Research Article

DOI :10.26650/di.2023.34.1.1171037   IUP :10.26650/di.2023.34.1.1171037    Full Text (PDF)

Establishing Government Based on Narration: al-Awāil Reports Attributed to the Umayyads

Kevser Özdoğan

Many al-awāil reports are attributed to the Umayyads because they were a newly formed state. This study analyzes alawāil reports attributed to the Umayyads specific to al-awāil works that are among the oldest extant al-awāil books. This study aims to determine whether the Umayyads were really the first ones in the fields as they are said to be and whether they continued the practices from the period of the Prophet and the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs. Additionally, this study researches the possible reasons why the Umayyads were attributed with being al-awāil reports in certain aspects and how al-awāil reports affected the perceptions toward the Umayyads. When analyzing al-awāil reports attributed to the Umayyads with regard to the political, religious and cultural fields, the reports about the Umayyads are understood to have been specifically included in al-awāil literature because reports wanted the founders of the Umayyads to be regarded as the ancestors of the state and to contribute to the Umayyad efforts to become a state. The study had concluded that the main purpose of most of al-awāils reported in many fields that considered the Umayyads to be the first-time (al-awwal) despite not really being the first had been to create a negative image for the Umayyads. In fact, these reports negatively affected the perceptions toward the Umayyads. As for certain practices that were especially claimed to be in contradiction with the Prophet’s practices, the Umayyads were determined to have actually continued the Prophet’s practices.

DOI :10.26650/di.2023.34.1.1171037   IUP :10.26650/di.2023.34.1.1171037    Full Text (PDF)

Rivayetten İktidara Bir Temel: Emevîlere Atfedilen Evâil Haberleri

Kevser Özdoğan

Yeni bir yönetim olmaları sebebiyle Emevîlere birçok evâil haberi atfedilmektedir. Emevîlere atfedilen bu haberler, günümüze ulaşan en eski evâil çalışmaları arasında yer alan eserler özelinde incelenmiştir. Emevîlerin ilk olduğu söylenen konularda gerçekten ilk olup olmadıkları, Hz. Peygamber ile Hulefâ-yi Râşidîn dönemi uygulamalarını devam ettirip ettirmedikleri, Emevîlere ilklik atfedilmesinin sebepleri ve bu haberlerin Emevî algısına nasıl bir etkisinin bulunduğu tespit edilmeye çalışılmıştır. Siyasî, dinî ve kültürel konularda Emevîlere atfedilen evâil haberleri incelendiğinde, Emevîler hakkındaki bu haberlerin Emevîleri kuran kişilerin o devletin atası olarak benimsenmesi için ve Emevîlerin devletleşme çabalarından dolayı özellikle evâil literatürüne dahil edildiği görülmüştür. Emevîlerin ilk olmamalarına rağmen ilk oldukları söylenen çoğu konularda nakledilen evâil haberlerinin asıl maksadının Emevîler için olumsuz bir imaj oluşturma çabası olduğu ve bu durumun da Emevî imajını kötü etkilediği sonucuna ulaşılmıştır. Özellikle dinî konularda Hz. Peygamber’in uygulamasına muhalefet edildiği söylenen bazı uygulamalarda ise Hz. Peygamber’in uygulamasını devam ettirdikleri tespit edilmiştir.


Before the production of separate works on al-awāil, which has the definitions of knowing the beginning of important works, the first things done and the first doers, and the one thing that happened before any other, al-awāil reports can be seen to have occurred in historical and prophetic biographical (al-Sīra al-Nabawiyya) sources. The legitimation of people or authority is well known to have been quite effective in the emergence of al-awāil narrations. Undoubtedly, the legitimacy of a new administration depends on gaining the acceptance of society with regard to political, religious, and cultural topics. However, an important obstacle appears to have existed for the Umayyad dynasty following the Khulafāʾ al-Rāshidūn period. This is because the practices of the Umayyad state concerning political and religious topics, as well as the narration stating, “Those to change the Sunnah of the Prophet for the first time will be one among the Umayyads” had both caused some controversy with regard to their legitimacy.

Though a lot of first-time (al-awwal) practices were attributed to the Umayyads due to being a new administration, they are historically seen as the continuation of a process that had started with the Prophet. The attribution of such al-awāil reports to the Umayyads poses a problem as they had caused a certain paradigm regarding this dynasty. For this reason, the current study presents whether the Umayyads had really been the first ones with regard to the subjects in which they are said to have been the first, whether they had continued the practices from the period of the Prophet and the Khulafā’ al-Rāshidūn, and whether al-awāil narrations that were attributed to them regarding political, religious, and cultural subjects had been influential in the Umayyads gaining acceptance or not. This study also aims to determine whether these narrations had had a positive or negative impact on the perceptions toward the Umayyad State.

In this context, the study analyzes al-awāil reports attributed either to those descended from the Umayyad dynasty or to those officially employed by the Umayyad State specifically with regard to the earliest extant al-awāil works, namely al-Musannaf by Ibn Abī Shayba (d. 235/849), Kitab al-Awāil by Ibn Abī ‘Āṣim (d. 287/900), al-Aʻlāq alnafīsa by Ibn Rusta (d. 300/913), and al-Maḥāsin wa’l-Masāwī by Bayhaqi (d. 320/932). Although various al-awāil narrations are found to have been attributed to members of the Umayyad dynasty, this study has only analyzed the narrations in al-awāil sources mentioned above within the context of the Umayyad government’s legitimacy.

