Abd al-Malik b. Marwan

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Abd al-Malik b. Marwan
Fifth Umayyad Caliph
'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan's tomb in Bab al-Saghir Cemetery, Damascus
'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan's tomb in Bab al-Saghir Cemetery, Damascus
Personal Information
Name'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan
TeknonymAbu l-Walid
FatherMarwan b. al-Hakam
Mother'A'isha bt. Mu'awiya b. al-Mughira
ChildrenWalid, Sulayman, Yazid, Hisham, and ...
Burial PlaceDamascus
Contemporary withImam al-Sajjad (a), Imam al-Baqir (a)
ActivitiesConquering North of Africa, defeating Shi'as, Zubayrids, and others
RemnantsArabicization of courts and Mintage of Coin
PredecessorMarwan b. al-Hakam
SuccessorWalid b. 'Abd al-Malik

ʿAbd al-Malik b. Marwān (Arabic:عبدالملک بن مروان) (b. 26/646-7 - d. 86/705) was the fifth Umayyad caliph who came to power in 65/684-5, after the death of his father, Marwan b. al-Hakam; he ruled for 21 years. At that time Muslims were suffering from a lot of internal issues, also Rome was a constant threat to Muslims. As Abd al-Malik was a capable ruler, he managed to overcome the issues and he suppressed the oppositions by force, tricks, and violence. Ka'ba was partly destroyed in that time due to local conflicts. He appointed al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf al-Thaqafi as the governor of Kufa who put Shi'as under severe pressure. Imam al-Sajjad (a) was living in the time of 'Abd al-Malik's caliphate. Imam (a) suggested him to mint coins which became the first currency for Muslims. 'Abd al-Malik passed away at the age of 60 or 61, he is buried in Damascus.

Birth and Lineage

Abu l-Walid 'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan b. Hakam b. Abi al-'As b. Umayya b. 'Abd Shams, the fifth Umayyad caliph was born in 26/646-7 in Medina, Hijaz. Marwan b. al-Hakam, his father, was an Umayyad caliph and his mother was 'A'isha bt. Mu'awiya b. al-Mughira b. Abi l-'As. 'Abd al-Malik had seventeen sons; four of them, al-Walid, Sulayman, Yazid and Hisham, later became caliph as well.[1]


'Abd al-Malik memorized the Qur'an and he was interested in religious teachings before he become the caliph. He had discussions and a close relationship with hadith scholars and jurists in Medina. He was regarded as a vitreous and religious man among people. Abd al-Malik was also called "Hamamat al-Masjid" (the pigeon of the mosque). However, when he came to power, he refused to obey Islamic and ethical values. It is said, he was reciting the Quran when he was told that he became the caliph. Then he left immediately and said: "Now you (Qur'an) and I are departed and it will be the last time I see you."

'Abd al-Malik was a stingy and violent man, he was not afraid to kill his oppositions. His close supporters and representatives were treating just like him including: al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf al-Thaqafi (his agent in Iraq), al-Muhallab b. Abi Sufra (his agent in Khorasan), Hisham b. Isma'il (his agent in Medina), his son 'Abd Allah b. 'Abd al-Malik in Egypt, Muhammad b. Yusuf al-Thaqafi (al-Hajjaj's brother in Yemen), and Muhammad b. Marwan in Jazira.

'Abd al-Malik was a fierce enemy of descendants of 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a). Hisham b. Isma'il, his governor in Medina, treated people harshly.

Beginning of Rule

When Marwan b. al-Hakam set out for Egypt in 65/684-5 to suppress the riots, he appointed 'Abd al-Malik to be a caliph. Marwan passed away in Ramadan in that year, and people of Damascus took an oath of allegiance to Abd al-Malik.[2] When he came to power, Muslims' territory was in chaos and the Umayyad dynasty was in decline.

Dealing with Internal and External Threats

In 65/684-5 'Abd al-Malik faced different internal and external threats.

Syria 'Abd al-Malik faced two groups of oppositions in Syria:

  • A number of governors in Syria were supporting Ibn al-Zubayr such as Zufar b. al-Harith al-Kilabi in Circesium and Natil b. Qays al-Judami in Palestine; both were suppressed by 'Abd al-Malik.
  • A group of Banu Umayya who disagreed with caliphate of 'Abd al-Malik and considered themselves worthy of the caliphate. 'Amr b. Sa'id b. al-'As was the most important one, who was promised to be appointed as the Crown Prince by 'Abd all-Malik and then he was killed after a while.

