The Rise of the Umayyads
Source: Understanding Karbala, By: Allamah Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi
The most harmful feature for Islam was the resurgence of the Umayyads and their return to a position of power. They were the same Umayyads who were sworn enemies of Islam. This also materialized under the patronage of the caliphs. During the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah, the Umayyads waged battle after battle against Islam, under the leadership of Abu Sufyan.
At last their power was destroyed in 8 A.H. when the Holy Prophet (s.a.w) conquered Mecca without any bloodshed or armed conflict. Now, since no other option remained, they changed their tactics. That is, now they donned the garb of Islam. However, Islam never reached their hearts and the blood of infidelity continued to flow in their veins. The Holy Qur’an has referred to them at least on six occasions, and in every place they are denounced in the most humiliating manner. In the view of Qur’an, these people are “the accursed tree or family.”9
Here it is worth quoting a tradition of Abdur Rahman bin Auf. He inquired from the second caliph regarding the following verse of the Holy Qur’an: “Fight for Allah as is worthy of fighting.”
The second caliph replied, “It shall be applicable to the time when the Banu Umayyah shall be the rulers and the Bani Mughaira shall be their ministers. At that time it would be the duty of Muslims to fight against them with all their might.”10
How astonishing was the miracle of human psychology! Who could believe that the same caliph who knew that it would be the duty of every Muslim to perform Jihad for the sake of Allah against the Banu Umayyah, should himself appoint them to the governorship of Syria (Shaam)? And that he should fashion the plot of the drama of Shura in such a way that an Umayyad becomes the absolute ruler of Muslims in the form of the third caliph! More surprising than this is that it is the same Abdur Rahman bin Auf who played a very important role in the appointment of the third caliph.
The Bani Umayyads remained absolutely silent in the last period of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w). However, after the passing away of the Messenger they got an opportunity to flex their muscles. Abu Sufyan first of all, called upon His Eminence, ‘Ali (a.s), but he refused to have any sort of cooperation from this well-known foe of Islam. After that Abu Sufyan went to the first caliph. If he had also rebuffed the offer of Abu Sufyan like ‘Ali (a.s) there would not have been any problem. But under the advice of the second caliph, he was given the offer of Syria. At that time Abu Sufyan had already reached old age, so his son Yazid was sent with an army to Syria and after the conquest of Syria he was appointed as the governor of the province.
Then after the demise of Yazid, his brother, Muawiyah succeeded to the governorship of Syria.11
How strange are the changing circumstances in politics! Who could have anticipated that the same Bani Umayyads who during the lifetime of the Messenger had continued to use all their power for the destruction of Islam should one day become the absolute authority of the Islamic kingdom? They could not harm Islam in any way when they resorted to open enmity against it.
However, through internal conspiracy they nearly destroyed Islam. After the second caliph, Uthman became the third caliph. When people gave allegiance at the hands of Uthman, Abu Sufyan came to him and gave the following advice, “O sons of Umayyah! Now that you have obtained this kingdom, play with it like a child plays with a ball. And pass it among your family from one to another. Because this kingdom is a reality. As for Paradise and Hell, we don’t know whether they exist or not.”12
We do not know the response of the caliph to this statement but History indeed witnesses that this advice was put into effect in the best way possible.
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w) had banished Hakam bin Aas and his son, Marwan from Medina. He was the uncle of the third caliph and Marwan was his son-in-law. Therefore he ignored the command of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w). Not only did he recall Marwan to Medina but also appointed him as his absolute vizier. Not only the Khums money of Africa (which amounted to millions) was entrusted to him, but Fadak was also gifted to him. (We have already mentioned Khums and Fadak in the foregone pages).13
Abdullah bin Abi Sarh was a relative of the caliph. On the day of the conquest of Mecca the Holy Prophet (s.a.w) had issued orders that he must be put to death even if he is found in the Holy Ka’ba. However, despite this fact, Uthman sheltered him in his house and obtained pardon for him after much petitioning. In the reign of Uthman, such a person was appointed as the governor of Egypt.14
Walid bin Uqbah was a cousin of the caliph. The Holy Qur’an refers to him as ‘transgressor’.15
He was a drunkard and a man of very bad character. But he was appointed as the governor of Kufa. One day he came to the Mosque intoxicated and began to lead the Morning Prayer. Instead of the prescribed two units he recited four. Then on top of that he turned to the people and asked, “If you like I can make you recite some more units.”16
Not only the above three persons, everyone connected with the Banu Umayyah obtained an influential post.17 These people utilized their power and position to weaken the Islamic society, to distort the Islamic ethics, to dishonor the principles and laws of Islam, to ridicule the worship acts and in other words to destroy each and everything related to Islam.
Within a period of less than 25 years after the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w), the standard of Islamic leadership became the lowest in the long history of the religions of the world. Generally, the Muslims instead of being the slaves of the Almighty became the servants of gold and silver (riches and wealth). The third caliph was murdered not because he was making the Bani Umayyads richer and richer and in this process distorting the principles of equitable distribution of wealth in Islam.
And also not because he was making his kinsmen masters of the Muslim people, while in the view of the Qur’an they were from the accursed (family) tree. Rather it was due to the fact that all this was not liked by other great people of the Islamic world whom the caliph had ignored. They were of the view that they should also be accorded the opportunity to amass wealth. They would not have opposed the Bani Umayyads if they had also been allowed some share in that wealth.
9. Tafsir Durre Manthur Suyuti (Surah 17) Vol. 4, Pg. 191, and other books of Qur’anic exegesis and traditions. Also refer to the chapter, “Bani Umayyah in the view of Qur’an.”
10. Tafsir Durre Manthur Suyuti Vol. 4, Pg. 371
11. Refer to my book of Islamic History
12. Al-Istiab, Vol. 4, Pg. 76-77, Tarikh Abul Fida, Vol. 2, Pg. 61
13. Muruz az-Zahab, Vol. 2, Pg. 223, Kanzul Ummal, Vol. 6, Pg. 90, Tadkeratul Khawaasul Ummah, Pg. 134, Fathul Bari, Sharh Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 3, Pg. 141, Rauzatul Manazir, (published with Murujuz Zahab, Pg. 209).
14. Al-Istiab, Pg. 393, Al-Isabah fi Marifatus Sahaba, Vol. 2, Pg. 316-317, Tafsir Durre Manthur, Vol. 3, Pg. 30
15. Al-Isabah published with Al-Istiab, Vol. 3, Pg. 632, Lubabun Nuqool
16. Tafsir Nishapuri, Vol. 21, Pg. 72, Tafsir Durre Manthur, Vol. 5, Pg. 178, Tafsir Malimut Tanzil, Baghavi, Pg. 702, Tafsir Kashaf, Zamakhshari, Tarikhul Khulafa, Suyuti, Pg. 105, Tarikh Kamil, Ibne Athir, Vol. 3, Pg. 40, Tadkeratul Khawaasul Ummah Pg. 117, Sharh Fiqh Akbar, Pg. 92, Muruj az-Zahab, Vol. 1, Pg. 303, Sahih Muslim, Vol. 2, Pg. 72
17. Tarikhul Khulafa, Suyuti, Pg. 105, Tarikh Kamil, Ibne Athir, Vol. 3, Pg. 40, Spirit of Islam, Sayyid Amir ‘Ali, Pg. 417-437