baya, Caliphate, Featured, Ruling

Bay’a in Islamic History: The Removal of Walid II

Al-Walid’s father Yazid ibn Abdul-Malik became the Khaleefah according to the wiliyatul-ahd (succession contract) of Sulayman ibn Abdul-Malik, who nominated him as the successor after Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz. Since the Umayyads only nominated two successors, this allowed Yazid ibn Abdul-Malik to create a new wiliyatul-ahd. Yazid’s brother, the famous general Maslamah ibn Abdul-Malik, persuaded him to nominate his other brother Hisham ibn Abdul-Malik as the next Khaleefah, and then Yazid’s own son Al-Walid (Al-Walid II) after him.

Yazid and Hisham try to change the designated successors

Yazid regretted appointing Hisham before his son Al-Walid, but as mentioned in the section on Al-Walid ibn Abdul-Malik, the prevalent opinion adopted by the ulema and Ahlul hali wal-aqd was that it is forbidden to change the designated successors, unless the successors voluntarily agree to it. Yazid would say, “It is Allah who stands between me and the one who put Hisham between me and you.”[1]This shows that the sharia was adhered to by the Umayyad Khaleefahs who were not absolute monarchs.

When Hisham became Khaleefah he also wanted to change the designated successors, and remove Al-Walid as the next Khaleefah in favour of his own son Maslamah ibn Hisham. Al-Walid refused to relinquish his position and so Hisham said to al-Walid: “Give Maslamah the bay’a (to succeed) after yourself,” but this too al-Walid refused to do.[2]

Why did Hisham try and remove Al-Walid as a successor?

The reason Hisham ibn Abdul-Malik tried to remove Al-Walid from the wiliyatul-ahd was due to his growing immoral behaviour which would make him unfit to be a Khaleefah. According to Tabari, Al-Walid started keeping bad company and drinking wine. Hisham wanted to keep Al-Walid ibn Yazid away from these bad influences so he appointed him as Head of Hajj in 116H/735CE. Unfortunately, this didn’t help. Al-Walid secretly took hunting dogs with him for the trip which were hidden in trunks. One of the trunks fell and the people saw the dog, but blamed the camel driver, for which he was harshly beaten. Al-Walid also ordered a dome-like tent the size of the Ka’bah to be built for him so that it could be set up on top of the Ka’bah where he and his companions would sit. He also took along with him various wines. When he reached Makkah, his companions warned him off the idea saying, “We don’t feel safe, either on your behalf or our own, from what the people might do,” butthe pilgrims still witnessed Al-Walid behaving in a contemptuous and flippant way towards the religion, and Hisham came to hear about it. It is for this reason Hisham tried to remove Al-Walid as being unfit for the Khilafah.[3]

One of the seven contractual conditions of the bay’a is that the Khaleefah is ‘adl (just). Mawardi mentions, “Two changes in a person’s state will exclude him from the Imamate: the first of these is a lack of decency and the second is a physical deficiency.

As for a lack of decency, that is a moral deviation, it is of two kinds: the first of them resulting from lust, the second from his holding dubious opinions. As for the first it is connected to physical action: he commits forbidden acts, pursues evil, is ruled by his lust and is subject to his passions; this counts as a moral deviation which excludes him from taking up the Imamate or from carrying on with it. Thus if such behaviour befalls someone who has become the Imam, he is disqualified. If he recovers his decency he may not return to the Imamate except by way of a new contract; some of the mutakallimun, however, have said that he may return to the Imamate on his return to probity – without a renewal of his contract and without the bay’a – because of his overall authority in governance and the difficulty involved in renewing his bay’a.”[4]

Hisham prepares his son for ruling

Another contractual condition of the bay’a is capability to rule. All the Umayyad Khaleefahs had ruling experience prior to coming to power. Mostly they would be assigned as heads of the army or hajj, or given a governorship to hone their ruling skills. This continued throughout the Abbasid period until the Khaleefah became a mere figurehead from the 10th to 16th century, with the Sultans being the de facto rulers. Selim I, who was the first Ottoman Khaleefah combined the role of Sultan and Khaleefah and a new line of strong, independent Khaleefahs emerged. Unfortunately, the Ottomans adopted a ‘survival of the fittest’ approach to the next Khaleefah, leaving the succession open to which of the Sultan’s son could make it to Constantinople first and claim the authority. The new Sultan would then have his brothers executed to prevent any fitna arising from potential power rivals. In 1595CE Mehmed III went a step too far in this and executed 19 of his brothers, which led to outcry among the ulema and other officials of the state. After his successor and son Ahmet I died a new system of Kafes (cage) was adopted, where instead of executing the Sultan’s brothers who were potential rivals to the throne, they were imprisoned under house arrest in the harem. This meant they had no ruling experience if at a later date they were called upon to succeed the Khaleefah upon his death or removal. This will be discussed in more detail in Part 5: Bay’a in Islamic History – The Ottoman Khilafah.

