History of the Saracens/Merwan I

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History of the Saracens by Simon Ockley
Merwan I

MERWAN THE SON OF HAREM, THE FOURTH CALIPH OF THE HOUSE OF OMMIYAH, AND THE TENTH AFTER MOHAMMED.

Hejirah 64, 65. a.d. 683, 684.

Upon the rumour of Abdallah’s cruel designs against the house of Ommiyah, Merwan made haste into Syria, where his friends came about him, and, resolving to make a bold stand in self-defence, they proclaimed him caliph. Syria was now divided into two factions; Hassan and the Yemanians in Syria, siding with Merwan, and Dehac the son of Kais, with Abdallah.[1] This Dehac was a man of great note; he had been at the first siege of Damascus, and in the fifty-fourth year Moawiyah made him his deputy over Cufah. Because the general’s father’s name was Kais, the party that followed him were called Kaisians. There were a great many parleys between the two factions, which it would be tedious to relate. At last the brought it to the decision of a battle in the plains or meadows of Damascus. The issue was, that the Kaisians were shamefully beaten, Dehac himself being killed, and a great slaughter made amongst the horse. When the Kaisians were routed, Merwan sounded a retreat, and would not suffer his men to pursue. With Dehac, no less than fourscore of the nobles of Syria were killed. When Dehac’s head was brought to Merwan, he expressed some concern, and said, “That I who am an old man, whose bones are wasted, and am next to nothing, should bring armies together to break one another in pieces!”

He then went into Damascus, and took up his lodgings at the house where Moawiyah used to reside. There he married Yezid’s widow, for it had been agreed Merwan should not transfer the government to his own posterity, but leave it to Yezid’s son Kaled, who was then a minor, and of whom the people had some expectation. Wherefore his friends thought it safer for him to marry Kaled’s mother, and take upon him the guardianship of the child, than run the risk of standing upon the sole foundation of his own interest.

When the news of the defeat of the Kaisians and the death of Dehac came to Emessa, which was under the command of Nooman the son of Bashir, he fled away with his wife and family. The Emessians, however, pursued him, and cut off his head, and brought it, together with his wife and family, to Emessa.

Merwan after this marched towards Egypt, and sent before him Amrou the son of Saïd, who, going into Egypt, turned out Abdallah’s lieutenant, and brought the Egyptians to own Merwan for their sovereign. As Merwan was upon his return to Damascus, news was brought him that Abdallah had sent his brother Musab against him with an army; wherefore he turned back and routed Musab before he entered Damascus.

This year the people of. Khorassan chose Salem the son of Ziyad, who was their former governor, for their protector, till the Mussulmans should be agreed in the choice of an Imam. In that post he continued about two months. The people of the country never had any governor that they loved so well; they respected him to that degree, that in those few years that he governed them, there were more than twenty thousand children named Salem, purely out of love to his name.

This year the sect of Ali began to stir in Cufah, and sent circular letters to their friends round about the country, appointing a rendezvous in Nochailah for the next year following, intending to march into Syria to revenge the death of Hosein. The occasion was the following:—When after the death of Hosein, the Cufians came to reflect coolly upon that matter, their consciences accused them of having failed him both in honour and duty, and they thought they could make no atonement for their crime but by taking up arms to revenge his death. They therefore applied themselves to five leading men of the sect, Solyman the son of Sorad, who was one of the companions; and Mosabbib the son of Nahbah, one of the choicest of the friends of Ali; Abdallah the son of Said; Abdallah the son of Wali; and Refaah the son of Shadad. These all met together in Solyman’s house, besides a great many others of the chief men of the sect, to whom Mosabbib made a speech, wherein he enlarged upon “the heinousness of their neglect, in having deserted Hosein after so solemn an invitation, and having received so many letters and messages from him; that they had neither assisted him with their hands, nor spoken for him with their tongues; neither supported him with their money, nor looked out for any assistance for him. What excuse would they have when they should come to appear before God, or how should they be able to look his prophet in the face, when by their means his son[2] was killed, and his beloved with his offspring and his posterity cut off! There was, he told them, no way to atone for this but by revenging his death upon his murderers, which was no hard matter, provided they chose a proper general, one that the people would be willing to fight under.” This was seconded by Refaah, who, added, that as to a general, his opinion was, that they should choose the chief of the sect, a person reverenced by all for his years, dignity, piety, and experience, Solyman the son of Sorad. Solyman, having first made a speech suitable to the occasion, accepted the command; and when some other persons arose and made speeches to urge on the matter (for there were above a hundred of the chief men amongst them), he told them, that there was enough said already, and the nest step they ought to take should be to put what each of them designed to contribute into the hands of Abdallah the son of Wali, to be distributed amongst the poorest of the sect. The contents of Solyman’s circular letter was as follows:—

