Iranian historian of science, Shia Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr says: "Umayyad caliphs should not be equated with modern tyrants in Muslim countries. While these [modern tyrants] strive to destroy religion itself, Islam was being implemented during the Umayyad period."
6 Mart 2024 Çarşamba

Those who, fueled by ambitions for power, revolted using the name of the Ahl al-Bayt, justified their uprisings by vilifying the Umayyads, accusing them of transgression and oppression. However, the hardships inflicted on the people as a result of their own rebellions far surpassed what the Umayyads had done. Allah will hold the caliphs accountable for their personal sins; this does not tarnish the legitimacy of the caliphate. No one is without sin. It is understood from the hadith that the caliph's transgression or oppression cannot be an excuse for rebellion.

Iranian historian of science, Shia Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr says: "Umayyad caliphs should not be equated with modern tyrants in Muslim countries. While these [modern tyrants] strive to destroy religion itself, Islam was being implemented during the Umayyad period."

Through Ijtihad

Muawiyah ibn Abu Sufyan had been the governor of Damascus since the time of Umar ibn al-Khattab. He was not among those who pledged allegiance to Ali ibn Abi Talib. Later, because there was no retaliation against the killers of Uthman Ibn Affan, and many of them sought refuge in Ali's army, making it difficult to trace them, he declared himself as the caliph.

This happened through ijtihad (legal interpretation) of Muawiyah, as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had foretold that he would become a caliph (Ibn Sa’d, al-Dhahabi). Scholars argue that even if his ijtihad might not have been accurate in terms of timing, he cannot be condemned from the standpoint of companionship of the Prophet (Sahabah). In fact, the majority of the companions, including Ali's own brother Aqil, stood by his side. 20 years of governorship and 19 years of caliphate of Muawiyah are considered among the golden ages of Islamic history.

Towards the end of Muawiyah's caliphate, some of the companions advised him to appoint his son as his successor to prevent future unrest. When he went on Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), he consulted with other companions. Except for Husayn ibn Ali and Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, all of them accepted this and pledged allegiance to the successor. The transition of caliphate from father to son is not contrary to Islamic legal principles. Ibn Khaldun says, "If he had not done this, much greater difficulties would have arisen." Ibn Hajar also states, "For the caliphate, power and politics are sought rather than personal superiority."

The accounts surrounding the killing of Hujr ibn Adi vary among different historical sources. As per Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, a classic Islamic history book by Ali ibn al-Athir, the incident was politically motivated to quell the discord. It is not possible to understand the truth of the matter. Hujr, a formidable commander under Caliph Ali, persisted in opposing the Umayyad government after Ali's death and was punished for his refusal to relent. This event has often been exploited by Muawiyah's adversaries. Hasan al-Basri, an ardent supporter of Ali, attributed blame to Muawiyah for the incident. Despite being a highly esteemed figure, al-Basri is not considered reliable by hadith scholars due to his overly optimistic view, as he reported from everyone without considering their justice or transgression.

Umayyad Palace in Amman, Jordan
Umayyad Palace in Amman, Jordan

Tragedy of Karbala

Husayn ibn Ali held the ijtihad that the more virtuous (afdhal) should be the leader, and the less virtuous (mafdul) cannot be the caliph. However, most of the companions did not share this view. Therefore, they pledged allegiance to Yazid and performed prayers behind his governors. During this time, there was an uprising in Kufa, and they invited Husayn to come to Iraq. Despite warnings from his relatives and companions, he went.

On the way, the governor Ibn Ziyad intercepted him. Husayn agreed to turn back but refused to pledge allegiance, leading to his martyrdom along with many of his supporters. Yazid did not give the order; in fact, if he had wanted, he could have done it earlier. Indeed, Yazid not only refrained from harming Husayn's sole surviving 10-year-old son, Zayn al-Abidin Ali, but also took care of him until his death. Zayn al-Abidin remained uninvolved in politics. As mentioned in Qisas al-Anbiya of Ahmad Jawdat Pasha, Husayn's daughter Sukayna said, "I have not seen a more benevolent enemy than Yazid."

The people of Medina, using the incident of Karbala as a pretext, revolted and expelled the governor and his retinue from the city. An army sent from Damascus invited them to obedience, gave them a three-day grace period. When this was not accepted, the rebellion was forcefully suppressed. This event is known as the Harra Incident. Following that, the uprising of the people of Mecca, which lasted for a few years, was similarly quelled. These actions were perceived as justifiable measures to maintain the rule.

Cursing in the Khutbah?

