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Abd al-Malik

Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (646-705) (Arabic: ‫ )عبممد الملممك بممن مممروان‬was the 5th
Umayyad Caliph. Abd al-Malik was a well-educated man and capable ruler, despite
the many political problems that impeded his rule.

Abd al-Malik became caliph after the death of his father Marwan I in 685. Within a
few years, he dispatched armies, under al-Hajjaj bin Yousef, on a campaign to reassert
Umayyad control over the Islamic empire. Hajjaj first defeated the governor of Basra
and then led his forces into Hejaz, where Ibn Zubayr was killed - ending his short
claim to the caliphate. It should be noted that the global Muslim population had
climbed to about 1 per cent as against the Christian population of 7 per cent by 700.

Hajjaj's success led Abd al-Malik to assign him the role of governor of Iraq and cede
him free reign in the territories he controlled. Hajjaj arrived when there were many
deserters in Basra and Kufa. He promptly and forcefully impelled them to return to
combat. Hajjaj, after years of serious fighting, quelled religious disturbances,
including the rebellion launched by Salih ibn Musarrih and continued after Salih's
death by Shabib. These rebels repeatedly defeated more numerous forces and at their
height entered Kufah. However, Abd al-Malik's Syrian reinforcements enabled Hajjaj
to turn the tide.

Abd al-Malik hi was effective in increasing the size of the empire. In North Africa in
686 a force led by Zuhayr ibn Qais won a battle over Byzantines and Berbers led by
Kusaila, on the Qairawan plain, but could not follow that up. In 695 Hasan ibn al-
Nu'man captured Carthage and advanced into the Atlas Mountains. A Byzantine fleet
arrived, retook Carthage, but couldn't hold it. In 698 Hasan captured it again and this
time destroyed the city. The Byzantines withdrew from all of Africa except Ceuta.

Hasan met trouble from the Zenata tribe of Berbers under al-Kahina. They inflicted a
serious defeat on him and drove him back to Barqa. However, in 702 Abd al-Malik
strongly reinforced him. With a large army and the support of the settled population of
North Africa, Hasan pushed forward. He decisively defeated the Zenata in a battle at
Tabarka 85 miles west of Carthage. He then developed the village of Tunis ten miles
from the destroyed Carthage. Around 705 Musa ibn Nusayr replaced Hasan. He
pacified much of North Africa, though he failed to take Ceuta.

Under Hajjaj, Arab armies put down the revolt of 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn
al-Ash'ath in Iraq from 699 to 701 CE, and also took most of Turkestan. Abd al-
Rahman rebelled following Hajjaj's repeated orders to push further into the lands of
Zundil. After his defeat in Iraq, again achieved through Abd al-Malik's dispatch of
Syrian reinforcements to Hajjaj, Abd ar Rahman returned east. There one city closed
its gates to him and in another he was seized. However, Zundil's army arrived and
secured his release. Later, Abd ar Rahman died and Zundil sent his head to Hajjaj who
sent it to Abd al-Malik. These victories paved the way for great expansions under Abd
al-Malik's son.

Abd al-Malik instituted many reforms such as: making Arabic the official language of
government across the entire empire, instituting a mint that produced a uniform set of

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aniconic currency, expansion and reorganization of postal service, repairing the
damaged Kaaba and beginning the tradition of weaving a silk cover for the Kaaba in
Damascus.

He also built the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, but parts of that city were also
destroyed when Abd al-Malik's armies put down an uprising there. The Muslim
scholar al-Wasiti reports this incidence:

When Abd al-Malik intended to construct the Dome of the Rock, he came
from Damascus to Jerusalem. He wrote, "Abd al-Malik intends to build a
dome (qubba) over the Rock to house the Muslims from cold and heat,
“ and to construct the masjid. But before he starts he wants to know his
subjects' opinion." With their approval, the deputies wrote back, "May
Allah permit the completion of this enterprise, and may He count the
building of the dome and the masjid a good deed for Abd al-Malik and his
predecessors." He then gathered craftsmen from all his dominions and
asked them to provide him with the description and form of the planned
dome before he engaged in its construction. So, it was marked for him in
the sahn of the masjid. He then ordered the building of the treasury (bayt
al-mal) to the east of the Rock, which is on the edge of the Rock, and
filled it with money. He then appointed Raja' ibn Hayweh and Yazid ibn
Salam to supervise the construction and ordered them to spend generously
on its construction. He then returned to Damascus. When the two men
satisfactorily completed the house, they wrote to Abd al-Malik to inform
him that they had completed the construction of the dome and al-Masjid
al-Aqsa. They said to him "There is nothing in the building that leaves
room for criticism." They wrote him that a hundred thousand dinars was
left from the budget he allocated. He offered the money to them as a
reward, but they declined, indicating that they had already been
generously compensated. Abd al-Malik orders the gold coins to be melted
and cast on the Dome's exterior, which at the time had a strong glitter that
no eye could look straight at it.[1][2] ”
The two engineers Yazid ibn Salam, a Jerusalemite, and Raja' ibn Hayweh, from
Baysan, were ordered to spend generously on the construction. In his Book of the
Geography, al-Maqdisi reported that seven times the revenue of Egypt was used to
build the Dome. During a discussion with his uncle on why the Caliph spent lavishly
on building the mosques in Jerusalem and Damascus, al-Maqdisi writes:

O my little son, thou has no understanding. Verily he was right, and he


“ was prompted to a worthy work. For he beheld Syria to be a country that ”
had long been occupied by the Christians, and he noted there are beautiful
churches still belonging to them, so enchantingly fair, and so renowned
for their splendour, as are the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the
churches of Lydda and Edessa. So he sought to build for the Muslims a
mosque that should be unique and a wonder to the world. And in like
manner is it not evident that Caliph Abd al-Malik, seeing the greatness of

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the martyrium of the Holy Sepulchre and its magnificence was moved lest
it should dazzle the minds of Muslims and hence erected above the Rock
the dome which is now seen there.[3]

The last years of his reign were generally peaceful. Abd al-Malik wanted to appoint
his son al-Walid I as his successor, ignoring his father's orders to appoint Abd al-
Malik's brother, Abd al-Aziz. However, Abd al-Malik accepted advice not to create
disturbances by carrying out this design. It turned out to be unnecessary, as Abd al-
Aziz died before Abd al-Malik. Abd al-Malik then had his sons al-Walid and
Sulayman, in that order, accepted as heirs to the throne.