“In the name of the most merciful God.
“From Solyman the son of Sorad to Saïd the son of Hodaifah, and whosoever is with him of the Mussulmans; peace be to you. The present world is a mansion upon which every thing that is good turneth its back, and to which every thing that is bad draweth near, (or turneth its face[3]) and treateth persons of uprightness ill. The chosen servants of God have resolved to leave it, and to sell the little of the present world that remaineth not, for the great reward that is with God and shall never fail. The friends of God, your brethren of the sect of the family of your prophet, have considered with themselves the trial they have undergone in the business of the son of the daughter of your prophet, who was called and answered, and called and was not answered; and would have returned but was detained; and asked for security but was hindered: and he let the people alone, but they would not let him alone; but dealt wrongfully by him and killed him, and then spoiled him and stripped him wickedly, despitefully, and foolishly. Nor did they act as in the sight of God, neither had they recourse to God, and they that have done evil shall know what shall be the end of their actions. Now what your brethren have seriously considered concerning the events of that in which they formerly engaged is this, They see they have sinned in deceiving the innocent, the good; and in the delivering him up, and the omitting the healing and helping him. A great sin! from which there is no way left for escape, nor any repentance but by killing those that killed him, or being killed themselves, and resigning their spirits upon this account. Now, therefore, your brethren are bestirring themselves in earnest, as also is your enemy; therefore do you get together all the assistance you are able. And we have fixed a time for our brethren to meet us at a place appointed. The time is the new moon of the month of the latter Rebiyah, in the sixty-fifth year, and the place where they shall meet us is Nochailah. O ye who never cease to be of our sect and our brethren! We have determined to invite you to this business which, as your brethren say, God would have them undertake, and as they show to us that they repent, so would we give you an opportunity to prove that you are persons duly qualified for the search of excellency, and the laying hold of the reward and repentance towards your Lord for your sin, though it be the cutting off your necks, and. the killing your children, and the consumption of your wealth, and the destruction of your tribes and families. He [God] hath not hurt the courageous, religious men that were killed, but they are now alive with their Lord, sustained as martyrs;[4] enduring (affliction) patiently, they met their Lord; they are made account of, and God hath given them the reward of good men.[5] If it please God, persevere patiently in tribulation and affliction, and in the day of battle (God have mercy upon you!) for it is not fit that any of your brethren should persevere in any affliction in seeking his repentance, without you who are equally worthy. and fit to seek the like reward by the same means; neither is it fit that any one should seek the favour of God by any means, though it were by death itself, but you should have the same privilege. ‘For the best provision for a voyage is the fear of God in this world, and every thing besides shall perish and vanish away.-’[6] Wherefore let your souls be assured of this, and your desire be fixed upon the mansion of your safety, and the engaging in the holy war against the enemy of God and your enemy; and the enemy of the family of the daughter of your prophet, till you come before God with repentance and desire. God preserve both us and you to the happy life, and remove both us and you from hell, and grant it may be our reward to die by the hands of that part of mankind that is the most odious of all to him, and are his most vehement enemies. He is the most powerful over what he pleases, and disposeth of his friends according to his will. Farewell to you.”

Saïd read the letter to all the people, who readily gave their assent, and despatched a very encouraging answer to Solyman and his friends.[7] The truth of the matter is, that the sect of Ali had been contriving this affair from the time of Hosein’s death till the death of Yezid the son of Moawiyah, (which was three years, two months, and four days) and had sent privately to one another, and laid up magazines, and strengthened their party.