Hisham said, “Woe to you, Walid! By Allah, I do not know whether you are for Islam or not. You commit every reprehensible action without feeling any shame or bothering to conceal it.” So al-Walid wrote to Hisham the following poem:

‘O you who ask about our religion,

we follow the religion of Abu Shakir (Maslamah ibn Hisham).

We drink it (the wine) both pure and mixed,

sometimes warmed and sometimes cooled.’

After reading this, Hisham was furious with his son Maslamah whose kunyah (nickname) was Abu Shakir and said to him: “Al-Walid is making use of you to mock me. To think I was rearing you for the Khilafah! Behave in a civilized way and attend the collective prayer.” Hisham put Maslamah in charge of the Hajj in 119H / 737CE where Maslamah devoted himself to acts of religious devotion and behaved in a steady and gentle manner, and distributed money in Makkah and Madinah.[5]

In the end Hisham could not replace Al-Walid with his son Maslamah as the next Khaleefah after him, and in 125H / 743CE Al-Walid ibn Yazid ibn Abdul-Malik became the Khaleefah according to the wiliyatul-ahd of his father.

Al-Walid II makes his two young sons the delegated successors

Maturity is a condition for the post of Khaleefah. Someone who has not reached puberty cannot give bay’a or be given bay’a. Abdullah Ibn Hisham, who was a child at the time of the Prophet ﷺ, was taken by his mother Zainab bint Humair to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ where she said, “O Messenger of Allah! Take his bay’a”. The Prophet ﷺ said: “He is still a little boy”, so he stroked his head and prayed for him,[6] meaning the Prophet ﷺ did not take his bay’a as he was not mature.

Al-Walid ibn Yazid wanted the bay’a to be given to his two young sons, al-Hakam and Uthman so he consulted some of the influentials from the Ahlul hali wal-aqd on this. He consulted Said ibn Bayhas who said, “Don’t do it, for they are young boys who have not yet reached puberty. Have the bay’a given to ‘Atiq ibn Abdul-Aziz ibn al-Walid ibn Abdul-Malik.” Al-Walid was furious and put Said in prison, where he died.[7]

Al-Walid approached Khalid bin Abdullah, the former governor of Iraq and Khorasan under Hisham, to give bay’ato his two sons but Khalid also refused. Some of Khalid’s family said to him: “The Ameer ul-Mu’mineen wanted you to give the bay’a to his two sons yet you refused!” Khalid retorted, “Woe to you! How can I give the bay’a to those behind whom I cannot say my prayers or whose testimony (shahadah) I cannot accept?” They replied: “What about al-Walid? You know all about his wantonness and depravity, yet you still accept his testimony!” Khalid replied: “Al-Walid’s activities are hearsay. I cannot be sure about them. It is only vulgar rumours.”[8] Al-Walid was furious with Khalid and later had him tortured and killed.

In the end Al-Walid did succeed in making his sons, al-Hakam and Uthman as the delegated successors after him.

The removal of Al-Walid ibn Yazid from office

We already mentioned Al-Walid’s immoral behaviour which was well known prior to him becoming Khaleefah. On coming to power, he persisted in this and spent more time in the pursuit of idle pleasures, hunting, drinking wine and keeping bad company.[9] He quickly made many enemies due to his policy of revenge against those who were allies of the previous Khaleefah Hisham, and other members of the Umayyad family who he saw as a threat.

