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Muawiyah I

Muawiyah I

1st Caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate
Muawiyah I
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Intro 1st Caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate
Is Politician Writer Religious servant
From Saudi Arabia Syria Turkey
Type Literature Religion Politics
Gender male
Birth 603, Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Death 18 April 680, Damascus, Syria
Mother: Hind bint Utbah
Father: Abu Sufyan ibn Harb
Siblings: Ramla bint Abi SufyanYazid ibn Abi SufyanAban ibn al-Faqih
Spouse: Maisun bint Bahdal
Children: Yazid I
Peoplepill ID muawiyah-i
Muawiyah I
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Muawiyah I (Arabic: معاوية بن أبي سفيان‎, Muʿāwiya ibn Abī Sufyān; c. 597, 603 or 605–April 680) was the founder and first caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate, serving from 661 until his death. He became caliph less than 30 years following the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and very shortly after the reign of the four "rightly guided" (Rashidun) caliphs. Although considered to be lacking in the justice and piety of the Rashidun, Muawiyah was also the first caliph whose name appeared on coins, inscriptions, or documents of the nascent Islamic empire.

Muawiyah and his father Abu Sufyan had opposed Muhammad, their distant Qurayshite kinsman, until the latter captured Mecca in 630, after which Muawiyah became one of Muhammad's scribes. He was appointed by Caliph Abu Bakr (r. 632–634) the commander of the vanguard of his brother Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan's army during the conquest of Syria and he moved up the ranks until becoming governor of Syria during the reign of Caliph Uthman (r. 644–656). He allied with the province's powerful Banu Kalb tribe, developed the defenses of its coastal cities and directed the war efforts against the Byzantine Empire, including the first Muslim naval campaigns. After Uthman's assassination in 656, Muawiyah took up the cause of avenging the caliph and opposed his successor, Ali. During the First Muslim Civil War, the two led their armies to a stalemate at the Battle of Siffin in 657, prompting an abortive series of arbitration talks to settle the war. Afterward, Muawiyah gained recognition as caliph by his Syrian supporters and his ally Amr ibn al-As, who conquered Egypt from Ali's governor in 658. After the assassination of Ali in 661, Muawiyah compelled his son and successor Hasan to abdicate in Kufa and Muawiyah's suzerainty was acknowledged throughout the Caliphate.

Domestically, Muawiyah relied on loyalist Syrian tribes and Syria's Christian-dominated bureaucracy. He is credited with establishing government departments responsible for the postal route, correspondences and chancellery. Externally, he engaged his troops in almost yearly land and sea raids against the Byzantines, including a failed siege of Constantinople, though the tide turned against the Arabs toward the end of his reign and he sued for a truce. In the provinces of Iraq and the eastern Caliphate, he delegated authority to the powerful governors al-Mughira and Ziyad ibn Abi Sufyan, the latter of whom he controversially adopted as his brother. Ziyad restarted the eastward Arab conquests in Khurasan and Sijistan and reformed Iraq's army and tax administrations. Under Muawiyah's direction, the Muslim conquest of Ifriqiya (central North Africa) was launched by the commander Uqba ibn Nafi in 670. Although Muawiyah confined the influence of his Umayyad clan to the governorship of Medina, he nominated his own son, Yazid I, as his successor. It was an unprecedented move in Islamic politics and opposition to it by prominent Muslim leaders, including Ali's son Husayn and Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, persisted after Muawiyah's death, culminating with the outbreak of the Second Muslim Civil War.

Origins and early life

Mu'awiya's year of birth is uncertain with 597, 603 or 605 cited by the Muslim traditional sources. His father Abu Sufyan ibn Harb was a prominent Meccan merchant who often led trade caravans to Syria. He emerged as the preeminent leader of the Banu Abd Shams clan of the Quraysh, the dominant tribe of Mecca, during the early stages of its conflict with the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The latter too hailed from the Quraysh and was distantly related to Mu'awiya via their common paternal ancestor, Abd Manaf ibn Qusayy. Mu'awiya's mother, Hind bint Utba, was also a member of the Banu Abd Shams.

In 624, Muhammad and his followers attempted to intercept a Meccan caravan led by Mu'awiya's father on its return from Syria, prompting Abu Sufyan to call for reinforcements. The Qurayshite relief army was routed in the ensuing Battle of Badr, in which Mu'awiya's elder brother Hanzala and their maternal grandfather, Utba ibn Rabi'a, were killed. Abu Sufyan replaced the slain leader of the Meccan army, Abu Jahl, and led the Meccans to victory against the Muslims at the Battle of Uhud in 625. After his abortive siege of Muhammad in Medina at the Battle of the Trench in 627, he lost his leadership position among the Quraysh.

Mu'awiya and his father may have reached an understanding with Muhammad during the truce negotiations at Hudaybiyya in 628 and Mu'awiya's widowed sister, Umm Habiba, was wed to Muhammad in 629. When Muhammad captured Mecca in 630, Mu'awiya, his father and his elder brother Yazid embraced Islam. As part of Muhammad's efforts to reconcile with his tribesmen, Mu'awiya was made one of his kātibs (scribes), being one of seventeen literate members of the Quraysh at that time. The family moved to Medina to maintain their new-found influence in the nascent Muslim community.

Governorship of Syria

Early military career and administrative promotions

After Muhammad died in 632, Abu Bakr became caliph (leader of the Muslim community). Having to contend with challenges to his leadership from the Ansar, the natives of Medina who had provided Muhammad safe haven from his erstwhile Meccan opponents, and the mass defections of several Arab tribes, Abu Bakr reached out to the Quraysh, particularly its two strongest clans, the Banu Makhzum and Banu Abd Shams, to shore up support for the Caliphate. Among those Qurayshites whom he appointed to suppress the rebel Arab tribes during the Ridda wars (632–633) was Mu'awiya's brother Yazid, whom he later dispatched as one of four commanders in charge of the Muslim conquest of Byzantine Syria in c. 634. The caliph appointed Mu'awiya commander of Yazid's vanguard. Through these appointments Abu Bakr gave the family of Abu Sufyan a stake in the conquest of Syria, where Abu Sufyan already owned property in the vicinity of Damascus, in return for the loyalty of the Banu Abd Shams.

Abu Bakr's successor Umar (r. 634–644) appointed Abu Ubayda ibn al-Jarrah as the general commander of the Muslim army in Syria in 636 after the rout of the Byzantines at the Battle of Yarmouk, which paved the way for the conquest of the remainder of Syria. Mu'awiya was among the Arab troops that entered Jerusalem with Caliph Umar in 637. Afterward, Mu'awiya and Yazid were dispatched by Abu Ubayda to conquer the coastal towns of Sidon, Beirut and Byblos. Following the death of Abu Ubayda in the plague of Amwas in 639, Umar split the command of Syria, appointing Yazid as governor of the military districts of Damascus, Jordan and Palestine, and Iyad ibn Ghanm governor of Homs and the Jazira (Upper Mesopotamia). When Yazid succumbed to the plague later that year, Umar appointed Mu'awiya the military and fiscal governor of Damascus, and possibly Jordan as well. In 640 or 641, Mu'awiya captured Caesarea, the district capital of Byzantine Palestine, and then captured Ascalon, completing the Muslim conquest of Palestine. As early as 640/41, Mu'awiya may have led a campaign against Byzantine Cilicia and proceeded to Euchaita, deep in Byzantine territory. In 644, he led a foray against Amorium in Byzantine Anatolia.

Upon the accession of Caliph Uthman (r. 644–656), Mu'awiya's governorship was enlarged to include Palestine, while Umayr ibn Sa'd al-Ansari was confirmed as governor of the Homs-Jazira district. In late 646 or early 647, Uthman attached the Homs-Jazira district to Mu'awiya's Syrian governorship, greatly increasing the military manpower at his disposal. The successive promotions of Abu Sufyan's sons contradicted Umar's efforts to curtail the influence of the Qurayshite aristocracy in the Muslim state in favor of the early Muslim converts. According to the historian Leone Caetani, this exceptional treatment stemmed from Umar's personal respect of the Umayyads, the branch of the Banu Abd Shams to which Mu'awiya belonged. This is doubted by the historian Wilferd Madelung, who surmises that Umar had little choice, due to the lack of a suitable alternative to Mu'awiya in Syria and the ongoing plague in the region, which precluded the deployment of commanders more preferable to Umar from Medina.

