Bay’a in Islamic History – Marwan ibn al-Hakam designates two successors

Marwan ibn al-Hakam ruled from 65H/684CE to 66H/685CE.

When Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr became the Khaleefah he appointed his brother, ‘Ubaydah ibn az-Zubayr, as the governor of Madinah. His brother then began the task of exiling Banu Umayyah from Madinah. Upon leaving, Banu Umayyah travelled to ash-Sham after meeting up with the army of Hussain ibn Numayr. Among those of Banu Umayyah who were exiled were Marwan ibn al-Hakam and his son, ‘Abdul-Malik.[1]

Was Marwan a legitimate Khaleefah?

Suyuti says, “The soundest view is that of adh-Dhahabī, who said that Marwān is not regarded as one of the Amirs of the Believers, but as a rebel (bāghin) against Ibn az-Zubayr, and that his appointment of his son was not valid. ʿAbd al-Malik’s Khilafah only became valid when Ibn az-Zubayr was killed.”[2]

What happened in the provinces?

The Khaleefah appoints and removes the governors (wulah) of the provinces (wilayat). This contract of appointment (‘aqd taqleed) does not end with the death or removal of the Khaleefah. It continues, and the new Khaleefah will decide whether to renew the contract and keep the governors in place, or appoint new governors. Abu Bakr for example, kept the same governors as the Prophet ﷺ had appointed, but Umar when he became Khaleefah changed the governors and appointed new ones. During the volatile period after the death of Mu’awiya ibn Yazid, the people of Iraq and Khorasan actually elected new governors until a Khaleefah had been chosen. This is based on the hadith, where the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “It would be forbidden for three people who are in an open country, not to appoint one from among them as Ameer.”[3]


Ubaydallah ibn Ziyad was the governor of Basra and Kufa under Yazid ibn Mu’awiya,[4] and was the one responsible for the killing of al-Hussain and his followers. Initially the people of Basra elected him as their governor, but then they regretted it after remembering what he did to al-Hussain. So they withdrew their allegiance to him.[5] Ubaydallah then made his way to Syria and was instrumental in getting Marwan ibn al-Hakam to take up the post of Khaleefah instead of giving bay’a to Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr.

Tabari mentions, “The Basrans decided together to give authority to one of themselves to lead the prayer until an imam should be agreed upon. They appointed Abd al-Malik bin Abdallah bin Amir for a month and then they appointed Babbah, who was Abdallah bin al-Harith bin Abd al-Muttalib. He led them in prayer for two months until Umar ibn Ubaydullah bin Ma’mar came to them from Ibn az-Zubayr.”[6]

As discussed previously under the Provisional Ameer section of Part 1: Bay’a in Islamic History – The Rightly Guided Khilafah, leading of the prayer is an indication of leading the people in ruling not just prayer in the masjid.


When Mu’awiya ibn Yazid died, Amr bin Hurayth was the ‘Amil (mayor) for Ubaydallah ibn Ziyad over Kufa. The people of Kufa then deposed him and gathered in the masjid saying, “Let us appoint somebody to authority until a Khaleefah is agreed upon.”[7] Initially they chose Umar ibn Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas who was the commander sent by Ubaydallah ibn Ziyad to fight al-Hussein, but the women of Hamdan (a tribe who supported al-Hussein) came weeping for al-Hussein, and the men of Hamdan came with their swords and encircled the minbar. After some debate they chose Amir bin Masud as their governor and wrote to ibn az-Zubayr who confirmed his appointment.[8]


Ubaydallah ibn Ziyad’s brother Salm ibn Ziyad, was appointed as governor over Khorasan and Sijistan by Yazid ibn Mu’awiya. Following Yazid and his son Mu’awiya’s death the army of Khorasan gave allegiance to Salm ibn Ziyad that he would remain in power until a Khaleefah was agreed upon.[9] As happened in Basra, the people of Khorasan deposed Salm ibn Ziyad which then led to instability and fitna in the region as rival leaders such as Abdullah ibn Khazim al-Sulami rose up and fought to take power. Ibn Khazim eventually become the governor, but in 72AH he was forcibly removed by Abdul-Maik ibn Marwan.[10]


Al-Dahhak bin Qays al-Fihri was a former governor of Kufa under Mu’awiya,[11] and his Chief of Police (sahib ash-Shurta) in Damascus.[12] Ash-Sham at the time of Mu’awiya ibn Yazid’s death was split in to five provinces[13]:

