Al-Walīd ibn ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Marwān (circa 674 – 23 February 715) was the sixth Umayyad caliph, ruling between 705 and his death. The eldest son of his predecessor, Caliph Abd al-Malik (r. 705–715), al-Walid largely continued his father's policies of centralization and expansion, though he was heavily dependent on al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, his father's powerful viceroy of the eastern half of the caliphate. During his reign, Umayyad armies conquered Hispania, Sindh and Transoxiana. War spoils from the conquest allowed al-Walid to finance public works of great magnitude, including the Great Mosque of Damascus, the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and the Prophet's Mosque in Medina. He was the first caliph to institute programs for social welfare, aiding the poor and handicapped. Though it is difficult to ascertain al-Walid's direct role in the affairs of his caliphate, his reign was marked by domestic peace and prosperity and represented the peak of the Umayyads' territorial extent.

Al-Walid I
Khalīfat Allāh
Gold dinar of al-Walid obverse, 707-708 CE.jpg
Gold dinar of al-Walid, minted in Damascus, 707/08 CE
6th Caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate
Reign9 October 705 – 25 January or 11 March 715
PredecessorAbd al-Malik
Medina, Umayyad Caliphate
Died23 February 715
Dayr Murran, Umayyad Caliphate
Bab al-Saghir, Damascus, Umayyad Caliphate
SpouseUmm al-Banin bint Abd al-Aziz ibn Marwan
Umm ʿAbdallāh bint ʿAbdallāh ibn ʿAmr ibn ʿUthmān
ʿIzza bint ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz ibn ʿAbdallāh ibn ʿAmr
Shah-i Afrid bint Peroz III
IssueʿAbd al-ʿAzīz
Yazīd III
ʿAbd al-Raḥmān
Abū ʿUbayda
Full name
Al-Walīd ibn ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Marwān
FatherʿAbd al-Malik
MotherWallāda bint al-ʿAbbās ibn al-Jazʾ al-ʿAbsīyya


Early lifeEdit

Qasr Burqu', a Syrian Desert desert way station built by al-Walid while he was still a prince in 700 CE

Al-Walid was born in Medina in circa 674.[1] His father, Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, was a member of the Banu Umayya clan.[1] At the time of al-Walid's birth, another Umayyad, Mu'awiya I, was caliph.[1] The latter hailed from the Sufyanid branch of the clan resident in Syria, while al-Walid's family belonged to the larger Abu'l-'As line in the Hejaz (western Arabia). Al-Walid's mother was Wallada bint al-'Abbas ibn al-Jaz', a fourth-generation descendant of the 6th-century Arab chieftain Zuhayr ibn Jadhima of the Banu Abs clan of Ghatafan.[1][2] When Umayyad rule collapsed in 684, the Umayyads of the Hejaz were expelled by a rival claimant to the caliphate, Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr. After reaching Syria, al-Walid's grandfather, Marwan I, who, at the time, was among the most senior members of the clan, was recognized as caliph by the pro-Umayyad Arab tribes of the province, including the powerful Banu Kalb. With these tribes' support, he gradually restored the dynasty's rule in Syria and Egypt.[3] Abd al-Malik succeeded Marwan and conquered the rest of the caliphate, namely Iraq with its eastern dependencies and the Hejaz.[4] With the key assistance of his viceroy in Iraq, al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, he instituted several centralization measures, which consolidated Umayyad territorial gains.[5]

During his father's caliphate, al-Walid led campaigns against the Byzantine Empire in 695/96, 696/97, 697/98 and 698/99.[6] He also led the annual Hajj pilgrim caravan to Mecca in 698.[6] In 700/01, he patronized the construction or expansion of Qasr Burqu', a fortified Syrian Desert way-station connecting Palmyra in the north with the Azraq oasis and Wadi Sirhan valley in the south, ultimately leading to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.[7] A dedicatory inscription at the site describes him as "the emir ... son of the commander of the faithful".[8] According to historian Jere L. Bacharach, al-Walid also built up the nearby site of Jabal Says, likely as a Bedouin summer encampment between his base of operations in al-Qaryatayn and Qasr Burqu'.[9] Bacharach speculates that al-Walid used these sites, located in the territory of Arab tribes, such as the Banu Kalb, to reconfirm their loyalty, which had been critical to the Umayyads during the civil war.[10]


Abd al-Malik, encouraged by al-Hajjaj, unsuccessfully attempted to nominate al-Walid as his successor, abrogating the arrangement set by Marwan whereby Abd al-Malik's brother Abd al-Aziz, governor of Egypt, was slated to succeed.[11][12] However, the latter died in 704, removing the principal obstacle to al-Walid's nomination and he acceded after the death Abd al-Malik on 9 October 705.[1][11] From the outset of his rule, al-Walid was heavily dependent on al-Hajjaj and allowed him free reign over the eastern half of the caliphate.[12] Moreover, al-Hajjaj strongly influenced al-Walid's internal decision-making, with officials being installed and dismissed upon the viceroy's wishes.[12] Al-Hajjaj's prominence was such that he is discussed more frequently in medieval Muslim sources than al-Walid or Abd al-Malik and his time in office (694–714) created a unity to the period of the two caliphs.[13] Thus, al-Walid's reign would largely serve as a continuation of his father's policies of centralization and expansion.[1][14]

Territorial expansionEdit

A map depicting growth of the caliphate. The area highlighted in green depicts the expansion of its territory, in the Maghreb, Hispania, Sindh and Transoxiana, during al-Walid's reign

During the second half of al-Walid's reign, the Umayyad Caliphate reached its furthest territorial extent.[14] Expansion of the eastern frontier regions was overseen by al-Hajjaj from Iraq.[1] He carefully chose, equipped and generously financed the commanders of the expeditions, without personally participating.[12] His lieutenant governor of Khurasan, Qutayba ibn Muslim, launched numerous campaigns against Transoxiana (Central Asia), which had been a largely impenetrable region for earlier Muslim armies, between 705 and 715.[1] Through his persistent raids, he gained the surrender of Bukhara in 706–709, Khwarazm and Samarkand in 711–712 and Farghana in 713.[1] In contrast to most other Muslim conquests, Qutayba did not attempt to settle Arab Muslims in Transoxiana, instead securing Umayyad suzerainty through tributary alliances with local rulers, whose power remained intact.[15] From 708/09, al-Hajjaj's nephew and lieutenant commander, Qasim ibn Muhammad, conquered Sindh, the western region of South Asia, while another of al-Hajjaj's appointees, Mujja'a ibn Si'r, wrested control of Uman, along Arabia's southeastern coast.[12][16]

In the west, al-Walid's governor in Ifriqiya, Musa ibn Nusayr, a holdover from Abd al-Malik's reign, had subjugated the Berbers of the Hawwara, Zenata and Kutama confederations and proceeded with his advance toward the Maghrib.[17] He conquered Tangier and Sous, both in modern-day Morocco, and installed his Berber mawlā (freedman), Tariq ibn Ziyad, as governor there.[17] The latter invaded Hispania in 711, and was reinforced by an army led by Musa in the following year.[14][17] By 716, a year after al-Walid's death, Hispania had been nearly conquered.[14] The war spoils netted by the conquests of Transoxiana, Sindh and Hispania were comparable to the amounts accrued in the early Muslim conquests during the reign of Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab (r. 634–644).[18]

Closer to the Umayyad seat of power in Syria, al-Walid appointed his half-brother Maslama governor of the Jazira (Upper Mesopotamia) and charged him with raiding the frontier zone with Byzantium.[1] Though Maslama established a strong power base in his province, he achieved minor territorial gains.[1] Al-Walid entrusted most of the military governorships of Syria's districts to his sons.[19][20] Al-Abbas was assigned to Hims and fought reputably in the campaigns against Byzantium alongside Maslama, while Abd al-Aziz, who also took part in the anti-Byzantine war effort, and Umar were appointed to Damascus and Jordan, respectively.[19] Al-Walid did not personally participate in the campaigns and is reported to have only left Syria once when he led the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in 710.[1]

Domestic policiesEdit

In stages between 693 and 700, Abd al-Malik and al-Hajjaj initiated the dual processes of issuing a single Islamic currency in place of the previously used Byzantine and Sassanian coinage and replacing Greek and Persian with Arabic as the language of the bureaucracy in Syria and Iraq, respectively.[21][22] These administrative reforms continued under al-Walid, during whose reign, in 705/06, Arabic replaced Greek and Coptic in the dīwān (government registers) of Egypt.[22][23] These policies effected the gradual transition of Arabic as the sole official language of the state, unified the varied tax systems of the caliphate's provinces and contributed to the establishment of a more ideologically Islamic government.[21][24]

As a result of the Battle of Marj Rahit, which inaugurated Marwan's reign in 684, a sharp division developed among the Syrian Arab tribes, who formed the core of the Umayyad army. The loyalist tribes that supported Marwan formed a confederation known as the "Yaman", alluding to ancestral roots in Yemen (South Arabia), while Qaysi tribes largely supported Ibn al-Zubayr. Abd al-Malik reconciled with the Qays in 690, though competition for influence between the two factions intensified as the Syrian army was increasingly empowered and deployed to outside provinces, where they replaced or supplemented Iraqi and other garrisons.[14][25] Al-Walid maintained his father's policy of balancing the power of the two factions in the military and administration.[14] According to historian Hugh N. Kennedy, it is "possible that the caliph kept it [the rivalry] on the boil so that one faction should not acquire a monopoly of power".[14] His mother was genealogically affiliated with the Qays and he apparently accorded Qaysi officials certain advantages.[14] However, other Umayyad princes cultivated strong ties to the Yaman, particularly al-Walid's brother and governor of Palestine, Sulayman, and their cousin and governor of the Hejaz, Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz.[14] The former aligned closely with local Yamani leaders and religious figures, namely Raja ibn Haywah al-Kindi, while Umar maintained his father's network of Yamani loyalists from Egypt and provided refuge for Yamani soldiers persecuted by al-Hajjaj.[14]

Public works and social welfareEdit

Al-Walid is credited with the construction or expansion of numerous great mosques throughout the caliphate, including (1) the Umayyad Mosque of Damascus (2) the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem; and (3) the Prophet's Mosque in Medina. The mosques in Jerusalem and Medina have been significantly altered since al-Walid's era, while the Umayyad Mosque has maintained its original form.

From the beginning of his rule, al-Walid inaugurated public works and social welfare programs on a scale unprecedented in the history of the caliphate.[18] The efforts were financed by treasure accrued from the conquests and tax revenue.[18] Throughout his reign, the caliph and his brothers and sons built way-stations and dug wells along the roads in Syria and installed street lighting in the cities.[18] They invested in land reclamation projects, entailing irrigation networks and canals, which drove agricultural production.[18][26] Welfare programs included financial relief for the poor and servants to assist the handicapped.[18] Al-Walid patronized or encouraged the construction of great mosques throughout the caliphate with special focus paid to his seat of government in Damascus and the Muslim holy cities of Jerusalem, where his father had previously built the Dome of the Rock, and Medina, where the Islamic prophet Muhammad was buried.[27][1][28]

The great mosque founded by al-Walid in Damascus, later known as the Umayyad Mosque, became one of his greatest architectural achievements. Under his predecessors, Muslim residents had worshiped in a small muṣallā (Muslim prayer room) attached to the 4th-century cathedral of John the Baptist, itself a successor to the pagan temples of Hadad and then Jupiter.[29][30] However, by the time of al-Walid's reign, the muṣallā could not cope with the fast-growing Muslim community and no sufficient free spaces were available elsewhere in the urban space of Damascus for a large congregational mosque.[29] Thus, in 705, al-Walid had the church converted into a mosque, compensating local Christians with other properties in the city.[29][30] Most of the structure was demolished with the exceptions of the exterior walls and corner towers, which were thenceforth covered by marble inlays and mosaics.[31][30] The caliph's architects replaced the demolished space with a large prayer hall and a courtyard bordered on all sides by a closed portico with double arcades.[31] A large cupola was installed at the center of the prayer hall and a high minaret was erected on the mosque's northern wall.[31] The mosque was completed in 711 and Blankinship notes that the field army of Damascus, numbering some 45,000 soldiers, were taxed a quarter of their salaries for nine years to pay for its construction.[18][31] The scale and grandeur of the great mosque made it a "symbol of the political supremacy and moral prestige of Islam", according to historian N. Elisséeff.[31] Noting al-Walid's awareness of architecture's propaganda value, historian Robert Hillenbrand calls the Damascus mosque a "victory monument" intended as a "visible statement of Muslim supremacy and permanence".[32] The mosque has maintained its original form until the present day.[1]