Consolidation of local power

During the reign of Uthman, Mu'awiya formed an alliance with the Banu Kalb, the predominant tribe in the Syrian steppe extending from the oasis of Dumat al-Jandal in the south to the approaches of Palmyra and the chief component of the Quda'a confederation present throughout Syria. Medina consistently courted the Kalb, which had remained mostly neutral during the Arab–Byzantine wars, particularly after Medina's entreaties to the Byzantines' principal Arab allies, the Ghassanids, were rebuffed. Before the advent of Islam in Syria, the Kalb and the Quda'a, long under the influence of Greco-Aramaic culture and the Monophysite church, had served Byzantium as subordinates of its Ghassanid client kings to guard the Syrian frontier against invasions by the Sasanian Persians and the latter's Arab clients, the Lakhmids. By the time the Muslims entered Syria, the Kalb and the Quda'a had accumulated significant military experience and were accustomed to hierarchical order and obedience. To harness their strength and thereby secure his foothold in Syria, Mu'awiya consecrated ties to the Kalb's ruling house, the clan of Bahdal ibn Unayf, by wedding the latter's daughter Maysun in c. 650. He also married Maysun's paternal cousin, Na'ila bint Umara, for a short period.

Mu'awiya's reliance on the native Syrian Arab tribes was compounded by the heavy toll inflicted on the Muslim troops in Syria by the plague of Amwas, which caused troop numbers to dwindle from 24,000 in 637 to 4,000 in 639. Moreover, the focus of Arabian tribal migration was toward the Sasanian front in Iraq. Mu'awiya oversaw a liberal recruitment policy that resulted in considerable numbers of Christian tribesmen and frontier peasants fill the ranks of his regular and auxiliary forces. Indeed, the Christian Tanukhids and the mixed Muslim–Christian Banu Tayy formed part of Mu'awiya's army in northern Syria. To help pay for his troops, Mu'awiya requested and was granted ownership by Uthman of the abundant, income-producing, Byzantine crown lands in Syria, which were previously designated by Umar as communal property for the Muslim army.

Though Syria's rural, Aramaic Christian population remained largely intact, the Muslim conquest had caused a mass flight of Greek Christian urbanites from Damascus, Aleppo, Latakia and Tripoli to Byzantine territory, while those who remained held pro-Byzantine sympathies. According to the historian J. W. Jandora, "Mu'awiya was thus confronted with a population problem". In contrast to the other conquered regions of the Caliphate where new garrison cities were established to house Muslim troops and their administration, in Syria the troops settled in existing cities, including Damascus, Homs, Jerusalem, Tiberias, Aleppo and Qinnasrin. Mu'awiya restored, repopulated and garrisoned the coastal cities of Antioch, Balda, Tartus, Maraqiya and Baniyas. In Tripoli he settled significant numbers of Jews, while sending to Homs, Antioch and Baalbek Persian holdovers from the Sasanian occupation of Byzantine Syria in the early 7th century. Upon Uthman's direction, Mu'awiya settled groups of the nomadic Tamim, Asad and Qays tribes to areas north of the Euphrates in the vicinity of Raqqa.

Naval campaigns against Byzantium and conquest of Armenia

Mu'awiya initiated the Arab naval campaigns against the Byzantines in the eastern Mediterranean, requisitioning the harbors of Tripoli, Beirut, Tyre, Acre, and Jaffa. Umar had rejected Mu'awiya's request to launch a naval invasion of Cyprus, citing concerns about the Muslim forces' safety at sea, but Uthman allowed him to commence the campaign in 647, after refusing an earlier entreaty. The governor's rationale was that the Byzantine-held island posed a threat to Arab positions along the Syrian coast and it could be easily neutralized. The exact year of the raid is unclear with the traditional Arabic sources citing 647/48, 648/49 or 649/50, while two Greek inscriptions in the Cypriot village of Solois cite two raids launched between 648 and 650.

According to the 9th-century Muslim historians al-Baladhuri and Khalifa ibn Khayyat, Mu'awiya led the raid in person accompanied by his wife Katwa bint Qaraza ibn Abd Amr of the Qurayshite Banu Nawfal alongside the commander Ubada ibn al-Samit. Katwa died on the island and at some point Mu'awiya married her sister Fakhita. In a different narrative, the raid was conducted by Mu'awiya's admiral Abd Allah ibn Qays, who landed at Salamis before occupying the island. In either case, the Cypriots were forced to pay a tribute equal to that which they paid the Byzantines. Mu'awiya established a city with a garrison and a mosque to maintain the Caliphate's influence in the island, which became a staging ground for the Arabs and the Byzantines to launch raids against each other's territories. The inhabitants of Cyprus were largely left to their own devices and archaeological evidence indicates uninterrupted prosperity during this period.

Dominance of the eastern Mediterranean enabled Mu'awiya's naval forces to raid Crete and Rhodes in 653. From the raid on Rhodes, Mu'awiya remitted significant war spoils to Uthman. In 654/55, a joint naval expedition launched from Alexandria, Egypt and the harbors of Syria routed a Byzantine fleet commanded by Constans II off the Lycian coast at the Battle of the Masts. Constans II was forced to sail to Sicily, opening the way for an ultimately unsuccessful Arab naval attack on Constantinople. The Arabs were commanded by the governor of Egypt Abd Allah ibn Abi Sarh or Mu'awiya's lieutenant Abu'l-A'war.

Meanwhile, after two previous attempts by the Arabs to conquer Armenia, a third attempt in 650 ended with a three-year truce reached between Mu'awiya and the Byzantine envoy Procopios in Damascus. In 653, Muawiya received the submission of the Armenian leader Theodore Rshtuni, which the Byzantine emperor Constans II (r. 641–668) practically conceded when he withdrew from Armenia that year. In 655, Mu'awiya's lieutenant commander Habib ibn Maslama al-Fihri captured Theodosiopolis and deported Rshtuni to Syria, solidifying Arab rule over Armenia.

First Fitna

Mu'awiya's domain was generally immune to the growing discontent prevailing in Medina, Egypt and Kufa against Uthman's policies in the 650s. The exception was Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, who had been sent to Damascus for openly condemning Uthman's enrichment of his kinsmen. He criticized the lavish sums that Mu'awiya invested in building his Damascus residence, the Khadra Palace, prompting the governor to expel him. Uthman's confiscation of crown lands in Iraq and his nepotism drove the Quraysh and the dispossessed elites of Kufa and Egypt to oppose the caliph.

Uthman sent for assistance from Mu'awiya when rebels from Egypt besieged his home in June 656. Mu'awiya dispatched a relief army toward Medina, but it withdrew at Wadi al-Qura when word reached of Uthman's slaying. Ali, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, was recognized as caliph in Medina, but was soon after opposed by much of the Quraysh led by al-Zubayr and Talha, both prominent companions of Muhammad, and Muhammad's wife A'isha, who feared the loss of their own influence and that of their tribe under Ali. The latter defeated the triumvirate near Basra at the Battle of the Camel, which ended in the deaths of al-Zubayr and Talha, both potential contenders for the caliphate, and the retirement of A'isha to Mecca. With his position in Iraq, Egypt and Arabia secure, Ali turned his attention toward Mu'awiya, who, unlike the other provincial governors, had a strong and loyal power base, demanded revenge for the slaying of his Umayyad kinsman Uthman and could not be easily replaced. At this point, Mu'awiya did not yet claim the caliphate and his principal aim was to keep power in Syria.

For seven months from the date of Ali's election there had been no formal relations between the caliph and the governor of Syria. Ali's victory in Basra left Mu'awiya vulnerable, his territory wedged between Ali's forces in Iraq and Egypt to the east and west, while the war with the Byzantines was ongoing in the north. After failing to gain the defection of Egypt's governor, Qays ibn Sa'd, he resolved to end the Umayyad family's hostility to Amr ibn al-As, the conqueror and former governor of Egypt, whom they accused of involvement in Uthman's death. Mu'awiya and Amr, who was widely respected by the Arab troops of Egypt, made a pact whereby the latter joined the coalition against Ali and Mu'awiya publicly agreed to install Amr as Egypt's lifetime governor should they oust Ali's appointee.

