Hate for the Umayyads

A 9th-century Description

This passage is from Ya’qubi, a Persian bureaucrat who lived in the 9th century.

The regions were all in an uproar. Al-Walid was neglectful of his affairs and unconcerned about his outlying regions. He was given to amusements and singing-girls, to undisguised killing and oppression, to distractions from public affairs, and to drinking and dissoluteness. He went so far in his dissoluteness that he decided to have a booth built atop the Ka’ba in which he might sit for amusement, and he dispatched an architect for that purpose.

Source, p. 1055.

A 9th-century Description

This passage appears in a number of different texts, including the biographical dictionaries of Baladhuri, an Iranian bureaucrat who worked for the ‘Abbasids. In it, the Kharijite rebel Abu Hamza (who lived at the end of the Umayyad period) gives a sermon decrying the morals of the Umayyads.

Source, p. 130-132.

A 10th-century Description

This passage is from Mas’udi, a 10th-century Arab historian and geographer. In this passage, he explains how an Abbasid caliph Mansur (r. 754-75) looked back on the Umayyads.

At a gathering before Mansur… the conversation turned to the Umayyad caliphs, their conduct, the policies they followed and the reason their power was stripped from them. Mansur said:

‘Abd al-Malik was an arrogant tyrant who did not care what he did. Sulaiman’s only ambition lay in his belly and his balls. Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz was like a one-eyed man among the blind. The only great man of the dynasty was Hisham. As long as their standards remained high and their conduct not base, the Umayyads held government which had been given to them with a firm hand, protecting, preserving and guarding the gift granted to them by God. But then their power passed to their effeminate sons, whose only ambition was the satisfaction of their desires and who chased after pleasures forbidden by Almighty God. They knew not that God works slowly and believed themselves safe from His snares, although they had renounced their right to the Caliphate and had made light of God’s truths and the duties of good government. Then God stripped them of their power, covered them with shame and deprived them of their worldly goods.

Salih b. ‘Ali then said:

“O Commander of the Faithful, when ‘Abd Allah, the son of [the last Umayyad caliph] Marwan fled to the land of the Nubians with a small number of followers, the king of that country asked them about their position and state, and what had befalled them, and how they had comported themselves. When he had collected this information, he rode to see ‘Abd Allah, and questioned him on various events involving him and his family, including the causes of their disgrace. He said things which I can no longer remember, after which he [the Nubian king] expelled him [‘Abd Allah b. Marwan] from his country. The Commander of the Faithful [Mansur] could summon ‘Abd Allah and have him tell his adventures himself.”

As a result of this, Mansur had ‘Abd Allah brought from prison and when he stood before him, he said:

“‘Abd Allah, tell me your story and the story of the King of Nubia.”

‘Abd Allah replied as follows: “O Commander of the Faithful, I had been in Nubia three days when the king came to see me. Although I had had a valuable carpet spread out for him, he sat on the ground. I asked him why he refused to sit on our carpet and he replied: ‘Because I am a king and the duty of a king is to humble himself before the power of God, who has made him great.’

Then he [the Nubian king] said to me [‘Abd Allah]: ‘Why do you drink wine when your Book forbids it?’ I answered. ‘Our slaves and our followers have the audacity to do so.’

‘Why,’ he went on, ‘do you allow your cavalry to trample the fields when your Book has forbidden you destruction?’ ‘These are again our slaves and our followers, who have behaved thus in their ignorance.’

‘Why,’ proceeded the king, ‘do you wear brocade and silk and gold, in spite of the prohibitions of your Book and your religion?’ I retorted: ‘As power fled from us, we called upon the support of alien races who have entered our faith and we have adopted these clothes from them.’

The king bowed his head in silence, sometimes fidgeting, at others scratching in the sand, while he murmured: ‘Our slaves… our followers… foreigners who have embraced the faith!’ Then he lifted his head and said: ‘It is not the way you tell it! No! Your people permitted themselves what God forbade. You broke God’s commandments and oppressed those you ruled. Then God stripped you of your power and dressed you in the ignominy of your crimes. The limit of God’s vengeance cannot be known. I fear that his punishment may fall upon you while you are in my country, and strike me along with you. The rights of the guest last for three days. Take the provisions you need and ride out of my country.’ I obeyed his order.”

Source, pp. 24-25.