Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik
هشام بن عبد الملك
Amir al-mu'minin[a]
Khalifat Allah[b]
Bust of the standing caliph statue .png
Bust of the standing caliph statue, most likely depicting Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik
10th Caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate
Reign26 January 724 – 6 February 743
PredecessorYazid II
SuccessorAl-Walid II
Damascus, Syria, Umayyad Caliphate
Died6 February 743 (aged 52) (6 Rabiʽ al-Thani 125 AH)
Damascus, Syria, Umayyad Caliphate
  • Umm Hakim bint Yahya[c]
  • Umm Uthman bint Sa'id ibn Khalid[d]
Abu al-Walid Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan
FatherAbd al-Malik
MotherA'isha, daughter of Hisham al-Makhzumi

Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik (Arabic: هشام بن عبد الملك, romanizedHishām ibn ʿAbd al-Malik; 691 – 6 February 743) was the tenth Umayyad caliph, ruling from 724 until his death in 743.

Early life[]

Hisham was born in Damascus, the administrative capital of the Umayyad Caliphate, in AH 72 (691–692 CE). His father was the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik (r. 685–705). His mother, A'isha, was a daughter of Hisham ibn Isma'il of the Banu Makhzum, a prominent family of the Quraysh, and Abd al-Malik's longtime governor of the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina.[1][f] According to the history of al-Tabari (d. 923), Hisham was given the kunya (patronymic) of Abu al-Walid.[3]

There is little information about Hisham's early life. He was too young to play any political or military role during his father's reign. He supposedly led the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca once during his brother al-Walid I's reign (r. 705–715) and while there, met a respected descendant of Caliph Ali (r. 656–661), Zayn al-Abidin.[2] Hisham is cred by al-Tabari for leading an expion against the Byzantines across the Caliphate's frontier in 706 and capturing a number of their fortified positions.[4]

Hisham began to demonstrate aspirations for the caliphate at the death of his brother, Caliph Sulayman (r. 715–717) in 717. On his deathbed, Sulayman had nominated as his successor their paternal first cousin, Umar II, but kept the order secret, entrusting the revelation to his chief adviser Raja ibn Haywa. When Raja informed the Umayyad family of the decision, Hisham protested that the caliphal office was the preserve of Abd al-Malik's direct descendants and only relented from his opposition when threatened by force.[5] He played no political or military role under Umar (r. 717–720) but is mentioned in a 10th-century biography of Umar as having issued a letter to the caliph complaining of his and his brothers' treatment under the caliph's rule. Hisham also held no posts under his brother, Caliph Yazid II (r. 720–724).[6]



Upon the counsel of their brother, the prominent general Maslama ibn Abd al-Malik, Yazid nominated Hisham as his successor over his own son al-Walid II, whom he had originally intended to designate as first-in-line. Hisham acceded after Yazid died in January 724.[7] He received the news while at his Syrian desert estate, al-Zaytuna, which is identified as Qasr al-Hayr al-Gharbi, near Hisham's favored residence, al-Rusafa,[8] which is identified as Qasr al-Hayr al-Sharqi. He was given the caliphal ring and staff by a postal messenger, after which he rode to Damascus,[3] where he was publicly acclaimed as caliph.[9]


Hisham inherited an empire with many different problems. He would, however, be effective in attending to these problems, and in allowing the Umayyad empire to continue as an entity. His long rule was an effective one, and it saw a rebirth of reforms that were originated by Umar bin Abd al-Aziz.

Like a-Walid I, Hisham was a great patron of the arts, and he again encouraged arts in the empire. He also encouraged the growth of education by building more schools, and perhaps most importantly, by overseeing the translation of numerous literary and scientific masterpieces into Arabic. He returned to a stricter interpretation of the Sharia as Umar had, and enforced it, even upon his own family. His ability to stand up to the Umayyad clan may have been an important factor in his success, and may point to why his brother Yazid was ineffective.

According to tradition, Hisham ordered the hadith scholar Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri (d.742) to commit the hadith he had memorized to writing.

Military activities[]

On the military front his empire suffered a series of setbacks, especially in the Caucasus against the Khazars (the Battle of Marj Ardabil) and in Transoxiana against the Turgesh (the "Day of Thirst" and the Battle of the Pass). Hisham sent armies to end the Hindu rebellion in Sind, and was successful when the Hindu ruler Jai Singh was killed. This allowed the Umayyads to reassert their rule over some portions of their provinces in India. Some invasions of Indian kingdoms were led by the Arab governors of Sind but they were unsuccessful.

Under Hisham's rule, regular raids against the Byzantine Empire continued. One regular commander of Arab forces was the redoubtable Maslama, Hisham's half-brother. He fought the Byzantines in 725–726 CE (A.H. 107) and the next year captured Caesarea Mazaca. He also fought the Khazars in the Caucasus. In 728, he fought for a month against the Khaqan there and defeated him. Hisham's son Mu'awiya was another Arab commander in the almost-annual raids against the Byzantine Empire. In 728, he took the fort of Samalu in Cilicia. The next year Mu'awiya thrust left and Sa'id ibn Hisham right, in addition to a sea raid. In 731, Mu'awiya captured Kharsianon in Cappadocia.

