Merwan’s early life and character
Merwan was a son of Muhammad, who was a son of Merwan 1. Muhammad was made the governor of Mesopotamia by his brother Abdul Malik. In Mesopotamia, Merwan was born.
In 732, Hisham made Merwan 2 the governor of Mesopotamia and Armenia after Muhammad’s death; this post he retained for 12 years until he would go on throw Ibrahim out after Yazid 3’s death.
He was a true soldier; he had remained one for his whole life. He was simple and ascetic in habits. He loved his soldiers and preferred to stay in tents rather than in palaces.
Although far better than his predecessors in character, he had his shortcomings as an administrator such as his obstinate spirit, his tribal partisanship towards Modharites and lethargy he developed during his last critical days.
Yemenite in Syria
Merwan had transferred his capital from Damascus to Haran in Mesopotamia.
Hims, Kalbi, and then a revolt led by Thabit bin Noaym. All of them were crushed speedily by Merwan.
But a section of revolt army led by Hisham’s son fled away to parts of Iraq, where they joined rebels.
First, Ibn Muawiyah, a great grandson of Jaffar, a brother of Hazrat Ali revolted on the support of Mawali, Alides, and Kharijis.
He gained ground and rules large parts of Persia before he was chased out by new governor of Iraq.
Ibn Muawiyah fled to Khurasan to Abu Muslim, who had him murdered lest he rise up to claim the Caliphate.
But his capture of Persia for 3 years had weakened the Umayyads rule there. The rebels were now more than ever bolstered. This also proved beneficial for Abu Muslim.
Second, Kharijis revolted in Northern Iraq. After all conquering Kufa. But they were soon driven out after Merwan was free from Syrian rebels.
The finale in Khurasan
Clearly, there were four kinds of struggles raged the province. They were:
- The inter-tribal rivalry of the Tamimite and Yemenite Arab tribes
- Rivalry between the Arab tribes and the Khurassani Mawali
- The feudal clash between the Arab Settlers and the old Persian Dhiqans
- The new revolutionary force of Abu Muslim’s Alides or Shia too.
Tribes in Khurasan
When Khurasan was conquered during Umar’s reign, the region was inhabited by the tribes of Basra who conquered it for Umar. Among them the Modharite tribes like Banu Tamim, Ribab, Khuza, and Qays were in majority.
Muhallab when appointed by Hajjaj, brought with himself some Yemeni tribes. This shifted the balance a bit, but the area was rivalry-free for now.
But this turned worse when one Umayyad Caliph favored one over other and vice versa.
Many Persian inhabitants, feudal aristocrats, warriors, and commoners had accepted Islam. They held they wouldn’t have to pay Jizya or Kharaj anymore.
But Umayyad continued to charge, for they maintained otherwise State Treasury would run out of money. Umar 2 abolished the practice, but his successors reintroduced it.
This reintroduction had irked Mawalis too much, who grew accustomed to not paying the Jizya or Kharaj.
Some warriors from Muqatila had relinquished themselves from the duty and started living there. They started buying lands and became more feudal.
But there existed former Persian landlords too. These post-Muqatila feudals asked the Caliph to exempt them from Kharaj, over which former Persian landlords argued they be treated same.
Therefore, none were exempted. This engendered inter rivalry as well as hostility towards the Caliphate.
Abbasid Revolution begins
Setting ground in Merv
Nasr bin Sayyar had accepted Merwan 2.
A Yemeni tribe led by Juday al-Kirmani revolted in 744 in Merv. Juday won the battle and drove out Nasr from Merv.
At this time Ibrahim, the nominee from Abbasids, sent Abu Muslim to reap benefit from the chaos in Merv. Abu Muslim decided to align himself with Juday.
Juday was killed by Nasr, but soon his son Ali al-Kirmani marched against Nasr and was surprisingly joined by Abu Muslim and his followers.
Abu Muslim and his followers
There is actually no consensus among historians over who actually supported Abu Muslim in Khurasan province. It is understandable that these followers came from Mawalis, Kharijis, and some Persians. But their precise numbers and their length of support remains doubtable.
Some historians now conclude that Arab Settlers, who had grown tired of Umayyads policy, also supported Abu Muslim.
It is to be noted that the Abbasid revolution was founded on the basis that the Caliphate must remain in Ahl e Bayt, but that would not be the case as future would delineate.
But Mawalis, Kharijis, Alides, and feudals were already too alienated from Umayyads that they blindly gave their support to any rebellion against Merwan 2.
The pious groups from Makkah and Madinah, even, gave their tacit approval for the revolution.
The D-Day: 747
When Abu Muslim’s preparation were complete, a black standard was raised for the revolution in June 747.
Abu Muslim persuaded Yemeni group of Ali al-Kirmani and convinced him to join their forces. They chased Nasr out of Merv and drove him to Nishapur.
Masr cried for help from Merwan 2, but he was too busy in other smaller revolts that he didn’t pay any heed.
Merwan 2, though, did put Ibrahim, nominee of Abbasids, to death for his role in the risings. But Ibrahim had already nominated his brother, Abu’l Abbas, as his successor.
Nasr was on the run but died as a fugitive. Now, Abu Muslim was the master of Khurasan.
Kufa was later conquered too.
Deliberation over the Abbasid Caliph
Ibrahim had suggested his brother, Abu’l Abbas, to refuge in Kufa with his relatives and family.
There they hid under the roof of Abu Salama, who was appointed by Abbasids to gather force for revolt in Kufa.
We may remember that the whole event of rebellion was based upon the idea of electing someone from Ahl e Bayt, but that wasn’t the intension of the Abbasids.
At last, Abu’l Abbas was proclaimed as the new Caliph of Islamic State in November 748 in the central mosque of Kufa.
Battle of the Zab: 750
Merwan 2 finally decided to leave Harran and put up defence against the ever-increasing power of Abbasids. He garnered 120k men, but the force was weak in a sense that alienations and disunity prevailed.
The two forces met in North Iraq on the banks of Zab. Merwan 2 lost the battle largely due to his soldiers’ disloyalty and disunity.
He fled from there to a nearby city but was caught and murdered along with his few loyal followers.
This is how the first dynastic Islamic Empire came to end in 750, under Merwan 2’s rule.
For complete Islamic history notes click here.