Six months after Yezid’s death, in the midst of the month Ramadan, Al Moktar came to Cufah, and at the same time came Ibrahim, the son of Mohammed the son of Telha, to receive the tribute of Cufah for Abdallah the son of Zobeir. The sect of (Ali)[8] readily joined themselves to this Captain Al Moktar, who made use of the authority of Mohammed, the son of Hanifiyah, who was Ali’s son, and the hope of the party. He told them he was come to them as a counsellor and trusty assistant from the son of Al Hanifiyah. This circumstance, added to their confidence in his known abilities, endeared him to them exceedingly. He made it his business to disparage Solyman, the son of Sorad, as a person by no means qualified for the trust he had undertaken; but one that would most certainly destroy both them and himself, having no manner of experience in warlike affairs. Abdallah, the son of Yezid, was then governor of Cufah, and having received information that the sect had a design to seize the city, he called a congregation, and told them “that these people pretended indeed to seek revenge for Hosein’s death, but he was persuaded that that was the bottom of their designs. For his part they had no reason to fight against him who was no manner of way concerned in the matter, but had been a sufferer upon the same account. If on the other hand they would in good earnest follow up those who were guilty of the death of Hosein, he should be willing to assist them.” Then turning to the people he said: “In short it was the son of Ziyad that killed Hosein, and that killed the most valuable men amongst you; and the best thing you can do is to make preparation of war against him, who is the greatest enemy you have in the whole creation, rather than exercise your force upon one another, and shed each other’s blood.” Ibrahim the collector rose up and bade the people not be deceived with the governor’s smooth speeches; and declared, that if any rose up in arms they should be put to death, both father and son, without distinction. As he was proceeding, Mosabbib cut him off short, and asked him, whether he pretended to threaten or terrify them? That it was more than lay in his power; “We have,” says he, “already killed your father and grandfather, and we hope, before you go out of this country, to make you the third.” Ibrahim threatened him with death, when Abdallah the son of Wali stood up, and asked Ibrahim what business he had to intermeddle between them and their governor, telling him that he had no manner of authority over them, but that he might go about his business, and look after his tax. The sect were wonderfully pleased with Abdallah the son of Yezid’s speech, and the people very much offended at Ibrahim’s behaviour; there were high words on both sides till Abdallah came down and left the mosque. Afterwards the governor, being informed that Ibrahim had threatened to write to Abdallah the son of Zobeir, and acquaint him with the purports of his smooth speech to the Cufians, made haste to pay him a visit, and swore that he meant nothing by it, but to appease the people, and keep the peace, to prevent their doing any further mischief. With this excuse Ibrahim was very well satisfied; but Solyman and his party encouraged by his public speech, and throwing off the mask, appeared openly in arms.

