al-Walid II.

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Al-Walid II , Arabic الوليد بن يزيد, DMG al-Walīd ibn Yazīd , (* 706 ; † April 17, 744 ) was the eleventh caliph of the Umayyads (743-744).

Political situation

Al-Walid II ibn Yazid ibn Abd al-Malik succeeded his uncle Hisham (724-743) in 743 , as his father Yazid II (720-724) had predetermined. Under his reign, tensions between the tribes of the northern and southern Arabs increased considerably. The Umayyads increasingly lost their prestige and authority, as they were no longer considered neutral mediators due to the rash policies of al-Walid II. This increasingly weakened the rule of the Umayyads, who relied primarily on the Arab tribes and their troops to exercise their power.

When the Kharijites conquered Kufa in Iraq in 743 and were able to rule large parts of the country, the Umayyads also lost control of the Iranian provinces, where the Abbasid propaganda could now spread quickly.

When al-Walid II appointed two of his underage sons to be heirs to the throne, tensions arose within the Umayyad clan. Since these sons were descended from a female slave and were therefore not entitled to succession to the throne, many Umayyads felt that they were being left out. So with Yazid III. a son of al-Walid I entitled to the throne was raised to caliph. Al-Walid was overthrown and murdered on April 17th, 744.

The reputation of the Umayyads and the loyalty of the Arab tribes were severely damaged by the murder of the caliph and the power struggles that broke out. Within a few years this led to the fall of the dynasty and the rise of the Abbasids.

Cultural activities

Despite these political problems, al-Walid devoted himself above all to his construction projects in the Syrian desert . Of the desert castles preserved as ruins, Qusair 'Amra , Khirbat al-Mafjar and Mshatta are attributed to his reign . He also had a Roman fortress, which was probably 25 kilometers south of Palmyra , expanded into the desert castle al-Bachrāʾ. At least from Qusair 'Amra and Khirbat al-Mafjar it is certain that formal royal ceremonies took place in their sumptuously decorated baths for the glorification of the ruler. Some historians suspect that al-Walid II introduced the institution of the harem and eunuchs to the Islamic palace, others cite Yazid I or Muʿāwiya I for this.

Al-Walid II is portrayed in the sources as shapely, powerful, violent and vain. He was known for his fancy and colorful robes with which he appeared on festive occasions. He wrote rhythmic verses that were often in dialogue form and were suitable for musical performance. He is also mentioned as the composer of many popular melodies and is said to have played most of the musical instruments of his time, namely the lute oud , the drum tabl and the square frame drum daff . In Mecca , where he presumably stayed during the Hajj , he took singing lessons from a well-known singer.

Music and the enjoyment of wine played a major role at his palace festivals . The ruler himself entertained his guests with rude jokes. So he came ridden into the audience hall on a horse or a donkey, while girls walked before him beating drums. Another time al-Walid II hit the drum attached to a horse so hard that the animal reared up and frightened the guests. Such scenes are referred to by frescoes in Qusair 'Amra, which show a dancing monkey and a bear playing the lute (presumably a man in disguise).


  • Claude Cahen: Islam 1. From the origin to the beginnings of the Ottoman Empire . ( Fischer-Weltgeschichte 14), Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1968.
  • Ulrich Haarmann: History of the Arab World . Edited by Heinz Halm . CH Beck, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-406-47486-1 .
  • Gernot Rotter : The Umayyads and the Second Civil War (680–692). ( Treatises for the customer of the Orient , Volume 45.3), Steiner, Wiesbaden 1982, ISBN 3-515-02913-3 .
  • JJ Saunders: A history of Medieval Islam. Routledge & Paul, London 1965, ISBN 0-7100-2077-5 . (Also: Reprint. Routledge, London et al. 1990, ISBN 0-415-05914-3 )
  • Julius Wellhausen : The Arab Empire and its fall . Reimer, Berlin 1902. (2nd unchanged edition, de Gruyter, Berlin 1960)

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Robert Hillenbrand: La Dolce Vita in Early Islamic Syria . In: Ders .: Studies in Medieval Islamic Architecture. Vol I. The Pindar Press, London 2001, pp. 74, 93, 108f
predecessor Office successor
Hisham Umayyad Caliph
Yazid III.