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Marwān ibn al-Hakam ibn Abi al-'As ibn Umayya ibn Abd Shams[note 1] (Arabic: مروان بن الحكم بن أبي العاص بن أمية‎), commonly known as Marwan I (ca. 623–626 — April/May 685) was the fourth caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate, ruling for less than a year in 684–685, and founder of its Marwanid ruling house, which remained in power until 750. Marwan had known the Islamic prophet Muhammad and is thus considered a sahaba (companion). He served as the secretary and right-hand man of his kinsman Caliph Uthman (r. 644–656) and participated in the defense of his house during a rebel siege. Uthman was, nonetheless, killed by the rebels, prompting Marwan to kill Talha ibn Ubayd Allah, whom he held culpable, during the Battle of the Camel in 656. He gave allegiance to Caliph Ali (r. 656–661) and later served as governor of Medina under his kinsman Caliph Mu'awiya I (r. 661–680), founder of the Umayyad Caliphate.

Marwan I
مروان بن الحكم
Caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate
ReignJune 684 – 12 April 685
PredecessorMu'awiya II
Successor'Abd al-Malik
Born623 or 626
DiedApril/May 685 (aged 63)
Damascus or al-Sinnabra
SpouseUmm Hashim Fakhita
Issue'Abd al-Malik
'Abd al-Aziz
'Abd al-Rahman
Ubayd Allah
Full name
Marwān ibn al-Hakam ibn Abi al-'As ibn Umayya
FatherAl-Hakam ibn Abi al-'As
MotherAmina bint 'Alqama al-Kinaniyya
Drachm from Yazid I to Marwan I; Talha governor.jpg

Marwan led the Banu Umayya clan in the Hejaz, and when Mu'awiya I's successors Yazid I and Mu'awiya II died in 683 and 684, respectively, he organized the defense of the Umayyad realm in the Hejaz against Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, a rival claimant to the caliphate. Ibn al-Zubayr expelled Marwan and his clan from Medina, and they became refugees in Syria. As he was prepared to pay allegiance to Ibn al-Zubayr, his kinsman, Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad, urged him to instead volunteer his candidacy for the caliphate during a summit of loyalist tribes at Jabiya. The tribal nobility, led by Ibn Bahdal of the Banu Kalb, ultimately elected Marwan and together they defeated the pro-Zubayrid Qaysi tribes at the Battle of Marj Rahit.

In the months that followed, Marwan reasserted Umayyad rule over the pro-Zubayrid territories of Egypt, Palestine and northern Syria, while keeping the Qays in check in Upper Mesopotamia. He dispatched an expedition led by Ubayd Allah to reconquer Iraq, but died as it was on the move in the spring of 685. Before he died, Marwan firmly established his sons in positions of power; 'Abd al-Malik was designated his successor, 'Abd al-'Aziz was made governor of Egypt and Muhammad oversaw military command in Upper Mesopotamia. Though Marwan was stigmatized as an outlaw and a father of tyrants in later anti-Umayyad tradition, historian Clifford E. Bosworth asserts that the caliph was a shrewd, capable and decisive military leader and statesman who laid the foundations of continued Umayyad rule for a further sixty years.


Early life and familyEdit

Marwan was born in 623 or 626 CE to father al-Hakam ibn Abi al-'As and mother Amina bint 'Alqama al-Kinaniyya.[2] They belonged to the Banu Umayya clan of the Quraysh tribe.[2] Marwan knew the Islamic prophet Muhammad and is counted among the latter's ṣaḥāba (companions).[2] Marwan had at least ten sons,[3] including 'Abd al-Malik, 'Abd al-'Aziz, Muhammad, Umar,[4] 'Abd al-Rahman,[5] Uthman and Ubayd Allah.[6] He also had at least two daughters,[3] Umm Uthman, a full sister of 'Abd al-'Aziz and 'Abd al-Rahman, and Umm 'Amr, a full sister of 'Abd al-Malik.[5] In addition, Marwan had ten brothers and was the paternal uncle of ten nephews.[3]

Secretary of UthmanEdit

During the reign of his cousin, Caliph Uthman (r. 644–656), Marwan served as the caliph's kātib (secretary).[2] In this capacity, historian Clifford E. Bosworth asserts that Marwan "doubtless helped" in the revision "of what became the canonical text of the Qur'an in that caliph's [Uthman's] reign".[2] According to historian Hugh N. Kennedy, Marwan was Uthman's "right-hand man".[7]

