Page:EB1911 - Volume 05.djvu/43

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31
CALIPHATE

him the ephemeral dominion of the Persian Shi‛ites. This had been their first attempt to dispute the authority of their Arabian conquerors, but it was not to be the last. Ibrāhīm b. Ashtar, Mokhtar’s governor of Mesopotamia, submitted and acknowledged the Caliphate of Ibn Zobair.

5. Reign of Abdalmalik.—Merwan died on the 27th of Ramadan 65 (7th May 685); according to tradition, he was suffocated by his wife, because he had insulted her son Khālid and herself. The accession of Abdalmalik was attended with no difficulty, but the first years of his reign were occupied by troubles in northern Syria, where, instigated by the Greeks, the Mardaites of the Amanus, called Jarājima by the Arabs, penetrated into the Lebanon. He was obliged to conclude an unfavourable treaty first with them, later with the emperor of Constantinople. Moreover, in the year 68 (A.D. 687-688) Syria was afflicted by a serious famine. Ibn Zobair, however, was occupied at Mecca with the rebuilding of the Ka’ba, and Muṣ‛ab was harassed not only by the Kharijites, but also by a noble freebooter, Obaidallah b. Ḥorr, who had created for himself a principality in the vicinity of Madāin (Ctesiphon).

The period of the pilgrimage caused a momentary truce to all these struggles, and in Dhu ‛l-hijja, A.H. 68 (January 688), was seen the curious spectacle of four different standards planted near Mecca, belonging respectively to four chiefs, each of whom was a pretender to the empire; the standard of Abdallah b. Zobair, caliph of Mecca; that of the caliph of Damascus, Abdalmalik; that of Ali’s son Mahommed b. al-Hanafiya, Mahdi of the Shi‛ites; and that of the Kharijites, who were at that time under the command of Najda b. ‛Āmir. Such, however, was the respect inspired by the holy places, that no disorders resulted.

When, in the year (69 A.H.) 689 Abdalmalik had at last encamped at Boṭān Ḥabīb in the vicinity of Kinnesrin (Qinnasrīn),[1] with the purpose of marching against Muṣ‛ab, his cousin ‛Amr Ashdaq, to whom by the treaty of Jābia, before the battle of Merj Rāhit, the succession to Merwan had been promised, took advantage of his absence to lay claim to the supreme power, and to have himself proclaimed caliph by his partisans. Abdalmalik was obliged to retrace his steps and to lay siege to his own capital. The garrison of Damascus took fright, and deserted their posts, so that ‛Amr Ashdaq was compelled to surrender. The caliph Abdalmalik summoned him to his palace and slew him with his own hand. Abdalmalik has every claim to our esteem as one of the ablest monarchs that ever reigned, but this murder remains a lasting blot on his career.

Abdalmalik could now give his whole attention to the projected expedition against Irak. Muṣ‛ab was encamped at Bājomairā in the neighbourhood of Takrīt. But Abdalmalik’s first task was to subdue Zofar and his Qaisites at Kerkesia (Qarqīsia), and the rest of the partisans of Mokhtār at Nisibis. Meanwhile, Muṣ‛ab had to curb a violent revolt in Basra, brought about by agents of Abdalmalik, and called after a place in the city the revolt of the Jofrites. About the middle of A.D. 691 Abdalmalik at last encamped at Dair al-Jathalīq (the monastery of the Catholicus) between Maskin, not far from the site of Bagdad, and Bājomairā. Muṣ‛ab’s best troops were fighting under Mohallab against the Kharijites; many Basrians were secretly favourable to the Omayyads, nor were the Kufian soldiers to be trusted. The people of Irak had never been accustomed to discipline, and no improvement had taken place during the troubles of the last years. Abdalmalik, therefore, wrote secretly to the chiefs of Muṣ‛ab’s army, and persuaded them to desert to him, with the exception of Ibrāhīm b. Ashtar, the brave son of a brave father, who, after the fall of Mokhtār, had become a faithful supporter of Ibn Zobair. His death, in the beginning of the battle, decided the fate of Muṣ‛ab, who was slain sword in hand by a Shi‛ite of Kufa.