Though he had the firm backing of the Kalb, to shore up the rest of his base in Syria, Mu'awiya was advised by his kinsman al-Walid ibn Uqba to secure an alliance with the Yemenite tribes of Himyar, Kinda and Hamdan, who collectively dominated the Homs garrison. He employed the early Muslim commander and Kindite nobleman Shurahbil ibn Simt, widely respected in Syria, to rally the Yemenites to his side. He then enlisted support from the dominant leader of Palestine, the Judhamite chief Natil ibn Qays, by allowing the latter's confiscation of the district's treasury to go unpunished. The efforts bore fruit and demands for war against Ali grew throughout Mu'awiya's domain. Mu'awiya handed Ali's envoy, the veteran commander and chieftain of the Bajila, Jarir ibn Abd Allah, a letter that amounted to a declaration of war against the caliph, whose legitimacy he refused to recognize. Mu'awiya secured his northern frontier with Byzantium by making a truce with the emperor in 657/58, enabling the governor to focus the bulk of his troops on the impending battle with the caliph.

Battle of Siffin and arbitration

The two sides met at Siffin near Raqqa in the first week of June 657 and engaged in days of skirmishes interrupted by a month-long truce on 19 June. During the truce, Mu'awiya dispatched an embassy led by Habib ibn Maslama, who presented Ali with an ultimatum to hand over Uthman's alleged killers, abdicate and allow a shūrā (consultative council) to decide the caliphate. Ali rebuffed Mu'awiya's envoys and on 18 July declared that the Syrians remained obstinate in their refusal to recognize his sovereignty. On the following day, a week of duels between Ali's and Mu'awiya's top commanders ensued. The main battle between the two armies commenced on 26 July. As Ali's troops advanced toward Mu'awiya's tent, the governor ordered his elite troops forward and they bested the Iraqis before the tide turned against the Syrians the next day with the deaths of two of Mu'awiya's leading commanders, Ubayd Allah, a son of Caliph Umar, and Dhu'l-Kala Samayfa, the so-called "king of Himyar". The loss of Ubayd Allah was a blow to Mu'awiya's prestige as he had been the sole, non-Umayyad blood connection to the early caliphs to lend Mu'awiya his support at this juncture.

Mu'awiya rejected suggestions from his advisers to engage Ali in a duel and definitively end hostilities. The battle climaxed on the so-called "Night of Clamor" on 28 July, which saw Ali's forces take the advantage in a melée as the death toll mounted on both sides. This prompted Amr ibn al-As to counsel Mu'awiya the following morning to have a number of his men tie leaves of the Qur'an on their lances in an appeal to the Iraqis to settle the conflict through consultation. Though this act represented a surrender of sorts as the governor abandoned, at least temporarily, his previous insistence on settling the dispute with Ali militarily and pursuing Uthman's killers into Iraq, it had the effect of sowing discord and uncertainty in Ali's ranks.

The caliph adhered to the will of the majority in his army and accepted the proposal to arbitrate. Moreover, Ali agreed to Amr's demand to omit his formal title, amīr al-muʾminīn (commander of the faithful, the traditional title of a caliph), from the initial arbitration document drafted on 2 August. According to Kennedy, the agreement forced Ali "to deal with Mu'awiya on equal terms and abandon his unchallenged right to lead the community", and Madelung asserts it "handed Mu'awiya a moral victory" before inducing a "disastrous split in the ranks of Ali's men". Indeed, upon Ali's return to Kufa in September 658, a large segment of his troops who had opposed the arbitration defected, inaugurating the Kharijite movement. The initial agreement postponed the arbitration to a later date. Information in the traditional sources about the time, place and outcome of the arbitration is contradictory, but there were likely two meetings between Mu'awiya's and Ali's respective representatives, Amr and Abu Musa al-Ash'ari, the first in Dumat al-Jandal and the last in Adhruh. Ali seemingly abandoned the arbitration after the first meeting in which Abu Musa—who, unlike Amr, was not particularly attached to his principal's cause—accepted the Syrian side's claim that Uthman was wrongfully killed, a verdict that Ali opposed. The final meeting in Adhruh collapsed and by then Mu'awiya had emerged as a major contender for the caliphate.

Claim to the caliphate and resumption of hostilities

Map of the First Fitna. The areas shaded in green and pink respectively represent the territories under Caliph Ali's and Mu'awiya's control in 658.

Following the breakdown of the arbitration talks, Amr and the Syrian delegates returned to Damascus where they greeted Mu'awiya as amīr al-muʾminīn. In April/May 658, Mu'awiya received a general pledge of allegiance from the Syrians. In response, Ali broke off communications with Mu'awiya, mobilized for war and invoked a curse against Mu'awiya and his close retinue as a ritual in the morning prayers. Mu'awiya reciprocated in kind against Ali and his closest supporters in his own domain.

In July, Mu'awiya dispatched an army under Amr to Egypt after a request for intervention from pro-Uthman mutineers in the province who were being suppressed by the governor, Caliph Abu Bakr's son and Ali's stepson Muhammad. The latter's troops were defeated by Amr's forces, the provincial capital Fustat was captured and Muhammad was executed on the orders of Mu'awiya ibn Hudayj, leader of the pro-Uthman rebels. The loss of Egypt was a major blow to the authority of Ali, who was bogged down battling Kharijite defectors in Iraq and whose grip in Basra and Iraq's eastern and southern dependencies was eroding. Though his hand was strengthened, Mu'awiya refrained from launching a direct assault against Ali. Instead, his strategy was to bribe the tribal chieftains in Ali's army to his side and harry the inhabitants along Iraq's western frontier. The first raid was conducted by al-Dahhak ibn Qays al-Fihri against nomads and Muslim pilgrims in the desert west of Kufa. This was followed by Nu'man ibn Bashir al-Ansari's abortive attack on Ayn al-Tamr then, in the summer of 660, Sufyan ibn Awf's successful raids against Hit and Anbar.

In 659/660, Mu'awiya expanded the operations to the Hejaz (western Arabia where Mecca and Medina are located), sending Abd Allah ibn Mas'ada al-Fazari to collect the alms tax and oaths of allegiance to Mu'awiya from the inhabitants of the Tayma oasis. This initial foray was defeated by the Kufans, while an attempt to extract oaths of allegiance from the Quraysh of Mecca in April 660 also failed. In the summer, Mu'awiya dispatched a large army under Busr ibn Abi Artat to conquer the Hejaz and Yemen. He directed Busr to intimidate Medina's inhabitants without harming them, spare the Meccans and kill anyone in Yemen who refused to pledge their allegiance. Busr advanced through Medina, Mecca and Ta'if, encountering no resistance and gaining those cities' recognition of Mu'awiya. In Yemen, Busr executed several notables in Najran and its vicinity on account of past criticism of Uthman or ties to Ali, massacred numerous tribesmen of the Hamdan and townspeople from Sana'a and Ma'rib. Before he could continue his campaign in Hadhramawt, he withdrew upon the approach of a Kufan relief force.

News of Busr's actions in Arabia spurred Ali's troops to rally behind his planned campaign against Mu'awiya, but the expedition was aborted as a result of Ali's assassination by a Kharijite in January 661. Afterward, Mu'awiya led his army toward Kufa where Ali's son al-Hasan had been nominated as his successor. Al-Hasan abdicated in return for a financial settlement and Mu'awiya entered Kufa in July or September 661 and was recognized as caliph. This year is considered by the traditional Muslim sources as "the year of unity" and is generally regarded as the start of Mu'awiya's caliphate.

Before and/or after Ali's death, Mu'awiya received oaths of allegiance in one or two formal ceremonies in Jerusalem, the first in late 660/early 661 and the second in July 661. The 10th-century Jerusalemite geographer al-Maqdisi holds that Mu'awiya had further developed a mosque originally built by Caliph Umar on the Temple Mount and received his formal oaths of allegiance there. According to the earliest extant source about Mu'awiya's accession in Jerusalem, the near-contemporaneous Maronite Chronicles, composed by an anonymous Syriac author, Mu'awiya received the pledges of the tribal chieftains and then prayed at Golgotha and the Tomb of the Virgin Mary in Gethsemane, both adjacent to the Temple Mount. The Maronite Chronicles also maintain that Mu'awiya "did not wear a crown like other kings in the world".


