Previously I wrote a book review of vol 18 of the history of al-tabari which was a history of the caliphate of the father of Yazid, namely Muawiyah. If you are interested in checking the review for that book go to the bottom of the page and check out the link to that blog post. This book is even more interesting than the previous book and is arguably the most drama filled of all the volumes of the history of al-tabari. This websites reviews are unique in that I summarise the book and add my thoughts on the book as well. I also engage in the discussions surrounding the book so my book reviews tend to be lengthy. If you enjoy this book reviews then be sure to check out the LibraryEx website which is a website focused on publishing book reviews. I hope you enjoy this post. Without further ado, lets begin the review.
Set Up To This Book
The book picked up where the previous book finished. This is one of the good reasons why I enjoy reading al-Tabari’s history books, because of how the author works chronologically. The book is based on the entire reign of Yazid I who I have previously mentioned in other blog posts. Yazid Ibn Muawiyah was the first appointed king of Islamic history. He was born in the reign of Uthman Ibn Affan (ra) but I don’t think he even met Uthman Ibn Affan or visited the Hejaz region as a young man. In fact, his father who had gained much wealth by the time Yazid was born named Yazid after his older brother who passed away in the reign of Umar Ibn Khattab (ra). Clearly they both had a great relationship and Muawiyah (who was a genius himself) admired Yazid for his military genius as well as his wisdom. Muawiyah, however, didn’t want his new born son Yazid to grow up in luxury and become weak. Instead he sent his son to live with the Bedouins so he can learn poetry, courage, fighting and the tough life. Eventually he became reunited with his father years later as a mature adult and learnt politics and governing from his father. Yazid’s mother was a humble woman called Maysun. Maysun was a Bedouin lady who had learnt Islamic knowledge and was accustomed to the desert life. A life she loved greatly. She was described as a beautiful woman who was great at poetry. She was from the Banu Kalb tribe, a tribe that were one of Muawiyah’s main supporters in Syria. They made up quite a lot of his governors and generals. Muawiyah wanted to strengthen his ties with this tribe by marrying a woman from the tribe.
His father Muawiyah came to power through the old system of gaining the pledge of allegiance through key members of the Islamic society like the companions of the prophet (pbuh) as well as governors and Muawiyah I (ra) ruled the Islamic world in an unprecedented way for 20 years. Eventually, Muawiyah realised that this system wouldn’t last long and would eventually lead to civil war. This is because the companions would die out and the Islamic world needed a strong system that would continuously govern for the centuries. He decided to name his son Yazid as his crown prince. This wasn’t necessarily a controversial decision on its own because of the fact that at that time, the Byzantines of Rome and the Sassanids of Persia were using the Monarchy system of government to rule as were many other parts of the world. This was seen as the norm and Muawiyah (ra) wanted to institute this system of governance as he believed it would last the longest and he was right as this system of governance is still being used in Muslim countries today. So whilst he was alive he named his son Yazid as his successor but because the Muslims at that time were very religious and not used to this sort of system they reacted negatively and criticked it quite a lot. The criticisms largely came from Makkah, Medina which were the two most holiest sites of the Muslim world. Muawiyah ignored the criticisms and upheld his promise to Yazid and when he died, Yazid came to power.
It should be noted that Muawiyah (ra) didn’t name his son Yazid as his successor because he loved this world and didn’t care about his religious duties at all. In fact this is the opposite of this. It was because he was deeply religious that he instituted this method of ruling. This is because of the fact that before Muawiyah (ra) became a ruler there had been many civil wars where tens of thousands of people lost their lives, hundreds of thousands of children were orphaned, many women were widowed and many parents suffered the pain of losing their children. The civil wars of Siffin, Jamal etc. were catastrophic, chaotic and horrible and Muawiyah (ra) didn’t want that sort of blood shed to return. He knew that the previous way of appointing rulers was dangerous because of the fact that every time an ruler would die there would always be mystery surrounding who would be appointed next and at times there were even power vacuums as well. He knew that he brought stability to the Islamic world and he knew that after he died there would be a high chance that people would return to their civil wars and that much blood shed would occur. He was thinking long term and he knew then that if he brought a new system that securely moved power from one generation to another their would be less chaos every tie a ruler died and the people can live in peace because they would always know who their king is and who the next king would be.
