Abū Marwān Bishr ibn Marwān ibn al-Ḥakam (died 694) was an Umayyad prince and governor of Iraq during the reign of his brother, Caliph Abd al-Malik. Bishr fought at Marj Rahit with his father, Caliph Marwan I (r. 684–685). The latter later posted Bishr to Egypt to keep his brother Abd al-Aziz company. In 690/91, Bishr was made governor of Kufa and about one year later, Basra was added to his governorship, giving him full control of Iraq.

Bishr ibn Marwan
Umayyad governor of Kufa
In office
MonarchAbd al-Malik
Preceded byMus'ab ibn al-Zubayr (non-Umayyad)
Succeeded byAl-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf
Umayyad governor of Basra
In office
MonarchAbd al-Malik
Preceded byKhalid ibn Abdallah ibn Khalid ibn Asid
Succeeded byAl-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf
Personal details
Bornc. 650s
Died694 (aged mid-40s)
ParentsMarwan I (father)
Qutayya bint Bishr (mother)

During his governorship of Iraq, Bishr was known to be highly accessible and relatively merciful. Fond of poetry, he had many Arab poets, including Jarir, al-Farazdaq and al-Ra'i, in his entourage and was elegized in many panegyrics. He eliminated the remaining partisans of Mus'ab ibn al-Zubayr in Basra and was officially in command of the war effort against Kharijite rebels in the province. However, he was forced to hand over command of the Iraqi army to al-Muhallab ibn Abi Sufra. He died in office of an unknown illness and was buried in Basra.

Early life and careerEdit

Bishr's father was Marwan ibn al-Hakam of the Banu Umayya and his mother was Qutayya bint Bishr of the aristocratic clan of the Banu Kilab, the Banu Ja'far.[1] Bishr killed a chieftain of the Banu Kilab during the Battle of Marj Rahit in 684.[1] The Umayyad victory at Marj Rahit consolidated Marwan ibn al-Hakam's Syria-based caliphate.[1]

Bishr accompanied Marwan when he wrested Egypt from its anti-Umayyad governor, Abd al-Rahman ibn Utba al-Fihri, by early 685.[1] Marwan appointed another of his sons, Abd al-Aziz, governor of Egypt and had Bishr remain in that province to keep Abd al-Aziz company as the latter was posted far from the rest of his kinsmen in Syria.[1] Relations between the brothers may have become tense, prompting Bishr to return to Syria.[1] By then, the caliphal throne had passed to another son of Marwan, Abd al-Malik (r. 685–705).[1]

Governor of IraqEdit

While Iraq was still in the hands of the anti-Umayyad Zubayrids, Caliph Abd al-Malik appointed Bishr governor of Kufa in 690/691. Bishr took part in the campaign that defeated Mus'ab ibn al-Zubayr and took up his office by 691/692.[1] The chieftain of the Banu Judham, Rawh ibn Zinba, and a general of Abd al-Aziz, Musa ibn Nusayr, served as Bishr's advisers in Kufa.[1] By 692/693, Abd al-Malik transferred the governorship of Basra to Bishr as well since its previous governor, Khalid ibn Abdallah ibn Khalid ibn Asid, failed to put down a Kharijite revolt.[1] At the end of 693, Bishr relocated to Basra, assigning as his deputy to Kufa the veteran Kufan statesman Amr ibn Hurayth al-Makhzumi.[1]

Bishr formed a consultative council representing three key groups to help him govern Iraq: the three groups were the Syrians sent by Abd al-Malik, namely Rawh ibn Zinba and Musa ibn Nusayr; two prominent local nobles, Ikrima ibn Rabi'a and Khalid ibn 'Attab al-Riyahi; and religious scholars, such as 'Amir al-Sha'bi.[2] Despite being made the lead amir (commander) on the Kharijite front, Bishr was ordered by Abd al-Malik to allow al-Muhallab to have command over this army.[1] Bishr was opposed to this move, as he intended to have Umar ibn Ubayd Allah ibn Ma'mar lead the war effort, but ultimately demurred.[1] However, he still caused problems for al-Muhallab by persuading his deputy in Kufa to withhold cooperation with the commander.[1]


Bishr had contended with an unknown illness or infection from the time of his arrival in Basra.[1] A few months later, in circa 694, he died in his mid-forties.[1] He was buried in Basra, but within days his grave had become indistinguishable from the grave of a certain African who had died on the same day.[1] Some soldiers in al-Muhallab's army defected upon hearing news of Bishr's death.[1] Abd al-Malik appointed al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf to replace Bishr as governor of Iraq, i.e. of Kufa and Basra.[3]

Bishr's son Abd al-Malik was later appointed the deputy governor of Basra by his uncle, the governor of Iraq Maslama ibn Abd al-Malik, in 720, but was dismissed that year by Maslama's successor Umar ibn Hubayra al-Fazari.[4] In 740, Abd al-Malik hid Yahya, the son of Zayd ibn Ali, from the governor Yusuf ibn Umar al-Thaqafi, in the aftermath of Zayd's failed revolt against the Umayyads until Yahya could flee for Khurasan.[5]


According to Orientalist Laura Veccia Vaglieri, "Bishr was a very agreeable young man, a governor who could be approached without difficulty, remarkably inclined to be merciful", but nonetheless responsible for the executions of Mus'ab's partisans who continued dissident activities in Basra.[6] Bishr was criticized for certain ritual innovations and neglecting to distribute food to his subjects, a task which he entrusted to his shurṭa and court.[6]

Bishr, like many of his kinsmen, drank wine and led a festive life with his friends.[6] Some of these friends helped Bishr rid himself of the overarching presence of Rawh ibn Zinba by trickery.[6] Bishr was fond of music and poetry, and was celebrated in panegyrics by numerous poets, including al-Farazdaq.[6] Other poets under his patronage included Jarir, Kuthayyir Azza, Suraka ibn Mirdas al-Bariqi, Nusayb, al-Ra'i, Ka'b al-Ashqari, Ibn al-Zabir and al-Uqayshir al-Asadi.[6] Bishr was well known for instigating poetic duels between Jarir and al-Akhtal.[7] One poet who opposed Bishr was the pro-Zubayrid Kilabi chieftain, Zufar ibn al-Harith, who castigated the Umayyad prince in verse.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Vaglieri, p. 1242.
  2. ^ Sulami 2003, p. 209.
  3. ^ Crone 1980, p. 232.
  4. ^ Powers 1989, pp. 149, 163–164.
  5. ^ Hillenbrand 1989, pp. 51–52.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Vaglieri, p. 1243.
  7. ^ Yaqub 2007, pp. 39–40.


Preceded by
Mus'ab ibn al-Zubayr (Kufa)
Khalid ibn Abdallah ibn Khalid ibn Asid (Basra)
Governor of Iraq
Succeeded by
Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf