Al-Walid I

Al-Walid I

Overview

Al-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik or Al-Walid I (668 - 715) was an Umayyad
Umayyad
The Umayyad Caliphate was the second of the four major Arab caliphates established after the death of Muhammad. It was ruled by the Umayyad dynasty, whose name derives from Umayya ibn Abd Shams, the great-grandfather of the first Umayyad caliph. Although the Umayyad family originally came from the...

 caliph
Caliph
The Caliph is the head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the ruler of the Islamic Ummah, an Islamic community ruled by the Shari'ah. It is a transcribed version of the Arabic word   which means "successor" or "representative"...

 who ruled from 705 - 715.

He was born to Abdul Malik Ibn marwan and his wife who was from the central Arabian region Najd
Najd
Najd or Nejd , literally Highland, is the central region of the Arabian Peninsula.-Boundaries :The Arabic word nejd literally means "upland" and was once applied to a variety of regions within the Arabian Peninsula...

. Al walid continued the expansion of the Islamic empire that was sparked by his father, and was an effective ruler. His father Abd al-Malik had taken the oath of allegiance for Walid I during his lifetime..
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Al-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik or Al-Walid I (668 - 715) was an Umayyad
Umayyad
The Umayyad Caliphate was the second of the four major Arab caliphates established after the death of Muhammad. It was ruled by the Umayyad dynasty, whose name derives from Umayya ibn Abd Shams, the great-grandfather of the first Umayyad caliph. Although the Umayyad family originally came from the...

 caliph
Caliph
The Caliph is the head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the ruler of the Islamic Ummah, an Islamic community ruled by the Shari'ah. It is a transcribed version of the Arabic word   which means "successor" or "representative"...

 who ruled from 705 - 715.

Biography


He was born to Abdul Malik Ibn marwan and his wife who was from the central Arabian region Najd
Najd
Najd or Nejd , literally Highland, is the central region of the Arabian Peninsula.-Boundaries :The Arabic word nejd literally means "upland" and was once applied to a variety of regions within the Arabian Peninsula...

. Al walid continued the expansion of the Islamic empire that was sparked by his father, and was an effective ruler. His father Abd al-Malik had taken the oath of allegiance for Walid I during his lifetime.. As such the succession of Al-Walid I was not contested. His reign was marked by endless successions of conquests east and west.

Al-Walid I (705-715 AD/86-96 AH), began the Islamic conquests and took the early Islamic empire to its farthest extents. He reconquered parts of Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 from the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 and moved on into Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

 and across to the west of North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

. Then, in 711, Muslim armies crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and began to conquer the Iberian Peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

 using North African Berber
Berber people
Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are continuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. Historically they spoke the Berber language or varieties of it, which together form a branch...

 armies. By 716, the Visigoths of Iberia had been defeated and Iberia was under Muslim control. This would be the farthest extent of Islamic control of Europe (in 736, they were stopped in their expansion into Europe south of Tours, France). In the east, Islamic armies made it as far as the Indus River in 712—under Al-Walid, the caliphate empire stretched from the Iberian Peninsula to India. Al-Hajjaj bin Yousef played a crucial role in the organization and selection of military commanders.

Al-Walid paid great attention to the expansion of an organized military, building the strongest navy in Ummayad era, it was this tactic that supported the ultimate expansion to Iberia. His reign is considered as the apex of Islamic power.

Al-Walid also began the first great building projects of Islam, the most famous of which is the mosque at Damascus. The long history of Islamic architecture really begins with al-Walid. This is also the period, however, in which Islamic court culture begins to germinate. With the caliph as a patron, artists and writers begin to develop a new, partly secular culture based on Islamic ideas.

It was also Al-Walid that coupled Islamicization with Arabicization. Conversion was not forced on conquered peoples; however, since non-believers had to pay an extra tax , many people did convert for religious and non-religious reasons. This created several problems, particularly since Islam was so closely connected with being Arab. Being Arab, of course, was more than an ethnic identity, it was a tribal identity based on kinship and descent. As more and more Muslims were non-Arabs, the status of Arabs and their culture became threatened. In particular, large numbers of Coptic-speaking (Egypt) and Persian-speaking Muslims threatened the primacy of the very language that Islam is based on. In part to alleviate that threat, al-Walid instituted Arabic as the only official language of the empire. He decreed that all administration was to be done only in Arabic. It was this move that cemented the primacy of Arabic language and culture in the Islamic world.