ProvinceGovernorTribal grouping
Damascusal-Dahhak bin Qays al-Fihri[14]Qays
QinnasrinZufar bin al-Harith al-Kilabi[15]Qays
Himsal-Nu’man bin Bashir al-Ansari[16]Sahabi/Ansar
PalestineNatil bin Qays[17]Qays
JordanHassan ibn Malik ibn Babdal al-Kalbi [18]Yamani

Tabari mentions, “The people had given an oath of allegiance to al-Dahhak bin Qays al-Fihri on the understanding that he should lead them in prayer and manage their affairs until the question of authority over the community of Muhammad had been settled.”[19]

This echoes what occurred in all the other regions of the state except Hijaz where Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr received the bay’a from the Ahlul hali wal-aqd in Makkah and Madinah and was pronounced the Khaleefah of the Muslims. Tabari mentions that after the death of Mu’awiya ibn Yazid, the Kufans, the Basrans, Hijaz, the Syrians and the people of Mesopotamia all accepted ibn az-Zubayr, except for the people of Jordan.[20] The province of Jordan was under the leadership of Hassan ibn Malik who was a Yamani and he worked to secure Marwan ibn al-Hakam as the Khaleefah as we will discuss next. This split between the Qaysi supporting Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr and the Yamani’s supporting Marwan sowed the seeds for future discord which the Umayyad Khaleefah’s had to try and manage.

The Qaysi/Yamani Rivalry

As mentioned Mu’awiya was primarily dependent on Banu Kalb who were part of the Yamani tribes from Southern Arabia who had settled there before Islam. One of Mu’awiya’s wives was Maysun bint Bahdal al-Kalbiyah, the daughter of a leader of Banu Kalb and the mother of Yazid ibn Mu’awiya. Some of the prominent Yamani tribes were Kalb, Tanukh, Judham, Kindah, Azd and Taghlib.[21]

Another tribal group was the Qaysi tribes from Northern Arabia who settled in Ash-Sham and Iraq during the Islamic conquests of the Rightly Guided Khaleefahs, and so were relative newcomers to the region. The Qaysi tribes consisted of Tamim, Ghatafan, Hawazin, Banu Amir, Thaqif, Banu Sulaym, Kilab and Bahila to name but a few.[22]

Mu’awiya, despite being close to the Yamani tribes, had the support of both the Yamani and Qaysi and didn’t favour one over the other, and appointed governors from both. The tribal groupings did not become an issue until the civil war and fitna of Yazid. This is generally the case, even today where in times of hardship and introspection people will start blaming ‘the other’ for problems or looking out for their own family interests. The Prophet ﷺ warned against this saying, “Whoever fights for a cause that is not clear, advocating tribalism (asabiya), getting angry for the sake of tribalism, then he has died a death of Jahiliyyah.”[23]

After being deposed in Khorasan, Salm ibn Ziyad left al-Muhallab bin Abi Sufrah, a Yamani as his deputy over the region. Salm then departed and when he reached Sarakhs he met with Sulayman bin Marthad from Banu Qays bin Tha’labah who asked him, “Who have you left behind over Khurasan?” Salm replied, “Al-Muhallab.”Sulayman said to him, “Was Nizar (Qaysi) so straitened that you made one of the Yamani a governor!” Consequently, Salm made Sulayman governor over Marw al-Rudh, al-Faryab, al-Taligan and al-Juzjan, and Aws bin Tha’labah bin Zufar, another Qaysi as governor over Herat.[24] It seems this was to head off a potential tribal conflict between the two.

Salm then continued on his way and when he reached Nisabur he met Abdallah ibn Khazim another Qaysi who asked him, “Who have you put in charge of Khurasan?” When Salm told him, ibn Khazim said, “Could you not find a man among Mudar (Qaysi) to appoint to office that you had to divide Khurasan between Bakr bin Wa’il (Sulayman bin Marthad & Aws bin Tha’labah) and Mazun of Uman (al-Muhallab)?”

Abdullah ibn Khazim then began fighting the other governors in the region including Qaysi governors Sulayman bin Marthad and Aws bin Tha’labah, before eventually defeating his rivals and becoming governor of Khorasan in 64AH. In 72AH he was forcibly removed by Abdul-Malik ibn Marwan.[25]

This shows that viewing events during the later Umayyad period through the lens of the Qaysi/Yamani rivalry alone is not correct. In most cases the disputes were simply struggles for power as in the case of Abdullah ibn Khazim who fought his Qaysi brothers in Khorasan.

