come back to Syria, and summoned his forces from Rhodes. However, in 61/680-1, he sent Malik b. 'Abd Allah al-Khath'ami to war with Romans; a war which was later called the Battle of Syria. In the East, Sogdia and Bukhara were conquered. In Africa, some conquests took place by 'Uqba b. Nafi'.

See Also