Domestic rule and administration

There is little information in the Muslim traditional sources about Mu'awiya's rule in Syria, the center of his caliphate. He established his court in Damascus and moved the caliphal treasury there from Kufa. He relied on his Syrian tribal soldiery, increasing their pay at the expense of the Iraqi garrisons. The highest stipends were paid on an inheritable basis to 2,000 nobles of the Quda'a and Kinda tribes, the core components of his support base, who were further awarded the privilege of consultation for all major decisions and the rights to veto or propose measures. The respective leaders of the Quda'a and the Kinda, the Kalbite chief Ibn Bahdal and the Homs-based Shurahbil, formed part of his Syrian inner circle along with the Qurayshites Abd al-Rahman ibn Khalid, son of the distinguished commander Khalid ibn al-Walid, and al-Dahhak ibn Qays.

A Greek inscription crediting Mu'awiya for restoring the Roman-era bath facilities at Hamat Gader in 663, the sole epigraphic attestation of Mu'awiya's rule in Syria, the center of his caliphate

Mu'awiya is credited by the traditional sources for establishing dīwāns (government departments) for correspondences (rasāʾil), chancellery (khātam) and the postal route (barīd). Following an assassination attempt by the Kharijite al-Burak ibn Abd Allah on Mu'awiya while he was praying in the mosque of Damascus in 661, Mu'awiya established a caliphal ḥaras (personal guard) and shurṭa (select troops) and the maqṣūra (reserved area) within mosques. The caliph's treasury was largely dependent on the tax revenues of Syria and income from the crown lands that he confiscated in Iraq and Arabia. He also received the customary fifth of the war booty acquired by his commanders during expeditions. In the Jazira, Mu'awiya coped with the tribal influx, which spanned previously established groups such as the Sulaym, newcomers from the Mudar and Rabi'a confederations and civil war refugees from Kufa and Basra, by administratively detaching the military district of Qinnasrin–Jazira from Homs, according to the 8th-century historian Sayf ibn Umar. The 9th-century historian al-Baladhuri attributes this change to Mu'awiya's successor Yazid I (r. 680–683).

Syria retained its Byzantine-era bureaucracy, which was staffed by Christians including the head of the tax administration, Sarjun ibn Mansur. The latter had served Mu'awiya in the same capacity before his attainment of the caliphate, and Sarjun's father was the likely holder of the office under Emperor Heraclius (r. 610–641). Mu'awiya was tolerant toward Syria's native Christian majority. In turn, the community was generally satisfied with his rule, under which their conditions were at least as favorable as under the Byzantines. Mu'awiya attempted to mint his own coins, but the new currency was rejected by the Syrians as it omitted the symbol of the cross. The sole epigraphic attestation to Mu'awiya's rule in Syria, a Greek inscription dated to 663 discovered at the hot springs of Hamat Gader near Lake Tiberias, refers to the caliph as ʿAbd Allāh Muʿāwiya, amīr al-muʾminīn ("God's Servant Mu'awiya, commander of the faithful"; the caliph's name is preceded by a cross) and credits him for restoring Roman-era bath facilities for the benefit of the sick. According to the historian Yizhar Hirschfeld, "by this deed, the new caliph sought to please" his Christian subjects. The caliph often spent his winters at his Sinnabra palace near the shores of Lake Tiberias. Mu'awiya was also credited with ordering the restoration of Edessa's church after it was ruined in an earthquake in 679. He demonstrated a keen interest in Jerusalem. Although archaeological evidence is lacking, there are indications in medieval literary sources that a rudimentary mosque on the Temple Mount existed as early as Mu'awiya's time or was built by him.

Governance in the provinces

Mu'awiya's primary internal challenge was overseeing a Syria-based government which could reunite the politically and socially fractured Caliphate and assert authority over the tribes which formed its armies. He applied indirect rule in the Caliphate's provinces, appointing governors with autonomy spanning full civil and military authority. Though in principle governors were obliged to forward surplus tax revenues to the caliph, in practice most of the surplus was distributed among the provincial garrisons and Damascus received a negligible share. During Mu'awiya's caliphate, the governors relied on the ashrāf (tribal chieftains), who served as intermediaries between the authorities and the tribesmen in the garrisons. Rather than the absolute government practiced by Caliph Ali, Mu'awiya's statecraft was likely inspired by his father, who utilized his wealth to establish political alliances. The caliph generally preferred bribing his opponents over direct conflict. In the summation of the historian Hugh Kennedy, Mu'awiya ruled by "making agreements with those who held power in the provinces, by building up the power of those who were prepared to co-operate with him and by attaching as many important and influential figures to his cause as possible".

Iraq and the east

Challenges to central authority in general and to Mu'awiya's rule in particular were most acute in Iraq, where divisions were rife between the ashrāf upstarts and the early Muslim elite, which was further divided between Ali's partisans and the Kharijites. Mu'awiya's ascent signaled the rise of the Kufan ashrāf represented by Ali's erstwhile backers al-Ash'ath ibn Qays and Jarir ibn Abd Allah, at the expense of Ali's old guard represented by Hujr ibn Adi and Ibrahim, the son of Ali's leading aide Malik al-Ashtar. Mu'awiya's initial choice to govern Kufa in 661 was al-Mughira ibn Shu'ba, who possessed considerable administrative and military experience in Iraq and was highly familiar with the region's inhabitants and issues. Under his nearly decade-long administration, al-Mughira maintained peace in the city, overlooked transgressions that did not threaten his rule, allowed the Kufans to keep possession of the lucrative Sasanian crown lands in the Jibal district and, unlike under past administrations, consistently and timely paid the garrison's stipends.

In Basra, Mu'awiya reappointed his Abd Shams kinsman Abd Allah ibn Amir, who had served the office under Uthman. During Mu'awiya's reign, Ibn Amir recommenced expeditions into Sistan, reaching as far as Kabul. He was unable to maintain order in Basra, where there was growing resentment toward the distant campaigns. Consequently, Mu'awiya replaced Ibn Amir with Ziyad ibn Abihi in 664 or 665. The latter had been the longest of Ali's loyalists to withhold recognition of Mu'awiya's caliphate and had barricaded himself in the Istakhr fortress in Fars. Busr had threatened to execute three of Ziyad's young sons in Basra to force his surrender, but Ziyad was ultimately persuaded by al-Mughira, his mentor, to submit to Mu'awiya's authority in 663. In a controversial step that secured the loyalty of the fatherless Ziyad, whom the caliph viewed as the most capable candidate to govern Basra, Mu'awiya adopted him as his paternal half-brother to the protests of his own son Yazid, Ibn Amir and his Umayyad kinsmen in the Hejaz.

Sasanian-style silver dirham minted in Mu'awiya's name in Pahlavi script from the Fasa mint of Darabjird, c. 674

Following al-Mughira's death in 670, Mu'awiya attached Kufa and its dependencies to Ziyad's Basran governorship, making him the caliph's virtual viceroy over the eastern half of the Caliphate. Ziyad tackled Iraq's core economic problem of overpopulation in the garrison cities and the consequent scarcity of resources by reducing the number of troops on the payrolls and dispatching 50,000 Iraqi soldiers and their families to settle Khurasan. This also consolidated the previously weak and unstable Arab position in the Caliphate's easternmost province and enabled conquests toward Transoxiana. As part of his reorganization efforts in Kufa, Ziyad confiscated its garrison's crown lands, which thenceforth became the possession of the caliph. Opposition to the confiscations raised by Hujr ibn Adi, whose pro-Alid advocacy had been tolerated by al-Mughira, was violently suppressed by Ziyad. Hujr and his retinue were sent to Mu'awiya for punishment and were executed on the caliph's orders, marking the first political execution in Islamic history and serving as a harbinger for future pro-Alid uprisings in Kufa. After Ziyad's death in 673, Mu'awiya gradually replaced him in all of his offices with his son Ubayd Allah. In effect, by relying on al-Mughira, Ziyad and his sons, Mu'awiya franchised the administration of Iraq and the eastern Caliphate to members of the elite Thaqif clan, which had long-established ties to the Quraysh and were instrumental in the conquest of Iraq.