We also saw that most of the Yamani gave bay’a initially to Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr via al-Dahhak bin Qays who was the interim leader in Damascus. Tabari mentions, “The majority of the men of Damascus, both Yemenis and others, gave him the bay’a on that basis.”[26]

The bay’a to Marwan ibn al-Hakam

The Candidates

NameSupporters in Ash-Sham
Abdullah ibn az-ZubayrAlready given bay’a by most of the regions and all districts in Ash-Sham except Jordan.[27]
Abdullah ibn UmarUnknown but his name was put forward as a candidate.[28]
Khalid bin YazidMalik bin Hubayrah al-Sakuni who was leader of Kindah, a Yamani tribe in Syria.[29]
Marwan ibn al-HakamUbaydallah ibn Ziyad and al-Hussain ibn Numair. Al-Hussain was also a leader of Kindah. [30]

The Time Limit

Banu Umayyah and their followers stayed at Marj Rahit, al-Jabiyah (near the Golan Heights in Modern day Syria) and were led by al-Hassan ibn Malik for 40 days there. Al-Hassan was in the position of the Provisional Ameer overseeing the election.[31]

On the Monday, al-Hassan ibn Malik went up on the minbar and said, “Oh people, we shall, Allah willing, appoint a Khaleefah on Thursday.”[32] This allowed for three days of debate and follows the widely accepted time limit for electing a Khaleefah that Umar ibn al-Khattab first announced, and which the sahaba collectively consented to. See Part 1: Bay’a in Islamic History – The Rightly Guided Khilafah for an explanation of the ijtihad behind this.

The debate

Candidate 1: Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr

Marwan ibn al-Hakam and his family were exiled from Hijaz by Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr. Despite this, Marwan initially wanted to rush and give bay’a to ibn az-Zubayr, but was talked out of it by Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad and al-Hussain ibn Numair. They said to Marwan, “You are the Sheikh (leader; elder) and chief of the Quraish and therefore you have the most right to pursue this matter.”[33]

Rawh bin Zinba al-Judhami, a former governor of Palestine said, “As for what is said about Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr and what is claimed for him, by Allah it is just as they say as to his being the son of az-Zubayr, who was the disciple of the Messenger of Allah and of Asma’, who was the daughter of Abu Bakr the Righteous One, and ‘mistress of the two girdles.’

Furthermore, he is just as you say regarding his precedence in Islam and his merit. But Ibn az-Zubayr is a hypocrite who has rejected two Khaleefahs, Yazid and his son Mu’awiyah bin Yazid, shed blood, and broken the staff of the Muslims. A hypocrite cannot be the master of the affairs of Muhammad’s community.”[34]

Candidate 2: Abdullah ibn Umar

Rawh bin Zinba al-Judhami said, “Oh people, you talk about Abdullah ibn Umar bin al-Khattab, his

companionship with the Prophet and his precedence in Islam. He is just as you say, but Ibn Umar is a weak man and no weak man can be master of the community of Muhammad.”[35]

Candidate 3: Khalid bin Yazid

As mentioned, the mother of Yazid ibn Mu’awiya was Maysun bint Bahdal al-Kalbiyah, the daughter of a leader of Banu Kalb, a Yamani tribe in Syria. Malik bin Hubayrah al-Sakuni and al-Hussain ibn Numair were both leaders of another Yamani tribe called Kindah.

Malik bin Hubayrah said to al-Hussain ibn Numair, “Come on, let us give the bay’a to this lad (Khalid bin Yazid) whose father we begat (Yazid ibn Mu’awiya). He is descended from one of our women and you know that our present status derives from his father, and he will shortly place our yoke on the necks of the Arabs.” But al-Hussain said, “No, by Allah Eternal, the Arabs will not come to us with a shaykh while we go to them with a youth!”[36]

Candidate 4: Marwan ibn al-Hakam

Malik bin Hubayrah said to al-Hussain ibn Numair, “By Allah, if you give the Khilafah to Marwan and his family, they will be jealous even of your whip, the lace of your sandal, and the shade of a tree where you seek shelter from the sun. Marwan is the father of a clan, the brother of a clan and the uncle of a clan, and if you give him the bay’a you will be their slaves. Rather, accept the authority of Khalid, the descendant of a woman of your own blood!”