At this time the Separatists who had before joined Abdallah the son of Zobeir, and assisted him whilst he was besieged in Mecca, deserted him. The case was thus: Obeidollah, when governor at Bassorah, had been their implacable enemy, and exerted himself to the utmost to extirpate the whole generation of them, root and branch, from off the face of the earth. Distressed by his unmerciful persecution they took the opportunity, when Abdallah the son of Zobeir first made his appearance at Mecca, to apply to him. He, as matters then stood with him, was no less glad of their assistance than they were of his protection, and embraced them without any scrutiny about principles, or asking any questions for conscience’ sake. Afterwards, however, they began to say among themselves, that they had committed an error in engaging themselves in a man’s interest whose principles were dubious; and resolved, before they advanced one step further, to bring him to the test. They had not forgotten how both he and his father Zobeir had persecuted them upon the account of Othman’s death, and they were resolved to make use of it as a test of his present sentiment. They came to him accordingly in a body, and told him, “That hitherto they had assisted him without any previous examination of his principles; now, for satisfaction, they desired to know what he thought of Othman?” Abdallah understood them very well, but seeing but few of his friends about him at the time, he told them, that they were come at an unreasonable moment, when he wished to be at rest; if, however, they would wait a little, and return in the evening, they should have a satisfactory answer. In the meantime he gathered together a strong body of soldiers, and placed them in double ranks round about his house. At last the Separatists came again, but perceiving how matters stood, and what preparation Abdallah had made for their reception, did not think fit to come to blows. One of them, however, a man of a voluble tongue, eminent for his eloquence, made a speech, wherein he briefly recapitulated the most considerable dispensations of providence towards them, and the several successions of their caliphs since Mohammed, concluding with hard reflections upon Othman’s administration, his partiality in favour of his relations, and, in a word, justified his murder. Abdallah told him in reply, “That as to what he had said concerning the prophet (who was very great) he was not only what he had said, but much more; all too that he had said of Abubeker and Omar was just enough; but as for Othman, he had more reason to know him than any man alive; and he was sure he was murdered wrongfully, for he never wrote that letter whereof he had been accused; and for his own part, he should be a friend of Othman’s both in this world and that to come, a friend of his friends,??? and an enemy of his enemies.” To this they answered, “God is clear of thee, thou enemy of God!” which he echoed back again, “God is clear of you, ye enemies of God!” Upon this they parted. As for Abdallah, he could easily spare them. Some of them went to Yemanah, the rest to Bassorah. Those that went to Bassorah began to say among themselves, “Would to God some of our people would go out in the way of God! for there hath been negligence on our side since our companions went out, and our teachers stood up in the earth, and were the lights of mankind, and exhorted them to religion, and sober and courageous men went out and met the Lord, and became martyrs maintained with God alive.”[9] Thus they encouraged one another mutually till they had gathered together a body of about three hundred, just about the time that the Bassorians made an insurrection against Obeidollah, and, taking the advantage of the disorders among the people, they broke open all the jails. But when Obeidollah was driven into Syria, and the disturbance was completely over, they were soon routed and driven away from Bassorah.

So many things being transacted in several parts of the empire much about the same time, it was necessary to despatch these first, to clear the way for Moktar,[10] that great and terrible scourge of the enemies of Ali’s family; and because he makes so considerable a figure in this part of our history, it will be necessary to be a little more particular in the account of his affairs. The sect of Ali had entertained no very favourable opinion of him ever since the time of Hasan; for he was considered to have been remiss in his service; but he regained their good opinion when Hosein sent Muslim to Cufah to take the suffrages of the Cufians, for he not only entertained him in his house, but also made use of all his interest privately to serve him; all the while, to prevent suspicion, making his appearance in public among Obeidollah’s men. Going one morning to wait upon the governor, Obeidollah asked him, “whether he was come with his men to serve Muslim?” Moktar said, “that he was not, but had been under the banner of Amrou the son of Horith, and stayed with him all night,” which Amrou confirmed. This, however, did not satisfy Obeidollah, who had good intelligence of his secret practices. He struck him over the face with his stick, knocked out one of his eyes, and sent him immediately to prison, where he was detained till after Hosein’s death. Upon which event Al Moktar, finding means to make application to Yezid the caliph, was, by his express command, set at liberty. Obeidollah knew well that it was not to the caliph’s interest to let him go, but forced to obey. He told Al Moktar that he allowed him three days, after which, if he took him, he would be under no obligation to spare him.

Al Moktar made the best of his way to the part of Arabia called Hejaz (which is generally taken by our geographers to be Arabia Petræa), and meeting with a friend, who asked him what ailed his eye, he answered, “Obeidollah injured it: but God kill me if I do not one day cut him to pieces.” His friend wondered at his speech, there being then little probability of its ever being in his power, and Moktar inquired of him concerning Abdallah the son of Zobeir. He answered him, “That he had made Mecca the place of his refuge;” to which Moktar answered, “I do not believe that he will make anything of it; but when it comes to pass, that you see Moktar up at the head of his men to revenge the death of Hosein, then, by thy Lord, I will kill, upon the account of his murder, as many as were killed upon the account of the blood of John the son of Zacharias, upon whom be peace.”

