The Nature of the Umayyad Government
As for the Umayyad government, it caused many troubles and afflictions to the Muslims, made them lead a life of discords and hardships, and threw them into great evil. As for the nature of this government and its prominent aspects, they are as follows:
The Umayyads dictatorially ruled the Islamic nations. Their government did not follow any law; rather it followed the sentiments of the kings, the desires of the ministers, and the wishes of their retinues. Al-'Ala`ili said: "The government of the Umayyad kings is similar to what we call nowadays martial law, which sheds blood, suspends ordinary law, and threatens every person's existence. In this time such a law is taken during exceptional conditions and for especial states to return security through terrorism.
However, this regime lasted throughout the Umayyad period. In fact we cannot call this (regime) as judicial power. Rather we strongly deny that there was no judicial power, in the full sense of the world, in the Umayyad time, except in some periods, and then the difference was prevailing. The greatest proof for this is that the Caliph or his government did what they desired with out taking, at least, lawful formalities in order to respect the authorities.
The political despotism was the prominent aspect of the Umayyad government, for the Umayyads adopted a special method for their government, which destroyed the rules of social and political justice.
Another prominent aspect of the Umayyad government was that the rulers showed arrogance and vainglory toward their subjects. They disdained the weak and made little of the poor. They thought that only they were the sources of power in the country, not the people, that they pushed down and raised up whomever they willed. Mu'a`wiya said: "We are the time! We push down and raise up whomever we will!"
This means that the social and national services which the free and the reformers rendered for their own homeland were not important for raising their social position. Rather the only thing which could push down and raise up was government, as the Umayyads thought.
Al-Walid b. Yazid has described the arrogance and tyranny of the Umayyads through these lines of poetry:
Leave your remembering the family of Sa'di, for it is
we who are more (than them) in number and property.
It is we who have governed the people by force;
we have imposed upon them abasement and punishment.
We lead them to the places of humiliation in order to abase them,
and we do not fall short of destroying them.
Al-Walid boasted of himself and his family, and showed arrogance toward the people as follows:
Firstly, they were more than the people in properties which they took from the Muslims' Public Treasury.
Secondly, he talked about their corrupt policy through which they ruled the people as follows:
A. They exposed the people to abasement and humiliation, depriving them of their dignity, freedom, and choosing
B. They led the people to the places of abasement and humiliation, not to the places of honor and dignity.
C. They governed the nations by force. Then which tyranny is greater than this tyranny? Which arrogance is greater than this arrogance?
Abolishing Public Freedoms
The Muslim communities were deprived of their public freedoms, especially as it concerns the freedom of opinion. None was able to express his opinion or his belief, especially as it concerns showing friendship toward the Ima`ms of the members of the House (ahl al-Bayt) , peace be on them. Hence the people preferred the accusation of unbelief to the accusation of showing friendship to them. Some Muslim thinkers were crucified in the public squares in Ku`fa because of their love for Ima`m 'Ali, the Commander of the faithful, peace be on him. Examples of them were Maytham al-Tamma`r, and Rashid al-Hijri.
The Umayyads denied Islam. They removed all its regulations and principles from the Muslim countries. Hence there were no Islamic laws in their offices and organs. Nikelson said: "The Umayyads were dictatorial tyrants, for they violated the laws of Islam. They despised its ideals and set foot on them.
The Umayyads buried the Islamic regulations and principles. Most their kings displayed unbelief and disparaged the great Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family. Among them was Yazid b. Mu'a`wiya, who said:
The Hashimites played with the kingdom, for
no news came, nor did a revelation come down!
The Umayyads spread all over the Islamic countries oppression, tyranny, terrorism, and persecution. Hence, in the days of Ziya`d b. Abih, the people said to each other: "Sa'd, save yourself, for Sa'id has perished!" This is part of the Umayyad policy, which did not conform to any international law.
The Policy of Division and Difference
The Umayyads adopted a certain policy in order to divide the society, to create conflicts and quarrels. That was through finding tribal and racial fanaticism among the Islamic nations. For example, they created conflicts between the Yemenis and the Naza`ris, who were the strongest Arab families in equipment and number. They also created conflicts between the Arabs and the non-Arabs. Through this, the Umayyads turned away from Islam, which underlined the unity of the Muslims, and spreading love and friendship among them.
With this brief presentation we will end our speech about the nature of the Umayyad government, which denied the interests and rights of the Islamic countries.
The Local Revolts
The Umayyad policy caused oppression and tyranny to the Muslim community, and shook its stability and prosperity. Hence the righteous led successive revolts against the Umayyads. They demanded them to conform to the rights of the society, and summoned them to accomplish social justice among the people.
The Luxury of the Umayyads
The Umayyads indulged in pleasures. Their children wore silk garments and looked like the Hercules Dina`rs.( Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni (Printed by Da`r al-Kutub), vol. 1, p. 310).
'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz bought a garment for four hundred dina`rs, wore it and said: "How coarse this garment is!( Ibn Sa'd, Tabaqa`t, vol. 5, p. 246).
Ha`ru`n b. Sa`lih reported on the authority of his father, who said: "We gave many dirhams to the washerman to wash our garments with the suds of the garments of 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz, for it was full of perfume (i.e. musk).
(Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni, al-Agha`ni, vol. 9, p. 246).
Marwa`n b. Aba`n b. 'Uthma`n wore seven shirts of different length, and they looked like a ladder, and on them he wore a 'Adani garment which he bought for one thousand dirhams.1 The historians have mentioned many examples of the Umayyad luxury and their playing with the economy and wealth of the community.
Their Gifts to the Poets
The Umayyads went too far in offering gifts to the poets. They bestowed lavishly upon their poet al-Ahwas. They one time gave him one hundred thousand dirhams,(Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni, al-Agha`ni, vol. 17, p. 89) and another time they gave him ten thousand dina`rs.(Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni, al-Agha`ni, vol. 9, p.172).
In his poetry al-Ahwas has mentioned that he did not earn his plentiful wealth from commerce or inheritance; rather he earned it from the Umayyads' gifts and bestowals. He says:
My new possessions have not resulted from commerce,
nor had my old possessions rustled from inheritance.
However, the are the gifts of the blessed Ima`m, who has
filled the earth with kindness, munificence, and rightness.
(Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni, al-Agha`ni, vol. 9, p.172).
Praising al-Walid b. 'Abd al-Malik, al-Ahwas said:
Power spontaneously came to the Ima`m, and he wasted
for his power neither unlawful property nor blood.
The Lord of mankind has chosen him ruler over His
creatures. And Allah knows men better.
When Allah was pleased with him, he (al-Walid)
summoned the Muslims to pledge allegiance to him, and
they responded and submitted to him.
He who attains his affection attains riches and glory.
He who is the object of his evil omen fears sudden death.
In his hands are keys to mercy, and life rain, through which
men remain alive, and which is a medicine (for them).
(Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni, al-Agha`ni, vol. 1, p.29).
These lines of poetry mean that he who made friends with al-Walid and was among his hirelings obtained plentiful wealth and riches. As for those who turned away from him, they obtained nothing except sudden death. Of course, these are the qualities of the dictatorial regime which follows caprice and desires, and does not conform to the law.
Their Gifts to the Singers
The Umayyads lavishly spent money on the singers. Al-Walid b. Yazid gave Mi'bid, the singer, twelve thousand dina`rs.(Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni, al-Agha`ni, vol. 55, p.1).
He ordered all the singers of al-Hija`z to be brought, and he gave them many gifts(Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni, al-Agha`ni, vol 55, p.111).
Mi'bid, Ma`lik b. Abi al-Samh, and Ibn 'A'isha visited Yazid b. 'Abd al-Malik, and he gave each of them one thousand dina`rs.
Al-Walid sent for Younis al-Ka`tib, and he went to him and sang before him. Al-Walid admired Younis's songs and gave him three thousand dina`rs.
(Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni, al-Agha`ni, vol. 4, p.400).
In this manner the wealth of the community was divided among the singers and the dissolute. In the meantime the community suffered poverty and miserliness, and Islamic economy disappeared from life.
The Life of Amusement
The life of amusement, vanity, and impudence prevailed most the Islamic countries, and especially as it concerned the holy places such as Medina and Mecca. The Umayyad government intentionally spread amusement places in these two sacred cities, that the Muslims might abandon them. We will briefly present the amusement and impudence in Medina.
Singing spread in Medina to the extent that it became its center. Concerning the people of Medina, Abu` al-Farajj said: "Their scholar did not deny singing, nor did their worshipper repel it!(Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni, al-Agha`ni, vol.8, p.224).
Abu` Yousif said to one of the people of Medina: "How wonderful your affair in these songs is, O people of Medina! Why do your noble and ignoble not abstain from singing?"( Al-'Aqdd al-Farīd, vol. 3, p. 233).
When the singers sang, all young men, young women, old men, and old women came to listen to their songs.( Al-'Aqdd al-Farīd, vol. 3, p. 245).
Dahma`n, the famous singer, came to 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Makhzu`mi, the judge of Medina, to bear witness against an Iraqi. The judge accepted Dahma`n's witness and justice. Hence the Iraqi said to him: "Dahma`n is a singer, and he teaches the slave-girls singing!" However, the judge said: "May Allah forgive me and you! Where is he who does not sing? (i.e., all the people sing.)"
(Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni, al-Agha`ni, vol. 6, p. 21).
Ma`lik b. Anas, the Jurist of Medina, had perfect knowledge of singing. Husayn b. Dahma`n al-Ashqar reported: "I was in Medina. The street was void (of people) at midday, and I began singing the following: What's the matter with your family, O Raba`b? They look askance (at me) as if they were angry! Suddenly, a door was opened, and a man with a red beard appeared.
Then the said: 'O Dissolute, you have performed (the song) in a bad manner, prevented songstress, and proclaimed atrocity.' Then he began singing. Hence I asked him: 'May Allah set you right, where have brought this song?' 'When I was young, I would follow the singers to learn (songs) from them,' he replied, 'but my mother said to me: If the singer has an ugly face, none listens to his songs.
Hence leave singing and study jurisprudence, for the ugliness of face does not injure it. Accordingly, I abandoned the singers and followed the jurists.' Then I said to him: 'Repeat (the song), may I be your ransom!' 'No,' he said, 'do you want to say that you have learnt singing from Ma`lik b. Anas?' Suddenly, he was Ma`lik b. Anas, but I did not recognized him.(Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni, al-Agha`ni, vol. 4, p. 222).
Whether this narration is true or fabricated against Ima`m Ma`lik in order to degrade his importance, it is sure that Medina in that time was one of the singing centers in the Islamic world, and a special institute for teaching slave girls singing.
Singing and Dancing Parties
Singing and dancing parties were held in Medina. Perhaps men and women attended them, and there were no curtains between them.(Al-Shi'r wa al-Ghina`' fi al-Medina wa Mecca, p. 250).
Abu` al-Farajj reported: "A beautiful woman sat and wore a long burnoose. There was a Yemeni cloak on her shoulder. She made those who were with her were shorter burnooses. Then she stood, sang, and plaid on the lute. Then Ibn Surayjj, Mi'bid, Ibn 'A'isha, and Ma`lik stood and danced with her. They had lutes in their hands and played on them as she did. Then she requested colored garments for her and the people, and they wore them. Then she walked, and the people walked behind her. She sang, and they repeated her song, as chorus.(Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni, al-Agha`ni, vol. 8, p. 227).
A'isha, daughter of Talha, held mixed parties, and 'Azzah al-Mayla`' sang at them.(Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni, al-Agha`ni, vol. 10, p.57).
