|Yaz?d ibn Mu'awiya |
Caliph in Damascus
Arab-Sasanian Drachm of Yazid I
|2nd Caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate|
|Reign||26 April 680 – 11 November 683|
|Born||647 (AH 26)|
|Died||11 November 683 (14 Rabi ul-Awwal AH 64) (aged 36)|
|Mother||Maysun bint Bahdal al-Kalbiyya al-Nasrania (The Christian)|
Yaz?d ibn Mu'?wiya (Arabic: ? ; 647 – 11 November 683), commonly known as Yazid I, was the second caliph of the Umayyad caliphate. Yazid was the caliph as appointed by his father Muawiyah I and ruled for three years from 680 CE until his death in 683 CE. Yazid is infamous for killing Husain ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, along with his family and companions; attacking the city of Medina; and attacking the city of Mecca and destroying the Kaaba.
Yazid was born in 647 CE to Muawiya ibn Abu Sufyan and Maisun bint Bahdal, who was a Christian. While Yazid was a child, he was brought up by his Christian relatives; he reportedly moved to Damascus, Syria to live with his father when he was around 15 years old. When Yazid was around 16 years old, Muawiya made Yazid his heir apparent; this was regarded as a violation of the treaty that Muawiya had made with Hasan ibn Ali when Muawiya seized power.
Upon Muawiya's death in 680 CE, Yazid assumed power. He demanded pledges of allegiance from Husain ibn Ali as well as others. Husain was well-known as the grandson of Muhammad and was an example for many Muslims; if Husain pledged allegiance to Yazid, who was known for being corrupt, shameless, and tyrannical, it would be seen as legitimizing Yazid's behavior in Islam. Thus, in order to save Islam from Yazid's influence, Husain refused to pledge allegiance to Yazid. Husain then went towards Kufa, but was stopped at Kerbala. Yazid's army then brutally killed Husain as well as many of his male family members and companions in the ensuing Battle of Kerbala, after which they took many of the remaining members of Husain's family as prisoners. This sparked widespread outrage against Umayyad rule.
In 683 CE, Abdullah bin Zubayr and his supporters rose up against Yazid's rule in Medina. In what is regarded as the second-most infamous event of Yazid's rule, Yazid sent his army to Medina; the ensuing Battle of al-Harrah led to the deaths of thousands. Later in 683, Yazid's army lay siege to Mecca. The months-long siege led to the Kaaba being damaged by fire and finally ended when news of arrived of Yazid's death.
Yazid's father, Muawiyah, had signed a treaty with Hasan ibn Ali, where Muawiya promised that, among other conditions, Muawiya would give the caliphate back to Hasan when Muawiya died; and if Hasan died before Muawiya, then the caliphate would go to Hasan's brother, Husain ibn Ali, upon Muawiya's death. However, Muawiya broke that promise and all of the others that he made in the treaty, and he gave the caliphate to Yazid upon his death.
After the death of Hasan, Muawiya commanded the people of Syria to accept Yazid as his successor. After that, he ordered Marwan ibn Hakam, then the governor of Medina, to force the people of Medina to accept Yazid as Muawiya's successor. Marwan did not agree with Muawiya's choice; after letting Muawiya know how he felt, Muawiya removed Marwan from his post as governor. Marwan went to Syria and threatened to carry out a coup against Muawiya; Muawiya consoled Marwan with "soothing words," gave him a large amount of money, and appointed pensions for him and his relatives. Marwan returned to Medina and carried out Muawiya's order of forcing the people of Medina to accept Yazid.
Upon succession, Yazid asked governors of all provinces to take an oath of allegiance to him. The necessary oath was secured from all parts of the country. Hussain ibn Ali and Abdullah ibn Zubayr refused to declare allegiance. Yazid sent Marwan, a soldier in his army, to assist in this task. An early historical account of the issue of obtaining bai'ah ( bait ) (pledge of allegiance) by Yazid I was chronicled by the 9th century CE historian Al-Tabari who recorded that Yazid's only concern, when he assumed power, was to receive the oath of allegiance from the individuals who had refused to agree with Muawiyah's demand for this oath of allegiance for his son Yazid. Muawiyah had summoned the people (i.e., the Islamic shura or council) to give an oath of allegiance to him that Yazid would be his heir. Yazid's concern was to bring their attitude (of this refusal) to an end. Yazid's paternal first cousin Waleed bin Utbah bin Abu Sufyan was the governor of Madinah, where Husayn bin Ali and the Hashimite family resided as did Abdullah ibn Zubayr. Yazid had sent his fellow Umayyad kinsman, Marwan bin al-Hakam (who served as a vizier to Muawiyah and now to Yazid), to Waleed bin Utbah bin Abu Sufyan with the following message written on parchment:
Seize Husayn (Grandson of Muhammad), Abdullah ibn Umar (Son of Umar), and Abdullah ibn Zubayr (Grandson of Abu Bakr) to give the oath of allegiance. Act so fiercely that they have no chance to do anything before giving the oath of allegiance. Peace be with you.