For the clearing of which passage it must be understood that the Mohammedans entertain a profound veneration for the memory of St. John the Baptist, upon the account of the honourable mention made of him in the third chapter of the Koran, in these words, “Then prayed Zachariah to his Lord, and said, ‘My Lord, give me from thee a good progeny, for thou art the hearer of prayers.’ And the angels called to him as he stood praying in the oratory, ‘God sends thee the good news of John, who shall confirm the truth of the word from God, and shall be a great person, chaste, a prophet, and one of the just,’ or rather, ‘and one of the just prophets.’”[11]

Which passage Hosein Waes paraphrases in these words,[12] “John the Baptist, your son, shall publish and give authority to the faith in the Messias Jesus the son of Mary, who is the Word of God, or the Word proceeding from God; for he shall be the first who shall believe in him. He shall become chief and high-priest by his knowledge, by the austerity of his life, and by the sweetness of his behaviour, which are three qualities requisite to make a man an Imam or high priest of the law of God. He shall abstain from women, and from all the pleasures of sense, and, in short, he shall be a prophet descended from good men such as his father Zachariah and his grandfather Saleh had been before him teaching men the ways of justice and salvation.”

They have, moreover, a tradition that St. John Baptist, having been beheaded by the command of a king of Judea, the blood which flowed from his body could not be stanched till it was avenged by a great desolation which God sent upon the people of the Jews. This is what Al Moktar alluded to.

When they parted, Al Moktar went to Mecca, which he reached just at the time that Abdallah set up for the caliphate, whom he told that all things about Cufah were in the utmost confusion; and then, whispering, said that he was come to proffer him his allegiance, if he would make him easy. I do not find what answer he received, nor whether or no he received any at all. However, from that time he was seen no more at Mecca till about a twelvemonth after, when, as Abbas the son of Sahel and Abdallah happened to be talking concerning him, he appeared on one side of the temple. Abbas went to him immediately, to find out which way he stood inclined, and asked him if he had been all that while in Taïf (for he had seen him there himself); he told him “No, in Taïf and other places,” but seemed to make a secret of his affairs. Abbas told him that, like the rest of the Cufians,??? he was very reserved; that all the noble families of the Arabians had sent some great man or other to offer their allegiance to Abdallah, and that it would be very strange if he should be singular, and refuse it.[13] To this Al Moktar replied, that he had offered his services the year before, but receiving no satisfactory answer, he supposed Abdallah had no occasion for them; and, as he thought Abdallah had more occasion for him than he had for Abdallah, he felt himself slighted. At last Abbas prevailed upon him so far, that he said he would visit Abdallah after he had said the last evening prayer. They appointed to meet at the Stone, and Abbas in the meantime rejoiced the heart of Abdallah with the news. When they were admitted into Abdallah’s house, Al Moktar told him that if he gave him his allegiance he expected to have access to him upon all occasions before any other person, and to be employed upon his most weighty affairs; Abdallah would have had him been content with being governed, “according to the book of God and the tradition.” Al Moktar answered, “That that was no more privilege than what the farthest man alive enjoyed, and that he would never come in upon any other terms than what he had proposed.” Abdallah’s affairs being as yet in an unsettled state, it was thought most advisable to indulge him in his humour; Al Moktar accordingly continued with Abdallah during the siege of Mecca, and fought bravely in the defence of it, till, as we have related before, upon the news of Yezid’s death, the siege was raised, and the army returned into Syria.