'Abd al-Malik also managed to suppress the movement of Mardaites with a similar strategy.[3]

Romans 'Abd al-Malik was forced to pay tax to Romans so that he would not fear any attacks from them.[4]

Shi'a Uprisings in Iraq After the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (a), the Uprising of Tawwabun and the Uprising of al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi took place in Iraq. The rise of Tawwabun was defeated by 'Ubay Allah b. Ziyad in the time of Marwan b. al-Hakam,[5] but al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi was suppressed in the time of 'Abd al-Malik.[6] However, 'Abd al-Malik himself did not act directly but he let Zubayrids do the job. Zubayrids were fighting against both al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi and Umayyads.

Zubayrids Zubayrids became influential in different Islamic territories. Iraq was ruled by Mus'ab b. al-Zubayr and Hijaz was ruled by 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr. Before Abd al-Malik takes any military action against Zubayrids he applied other strategies:

  • 'Abd al-Malik sent letters to commanders of Mus'ab b. al-Zubayr's army in Iraq and encouraged them to join him. As a result of the battle near the Tigris River in 72/691-2, Abd al-Malik managed to defeat Mus'ab easier. Mus'ab was killed and his army was scattered over the place. Consequently, Zubayrids were not able to stand against 'Abd al-Malik any more in Iraq.
  • 'Abd al-Malik also did not allow people of Syria to travel to Mecca to perform hajj rituals, as they were influenced by propaganda spread by Zubayrids. According to al-Ya'qubi: "People complained about the prohibition of performing hajj rituals, and 'Abd al-Malik replied, as Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri narrated from Prophet Muhammad (s), you should go on a pilgrimage on three mosques, al-Masjid al-Haram, al-Masjid al-Nabawi, and al-Masjid al-Aqsa. Today al-Masjid al-Aqsa is equally important as al-Masjid al-Haram. Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri also narrated: "The rock where Jews sacrificed on, is the rock where Prophet Muhammad (s) ascended to heaven in the night of Mi'raj." 'Abd al-Malik also ordered to build a dome on that rock and they provided curtains on it and assigned servants for the place. They told people to perform hajj rituals there, which continued in the Umayyad era.

In addition, 'Abd al-Malik sent al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf al-Thaqafi to suppress Zubayrids and take control of Hijaz. Then al-Hajjaj set out for Ta'if with twelve thousand men to negotiate with 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr, which led to failure as he disagreed with al-Hajjaj. Later, al-Hajjaj surrounded Mecca and he even damaged Ka'ba by throwing heavy rock by catapults.[7]

Mecca was under siege for seven months. Gradually people left 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr, ten thousands of people asked for mercy including two sons of 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr, Habib and Hamza who ran away. But one of his sons named al-Zubayr was killed alongside his father. 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr and few of his supporters resisted until their last breath and they fought bravely. Eventually 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr was killed in al-Masjid al-Haram.

Kharijites Kharijites were divided into different groups based on their perspectives on political action and faith. Azariqa, Sufriyya, and Ibadiyya were the most notable ones.

Azariqa, led by Nafi' b. Azraq used the weak condition of the Umayyads and took control of Basra but people refused to take the oath of allegiance to him. Then he moved to Ahvaz with his supporters and attacked a number of cities. Eventually, he was killed in his attack on Basra in 65/684-85.[8]

Sufriyya Kharijites, led by Salih b. Masrah attacked Kufa from north of Mosul. After years of conflicts and battles, they were defeated and suppressed by al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf al-Thaqafi.[9]

Najd b. 'Amir al-Hanafi also led a group of Kharijites, they moved to Bahrain and its neighbouring regions in 65/684-5 where they started to attack 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr and 'Abd al-Malik. They were eventually surrounded and suppressed by 'Abd al-Malik.[10]

Borderlines 'Abd al-Rahman b. Muhammad b. al-Ash'ath was chosen as the governor of Khorasan by al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf, but after some time he launched an uprising which was suppressed by al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf himself.