This victory opened the gates of Kufa to Abdalmalik, and all Irak received him with acclamation. Thence, a few days later, he sent Hajjāj b. Yusuf at the head of 2000 Syrians against Ibn Zobair in Mecca, and despatched a messenger to Tāriq b.‛Amr, who was encamped at Wādi ‛l-Qorā with 5000 men, to make himself master of Medina and thence to rejoin Hajjāj. Before the arrival of this reinforcement, Hajjāj confined himself to skirmishes, in which his soldiers always had the advantage. Then, in Dhu ‛l Qa‛da 72 (March 25th, 692) Mecca was invested. The blockade lasted more than six months, during which the city was a prey to all the horrors of siege and famine. Hajjāj had set up a balista on the hill of Abu Qobais, whence he poured on the city a hail of stones, which was suspended only in the days of the pilgrimage. Ibn Zobair employed against him Abyssinians armed with Greek-fire-tubes, who, however, quitted him soon under the pressure of famine. This at length triumphed over his last adherents. Ten thousand fighting men, and even two of the sons of the pretender (it is said, on his own advice), left the city and surrendered. Mecca being thus left without defenders, Ibn Zobair saw that ruin was inevitable. Hajjāj having promised him amnesty if he would surrender, he went to his mother Asmā, the daughter of Abu Bekr, who had reached the age of a hundred years, and asked her counsel. She answered that, if he was confident in the justice of his cause, he must die sword in hand. In embracing him for the last time, she felt the cuirass he wore and exclaimed that such a precaution was unworthy of a man resolved to die. He, therefore, took off the cuirass, and, when the Omayyad troops made their way into the city, attacked them furiously, notwithstanding his advanced age, and was slain. His head was cut off, and sent by Hajjāj to Damascus.

With Ibn Zobair perished the influence which the early companions of Mahomet had exercised over Islam. Medina and Mecca, though they continued to be the holy cities, had no longer their old political importance, which had already been shaken to its foundations by the murder of Othman and the subsequent troubles. Henceforward we shall find temporal interests, represented by Damascus, predominating over those of religion, and the centre of Islam, now permanently removed beyond the limits of Arabia, more susceptible to foreign influence, and assimilating more readily their civilizing elements. Damascus, Kufa and Basra will attract the flower of all the Moslem provinces, and thus that great intellectual, literary and scientific movement, which reached its apogee under the first Abbasid Caliphs at Bagdad, steadily becomes more marked.

After the burning of the Ka’ba during the siege of Mecca by Hosain b. Nomair, Ibn Zobair had rebuilt and enlarged the house of God. It is said that he thus carried out a design of the Prophet, which he had not ventured to undertake for fear of offending the newly converted Koreishites. Hajjāj pulled down the enlargements and restored the Ka‛ba to its old state. Meanwhile, the caliph committed to him the government of the Hejaz. The Medinians, whose loyalty was suspected, were treated by him with severity; not a few maulas (clients) were obliged to wear a leaden badge on their neck (Tabarī, ii. p. 854 seq.).

Thus the protracted war against Ibn Zobair was brought to an end; hence this year (71) also is called the “year of union” (jamā‛a). But the storms in Irak and Mesopotamia had not yet altogether subsided. The Qais could not leave unavenged the blood shed at Merj Rāhit. For about ten years the Syrian and Mesopotamian deserts were the scene of a series of raids, often marked by great cruelty, and which have been the subject of a great many poems. Abdalmalik had need of all his tact and energy to pacify ultimately the zealous sectaries, but the antagonism between Yemenites (Kalb and Azd) and Moḍarites (Qais and Tamīm) had been increased by these struggles, and even in the far east and the far west had fatal consequences.

When Abdalmalik, after a stay of forty days, returned from Irak to Syria, he left two Omayyad princes as his vicegerents in Kufa and Basra. Mohallab, who at the time of the battle of Bājomairā was in the field against the Azraqītes (Kharijites), and had put himself at the disposal of the caliph, had orders to carry on the war. But the two princes proved unequal to their task and did not support Mohallab sufficiently, so that the Kharijites gained more than one victory. Abdalmalik in alarm made Hajjāj governor of Irak with the most extensive powers. The troops of Kufa, who accompanied Mohallab in an expedition against the

  1. Formerly the capital of the homonymous province of Syria; it lies a day’s march west from Haleb (Aleppo).