For More information on Muawiyah I visit the the link at the bottom of the page to see his biography on my other website, History Fusion.
Yazid came to power in the year 680 whilst he was in his early 30’s at the time. In terms of Islamic history, he came to power only a few decades after the prophet (pbuh) himself died and as a result, he was viewed as someone who was unpopular to rule the Islamic world. This is because of the fact there were many senior companions who were alive at that time like Abdullah Ibn Zubayr, Abdullah Ibn Umar, Abdullah Ibn Abbas, Husayn Ibn Ali (the grandson of the prophet), Abu Saeed Al Khudri, Zayd Ibn Arqam and many others. The book goes through Yazeed’s three years as the king of the Umayyad Dynasty. In all three years Yazeed struggled to bring the Islamic world together and as a result the civil wars that Muawiyah was so afraid of occurring happened anyway. As I mentioned before, Yazeed ruled for three years and at every year of his life something really big occurred. This blog post won’t discuss the ethics behind what occurred and who was to blame but I will write a biography of Yazeed Ibn Muawiyah on my other website, History Fusion, where I will discuss these issues and who was to blame for them.
In the first year of his reign, Husayn was killed and in his second year the Battle of Harrah happened and in his third and final year the Siege of Mecca occurred. The book is written in a unique way unlike the way other history books are written. The way this book is written is that it goes through the storyline the way people who were there viewed in so there is a lot of reliance on narrations which have an Isnad. This is an interesting way to record Islamic history because the readers can see multiple view points of the story. Some of the narrators were Yazid’s enemies and others were neutral and others were Yazid’s supporters. The book is really split up into three sections. The first section is based on the story of Husayn Ibn Ali (ra) and how he refused to pledge to Yazid after Muawiyah died, how he fled from Medina to Makkah and then from there fled to Iraq and was eventually martyred on his way to Iraq in the lands of Karbala. The first part of the book mentions every single narration mentioned about that story.
The second part of the book mentions the Battle of Harrah. This is when the Yazid asked for the highest and most prestigious delegation of the people of Medina to come and visit him in Syria. Amongst this delegation were people who were the children of the companions of the prophet (pbuh) like Abdullah Ibn Hanzala. These people came to visit him and Yazid hosted them and they eventually pledged allegiance to Yazid. Yazid gifted 100,000 gold coins to Abdullah Ibn Hanzala and he gifted 10,000 gold coins to each of the sons of Abdullah Ibn Hanzala. After they pledged allegiance they left and returned to Medina. Once they entered Medina they reneged on the oath and claimed to have only taken the money to use it against Yazid. Abdullah Ibn Umar (the senior most companion figure alive) warned them against this sort of behaviour and told them to turn back from this. They of course, refused. Medina was in open rebellion and from there Yazid sent an army to Medina and this led to the Battle of Harrah. After the battle, Medina was looted and the city was sacked for three days straight. Many of its male citizens were killed and over 1000 women were raped. The second part of this book highlights this story and brings all the narrations that are linked to this event forward.
The third part of this book mentions the story of the Siege of Mecca. This siege happened straight after the battle of Harrah. Before the incident of Harrah there were rumors spreading to Yazid that the people of the Hejaz region pledged allegiance to Abdullah Ibn Zubayr. During the Harrah incident it was very clear that this was the case. Yazid wanted to conquer Mecca and essentially have Abdullah Ibn Zubayr killed. Therefore he told his army that after they are done sacking the sacred city of Medina for three days that they should head straight to Mecca from there and conquer Mecca. This did occur. The army went straight to Mecca and laid siege to the most sacred city of the Muslims. Catapults were used to bomb the city down and the Ka’ba was destroyed and after 40 days and 40 nights of this city being attacked Yazid randomly passed away during this incident. It was unclear how exactly he died but his death was sudden and unexpected. This was the end of the caliphate of Yazid. I didn’t mention everything that was within the book but I only briefly summarized the book in this blog post of mine.
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