During Uthman's reign, Marwan took part in a military campaign in North Africa, where he acquired significant war spoils.[2] These spoils likely formed the basis of Marwan's substantial wealth, part of which he invested in properties in Medina.[2] For an undetermined time, he served as Uthman's governor in Fars.[2] Marwan was one of the defenders of Uthman's house in Medina when it was besieged by Egyptian rebels in 656.[2] The house was ultimately set alight and Uthman was assassinated by the rebels, which became one of the major contributing factors to the First Muslim Civil War. In the ensuing hostilities between Uthman's loyalists and A'isha on the one hand and Uthman's successor, Ali, on the other, Marwan initially sided with the former.[2] He fought alongside A'isha's forces at the Battle of the Camel in 656.[2] However, he used that occasion to kill one of A'isha's partisans, Talha ibn Ubayd Allah, whom he held responsible for Uthman's death.[2] After the battle, he switched allegiance to Ali.[2]

Governor under Mu'awiya IEdit

Ali himself was assassinated in 661. He was succeeded by the Muslim governor of Syria and member of the Banu Umayya, Mu'awiya I, beginning Umayyad rule over the Caliphate. For a brief period, Marwan served as Mu'awiya's governor in Bahrayn before serving two stints as governor of Medina in 661–668 and 674–677.[2] In between those two terms, Marwan's kinsmen Sa'id ibn al-'As and al-Walid ibn Uqba, held the post.[2] Marwan acquired from Mu'awiya a large estate in the Fadak oasis in northern Arabia, which he then bestowed on his sons 'Abd al-Malik and 'Abd al-'Aziz.[2]

According to Bosworth, Mu'awiya may have later become suspicious of the ambitions of Marwan and his Abu'l-'As line of the Banu Umayya, which was larger than the Abu Sufyan line, to which Mu'awiya belonged.[3] Marwan was among the most senior members of the Banu Umayya at a time when there were few experienced members of the Abu Sufyan family.[3] Bosworth speculates that it "may have been fears of the family of Abu'l-'As that impelled Mu'awiya ... to the unusual step of naming his own son Yazid as heir to the caliphate during his own lifetime".[3]

Reign as caliphEdit


When Mu'awiya died in 680, the cities of the Hejaz, including Mecca and Medina, refused to pay allegiance to his named successor, Yazid.[3] Marwan, then leader of the Banu Umayya in the Hejaz,[7] advised al-Walid ibn 'Utba, then governor of Medina, to coerce its inhabitants to recognize Yazid's sovereignty.[3] Yazid later dispatched an expeditionary force led by Muslim ibn Uqba in the autumn of 683 to assert Umayyad authority over the Hejaz.[3] Many members of the Banu Umayya, including Marwan and the Abu'l-'As family, who had been previously expelled from the Hejaz accompanied the expedition.[3] However, Yazid's army retreated to Syria after its defeat at the Battle of al-Harra.[7] Afterward, the leader of the Hejazi rebellion, Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, and his partisans seized the Banu Umayya's properties and forced Marwan and his kinsmen to leave for Syria.[3]

By early 684, Marwan was in Syria, either at Palmyra or in the court of Yazid's young son and successor, Mu'awiya II, in Damascus.[3] Mu'awiya II died in 684 and many of the Muslim governors of Syria, including those of Palestine, Homs and Qinnasrin, gave their allegiance to Ibn al-Zubayr, who presided over a rival caliphate based in Mecca.[3] As a result, Marwan "despaired over any future for the Umayyads as rulers" and was prepared to recognize Ibn al-Zubayr's legitimacy.[3] However, he was encouraged by the expelled governor of Iraq, Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad, to volunteer himself as Mu'awiya II's successor during a summit of loyalist Arab tribes being held in Jabiya.[3]

