Yazid

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Yazid
Native name
یزید بن معاویة بن أبی سفیان
Born25 AH (646)
Mecca (present-day Saudi Arabia)
Died14 Rabi ul-Awwal 64 AH (12 November 683)
Mu'awiya II, Khaled, Atikah
Known for2nd Caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate
Spouse(s)Umm Khalid Fakhita bint Abi Hisham, Umm Kulthum bint Abd Allah ibn Amir
Parents
  • Mu'awiya I (father)
  • Maysun bint Bahdal (mother)

Yazid b. Muʿawiya was the second Umayyad caliph (r. 60-4/680-3). He was named as his successor by his father, Muʿawiya. His mother was Maysun, a sister of the Kalbi leader Ibn Bahdal. The Banu Kalb were strong in the southern regions of Syria, and Muʿawiya appointed Yazid as his successor in preference to an older half-brother, ʿAbd Allah, born of a Qurashi mother. Yazid’s kunya, Abu Khalid, refers to one of his own younger sons, Khalid b. Yazid. During his father’s caliphate, Yazid commanded expeditions (sawaʾif see Saʾifa. 1) against the Byzantines and participated in an attack upon Constantinople (in 49/669 or 50/670) that is mentioned in both Muslim and non-Muslim sources. He had apparently nominated his eldest son Muʿawiya as his successor, but the latter received only limited acceptance as caliph and died within months.

Yazid's nomination to caliphate by his father, Mu’awiya, was opposed by many Muslims. In particular, Hussain ibn Ali and ʿAbd Allah b. al-Zubayr refused to recognized his caliphate. In 61/680, Yazid's army, led by ‘Omar ibn Sa’d, mascaraed Hussain and his followers at the Battle of Karbala. Meanwhile, al-Zubayr launched an insurgency in the Hejaz. In 63/682, Yazid’s army could capture Medina which led to the massacre of thousands of Prophet’s companions. In 64/683, his army besieged Mecca in an attempt to suppress al-Zubayr’s followers. The siege ended with the death of Yazid in November 683 and the empire fell to civil war.

Struggle for Caliphate[edit | edit source]

Yazid’s caliphate marked the beginning of the crisis, commonly referred to as fitna, during which the Umayyads came close to losing the caliphate. Eventually they re-established their hold on the institution but in the person of Marwan I b. al-Hakam and his descendants rather than a representative of the Sufyanid branch of the family, to which Yazid belonged. Following his father’s death in Radjab 60/April 680, Yazid was faced with the continuing refusal of Hussain b. ʿAli and ʿAbd Allah b. al-Zubayr, both then in Medina, to give him allegiance. Most of the reports about his caliphate concern his attempts to overcome their opposition and that of others.

Battle of Karbala[edit | edit source]

After Ali's assassination in 661, Hussain's older brother, Hasan, became caliph and second imam. Hasan soon abdicated, however, in favor of Mu’awiya, a powerful clan leader and political rival who established the Umayyad caliphate. While Hussain reluctantly recognized Mu’awiya's rule, he refused to pledge allegiance to him. When Mu’awiya died in 680, the caliphate passed to Yazid, Mu’awiya's son and chosen successor. Hussain refused to recognize the legitimacy of Yazid's rule and again withheld his allegiance to the Umayyads. Yazid, however, threatened to kill anyone not loyal to him, prompting Hussain to flee to Mecca seeking sanctuary.

Shi'i Muslims in Kufa, a city in Iraq, asked Hussain to lead them in a revolt against Yazid and to claim his rightful position as caliph. Hussain's cousin, Muslim ibn Aqil, verified that he had strong support in Iraq. Hussain then set out for Kufa with family members and followers. The governor of Iraq, a supporter of Yazid, sent 4,000 men to intercept the caravan. At Karbala, this force trapped Hussain's small band, which numbered less than 100. He refused to surrender, however, and led his men out into battle, where they were massacred. The Iraqi governor displayed the heads of Hussain and his followers in Kufa as a warning to other Umayyad enemies. Hussain's head then was taken on a stick to Yazid. As the governor, Ibn Ziyad, poked the head, one onlooker cried, “Gently! it is the prophet's grandson. By the Lord! I have seen these very lips kissed by the blessed mouth of Muhammad” (Muir: 311).

Revolt of ʿAbd Allah b. al-Zubayr[edit | edit source]

Ibn al-Zubayr’s opposition led, in 64/683-4, to the siege of Mecca, where he had taken refuge, and to the bombardment of the town with catapults (majaniq) by an army sent by Yazid. During the siege, the Kaʿba was damaged by fire, but there are variant accounts of how exactly that happened and who was responsible for it. Yazid’s army, initially commanded by Muslim b. ʿUqba al-Murri [q.v.], had been raised in 63/683 primarily in response to the actions of the people of Medina, who had thrown off their allegiance to Yazid, expelled those Umayyads living there and, according to some accounts, established contacts with Ibn al-Zubayr. After defeating the Medinans at the battle on the Harra, Muslim entered (and, it is said, sacked) the town, and compelled a number of its prominent men to return to their allegiance to Yazid. He then set off for Mecca, intending to force Ibn al-Zubayr, who had received the support of others of Yazid’s opponents, including several Kharijites, to submit. On the way, Muslim died and his position as leader of the Syrian army was assumed by al-Hussain b. Numayr al-Sakuni. He was who commanded the siege of Mecca. News of Yazid’s death in Syria reached him while the siege was in progress, and after fruitless negotiations with Ibn al-Zubayr he withdrew the army back to Syria.

