Muawiyah I

For other persons named Muawiyah, see Muawiya (name).
Muʿāwiyah ibn ʾAbī Sufyān
Caliph in Damascus
'Amir al-Mu’minin'
Muʿāwiyah ibn ʾAbī Sufyān
1st Caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate
Reign 661–680[1]
Predecessor Hasan ibn Ali
Successor Yazīd ibn Mu‘āwiya
Governor of the Levant
Reign 639-661
Predecessor Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah
Successor Al-Dahhak ibn Qays al-Fihri
Born 602 CE
Mecca, Arabia
Died 22 Rajab 60 AH
April 29 or May 1, 680 (aged 7778)
Damascus, Syria
Burial Damascus, Syria
Issue Yazīd ibn Mu‘āwiya (son)
Full name
Muʿāwiyah ibn ʾAbī Ṣufyān
(معاوية ابن أبي سفيان)
Tribe Quraysh (Banu Umayya)
Father Abu Sufyan ibn Harb

Hind bint Utbah

Son Yazid I
Religion Islam
Domains of the Rashidun empire under the first four caliphs. The "divided phase" relates to the Rashidun Caliphate of Ali during the First Fitna.
  Rashidun Caliphate strongholds under Ali during the First Fitna.
  Region controlled by Muawiyah I during the First Fitna.
  Region controlled by Amr ibn al-As during the First Fitna.

Muawiyah I (Arabic: معاوية بن أبي سفيان Muʿāwiyah ibn ʾAbī Ṣufyān; 602 – April 29 or May 1, 680) established the Umayyad Dynasty of the caliphate,[2][3] and was the second caliph from the Umayyad clan, the first being Uthman ibn Affan.[4] During the first and second caliphates of Abu Bakr and Umar (Umar ibn al-Khattab), he fought with the Muslims against the Byzantines in Syria.

To stop the Byzantine harassment from the sea, Muawiyah developed a navy in the Levant and used it to confront the Byzantine Empire in the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara. The Caliphate conquered several territories including Cyzicus which were subsequently used as naval bases.[5]

Early life and family

Muawiyah bin Abi-Sufyan was born in Mecca[6] to Abu Sufyan ibn Harb and Hind bint Utbah (601 CE) into the Banu Umayya sub-clan of the Banu Abd-Shams clan of the Quraysh tribe. The Quraysh controlled the city of Mecca (in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia) and the Banu Abd-Shams were among the most influential of its citizens.[7] The meaning of Muawiyah in Arabic is "strength of the arms". His father Abu-Sufyan struggled against Islam until Muhammad's army entered Mecca in 630.

Muawiyah, Muhammad and Ali shared the same great-great grandfather, ‘Abd Manaf bin Qusay, who had four sons: Hashim, Muttalib, Nawfal, and Abdu Shams. Hashim was the great grandfather of Ali and Muhammad. Umayyah bin Abdu Shams was the great grandfather of Muawiyah.[7]

Muawiyah and remaining members of his family were opponents of the Muslims before the ascendancy of Muhammad. Along with his two older brothers Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan and Utbah, Muawiyah was one of the members of the hunting party of his maternal uncle Walid bin Utbah that pursued Muhammad during the hijra (migration), when Muhammad and Abu Bakr were hiding in Ghar al-Thawr (Cave of the Bull).[8]

In 630, Muhammad and his followers entered Mecca, and most of the Meccans, including the Abd-Shams clan, formally submitted to Muhammad and accepted Islam. Muawiyah, along with his father Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, became Muslims at the conquest of Mecca,[9][10] although Muawiyah had been a crypto-Muslim since the 628 Treaty of Hudaybiyyah.[11]


Ibn Kathir wrote in his book Al-Bidāya wa-n-nihāya: "In terms of his appearance, he was fair and tall, bald with a white head and he had a beard that he used to colour with henna. He was mild-tempered, dignified, dominant and noble amongst the people, generous, just and astute".[13]

During the time of Muhammad

Muawiyah worked as a scribe for Muhammad. According to al-Baladhuri, Urwa ibn az-Zubayr, relating from his father, Aisha said "I went to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, who was in a room with Umm Habiba (Muawiyah's sister and Muhammad's wife) on her day. Muawiya knocked on the door and he gave him permission to enter, which he did. He had a pen behind his ear which he had not used. The Prophet said, 'What is this on your ear?' He said, 'A pen which I have made ready for Allah and His Messenger.' The Prophet said. 'May Allah repay you well on behalf of your Prophet! By Allah, I will only ask you to write down revelation from heaven"[14][15][16] According to Ibn Kathir in his book Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, Ibn Abbas said that Abu Sufyan asked Muhammad if he could make his son Muawiyah a scribe which Muhammad granted. Therefore, Muawiyah became his scribe.[13]

Muawiyah during the Rashidun Caliphate

Under Abu Bakr

During the time of Abu Bakr, Muawiyah used to serve under his brother Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan (Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan is not to be confused with Yazid ibn Muawiya who was the caliph during the period in which Hussain was martyred). Muawiyah was one of the first to be sent into Syria.[11][17][18][19]

Battle of Yarmouk

Main article: Battle of Yarmouk

In May 636, Emperor Heraclius launched a major expedition against the Muslims, but his army was defeated decisively at the Battle of Yarmouk in August 636.[20] In the battle, Muawiyah's brother Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan served under Khalid ibn al-Walid and Abu Ubaydah and was in command of one of the wings and Muawiyah was his second in command. Muawiyah's mother Hind also took part in the battle.[20]

Governor of Syria

In 639, Muawiyah was appointed as the governor of Syria by the second caliph Umar after his brother the previous governor Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan and the governor before him Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah died in a plague along with 25,000 other people.[21][22] 'Amr ibn al-'As was sent to take on the Byzantine Army in Egypt.