The organizer of the Jabiya summit was Ibn Bahdal, the chieftain of the powerful Banu Kalb tribe and cousin of Yazid.[7] Ibn Bahdal backed Mu'awiya II's younger half-brother Khalid ibn Yazid for the nomination,[3][7] but due to his youth and inexperience, the other loyalist chieftains opted for Marwan. Among the chieftains supporting Marwan's candidacy was a leader of the Banu Judham, Rawh ibn Zinba'.[3] A consensus was ultimately reached at Jabiya whereby Marwan would accede to the caliphate, followed by Khalid and then Amr ibn Sa'id al-Ashdaq, another senior member of the Banu Umayya.[3] In exchange for backing Marwan, the loyalist tribes, who came to be known as the "Yaman" faction, were promised financial compensation.[7] The Yamani ashrāf (tribal nobility) demanded from Marwan the same courtly and military privileges they held under previous Umayyad caliphs.[8] Some of these ashrāf, such as Husayn ibn Numayr al-Sakuni, had attempted to reach a similar arrangement with Ibn al-Zubayr, who publicly rejected the terms.[9] In contrast, Marwan "realized the importance of the Syrian troops and adhered wholeheartedly to their demands", according to historian Mohammad Rihan.[10] In the summation of Kennedy,

Marwān had no experience or contacts in Syria; he would be entirely dependent on the ashrāf from the Yamanī tribes who had elected him.[7]

Marwan was declared caliph in Damascus and married Yazid's widow and mother of Khalid, Umm Hashim Fakhita.[3] By doing so, Marwan established an additional link with the previous rulers of the Umayyad realm, the Sufyanids.[3]

Campaigns to reassert Umayyad ruleEdit

In opposition to the Kalb, the pro-Zubayrid Qaysi tribes objected to Marwan's accession and beckoned al-Dahhak ibn Qays al-Fihri, the governor of Damascus, to mobilize for war; accordingly, al-Dahhak and the Qays set up camp in the Marj Rahit plain north of Damascus.[7] Most of the Syrian junds (military districts) backed Ibn al-Zubayr, with the exception of Jund al-Urdunn, whose dominant tribe was the Kalb.[10] With the critical support of the latter and its allied tribes,[note 2] Marwan marched against al-Dahhak's larger army, while in Damascus itself, a Ghassanid nobleman expelled al-Dahhak's partisans and brought the city under Marwan's authority.[7] In July, Marwan's forces routed the Qays and killed al-Dahhak at the Battle of Marj Rahit.[3][7]

The decisive Umayyad–Yamani victory at Marj Rahit would lead to the long-running Qays–Yaman blood feud.[7] The remnants of Qays rallied around Zufar ibn al-Harith al-Kilabi, who took over al-Qarqisiya in Upper Mesopotamia, where he led the tribal opposition to the Umayyads.[7] Despite the victory, Marwan faced numerous challenges to his rule throughout the Umayyads' former domains;[11] with the help of Ubayd Allah and Ibn Bahdal, Marwan "set about tackling them with energy and determination", according to Kennedy.[11] He proceeded to consolidate Umayyad rule in Palestine and northern Syria, and the remainder of his reign was marked by attempts to reassert Umayyad authority.[3]

By February/March 685, Marwan secured his rule in Egypt with key assistance from the Arab tribal nobility of Fustat.[11] The province's pro-Zubayrid governor, Abd al-Rahman ibn Utba al-Fihri, was expelled and replaced with Marwan's son 'Abd al-'Aziz.[3][11] Around this time, Marwan's forces also repelled a Zubayrid expedition against Palestine led by Mus'ab ibn al-Zubayr.[3] Though the sources are not clear, Marwan may have dispatched an expedition to the Hejaz which was forced to retreat east of Medina to al-Rabadha.[3] Meanwhile, Marwan had assigned his son Muhammad to check the Qaysi tribes in the middle Euphrates region.[11] By early 685, he also dispatched an army led by Ubayd Allah to conquer Iraq from the Zubayrids and other anti-Umayyad factions.[3]


After a reign of between six and ten months, depending on the source, Marwan died in the spring of 685.[3] The precise date of his death is not clear from the medieval sources, with historians Ibn Sa'd, al-Tabari and Khalifah ibn Khayyat placing it at 11 April, al-Mas'udi at 13 April and Elijah of Nisibis at 7 May.[3] Most Muslim sources hold that Marwan died in Damascus, while al-Mas'udi holds that he died at his winter residence in al-Sinnabra near Lake Tiberias.[3]

Marwan had designated his sons 'Abd al-Malik and 'Abd al-'Aziz as his successors following the reconquest of Egypt, abrogating the arrangement reached at the Jabiya summit in 684.[3] Abd al-Malik acceded to the caliphate in Damascus without apparent opposition from the previously designated successors, Khalid ibn Yazid and Amr ibn al-Ashdaq.[3]


Marwan modeled his administration on the reign of Caliph Uthman.[11] To that end, he made his family the foundation of his power, giving his sons Muhammad and 'Abd al-'Aziz key military commands, and ensuring 'Abd al-Malik succeed him as caliph.[11] Despite the tumultuous beginnings, the Banū Marwān or "Marwanids" (descendants of Marwan), were established as the ruling house of the Umayyad realm.[11][12] Marwan's rise also affirmed the power of the Quda'a tribal confederation, of which the Banu Kalb was part.[12] Following the Battle of Marj Rahit, the Quda'a entered into an alliance with the Qahtan confederation of Homs, and new super-tribe became known as the "Yaman".[13] In the view of Bosworth,

[Marwan] was obviously a military leader and statesman of great skill and decisiveness amply endowed with the qualities of hilm [levelheadedness] and shrewdness, which characterised other outstanding members of the Umayyad clan. His attainment of the caliphate, starting from a position without many natural advantages beyond his own personal qualities (for he had no power-base in Syria and had spent the greater part of his career in the Hijaz), enabled his successor 'Abd al-Malik to place the Umayyad caliphate on a firm footing so that it was able to endure for over 60 years more.[3]

Marwan was also known to be gruff and lacking in social graces.[3] He apparently suffered permanent injuries after a number of battle wounds.[3] His tall and emaciated appearance lent him the nickname khayṭ bāṭil (gossamer-like thread).[3] Marwan was the subject of derision in later anti-Umayyad Muslim tradition.[3] These sources labeled him ṭarid ibn ṭarid (outlawed son of an outlaw) in reference to his father al-Hakam's alleged exiling to Ta'if by the prophet Muhammad and Marwan's expulsion from Medina by Ibn al-Zubayr.[3] He was also referred to abū'l-jabābira (father of tyrants) because his son and grandsons later inherited the caliphal throne.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Full name and genealogy: Marwān ibn al-Ḥakam ibn Abiʾl-ʿAs ibn Umayya ibn ʿAbd Shams ibn ʿAbd Manāf ibn Quṣayy.[1]
  2. ^ In a poem attributed to him, Marwan thanked the following tribes for their support: Banu Kalb, Ghassan, the Saksak and Sakun clans of Kinda, Banu al-Qayn, Tanukh and Banu Tayy.[10]


  1. ^ Kennedy, The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates: The Islamic Near East from the 6th to the 11th Century,2004, p. i.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Bosworth, The Encyclopedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume VI, 1991, p. 621.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al Bosworth, The Encyclopedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume VI, 1991, p. 622.
  4. ^ Ahmed, The Religious Elite of the Early Islamic Ḥijāz: Five Prosopographical Case Studies, 2010, p. 90.
  5. ^ a b Ahmed, The Religious Elite of the Early Islamic Ḥijāz: Five Prosopographical Case Studies, 2010, p. 111.
  6. ^ Ahmed, The Religious Elite of the Early Islamic Ḥijāz: Five Prosopographical Case Studies, 2010, p. 114.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Kennedy, The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates: The Islamic Near East from the 6th to the 11th Century, 2004, p. 79.
  8. ^ Rihan, The Politics and Culture of an Umayyad Tribe: Conflict and Factionalism in the Early Islamic Period, 2014, p. 103.
  9. ^ Rihan, The Politics and Culture of an Umayyad Tribe: Conflict and Factionalism in the Early Islamic Period, 2014, pp. 103–104.
  10. ^ a b c Rihan, The Politics and Culture of an Umayyad Tribe: Conflict and Factionalism in the Early Islamic Period, 2014, p. 104.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Kennedy, The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates: The Islamic Near East from the 6th to the 11th Century, 2004, p. 80.
  12. ^ a b Cobb, White Banners: Contention in 'Abbasid Syria, 750-880, 2001, p. 69.
  13. ^ Cobb, White Banners: Contention in 'Abbasid Syria, 750-880, 2001, pp. 69–70.


Marwan I
Born: ca. 623–626 Died: April/May 685
Sunni Islam titles
Preceded by
Mu'awiya II
Caliph of Islam
Umayyad Caliph

June 684–April/May 685
Succeeded by
'Abd al-Malik
Political offices
Preceded by
Sa'id ibn al-'As
Governor of Medina
Succeeded by
Sa'id ibn al-'As
Preceded by
Sa'id ibn al-'As
Governor of Medina
Succeeded by
Al-Walid ibn Uqba