After the death of Yezid, Al Moktar continued with Abdallah five months and some days; but perceiving that Abdallah was still shy of him, and did not employ him in any considerable post, nor make any great use of him in his counsels, he began to inquire diligently into the condition of the Cufians, and Ali’s friends on that side of the country. At last he was informed, by one in whom he confided, that there was only a small party, supported by a few provincialists, in the interest of Abdallah; whereas the friends of Ali wanted nothing but a man of their own opinion to head them in order to consume the whole earth. Al Moktar swore that he was their man, and that, by their assistance, he would beat down “all haughty tyrants.”[14] His informant also told him, for his further satisfaction, they had already gone so far as to set one over them, who was, however, a person of but little experience. Al Moktar said he did not intend to call them to sedition, but to the right way, “and to the church,” and forthwith set forth for Cufah. All the way he went he made it his business to pay his respects to the congregations of the several mosques; and say his prayers among them, and harangue them, assuring them of success and victory, and a speedy deliverance from all their grievances. When he came to Cufah he called the sect together, and told them that he was come “from the mine of excellency,[15] the Imam that directs the right way, who commanded medicines to be applied, and the veil to be removed, and the perfection of gracious works, and the killing of their enemies. He then represented to them the incapacity of Solyman for such an undertaking, as being altogether inexperienced in war, and one that would only destroy both them and himself.” This he repeated so frequently that he drew over a great many of the sect into his interest, who began every day to favour him more and more in their common discourse, and magnify his merit, and promise themselves great things from him. But notwithstanding all this, Solyman’s interest was still superior amongst the sect, as being the most ancient, and of the greatest authority. Solyman now resolved to go forwards according to his own appointment, with what forces he had, expecting to be joined by a great army of the sect at Nochailah. Al Moktar stayed behind, awaiting the issue of the expedition, not doubting in the least, but that if Solyman miscarried, as he thought he would, the sole command of the sect would inevitably fall into his hands. By some of Solyman’s party he was suspected of having a secret design of seizing the province, upon which account they surrounded his house, and having surprised him, advised the governor to bind him and make him walk barefoot to prison. The governor answered that he would never do so to a man that had not openly declared himself an enemy, but was only seized upon suspicion. Then they demanded that he should be put in irons; but the governor answered that the prison was restraint enough. And being conveyed thither upon a mule, we must leave him there for a while.

We return now to Solyman and his penitents, for so all those who confederated under him to revenge the death of Hosein were called, because of their sorrow for their former neglect of him in his extremity. According to agreement, in the new moon of the latter Rebiyah, they set out for the general rendezvous at Nochailah, a place not very far distant from Cufah. When he came there, and had taken a view of the camp, he was greatly concerned at the smallness of the number collected there, and despatched two horsemen post to Cufah, with orders to cry round about the streets, and in the great mosque, “Vengeance for Hosein.” As they passed through the streets they stimulated the people, and amongst the rest an Arabian, who was married to the greatest beauty of her time, whom he doated upon to an excess. As soon as he heard that proclamation, he neither answered them one word, nor went out to them; but, putting on his clothes in all haste, he called for his arms and his horse. His wife asked him if he was possessed; he answered, “By God, no! but I have heard God’s herald calling for revenge for the blood of that man (Hosein), and I will answer him, and I will die for him, or God shall dispose of me as he pleases.” “To whom,” said she, “do you leave this child of yours?” “To God,” saith he, “who hath no partner. O God! I commend to thee my family and my child? O God, preserve me in them.” This said, he followed them, and left her to bewail him.[16]

After parading through the street they went to the great mosque, where they found a great many people after the last evening prayer, and repeated among them the same cry. Upon which, among others, a person of distinction went home, and armed himself and called for his horse. His daughter asking him whither he was going, he answered, “Child, thy father flies from his sin to his God.” Then calling his nearest relations together, he took his leave, and arrived at Solyman’s camp the next morning. Here they looked over the rolls to see how many had given their hands at first and kept their engagement. They found the former to be sixteen thousand, whereof not more than four thousand were present. One said that Al Moktar had drawn off two thousand; so that, according to that account, there still remained ten thousand guilty of perjury. At last Mosabbib told Solyman, that they who did not come out of hearty good-will would do them no service. After the muster, Solyman, and several others of the chief men, made speeches to the handful of men they had, telling them, that it was not this world they fought for; that they had neither silver nor gold, but were going to expose themselves to the edges of swords and the points of spears. To which the people answered, with one voice, “It is not this world that we seek, neither did we come out for the sake of it.” They next consulted together as to the most proper method of carrying on their design; one proposed to march directly into Syria to be revenged on Obeidollah; another would have them go and destroy all that had a hand in Hosein’s death at Cufah, where there were a great many of the chiefs of the tribes, and several other leading men. The last advice Solyman did by no means approve of; but said, that they ought to take vengeance upon that individual who had beset him with armed men, and said to him, “You shall have no protection from me, unless you surrender yourself entirely to my disposal;” that wicked wretch, the son of that wicked wretch, is your object![17] Besides, he did not think it by any means advisable to begin a massacre in their own province, since it would alienate their friends, and exasperate the people to see their fathers, and brethren, and near relations murdered before their faces. On this account he advised them to leave that matter for future consideration, if it should please God to grant them a safe return out of Syria.