According to the Shia historian al-Maqrizi, the Battle of Siffin essentially began when some ignorant individuals in Ali's army started cursing the soldiers of Damascus and Muawiyah after prayers. Upon hearing this, the people of Damascus retaliated within the framework of war propaganda. This practice was abolished by Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz. Therefore, it wasn't the Umayyads who initiated this behavior. Warfare is worse than cursing. Moreover, those who condemn cursing the Ahl al-Bayt consider cursing Abu Bakr, Umar, and Aisha as an act of worship.

Far from preventing people from becoming Muslims, the Umayyads saw a significant wave of conversions during their time. People embraced Islam in large numbers. In fact, the governor of Khurasan once wrote to Caliph Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, suggesting the need for circumcision checks because he suspected that non-Muslims were converting to Islam to avoid taxes. The Caliph responded with a historic reply, saying, "Allah did not send us as tax collectors or circumcisers."

The Umayyads have been accused of promoting Arab nationalism. However, the majority of scholars and commanders during their time were Mawali, non-Arab Muslims. The Umayyads did not interfere in the lives and ideas of those who did not pose a threat to their rule.

The invasion of Turkestan brought Arabs and Turks into proximity. Turks sided with the Arabs, increasing Arab favor towards the Turks. Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad settled Muslim Turks in Kufa, and Muslim Turkish rulers were allowed to remain on their thrones.

It is not accurate to portray those who died in battles like Talkan as victims of massacre. Interestingly, during the Abbasid era, some Arab tribes rebelled, claiming discrimination against Arabs and favoritism towards non-Arabs. This illustrates the sensitivity of the issue.

A picture depicting Caliph Walid receiving an ambassador
A picture depicting Caliph Walid receiving an ambassador

Oh, These Historians!

When it comes to the Umayyads, the majority of the available historical sources were written during the Abbasid era, manipulated and disseminated according to their desires. Since the Abbasids were enemies of the Umayyads, historians, in their pursuit of worldly gains, sacrificed knowledge for politics. They did not hesitate to change events, write inaccurately, and went as far as distorting facts to gain favor with the rulers, acquire wealth and positions. They engaged in ruthless vilification of the Umayyads, exaggerating their mistakes. They even fabricated hadiths against the Umayyads.

The Abbasids, who rose to power with the slogan of supporting the Ahl al-Bayt, not only rebelled and overthrew the Umayyads but subjected the family to massacre. Rather than relinquishing power to the Ahl al-Bayt, the Abbasids subjected them to unprecedented oppression, a stark contrast to the conditions witnessed during the Umayyad period. So much so that descendants of Ali ibn Abi Talib were forced to seek refuge in regions like Maghreb and Turkestan during Abbasid rule.

From a temporal perspective, the Ottomans were closer to the Abbasids, and geographically, they were considered neighbors. Hence, some ignorant historians translated Abbasid histories as they were, falling under their influence and repeating the same mistakes. On the other hand, remnants of Shah Ismail's army, who sought refuge in Anatolian tekkes (Sufi lodges), and the Batinis (members of a deviant sect) tainted the Turkish people and some immature Sufis with animosity towards the Sahaba and the Umayyads.

Umayyad Coins
Umayyad Coins

How History Can Be Distorted!

Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan was a devout and knowledgeable young man. He was even called "Hamamat al-Masjid" (the pigeon of the mosque) due to his piety. When he was informed of his father's death and that he had become the caliph, he placed the Quran he was reading in its place, reflecting on the burden that now fell upon him, saying, "I fear they have separated us with you." However, in opposing narratives, it is suggested that "When Abd al-Malik became caliph, he threw the Quran, saying, 'I have no business with you anymore,'" implying hypocrisy.

During the time of Caliph Abd al-Malik, there was a cholera outbreak in the Hejaz, leading to a temporary ban on traveling from Damascus to Mecca for Hajj (pilgrimage). Meanwhile, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, whose construction had just been completed, was inaugurated with a splendid ceremony. Opposing historians wrote, "Abd al-Malik ordered people to go to Jerusalem instead of Hejaz for Hajj."

To garner support for their cause, the Shia have propagated the assertion that esteemed and beloved figures such as Imam Abu Hanifa endorsed their beliefs, which is inaccurate. In his writings, Abu Hanifa explicitly prohibits rebellion against the caliph, even if he is unjust and sinful.

Among the notable and reliable books on this subject are Ebu Bekr Ibn al-Arabi’s “Al-'Awasim min al-Qawasim,” Ibn Taymiyyah's “Minhaj al-Sunna,” Ibn Khaldun’s “Muqaddimah,” Ibn Hajar al-Makki’s "Al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah,” Shah Waliullah’s “Izalat al-Khafa” and “Qurat al-Ainain,” Farhari's “al-Nahiya an Taan Ameer al-Mu’mineen Muawiyah,” Hüseyn Hilmi Işık’s “Sahaba 'The Blessed'.” Speaking on these matters without reading these books would be not just a mistake but also ignorance.