Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik

Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik

PredecessorYazid II
SuccessorAl-Walid II
Born691, Damascus, Syria, Umayyad Caliphate
Died6 February 743 (aged 52) (6 Rabiʽ al-Thani 125 AH)
Damascus, Syria, Umayyad Caliphate
SpouseUmm Hakim bint Yahya
Umm Uthman bint Sa’id ibn Khalid
Children Maslama
Yazid al-Afqam
Abd Allah
Abd al-Rahman
FatherAbd al-Malik
MotherA’isha, daughter of Hisham al-Makhzumi

His Story

Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik was one of the most influential and successful caliphs of the Umayyad dynasty. He ruled from 724 to 743 CE, during a time of prosperity, expansion and stability for the Islamic empire. In this blog post, we will explore his life, achievements and challenges as the tenth caliph of Islam.

Hisham was born in Damascus in 691 CE, as the son of Abd al-Malik, the fifth Umayyad caliph, and A’isha, a daughter of a prominent Quraysh clan. He grew up in the Umayyad court, where he received a good education and learned the art of governance. He did not have any significant political or military role during his father’s or his brothers’ reigns, but he showed his ambition and competence when he protested against the nomination of his cousin Umar II as caliph in 717 CE. He later accepted Umar’s rule and remained loyal to him until his death in 720 CE.

When his brother Yazid II died in 724 CE, Hisham was chosen as his successor by the Umayyad family, with the support of his brother Maslama, a powerful general. Hisham inherited a vast and diverse empire that stretched from Spain to India, and faced many challenges from internal and external enemies. He proved to be a capable and energetic ruler, who maintained internal security, reformed the administration and taxation, expanded the borders, defended the faith and patronized culture and arts.

One of Hisham’s main concerns was to preserve the unity and authority of the Umayyad dynasty over the Arab tribes, who were divided into two factions: the northern (Qays) and the southern (Yemen). He tried to balance between them by appointing governors and officials from both sides, and by promoting a common Arab identity based on Islam. He also dealt firmly with any rebellions or dissensions among the Arabs or the non-Arab subjects, such as the Berbers in North Africa, the Kharijites in Iraq and Iran, or the Alids (descendants of Ali) in Medina and Kufa.

Another challenge that Hisham faced was to defend the Islamic empire from its external enemies, especially the Byzantine Empire and the Khazars in the north, and the Tibetans and Turgesh in the east. He launched several campaigns against them, either personally or through his generals, such as Maslama, Qutayba ibn Muslim or Abd al-Rahman ibn Habib. He achieved some victories and conquests, such as capturing Melitene and Akhlat from the Byzantines, or advancing into Transoxiana and Sindh from the east. However, he also suffered some setbacks and losses, such as losing Armenia to the Khazars, or being defeated by the Turgesh at the Battle of al-Defile in 731 CE.

Hisham was also a devout Muslim who upheld the orthodox Sunni doctrine and enforced it throughout his realm. He supported religious scholars and jurists, such as Malik ibn Anas or Sufyan al-Thawri, who developed Islamic law and theology under his patronage. He also built mosques and schools, sponsored pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina, and fought against heretical sects or movements, such as the Qadariyya (who denied predestination) or the Mu’tazila (who rationalized theology).

Hisham was also interested in culture and arts, especially poetry and architecture. He encouraged poets to praise him and his deeds, such as al-Farazdaq or Jarir ibn Atiyya. He also built many palaces and fortresses in Syria, such as Qasr al-Hayr al-Gharbi or Qasr al-Hayr al-Sharqi. He decorated them with mosaics, sculptures and inscriptions that reflected his power and glory.

Hisham died in Damascus in 743 CE at the age of 52. He was buried in Bab al-Saghir cemetery near his father’s tomb. He had many sons and daughters from different wives, but he failed to secure his succession for any of them. Instead, he had to accept his nephew al-Walid II as his heir apparent, who had been designated by Yazid II. This decision led to a civil war among the Umayyads after Hisham’s death, which eventually resulted in their downfall.

Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik was one of the greatest Umayyad caliphs, who left a lasting legacy in the history of Islam. He was a strong and wise ruler, who managed to keep the Islamic empire intact and prosperous, despite the many challenges and threats he faced. He was also a pious and cultured patron, who supported the development of Islamic law, theology, poetry and architecture. He is remembered as a model of Umayyad glory and excellence.

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