Mu'awiya raided the Byzantine Empire in 731–732 (A.H. 113). The next year he captured Aqrun (Akroinos), while Abdallah al-Battal took a Byzantine commander prisoner. Mu'awiya raided Byzantium from 734–737. In 737, al Walid ibn al Qa'qa al-Absi led the raid against the Byzantines. The next year Sulayman ibn Hisham captured Sindira (Sideroun). In 738–739, Maslama captured some of Cappadocia and also raided the Avars. Theophanes the Confessor (p. 103) states that while some Arabs raided successfully in 739 and returned home safely, others were soundly defeated at the Battle of Akroinon. He records that internal Byzantine strife (the struggle between Constantine V and the usurper Artabasdos) facilitated Arab raids by Sulayman ibn Hisham in 741–742 (p. 106) that made many Byzantines Arab captives. Al-Tabari refers to the same raid.[10]

In North Africa, Kharijite teachings combined with natural local restlessness to produce a significant Berber revolt. In 740, a large Berber force surrounded a loyal army at Wadi Sherif, where the loyalists fought to the death. Hisham dispatched a force of 27,000 Syrians, which was destroyed in 741. In 742 Handhala ibn Safwan began successfully, but soon was besieged in Qairawan. He led a desperate sortie from the city that scattered the Berbers, killing thousands and re-establishing Umayyad rule.

Hisham also faced a revolt by the armies of Zayd ibn Ali, grandson of Husayn bin Ali, which was put down because of the betrayal of the Kufans. The Kufans encouraged Zayd to revolt. Zayd was ordered to leave Kufa and though he appeared to set out for Mecca, he returned and dwelt secretly in Kufa moving from house to house and receiving the allegiance of many people. Yusuf ibn Umar al-Thaqafi, Iraq's governor, learned of the plot, commanded the people to gather at the great mosque, locked them inside and began a search for Zayd. Zayd with some troops fought his way to the mosque and called on people to come out. He then pushed back Yusuf's troops, but was felled by an arrow. Although his body was initially buried, the spot was pointed out and it was extracted, beheaded and the head sent to Hisham and later to Medina.

An Umayyad coin issued by Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik.

In Spain, the internal conflicts of the years past were ended, and Hisham's governor, Abd al-Rahman ibn Abdallah, assembled a large army that went into France. He besieged Bordeaux and pushed to the Loire. This marked the limit of Arabic conquest in Western Europe. The wave was halted at the Battle of Tours by Charles Martel who ruled the kingdom of the Franks.

Death and succession[]

Hisham died on 6 February 743 (6 Rabiʽ al-Thani 125 AH).[1] His son, Maslama, led the funeral prayers.[11] Hisham had attempted to secure Maslama as his successor in place of Yazid II's son, al-Walid II.[12] Hisham's initial attempts, after the Hajj of 735, to persuade al-Walid II to step down in favor of Maslama or, alternatively, to make Maslama al-Walid II's successor were rejected.[13][14][15] Afterward, Hisham undermine al-Walid II by secretly gathering support for Maslama.[13] The latter's nomination was supported by Maslama ibn Abd al-Malik and Hisham's maternal grandfather, Hisham ibn Isma'il,[16] the latter's sons Ibrahim and Muhammad, as well as the sons of the tribal chief al-Qa'qa' ibn Khulayd, who were an influential family in northern Syria.[13] Maslama's mother, Umm Hakim, also lobbied for him.[17] Opposed to Maslama's proposed succession was Khalid al-Qasri, the governor of Iraq, to which Maslama responded by insulting him and his dead brother Asad.[18] Maslama ibn Abd al-Malik's death in the late 730s was a major setback to Hisham's succession plans, as it represented the loss of the plan's key supporter in the Umayyad dynasty.[16]

Al-Walid II acceded and immediately ordered his cousin, the veteran commander al-Abbas ibn al-Walid, to arrest Hisham's sons at Rusafa, near Palmyra, but expressly forbade that Maslama or his household be disturbed in deference to their old companionship and Maslama's defense of al-Walid II from Hisham.[15][19]


In general, Hisham is viewed by modern historians and the early Islamic tradition to have overseen a successful reign,[20] on par with the similarly long reigns of the Umayyad Caliphate's founder Mu'awiya I (r. 661–680) and Abd al-Malik.[1] In the summation of the historian Francesco Gabrieli, Hisham's rule "on the whole was glorious for the Arabs and fruitful in the development of Islamic faith and culture" and "marks the final period of prosperity and splendour of the Umayyad caliphate".[21] By dint of his sobriety, austerity and work ethic, Hisham is held by most modern historians to have kept the Caliphate in good-standing. They largely assign blame to his successor al-Walid II, and longer-standing internal factors that Hisham could not resolve, for the Umayyad dynasty's unraveling in the few years after Hisham's death.[22] Similarly, the Islamic tradition portrays Hisham as "a conscientious and efficient, if severe and tightfisted, administrator", according to Blankinship.[20] In the view of the historian Hugh N. Kennedy, the Umayyad state "had never been as strong as it had been under Hisham only a decade before the final collapse" in 750.[23]

