Biography of Caliph Mvavia II!
Caliph Mvavia II lacked the abilities of a ruler and soon handed over the Caliphate to his successor, Abdul Malik.
But a quarrel between the latter and Abdulla, the son of Zuber, resulted in the division of the Islamic Empire into two parts. Syria and Egypt were taken over by Abdul Malik, with Damascus as the capital, while Yemen and Palestine were seized by Abdulla.
Mohammed, who was one of the rivals of Caliph Abdul Malik, had proclaimed himself Caliph in Mecca and Medina.
The Byzantine Empire of Rome was still fairly powerful, although Syria and Palestine had already passed into the hands of the Arabs.
The Arab Caliph would have liked to seize Byzantium as he had done in the case of Arabia, but he realised that he could not fight simultaneously on two fronts. He, therefore, first turned his attention to his rival Mohammed and drove him out.
Under the Caliphate of Abdul Malik, the Arabs were able to make considerable progress in Central Asia. Abdulla, the son of Ziad, had supported Abdul Malik’s rival in the struggle for the Caliphate, so Abdul Malik replaced him by Bukair. Later, finding that he could not trust Bukair either, he made Umeyya the Governor.
The army commander Motalleb was however, a supporter of Abdulla and he sent his son Habib to attack Bokhara as the head of a large army. Habib succeeded in defeating the King of Bokhara, but two years later Motalleb died and his son Hajid became the Governors-of Merv.
In 711, the Arab commander Mohammed, son of Kasim, conquered Sindh, the conquest being rendered easy on account of the internal quarrels of its rulers.
Merv was the capital of the southern zone of Central Asia throughout the period of Arab rule, and it became the nerve centre of the Empire. The Governor of Merv was appointed by the Eastern Viceroy of the Caliph, who at this time was Hazzaj, son of Yusuf.
It was he who had made Kutaib the Governor of Merv in place of Mufazzal. Kutaib contributed more than any other Arab governor towards the strengthening of the Arab Empire in Central Asia, for earlier governors had contented themselves with loot and plunder or the exacting of tribute.
Although the Arabs had been masters of Khurasan for a long time and Merv was the capital of their Governors, their control of the areas across the Vakhshu was only nominal, so that it was Kutaib who was primarily responsible for the unfurling of the flag of Islam between the Sir and Vakhshu rivers.
The Prophet Mohammed put an end to the internal disputes of the Arabs by turning their attention to foreign conquests. As the prize of victory, they were able to secure Iranian, Roman, Sogdhian and Turkish beauties as their slaves or wives, the choicest amongst whom were sent to the Caliph’s harem, the next in order to the viceroys and governors.
The army commanders also got their share and the remainder went to the soldiers. Thus at the same time as religious fervour, there was considerable material incentive for joining the Islamic fraternity. The wives or concubines acquired in this way had the sacred duty of producing Mussulman sons and those born thus could never go back to their old religion because of the prejudices against them among the local people.
Many Arab families had settled in Khurasan, Merv and Balakh. Thus did Islam spread in Central Asia, and as a result of the legitimate as well as illegitimate intercourse with the captive women the Mussulmans increased much more rapidly in number than they would have done in the normal course of events. Moreover, at this time there prevailed in Iran a system akin to the untouchability of India and this also attracted the lower castes towards Islam.
Gradually the greed for wealth and the life of luxury they were now beginning to enjoy again gave rise to internal strife among the Arabs. At the slightest complaint, commanders and governors were removed from their posts and replaced by others. Abdulla, the son of Khajim, suffered just this fate.
Till 692, he had been the unchallenged ruler of Khurasan and had even minted coins in his name, but by the orders of the Caliph Abdul Malik, he was executed. Meanwhlie his son Musa had got safely across the Vakhshu and with a handful of soldiers was able to size Termiz and to drive out the local rulers. For fifteen years thereafter he remained the master of that place. Yezid was then the Governor (701-704).
Sabit joined hands with Musa and after he had succeeded in winning over the local rulers, he ousted the collectors of Yezid and proclaimed himself the master of Antarved (the region between the Vakhshu and Sir).
The Turks, Sogdhians and Hephtals, sent a large army against the Muslims, but Musa destroyed it. Later, Sabit quarrelled with Musa and was killed. In 704, however, Osman, the commander of Mofazzal, came to the aid of the rulers of Sogdhia and defeated Musa.
It was at this time that Kutaib became the, Governor of Khurasan and immediately set out on his campaign of conquests. After Merv he came to Balakh and drove its ruler to Kashmir. The latter’s hope of regaining his kingdom with the help of his co-religionists, the Hindus of Afghanistan and Kashmir, was never fulfilled because Arab rule, based as it was on local support, had become impregnable.
A part of India itself came under Arab control. The Tibetans, too, had built up a vast empire from Tyanshan to the Pamirs. Kutaib managed to bring the Queen of Barmak into his harem, and Barmak’s brother and the whole of the peasantry welcomed Kutaib and followed him to the banks of the Vakhshu.
Kutaib’s fame had preceded him, and none across the borders of the Vakhshu dared oppose him. The King of Shaganyan eagerly awaited his arrival in the hope of getting his help against his enemies, Shugan and Asrunan and as soon as Kutaib crossed the river the King presented him with the golden key of the town and invited him to the capital Termiz.
Kutaib accepted him as the vassal of the Caliph and Asrunan and Shugan were glad to take the same status. After this he returned to Merv and concluded a treaty with Tarkhun Nizak on his own terms.
The next year witnessed another campaign of conquest by Kutaib. From Merv he crossed the Vakhshu and marched towards Bokhara. On the right bank of the Vakhshu stood Baikund, a town of prosperous merchants who had amassed enormous wealth through the silk trade with China. As it was always the target of nomadic raids it had been strongly fortified. Finding the Arabs advancing the inhabitants made active preparations to defend the town and every able-bodied man took up arms.
The Sogdhians, were also asked to send help. For two months Kutaib besieged the town. The Muslims of Central Asia were the agents of the Arabs and within the town itself were several Muslims who were acting on behalf of Kutaib and sending him information. On being heavily bribed, however, one of his principal agents turned traitor. After beheading this man, Kutaib decided to attack the city and a fierce battle ensued. Thousands of enemy soldiers were killed, but even after the sacrifice of many lives, the Arabs were unable to enter the town.
Ultimately, a group of Arab soldiers succeeded in digging a tunnel under the wall and connecting it with the stables inside the town. Kutaib promised a heavy reward to any soldier who would enter the town through the tunnel and the Arab soldiers poured in. Thus the town was taken. The inhabitants prayed for mercy and Kutaib spared their lives.
Leaving one of his armies behind, Kutaib returned to Merv, but immediately after he had left Baikund the townspeople rose in revolt as a protest against the abduction of the daughter of one of their influential merchants. When news of this reached Kutaib he returned with his army and after a month-long seige succeeded in capturing the town once more.
The revolt was put down with great cruelty, every able-bodied soldier was killed and the rest were enslaved. The prosperous town of Baikund was reduced to ashes and Kutaib obtained more booty from this single town than from the whole of Khurasan. A gold image weighing 4000 dirham was found in the Buddhist monastery as well as a gold vessel weighing 150,000 miskals (1 miskal 17/23 of a tola). A pair of pearls as large as pigeons’ eggs was also seized. Kutaib sent the glad tidings of his victory to his master, Hazzaj, along with valuable presents.
Baikund was an ancient town on the main trade route to China. Travellers journeyed from here to Khwarezm by boat, then by land to the shores of the Caspian Sea, then across the sea to the Kuna river, thus reaching the shores of the Black Sea, from whence they sent precious stones to different parts of Europe.
When Kutaib attacked Baikund many of its merchants were away in China and elsewhere, so that on their return they had to pay a heavy price in order to get back their wives and children from the Arabs. They next set about the task of rebuilding Bflikund. The Central Asian historian Narshakhi writes: “Baikund was a town which, even after complete destruction, was rebuilt on its old foundation within the course of a generation and regained all its former glory.”
The inhabitants of Baikund agreed to pay tribute to the Arabs and Kutaib concluded a peace treaty with them. When winter set in he returned to his capital Merv. The first two years of his governorship were mainly spent in organising raids. Although invincible in battle the Arab armies had not yet been able to establish a stable empire.
Baikund was the southern gateway of Antarved. A road to Sogdhia went through Termiz, but this road passed through Darband (the iron gate city), which was considered militarily impregnable.
In 706, Kutaib again set out on the campaign of conquest. Although the cities of Anturved were fortified after the experience of the Baikund the people had begun to realise the futility of resisting the Arabs. Namushakt and Ratina agreed to pay tribute, but the rest of the people of Sogdhia were determined to defend their land against the foreign invaders.
Kutaib’s army was surrounded between Taran, Khunbun and Ramtin. Gorak, the Governor of Sogdhia, Khunuk Khudat, Bardan Khudat and the nephew of the Chines Emperor, all pounced on Kutaib’s army. Becoming aware of the strength of the enemy, the Arab troops were beginning to be panicky when Kutaib plunged into the fray and personally instilled courage into them.
This meant that by sundown the “infidel” armies were routed. The victorious Kutaib was returning to Termiz and Balakh when a letter arrived from Hazzaj which besought him to crush the king of Bokhara, Bardan Khudat. Turning back by way of Samarkand, Kesh and Nasaph, he pitched his tent near Bokhara, to the right of Bardan’s forces, whereupon the two armies become locked in battle for almost three days, but ultimatly the Arabs were victorious.
Kutaib tried to take possession of Bokhara, but failed and was obliged to return to Merv. He sent a report to Hazzaj describing the battle and explaining his position and Hazzaj insisted on it that he should go back and fulfil his mission. “Crush Kesh, destroy Nasaph and drive out Bardan. Be careful lest your armies are surrounded. Leave the rest to me,” were the instructions sent by Hazzaj.
In 708, Kutaib again attacked Bokhara. Bardan Khudat besought the help of other Sogdhian kings, but before they could come to his aid, Kutaib had surrounded Bokhara. Describing the battle the historian Tabri writes: “A see-saw battle went on for a while with the Turks pushing the Arabs at one time and the Arabs driving back the Turks at another. The Arabs were finding it difficult to occupy one hillock. Kutaib called upon the famous Tamin tribe to recall their glorious tradition and to launch the attack. Their chief led the assault personally, flag in hand. The Turks were defeated in the battle. This defeat spread panic among the neighbouring kingdoms. Gorak of Sogdhia agreed to pay tribute to Kutaib. Tarkhun of Sogdhia too concluded a peace treaty paying a price of 2000 dirhams. In return Kutaib agreed not to ravage Samarkand again. The nephew of the Chinese Emperor also followed the example of Turkhun.”