The sons of the previous Khaleefahs, al-Walid ibn Abdul-Malik and Hisham ibn Abdul-Malik had been badly mistreated by Al-Walid. He sentenced Sulayman ibn Hisham ibn Abdul-Malik to 100 lashes, shaving his head and beard and banishing him to ‘Amman, where he put him in prison. He also imprisoned Sulayman’s brother Yazid ibn Hisham.[10]

The tribe of Banu al-Qa’qa’ had supported the previous Khaleefah Hisham ibn Abdul-Malik when he attempted to remove Al-Walid as the delegated successor, and two of their men, al-Walid bin al-Qa’qa’ and Abdul-Malik bin al-Qa’qa’ had been made governors of Qinnasrin and Hims respectively by Hisham. When Al-Walid II came to power the Banu al-Qa’qa’ knew they would be targeted for revenge, and so al-Walid bin al-Qa’qa’ and Abdul-Malik bin al-Qa’qa’ were tortured and killed along with two other men from the tribe.[11]

All of these people and their supporters, along with the Yamani tribes who were part of the Ahlul hali wal-aqd in Ash-Sham and made up most of its soldiers, had a deep hatred for Al-Walid because of his treatment of Khalid bin Abdullah, and his ruining of the Yamani tribes in Khurasan who were its greatest army.[12] Accordingly, the Yamani went to Al-Walid’s cousin Yazid ibn al-Walid who was known for his righteousness and piety, and tried to persuade him to take the bay’a and become the Khaleefah.

Yazid ibn al-Walid consulted ‘Amr b. Yazid al-Hakami, who said: “The people will not give the bay’a to you over this matter. Consult your brother al-‘Abbas ibn al-Walid, for he is the head of the Banu Marwan. If al-‘Abbas gives you the bay’a, no one else will oppose you. If al-‘Abbas refuses, then the people will be more likely to obey him. If you insist on sticking to your opinion, then proclaim publicly that al-‘Abbas has given the bay’a to you.”[13]

As Mawardi mentions, moral deviation “excludes him [the ruler] from taking up the Imamate or from carrying on with it.”[14] Violation of the sharia rules is a red line which must never be crossed. If the Khaleefah does cross this line then his bay’a will become fasid (defective), and if it cannot be remedied through a change in his behaviour, or restitution of the rights of those he has wronged, then he must be removed from office.[15]

In origin this removal must be sanctioned by the judiciary who issue a fatwa of removal. In the Umayyad period there was no Chief Judge (Qadi ul-Qudah) or judicial court which would investigate and pass judgements on government oppression (mazlama). The Abbasids were the first to create the post of Qadi ul-Qudah and the later Sultans institutionalised the court which dealt with government oppression as a Dar Al-Adl (House of Justice). In a future Khilafah this is known as the Mahkamat ul-Mazalim (Court of Unjust Acts) or Supreme Court.

With no judge in the position of Qadi ul-Mazalim, it was left to the Ahlul hali wal-aqd from among the Yamani tribes and Umayyad family to instigate a coup d’état against Al-Walid II.

Initially Yazid ibn al-Walid’s brother Al-Abbas was on the side of Al-Walid, but later defected and gave the bay’a to his brother Yazid. Once Al-Abbas defected so did most of Al-Walid’s forces. Yazid’s other brother Abdul-Aziz ibn al-Walid commanded the army against Al-Walid’s forces.[16] The soldiers of Yazid ibn al-Walid carried a notice attached to a spear on which was written, “We summon you to the Book of Allah and the sunnah of His Prophet, and (we request) that the matter should be determined by shura.”[17]

After a number of skirmishes between the forces of Al-Walid and Abdul-Aziz, Al-Walid fell back and took refuge in a fortress in al-Bakhra (modern day Homs governate Syria) which was originally built by the Persians.[18] The forces of Abdul-Aziz ibn al-Walid surrounded the fortress and Al-Walid asked from behind the fortress door, “Is there anyone amongst you who is an honorable man of noble descent and who has a proper sense of shame, to whom I can speak?” Yazid bin ‘Anbasah al-Saksaki stepped forward and said, “Speak with me.” Al-Walid asked him who he was and he replied: “I am Yazid bin ‘Anbasah.” Then al-Walid exclaimed: “O brother of the Sakasik! Did I not increase your stipends? Did I not remove onerous taxes from you? Did I not make gifts to your poor and give servants to your cripples?” Yazid replied, “We don’t have any personal grudge against you. We are against you because you have violated the sacred ordinances of Allah, because you have drunk wine, because you have debauched the mothers of your father’s sons, and because you have held Allah’s command in contempt.”[19]

Abdul-Aziz’s forces scaled the walls of the fortress and the first one over the top was Yazid bin ‘Anbasah who went to Al-Walid and attempted to bring him in to custody, so they could have consultations on what should be done with him. At that point, ten soldiers from Abdul-Aziz’s army came in to the room and set upon Al-Walid killing him.[20] His head was then taken to Yazid ibn Al-Walid who was camped out in the desert and he formerly became the next Khaleefah by the bay’a of the Yamani tribes and Umayyad family.