But al-Hussain replied, “In a dream I saw a candlestick suspended from the heavens. Those who are now eager for the Khilafah reached out for it but did not obtain it, but Marwan reached out for it and got it. By Allah, we will indeed appoint him as Khaleefah.” Malik said to him, “Woe to you, Hussain! Will you give the bay’a to Marwan and the family of Marwan when you know they are a leading family of Qays?”[37]

Rawh bin Zinba al-Judhami then intervened in the debate and said, “As for Marwan b. al-Hakam, by Allah, there has never been a split in Islam but that Marwan was one of those who repaired it. He fought for the Amir ul-Mu’mineen Uthman bin al-Affan on the ‘Day of the House’ (when Uthman’s residence was attacked) and he fought against Ali ibn Abi Talib at the ‘Day of the Camel.’ We think the people should give the bay’a to the elder and consider the junior too immature.” (By the ‘elder’ he meant Marwan and by the ‘junior’ Khalid.)[38] Khalid was named as heir apparent to succeed Marwan after his death but Marwan managed to alter this arrangement and instead nominated his two sons as heir apparents as we will discuss.

Banu Umayyah and the other Yamani tribes present at Al-Jabiyah then gave bay’a to Marwan. Afterwards Marwan fought al-Dahhak bin Qays and managed to defeat him. He then brought all of Ash-Sham and Egypt under his authority, while Hijaz and Iraq were under the authority of Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr, the legitimate Khaleefah.

We can see from the debate that seniority and ruling experience was the deciding factor that swung in favour of Marwan. We can also see that unity of the state and Muslims was central in the minds of those present.

Marwan’s rule marks the end of the Sufyanid rule and the start of the Marwanid rule within the Umayyad Khilafah. Mu’awiya started the hereditary rule by appointing his son Yazid but his family line only lasted four years before Marwan’s line took over.

Adding conditions to the bay’a

Al-Hussain ibn Numair imposed a condition on the bay’a to Marwan that he settle those members of Kindah who were in Syria, in the Balqa region in Jordan.[39] He was also given bay’a on the condition he accepts Khalid bin Yazid and Amr bin Said ibn al-‘As as the successors to rule after him.

Delegating two successors

Mu’awiya had made Yazid the wali ul-ahd (heir apparent) but Marwan went a step further, and not only appointed the first wali ul-ahd but the second one as well. Khalid bin Yazid was appointed as the first successor and then after him would be Amr bin Said ibn al-‘As.[40]

The ijtihad behind this delegating two successors is explained by Mawardi. He states: “It is permitted for the Khaleefah to designate succession to two persons or more and to lay down an order of succession amongst them by saying, ‘The Khaleefah after me is such and such a person, and if he dies then the Khaleefah after his death will be such and such, and if he dies then the Khaleefah after him will be such and such a person.’ Thus the Khilafah will be transferred to the three persons in the order he has designated.

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ designated Zayd ibn Harith as vice-commander over the army of Mu’tah saying, ‘If he is struck down then Ja’far ibn Abi Talib, and if he is struck then Abdullah ibn ar-Rawahah, and if he is struck then the Muslims should agree on another man.’ So it was that Zayd went forward and was killed, and then Ja’far took the banner and went forward and was killed; then Abdullah ibn ar-Rawahah took the banner, advanced and was killed and so the Muslims chose Khalid ibn al-Walid after him. If the Prophet ﷺ did this with regard to amirate, the like is permitted regarding the Khilafah.

If it is argued that it is a contract of authority with a particular character and condition, and that contracts of authority are not based on such specific conditions and characteristics, then it must be replied that it is a general matter of public interest which should be addressed with more flexibility than in the case of private contracts between individuals.