Conquering North of Africa

In the early days of 'Abd al-Malik's caliphate, the king of Roma broke the peace treaty with Muslims and attacked Muslims' territory.[11] 'Abd al-Malik realized the danger of Romans and decided to pay tax to them; he promised to pay a thousand Dinar every week.[12] However, when 'Abd al-Malik managed to suppress internal disputes and uprisings, he launched an attack on the Roman Empire and conquered large parts of their territories, as a result, the peace treaty was violated.[13]

Expanding Muslims territory in Africa became a political strategy in the time of 'Abd al-Malik's rule. In 65/684-5 'Abd al-Malik sent an army led by al-Zuhayr b. Qays al-Balawi to Africa. Al-Zuhayr managed to break the alliance between Berbers and Roman Emperor but he was killed in the battle against the Romans.

In 74/693-4, Abd al-Malik appointed al-Hasan b. al-Nu'man al-Ghassani as the governor of Muslims' territory in Africa. He conquered the northern regions of Africa and defeated the Romans who took control of those regions. Ibn al-Nu'man recaptured Carthage from Romans and Berber and expanded his territory up to the Atlas Mountains.

But Romans brought new enforcement and conquered Carthage again when Ibn al-Nu'man was not there. But he returned and defeated Brisance (Tiberius III) which accordingly all Romans left Africa except for Ceuta.

Meanwhile, Zenata and Urasi tribes led by a woman named Kahina (or Dihya) brought serious problems for al-Hasan b. Nu'man. Muslims army was at first severely defeated by Berbers, but later Ibn al-Nu'man attacked Kahina and killed her; as a result, all of her supporters accepted to obey him.

According to one narration, Romans tried to capture Carthage back from Muslims by means of navy soldiers which was resisted and defeated by al-Hasan. After some time he ordered to demolish the whole city to end their aspiration to recapture it. However, they built a new city called Tunisia in the eastern region.[14]

Arabicization of Courts

Administrations were managed by Mawalis and Ajams (non-Arabs), as a result, the official language of administrations and organizations were non-Arabic; they were different based on their local region. In some places, Iranians were using Persian language and in some regions, Roman and Egyptian were using their own languages.

As all Umayyad caliphs emphasized on Arabicization and humiliation of other languages and races, 'Abd al-Malik made huge efforts to appoint Arab administrators so that non-Arabs were dismissed from administrations.[15] In the first step, Abd al-Malik changed the administrations system and then he Arabicized them. Then he changed the currency of Muslim territory; these actions were called the movement of Arabicization.[16]

In his rule, Abd al-Malik ordered to train Arab office employees to replace Roman and Iranian ones. One of the problems of the time was the presence of different languages between different classes of society which brought difficulties in sending letters, registering trades as they needed a common language.[17] This problem brought contradictions and disorder in the administration of the caliphate. As a result, 'Abd al-Malik ordered to Arabicize all the administrations and he himself supervised the process.[18] After some years Arabic became the official language in Muslim territory replacing other languages in administrations.

Mintage of Coin

Abd al-Malik realized the lack of independent currency in Islamic territory which was a subsequent monetary system of other systems including Roman's; he considered it as a disadvantage.[19] In addition, having different currencies plus Iranian and Roman currencies brought disorder in commercial trades. Therefore, he ordered to mint coins in 74/693-4. Also, the Islamic dirham and dinar were minted since 84/703-4 which was the first independent currency in the Islamic world.[20]

Before the caliphate of 'Abd al-Malik, Muslims used Romans and Sassanid coins for their commercial trades; commonly Roman's. It is said, 'Abd al-Malik was the first one who ordered to mint Islamic coins. As it is narrated, when Abd al-Malik wrote letters to Roman kings, he started the letters with the names of Allah and Prophet Muhammad (s) which was criticized by the Roman king, he wrote back to 'Abd Allah and warned him if he continues staring his letters with those names, he would order to mint coins with curse words on Prophet (s) on them. Imam al-Sajjad (a) suggested 'Abd al-Malik to mint Islamic coins, then he ordered to build mints in 84/703-4 to coin Islamic dirham and dinar. According to A'yan al-Shi'a Imam al-Baqir (a) suggested 'Abd al-Malik to mint coins.[21]

Treatment of Shi'as

In the time of revolution of Medina, people banished all the Banu Umayya members from the city, but Imam al-Sajjad (a) provided shelter for the wife of Marwan b. al-Hakam, the daughter of 'Uthman b. 'Affan, in his house and welcomed her as well. It made Abd al-Malik have an optimistic attitude toward Imam al-Sajjad (a). He also consulted with Imam (a); mintage of coin was one of the suggestions introduced by Imam (a). However, later 'Abd al-Malik treated Imam al-Sajjad (a) differently. He ordered to arrest Imam (a) and bring him to the capital of his caliphate.

Appointing Hajjaj al-Yusuf al-Thaqafi as the Governor of Iraq

Appointing al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf as the governor of Iraq is regarded among the most important political and military actions 'Abd al-Malik taken; he was a fierce enemy of Ahl al-Bayt (a). Defeating Zubayrids and conquering Medina made al-Hajjaj a key person to 'Abd al-Malik. Consequently, he was ruling over Hijaz and later took control over Iraq and Khorasan as well. He treated his oppositions and people severely and violently in Iraq which made him notoriously known in historical proverbs and stories.

Al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf ruled over Kufa, the capital of Shi'a revolutions, for almost twenty years and killed or imprisoned ten thousands of Shi'as. According to historical reports, When al-Hajjaj wanted to deliver a speech in a mosque, he sat for a while and suddenly stood and said: "People of Iraq, By God, I see heads like ripe fruits which are ready to be cut, and I will cut them; I see blood flouting from turbans and beards."[22] He treated the people of Iraq and Iran so harshly that the whole area went to silence and all the uprisings were severely punished and suppressed.

Crown Princeship

Abd al-Malik followed his fathers' steps in the appointment of the crown prince. He decided to release his brother, 'Abd al-'Aziz b. Marwan from crown prince and asked people to take an oath of allegiance to his sons al-Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik and Sulayman b. 'Abd al-Malik as the crown princes.

Qubaysa b. Dhu'ayb prevented him and said: "Do not take any action which starts a disturbance. Maybe 'Abd al-'Aziz dies and you will get rid of him." One night he informed 'Abd al-Malik of his brother's death. Then 'Abd al-Malik appointed his son, 'Abd Allah b. 'Abd al-Malik as the governor of Egypt and his other son al-Walid and Sulayman as the crown princes. He sent letters to all the cities and accordingly people took the oath of allegiance to them.[23]


Abd al-Malik b. Marwan eventually died in Damascus in Shawwal 15, 86/October 9, 705 at the age of 60 or 65.[24] He ruled for 21 years.


  1. Ibn Ḥazm, Jamharat ansāb al-ʿArab, p. 82-89.
  2. Ibn Kathīr al-Dimashqī, al-Bidāya wa l-nihāya, vol. 8, p. 260.
  3. Ibn Athīr, Al-Kāmil fī l-tārīkh, vol. 2, p. 304.
  4. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, p. 218.
  5. Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-Yaʿqūbī, vol. 2, p. 257.
  6. Ibn Miskawayh, Tajārub al-umam, vol. 2, p. 95-110; Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-Yaʿqūbī, vol. 2, p. 257; Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 7, p. 557-560.
  7. Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 5, p. 177.
  8. Ibn Athīr, Al-Kāmil, vol. 4, p. 194.
  9. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, vol. 8, p. 8.
  10. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 7, p. 462.
  11. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 6, p. 150.
  12. Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-umam wa l-mulūk, vol. 6, p. 150.
  13. Balādhurī, Futūḥ al-buldān, p. 188.
  14. Al-Yāqūt al-Ḥimawī, Muʿjam al-buldān, vol. 2, p. 61.
  15. Balādhurī, Ansāb al-ashrāf, p. 192.
  16. Ibn al-Ṭiqṭaqī, Al-Fakhrī, p. 123.
  17. Ibn Khaldūn, Tārīkh Ibn Khaldūn, vol. 1, p. 467.
  18. Ibn Khaldūn, Tārīkh Ibn Khaldūn, vol. 1, p. 303.
  19. Balādhurī, Futūḥ al-buldān, p. 237.
  20. Ibn Qutayba al-Dīnawarī, Al-Imāma wa l-sīyāsa, p. 316.
  21. Amīn, Aʿyān al-Shīʿa, vol. 1, p. 654.
  22. Ibn al-ʿIbrī, Tārīkh mukhtaṣar al-duwal, p. 112.
  23. Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 5, p. 183.
  24. Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 5, p. 182.


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