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Mu’awiyah: An Ideal Ruler

Adil Salahi

Arab News, 5/17/04

As explained last week, when Al-Hasan was chosen to be the caliph in succession to his father, Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet (peace be upon him), there was a possibility of confrontation with Mu’awiyah who had ruled over the whole of Syria, as governor, for over 20 years. He was appointed first by Umar, and confirmed by Uthman, and continued to be the governor during the reign of Ali, but the two were in confrontation and fought a battle at Siffin. In order to avoid another confrontation and to spare the Muslim community, Al-Hasan concluded an agreement, relinquishing his own claim to be the caliph. The result was that Mu’awiyah became the caliph. Al-Hasan and all the Prophet’s companions agreed to this and pledged their loyalty to him. This is the reason for naming year 41 of the Islamic calendar as the Year of Unity. Justice Abu Bakr ibn Al-Arabi comments on this appointment, mentioning some qualities that made Mu’awiyah the right choice.

“If someone asks whether there were any person who was more suited to be the caliph than Mu’awiyah, we acknowledge that there were many. However, several qualities made him a very suitable choice. Umar placed under him the entire Syrian region, after he had seen how good a governor he was to his people. Furthermore, he was able to defend the land of Islam, maintain strong forces and gain the upper hand against the enemy. The Prophet said in an authentic Hadith that he was a man with good knowledge of Islam and its law. The Prophet also mentioned in a Hadith narrated by Umm Haram that in his reign some forces belonging to his community would travel by sea as kings reclining on their couches. This certainly took place.”

Al-Khatib adds several notes to illustrate the above statement by Ibn Al-Arabi. As to the availability of people who were more suitable to be caliphs than Mu’awiyah, he cites two examples: Saad ibn Abi Waqqas and Abdullah ibn Umar. The first was one of ten of the Prophet’s companions who were specifically given the happy news of admittance into heaven on the Day of Judgment. Abdullah ibn Umar combined the status of companion of the Prophet with being a scholar of the highest calibre. He followed the Prophet’s example in all matters. There were many others like them. Al-Khatib adds that when the two arbiters appointed by Ali and Mu’awiyah met to discuss a way out of the trouble, they agreed to leave the matter to such people. Many of those companions of the Prophet took no part in the troubles that engulfed the Muslim state toward the end of Uthman’s reign and throughout Ali’s reign. When the two main sides in the dispute concluded their agreement and Al-Hasan pledged his loyalty to Mu’awiyah, they all came out and did likewise.

Mu’awiyah appreciated their action and said in a public speech: “I am not the best among you. Indeed, among you are those who are certainly better than me, such as Abdullah ibn Umar and Abdullah ibn Amr and others of high caliber. But I hope to be a ruler who brings you the best benefit, and who is most successful against your enemy, and the one who brings you prosperity.”

As for his qualities as a ruler, many distinguished figures, including companions of the Prophet and prominent scholars who cannot be suspected of having any personal interest, have spoken very highly of him. Saad ibn Abi Waqqas is quoted to have said: “After Uthman, I have not seen anyone who judges justly better than Mu’awiyah.” Ibn Abbas remarks: “I have never seen a man better suited to rule than Mu’awiyah.” Ibn Taymiyah says: “Mu’awiyah’s policy in conducting the affairs of his people ranks among the best of all rulers. His people loved him. The Prophet is authentically quoted to have said, ‘The best of your rulers are the ones with whom you have a relation of mutual love, and those who pray for you and you pray for them.”

To have an insight into Mu’awiyah’s character, we may mention what Ibn Katheer reports in his history book Al-Bidayah wal-Nihayah. “At the height of tension when fighting was about to erupt at Siffin between Ali and Mu’awiyah, Mu’awiyah was informed that the Byzantine Emperor raised a very large army and was drawing very close to the borders of the Muslim state. He wrote to him, giving him a very clear warning, ‘By God, if you do not stop your designs and go back to your place, I will end my dispute with my cousin and will drive you out of the entire land you rule, until I make the earth too tight for you.’ The Byzantine Emperor was scared off and abandoned his plans.”

Numerous indeed are those who praise Mu’awiyah in clear terms. One thing which is little mentioned about his qualities is the emphasis he placed on justice. A group of people were sitting with Sulayman Al-Amash, a very distinguished scholar of the third generation of Islam, and they were praising Umar ibn Abd Al-Aziz, a later caliph of the Umayyad dynasty, admiring his sense of justice. Al-Amash said: “What would you have said, then, had you had the experience of living at the time of Mu’awiyah?” They asked whether he was comparing the two with regard to Mu’awiyah’s sagacity and kindly treatment. He said: “No. I am referring to his justice.”

There is no wonder that this should be the case, because the Prophet prayed for Mu’awiyah more than once. In one of them, the Prophet is quoted to have said: “My Lord, give him guidance and make him a source of guidance.” (Related by Al-Tirmidhi and Al-Tabarani). In another prayer for Mu’awiyah the Prophet said: “My Lord, teach him the Book (i.e. the Qur’an) and arithmetic, and protect him against suffering.” (Related by Al-Bukhari in his Al-Tareekh). Needless to say, when the Prophet prayed for anyone, his prayer was answered in the clearest and most comprehensive way. Mu’awiyah’s rule was one of the best in our history, second only to that of the four rightly-guided caliphs who were his predecessors.



Earth, a planet hungry for peace


The Israeli apartheid (security) wall around Palestinian population centers (Ran Cohen, pmc, 5/24/03).


The Israeli apartheid (security) wall around Palestinian population centers in the West Bank, like a Python. (Alquds,10/25/03).

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