In Egypt Amr governed as a virtual partner rather than a subordinate of Mu'awiya until his death in 664, and was permitted to retain the surplus revenues of the province. The caliph ordered the resumption of Egyptian grain and oil shipments to Medina, ending the hiatus caused by the First Fitna. After Amr's death, Mu'awiya's brother Utba and an early companion of Muhammad, Uqba ibn Amir, successively served as governor before Mu'awiya appointed Maslama ibn Mukhallad al-Ansari in 667. Maslama remained governor for the duration of Mu'awiya's reign, significantly expanding Fustat and its mosque and boosting the city's importance in 674 by relocating Egypt's main shipyard to the nearby Roda Island from Alexandria due to the latter's vulnerability to Byzantine naval raids.

The Arab presence in Egypt was mostly limited to the central garrison at Fustat and the smaller garrison at Alexandria. The influx of Syrian troops brought by Amr in 658 and the Basran troops sent by Ziyad in 673 swelled Fustat's 15,000-strong garrison to 40,000 during Mu'awiya's reign. Utba increased the Alexandria garrison to 12,000 men and built a governor's residence in the city, whose Greek Christian population was generally hostile to Arab rule. When Utba's deputy in Alexandria complained that his troops were unable to control the city, Mu'awiya deployed a further 15,000 soldiers from Syria and Medina. The troops in Egypt were far less rebellious than their Iraqi counterparts, though elements in the Fustat garrison occasionally raised opposition to Mu'awiya's policies, culminating during Maslama's term with the widespread protest at Mu'awiya's seizure and allotment of crown lands in Fayyum to his son Yazid, which compelled the caliph to reverse his order.


Although revenge for Uthman's assassination had been the basis upon which Mu'awiya claimed the right to the caliphate, he neither emulated Uthman's empowerment of the Umayyads nor used them to assert his own power. With minor exception, members of the clan were not appointed to the wealthy provinces nor the caliph's court, Mu'awiya largely limiting their influence to Medina, the old capital of the Caliphate where most of the Umayyads and the wider Qurayshite former aristocracy remained headquartered. The loss of political power left the Umayyads of Medina resentful toward Mu'awiya, who may have become wary of the political ambitions of the much larger Abu al-As branch of the clan—to which Uthman had belonged—under the leadership of Marwan ibn al-Hakam. The caliph attempted to weaken the clan by provoking internal divisions. Among the measures taken was the replacement of Marwan from the governorship of Medina in 668 with another leading Umayyad, Sa'id ibn al-As. The latter was instructed to demolish Marwan's house, but refused and when Marwan was restored in 674, he also refused Mu'awiya's order to demolish Sa'id's home. Mu'awiya dismissed Marwan once more in 678, replacing him with his own nephew, al-Walid ibn Utba. Besides his own clan, Mu'awiya's relations with the Banu Hashim (the clan of the prophet Muhammad and Caliph Ali), the families of Muhammad's closest companions, the once-prominent Banu Makhzum, and the Ansar was generally characterized by hostility or suspicion.

Despite his relocation to Damascus, Mu'awiya remained fond of his original homeland and made known his longing for "the spring in Jeddah [sic], the summer in Ta'if, [and] the winter in Mecca". He purchased several large tracts throughout Arabia and invested considerable sums to develop the lands for agricultural use. According to the Muslim literary tradition, in the plain of Arafat and the barren valley of Mecca he dug numerous wells and canals, constructed dams and dikes to protect the soil from seasonal floods, and built fountains and reservoirs. His efforts saw extensive grain fields and date palm groves spring up across Mecca's suburbs, which remained in this state until deteriorating during the Abbasid era, which began in 750. In the Yamama in central Arabia, Mu'awiya confiscated from the Banu Hanifa the lands of Hadarim where he employed 4,000 slaves, likely to cultivate its fields. The caliph gained possession of estates in and near Ta'if which, together with the lands of his brothers Anbasa and Utba, formed a considerable cluster of properties.

One of the earliest known Arabic inscriptions from Mu'awiya's reign was found at a soil-conservation dam called Sayisad 32 kilometers (20 mi) east of Ta'if, which credits Mu'awiya for the dam's construction in 677/78 and asks God to give him victory and strength. Mu'awiya is also credited as the patron of a second dam called al-Khanaq 15 kilometers (9.3 mi) east of Medina, according to an inscription found at the site. This is possibly the dam between Medina and the gold mines of the Banu Sulaym tribe attributed to Mu'awiya by the historians al-Harbi (d. 898) and al-Samhudi (d. 1533).

War with Byzantium

Mu'awiya possessed more personal experience than any other caliph fighting the Byzantines, the principal external threat to the Caliphate, and pursued the war against the Empire more energetically and continuously than his successors. The First Fitna caused the Arabs to lose control over Armenia to native, pro-Byzantine princes, but in 661 Habib ibn Maslama re-invaded the region. The following year, Armenia became a tributary of the Caliphate and Mu'awiya recognized the Armenian prince Grigor Mamikonian as its commander. Not long after the civil war, Mu'awiya broke the truce with Byzantium, and on a near-annual or bi-annual basis the caliph engaged his Syrian troops in raids across the mountainous Anatolian frontier, the buffer zone between the Empire and the Caliphate. At least until Abd al-Rahman ibn Khalid's death in 666, Homs served as the principal marshaling point for the offensives, and afterward Antioch served this purpose as well. The bulk of the troops fighting on the Anatolian and Armenian fronts hailed from the tribal groups that arrived from Arabia during and after the conquest.

Based on the histories of al-Tabari (d. 923) and Agapius of Hierapolis (d. 941), the first raid of Mu'awiya's caliphate occurred in 662/63, during which his forces inflicted a heavy defeat on a Byzantine army with numerous patricians slain. In the next year a raid led by Busr reached Constantinople and in 664/65, Abd al-Rahman ibn Khalid raided Koloneia in northeastern Anatolia. In the late 660s, Mu'awiya's forces attacked Antioch of Pisidia or Antioch of Isauria. According to the Muslim traditional sources, the raids peaked between 668/69 and 669/70. In each of those years there occurred six ground campaigns and a major naval campaign, the first by an Egyptian and Medinese fleet and the second by an Egyptian and Syrian fleet. In addition to these offensives, al-Tabari reports that Mu'awiya's son Yazid led a campaign against Constantinople in 669 and Ibn Abd al-Hakam reports that the Egyptian and Syrian navies led respectively by Uqba ibn Amir and Fadhala ibn Ubayd joined the assault. The modern historian Marek Jankowiak asserts that the multitude of campaigns that were reported during these two years represent coordinated efforts by Mu'awiya to conquer the Byzantine capital. Dismissing the conventional view of a many years-long siege of Constantinople in the 670s, which was based on the history of the Byzantine chronicler Theophanes the Confessor (d. 818), Jankowiak asserts that Mu'awiya likely ordered the invasion during an opportunity presented by the rebellion of the Byzantine Armenian general Saborios, who formed a pact with the caliph, in spring 667. The caliph dispatched an army under Fadhala ibn Ubayd, but before it could be joined by the Armenians, Saborios died. Mu'awiya then sent reinforcements led by Yazid who led the Arab army's invasion in the summer. An Arab fleet reached the Sea of Marmara by autumn, while Yazid and Fadhala, having raided Chalcedon through the winter, besieged Constantinople in spring 668, but due to famine and disease, lifted the siege in late June. The Arabs continued their campaigns in Constantinople's vicinity before withdrawing to Syria most likely in late 669.

Following the death of Emperor Constans II in July 668, Mu'awiya oversaw an increasingly aggressive policy of naval warfare against the Byzantines. He continued his past efforts to resettle and fortify the Syrian port cities. Due to the reticence of Arab tribesmen to inhabit the coastlands, in 663 Mu'awiya moved Persian civilians and personnel that he had previously settled in the Syrian interior into Acre and Tyre, and transferred elite Persian soldiers from Kufa and Basra to the garrison at Antioch. A few years later, Mu'awiya settled Apamea with 5,000 Slavs who had defected from the Byzantines during one of his forces' Anatolian campaigns. In 669, Mu'awiya's navy raided as far as Sicily. In 670, the wide-scale fortification of Alexandria was completed.