In the meantime, Ibrahim (who, as we have mentioned before, was sent from Abdallah, the son of Zobeir, to gather the tribute) and Abdallah, the son of Yezid, the governor of Cufah, being informed of Solyman’s expedition, entertained the thought of joining forces with him. They thought it was both prudent and practicable to secure themselves in that part of the country, under the pretence of revenging the death of Hosein. Besides, they knew that Obeidollah’s cruelty had won him the ill-will and hatred of all the provinces that had been under his jurisdiction. They went, therefore, together to Solyman, and requested him to wait till they could raise forces to assist him, or else to abide where he was till Obeidollah should come within their bounds, which they had very good reason to think would not be long after the alarm was raised in Syria. But not prevailing with him, Ibrahim entreated him at least to stay till he could furnish him with money (no less than the tribute of the whole province). But the only answer he got to this last proposal was, that their going out was not for this world. Thus the conference broke off, and Solyman continued his march into Syria, and Ibrahim and the son of Yezid returned back to Cufah.

In the meanwhile, Obeidollah was not idle, but was upon his march towards them. Solyman’s men, perceiving that their friends of Madayen and Bassorah did not join them according to promise, began to murmur. Notwithstanding all his endeavours to pacify them, they deserted in troops; so that when he mustered them at Eksas, upon the banks of the Euphrates, there were a thousand of them wanting. To the rest Solyman said, “It is a good riddance; for if they had stayed, they would have been only a burden to you. The Lord did not approve of their going out, and therefore he hath withdrawn them, and held them back for the better, wherefore praise ye your Lord.”

Marching all night, they came the next morning to Hosein’s burying-place, where they stayed a night and a day, which they spent in prayer for him, and begging pardon for their own sins. When they first came to his tomb, they all cried out with one voice, and wept, and wished that they had been partners with him in his death. There never was seen a greater day of weeping than that. Solyman said, “O God! be merciful to Hosein the martyr, the son of the martyr; the guide, the son of the guide; the righteous, the son of the righteous! O God! we call thee to witness, that we are in their profession of religion, and in their way, and that we are enemies of those that killed them, and friends of those that loved them.” Another account (not contradictory to the former) says, that when they drew near to Hosein’s tomb they cried out unanimously, “O Lord! we have deceived the son of the daughter of our prophet; forgive us what is past, and repent towards us, for thou art the repenter, the merciful! Have mercy upon Hosein and his followers, the righteous martyrs! And we call thee to witness, O Lord! that we are the very same sort of men with those that were killed for his sake, and if thou dost not forgive us our conduct to him, we also must be sufferers.” They did not move till the morning after, but continued bewailing him and his friends at his sepulchre, the sight of which renewed their sorrow. Nay, when Solyman commanded them to march, there was never a man of them would stir till he had first stood over Hosein’s tomb, and begged his pardon. One that was present there swears that he never saw such crowding and pressing even round the black stone. From thence they marched to Hesasah, from Hesasah to Alambar, from Alambar to Sodud, and from Sodud to Kayyarah.

Whilst they were at Kayyarah, Abdallah the son of Yezid, the governor of Cufah, sent them a friendly letter, admonishing them of the hopelessness of their undertaking, in encountering such a multitude as they must expect to meet, with such a handful; assuring them of his being in the same interest with them, and desiring them to return. He concluded thus: “Do not set at nought my advice, nor contradict my command;[18] come as soon as my letter is read to you. God turn your faces towards his obedience, and your backs to the rebellion against him.” When the letter was read, and the people had asked Solyman’s advice, he told them that he saw no reason for going back, that they were never like to be nearer the two Hoseins[19] than now, and that the meaning of their persuading them to return was, that they might assist Abdallah the son of Zobeir, which he believed they were not required to do. But if they died now, they should die in a state of repentance for their sins.” At last he came to Hait, from whence he wrote an answer to the governor of Gufah, wherein he gave him thanks for his kind letter, but told him that his men could not accept of his invitation. They were true penitents, and determined to go forwards and leave the success to God. The governor, as soon as he received the letter, said that they were resolved to die, and that would be the next news of them. From Bait they went to Karkisia, from thence to Ainwerdah. Their design was to depose both the caliphs, via.:. [Abdalmelik[20] the son of ] Merwan, and Abdallah the son of Zobeir, and restore the government to the family of the prophet. Not to enter into a long detail of the tedious particulars of their march and engagement, they fell in at last with Obeidollah and twenty thousand men, who cut them all to pieces.

