Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik
Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik (Arabic: سليمان بن عبد الملك, romanized: Sulaymān ibn ʿAbd al-Malik, c. 675 – 22 September 717) was the seventh Umayyad caliph, ruling from 23 February 715 until his death. Prior to his accession, he successively served as the governor of Palestine for his father Caliph Abd al-Malik (r. 685–705) and brother Caliph al-Walid I (r. 705–715). During this period, Sulayman came under the mentorship of the Umayyads' court theologian Raja ibn Haywa al-Kindi and forged close ties with the Arab tribal elite of the district. In place of the long-established urban center of Lydda, he founded the nearby city of Ramla and in it, his palace and the White Mosque. The new city served as the administrative capital of Palestine as late as the 11th century.
|Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik|
|7th Caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate|
|Reign||23 February 715 – 24 September 717|
Medina, Umayyad Caliphate
|Died||24 September 717|
Dabiq, Umayyad Caliphate
Dabiq, Umayyad Caliphate
|Spouse||Umm Yazīd bint ʿAbd Allāh ibn Yazīd I |
Suʿdā bint Yaḥyā ibn Ṭalḥa ibn ʿUbayd Allāh
ʿĀʾisha bint Asmāʾ bint ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn al-Ḥārith al-Makhzūmī
|Mother||Wallāda bint al-ʿAbbās ibn al-Jazʾ al-ʿAbsīyya|
After succeeding al-Walid, Sulayman dismissed his predecessor's governors and generals, many of whom had led the war efforts which brought the Caliphate to its greatest territorial extent. Though expansion largely stopped under Sulayman, partly due to increasing push-back from local forces along the frontiers, his governor over Iraq and Khurasan, Yazid ibn al-Muhallab, conquered the southern Caspian coast in 716. Moreover, under Sulayman, the war with the Byzantine Empire intensified. He directed the campaign from his northern Syrian headquarters in Dabiq, while his half-brother Maslama held the overall field command. Their offensive was one of the deepest to be launched by the Arabs against Byzantium, culminating in the sieges of Constantinople in the summers of 717 and 718, both ending in the Arabs' defeat. Sulayman died in Dabiq in between the two sieges. On his deathbed and under the counsel of his chief adviser, Raja, he made the unconventional choice of nominating his cousin, Umar II, as his successor, rather than one of his sons or brothers.
There are few details in the medieval sources about the first thirty years of Sulayman's life. He was born in Medina around 675. His father, Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, belonged to the Umayyad clan of the Quraysh tribe, while his mother, Wallada bint al-Abbas ibn al-Jaz', was a great-granddaughter of Zuhayr ibn Jadhima, a prominent 6th-century chieftain of the Arab tribe of Banu Abs. Sulayman was partly raised in the desert by his maternal kinsmen from the Banu Abs.
At the time of his birth, the Caliphate was ruled by Sulayman's distant cousin, Mu'awiya I, who had founded the Umayyad ruling dynasty in 661. Following the deaths of Mu'awiya I's successors, Yazid I and Mu'awiya II, in 683 and 684, respectively, Umayyad authority collapsed across the Caliphate and most provinces recognized the Mecca-based caliph, Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr. The Umayyads of Medina, including Sulayman, were consequently expelled from the city and became refugees in central Syria, where the family was supported by certain loyalist Arab tribes. These tribes elected as caliph Sulayman's grandfather, Marwan I, and formed the "Yaman" confederation in opposition to the Qaysi tribes, which dominated northern Syria and the Jazira (Upper Mesopotamia) and gave their allegiance to Ibn al-Zubayr. By 685, Marwan had retaken control of Syria and Egypt and was succeeded by Abd al-Malik, who reconquered the remainder of the Caliphate by 692.