When summoned by the governor of Madinah, Waleed bin Utbah, Husayn bin Ali answered the summons. However, Abdullah ibn Zubayr did not. When Husayn bin Ali met Waleed and Marwan (who was present) in a semi-private meeting at night, he was informed of the late Caliph Muawiyah's death and Yazid's accession to the caliphate. When asked for his pledge of allegiance to Yazid, Husayn responded that giving his allegiance in private would be insufficient, such a thing should be given in public. Waleed agreed to this, but Marwan interrupted demanding that Waleed imprison Husayn and not let him leave until he gives the pledge of allegiance to Yazid. At this interruption, Marwan was soundly upbraided by Husayn who then exited unharmed. Husayn bin Ali had his own retinue of armed supporters waiting nearby just in case a forcible attempt was made to apprehend him. Immediately following Husayn's exit, Marwan emphatically admonished his kinsman Waleed, the governor of Madinah, who in turn rebutted Marwan, justifying his refusal to harm Husayn ibn Ali by stating "that on the Day of Resurrection a man who is (responsible) for the blood of Al-Husayn (will weigh) little in the scale of God." As for Abdullah ibn Zubayr, he had left Medina at night heading for Mecca. In the morning Waleed sent men after him, a party of eighty horsemen under the command of a retainer of the Banu Umayyah. They pursued Ibn al-Zubayr but did not catch up with him, so they returned. As for Husayn ibn Ali, Tabari records that he too left for Mecca shortly after, without having sworn any oath of allegiance to Yazid.
Husain ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, along with many other prominent Muslims, not only disapproved of Yazid's nomination for caliph (or leader of Islam) but also declared it against the spirit of Islam as Yazid was oppressive and unjust. While the nomination issue was deliberated upon in Medina, Abdullah ibn Zubayr went with Husain to Mecca because some prominent Muslims thought that Mecca would be the best base for launching a campaign to build up public opinion against Yazid's nomination. However, before any significant work could be done, Muawiyah died, and Yazid took over the reins of government.
Kufa, a garrison town in Iraq, had been Ali's capital, and many of his supporters lived there. Husain ibn Ali received letters from Kufa expressing its offer of support if he claimed the caliphate. As he prepared for the journey to Kufa, Abdullah ibn Umar, Abdullah ibn Zubayr and Abdullah ibn Abbas argued against his plan, and if he was determined to proceed to Kufa, asked him to leave women and children in Mecca, but Hussein rejected their suggestions. On the way to Kufa, he received the report of Muslim ibn Aqeel's death at the hands of Yazid's men and that the Kufans had changed their loyalties to Yazid, pledging support to him against Husayn and his followers.
Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad, governor of Basrah, executed one of the messengers and warned the citizens to avoid the insurgency. He sent a message to Hussein, at instruction of Yazid, stating, "You can neither go to Kufa nor return to Mecca, but you can go anywhere else you want." Despite the warning, Hussein continued towards Kufa and during the trip, he and many members of his family were killed by Yazid and Ibn Ziyad army at the Battle of Karbala. So Yazid was also involved in the killing of Hussein. As he ordered Ibn Ziyad to kill Hussein if he does not give oath of allegiance to Yazid.
Many Sahaba, the most prominent being Abdullah ibn Zubayr, refused to give their oath of allegiance to Yazid, as they saw it as a usurpation of power and not the proper way of choosing a caliph by the Shura.
When Husayn was killed in Karbala, Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr started an insurgency in the Hejaz (Mecca and Medina) and the Tihamah. Upon hearing this, Yazid had a silver chain made and sent it to Mecca with the intention of having Walid ibn Utbah arrest Ibn al-Zubayr with it. Umayyad forces tried to end the rebellion by invading the Hejaz in 683. Medina was taken after the Battle of al-Harrah, the Tihamah was invaded and siege was laid to Mecca. Yazid's sudden death in 683, however, ended the campaign and threw the caliphate into disarray and civil war.
During the caliphate of Yazid ibn Muawiya, Muslims suffered several military setbacks. In 682 CE, Yazid restored Uqba ibn Nafi as the governor of north Africa and Uqba won battles against the Berbers and Byzantines. Uqba then marched westward towards Tangier and then marched eastwards the Atlas Mountains.
With cavalry numbering about 300, he proceeded towards Biskra, where he was ambushed by a Berber force. Uqba and all his men died fighting, and the Berbers launched a counterattack and drove Muslims from north Africa. That was a major setback for the Muslims, as they lost supremacy at sea and had to abandon the islands of Rhodes and Crete.
Yazid's son Muawiya ibn Yazid gained power upon Yazid's death. However, according to narrations, Muawiya abdicated after either forty days or five months. In his abdication address, he talked about several things, such as that his father Yazid "did not have the qualities befitting a Caliph of Muhammad's community." He also described Yazid's "atrocities committed against the progeny of the Messenger of Allah."
Yazid was known not to be a Muslim. When the Husayn's surviving family members and companions were brought to Yazid in Damascus after the Battle of Kerbala, Yazid said, "My ancestors who were killed at Badr have been avenged today. Now it is clear that the Bani Hashim had just staged a play to gain power and there was never any divine revelation." This indicates that Yazid did not believe in the prophethood of Muhammad, and thus was not a Muslim.
This view is further solidified by various sources that describe other aspects of Yazid's personal life. For example, the Sunni historian Ibn Kathir wrote in Al-Bid?ya wa-n-Nih?ya that "Yazid was notorious for his love of music and liquors...his illicit friendship with singing boys and girls...There was not a single day that he woke up not intoxicated." The Sunni historian Ibn Hazm also grouped Yazid with those "who were secularist" in his book Al-Muhalla.
Muslim tradition regards Caliph Yazid I as a tyrant who was responsible for three major actions during the Second Fitna that were considered atrocities: the death of Husayn ibn Ali and his followers at the Battle of Karbala, considered a massacre; the aftermath of the Battle of al-Harrah, in which the troops of Yazid's general, Muslim bin Uqbah al-Marri, pillaged the town of Medina; and the burning of the Kaaba during the siege of Mecca, which was blamed on Yazid's commander Husayn ibn Numayr.
The following evaluation of Yazid was given by a Sunni scholar al-Dhahabi: