With Abu Muslim’s forces in Kufa, Abbasids were poised to take over caliphate; however Syria remained the Omayyad stronghold. The Syrians sensing the danger collected under the Omayyad standard. With his son killed, caliph Marwan in a fit of rage killed not only the Abbasid nominee in contention to Omayyad caliphate, he deposed as already related, the probable contenders of his own dynasty. Abul Abbas [as-Saffah] the Abbasid nominated by Ibrahim to succeed him was staying put in Kufa. As Kahtaba bin Shabib, the daring general—Abu Muslim appointee entered Kufa with his son, Abu Abbas emerged from his hiding and was proclaimed the caliph. The oath of fealty was taken by the nobles—the chiefs of various factions in the coalition worked out by Abu Muslim.
Islamic Empire stretching from Central Asia to Europe across the Mediterranean had once again two power centers—Kufa and Damascus. It was a situation that evoked the memory of confrontation of Hazrat Ali [RA] and Ameer Muwiyah. There was a difference though; Abbasids were poised to take it to the very end. However, they could afford to wait for Marwan to make the move. The soldier in Marwan ultimately woke up, late though. For long had he preferred his retreat-Harran, now with his back to the wall, and Syrians sensing danger at the door step, they issued from their stronghold and crossed the Tigris, reaching Greater Zab. Marwan commanded an army of 150,000.
In the great battle that ensued, Marwan was defeated. He fled to Hems, then to Damascus. Finding these places unsafe, he escaped to Palestine. On his way to Egypt, he was captured and killed in a church. With that ended the Omayyad rule of more or less ninety years. However, Omayyads were far from done, as Abul Rehman took command in Spain and held aloft the Omayyad standard. The Abbasids could not hold sway over Spain. The break-up of vast Islamic territories may not however be seen holistically in negative light, as two great centers of learning, of advancement of knowledge, of scholarship flowered in the schools of Cordova [Spain] and Baghdad. The Islamic lore got enriched, even with the apparent division. We may pursue this fascinating tale of Islamic scholarship. However before, we do that, we may study the governance set-up of the Omayyads. And then re-commence our study of Abbasids and later Omayyads of Spain.
Among other governance deficits, unregulated order of succession has been placed quite high in order. Son succeeding the father clashed with Arab practice of tribal senior as the next in succession, though at the start of Omayyad rule Yazid-I succeeded his father. Three other caliphs were succeeded by sons. Rest abided by the tribal custom, while some of them did their best to install their sons, in preference to brothers and cousins, resulting in fratricidal conflicts of succession. Other governance deficits like failure to keep ethnic balance between Modharites and Himyarites within the Arabic fold, as also the failure to treat equally the Arabs and Ajmis, contrary to the guiding principles of Islam affected governance. Particularly, given the fact that Islamic lands had spread from the central Asian lands to African Berber lands and to Baladiun of Spain, hence this vast stretch could not be maintained peacefully but by fair treatment. The soldiery was discriminated in matters of pays and perks and in pensioner benefits. Thus in the period of Umayyad trial, many deserted and swelled the Abbasid ranks, with the wily Abu Muslim ever ready to exploit all chinks in Omayyad armour.
Omayyad administration was exercised by Damascus stationed Caliph at the very top and his appointed Viceroys/Governors in provinces. The provinces were Hejaz, Central Arabia and Yemen forming a single unit. Iraq with Kufa as the provincial capital was another province, the province included Iraq-e-Arab and Iraq-e-Ajam [Persia]. The province had Merv based deputy governorate for Khorasan and Transoxania. Egypt—upper and lower formed another province, while Mesopotamia [Al-Jazirah of Arabs] Azerbaijan, Armenia, parts of Asia Minor formed the distant province. North Africa/Arab west, Spain, Sicily, South of France, the Mediterranean islands formed another province, with Kairowan being the provincial capital. Cordova in Spain was the seat of deputy governorate, while Tangiers, Islands and South of France had subordinate officers governing them.
While the governors held provincial power, revenue collection of various hues—the land tax, the test tax from non Muslims [to provide them protection] customs, excise duties, tributes paid under treaties, one fifth of spoils of war, was in the hands of Sahib-ul-Khiraj, a functionary appointed by the caliph. Following the decree of Omar-II, the two offices of governor and Sahib-ul-Kharaj were combined, perhaps to check the dichotomy of power dispensing. The governors would often resort to entrusting the job to their Katibs [secretaries]. After meeting the provincial expenses, a part would go to the central treasury of the caliphate. While as in the caliphate of Khulfia-e-Rashideen—Bait-ul-Mal was public property, from which stipends were provided, in Omayyad times, it veered to become more and more a fund at the discretion of caliph, as the expenses of maintaining the decorum of the caliph and Omayyad princes hiked. Public money thus became a fiefdom of the privileged—the royals, the ministers and the officials of the state. There were positives, variable though.
Abdul Malik is credited with creating an exclusive mint for Islamic lands, thus effectively checking the free, unchecked, unaccounted exchange of Persian and Greek coins in circulation. Counterfeiting was severely punished, hence finances were regulated. Law and order was streamlined, as Shurtah [police force] was put in place. Sahib-e-Shurtah [head of the police force] worked under the governor of the province. Apart from regular army and the police force, Omayyads did have a paramilitary force performing the dual function of police force and the defence forces. Administration of the justice was entrusted to Qazis [judges]. The Chief Qazi [Qazi-ul-Quzat] would appoint the subordinate judges. Shariah was the law of land.
Muwiyah is credited with creating a chancery [Diwan-e-Khatam] Khatam is stamp in Arabic. Here the caliphate decrees would be registered and then dispatched to be implemented. Governors were supposed to preside at public prayers [Imamat] and in their absence the Chief Qazis—this was meant to emphasize that in the realm of Islam, the church and thestate are not separate. This underlined the fact that moralistic attitude enshrined in religious practices would hold good, while administering the state.
More on that next week, inshallah
Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]
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