Governorship of PalestineEdit
At an undetermined point, Abd al-Malik made Sulayman governor of Jund Filastin (military district of Palestine), a post Abd al-Malik formerly held under Marwan. Sulayman's appointment to the district followed successive stints by the caliph's uncle Yahya ibn al-Hakam and half-brother Aban ibn Marwan. In 701, Sulayman led the Hajj pilgrimage caravan to Mecca. Before Abd al-Malik died in 705, he nominated his eldest son, al-Walid I, as his successor to be followed by Sulayman. Sulayman remained governor of Palestine throughout al-Walid's reign, which lasted until 715. His governorship likely brought him in close contact with the Yamani chieftains who dominated the district. He established a strong relationship with Raja ibn Haywa al-Kindi, a local, Yamani-affiliated, religious scholar who had previously supervised Abd al-Malik's construction of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Raja became Sulayman's tutor and senior aide.
Sulayman cultivated ties with the opponents of al-Walid's viceroy over Iraq and the eastern half of the Caliphate, al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, whose considerable influence over al-Walid was resented by the heir apparent. In 708, he gave refuge to the Muhallabid family and its head, Yazid ibn al-Muhallab, who had been dismissed from the governorship of Khurasan by al-Hajjaj and later became a fugitive when he escaped the latter's prison. To placate the consequent anger of al-Walid, Sulayman offered to assume the unpaid fine al-Hajjaj had imposed on Yazid and sent the latter and his own son, Ayyub, in shackles to the caliph with a letter pleading for the Muhallabids' pardon, which the caliph granted. Yazid became a close confidant of Sulayman, who held him in "the highest regard". According to a report by Arab historian Hisham ibn al-Kalbi (737–819), cited by the 9th-century historian al-Tabari, "Yazid ... stayed with him [Sulayman], teaching him how to dress well, making delicious dishes for him, and giving him large presents". Yazid remained with Sulayman for nine months or until al-Hajjaj died in 714 and highly influenced and prejudiced him against al-Hajjaj.
Foundation of RamlaEdit
During his governorship, Sulayman founded the city of Ramla as the seat of his administration. Replacing the Muslims' original capital at Lydda, Ramla remained the capital of Palestine as late as the Fatimid period (10th–11th centuries). In founding the new city, Sulayman was motivated by personal ambition and practical considerations. The location of Lydda, a long-established and prosperous city, was logistically and economically advantageous, but Sulayman established his capital outside of the city proper. According to the historian Nimrod Luz, this was likely due to a lack of available space for wide-scale development and agreements dating to the Muslim conquest in the 630s that, at least formally, precluded him from confiscating desirable property within the city. In a tradition recorded by the historian Ibn Fadlallah al-Umari (d. 1347), Sulayman's requests for parcels in the middle of Lydda were refused by a determined, local Christian cleric. Infuriated, he attempted to have the cleric executed, but was dissuaded by Raja who instead proposed building a new city at a superior, adjacent site. According to al-Jahshiyari (d. 962), Sulayman sought a lasting reputation as a great builder following the example of his father and al-Walid, founder of the Great Mosque of Damascus. The construction of Ramla was his "way to immortality" and "his personal stamp on the landscape of Palestine", according to Luz. In choosing the site, Sulayman utilized the strategic advantages of Lydda's vicinity while avoiding the physical constraints of an already-established urban center.
The first structure Sulayman erected in Ramla was his palatial residence, which dually served as the seat of Palestine's (diwan) administration. At the center of the new city was a congregational mosque, later known as the White Mosque. It was not completed until the reign of Caliph Umar II (r. 717–720). From early on, Ramla developed economically as a market town for the surrounding area's agricultural products and a center for dyeing, weaving and pottery. It was also home to a high proportion of Muslim religious scholars. Sulayman built an aqueduct in the city called al-Barada, which transported water to Ramla from Tel Gezer about 10 kilometers to the southeast. Many of Lydda's Christian, Samaritan and Jewish inhabitants were moved to the new city. Traditional accounts vary about Sulayman's efforts to transfer settlement to Ramla, with some holding that he only demolished a church in Lydda and others that he demolished the city altogether. In any case, Ramla ultimately superseded Lydda as the commercial center of Palestine. In the words of al-Jahshiyari, Sulayman "founded the town of al-Ramla and its mosque and thus caused the ruin of Lod [Lydda]".