While the histories of al-Tabari and al-Baladhuri report that Mu'awiya's forces captured Rhodes in 672–674 and colonized the island for seven years before withdrawing during the reign of Yazid I, the modern historian Clifford Edmund Bosworth casts doubt on these events and holds that the island was only raided by Mu'awiya's lieutenant Junada ibn Abi Umayya al-Azdi in 679/80. Under Emperor Constantine IV (r. 668–685), the Byzantines began a counteroffensive against the Caliphate, first raiding Egypt in 672 or 673, while in winter 673, Mu'awiya's admiral Abd Allah ibn Qays led a large fleet that raided Smyrna and the coasts of Cilicia and Lycia. The Byzantines landed a major victory against an Arab army and fleet led by Sufyan ibn Awf, possibly at Sillyon, in 673/74. The next year, Abd Allah ibn Qays and Fadhala landed in Crete and in 675/76, a Byzantine fleet assaulted Maraqiya, killing the governor of Homs. In 677, 678 or 679 Mu'awiya sued for peace with Constantine IV, possibly as a result of the destruction of his fleet or the Byzantines' deployment of the Mardaites in the Syrian littoral during that time. A thirty-year treaty was concluded, obliging the Caliphate to pay an annual tribute of 3,000 gold coins, 50 horses and 50 slaves, and withdraw their troops from the forward bases they had occupied on the Byzantine coast. Though the Muslims did not achieve any permanent territorial gains in Anatolia during Mu'awiya's career, the frequent raids provided Mu'awiya's Syrian troops with war spoils and tribute, which helped ensure their continued allegiance, and sharpened their combat skills. Moreover, Mu'awiya's prestige was boosted and the Byzantines were precluded from any concerted campaigns against Syria.

Conquest of central North Africa

The expeditions against Byzantine North Africa were renewed during Mu'awiya's reign, the Arabs not having advanced beyond Cyrenaica since the 640s other than periodic raids. In 665/66 Ibn Hudayj led an army which raided Byzacena (southern district of Byzantine Africa) and Gabes and temporarily captured Bizerte before withdrawing to Egypt. The following year Mu'awiya dispatched Fadhala and Ruwayfi ibn Thabit to raid the commercially valuable island of Djerba. Meanwhile, in 662 or 667, Uqba ibn Nafi, a Qurayshite commander who had played a key role in the Arabs' capture of Cyrenaica in 641, reasserted Muslim influence in the Fezzan region, capturing the Zawila oasis and the Garamantes capital of Germa. He may have raided as far south as Kawar in modern-day Niger.

A statue of Uqba ibn Nafi, the Arab conqueror of North Africa and founder of Kairouan in 670, during Mu'awiya's reign. Uqba served as Mu'awiya's lieutenant governor over North Africa until the caliph dismissed him in 673.

The struggle over the succession of Constantine IV drew Byzantine focus away from the African front. In 670, Mu'awiya appointed Uqba as Egypt's deputy governor over the North African lands under Arab control west of Egypt and, at the head of a 10,000-strong force, Uqba commenced his expedition against the territories west of Cyrenaica. As he advanced, his army was joined by Islamized Luwata Berbers and their combined forces conquered Ghadamis, Gafsa and the Jarid. In the last region he established a permanent Arab garrison town called Kairouan a relatively safe distance from Carthage and the coastal areas, which had remained under Byzantine control, to serve as a base for further expeditions. It also aided Muslim conversion efforts among the Berber tribes that dominated the surrounding countryside.

Mu'awiya dismissed Uqba in 673, likely out of concern that he would form an independent power base in the lucrative regions that he conquered. The new Arab province, Ifriqiya (modern-day Tunisia), remained subordinate to the governor of Egypt, who sent his mawlā (non-Arab, Muslim freedman) Abu al-Muhajir Dinar to replace Uqba, who was arrested and transferred to Mu'awiya's custody in Damascus. Abu al-Muhajir continued the westward campaigns as far as Tlemcen and defeated the Awraba Berber chief Kasila, who subsequently embraced Islam and joined his forces. In 678, a treaty between the Arabs and the Byzantines ceded Byzacena to the Caliphate, while forcing the Arabs to withdraw from the northern parts of the province. After Mu'awiya's death, his successor Yazid reappointed Uqba, Kasila defected and a Byzantine–Berber alliance ended Arab control over Ifriqiya, which was not reestablished until the reign of Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (r. 685–705).

Nomination of Yazid as successor

In a move unprecedented in Islamic politics, Mu'awiya nominated his own son, Yazid, as his successor. The caliph likely held ambitions for his son's succession over a considerable period. In 666, he allegedly had his governor in Homs, Abd al-Rahman ibn Khalid, poisoned to remove him as a potential rival to Yazid. The Syrian Arabs, with whom Abd al-Rahman ibn Khalid was popular, had viewed the governor as the caliph's most suitable successor by dint of his military record and descent from Khalid ibn al-Walid.

It was not until the latter half of his reign that Mu'awiya publicly declared Yazid heir apparent, though the traditional Muslim sources offer divergent details about the timing and location of the events relating to the decision. The accounts of al-Mada'ini (752–843) and Ibn al-Athir (1160–1232) agree that al-Mughira was the first to suggest that Yazid be acknowledged as Mu'awiya's successor and that Ziyad supported the nomination with the caveat that Yazid abandon impious activities which could arouse opposition from the Muslim polity. According to al-Tabari, Mu'awiya publicly announced his decision in 675/76 and demanded oaths of allegiance be given to Yazid. Ibn al-Athir alone relates that delegations from all the provinces were summoned to Damascus where Mu'awiya lectured them on his rights as ruler, their duties as subjects and Yazid's worthy qualities, which was followed by the calls of al-Dahhak ibn Qays and other courtiers that Yazid be recognized as the caliph's successor. The delegates lent their support, with the exception of the senior Basran nobleman al-Ahnaf ibn Qays, who was ultimately bribed into compliance. Al-Mas'udi (896–956) and al-Tabari do not mention provincial delegations other than a Basran embassy led by Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad in 678/79 or 679/80, respectively, which recognized Yazid.

According to Hinds, in addition to Yazid's nobility, age and sound judgement, "most important of all was the fact that he represented a continuation of the link with Kalb and so a continuation of the Kalb-led [tribal] confederacy on which Sufyanid power ultimately rested". In nominating Yazid, the son of the Kalbite Maysun, Mu'awiya bypassed his older son Abd Allah from his Qurayshite wife Fakhita. Though support from the Kalb and the broader Quda'a group was guaranteed, Mu'awiya exhorted Yazid to widen his tribal support base in Syria. As the Qaysites were the predominant element in the northern frontier armies, Mu'awiya's appointment of Yazid to lead the war efforts with Byzantium may have served to foster Qaysite support for his nomination. Mu'awiya's efforts to that end were not entirely successful as reflected in a line by a Qaysite poet: "we will never pay allegiance to the son of a Kalbi woman [i.e. Yazid]".

In Medina, Mu'awiya's distant kinsmen Marwan ibn al-Hakam, Sa'id ibn al-As and Ibn Amir accepted Mu'awiya's succession order, albeit disapprovingly. Most opponents of Mu'awiya's order in Iraq and among the Umayyads and Quraysh of the Hejaz were ultimately threatened or bribed into acceptance. The remaining principle opposition emanated from Husayn ibn Ali, Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, Abd Allah ibn Umar and Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi Bakr, all prominent Medina-based sons of earlier caliphs or close companions of Muhammad. As they possessed the nearest claims to the caliphate, Mu'awiya was determined to obtain their recognition. According to Awana ibn al-Hakam (d. 764), before his death, Mu'awiya ordered certain measures to be taken against them, entrusting these tasks to his loyalists al-Dahhak ibn Qays and Muslim ibn Uqba.


Mu'awiya died of an illness in Damascus in Rajab 60 AH (April–May 680 CE). The medieval accounts vary regarding the specific date of his death, with Hisham ibn al-Kalbi (d. 819) placing it on 7 April, al-Waqidi on 21 April and al-Mada'ini on 29 April. Yazid, who was away from Damascus at the time of his father's death, is held by Abu Mikhnaf (d. 774) to have succeeded him on 7 April, while the Nestorian chronicler Elias of Nisibis (d. 1046) says it occurred on 21 April. In his last testament, Mu'awiya told his family "Fear God, Almighty and Great, for God, praise Him, protects whoever fears Him, and there is no protector for one who does not fear God". He was buried next to the Bab al-Saghir gate of the city and the funeral prayers were led by al-Dahhak ibn Qays, who mourned Mu'awiya as the "stick of the Arabs and the blade of the Arabs, by means of whom God, Almighty and Great, cut off strife, whom He made sovereign over mankind, by means of whom he conquered countries, but now he has died".

