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August 16, 2017

Abd Al-Malik Ibn Marwan | Umayyad Caliph


‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan was the Umayyad caliph who ruled from 65/685 until 86/705. He inherited a fractured polity from his father, who was apparently murdered in his sleep by one of his wives. The rebel Ibn al-Zubayr controlled the holy sites in the Hijaz, along with significant areas of Iraq, where both he and ‘Abd al-Malik confronted ‘Alid and Kharijite rebels. Only Syria remained firmly in Umayyad hands, and even there ‘Abd al-Malik faced a revolt led by ‘Amr b. Sa‘id al-Asdaq, a family rival, in 69/688–689. These internal threats forced ‘Abd alMalik to sign a treaty with the Byzantines, paying them tribute in 70/689–690. He was able to restore order and consolidate his power by 73/692. ‘Abd  al Malik continued to face occasional revolts in Iraq and farther east in Khurasan, but his viceroy Hajjaj ibn Yusuf contained these threats ably (and sometimes viciously).

‘Abd al-Malik devoted the remainder of his reign to centralizing power in the capital at Damascus. He depended on his own family for sensitive positions, which was in contrast with his predecessors’ reliance on local elites. He used his powerful Syrian army to crush any provincial resistance. ‘Abd al-Malik introduced the first distinctly Islamic coinage. In contrast with older Muslim coins, which were based on Byzantine models, ‘Abd al-Malik’s coins were devoid of pictorial images and included Qur’anic phrases instead. The remarkable uniformity of these coins demonstrates the degree to which ‘Abd al-Malik centralized the control of minting money. His coins remained the model for coins through out the Umayyad and ‘Abbasid periods. In addition, ‘Abd al-Malik began the long process of establishing Arabic as the standard administrative language of the realm and invested heavily in agricultural development, particularly in Iraq and the Hijaz. At his death in 86/705 at the age of 60, he was succeeded by al-Walid, the first of four of his sons to ascend to the caliphate.

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