Singing spreads among the People of Medina
Singing spread among the People of Medina to the extent that it controlled their feelings and emotions. The narrators reported: "Mohammed b. 'Umran al-Tamimi, the judge of Medina, heard a slave girl singing. Her song moved him, and he unconsciously went to his sandal and hung it in his ear owing to intense glee. Then he crept and said: 'Guide me, I am a camel! Guide me, I am a camel!(Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni, al-Agha`ni, vol. 7, p. 331).
Ibn Abi Rabi'a heard a beautiful woman singing, and he unconsciously tore his shirt, and it became like a cloak.(Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni, al-Agha`ni, vol. 8, p. 206).
The people of Medina were so fond of singing that they went out to see off Sala`ma al-Qas, a songstress 'Abd al-Malik bought from her master for twenty thousand dina`rs. They crowded in the yard of the palace, and she stood among them and sang them:
They separated themselves from me, and I firmly believe that
those who die will never return.
She repeated these words, and they people wept and wailed.(Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni, al-Agha`ni, vol. 8, p. 334).
Yazid b. 'Abd al-Malik bought Habba`ba, a songstress. She began singing before him. Her previous master, who was from Medina, sat beside Yazid. He unconsciously exposed his beard to a candle, and it burnt out of intense glee.
(Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni, al-Agha`ni, vol. 6, p. 316).
The historians have mentioned many examples of the singing in Medina.
The Songstresses in Medina
Many songstresses were in Medina (Yathrib). They played an active role in teaching the youths singing. They spread singing, impudence, and corruption. Unfortunately, Medina (the City of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family) became the center of a corrupt life in the time of the Umayyads. The people expected that Medina would be an institute for religious culture, a source for intellectual, civilizational radiance in the Arab and Islamic world. However, the Umayyads deprived it of this aspects and made it lose its political and religious leadership.
The Dissoluteness of the Umayyads
The Umayyad kings led a life of amusement, vanity, dissoluteness, and impudence. Their red nights witnessed wine, singing, and dancing. Yazid b. Mu'a`wiya was the first Umayyad to adopt singing and shelter the singers. He brought them from Medina.(Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni, al-Agha`ni, vol. 6, p. 316).
He openly practiced dissoluteness and drank wine.
Al-Walid b. Yazid was one of the dissolute Umayyads. He summoned Ibn 'A'isha, the singer, to sing him a song, and he sang him. Al-Walid became gleeful and said to Ibn 'A'sha: "By Allah, you have done well, my emir!" Then al-Walid took off his clothes and gave them to Ibn 'A'isha. He remained naked until similar clothes were brought to him. Then he gave Ibn 'A'isha one thousand dinars, make him mount a mule, and said to him: "May my father and mother be your ransom, mount the mule and go away! You have left me yearning for your songs!(Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni, al-Agha`ni, vol. 8, p. 324).
Al-Walid sent for 'Attrad, the singer. When he heard one of his songs, he lost consciousness, tore his embellished garment, and threw himself into a pool of wine. He was still in the pool until he was brought out of it. He was drunk as if he was dead. When he became conscious, he said to 'Attrad: "I imagine that you will go to Medina, that you will stand, sit in its assemblies, and say:
'The Commander of the faithful (al-Walid) summoned me, and I paid him a visit. He asked me to sing, and I sang him. I made him gleeful, and he tore his garments.' By Allah, if you told the people of this event, and I heard of it, I would cut off your neck!" Then al-Walid gave 'Attrad one thousand dina`rs, and he took them and went away(Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni, al-Agha`ni, vol. 2, p. 226).
Yazid b. 'Abd al-Malik is another example of the dissolute Umayyads. He sent for Ibn 'A'isha, and he came to him. He asked him to sing, and he sang beautifully. Accordingly, he became gleeful and said to his butler: "Give us wine to drink in the fourth heaven(Abu` al-Farajj al-Isfaha`ni, al-Agha`ni, vol. 3, p. 307).
These kings spread dissoluteness and corruption all over the Islamic world, and especially as it concerns Medina (Yathrib). This is because they wanted to defile the holiness of this city and its remarkable position with the Muslims.