Not long after, in the month Ramadan, the caliph Merwan died. We must here remember, that after Moawiyah’s decease, Merwan was chosen caliph upon this condition, that Kaled the son of Yezid should succeed him, excluding his own children, and that Kaled had refused to take the government upon himself, because he was as yet too young; and that to secure the succession to Kaled, Merwan married Yezid’s widow, who was Kaled’s mother.

Afterwards however, Merwan, having altered his mind, was desirous that the succession should pass to his own children to the exclusion of Kaled, and accordingly caused his eldest son Abdalmelik to be proclaimed his lawful and proper successor.

Kaled, who always hated him, came to him one day, when there were a great many of the nobility about him in the garden, and reviled him in the most opprobrious terms. This moved the old man’s choler to such a degree, that he called him bastard. Kaled went immediately and told his mother all that had passed, and the lady, touched to the quick with this affront, resolved secretly to be revenged. She said, however, to Kaled, “Child, you must have a care of such behaviour, for he will never bear it; let me alone, and I will take care of him for you.” Merwan, coming in soon after, asked her if Kaled had said anything concerning him; she told him no; he had too much respect for him to do so.

Merwan did not long survive this event, however; some say his wife poisoned him, others that she laid a pillow upon his face when he was asleep, and sat upon it till he was dead, and then told the people that he died on a sudden.

Some say his age was sixty-three; others, with more probability, seventy-one. He reigned two hundred and ninety-eight days.

He was called Ebn Tarid, “The son of the expelled;” because Mohammed had banished his father Hakem for divulging a secret.[21] He continued in his exile during the reigns of Abubeker and Omar, and his recall was objected to Othman as one of the greatest crimes; it being nothing less than reversing the sentence of the prophet. Othman, mild and good-natured as he was, thought that since the cause of his banishment and all the bad effects of it that could possibly happen from it, were at an end, the punishment ought to cease also.

Original footnotes[edit]

  1. Abulfeda.
  2. Grandson, as before.
  3. Koran, passim.
  4. It is a saying of Mohammed’s.
  5. The next sentence is much to the same purpose, but it is obscurely represented in the manuscript, and I have not yet found it in the Koran.
  6. Koran.
  7. MS. Laud. No. 161. A.
  8. See the catalogue of Ali’s children at the end of his life.
  9. MS. Laud. Num. 161. A.
  10. Theophanes calls him [Greek].
  11. Koran, chap. iii. 33
  12. D’Herbelot, in Jahia.
  13. MS. Laud, No. 161. A.
  14. It is an expression used in the Koran.
  15. That was Mohammed Ebn Hanifiyah, Ali’s son, then resident at Mecca.
  16. M.S. Laud. No. 161, A.
  17. That is, Obeidollah, the son of Ziyad.
  18. Arabic, Amri. It doth not always signify strictly a command, because that supposes superiority, but anything that one friend desireth of another.
  19. Hasan and Hosein, as we have observed before.
  20. There must be a mistake here; for this action was before Merwan’s death. See Elmakin. Solyman and his penitents met at Nochailah on the new moon of the latter Rebiyah. Merwan died in the month of Ramadan; so, that unless we can suppose them to have been above five months in their march (which would not take them so many weeks), this action must have been over before the death of Merwan; therefore, instead of Abdalmelik, I would propose to read Merwan.
  21. “When the father of Merwan was disposed to treat him reproachfully, he would salute his son with the appellation of Bennu or Zerreka, the latter being the name of his grandmother, a woman of infamous character, who, previous to her union with Abi Al Aas, gave lodging to licentious females, and announced her occupation to the public, by exhibiting a flag at the top of the house.” —Price.