The study classified al-awāil narrations attributed to the Umayyads classified in political, religious, and cultural terms and then compared them to the practices that occurred during the time of the Prophet and the Khulafā’ al-Rāshidūn. At the same time, the study supported this method using the literature review, analysis, and holistic approach methods and avoided anachronism while doing this. Though studies on al-awāil do exist in the field of hadith, the fact that al-awāil narrations have not been studied in the context of the legitimacy of the Umayyad rulers who have an important place in Islamic history is what makes this study valuable.

This study takes the opinion that certain first-time practices such as maqsūrah, ad̲h̲ān, and mahr can be analyzed either both politically and religiously or both politically and culturally. In order to not fall into repetition, however, the study has preferred to evaluate such first-time practices under only one title that is thought to outweigh the others. Some of those to whom al-awāil reports had been attributed had also served the Caliphs from the Khulafāʾ al-Rāshidūn period. However, identifying an exact date when the practices attributed to them first occurred is quite obviously difficult as the concept of “first” has an ambiguous use. Because the Umayyads and their rulers had mostly converted to Islam in the later period after the conquest of Mecca, that the study prefers to accept first-time practices mentioned here to have happened during the Umayyad period needs to be stated.

al-Awāil reports mentioned in regard to administrative topics are seen to focus on the steps the Umayyads had taken, especially with regard to how the rulers had slowly moved away from society in order to become a monarch, establish their power, and institutionalize. While these al-awāil narrations generally involve Muʿāwiya ibn Abī Sufyān, Ziyad b. Abih and Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, certain events experienced at that time such as the Battle of Karbala are also noteworthily attributed as first-time events. The firsttime narrations related to altering the Sunnah of the Prophet, the titles used by the rulers, the vehicles they’d receive, being gifted a decapitated head, the Battle of Karbala, and adding Ziyād to the lineage of Abī Sufyān are understood to have been produced later for the purpose of creating negative perceptions toward the Umayyads.

Obviously al-awāil reports on building a city, passing the Balkh River, and constructing a ship with regard to the wars the Umayyads had fought to expand their borders were actually a continuation of the practices from the previous periods and cannot be regarded as actual first-time practices. Along with presenting the richness of the state, because the matters of ornamenting dirham coins, getting money from the bazaar, and quantity of mahr are closely related to ostentatiousness, they cannot be said to have contributed to the Umayyads’ good image. The aim of having such reports declared is understood to have been not to actually inform about this very subject but to stimulate and reinforce a negative image. However, all the first-time practices mentioned here can be said to have been positive steps the Umayyads had taken toward institutionalizing the state and therefore are worthy of being called first-time practices.

The fact that the Umayyads had used issues related to worshipping and aḥkām [judgement], especially the ad̲hān, minbar, and khuṭbah, for political purposes to make people adapt to their administration and accept their legitimacy was considered to be in a manner that contradicted the Prophet’s practices and thus caused religious criticism. As a result, the Abbasids used this against the Umayyads and turned it into propaganda to lay the foundations for their own state. No first-time practices are found that can be attributed to the Umayyads regarding the hajj, qira’at, qāḍī, and testimony, and even though these were all practiced during the period of the Prophet and the Khulafāʾ alRāshidūn, these can be taken as other negative attitudes toward the Umayyads regarding religion, especially when not considering the background of the situation regarding the hajj and qira’at. As a result, these were found to have become elements that put the Umayyads at a disadvantage.

With regard to cultural practices (i.e., al-awāil reports on naming and clothing attributed to the Umayyads), the Umayyads were understood to have not been the first ones to do these. The names Abd al-Malik and Abd al-Aziz had been given personally by the Prophet, and the shoes (khuff) and cotton fabric types narrated in al-awāils had also been used during the time of the Prophet. While a regional first-time practice did exist regarding water and snow, the Umayyads were observed to have made practices contrary to those of the Prophet, although different al-awāil reports are found about riding on a camel or horse during a funeral. In this case, the Umayyads cannot be argued to have brought about an innovation or bid’ah to the society in general.

In conclusion, certain al-awāil reports attributed to the Umayyads can be said to have been especially included in al-awāil literature as a result of the state founders’ efforts to be taken on as the fathers of that state and to institutionalize it. However, the Umayyads were seen to have been unsuccessful at being adopted by the society and forming an origin story but to have been successful with regard to gaining power. Most of al-awāil narrations that had created negative impressions about the Umayyads actually had the characteristic of having maintained the practices of the Prophet and the Khulafāʾ alRāshidūn. However, they were the first ones from their own period regarding topics where they’d continued the practices of the Prophet and the Khulafāʾ al-Rāshidūn. They were also seen to have actually continued the Prophet’s practices with regard to certain practices in which al-awāil reports say they opposed the Prophet, especially about religious subjects. Yet, because the Umayyads had acted differently from the Prophet regarding the topics of ad̲h̲ān, the minbar, and khuṭbah, which the Abbasids in fact had politicized despite being religious elements, the perception had occurred that Umayyads were generally not cautious enough about religion. Moreover, the real purpose of many of al-awāil narrations about the Umayyads that stated them to have been the first ones despite not actually being the first, was obviously to create a negative impression of them. 

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Özdoğan, K. (2023). Establishing Government Based on Narration: al-Awāil Reports Attributed to the Umayyads. darulfunun ilahiyat, 34(1), 33-64.


Özdoğan K. Establishing Government Based on Narration: al-Awāil Reports Attributed to the Umayyads. darulfunun ilahiyat. 2023;34(1):33-64.


Özdoğan, K. Establishing Government Based on Narration: al-Awāil Reports Attributed to the Umayyads. darulfunun ilahiyat, [Publisher Location], v. 34, n. 1, p. 33-64, 2023.

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Published Online22.03.2023


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