Jerusalem remained the region's religious focal point, and according to an 8th-century Arabic source, Sulayman ordered the construction of number of public buildings there, namely a bathhouse, at the same time that al-Walid was developing the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif). The bathhouse was used for ablution by Muslims worshipping at the Dome of the Rock. Sulayman is further credited by an anonymous 13th-century Syriac chronicler for building arches, mills and gardens in Jericho, but these were later destroyed by floods. He also maintained an agricultural tract near Qutayfa in the environs of Damascus that was called "al-Sulaymaniyya" after him.
In 714, al-Walid, encouraged or supported by al-Hajjaj, attempted to install his son Abd al-Aziz as his successor, voiding the arrangements set by Abd al-Malik, which made Sulayman heir apparent. According to the historian Umar ibn Shabba (d. 878), al-Walid offered Sulayman generous financial incentives to agree to the change, but the latter refused. Al-Walid, nonetheless, issued requests to his provincial governors to recognize Abd al-Aziz, but only received favorable responses from al-Hajjaj and Qutayba ibn Muslim, the governor of Khurasan and conqueror of Transoxiana. An adviser of al-Walid, Abbad ibn Ziyad, counseled the caliph to forcibly pressure Sulayman, at first by summoning him to the caliph's court in Damascus, and then, after Sulayman stalled in his response, to mobilize his shurṭa (security forces) and move against Sulayman in Ramla. Al-Walid died shortly after, on 23 February 715, and Sulayman acceded to the caliphate unopposed.
Sulayman received oaths of allegiance in Ramla, and in Damascus during his only recorded visit to that city. Sulayman continued to govern from Palestine, where he "was much beloved", according to Wellhausen, instead of Damascus, the Umayyads' traditional administrative capital. Historian Reinhard Eisener asserts that the medieval "Syrian sources prove he obviously chose Jerusalem as his principal seat of government", while Wellhausen and historian Hugh N. Kennedy write that he remained in nearby Ramla.
During his first year in office, Sulayman dismissed most of the provincial appointees of al-Walid and al-Hajjaj, and installed loyalist governors in their place. It is unclear whether these changes were the result of resentment and suspicion toward previous opponents of his accession or a means to ensure control over the provinces by appointing allied officials. While Eisener claims Sulayman's "choice of governors does not give the impression of bias" toward the Yaman faction, Kennedy asserts that the caliph's reign marked the political comeback of the Yaman and "reflected his Yamani leanings". One of his immediate decisions was installing Yazid ibn al-Muhallab as governor of Iraq. According to historian Muhammad Adnan Shaban, Sulayman considered Yazid to be his "own al-Hajjaj". Though Yazid acted with a staunch preference for the Yaman, there is no indication that Sulayman favored one faction over the other. In the assessment of historian Julius Wellhausen, Sulayman, from the time of his governorship of Palestine, "may have been persuaded" that the rule of al-Hajjaj engendered hatred among the Iraqis toward the Umayyads as opposed to fostering their loyalty. Sulayman thus opposed him and his influence and deposed his appointees and allies, not because of their Qaysi affiliation, but rather their connection with al-Hajjaj personally. Indeed, Sulayman kept close ties with the Qaysi troops of the Jazira.
A protege of al-Hajjaj, Qutayba ibn Muslim, whose relations with Sulayman had been antagonistic, was confirmed in his post by the caliph, but remained wary that his dismissal was pending. At the time of Sulayman's accession, he had been leading his Khurasani Arab and mawālī (sing. mawlā; non-Arab freedman or client) troops on expedition toward the Jaxartes valley in Transoxiana. While stopping in Ferghana, he declared a rebellion against Sulayman, but most of his troops, exhausted from the distant campaigns, turned against him. Qutayba was killed by an army faction led by Waki ibn Abi Sud al-Tamimi in August 715. Sulayman subsequently ordered the withdrawal of the Khurasani army to Merv and its disbandment. Waki declared himself governor of Khurasan, and was confirmed by Sulayman, but the latter restricted his authority to military affairs. Indeed, Sulayman was concerned that Waki's nomination by the tribal factions of the Khurasani army rather than by his own initiative would lead to instability in the province. Meanwhile, al-Hajjaj's kinsman and leader of the conquest of Sind, Muhammad ibn al-Qasim, did not revolt against Sulayman, but was nonetheless dismissed, summoned to Wasit and executed.