Mu'awiya's grave was a visitation site as late as the 10th century. Al-Mas'udi (d. 956) holds that a mausoleum was built over the grave and was open to visitors on Mondays and Thursdays. Ibn Taghribirdi asserts that Ahmad ibn Tulun, the autonomous 9th-century ruler of Egypt and Syria, erected a structure on the grave in 883/84 and employed members of the public to regularly recite the Qur'an and light candles around the tomb.


Genealogical tree of the Sufyanids, the ruling family of the caliphate (661–684) established by Muawiyah

By his creation of a fleet, Muawiyah was the driving force of the Muslim effort against Byzantium. His navy challenged the Byzantine navy and raided the Byzantine islands and coasts at will. The shocking defeat of the imperial fleet by the young Muslim navy at the Battle of the Masts in 655 was a critical turning point. It opened up the Mediterranean, considered a "Roman lake", and began a centuries-long series of naval conflicts over its control. This also allowed the expansion of the state into north Africa and Spain. Trade between the Muslim eastern and southern shores and the Christian northern shores almost ceased during this period, isolating western Europe from developments in the Muslim world: "In antiquity, and again in the high Middle Ages, the voyage from Italy to Alexandria was a commonplace; in early Islamic times the two countries were so remote that even the most basic information was unknown". Muawiyah also initiated the first large-scale raids into Anatolia from 641 on.

Muawiyah greatly beautified Damascus, and developed a court to rival that of Constantinople. He expanded the frontiers of the empire, reaching the very gates of Constantinople at one point, though the Byzantines drove him back and he was unable to hold any territory in Anatolia.

Muawiyah had a personal library collection (bayt al-hikmah) that was enlarged by his successors "throughout the Umayyad period.… This first major library outside of a mosque was known to include works on astrology, medicine, chemistry, military science, and various practical arts and applied sciences in addition to religion."

Muawiyah had a few rare virtues. He was politically adept in dealing with the eastern Roman Empire and was therefore made into a secretary by Muhammad. Once peace was established, Muawiya reconciled many of the people who had been fighting each other by his generosity and fairness. Even the most stubborn of opponents would often melt under his generosity and diplomacy. He also managed through fine diplomacy to balance out the tribal rivalries.

During Mu'awiya's rule he put into practice the advice that Muhammad had given him, "When you rule, do it well." He was scrupulous about justice and was generous and fair to people of all classes. He honoured people who possessed ability and talent and helped them to advance their talents, regardless of their tribe. He displayed great forbearance towards the rashness of ignorant men and great generosity towards the grasping. He made the judgements of the Shari'a binding on everyone with resolution, compassion and diligence. He led them in their prayers and directed them in their gatherings. He led them in their wars. In short, he proved to be a balanced and model ruler. 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas stated that he did not see a man more suited to rule than Mu'awiya.

It must be said, however, that the rise of Mu'awiyah came partly through his family connections to the Umayyad tribe. During the later part of Uthman bin Affan's rule, Ali advised Uthman to keep a check on Mu'awiyah's growing power, saying:

I will tell you that everyone appointed by 'Umar bin al Khattab was kept under close scrutiny by him. If (Umar) heard a single word concerning him he would flog him, then punish him with the utmost severity. But you do not do [that]. You have been weak and easygoing with your relatives.

Uthman replied:

"Do you know that Umar kept Mu'awiyah in office throughout his entire caliphate, and I have only done the same." 'Ali answered, "I adjure you by God, do you know that Mu'awiyah was more afraid of Umar than was Umar's own slave Yarfa?" "Yes," said (Uthman). 'Ali went on, "In fact Mu'awiyah makes decisions on issues without [consulting] you, and you know it. Thus, he says to the people. 'This is Uthman's command.' You hear of this, but do not censure him."

Views on Muawiyah

Early non-Muslim literature

The Greek historian Theophanus does not call Muawiyah a king or an emperor, but rather a 'primus inter pares', or in Greek, a protosymboulos, "a first among equals", in the midst of his 'symboulioi'. Theophanus also referred to Umar ibn al-Khattab as "Primus inter pares".

After the peace treaty with Hassan, in the book The Great Arab Conquests Hugh Kennedy writes that "The Nestorian Christian John bar Penkaye writing in the 690s, has nothing but praise for the first Umayyad caliph, Muawiya, of whose reign he says 'the peace throughout the world was such that we have never heard, either from our fathers or from our grandparents, or seen that there had ever been any like it'".

Muslim literature

Early Medinan literature

In the early literature like Musnad Ahmed 4/216 there are hadith like this one:

A narration tells that Muhammad prayed to God in favour of Muawiyah: "Allahumma (O Allah) guide him and guide people by him." This narration is in many hadith (narration) books. Al-Dhahabi says that this narration has a strong predication (reference). Muhammad Nasiruddin al-Albani (a modern narrations critic) also said: all the men of the predication (reference) are trustworthy and then he explained how the predication is strong.

Even the earliest pro-Shia accounts of al-Masudi are more balanced. al-Masudi in Ibn Hisham is the earliest Shia account of Muawiyah and he recounts that Muawiyah spent a great deal of time in prayer, in spite of the burden of managing a large empire.

Az-Zuhri stated that Muawiya led the Hajj Pilgrimage with the people twice during his era as caliph.

Abbasid-era literature from Iran

The books written later in the Abbasid period in Iran are even more anti Umayyad. Iran was Sunni at the time. There was much anti Arab feeling in Iran after the fall of the Persian empire. This anti Arab feeling also influenced the books on Islamic history. Al-Tabri was also written in Iran during that period. Al-Tabri was a huge collection including all the text that he could find, from all the sources. It was a collection preserving everything for future generations to codify and for future generations to judge if it was true or false. It contains text like this:

To the following narration (reported by two different Sahabah):

Abdullah ibn Umar narrates that he heard Rasulallah (Muhammad) say:

"Mu′awiyah shall not die on the path of Islam."

Narrated by Jabir bin Abdullah who testified that he heard Rasulallah (Muhammad) say:

"At the time of his death, Mu'awiyah shall not be counted as member of my Muslim Ummah."

Some of the classical literature by eminent (Sunni) Islamic figures in the Abbasid period records:

I asked my father about Ali and Muawiyah. He (Ahmad Ibn Hanbal)
answered: "Know that Ali had a lot of enemies who tried hard to find a
fault in him, but they found it not. As such, they joined a man
who verily fought him, battled
him, and they praised him extravagantly setting a snare for
themselves for him. -Abdullah bin Ahmad Ibn Hanbal

Muawiyah's opposition to Ali manifested itself in the following practice instituted during his caliphate, which was the verbal abuse and insult of Ali Ibn Abi Talib during the sermons in the mosques. This was even done on the pulpit of the Mosque of Muhammad in Medinah. (This practice lasted for 65 years and was ended by Umayyad caliph Umar bin Abdul Aziz.) For example, Tabari recorded:

When Muawiyah Ibn Abi Sufyan put Mughairah Ibn Shubah in charge of
Kufah in Jumada AH 41 (2 September - 30 October 661 CE), he summoned him.
After praising and glorifying God, he said:
"I would continue to advise you about a quality of yours – do not refrain from
abusing Ali and criticizing him, (but) not from asking God's mercy upon
Uthman and His forgiveness for him. Continue to shame the companions
of Ali, keep at a distance, and don't listen to them. Praise the
faction of Uthman, bring them near, and listen to them."

Saad Ibn Abi Al-Waqqas narrated-

Muawiyah, the son of Abu Sufyan, gave order to Saad, and told him:
"What prevents you that you are refraining from cursing Abu Turab
(nickname of Ali Ibn Abi Talib)?" Saad replied: "Don't you remember that the Prophet
said three things about (the virtues of) Ali? So I will never curse Ali."