Caliphate[edit | edit source]

In broad terms, Yazid seems to have continued the form of rule developed by his father which depended on the relationship between the caliph, his governors and the tribal notables (ashraf) in the provinces. His governor of ʿIraq, ʿUbayd Allah, was the son of Muʿawiya’s governor there, Ziyad. A Christian, Sarjun, who had been prominent in the administration of Muʿawiya, continued to be influential under Yazid. (Robert Hoyland has questioned whether this Sarjun, sometimes called “the mawla of Muʿawiya”, sometimes “of Yazid”, and variously described as Yazid’s drinking companion or as sahib amrihi, was the father of John of Damascus, as Lammens and others have assumed.) The custom of receiving delegations (wufud [q.v.]) from the provinces at the court to win them over with gifts and flattery, institutionalized by his father, was less successful when Yazid attempted to use it to head off the opposition of the Medinans.

The breakdown, beginning under Yazid, of the system of government used more successfully by Muʿawiya, may be ascribed partly to difficulties associated with the succession to the caliphate but more fundamentally to the changes taking place in the structure of the conquest society, analyzed by Patricia Crone in her Slaves on horses.

Yazid is often credited with the creation of the new Jund of Ḳinnasrin [q.v.]. For an extensive discussion of that and other incidental information about him and his caliphate (his reduction of the tribute to be paid by the Christians from Najran [q.v.], his suppression of privileges enjoyed by the Samaritans, his involvement in irrigation work, etc.), see Henri Lammens, Le Califat de Yazîd I.

Legacy[edit | edit source]

As the caliph under whom the Prophet’s grandson al-Hussain was killed, the two holy cities of Arabia attacked, and the Kaʿba set on fire, and as the one who benefited from an appointment presented in Muslim tradition as a crucial stage in the corruption of the caliphate into a kingship, it is not surprising that the tradition generally is hostile to Yazid. There are frequent mentions of his penchant for drinking, singing girls, sexual licentiousness, hunting, playing with his tame monkey, and other such things which show him as a frivolous libertine.

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • Ṭabarī, index (ii, 216-429 for his caliphate, Eng. tr. I.K.A. Howard, The History of al-Ṭabarī, xix, The caliphate of ϒazīd b. Muʿawiyah, Albany 1990)
  • Balād̲h̲urī, Ansāb al-as̲h̲rāf ivb, 1-74
  • idem, Futūḥ, index
  • Yaʿḳūbī, ii, 281-302
  • Masʿūdī, Murūd̲j̲, v, 126-68, ed. Pellat, iii, 247-70
  • Ag̲h̲ānī, Tables, Index I, s.v.
  • Ibn ʿAsākir, Taʾrīk̲h̲ Madīnat Dimas̲h̲ḳ, ed. al-ʿAmrī, 65 vols., Beirut 1998, lxv, 394-412
  • D̲h̲ahabī, Taʾrīk̲h̲ al-Islām, ed. Tadmurī, Beirut 1990, s.a. 60-3 (the notice on Yazīd in the necrology of the 7th ṭabaḳa, 269-75, has a useful bibl. provided by the editor).
  • Studies. J. Wellhausen, Das arabische Reich und sein Sturz, Berlin 1902, 88-105, Eng. tr. The Arab kingdom and its fall, Calcutta 1927, 140-69
  • H. Lammens, Études sur le règne du calife omaiyade Moʿâwia I , Paris 1908, index (extracted from MFOB, i-iii)
  • idem, Le califat de Yazîd 1 , in MFOB, iv (1910), 233-312, v (1911), 79-267, v/2 (1912), 589-724, vi (1913), 401-92, vii (1921), 211-44
  • P. Crone, Slaves on horses, Cambridge 1980, esp. 29-36
  • eadem and M. Hinds, God’s Caliph, Cambridge 1986, 7, 130
  • M.I. Mochiri, A Sasanian-style coin of Yazīd b. Muʿāwiya, in JRAS (1982), 137-41
  • J.E. Lindsay, Caliphal and moral exemplar? ʿAlī Ibn ʿAsākir’s portrait of Yazīd b. Muʿāwiya, in Isl., lxxiv (1997), 250-78
  • R. Hoyland, Seeing Islam as others saw it, Princeton 1997, index.
  • G.R. Hawting, “Yazīd (I) b. Muʿāwiya”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel,
  • W.P. Heinrichs. Consulted online on 04 May 2019