Waki's provisional governorship lasted nine months until mid-716, when the province, along with the other eastern parts of the Caliphate, were attached to Yazid's Iraqi governorship. The caliph directed Yazid to relocate to Khurasan and appoint lieutenant governors in the Iraqi garrison towns of Kufa, Basra and Wasit, while entrusting Iraq's fiscal affairs to his own appointee, a mawlā with lengthy experience in the province, Salih ibn Abd al-Rahman. Furthermore, between 715 and 716, he dismissed Khalid ibn Abdallah al-Qasri and Uthman ibn Hayyan al-Murri, the respective governors of Mecca and Medina, both of whom owed their appointments to al-Hajjaj. Al-Qasri, later considered a champion of the Yaman, was replaced by an Umayyad family member, Abd al-Aziz ibn Abdallah. In the west, Sulayman dismissed Musa ibn Nusayr, the Yamani-affiliated governor of Ifriqiya and conqueror of Hispania (al-Andalus), and his son Abd al-Aziz, the governor of al-Andalus. The latter was assassinated on Sulayman's orders and his head was delivered to the caliph by Habib ibn Abi Ubayd al-Fihri in 715/16.
Though he largely replaced their governors, Sulayman maintained his predecessors' militarist policies. Nonetheless, during his relatively short reign, the significant territorial expansion of the Caliphate that occurred under al-Walid virtually came to a halt, partly as the result of more effective resistance from local forces. This was not an indication that "the impulse of expansion and conquest slackened" under Sulayman, according to Eisener. Indeed, in 716/717, his governor Yazid conquered the principalities of Jurjan and Tabaristan, both located along the southern coast of the Caspian Sea. The campaign lasted for four months and involved a 100,000-strong army derived from the garrisons of Kufa, Basra, Rayy, Merv and Syria. It marked the first deployment of Syrian troops, the elite military faction of the Caliphate, to Khurasan. In a letter, Yazid congratulated Sulayman on the conquests of the two territories, which had eluded previous caliphs until "God made this conquest on behalf" of Sulayman "in order to bestow His honor upon him, and in order to increase the blessing He has bestowed upon him".
The caliph's principal military focus was the war with Byzantium. He appointed his son Dawud to lead a summer campaign against the Byzantine frontier, during which he captured Hisn al-Mar'a ("the Woman's Fortress") near Malatya. In late 716, after returning from the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Sulayman encamped and mobilized his army in Dabiq in northern Syria. From there, he oversaw the massive war effort against the Byzantines. He dispatched his half-brother, Maslama ibn Abd al-Malik, to besiege the Byzantine capital of Constantinople via land with orders to remain until the city was conquered or he was recalled by the caliph. Already from early 716, the Arab commander Umar ibn Hubayra al-Fazari had launched a naval campaign against Constantinople. Sulayman's efforts ultimately failed as the Byzantines repulsed the Umayyad sieges in the early summer of 717 and summer of 718.
Death and successionEdit
Sulayman died of illness in Dabiq in between the two sieges of Constantinople, in September 717. Elias of Nisibis put the date at 20 September or 21 September, while Abu Mikhnaf puts it at 23 September or 24 September. According to a report cited by al-Tabari, he fell ill after returning from the Friday prayers and died a few days later.
Following the death of his full brother and potential successor, Marwan al-Akbar, in 715/16, Sulayman designated his eldest son Ayyub as his successor. This is partly supported by an ode from the contemporary poet Jarir:
The Imam, whose gifts will be hoped for, after the Imam [Sulayman], is the chosen successor, Ayyub ... You [Ayyub] are the successor to the merciful one [Sulayman], the one whom the people who recite the Psalms recognize, the one whose name is inscribed in the Torah.