With limited resources his marriage to Maysum was politically motivated, as she was the daughter of the chief of the Kalb (dog) tribe, that was a large Jacobite Christian Arab tribe in Syria. The Kalb tribe had remained largely neutral when the Muslims first went into Syria.[23] After the plague that killed much of the Muslim Army in Syria, by marrying Maysum, Muawiyah started to use the Jacobite Christians, against the Romans. Muawiya's wife Maysum (Yazid's mother) was also a Jacobite Christian.[24] With limited resources and the Byzantine just over the border, Muawiyah worked in cooperation with the local Christian population.

According to some books[25] the town of Caesarea was taken by Muawiyah in 640, when the last Byzantine Roman garrison in Syria and Palestine surrendered. But according to Al-Imam Al-Waqidi, the author of the oldest history books on Islam it was Muawiyah friend 'Amr ibn al-'As who expelled the Roman army from Caesarea. 'Amr ibn al-'As who along with Muawiyah's brother Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan who later became the governor of Syria, expelled the Roman armies from many Syrian cities and later 'Amr ibn al-'As also moved into Egypt.[26]

Under Muawiyah's governance the Syrian army became a major military force. He picked out the best leaders from various tribes where as elsewhere in the state the military units were still based along tribal lines. He personally saw to the comfort and the equipment of the troops, increased their pay and paid them on a regular basis when they were on duty. He kept the troops in training by an annual expedition against the Byzantines and therefore kept the Byzantines in a constant state of unease and therefore kept his northern border safe. He took Qaysariyya in 19 AH.[27] He encouraged innovations in military technology. Muawiyah's armies used “Minjenique” machines to propel large stones onto enemy ramparts. He modernized the army, introducing specialized units for desert combat and snowy terrains. New forts were also built.

Muawiya left the Byzantine and Persian administrative structures intact, being sure not to give his largely non-Muslims subjects any incentive to revolt.[28]

Postal system, which was created by Omar ibn al Khattab for military use, was now opened to the public by Muawiya.[29] Uthman dismissed 'Amr ibn al-'As from governorship of Egypt so Muawiyah asked him to join him in Syria.

Battle of the Masts and expansion onto the Mediterranean

Byzantine Roman Empire By 650 CE

Muawiya was one of the first to realize the full importance of having a navy; as long as the Byzantine fleet could sail the Mediterranean unopposed, the coast line of Syria, Palestine and Egypt would never be safe. Muawiyah along with Adbullah ibn Sa'd the new governor of Egypt successfully persuaded Uthman to give them permission to construct a large fleet in the dockyards of Egypt and Syria.[30][31] Therefore, to stop the Byzantine harassment from the sea during the Arab-Byzantine Wars, in 649 Muawiyah set up a navy; manned by Monophysite Christians, Copts and Jacobite Syrian Christians sailors and Muslim troops.[30][31] During his naval expeditions in 28 AH he took Rhodes and later in 29 AH he took Cyprus.[27] He was accompanied by his wife, Katwa, who died in the course of the expedition. Muawiyah had asked Umar once and Uthman twice for permissions to undertake such naval expeditions.[27][30][31]

The first real naval engagement between the Muslim and the Byzantine navy was the so-called Battle of the Masts (Dhat al-sawari) or Battle of Phoenix off the Lycian coast in 655.[32][33][34][35][36][37]

Under the instructions of the caliph Uthman ibn al-Affan, Muawiyah then prepared for the siege of Constantinople.[31]

As Uthman ibn al-Affan became very old, Marwan I a relative of Muawiyah slipped into the vacuum and became his secretary and slowly assumed more control and relaxed some of the restrictions on the governors.[38]

First Fitna

Main article: First Fitna

After Caliph Uthman was assassinated in 656, his successor Ali failed to arrest and punish the perpetrators. Because of this, Mu‘awiyah saw Ali as an accomplice and did not want to acknowledge Ali's rule. Their troops confronted each other in the Battle of Siffin in 657, which was finally resolved by negotiations. These negotiations made Ali's claim to the caliphate dubious and some of his supporters broke away into a group known as the Kharijites. The Kharijite rebellion against Ali culminated in his assassination in 661. At the time, Mu‘awiyah already controlled Syria and Egypt, and with the largest force in the Muslim realm, he laid the strongest claim on the caliphate.[39]

Muawiyah as Caliph

Muawiyah was crowned as caliph at a ceremony in Jerusalem in 661.[40]

He came to Madina and spoke to the people, saying, "I desired the way followed by Abu Bakr and 'Umar, but I was unable to follow it, and so I have followed a course with you which contains fortune and benefits for you despite some bias, so be pleased with what comes to you from me even if it is little. When good is continuous, even if it is little, it enriches. Discontent makes life grim."[41]

He also said in as address which he delivered to the people, "O people! By Allah, it is easier to move the firm mountains than to follow Abu Bakr and 'Umar in their behaviour. But I have followed their way of conduct falling short of those before me, but none after me will equal me in it."[41]

Ali's Caliphate lasted for around 4 years. After the treaty with Hassan, Muawiyah ruled for nearly 20 years most of which were spent expanding the state.[42]

Military expeditions

After the peace treaty with Hasan, Muawiyah turned his attention back to the Romans. In 674, Umayyad naval and army forces under the command of Muawiyah's son, Yazid ibn Muawiyah,[43] laid siege to the Byzantine capital of Constantinople,[44] but were defeated when the Byzantines introduced Greek fire to the naval battlefield.[45] This siege is even mentioned in the Chinese dynastic histories of the Old Book of Tang and New Book of Tang.[46] They record that the large capital city of Fu lin (拂菻; i.e. the Byzantine Empire) was besieged by the Da shi (大食, i.e. Umayyad Arabs) and their commander "Mo-yi" (Chinese: 摩拽伐之, Pinyin: Mó zhuāi fá zhī), who Friedrich Hirth has identified as Muawiyah I.[46] The Chinese histories then explain that the Arabs forced the Byzantines to pay tribute afterwards as part of a peace settlement.[46]

The Mosque of Uqba, in Kairouan, Tunisia.

