Muawiyah was the second son of Abu Sufyan; he became a Muslims after the battle of ditch. And subsequently became one of the most trusted scribes of the Prophet. He went to Syria along with his elder brother, Yezid. Yezid was the governor of Damascus. After Yezid’s death, Muawiyah became its governor in 639. He made Damascus his seat of Caliphate after Hasan’s abdication.
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Problems confronting him
The unruly Bedouin tribes were loosened by the civil disorder. The tribes especially in Kufa and Basra reverted to anarchy and disloyalty against the Khilafat. The Arabs, too,
among themselves had their own quarrels. Muawiyah solved the problem by (a) appointing strong administrators who he delegated supreme authority (b) reviving the old policy of expansion of the empire (c) nominating his son as his successor to avoid further civil disorder.
Lieutenants of Muawiyah
His choice in this matter proved to wise and far-sighted, although his first priority was to select those most loyal to him.
Amr ibn al-As
Sir William Muir says, “it was mainly to Amr that Muawiyah owed his ascendency over Ali, and the eventual establishment of the Umayyad dynasty.” He was made governor of Egypt, which he remained till his death. He sent expeditions to North African berbers.
One of the early converts to Islam and a citizen of Taif. He joined Muawiyah during civil war with Ali. Later, he was made the governor of Kufa, which was full of disorder and unruliness, mostly due to Shia and Khariji partisans. He soon controlled the situation and brought it under the Caliphate’s thumb. He was the one who suggested Muawiyah to nominate his son as his successor.
Zayd bin Sumayya
He was an aren’t supporter of Ali and refused to give Bayt to Muawiyah after Hasan’s abdication. Mughira somehow convinced him to pay a visit to Damascus and then decide for himself. He was received with welcome arms and showered with great respect and gifts. He was impressed and unreluctantly submitted to Muawiyah. Zayd would soon prove to be an able and a very clever administrator. He was appointed as Basra’s governor in 665. He soon brought it under control. He further gained governorship of Kufa after Mughira died. No one in his time matched his prowess after Muawiyah, only Hajjaj would go on to hold such vast lands and supremacy later. He died in 673.
The conquests had come to halt in last days of Usman and Ali was marred in troubles of Civil War. Muawiyah resumed the forward policy. Muslim armies marched in the East and the West.
Ziyad was the supreme commander in the East. He conquered Kabul, Ghaznah, and Qandahar.
Attack on Constantinople: 670 – 680
Muawiyah was always keen on capturing Constantinople partly because of Byzantine-Arab enmity and partly because he remembered the Prophet’s words regarding the conquest of this great capital. It was attacked twice. Once in 669, Muslims raised a gigantic naval fleet and fought for years. They returned without any win. It was attacked again in 674, Muslims couldn’t capture it his time again.
Nomination of Yezid as heir-apparent: 676
There was no precedent in Islamic empire of nominating one’s own heir for the seat of Caliph. Most of states agreed, but Makkah and Madinah provided stiff resistance on the action. It was however Madinah that showed great reluctance in accepting the nomination largely because it was a privilege of Madinah to elect a Caliph. But Madinah was no longer a capital. Muawiyah had his own reasons for designating: a civil war may have erupted after his demise, but it is more like he wanted the throne to remain in his blood’s hands.
Madinah wouldn’t budge. He left Damascus on the pretext of performing Umrah with 1000 armed men. This was indeed a show of power. This alarmed the citizens of Madinah who after all gave in. Only few individuals didn’t such as Imam Hussain, Abdur Rehman ibn Abu Bakr, Abdullah bin Umar, and Abdullah bin Zubair. Muawiyah, however, didn’t press them to pay homage to Yezid. In fact, he warned his son Yezid to be particularly careful of them.
This act brought constitutional changes to Islamic empire. It would now remain hereditary one from now on. Future chiefs of Umayyad and Abbasid followed the same principle. The election was based on blood and no other qualification. Indeed, it was Yezid’s nomination that turned orthodox caliphate into Umayyad dynasty.
His character in general
“Ali was without a doubt the braver of the two in physical courage, but Muawiyah, beyond comparison, the abler and bolder Ruler. Muawiyah was a politicians rather than a ruler a soldier. Muawiyah had a charming personality. He had a knack for making friends out of those hostile to him. He himself once remarked, “I do not use my sword where my lash is sufficient, and I do not use my lash where my tongue is enough. And even if there be one hair binding me to my fellow-men, I do not let it break: whey they pull I loosen, and when they loosen I pull.” Although not so lavish himself, he did turn the kingdom into hereditary one, a fact which cannot be denied. He may have been an able ruler but was living way lavish life than orthodox Caliphs ever imagined.
Consequently, he brought changes to empire, for which he was unfavorite among medieval Islamic history writers. They regarded him as the first King. He transformed what was once a spiritual and theocratic state. The state was now secular, from that time’s perspective. As Western writers have written, “The accession of Muawiyah to the throne at Damascus heralded the end of Khilafat and the beginning of kingship.” Or, “The Caliphate of Muawiyah is the opening chapter of Muslim monarchy.
He is accused of giving up Shura altogether, a charge that is quite exaggerated. Instead, he had a central Shura at his capital and then similar Shuras in the Provinces. It was due to this large parliamentary kind of system through which Muawiyah brought radical constitutional and pollical changes. Although most of the provinces were under his control, nonetheless they approved first and then the policy went into action. But that too he used for personal gains such as nomination of his son Yezid.
As a military organizer, he was as superb. He was the first one to have a large standing army; and also the one to raise a first sizeable naval fleet of Muslim army in Usman’s Khilafat and then in his own too. He followed Byzantine and Persian precedents in his administrative set up, which irked few hardcore Arabs. They considered that un-Arabic.
Although, on paper, he was a spiritual head but usually acted like a worldly one. Secularism was a feature of his reign, that irked many Muslims. Muawiyah substituted
the Rule of Islamic Faith by the rule of Arab blood. In place of religious ties and social aims of early Islam, he substituted the ties of tribal affinity and sentiments of Arabism. He built an Arab Kingdom in place of Islamic Kingdom. Although himself a good Muslim, he relied not on the sentiments of Faith but on those of the Arab race and tribal spirit.
He also showed tolerance towards his non-Muslim subjects, especially the Christians. They were always happy under his rule. He employed them in his service.
Role and place in Islamic history
Syed Ameer Ali writes, “On the whole Muawiyah’s rule was prosperous and peaceful at home and successful abroad.” Whereas Hitti writes, “To his Umayyad successors he bequeathed a precedent of clemency, energy, astuteness, and Statesmanship which many tried to emulate, though few succeeded. He was not only the first but also one of the best of Arab Kings.” In brief, Muawiyah was the founder of the Umayyad Caliphate in the political and constitutional sense, while Abdal Malik in the administrative sense. He died in April 680.
For complete Islamic history notes click here.