In Jerusalem, al-Walid continued his father's works on the Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount).[20] A number of medieval-era Muslim accounts credit the construction of the al-Aqsa Mosque to al-Walid, while others credit his father.[20] Furthermore, it is likely that the currently unfinished administrative and residential structures that were built opposite the southern and eastern walls of the Haram, next to the mosque, date to the era of al-Walid, who died before they could be completed and were not finished by his successors.[33]

In 706/707, al-Walid instructed his governor in Medina, Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, to significantly enlarge the Prophet's Mosque in the city.[34][35] Its redevelopment entailed the demolition of the living quarters of Muhammad's wives and the expansion of the structure to incorporate the graves of Muhammad and the first two caliphs, Abu Bakr (r. 632–634) and Umar ibn al-Khattab (r. 634–644).[1][36][37] The vocal opposition to the demolition of Muhammad's home from local religious circles was dismissed by the caliph.[34] An ornate enclosure was built around the graves and fitted with a concave miḥrāb (prayer niche), four minarets and a pentagonal-shaped entrance.[37] Al-Walid lavished large sums for the mosque's reconstruction and supplied Umar with mosaics and Greek and Coptic craftsmen.[36] According to Hillenbrand, the building of a large scale mosque in Medina, the original center of the caliphate, was an "acknowledgement" by al-Walid of "his own roots and those of Islam itself" and possibly an attempt to appease Medinese resentment at the loss of their city's political importance to Syria under the Umayyads.[34] Other mosques that al-Walid is credited for expanding in the Hejaz include the Sanctuary Mosque around the Ka'aba in Mecca and the mosque of Ta'if.[18]

Death and legacyEdit

Al-Walid died in Dayr Murran, an Umayyad winter estate on the outskirts of Damascus,[38] on 23 February 715,[1][39] though other accounts recorded by al-Ya'qubi place his death on 25 January or 11 March,[40] about a year after al-Hajjaj's death.[16] He was buried in Damascus at the cemetery of Bab al-Saghir or Bab al-Faradis and Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz led the funeral prayers.[38][40] He was survived by sixteen to nineteen sons,[41][note 1] and attempted to nominate his eldest, Abd al-Aziz, as his successor, voiding the arrangements set by his father, in which Sulayman was to accede after al-Walid.[1] Relations between the two brothers had apparently become strained.[1] However, he was unable to secure this change prior to his death and Sulayman succeeded without opposition.[1]

By virtue of the conquests of Spain, Sindh and Transoxiana launched during his reign, his patronage of the great mosques of Damascus and Medina and his charitable work, al-Walid's Syrian contemporaries viewed him as "the worthiest of their caliphs", according to the report of Umar ibn Shabba (died 878).[38] The Umayyad court poet Jarir (died 728) lamented the caliph's death, proclaiming: "O eye, weep copious tears aroused by remembrance; after today there is no point in your tears being stored."[46] According to Hawting, the reigns of al-Walid and Abd al-Malik, tied together by al-Hajjaj, represented in "some ways the high point of Umayyad power, witnessing significant territorial advances both in the east and the west and the emergence of a more marked Arabic and Islamic character in the state's public face".[11] It was generally a period of domestic peace and prosperity.[1][14] Kennedy asserts that al-Walid's reign was "remarkably successful and represents, perhaps, the zenith of Umayyad power".[1] However, the caliph's direct role in these successes is unclear and his primary accomplishment may have been maintaining the equilibrium between the rival factions of the Umayyad family and military.[1]