Ayyub predeceased the caliph in early 717. On his own deathbed, Sulayman weighed options for a successor with his chief adviser Raja. Sulayman considered nominating his other son Dawud, but Raja advised against it, citing that Dawud was away fighting in Constantinople and that it was unclear if he was still alive. Raja ultimately counseled Sulayman to choose his paternal cousin and adviser, Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, describing him as a "worthy, excellent man and a sincere Muslim". To avoid potential intra-dynastic strife between Umar and Sulayman's brothers, Yazid ibn Abd al-Malik was appointed Umar's successor. Sulayman's nomination of Umar over his own brothers defied the general assumptions among the Umayyad family that the office of the caliph would be restricted to the household of Abd al-Malik. Raja was chosen to execute Sulayman's will and secured allegiance to Umar from the caliph's brothers with the threat of force following their protestations at being bypassed. According to Eisener, Raja's personal connections to the traditional Muslim reports about Sulayman's nomination of Umar render Raja's role in the succession arrangements as "likely ... exaggerated". According to Shaban, Sulayman nominated Umar because he was the contender "most sympathetic to his policies".
According to Eisener, it is challenging "to form an appropriate picture of Sulayman's reign" due to its short length. Shaban concurs, writing
His [Sulayman's] reign was very short and will permit more than one interpretation. This is why he is such an ambiguous figure for the historian.
Shaban noted that the "importance of Sulayman's reign does not seem to have been realized" due to the medieval sources' "overwhelming emphasis" on the reign of his successor, Umar II. Eisener and Shaban agree that Sulayman generally maintained the expansionist policies of al-Walid and Abd al-Malik, though Shaban highlights that he sought to further integrate non-Arabs into the military hierarchy. While Shaban and Kennedy emphasize Sulayman's championing of the Yaman faction and opposition to the Qays, Eisener views his provincial and military appointments as motivated by a desire to consolidate his control over the Caliphate by installing loyalists in positions of power, their factional affiliation notwithstanding.
In the panegyrics of Sulayman's contemporary poets al-Farazdaq and Jarir, Sulayman is viewed in messianic terms as the "rightly-guided one" sent to restore justice after a period of oppression. This may have been connected to the approaching centennial of the hijra (start of the Islamic calendar) and the associated Muslim hopes for the conquest of Constantinople during his reign. Sulayman was known to lead a licentious life and the traditional sources hold that he was gluttonous and promiscuous. Despite his lifestyle, his political sympathies laid with the pious, chiefly evidenced by his deference to Raja's counsel. He also cultivated ties to the religious opponents of al-Hajjaj in Iraq, was financially generous toward the Alids (the closest surviving kinsmen of the Islamic prophet Muhammad), and installed as governor of Medina, Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad al-Ansari, a member of the city's pious circles, despite his family's role in the fatal rebellion against the early clansman and patron of the Umayyads, Caliph Uthman (r. 644–656), revenge for whom had served as an ideological rallying point and foundational event for the Umayyad dynasty.
Among Sulayman's wives was a granddaughter of al-Hakam ibn Abi al-As, the father of Marwan I; she bore him Ayyub. Another of his Umayyad wives was Umm Yazid, a sister of Ziyad ibn Abd Allah, a grandson of Caliph Yazid I. Sulayman was also married to Su'da bint Yahya, a granddaughter of Talha ibn Ubayd Allah, a senior companion of Muhammad and an early Muslim leader. From his wife A'isha bint Asma bint Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Harith, a member of the prominent Qurayshi clan of Banu Makhzum, he had two sons. From one of his ummahat awlad (slave women; sing. umm walad), Sulayman had his son Dawud.
Sulayman had fourteen sons. According to the 9th-century historian Ibn Qutayba, his oldest surviving son, Muhammad, was twelve years old at the time of Sulayman's death. Sulayman's sons remained in Palestine and maintained strong ties to the district's Yamani tribal nobility. Indeed, the Arab tribes which formed Palestine's garrison were committed to Sulayman's family and in 744, unsuccessfully attempted to install the head of the family, Sulayman's son Yazid, as caliph. Another of Sulayman's sons, Abd al-Wahid, served as governor of Medina and Mecca in 747 for Caliph Marwan II (r. 744–750). Sulayman's property in Palestine remained in the possession of his family until the Abbasid Revolution toppled the Umayyad dynasty in 750.
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Sulayman ibn Abd al-MalikBorn: 675 Died: 24 September 717
| Caliph of Islam
23 February 715 — 24 September 717