This was acted upon during two dynasties (the Umayyads and the Abbasids) and none from amongst the ulema of the age have rejected it. Sulyman ibn Abdul-Malik pledged succession to Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz and then after him to Yazid ibn Abdul-Malik. Even though Sulayman’s judgement was not accepted as proof, his acceptance by those amongst the ulema of the Tabieen who were his contemporaries and among those, ‘who do not fear the censure of those who censure’ (Al-Ma’ida, 5:55), in matters regarding the truth constitutes a proof.”[41]

The appointment of the Khaleefah is through the bay’a contract which is unique and specific to the Khaleefah. The appointment of any other official in the Islamic State including army commanders is through a contract of assignment (‘aqd ta’yeen) or contract of appointment (‘aqd taqleed).[42] Therefore, qiyas (analogy) cannot be performed between the appointment of a Khaleefah and the appointment of army commanders. Delegating one or multiple successors as occurred from Marwan’s time is not permitted. However, this ijtihad of Marwan and Mawardi is still an Islamic opinion and represents a shubhat daleel (semblance of an evidence) in usul ul-fiqh. As Mawardi mentions this was acted upon throughout the Umayyad and Abbasid periods and the ulema of the time consented to this.

Changing the delegated successors

Marwan was given the bay’a on the condition that he accept Khalid bin Yazid as his first successor and Amr bin Said ibn al-‘As as the second. After assuming office however, he wanted to change the successors to his own sons, Abdul-Malik and Abdul-Azeez. This wasn’t permitted by the adopted opinion of the time, as Mawardi mentions, “The Imam who is still in office may not dismiss his successor as long as his state does not change,” so Marwan undertook a number of measures to bring this plan in to fruition.

Some people advised Marwan, “Marry Khalid’s mother so you can diminish his importance and he will not seek the Khilafah.”[43] This is what Marwan did. He married the widow of Yazid ibn Mu’awiya (Umm Khalid, the daughter of Abu Hashim bin ‘Utbah) who was the mother of Khalid bin Yazid. This made Marwan the step-father of Khalid and meant he now had authority over him to pressure him to relinquish his claim to the Khilafah.

With regards Amr bin Said who was the second successor, Amr had made it publicly known that Marwan had promised him the post of Khaleefah after his death. Marwan called Hassan ibn Malik who was one of the Ahlul hali wal-aqd that oversaw his bay’a and informed him about his decision to make Abdul-Malik and Abdul-Azeez his successors in place of Amr bin Said. Hassan told him, “I will deal with Amr for you!” When the people had gathered in front of Marwan in the evening, Hassan ibn Malik stood and said, “We have heard that there are some men who have fanciful desires. Stand and give the bay’a to Abdul-Malik and to Abdul-Azeez after him!” So the people stood and gave the bay’a down to the last man.[44]


[1] Ibn Katheer, ‘The Khilafah of Banu Umayyah The First Phase,’ translation of Al-Bidiyah wan-Nihayah, Dar us-salam, pp.20

[2] Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuti, ‘History of the Umayyad Khaleefahs,’ translated by T.S.Andersson, Ta Ha Publishers, pp.42

[3] Narrated by Ahmed from ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr

[4] Abu Ja`far Muhammad b. Jarir al-Tabari, ‘The History of Al-Tabari’, translation of Ta’rikh al-rusul wa’l-muluk, State University of New York Press, Volume XIX, pp.1

[5] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.7

[6] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.43

[7] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.39

[8] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.39

[9] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.69

[10] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XXI, pp.210

[11] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XVIII, pp.182

[12] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XVIII, pp.209

[13] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.49

[14] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.50

[15] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.49

[16] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.49

[17] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.50

[18] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.50

[19] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.48

[20] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.47

[21] Hugh Kennedy, ‘The Prophet and the Age of the Khilafahs: The Islamic Near East from the 6th to the 11th Century,’ 2nd Edition, Harlow: Pearson Education Ltd, pp.92

[22] Ibid

[23] Sunan an-Nasa’i 4115,

[24] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.71

[25] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XXI, pp.210

[26] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.56

[27] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.56

[28] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.57

[29] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.56

[30] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.56

[31] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.56

[32] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.59

[33] Ibn Katheer, ‘The Khilafah of Banu Umayyah The First Phase,’ translation of Al-Bidiyah wan-Nihayah, Dar us-salam, pp.209

[34] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.58

[35] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.57

[36] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.56

[37] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.57

[38] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.58

[39] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.69

[40] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.58

[41] al-Mawardi, Op.cit., pp.23

[42] Taqiuddin an-Nabhani, ‘The Ruling System in Islam,’ translation of Nizam ul-Hukm fil Islam, Khilafah Publications, Fifth Edition, p.223

[43] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.161

[44] al-Tabari, Op.cit., Volume XX, pp.160

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