Further west, the Umayyads were keenly aware of Sicily's strategic importance and Muawiya was the first caliph to begin raiding the island in 670.[28] That same year, the Umayyad general Uqba ibn Nafi founded the garrison town Kairouan in Ifriqiya (modern Tunisia). It was used both as a base for military operations and as an administrative centre for North Africa, replacing Carthage.[28][47] A few years later the Umayyads also crossed over into Spain and Southern France under the command of Tariq ibn Ziyad and Musa bin Nusayr.

External expedition Internal issues
40 Kharijites at Shahrazur.
42 Defeat of Romans (Byzantines).
Raid on Caucasus.
Kharijites agitation.
43 Campaign against the Romans by Busr ibn Abi Artah.
Campaign against Tukharistanis.
Kharijites al-Mustawrid
Kurdish issues (Fars).
44 Sea raid by Busr ibn Abi Artah on Romans.
Winter campaign against the Romans
Abdu'r-Rahman b. Walid
45 Winter campaign against the Romans.
Abdu'r-Rahman b. Walid.
Campaign in Tukharistan. Campaign against the Romans.
Abdu'allah b. Jafar.
Campaign in Tebessa Thevest ifriqiy
46 Winter campaign against the Romans (Malik ibn Ubaydullah).
47 Winter campaign against the Romans (Malik ibn Ubaydullah).
Abdu'r-Rahman: Antioch, raid on Khorasan; raid on al-Ghur and Farawanda.
48 Abdu'r-Rahman: Antioch raid (summer).
Abdullah ibn Qays sea raid of Malik ibn Hubayra; joint sea raid by Uqba with Madinans and Egyptians.
49 Malik ibn Hubayra winter campaign against the Romans; Fadala captured Jabbara.
Summer: Abdullah ibn Kurz; Yazid ibn Shajara raid; Uqba sea raid; Yazid raid on Constantinople.
50 Campaign against the Romans by Busr ibn Abi Artah and Sufyan.
Sea raid of Fadala; North Africa taken and Qayrawan founded.
Raid of al-Hakam ibn Amr (Khorasan) against Turks.
Amr bin al-Hamiq killed in Mosul, Iraq by governor Ziyad. (Ziyad was formally [formerly?] Ali's commander.) Amr bin al-Hamiq had opposed Uthman.[50]
51 Winter campaign against the Romans; Fadala raid.
Summer campaign of Busr ibn Abi Artah; Balkh and Quhistan taken by ar-Rabi.
52 Sufyan ibn Awf raid.
Winter and summer campaign against the Romans.
53 Winter campaign against the Romans.
Rhodes conquered.
54 Winter campaign against the Romans (Muhammad ibn Malik).
Summer campaign against the Romans (Ma'n ibn Yazid).
Conquest of island of Arwad.
Ubaydullah conquers Ramithan and Baykland in Bukhara.
Campaign against Bukharans.
55 Winter campaign against the Romans. Hujr bin Adiyy killed. He had opposed Uthman.[50]
56 Winter campaign against the Romans (sea and land).
Campaigns in Sugh at Samarqand and Tirmidh.
57 Winter campaign against the Romans.
58 Campaign against the Romans (sea raid). Kharijites.
59 Winter campaign against the Romans (sea raid). Walid in Central Asia.
60 Raid against Sawriyya and Rudas. Peikund Balkh, Indus.

Leadership style

Welfare state

During the time of Muhammad, the poor were fed in Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina. The revenues of the land in Fadak near Madina were also used for the poor as ṣadaqa, and travelers in need. Later Umar formalized the welfare state Bayt al-mal.[51][52][53] The Bayt al-mal or the welfare state was for the Muslim and non-Muslim poor, needy, elderly, orphans, widows, and the disabled. The Bayt al-mal ran for hundreds of years under the Rashidun Caliphate in the 7th century and continued through the Umayyad period and well into the Abbasid era. Umar also introduced Child Benefit and Pensions for the children and the elderly.[54][55][56][57]

Both Ali and Muawiyah continued the Welfare State. Ali was extremely caring towards to poor and when he became Caliph the revenue from the land of Fadak continued to go towards the poor.

Because of Muawiyahs families previous opposition to the Muslims, before they converted to Islam, there was still some level of resentment towards him. Some of his relatives had been killed in battles fighting against the Muslims. But Muawiyah felt that after his conversion to Islam, for over 20 years, he had been the governor of Syria and expanded the state, confronted the Romans, built up a good administration, a good economy and therefore felt that people should not resent his past.

On one occasion, Mu'awiya ascended the minbar and praised Allah. When he wanted to speak, a lad of the Ansar interrupted him and said, "Mu'awiya! What makes you and the people of your house more entitled to this wealth than us! We have no wrong action against you that we know of other than our slaying of your uncle Walid, your grandfather 'Uqba, and your brother Hanzala." Mu'awiya said, "By Allah, nephew, you did not kill them. Rather Allah killed them with angels upon angels at the hands of the sons of their father. That was not a fault nor a loss." The Ansari said, "So where is the fault and loss then?" He said, "You spoke the truth. Do you need something?" He said, "Yes. I look after an old woman and sisters and things have been hard on us." Mu'awiya said, "Take what you can from the treasury." The boy took it and then Mu'awiya resumed his khutba.[58]

Conduct towards non-Muslim subjects

Muawiyah governed the geographically and politically disparate Caliphate, which now spread from North Africa in the west to Afghanistan in the east, by strengthening the power of his allies in the newly conquered territories. Prominent positions in the emerging governmental structures were held by Christians, some of whom belonged to families that had served in Byzantine governments. The employment of Christians was part of a broader policy of religious tolerance that was necessitated by the presence of large Christian populations in the conquered provinces, especially in Syria itself. This policy also boosted his popularity and solidified Syria as his power base.[59][60]

Muawiya's wife Maysum (Yazid's mother) was also a Jacobite Christian from the Kalb tribe.[24] His marriage to Maysum was also politically motivated, as she was the daughter of the chief of the Kalb tribe, that was a large Jacobite Christian Arab tribe in Syria. The Kalb tribe had remained largely neutral when the Muslims first went into Syria.[23] After the plague that killed much of the Muslim Army in Syria, by marrying Maysum, Muawiyah also used the Jacobite Christians, against the Romans.

Muawiyah is reported to have said: "I observed the Messenger of Allah perform Wudhoo (ablution) and when he finished, he looked at me and said; 'O Muawiyah! If you get to rule then fear Allah and be just to the people.' Due to that statement of the Prophet I was convinced that I would one day be held accountable for undertaking the task"[61]

Tom Holland writes [62] Christians, Jews, Samaritans and Manichaeans were all treated well by Muawiyah. Muawiyah even restored Edessa's cathedral after it had been toppled by an earthquake.[63] Savagely though Muawiyah prosecuted his wars against the Romans, yet his subjects, no longer trampled by rival armies, no longer divided by hostile watchtowers, knew only peace at last. Justice flourished in his time, and there was great peace in the regions under his control. He allowed everyone to live as they wanted."[62][64]

Political finesse

In a manner similar to Byzantine administrative practices, Muawiyah instituted several bureaucracies, called divans, to aid him in the governance and the centralization of the Caliphate and the empire. Early Arabic sources credit two diwans in particular to Muawiyah: the Diwan al-Khatam (Chancellery) and the Barid (Postal Service), both of which greatly improved communications within the empire.[65][66][67]

Mu'awiya could be seen speaking to the people on the minbar of Damascus wearing a patched garment. Yunus ibn Maysar al-Himyari said, "I saw Mu'awiya riding in the Damascus market wearing a shirt with a patched pocket, going along in the Damascus markets."[68]

Muawiyah was very skilled at dealing with the Romans. Abdullah ibn Zubayr could see troubles ahead after the death of Muawiyah and was opposed to the appointment of Yazid, later said of Muawiyah: "Truly the son of Hind deployed a dexterity and mental resourcefulness as one will never see after him. When we tried to impose something on him, an irritated lion with claws unsheathed would not show more audacity than him. He knew when to give into us, to even allow himself to be tricked when we tried to do that to him. He was the most artful of men, more crafty than a thief. I wished that we would never lose him, just as a rock remaining on this summit" pointing to the mountain of Abu Qubays outside Mekka.[69]

When his friends expressed surprise at the vastness of his gifts to his opponents, he told them "a war costs infinitely more".[70]

Muawiya was welcome to his subjects at every hour of the day, including mealtimes.[29] Therefore, he knew what people were thinking and saying.

Muawiya and his governors maintained an open table for people to come in and eat. Once an Arab seated at the end of the room did not hesitate to pull to himself a plate which had been placed in front of Muawiya. So Muawiyah said "You plunder very far!" The Arab replied, "After a year of drought, it is necessary to be well placed in order to find pasture!"[29]

The deliberations between Muawiyah and the people took place in the community mosque, where the people were free and unconstrained towards the khalif.[71]

Muawiya did not rely on the old aristocracy but looked for merit and loyalty. Most of his prominent governors were not even Qurayshi let alone Umayyad. He also had the faculty of winning over and retaining people he distrusted like Amr ibn al As.[71] His most important early governor in Kufa was Mughira ibn Shuba. At Tabri described his as "Al-Mughira liked things to run smoothly; he behaved well with the people and did not ask sectarians about their sect. All he would say was "Allah has decreed that you will continue to disagree and Allah will judge between His creatures concerning that about which they disagree." So people felt safe with him. Until the Kharijites resorted to violence then the Kufas agreed to expel them.[72]

He also paid a lot of attention to the economy and agriculture[73] this allowed him to finance his expeditions.

According to al-Qasim bin Mukhaimirah, Abu Maryam al-Azdi said that he entered upon Muawiyah who said: "What blesses us with your presence, O Abu Fulan (Father of so and so a common Arab expression)? " I said: "A hadeeth I heard that I want to tell you. I heard the Messnger of Allah saying: 'Whoever Allah entrusts with authority over the affairs of the Muslims and he neglects the needs and wants of the poor amongst them, Allah will neglect him and his needs and wants." He added that Muawiyah appointed a man in charge of addressing the people's needs upon hearing the Hadith.[61]

Appointment of Muawiyah's son as next Caliph

One of Muawiyah's most controversial and enduring legacies was his decision to designate his son Yazid as his successor. Yazid was experienced militarily, after taking part in various expeditions and the siege of Constantinople but politically inexperienced. Marwan also wanted Yazid to be the Caliph so that he could run things behind the scenes, as he would become the senior member of the Umayyad clan after Muawiyah's death. Mohammad, Abu Bakr and Umar also mistrusted Marwan and he had lived in Taif during their rule, where he became friends with Hajjaj.

Tom Holland writes "Tempers in Medina were not helped by the fact that the governor in the oasis was none other than the fabulously venal and slippery Marwan. Rumours abounded that it was he, back in the last calamitous days of Uthman's rule who had double crossed the war band that had come to Uthman. The locals mistrust of their governor ran particularly deep. Nothing he had done had helped to improve his reputation for double dealing.[74]

Ibn Kathir wrote in his book Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah that "in the year 56 AH Muawiyah called on the people including those within the outlying territories to pledge allegiance to his son, Yazeed, to be his heir to the Caliphate after him. Almost all the subjects offered their allegiance, with the exception of Abdur Rahman bin Abu Bakr (the son of Abu Bakr), Abdullah ibn Umar (the son of Umar), al-Husain bin Ali (the son of Ali), Abdullah bin Az-Zubair (The grandson of Abu Bakr) and Abdullah ibn Abbas (Ali's cousin). Because of this Muawiyah passed through al-Madinah on his way back from Makkah upon completion of his Umrah Pilgrimage where he summoned each one of the five aforementioned individuals and threatened them. The speaker who addressed Muawiyah sharply with the greatest firmness amongst them was Abdurrahman bin Abu Bakr as-Siddeeq, while Abdullah bin Umar bin al-Khattab was the most soft spoken amongst them.[75]

Abdur Rahman bin Abu Bakr and Abdullah ibn Umar were mid level Muslim commanders at the Battle of Yarmouk that took Syria. Abdur Rahman bin Abu Bakr sister Asmā' bint Abu Bakr also fought in the Battle of Yarmouk and was opposed to Yazid.[76]

Muawiyah then delivered a sermon, having stood these five men below the pulpit in full view of the people after which the people pledged allegiance to Yazeed as they stood in silence without displaying their disagreement or opposition for fear of being humiliated. Saeed bin Uthman bin Affan, the son of Uthman also criticized Muawiyah for putting forward Yazeed."[75] They tolerated Muawiyah but did not like Yazeed.

The following year Muawiyah removed Marwan bin al Hakam from the position of Governor in Madina and appointed al-Waleed bin Utbah bin Abi Sufyan.[77]

Muawiyah warned his son Yazid that younger brother of Husayn, ibn Ali would potentially be a problem for the dynasty. However according to some sources, Muawiyah advised his son to act Husayn "gently". According to a claim by a sunni source, Muawiyah warned Yazid against mistreating Husayn ibn Ali.[78] His final warning to Yazid was: "As for Husayn what can I tell you concerning him? Be careful not to confront him except in a good way. Extend to him a free hand (literally, a long rope) and let him roam the earth as he pleases. Do not harm him, can show verbal anger but never confront him with the weapons of war but rather bestow on him generous gifts. Give him a place of honor near you and treat him with due reverence. Be careful O my son, that you do not meet God with his blood, lest you be amongst those that will perish"[79]


Muhammad bin Uqbah said that when death approached Muawiyah he said: "I wish I were an ordinary man from the Quraish living in Dhu Tuwa and that I had never been invested with authority as caliph"[80]

Muhammad bin Seereen said: "When Muawiyah was on the brink of death, he began to mark out the floor. Then he turned his face and marked out another spot on the floor, after which he started to cry and say: "O Allah! Indeed, You said in Your Book "Verily, Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him (in worship), but He forgives everything else to whom He wills" [an-Nisa 4:48] Therefore, O Allah, make me amongst those You will forgive".[80]

Al-Utbi narrated from his father that when Muawiya was dying he quoted the following verses to those present (in at-Taweel poetry) "Death is inevitable because of what we are; consciousness of what lies after death is much more awful and lurid" Then he said: "O Allah! Reduce my lapses, pardon the shortcomings and overlook my ignorance, for You are All Forgiving. My mistakes are all my own and not attributable to You; only You can forgive me and grant me refuge"[81]

It is reported that he passed out and once he regained consciousness, he said to his family: "Fear Allah, for verily He safeguards whoever shows regard for something for His sake and He does not safeguard whoever shows a disregard for something for His sake" and upon uttering this he died.[81]

Robert Payne quotes Muawiyah in History of Islam as telling his son Yazid to defeat Hussein, who was surely preparing an army against him, but to deal with him gently thereafter as Hussein was a descendent of Muhammad; but to deal with Abdullah al-Zubair switfly, as Muawiyah feared him the most.[82]

Muawiyah died either on April 29 or May 1, 680.

Muawiya used to bring water to Muhammad and it was in the course of this service that he received the shirt in which he was buried.[81][83] He said, "I used to bring wudu water to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. He said "Shall I not clothe you in a shirt? I said, "Yes indeed, by my father and mother! So he removed the shirt he had on and clothed me in it."[83] He kept that shirt for his burial.[81][83]


By his creation of a fleet, Muawiyah was the driving force of the Muslim effort against Byzantium. His navy challenged the Byzantine navy and raided the Byzantine islands and coasts at will. The shocking defeat of the imperial fleet by the young Muslim navy at the Battle of the Masts in 655 was of critical turning point. It opened up the Mediterranean, considered a "Roman lake", and began a centuries-long series of naval conflicts over the control of the Mediterranean. This also allowed the expansion of the state into North Africa and Spain.[84][85] Trade between the Muslim eastern and southern shores and the Christian northern shores almost ceased during this period, isolating Western Europe from developments in the Muslim world: "In antiquity, and again in the high Middle Ages, the voyage from Italy to Alexandria was a commonplace; in early Islamic times the two countries were so remote that even the most basic information was unknown" (Kennedy).[86] Muawiyah also initiated the first large-scale raids into Anatolia from 641 on.[87][88]

Muawiyah greatly beautified Damascus, and developed a court to rival that of Constantinople. He expanded the frontiers of the empire, reaching the very gates of Constantinople at one point, though the Byzantines drove him back and he was unable to hold any territory in Anatolia.

Muawiyah had a personal library collection (bayt al-hikmah)[89] that was enlarged by his successors "throughout the Umayyad period.… This first major library outside of a mosque was known to include works on astrology, medicine, chemistry, military science, and various practical arts and applied sciences in addition to religion."[89]

Muawiyah had a few rare virtues. Muawiyah was politically adept in dealing with the Eastern Roman Empire and was therefore made into a secretary by Muhammad.[90][91] Once peace was established, Muawiya reconciled many of the people who had been fighting each other by his generosity and fairness. Even the most stubborn of opponents would often melt under his generosity and diplomacy. He also managed through fine diplomacy to balance out the tribal rivalries.[92]

During Mu'awiya's rule he put into practice the advice that Muhammad had given him, "When you rule, do it well."[93] He was scrupulous about justice and was generous and fair to people of all classes. He honoured people who possessed ability and talent and helped them to advance their talents, regardless of their tribe. He displayed great forbearance towards the rashness of ignorant men and great generosity towards the grasping. He made the judgements of the Shari'a binding on everyone with resolution, compassion and diligence. He led them in their prayers and directed them in their gatherings. He led them in their wars. In short, he proved to be a balanced and model ruler. 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas stated that he did not see a man more suited to rule than Mu'awiya.[94]

It must be said, however, that the rise of Mu'awiyah came partly through his family connections to the Umayyad Tribe. During the later part of Uthman bin Affan's rule, Ali advised Uthman to keep a check on Mu'awiyah's growing power saying:I will tell you that everyone appointed by 'Umar bin al Khattab was kept under close scrutiny by him. If (Umar) heard a single word concerning him he would flog him, then punish him with the utmost severity. But you do not do (that). You have been weak and easygoing with your relatives

Uthman replied: Do you know that Umar kept Mu'awiyah in office throughout his entire caliphate, and I have only done the same 'Ali answered: I adjure you by God, do you know that Mu'awiyah was more afraid of Umar than was Umar's own slave Yarfa? Yes, said (Uthman). 'Ali went on, In fact Mu'awiyah makes decisions on issues without (consulting) you, and you know it. Thus, he says to the people. ’This is Uthman's command.' You hear of this, but do not censure him [95]

Views on Muawiyah

Early non-Muslim literature

The Greek historian Theophanus does not call Muawiyah a king or an emperor, but rather a 'primus inter pares', or in Greek, a 'protosymboulos', "a first among equals", in the midst of his 'symboulioi'. Theophanus also referred to Umar ibn al-Khattab as "Primus inter pares"[71]

After the peace treaty with Hassan, in the book "The Great Arab Conquests" Hugh Kennedy writes that "The Nestorian Christian John bar Penkaye writing in the 690s, has nothing but praise for the first Umayyad caliph, Muawiya, of whose reign he says 'the peace throughout the world was such that we have never heard, either from our fathers or from our grandparents, or seen that there had ever been any like it'" [96]

Muslim literature

The traditional medieval Sunni perception of Caliph Muawiyah I has a wide spectrum. It is based on when it was written and who wrote it and where.

Early Medinan literature

As Hassan had been with Muawiyah, if the there was justice and the poor were looked after, the scholars in Madina did not complain. But when the ruler became unjust and oppressive and did not look after the poor they rebelled. When Yazeed took over the People of Makkah and Madina and Abdullah Ibn Zubair rebelled

In the early literature like Musnad Ahmed 4/216 there are hadith like this one:

A narration tells that Muhammad prayed to God in favor of Muawiyah: "Allahumma (O Allah) guide him and guide people by him."[97] This narration is in many hadith (narration) books.[98][99][100][101][102] Al-Dhahabi says that this narration has a strong predication (reference)[103] Muhammad Nasiruddin al-Albani (a modern narrations critic) also said: all the men of the predication (reference) are trustworthy and then he explained how the predication is strong.[101][102][104][14][105]

Even the earliest pro-Shia accounts of al-Masudi are more balanced. al-Masudi in Ibn Hisham is the earliest Shia account of Muawiyah and he recount that Muawiyah spent a great deal of time in prayer, in spite of the burden of managing a large empire.[106]

Az-Zuhri stated that Muawiya led the Hajj Pilgrimage with the people twice during his era as caliph.[107]

Early Abbasid literature from Iraq

Books written in the early Abbasid period like al-baladhuri "The Origins of the Islamic State" provide a more accurate and balanced history.[15][16] Ibn Hisham also wrote about these events.

Later Abbasid literature

After killing off most of the Umayyads and destroying the graves of the Umayyad rulers apart from Muawiyah and Umar Ibn Adbul Aziz, the history books written during the later Abbasid period are more anti Umayyad [108]

Later Abbasid literature from Iran

The books written later in the Abbasid period in Iran are even more anti Umayyad. Iran was Sunni at the time. There was much anti Arab feeling in Iran after the fall of the Persian empire.[109] This anti Arab feeling also influenced the books on Islamic history. Al-Tabri was also written in Iran during that period. Al-Tabri was a huge collection including all the text that he could find, from all the sources. It was a collection preserving everything for future generations to codify and for future generations to judge if it was true or false. It contain text like this:

To the following narration (reported by two different Sahabah):

Abdullah ibne Umar narrates that he heard Rasulallah (Muhammad) say:

“Mu′awiyah shall not die on the path of Islam.” [110]

Narrated by Jabir bin Abdullah who testified that he heard Rasulallah (Muhammad) say:

“At the time of his death, Mu’awiyah shall not be counted as member of my Muslim Ummah.”[110]

Some of the classical literature by eminent (Sunni) Islamic figures in the Abbasid period records:

I asked my father about Ali and Muawiyah. He (Ahmad Ibn Hanbal)
answered: "Know that Ali had a lot of enemies who tried hard to find a
fault in him, but they found it not. As such, they joined a man
who verily fought him, battled
him, and they praised him extravagantly setting a snare for
themselves for him. -Abdullah bin Ahmad Ibn Hanbal[111][112]

Muawiyah's opposition to Ali manifested itself in the following practice instituted during his caliphate, which was the verbal abuse and insult of Ali Ibn Abi Talib during the sermons in the mosques. This was even done on the pulpit of the Mosque of Muhammad in Medinah. (This practice lasted for 65 years and was ended by Umayyad caliph Umar bin Abdul Aziz.)[113][114][115][116] For example, Tabari recorded:

When Muawiyah Ibn Abi Sufyan put Mughairah Ibn Shubah in charge of
Kufah in Jumada 41 AH (Sep. 2 - Oct. 30, 661 CE), he summoned him.
After praising and glorifying God, he said:[117]
"I would continue to advise you about a quality of yours – do not refrain from
abusing Ali and criticizing him, (but) not from asking God's mercy upon
Uthman and His forgiveness for him. Continue to shame the companions
of Ali, keep at a distance, and don't listen to them. Praise the
faction of Uthman, bring them near, and listen to them."[117]

Saad Ibn Abi Al-Waqqas narrated-

Muawiyah, the son of Abu Sufyan, gave order to Saad, and told him:
"What prevents you that you are refraining from cursing Abu Turab
(nickname of Ali Ibn Abi Talib)?" Saad replied: "Don't you remember that the Prophet
said three things about (the virtues of) Ali? So I will never curse Ali."[118]

Nisa'i and Muslim narrate a Sahih hadith, wherein Muhammad summoned Muawiyah who snubbed him and continued eating his meal – Muhammad then cursed Muawiyah with the words: "May Allah never fill his belly!"[119][120] Nisa'i was not the only Sunni scholar who accepted this hadith – there were many others, the foremost being Bukhari and Muslim who compiled the Sahih Muslim.[120][121] It has been argued that in the Arabic culture and language the expression is a colloquialism which means a wish that the person's belly be so full of blessings of God (in the form of food) that his belly cannot take anymore, or that he wishes the persons blessings to be without an end. However, the two pre-eminent masters of Sunni hadith, Bukhari and Muslim, have rejected absolutely the latter apology for Muawiyah.[120] Further, Nisa'i was murdered when he recited this hadith in the presence of pro-Muawiya Arab-speaking Syrians as it was perceived as a curse of Muawiyah, which debases the unreferenced suggestion that the term was a form of praise and not condemnation.[122]

Later Abbasid literature from Syria

Ibn Taymiyyah (1263 to 1328) said: "Muawiyah did not call himself to be a khaleefah and was not given the oath of allegiance to it when he fought Ali. He fought not because he considered himself to be the khaleef or deserving of the khilaafah. This they all agreed upon and he himself would affirm this to whomever asked him. He and his companions did not consider it permissible that they initiate the fight against Ali and his companions. But Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) and his companions believed that Muawiyah and his companions must pledge allegiance and show obedience to Ali, due to his authority such that there be only one khaleefah for the Muslims. Considering them defecting from this obligation he decided that Muawiyah and his companions should be fought until they fulfilled it. All this so that obedience and unity occur. Muawiyah and his companions did not see that it was obligatory upon them and if they were fought against they would consider themselves oppressed because Uthman was killed oppressively as was agreed by all the Muslims at the time and his killers were in Ali's camp, he having authority over them"[123]

Ibn Kathir (1301-1373) said: "Uthmaan was killed oppressively, may Allah be pleased with him. Muawiyah was demanding that Ali hand over Uthman's killers so that he may take vengeance from them, as he was also an Umayyid. Ali was asking Muawiyah for respite until he had established himself and then he would hand them over. At the same time he was requesting Muawiyah to surrender Shaam to him. However Muaawiyah refused that until Ali surrendered those who killed Uthman."[124]

According to Ibn Katheer in his book Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, Imam Ahmed was asked about what had happened between Muawiyah and Ali, he recited the Verse "That was a nation who has passed away. They shall receive the reward of what they earned and you of what you earned. And you will not be asked of what they used to do" Al-Baqarah 2:134.[125]

Modern Sunni literature

Despite his endeavours in the expansion of the Caliphate and the establishment of the Umayyad Dynasty, the persona of Caliph Muawiyah I evokes a controversial figure in standard Islamic history whose legacy has never quite been able to shed the taint of his opposition to the Rashidun Caliph, Ali ibn Abi Talib.

The late (Sunni) theologian Mawdudi (founder of Jamaat-E-Islami) wrote that the establishment of the caliphate as (essentially) a monarchy began with the caliphate of Muawiyah I. It wasn't the kind where Muawiyah was appointed by the Muslims. Mawdudi elaborated that Muawiyah wanted to be caliph and fought in order to attain the caliphate, not really depending upon the acceptance of the Muslim community. The people did not appoint Muawiyah as a caliph, he became one by force, and consequently the people had no choice but to give him their pledge of allegiance (baiah). Had the people not given Muawiyah their allegiance at that time, it wouldn't have meant so much as losing their rank or position, as much as it would have meant bloodshed and conflict. This certainly couldn't have been given preference over peace and order. Following Hasan ibn Ali's abdication of the caliphate, all the Muslims (including the Sahabah and Tabi'een) gave their pledge of allegiance to Muawiyah I, bringing an end to civil war. That year was called the Aam Al Jamaat (Year of Congregation). As Mawdudi pointed out, Muawiyah's own speech during the initial days of his caliphate expressed his own awareness of this:[126]