Yazid ibn Al-Walid’s Speech after the removal of Al-Walid II

When Yazīd killed al-Walīd, he stood up and said in a khuṭba, “By Allah, I did not revolt out of insolent ingratitude and pride, nor worldly aspiration or desire for kingship. I would be a wrongdoer to myself, if it was not for the mercy of my Lord. On the contrary, I revolted in anger for the sake of Allah and His religion. I came to summon to His Book and the Sunna of His Messenger at a time when the signposts of guidance had been effaced, the light of the godfearing people had been extinguished and a tyrant had appeared, who legalised the unlawful and engaged in innovations. When I saw all this, I was afraid that, because of the large number of your sins and the hardness of your hearts, you would be covered by a darkness that would not be removed. I was afraid that he would summon many people to his way and that they would respond. Therefore, I asked Allah for guidance in my affair and summoned those of my family and the people under my authority who responded. Then Allah relieved the lands and the people from al-Walīd. Sovereignty is from Allah. There is no power or strength, except by Allah.

People! If I am given charge of your affairs, I promise that I will not place brick upon brick nor stone upon stone and that I will not transfer wealth from one region to another until I have fortified its frontiers and seen that its military posts are manned to make you secure. If there is any surplus, I will take it to the next region in order to the means of livelihood are put in order and you are all equal with respect to it. If you want to pledge allegiance to me according to what I have proposed to you, then I am yours. If I deviate, the bay’a is not binding upon you. If you see anyone more capable than me in this and prefer to pledge allegiance to him instead, then I would be the first to give him my allegiance and obey him. I ask Allah to forgive me and you.”[21]

From Yazid’s speech we can clearly see the sharia is the foundation on which the pillars of the bay’a are built. The bay’a being given with free consent and choice by the people of influence, and the Khaleefah fulfilling the conditions of the bay’a stand out here.

The Khaleefah is the state

It’s important to remember that the Khaleefah is the state. His removal is not something which should be taken lightly, or become easy to do when the people express dissatisfaction with his policies. If he is ruling by Islam then he has the authority to make unpopular decisions in the pursuit of the wider objectives of Islam which benefit all of mankind.

It was narrated from ‘Asihah that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “O ‘Uthman, if Allah places you in authority over this matter (as the Khaleefah) someday and the hypocrites want to rid you of the garment with which Allah has clothed you (i.e., the position of Khaleefah), do not take it off.” He said that three times. (One of the narrators) Nu’man said: “I said to ‘Aishah: ‘What kept you from telling the people that?’ She said: ‘I was made to forget it.’”[22]

Also benefit and harm are not a valid criterion for breaking the bay’a.

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “There will be three types of people whom Allah will neither speak to on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He purify them from sins, and they will have a painful punishment. They are,

(1) a man who possessed surplus water (more than he needs) on a way and he withholds it from the travellers.

(2) a man who gives bay’a to an Imam and gives it only for worldly benefits, if the Imam gives him what he wants, he abides by his pledge, otherwise he does not fulfill his pledge

(3) and a man who sells something to another man after the `Asr prayer and swears by Allah (a false oath) that he has been offered so much for it whereupon the buyer believes him and buys it although in fact, the seller has not been offered such a price.”[23]

The removal of a Khaleefah, if not done correctly, can set off a chain of events which leads to fitna and civil war. This is what occurred after the assassination of Uthman bin Affan. Abdullah ibn Salam came upon those who were besieging Uthman ibn Affan and said, “Do not kill him, for, by Allah, any man of you who kills him will meet Allah without a hand. The sword of Allah will remain sheathed, and by Allah, if you kill him, Allah will draw it out and He will never sheathe it again. A prophet was never killed but that seventy thousand were killed because of him, nor a Khaleefah but that thirty-five thousand were killed because of him before they were again united.”[24]

The killing of Al-Walid II and then the coup against Yazid ibn al-Walid’s successor Ibrahim ibn al-Walid by Marwan II, led to internal discord within the state, and the eventual end of Umayyad rule at the hands of the Abbasids.

How would a Khaleefah be removed in a future Khilafah?

