On the death of the Umayyad Caliph, Abdul Malik, known as the Charlemagne of the Arabs, in 705 A.C., his highly talented son, Waleed, succeeded him. In Waleed’s reign, the Arab rule was extended to its farthest limits which included Spain and Southern France in the West, Sind, Baluchistan, and Southern Punjab in the East and Transoxjana and Turkistan in the North. Three of the greatest Muslim conquerors, namely, Tariq, Qasim, and Qutaiba, swept away all resistance encountered in these lands.
Waleed was born in 651 A.C. He was brought up amidst the growing luxury and aristocracy of the House of Umayyad. He had developed an artistic taste from his childhood which led him to become the greatest builder of the Umayyad dynasty that ruled in Damascus.
Hardly 54 at the time, he brought to his high office the aristocratic outlook and religious fervor scarcely known among his predecessors.
Waleed’s reign is known as the golden period of the Umayyad Caliphate distinguished for its all-round progress. He embarked upon an unprecedented career of conquest in three directions which extended the Arab rule to its widest limits. He established a wise and firm administration which enabled him to devote himself to social and public welfare works.
Waleed appointed his saintly cousin Umar bin Abdul Aziz, as Governor of Hejaz. The new Governor set up a council of jurists and notables of Madina, which was consulted on all administrative matters. He beautified Makkah and Madina, rebuilt the Mosque of the Prophet, improved roads, and tried to erase signs of ravages committed in the Holy cities during the time of earlier Umayyad rulers. His just and generous administration in the Holy cities attracted many people who were groaning under the tyrannical rule of Hajjaj bin Yusuf, the Umayyad Viceroy of Iraq. The despot Hajjaj, who has become a legend of tyranny in the history of Islam, was an exceptionally capable Administrator who established firmly the Umayyad rule among the fickle-minded Iraqis. He was annoyed by the migration of a large number of Iraqis to Hejaz. At the instance of Hajjaj, Waleed removed Umar bin Abdul Aziz from his post amidst universal mourning.
Waleed’s fame rests on the marvelous Muslim victories which extended the boundaries of the Umayyad Empire from the mountains of the Pyrenees in the West to the walls of China in the East and from Kashgar in the North to the source of the Nile in the South.
The Modharite Chief Qutaiba bin Muslim Baheli who had been appointed as the Deputy Governor of Khurasan was an able strategist and General. He conquered Transoxiana and subjugated the whole of Central Asia up to the confines of Kashgar. He captured the important cities of Bukhara, Samarkand, and Farghana.
The territories of Baluchistan, Sind, and Southern Punjab were annexed by the youngest General in history, Muhammad bin Qasim, who through a glorious military campaign defeated the mightiest Indian ruler of the time, Raja Dahir of Debal. Through a lightning march along the Indus river valley, he swept away all resistance encountered in the way and in less than two years conquered the entire lower Indus valley up to Multan. Muhammad bin Qasim annexed a major portion of Southern Punjab and penetrated as far as the Beas. He set up a wise and benevolent Administration in the conquered territory which endeared him equally to Muslim and non-Muslim subjects.
Waleed’s brother, Maslamah who was the Captain-General of Muslim forces in Asia Minor, captured many important cities and annexed a large part of Asia Minor.
But the greatest military campaign in Waleed’s time was launched in NorthWestern Africa and Spain–under the able leadership of Musa bin Nusair, a Yemeni, and his able lieutenant Tariq bin Ziyad. Musa, son of Nusair, was the Umayyad Viceroy of Africa. He put down the Berber rebellion with a strong hand and pacified the entire North African territory. The Muslim settlements were harassed by the Byzantines from the Mediterranean. Musa, therefore, sent out expeditions, which captured the islands of Majorca, Minorca, and Ivica, which soon came to flourish under the Muslim rule.
Whilst Africa was enjoying peace and prosperity under the benevolent Muslim rule, Spain was groaning under the iron heels of the Goths. The Gothic King, Roderick, a debauchee, had dishonored his Governor Julian’s daughter, Florinda. The Governor invited Musa to liberate Spain from Roderick. Musa despatched his lieutenant, Tariq, with a small force for the purpose.
Tariq, son of Ziyad, an able lieutenant of Musa, landed on April 30, 711 A.C. with his small force at the Rock which now bears his name. He ordered his men to burn their boats and thus ended all hopes of their return. A fierce battle was fought in September 711 A.C., on the banks of the Guadalquivir, in which Roderick’s heavy forces were routed by the small Muslim force led by Tariq. Roderick was drowned in the Guadalquivir.
The moral effect of this memorable victory was immense. City after city of Gothic Spain threw open its gates to the Muslim Conqueror. Tariq divided his small army into four divisions which advanced in Spain in four directions. In June 712 A.C., Tariq was joined by Musa and the two Muslim conquerors reached as far as the Pyrenees. Leaving Tariq in Spain, Musa crossed into France and soon annexed a sizeable portion of Southern France. Standing on the Pyrenees, the dauntless Viceroy conceived the conquest of the whole of Europe and in all human probability he would have done so, had he not been recalled by Waleed. The West completely lay at his feet. The cautious and hesitant policy of the Umayyads deprived the Muslims of the glorious opportunity of conquering Europe. As a result, Europe remained enveloped in darkness for the next seven or eight centuries.
The recall of the two Muslim conquerors, Musa and Tariq, by Waleed, was, no doubt, most disastrous to the cause of Islam in the West.
The conquest of Spain by Muslims ushered there an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity which, in later years, gave birth to a glorious Muslim civilization that ultimately dispelled the darkness that had enveloped Mediaeval Europe.
Waleed is known as the greatest builder in the Umayyad dynasty. He built the Grand Mosque of Damascus, enlarged and beautified those of Madina and Jerusalem. Under his direction mosques were built in every city. He beautified the Capital city of Damascus with magnificent buildings, luxuriant gardens and refreshing fountains. The city bore broad roads lined with shady trees and aqueducts. He erected fortresses for the protection of frontiers and constructed roads and sank wells throughout the Empire. He established schools and hospitals, built orphanages and houses for the poor. He stopped promiscuous charity by granting allowances to the infirm and the poor from the State Treasury. He created asylums for the blind, the crippled and the insane where they were lodged and looked after by attendants appointed by the State. He himself visited the markets and noted the fluctuation in prices.
He was a great patron of art and learning; he granted pensions to poets and savants, legists, and Sufis. He was known for his generosity and benevolence.
His reign is known for its peace and prosperity. He is distinguished for giving the Arabian pattern to his Administration. He enjoyed undisputed popularity throughout the world of Islam, especially in Syria.
Waleed breathed his last on February 23, 715 A.C. at the age of 64 after a glorious reign of nine years and seven months.