By Allah, while taking charge of your government I was not unaware of the fact that you are unhappy over my taking over of government and you people don’t like it. I am well aware of whatever is there in your hearts regarding this matter but still I have taken it from you on the basis of my sword… Now if you see that I am not fulfilling your rights, then you should be happy with me with whatever is there.[126]

Shia view

Muawiyah I is a reviled figure in Shia Islam for several reasons. Firstly, because of his involvement in the Battle of Siffin against Ali ibn Abi Talib, whom the Shia Muslims believe was Muhammad's true successor; secondly, for the breaking of the treaty he made with Hasan ibn Ali, after the death of Hasan ibn Ali, one of broken terms being appointing his son Yazid as his successor; thirdly, because they believe that he is responsible for the killing of Hasan ibn Ali by bribing his wife Ja'dah binte Ash'as to poison him where as the Sunni texts do not say that his wife killed him; and fourthly because some Shia think that he distorted their interpretation of Islam to match his rule; where as the Sunnis do not say that he distorted Islam, as he was a political leader at a certain time in history to whom Hassan and Hussein also gave their allegiance, where as they say that Islam is based on the Quran and the teaching of Muhammad and its main center of learning was in Madina not in Syria and they say that Islam was completed at the time of Muhammad and use the verses "This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion" Quran 5:5.[127] "Indeed, it is I who sent down the Qur'an and indeed, I will be its guardian." The Holy Qur'an, Chapter 15, Verse 9.[128] Fifthly, for the deaths of various Companions of Muhammad who fought alongside Ali in the Battle of Siffin.[129][130][131][132][133][134][135][136]

According to Shia view, Muawiyah opposed Ali, out of sheer greed for power and wealth. His reign opened the door to the persecution of Ali's supporters, slaughtering of his followers,[137] and unlawful imprisonment of his supporters,[138] which only worsened when Yazid came into power and the Battle of Karbala ensued. Muawiyah is alleged to have killed many of Muhammad's companions (Sahabah), either in battle or by poison, due to his lust for power. Muawiyah killed several historical figures, including the Sahabah, Amr bin al-Hamiq, Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr,[139] Malik al-Ashtar,[140] Hujr ibn Adi[141] (to which the families of Abu Bakr and Umar condemned Muawiyah for,[142] and the Sahaba deemed his killer to be cursed)[143] and Abd al-Rahman bin Hasaan (buried alive for his support of Ali).[144] According to the Shia Muawiyah was also responsible for instigating the Battle of Siffin, the bloodiest battle in Islam's history, where as many early history books state that Ali went North to Syria, to make the Syrians give him allegiance. In the Battle of Siffin over 70,000 people (among them many of the last surviving companions of Muhammad) were killed. Notable among the Companions who were killed by Muawiyah's forces in the battle of Saffin was Ammar ibn Yasir, a frail old man of 95 at the time of his death. Shia Muslims see his being killed at the hands of Muawiyah's army as significant because of a well-known hadith, present in both the Shia and Sunni books of hadith, narrated by Abu Hurairah and others, in which Muhammad is recorded to have said: "A group of rebels would kill you",[145] Sahih Muslim[146] and Sahih al-Bukhari.

The killing of the two children of Ubaydullah ibn Abbas the ancestor of the Abbasids can also be found in Sunni books from the Abbasid period and Shia texts.[147]

[...] Then he [i.e. Muawiyah] was informed that Ubaidullah had two infant sons. So he set out to reach them, and when he found them - they had two (tender) forelocks like pearls - [and] he ordered to kill them.[148]

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  119. Shia Pen (formerly, Chapter Eleven: The ‘true’ merits of Mu’awiya bin Hind, section Appraisal of Mu’awiya by Rasulullah, which cited Sahih Muslim hadith number 6298.
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  122. Ibn Khallikan, Al Wafat Al Ayan Imam, under the biography of Nisa'i, section dealing with his murder
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  126. 1 2 Mawdudi, Sayyid Abul Ala. Khilafat Wa Mulukiyyat (Caliphate and the Monarchy). (Ch. V, Pgs. 158-159) Idara Tarjumanul Quran Publishers.
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  129. Al-Masudi, vol. 2, p. 47
  130. Tārikh (Concise History of Humanity) - Abu'l-Fida, vol. 1, p. 182
  131. Iqdul Farid - Ibn Abd Rabbāh, vol. 2, p. 11
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  136. Isti'ab - Ibne Abdul Birr
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  145. Jami` at-Tirmidhi, Hadith #3800
  146. 41:6968
  147. Sunni: Tarikh Kamil, vol. 3, p. 194, Dhikr 40 Hijri; Shadharath al Dhahab, p. 64, Dhikr 58 Hijri; Tarikh Taabari, English trans., vol. 18, pp. 207-208; Murujh al Dhahab, vol. 3, p. 30; al Istiab, vol. 1, p. 49, Chapter: Busar; Tarikh ibn Asakir, vol. 10, p. 146; Asad'ul Ghaba, vol. 1, p. 213, Dhikr Busar; Tarikh Islam by Dhahabi, vol. 2, p. 187. Shia: 21:6 Secrets of Muawiyah from Al-Amali: The Dictations of Sheikh al-Mufid
  148. Shia: 21:6 Secrets of Muawiyah from Al-Amali: The Dictations of Sheikh al-Mufid


Muawiyah I
Born: 602 Died: April 29 or May 1, 680
Sunni Islam titles
Preceded by
Hasan ibn Ali
Caliph of Islam
Umayyad Caliph

661 — 680
Succeeded by
Yazīd ibn Mu‘āwiya ibn Abī Sufyān
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