Walid—II: In east of caliphate

Golden Mein

By Dr. Javid Iqbal

Having had an account of Wali-II’s caliphate in Spain and South of France, we may re-look where we left the historical trail in east of Islamic caliphate—the all important viceroyalty of Iraq, which mattered the most, ever since Kofa emerged as the capital during the caliphate of Hazrat Ali [RA] a shift from Madina. The great caliph took the decision to stay put in the place that appeared to be the seat of conflict. Violence could be better control from where it might ensue, that appeared to be the stream of thought. Damascus had grown as a rival center of power with Ameer Muwiyah holding reins.

Last time around, while dwelling in the east of caliphate,  we studied how Khalid al-Kasri—the Yemeni [Himyarite] viceroy in Kofa was replaced by Yusuf—the Modharite after more or less 15 years in power—a change affected by Hisham, the Omayyad caliph who served the longest as caliph in Omayyad era—19 years, 9 months and nine days. Khalid al-Kasri led a quite life in the capital Damascus; however the caliph—Walid-II, given to mercurial changes in temperament could hardly fathom even calmness from a person of Khalid’s caliber. His staying incommunicado and not paying homage to caliph and his sons was taken to be an affront. In order to discipline him, he was handed over to his arch enemy—Yousuf—the Kofan Viceroy. From his captivity, Hisham in spite of replacing him had saved him. Handed back, Yusuf had him executed.

Execution of prominent Himyarite leader–Khalid al-Kasri had the ethnic group rise in revolt. Yazid-III, son of Wali-I, a grandson of Abdul Malik led the men in revolt. Walid-II unable to gather enough forces to combat the rebels took refuge in citadel in suburban Damascus. And tried to negotiate a deal, however that did not bear fruit. He was pursued by the rebels and killed. His rule lasted less than a year, and Yazid-III assumed the caliphate. Before we assess his rule, we may revert back to the caliphate of Hisham and Walid-II to remain updated with the fate of Alids, as well as stay tuned to Abbasid bid for power, first the Alids.

Zaid—grandson of Hazrat Imam Hussain [RA] was ill treated by Yusuf—the Modharite, who replaced Khalid al-Kasri, the Yemeni Himyarite, nevertheless a viceroy who maintained a balance between his own ethnic group and Modharites. Yusuf, it is related got hold of documents pertaining to Khalid al-Kasri transferring funds to Zaid. Whatever the nature of transaction, Yusuf played it up as funding to undermine the caliphate. It might have been innocuous, state funding from Bait-ul-Mal [the state treasury] for personal sustenance or social causes was not unknown.   Hisham however, suspicious by nature was taken in by Yusuf’s projection of intrigue. Yusuf’s ill treatment of Zaid had him complain to the caliph, however the reverence that Hisham had for Hazrat Ali [RA] a feature marked by historians did not extend to descendents of Hazrat Ali [RA].

Zaid faced an unceremonious exit from the court of Hisham. Settling in Kofa, he married a Himyarite and gradually organized resistance.  In spite of advice to the contrary by friends and relatives, he depended on Kofans.  Kofans—mercurial as always—support and desertion coming naturally to them, could hardly be expected to back him to hilt.  Unfortunately, in spite of advice to the contrary by friends and relatives, he banked on their support. He was killed, his ardent followers however managed to bury him in a secrecy. His grave was later found, and his body was exhumed and impaled on the cross. After some time, it was brought down and burnt; the ashes were thrown in Euphrates. Yahya, 17 years old son of Zaid managed to escape the slaughter and organize resistance, until he too was killed during the caliphate of Walid-II.

It was during the time period of Zaid’s campaign that the division occurred among Shiites. Zaidis accept the authenticity of first three of four Khulfia-e-Rashideen, which is not in keeping with the view of majority of Shias of Itna-Ashri sect. Those amongst the Kofans, who did not accept this version, were called ‘Abandoners’.  Another moderate sub-sect, ‘Imamias’ came to fore, who neither accepted the version of Zaidis, nor did they join the uprising.

We may now move on to Abbasids. Abbasid campaign was gathering pace with passionate plea for change being made by Abu Muslim—the chief campaigner for the Abbasid cause.   We may also remember that Abbasid campaign sensing people’s craving for a change had started in Khorasan—a part of viceroyalty of Kofa. Abu Muslim leading that campaign was drawing large crowds and swelling support to his cause. He was a naturally gifted organizer and a great orator. Ibrahim—son of Mohammad won him over to the Abbasid campaign.

Mohammad was the great grandson of Hazrat Abbas [RA] the uncle of Prophet Mohammad [pbuh]. He was the prominent Abbasid, who weaved the design of Abbasid bid for power, a design carried forward by his son—Ibrahim. Initially it was weaved as a Hashemite design to wean Alids—decedents of Hazrat Ali [RA] to their cause. Abu Muslim though an Isfahani—a native of Isfahan was nevertheless from Arab stock, operating in Iranian part of Kofan viceroyalty.

Khorasan was a sub division of Kofan viceroyalty, governed by a deputy governor, answerable to Kofan viceroyalty. We may remember that while Iraq was called Iran-e-Arab, the mainland Iran was called Iran-e-Ajam [Iran of non-Arabs] both were parts of pre-Islamic Iranian Empire. Ibrahim, as already mentioned was instrumental in bringing Abu Muslim into power play, upon the death of his father in the year 114 A.H. And he had a telling effect in organizing resistance to the Omayyad rule. Though Omayyad rule continued for sometime more, the foundations of the Omayyad caliphate was weakening by the day. And focus was shifting more and more away from the capital Damascus to Iraq, with Iraq-e-Ajam—Khorasan in particular emerging as the epicenter of resistance.

We may look at closing years of Omayyad caliphate in weeks ahead

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]

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