The bay’a contract has no fixed time limit similar to other Islamic contracts such as nikah (marriage). This allows the Khaleefah to focus on long term strategic interests of the state rather than short-termism which is a feature of democratically elected presidents. Tocqueville comments on the re-election of the US President in his book ‘Democracy in America’, “Intrigue and corruption are vices natural to elective governments. But when the head of state can be reelected, the vices spread indefinitely and compromise the very existence of the country. When a plain candidate can succeed by intrigue, his maneuvers can only be exercised in a limited space. When, on the contrary, the head of state puts himself in the running, he borrows the force of the government for his own use.”[25]

Although the bay’a in origin is for life, there is provision for annulling the contract if the pillars of the bay’a such as implementation of Islam and justice are contravened as we saw with Al-Walid II. The Khaleefah is not above the law or an absolute monarch, because he is restricted by the sharia in legislation and judiciary.

In the Umayyad period there was no independent judge in the position of Qadi ul-Mazalim, so it was left to the Ahlul hali wal-aqd from among the Yamani tribes and Umayyad family to instigate a coup d’état against Al-Walid II.

In a future Khilafah there needs to be a formal constitutional process for impeaching the Khaleefah to prevent instability and fitna which occurs through coups and revolution. The draft constitution of the Khilafah states,

Article No 41: The court of the mazalim (injustices) is the only one who can decide if the change in the situation of the Khalifah, is a change which removes him from the leadership or not, and it is the only one who has the power to remove or warn him.[26]

Impeachment is a judicial function and must be performed by the Supreme Court which is the Court of Unjust Acts (mazalim) that acts in a similar manner to an upper house. This is the only institution within the state which has the power to remove the Khaleefah. The Khaleefah has no power to remove any judge who is investigating him, and the Khaleefah’s removal must be because he contradicted one or more of the seven contractual conditions of the bay’a, leading to the contract either becoming void (batil) or defective (fasid). If the bay’a contract is still valid, then no impeachment will take place and the Khaleefah will remain in office.

In the Ottoman Khilafah the Sheikh ul-Islam held the position of Qadi Mazalim, and he had the authority to issue a fatwa of removal against the Sultan and Khaleefah. This occurred when he issued a fatwa of removal against Selim III (r. 1789-1807).[27]


[1] 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 XXVI, pp.87

[2] Ibid, pp.89

[3] Ibid, pp.88

[4] Abu l-Hasan al-Mawardi, The Laws of Islamic Governance, translation of Al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyah, Ta Ha Publishers, pp.29

[5] al-Tabari, Op.cit., pp.89

[6] Bukhari 7210,

[7] al-Tabari, Op.cit., pp.128

[8] Ibid

[9] al-Tabari, Op.cit., pp.126

[10] Ibid, pp.127

[11] Ibid, pp.136

[12] Ibn Katheer, ‘The Khilafah of Banu Umayyah The First Phase,’ translation of Al-Bidiyah wan-Nihayah, Dar us-salam, pp.611

[13] al-Tabari, Op.cit., pp.137

[14] al-Mawardi, Op.cit., pp.29

[15] Hizb ut-Tahrir, ‘An Introduction to the Constitution and its obligation,’ a translation of ‘Muqadimatud-Dustur Aw al-Asbabul Mujibatulah,’ pp.125

[16] al-Tabari, Op.cit., pp.152

[17] Ibid, pp.158

[18] Denis Genequand, ‘Al-Bakhra’ (Avatha), from the Tetrarchic Fort to the Umayyad Castle,’’_Avatha_from_the_Tetrarchic_Fort_to_the_Umayyad_Castle

[19] al-Tabari, Op.cit., pp.153

[20] Ibid

[21] Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuti, ‘History of the Umayyad Khaleefahs,’ translated by T.S.Andersson, Ta Ha Publishers, pp.87

[22] Ibn Majah 112,

[23] Sahih al-Bukhari 7212,

[24] Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuti, ‘History of the Khalifahs who took the right way,’ translated by Abdassamad Clarke, Ta Ha Publishers, pp.177, Abd ar-Razzaq narrated in the Musannaf from Humayd ibn Hilal

[25] Alexis De Tocqueville, ‘Democracy in America,’ THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS, 2002, pp.178

[26] Hizb ut-Tahrir, ‘An Introduction to the Constitution and its obligation,’ Op.cit., pp.125

[27] Dr. Yakoob Ahmed, Ottoman History Course