Blankinship, on the other hand, concludes that the military disasters of Hisham's reign brought about the Umayyad dynasty's demise.[24] The state struggled to absorb the significant losses incurred by these defeats. Its treasury was dependent on war booty and it lacked efficient means to collect tax revenue from its subjects. An unprecedented economic crisis ensued, precipitating stringent taxation efforts and a substantial reduction in spending. This caused widespread discontent throughout the Caliphate, while also failing to remedy state finances. Meanwhile, the harshness and diminishing material returns from campaigning along the frontiers sapped the enthusiasm of the provincial garrisons and further increased Hisham's dependence on the Syrian army, the bedrock of the dynasty, to the chagrin of the locally-established troops. As Syrian troops were dispatched against external forces on the frontiers and to quell major internal revolts throughout the Caliphate, they suffered the brunt of the military debacles. The Syrians were mostly Yamani and their dispersal and heavy losses disrupted the factional balance, upon which the Umayyad state depended, in favor of the Qays/Mudar of the Jazira. The Qays/Mudar became the main component of the army under Marwan II (r. 744–750) and their rout by the Khurasani troops of the Abbasids marked the end of the Umayyad dynasty.[25]


Hisham's favored wife was Umm Hakim, the daughter of Yahya ibn al-Hakam, brother of Hisham's grandfather caliph Marwan I (r. 684–685),[26] and Zaynab bint Abd al-Rahman, the granddaughter of the Syrian conquest commander al-Harith ibn Hisham of the Banu Makhzum.[27] Umm Hakim, like her mother, was well-known for her beauty and love for wine.[28] She gave Hisham five sons,[29] including Sulayman,[30] Maslama,[31] Yazid al-Afqam,[15] and Mu'awiya.[32]

Hisham was also married to Umm Uthman, a daughter of Sa'id ibn Khalid. The latter was a grandson of the third caliph Uthman (r. 644–656) and one of the wealthiest people of his day, who used to divide his time between Syria and Medina. Umm Uthman gave birth to Hisham's son Sa'id.[33] His other sons were called Muhammad, Abd Allah, Marwan, Abd al-Rahman and Quraysh.[34] He had a daughter, A'isha, to whom he granted an estate at Ras Kayfa.[35]

See also[]


  1. ^ English: Commander of the Faithful
  2. ^ English: Caliph of God
  3. ^ Daughter of Yahya ibn al-Hakam
  4. ^ Great granddaughter of Uthman
  5. ^ A'isha bint Hisham was the daughter of caliph Hisham
  6. ^ An anecdote cited in several early Islamic sources holds that Abd al-Malik had wanted to name Hisham 'al-Mansur' ('the Victor') because he heard the news of his birth shortly after his victory over the ruler of Iraq, Mus'ab ibn al-Zubayr. A'isha, who had been divorced by the caliph by that time, named their son Hisham after her father instead.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Gabrieli 1971, p. 493.
  2. ^ a b Khleifat 1973, p. 51.
  3. ^ a b Blankinship 1989, p. 2.
  4. ^ Khleifat 1973, p. 52.
  5. ^ Khleifat 1973, pp. 52–53.
  6. ^ Khleifat 1973, p. 53.
  7. ^ Khleifat 1973, p. 54.
  8. ^ Marsham 2009, p. 137.
  9. ^ Marsham 2009, p. 136.
  10. ^ Hillenbrand 1989, p. 68.
  11. ^ Hillenbrand 1989, p. 72.
  12. ^ Marsham 2009, pp. 119–120.
  13. ^ a b c Hillenbrand 1989, p. 89.
  14. ^ Bosworth 1994, p. 279.
  15. ^ a b c Judd 2008, p. 453.
  16. ^ a b Marsham 2009, p. 121.
  17. ^ Marsham 2009, p. 131, note 30.
  18. ^ Hillenbrand 1989, pp. 90–91.
  19. ^ Hillenbrand 1989, p. 100.
  20. ^ a b Blankinship 1994, p. 4.
  21. ^ Gabrieli 1971, pp. 493–494.
  22. ^ Blankinship 1994, pp. 4–5.
  23. ^ Kennedy 2004, p. 116.
  24. ^ Blankinship 1994, p. 6.
  25. ^ Blankinship 1994, pp. 6–9.
  26. ^ Kilpatrick 2003, pp. 72, 82.
  27. ^ Ahmed 2010, p. 56.
  28. ^ Hillenbrand 1989, p. 90, notes 455 and 456.
  29. ^ Blankinship 1989, p. 65.
  30. ^ Intagliata 2018, p. 141.
  31. ^ Hillenbrand 1989, p. 90.
  32. ^ Ahmed 2010, p. 78.
  33. ^ Ahmed 2010, pp. 119–120.
  34. ^ Gordon et al. 2018, p. 1048.
  35. ^ Blankinship 1994, p. 83.


Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik
Born: 691 Died: 6 February 743
Preceded by Caliph of Islam
Umayyad Caliph

26 January 724 – 6 February 743
Succeeded by