  1. ^ Historian al-Ya'qubi (died 897/98) names sixteen of al-Walid's sons,[41] while historian al-Tabari (died 923) names nineteen.[38] They are the following: Abd al-Aziz and Muhammad, whose mother was Umm al-Banin, a daughter of Abd al-Aziz ibn Marwan; Abu Ubayda, whose mother was from the Banu Fazara tribe;[38] Abd al-Rahman, whose mother was Umm Abd Allah bint Abd Allah ibn Amr, a granddaughter of Caliph Uthman ibn Affan;[42] Yazid III, whose mother, Shah-i Afrid or Shahfirand, was a daughter of the last Sassanian king, Peroz III, and a concubine of al-Walid given to him by al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf;[43][44] Ibrahim, whose mother was a concubine named Su'ar or Budayra;[45] al-Abbas, Bishr, Umar, Rawh, Khalid, Tammam, Mubashshir, Jurayy, Yahya, Masrur, Sadaqa, Anbasa and Marwan, all of whom's mothers are not mentioned.[41][38]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Kennedy 2002, p. 127.
  2. ^ Hinds 1990, p. 118.
  3. ^ Kennedy 2004, pp. 79–80.
  4. ^ Kennedy 2004, p. 84.
  5. ^ Kennedy 2004, p. 87.
  6. ^ a b Marsham 2009, p. 125.
  7. ^ Bacharach 1996, p. 31.
  8. ^ Marsham 2009, pp. 126–127.
  9. ^ Bacharach 1996, pp. 31–32.
  10. ^ Bacharach 1996, p. 32.
  11. ^ a b c Hawting 2000, p. 59.
  12. ^ a b c d e Dietrich 1971, p. 41.
  13. ^ Hawting 2000, p. 58.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Kennedy 2004, p. 90.
  15. ^ Kennedy 2004, pp. 90–91.
  16. ^ a b Kennedy 2004, p. 91.
  17. ^ a b c Lévi-Provençal 1993, p. 643.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h Blankinship 1994, p. 82.
  19. ^ a b Crone 1980, p. 126.
  20. ^ a b c Bacharach 1996, p. 30.
  21. ^ a b Gibb 1960, p. 77.
  22. ^ a b Duri 1965, p. 324.
  23. ^ Blankinship 1994, p. 38.
  24. ^ Blankinship 1994, pp. 94–95.
  25. ^ Kennedy 2001, p. 34.
  26. ^ Kennedy 2004, p. 86.
  27. ^ Bacharach 1996, pp. 28, 31, 33–34.
  28. ^ Hillenbrand 1994, p. 68.
  29. ^ a b c Elisséeff 1965, p. 800.
  30. ^ a b c Hillenbrand 1994, p. 69.
  31. ^ a b c d e Elisséeff 1965, p. 801.
  32. ^ Hillenbrand 1994, pp. 71–72.
  33. ^ Bacharach 1996, pp. 30, 33.
  34. ^ a b c Hillenbrand 1994, p. 73.
  35. ^ Munt 2014, p. 106.
  36. ^ a b Bacharach 1996, p. 35.
  37. ^ a b Munt 2014, pp. 106–108.
  38. ^ a b c d e f Hinds 1990, p. 219.
  39. ^ Powers 1989, p. 3.
  40. ^ a b Biesterfeldt & Günther 2018, p. 1001.
  41. ^ a b c Biesterfeldt & Günther 2018, pp. 1001–1002.
  42. ^ Ahmed 2010, p. 123.
  43. ^ Hillenbrand 1989, p. 234.
  44. ^ Biesterfeldt & Günther 2018, p. 1056.
  45. ^ Biesterfeldt & Günther 2018, p. 1058.
  46. ^ Hinds 1990, p. 220.


Al-Walid I
Born: 668 Died: 23 February 715
Preceded by
Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan
Caliph of Islam
Umayyad Caliph

705 – 23 February 715
Succeeded by
Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik