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Mu'awiya b. Yazid

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Mu'awiya II
Third Umayyad Caliph
Personal Information
Name Mu'awiya b. Yazid
Teknonym Abu Yazid
Death 64/683
Father Yazid
Burial Place Damascus
Dynasty Umayyad
Reign about 40 days (probably until Rabi' II 25, 64/December 21, 683)
Contemporary with Imam al-Sajjad (a)
Capital Damascus
Activities Resigning from power
Predecessor Yazid
Successor Marwan b. Hakam

Muʿāwīya b. Yazīd b. Muʿāwīya (Arabic:مُعاویَة بْن یَزید بْن معاویة) (d. 64/683), also known as The Second Mu'awiya, was the third Umayyad caliph who occupied the position of the caliphate in 64/683 and resigned from power after a short time. There is a disagreement among historians with respect to why he resigned, but most of them take it to be because of his inclinations to the household of Imam 'Ali (a). When he resigned from the caliphate, Marwan b. Hakam succeeded him, and until the fall of the Umayyad dynasty, Marwan's children were in power. According to some sources, Mu'awiya b. Yazid died at the age of 18 and was buried in Damascus.

The Short Period of Caliphate

During the battle between Umayyad forces and 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr (who had claimed to be a caliph in Mecca), Yazid b. Mu'awiya died in Syria, and upon hearing the news, Umayyad armed forces returned from Mecca to Syria. The Umayyads selected Mu'awiya, Yazid's son, as the caliph. Thus, people in Syria pledged their allegiance to Mu'awiya, and people in Mecca pledged their allegiance to 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr.

Resigning from the Caliphate

Mu'awiya b. Yazid's period of caliphate was very short. According to some sources, it only lasted 40 days. According to all historical accounts, he despised to be a caliph. There are different historical explanations, however, about why he disliked the caliphate.

On one account, the main reason why he resigned was his aversion of the practices of his father (Yazid) and his grandfather (Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan) as well other Umayyads and his inclination towards Ahl al-Bayt (a). According to al-Ya'qubi's historical account, he delivered a sermon in which he announced his aversion of the position of the caliphate and criticized his father and his grandfather. In this sermon, he said that Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan's battle with Imam 'Ali (a) and his father's vicious conducts, especially the murder of Imam al-Husayn (a) and the household of the Prophet (s) were great sins. Umayyad people suggested him to hold a council for the selection of the next caliph as was practiced by 'Umar b. Khattab, but he said that there were no longer people like the members of that council.

According to another account, he said that he did not have the power to undertake the position of caliphate and pointed out that there were people who were more competent to be caliphs than him. He told the Umayyad people to either let him choose his successor or select the next caliph on their own. Some Umayyad people went to him and asked him to give them some time. However, after a while they injured and murdered him.

Some historians hold that he his criticisms of his father and grandfather show that he was sick, and they believe that this was why he failed to undertake the caliphate. According to al-Mas'udi, Mu'awiya's kunya was Abu Yazid at first, but after he took over the caliphate, he was dubbed Abu Layla which was a title given to weak people.


According to some recent Shiite historical and biographical sources, Mu'awiya b. Yazid was a Shi'a. There is a report in Habib al-siyar, a Persian historical source of the 10th/16th century, to the effect that Mu'awiya explicitly said that Imam Zayn al-'Abidin (a) was competent for the position of caliphate and recommended people to ask him to accept the position. Some Shiite biographical sources have appealed to this report to show that Mu'awiya b. Yazid was a Shi'a.


Mu'awiya b. Yazid died in 64/683 and was buried in Damascus. The cause of his death is unknown. Some historiographers maintain that he might have been poisoned and killed and others believe that he might have been killed with a stroke. Other historical accounts hold that he died because of illness. There is disagreement about Mu'awiya b. Yazid's age when he died. According to Ibn Qutayba, he was 18 years old when he died. Other sources believe that he was 19, 20, or 21.

Mu'awiya b. Yazid's Sermon on al-Ya'qubi's Account

"Praise be to God. O people, we have been tested by you and you have been tested by us, and we are not unaware that you dislike and curse us. My grandfather, Mu'awiya b. Abi Sufyan, disputed over the caliphate with someone who was more competent than him with respect to his kinship with the Prophet (s) as well as to Islam; someone who was the pioneer of Muslims and the first believer and the Prophet's (s) cousin and the father of the Prophet's (s) sons. My grandfather committed sins that you know and you have treated him in ways that you do not deny until he died and was trapped in the grave of his actions. Then my father took over the government, although no good was expected from him. He sat on the vehicle of lust, taking his sins to be good with his hopes rising. However, he could not fulfill his wishes and the death came to him, his power ended and his time expired. He was trapped by his sins in his grave."

Then Mu'awiya b. Yazid cried and said: "the most unpleasant thing for us is that we are aware of his terrible death and his scandals, since he killed the household of the Prophet (s) and disrespected the Ka'ba by burning it. I am not the one to take over your affairs and bear your responsibilities. Now it is you and your caliphate. I swear to God that if this mundane world is a blessing, then we had our share of it, and if it is a loss, then whatever Al Sufyan gained is enough."