Nisa'i and Muslim narrate a Sahih hadith, wherein Muhammad summoned Muawiyah who snubbed him and continued eating his meal – Muhammad then cursed Muawiyah with the words: "May Allah never fill his belly!" Nisa'i was not the only Sunni scholar who accepted this hadith – there were many others, the foremost being Bukhari and Muslim who compiled the Sahih Muslim. It has been argued that in the Arabic culture and language the expression is a colloquialism which means a wish that the person's belly be so full of blessings of God (in the form of food) that his belly cannot take any more, or that he wishes the person's blessings to be without an end. However, the two pre-eminent masters of Sunni hadith, Bukhari and Muslim, have rejected absolutely the latter apology for Muawiyah. Further, Nisa'i was murdered when he recited this hadith in the presence of pro-Muawiya Arab-speaking Syrians as it was perceived as a curse of Muawiyah, which debases the unreferenced suggestion that the term was a form of praise and not condemnation.

Robert Hoyland quotes disapproving comments by historian Ya'qubi on the similarity of Muawiyah's rule to that of Byzantine or Persian emperors:

He was the first to have a bodyguard, police-force and chamberlains ... He had somebody walk in front of him with a spear, took alms out of the stipends and sat on a throne with the people below him ... he was the first to turn this matter [the caliphate] into mere kingship

Mamluk-era literature from Syria

Ibn Taymiyyah (1263 to 1328) said: "Muawiyah did not call himself to be a khaleefah and was not given the oath of allegiance to it when he fought Ali. He fought not because he considered himself to be the khaleef or deserving of the khilaafah. This they all agreed upon and he himself would affirm this to whomever asked him. He and his companions did not consider it permissible that they initiate the fight against Ali and his companions. But Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) and his companions believed that Muawiyah and his companions must pledge allegiance and show obedience to Ali, due to his authority such that there be only one khaleefah for the Muslims.".

Ibn Kathir (1301-1373) said: "Uthmaan was killed oppressively, may Allah be pleased with him. Muawiyah was demanding that Ali hand over Uthman's killers so that he may take vengeance from them, as he was also an Umayyid. Ali was asking Muawiyah for respite until he had established himself and then he would hand them over. At the same time he was requesting Muawiyah to surrender Shaam to him. However Muaawiyah refused that until Ali surrendered those who killed Uthman."

According to Ibn Katheer in his book Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, Imam Ahmed was asked about what had happened between Muawiyah and Ali, and he recited the Verse: "That was a nation who has passed away. They shall receive the reward of what they earned and you of what you earned. And you will not be asked of what they used to do" Al-Baqarah 2:134.

Modern Sunni literature

Despite his endeavours in the expansion of the caliphate and the establishment of the Umayyad dynasty, the persona of Caliph Muawiyah I evokes a controversial figure in standard Islamic history whose legacy has never quite been able to shed the taint of his opposition to the Rashidun Caliph, Ali ibn Abi Talib.

The late (Sunni) theologian Mawdudi (founder of Jamaat-E-Islami) wrote that the establishment of the caliphate as (essentially) a monarchy began with the caliphate of Muawiyah I. It wasn't the kind where Muawiyah was appointed by the Muslims. Mawdudi elaborated that Muawiyah wanted to be caliph and fought in order to attain the caliphate, not really depending upon the acceptance of the Muslim community.

Shia view

Muawiyah I is a reviled figure in Shia Islam for several reasons. Firstly, because of his involvement in the Battle of Siffin against Ali ibn Abi Talib, whom the Shia Muslims believe was Muhammad's true successor; secondly, for the breaking of the treaty he made with Hasan ibn Ali, after the death of Hasan ibn Ali, including by appointing his son Yazid as his successor; thirdly, because they believe that he is responsible for the killing of Hasan ibn Ali by bribing his wife Ja'dah binte Ash'as to poison him whereas the Sunni texts do not say that his wife killed him; and fourthly because some Shia think that he distorted their interpretation of Islam to match his rule, whereas the Sunnis do not say that he distorted Islam, as he was a political leader at a certain time in history to whom Hassan and Hussein also gave their allegiance, whereas they say that Islam is based on the Quran and the teaching of Muhammad and its main center of learning was in Madina not in Syria and they say that Islam was completed at the time of Muhammad and use the verses "This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion" Quran 5:5. "Indeed, it is I who sent down the Qur'an and indeed, I will be its guardian." The Holy Qur'an, Chapter 15, Verse 9. Fifthly, for the deaths of various Companions of Muhammad who fought alongside Ali in the Battle of Siffin.

According to Shia view, Muawiyah opposed Ali, out of sheer greed for power and wealth. His reign opened the door to the persecution, slaughter, and unlawful imprisonment of his supporters, which only worsened when Yazid came into power and the Battle of Karbala ensued. Muawiyah is alleged to have killed many of Muhammad's companions (Sahabah), either in battle or by poison, due to his lust for power. Muawiyah killed several historical figures, including the Sahabah, Amr bin al-Hamiq, Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, Malik al-Ashtar, Hujr ibn Adi (to which the families of Abu Bakr and Umar condemned Muawiyah for, and the Sahaba deemed his killer to be cursed) and Abd al-Rahman bin Hasaan (buried alive for his support of Ali). According to the Shia Muawiyah was also responsible for instigating the Battle of Siffin, the bloodiest battle in Islam's history, whereas many early history books state that Ali went north to Syria, to make the Syrians give him allegiance. In the Battle of Siffin over 70,000 people (among them many of the last surviving companions of Muhammad) were killed. Notable among the Companions who were killed by Muawiyah's forces in the battle of Siffin was Ammar ibn Yasir, an old man of 95 at the time of his death. Shia Muslims see his being killed at the hands of Muawiyah's army as significant because of a well-known hadith, present in both the Shia and Sunni books of hadith, narrated by Abu Hurairah and others, in which Muhammad is recorded to have said: "The transgressing party shall kill you", Sahih Muslim and Sahih al-Bukhari.

The killing of the two children of Ubaydullah ibn Abbas the ancestor of the Abbasids can also be found in Sunni books from the Abbasid period and Shia texts.

[...] Then he [i.e., Muawiyah] was informed that Ubaidullah had two infant sons. So he set out to reach them, and when he found them - they had two (tender) forelocks like pearls - [and] he ordered to kill them.

Modern non-Muslim views

Robert Hoyland writes that some "modern" non-Muslim historians have "called into question Mu'awiya's commitment to Islam" citing his lack of "any explicit reference" to Islam or Muhammad in his public proclamations and arguing he may have "adhered to a 'non-confessional' or 'indeterminate' form of monotheism that was ecumenical in its outlook", or even have been Christian.

Tom Holland notes that surviving inscriptions, documents and coins from the reign of Mu'awiya include no mention of Muhammad, and lists a number of acts performed by Muawiyah that would not now be considered in keeping with the religion of Islam: Mu'awiya "refused to go to the seat of Muhammad" to celebrate his accession as ruler, but did it in Jerusalem instead. He saw fit to please the Christians of the region by going on pilgrimage "around Jerusalem in the footsteps of Christ" where he 'went up and sat down on Golgotha' -- a site immediately outside Jerusalem's walls where it is widely believed Jesus was crucified -- 'and prayed there.'

However, Hoyland notes that Muawiyah gave a very Islamic challenged to Byzantine emperor Constans to "deny [the divinity of] Jesus and turn to the Great God who I worship, the God of our father Abraham", and speculates that Muawiyah's tour of Christian sites in Jerusalem was done to demonstrate "the fact that he, and not the Byzantine emperor, was now God's representative on earth".


  • Bewley, Aisha Abdurrahman (2002). Mu'awiya: Restorer of the Muslim Faith. Dar Al Taqwa. ISBN 978-1-870582-56-8.
  • El-Cheikh, Nadia Maria, Nadia Maria (2004). Byzantium viewed (2004 ed.). Harvard CMES. ISBN 978-0-932885-30-2.
  • Ismā'īl ibn 'Umar Ibn Kathīr (2012). The Caliphate of Banu Umayyah The First Phase Taken from Al-Bidayah Wan-nihayah. ISBN 9786035000802.
  • Doi, A.R. (1981). Non-Muslims Under Shari'Ah. Kazi Publications. ISBN 978-1-56744-170-3.
Muawiyah I
Umayyad Dynasty
Born: 602 Died: 26 April 680
Preceded by
Hasan ibn Ali
Caliph of Islam
Umayyad Caliph

661 – 680
Succeeded by
Yazid I
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 15 Mar 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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