Like his father, Al-Walid continued to allow Al-Hajjaj bin Yousef free rein, and his trust in Al-Hajjaj paid off with the successful conquests of Transoxiana
Transoxiana
Transoxiana is the ancient name used for the portion of Central Asia corresponding approximately with modern-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, southern Kyrgystan and southwest Kazakhstan. Geographically, it is the region between the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers...

 and Sindh
Sindh
Sindh historically referred to as Ba'ab-ul-Islam , is one of the four provinces of Pakistan and historically is home to the Sindhi people. It is also locally known as the "Mehran". Though Muslims form the largest religious group in Sindh, a good number of Christians, Zoroastrians and Hindus can...

. Musa ibn Nusayr and his retainer Tariq ibn Ziyad conquered Al-Andalus
Al-Andalus
Al-Andalus was the Arabic name given to a nation and territorial region also commonly referred to as Moorish Iberia. The name describes parts of the Iberian Peninsula and Septimania governed by Muslims , at various times in the period between 711 and 1492, although the territorial boundaries...

. Al-Hajjaj was responsible for picking the generals who led the successful eastern campaigns, and was well known from his own successful campaign against Ibn Zubayr during the reign of Al-Walid's father. Others, such as al-Walid's brother Salamah, advanced against the Byzantines and into Adharbayjan.

Valladolid
Valladolid
Valladolid is a historic city and municipality in north-central Spain, situated at the confluence of the Pisuerga and Esgueva rivers, and located within three wine-making regions: Ribera del Duero, Rueda and Cigales...

 is an industrial city and it is a municipality in north-central Spain, upon the Rio Pisuerga and within the Ribera del Duero region. It is the capital of the province of Valladolid and of the autonomous community of Castile and Leon, therefore is part of the historical region of Castile. The name "Valladolid" is linked with the Arabic name for the city بلد الوليد meaning The City of Al- Walid,but a more likely suggestion is a conjunction of the Latin: VALLIS, "Valley", and Celtic: TOLITUM, "place of confluence of waters",and indeed their inhabitants are still called by the archaic form closer to its possible original name,"Vallisoletanian" .

Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari
Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari
Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari was a prominent and influential Sunni scholar and exegete of the Qur'an from Persia...

 describes how Qutayba ibn Muslim, Khurasan
Greater Khorasan
Greater Khorasan or Ancient Khorasan is a historical region of Greater Iran mentioned in sources from Sassanid and Islamic eras which "frequently" had a denotation wider than current three provinces of Khorasan in Iran...

's governor, led forces extending the caliphate to the east. Qutayba campaigned in most, if not all, years of this reign, conquering Samarkand
Samarkand
Although a Persian-speaking region, it was not united politically with Iran most of the times between the disintegration of the Seleucid Empire and the Arab conquest . In the 6th century it was within the domain of the Turkic kingdom of the Göktürks.At the start of the 8th century Samarkand came...

, advancing into Farghana
Fergana
Fergana is a city , the capital of Fergana Province in eastern Uzbekistan, at the southern edge of the Fergana Valley in southern Central Asia, cutting across the borders of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan...

 and sending envoys to China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

. (v. 23)

Al-Tabari records how al-Hajjaj tortured Yazid ibn al-Muhallab
Yazid ibn al-Muhallab
Yazid ibn al-Muhallab was a provincial governor in the time of the Umayyad dynasty.In A.H. 78 Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf appointed al-Muhallab Khurasan's governor. In A.H. 82 al-Muhallab's son Mughirah died and al-Muhallab sent Yazid to replace him. Soon afterwards al-Muhallab died and al-Hajjaj...

. Yazid escaped and made his way to al-Walid's brother Suleiman ibn Abd al-Malik who granted him refuge. Al-Hajjaj pressed al-Walid about this and al-Walid commanded Suleiman to send him Yazid in chains. Suleiman had his own son approach al-Walid chained to Yazid and speak in favour of Yazid's safety. Al-Walid accepted this and told al-Hajjaj to desist. (v. 23, p. 156f)
Al-Walid himself continued the effective rule that was characteristic of his father, he developed a welfare system, built hospitals, educational institutions and measures for the appreciation of art.

In 691, Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan ordered that the Dome of the Rock
Dome of the Rock
The Dome of the Rock is a shrine located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. The structure has been refurbished many times since its initial completion in 691 CE at the order of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik...

 be built on the site where the Islamic Prophet Muhammad begun his journey to heaven (Meraj) on the Temple Mount
Temple Mount
The Temple Mount, known in Hebrew as , and in Arabic as the Haram Ash-Sharif , is one of the most important religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. It has been used as a religious site for thousands of years...

. About a decade afterward, Caliph Al-Walid I ordered the building of Al-Aqsa Mosque
Al-Aqsa Mosque
Al-Aqsa Mosque also known as al-Aqsa, is the third holiest site in Sunni Islam and is located in the Old City of Jerusalem...

.[73] It was under Umayyad rule of Al-Walid and his father Abd al-Malik that Christians and Jews were granted the official title of "Peoples of the Book" to underline the common monotheistic roots they shared with Islam.

Al-Walid himself was an enthusiast of architecture and he repaired and refurbished Masjid al Nabawi in Medina
Medina
Medina , or ; also transliterated as Madinah, or madinat al-nabi "the city of the prophet") is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and serves as the capital of the Al Madinah Province. It is the second holiest city in Islam, and the burial place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and...

. He also improved mountain passes and wells in Hijaz (al-Tabari v. 23, p. 144). In addition, he demolished the Christian Basilica of St. John the Baptist to build a great mosque, now known as the Great Mosque of Damascus or simply the Umayyad Mosque
Umayyad Mosque
The Umayyad Mosque, also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus or formerly the Basilica of Saint John the Baptist , is located in the old city of Damascus, is one of the largest and oldest mosques in the world...

 (John the Baptist is considered a Prophet of Islam and is known as Yahya).

The Grand Mosque of Damascus, also known as the Umayyad Mosque (Arabic: جامع بني أمية الكبير, transl. Ğām' Banī 'Umayyah al-Kabīr), is one of the largest and oldest mosques in the world. Located in one of the holiest sites in the old city of Damascus, it is of great architectural importance.

The mosque holds a shrine which is said to contain the head of John the Baptist, honoured as a prophet by Muslims and Christians alike. The head was supposedly found during the excavations for the building of the mosque. The tomb of Saladin
Mausoleum of Saladin
The Mausoleum of Saladin holds the resting place and grave of the medieval Ayyubid Sultan Saladin. It is located next to the northwest corner of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria. The mausoleum was built in 1196, three years after the death of Saladin...

 stands in a small garden adjoining the north wall of the mosque.

Initially, the Muslim conquest of Damascus in 636 did not affect the church, as the building was shared by Muslim and Christian worshippers. It remained a church although the Muslims built a mud brick structure against the southern wall so that they could pray.

Under the Umayyad caliph Al-Walid I, however, the church was demolished and between 706 and 715 the current mosque built in its place. According to the legend, Al-Walid I himself initiated the demolition by driving a golden spike into the church. At that point in time, Damascus was one of the most important cities in the Middle East and would later become the capital of the Umayyad caliphate.

He was also known for his own personal piety, and many stories tell of his continual reciting of the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

 and the large feasts he hosted for those fasting during Ramadan
Ramadan
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which lasts 29 or 30 days. It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex during daylight hours and is intended to teach Muslims about patience, spirituality, humility and...

. He was married to Umm Banin bint Abdul Aziz ibn Marwan ibn Hakam.

Al-Walid was succeeded by his brother Suleiman and was buried in Bab-us-saghir cemetery in Damascus. His grave is still present to this date.

Sources

  • Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari
    Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari
    Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari was a prominent and influential Sunni scholar and exegete of the Qur'an from Persia...

    , v. 23 The Zenith of the Marwanid House, transl. Martin Hinds, Suny, Albany, 1990