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Native name
معاویة بن أبی سفیان
Bornc. 597–605
Died26 April 680
Resting placeBab al-Saghir, Damascus
Known for1st Caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate
Spouse(s)Katwa bint Qurayza al-Nawfaliyya, Fakhita bint Qurayza al-Nawfaliyya, Maysun bint Bahdal al-Kalbiyya, Na'ila bint Umara al-Kalbiyya
ChildrenYazid I, Abd Allah, Ramla (daughter)
  • Abu Sufyan ibn Harb (father)
  • Hind bint Utba (mother)
Muawiya's palace in Damascus.

Mu'awiya ibn Abi Sufyan (d. 680) was the founder and first caliph of Umayyad dynasty (661-680 C.E.). Mu'awiya's father, Sakhr ibn Harb ibn Umayyah—popularly known as Abu Sufyan—led the Quraysh army against the Prophet in the battles of Uhud and Khandaq. He later embraced Islam. His mother, Hind, the daughter of a prominent Quraysh chief, 'Utbah ibn Rabi'a, was also hostile to Muhammad before her conversion to Islam.

Mu'awiya was appointed as the Governor of Syria by ‘Umar, the second Caliph, and led Muslim army against Byzantines. After the assassination of ‘Uthman, the third Caliph, Mu'awiya’s army attacked the army of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib at the battle of Siffin whose outcome was determined by the arbitration. Following the martyrdom of Imam 'Ali in 661, Mu'awiya signed a peace treaty with Imam Hasan and took the caliphate of Muslims and made Damascus as his capital.

Early Years[edit | edit source]

Some sources suggest that Mu'awiya accepted Islam before the conquest of Mecca in 630 but concealed it until later; the general view is that he accepted Islam after the conquest. This explains why he is included among the tulaqa' (those who were pardoned by the Prophet after the conquest).

Governor of Syria[edit | edit source]

Mu'awiya and his father, Abu Sufyan, were also included among what Qur'an refers to as the mu'allafat al-qulub (those to whom the Prophet gave alms as a way of reconciling their hearts to Islam). The fact that Mu'awiya was literate ensured his appointment by the Prophet as his scribe.

In 634 the first caliph of Islam, Abu Bakr, sent Mu'awiya to Syria, where he was appointed as a commander of one division of the army led by his brother, Yazid, against the Byzantines. On Yazid's death in 639, the second caliph, 'Umar, appointed him as commander of the army, collector of taxes, and governor of Damascus.

The third caliph, 'Uthman, confirmed Mu'awiya's appointment as governor of Syria, which became an important front for the defense of the caliphate against the Byzantines. Mu'awiya established garrisons all along the coast and for the first time Muslims engaged in naval warfare.

When 'Uthman was besieged in Medina by dissidents who demanded the instatement of 'Ali as caliph, he requested assistance from Mu'awiya. As soon as he assumed the caliphate after the assassination of Uthman, 'Ali sought to dismiss Mu'awiya, who refused to pay allegiance to him until Uthman's murderers had been punished.

The Battle of Siffin[edit | edit source]

The deadlock between 'Ali and Mu'awiya led to the Battle of Siffin in 657 c.e. The battle was brought to an end when Mu'awiya, whose army was on the verge of defeat, proposed that the conflict be resolved through negotiation. The two parties agreed to arbitration (tahkim). In fact, Mu'awiya was able to avoid defeat by adopting the clever ruse of placing pages of the Koran on his soldiers' lances, which signified that his quarrel with Ali should be settled not through fighting but by consulting the book of God.

The decision of the arbiters that both 'Ali and Mu'awiya be relieved of their posts did not resolve the conflict. Ali's supporters, in particular, rejected the outcome of the arbitration.

In the meanwhile, Mu'awiya had succeeded in gaining the support of the Syrians. In 658 he dispatched Amr ibn al-As to conquer Egypt on his behalf. While Mu'awiya's position was strengthened by the conquest of Egypt, 'Ali's position in Iraq (where his capital was based) was considerably weakened.

Caliphate[edit | edit source]

Great mosque of Banu Umayya in Damascus, one of the oldest and largest mosques in the world.

After 'Ali was assassinated by a Kharijite dissident in 661, he was succeeded by his son [Hasan] for a short while. After gaining support of Syrians, Mu'awiya went to Iraq to confront Imam Hasan. Doubted in the loyalty of his companion, Imam accepted the peace with Mu'awiya provided that the caliphate of Muslims after Mu'awiya would be for Imam al-Hasan. Thereby, Mu'awiya inaugurated Umayyad rule in 661 and the seat of the caliphate was transferred to Damascus.

Mu'awiya's rule, according to most historians, was characterized by peace and justice. Governors were granted full civil and military authority. However, toward the end of his life, he nominated his son Yazid to succeed him. This move met with a great deal of opposition, especially from 'Abdallah ibn Zubayr and Ali's son, Hussain ibn 'Ali.

Mu'awiya was accused of turning the caliphate into a kingship. The legitimacy of Yazid's succession was debated and contested by many, including Hussain ibn Ali. Hussain's march with his followers to challenge Yazid met a tragic end at Karbala, an event that is commemorated to this day by the Shiʻa as well as many Sunni Muslims.

Legacy[edit | edit source]

His refusal to acknowledge 'Ali's caliphate and his appointment of Yazid as heir not only resulted in the introduction of hereditary succession in Muslim polity, but also in the emergence of the Khawarij and consolidation of the Shi'a.

Although Shi'as have not approved of Mu'awiya's character throughout history, some of his personality features have been appreciated by Sunni Muslims.

BIBLIOGRAPHY[edit | edit source]

  • Hawting, G. R. The First Dynasty of Islam: The Umayyad
  • Caliphate AD 661–750. London and New York:
  • Routledge, 2000.
  • Ibn Hisham, Abd al-Malik. The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ishag's Sirat Rasul Allah. Introduction and notes by A. Guillaume. Karachi, Pakistan, and New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • Tabari, al-. Between Civil Wars: The Caliphate of Mu'awiyah.
  • Translated and annotated by Michael G. Morony. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987.

Source[edit | edit source]

  • Suleman Dangor (2004). Encyclopedia of Islam and Muslim World. Edited by Richard C. Martin. USA: Macmillan; P: 477. ISBN 0-02-865912-0