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Ummahāt al-Khulafāʾ: Matrilineality and caliphal succession in the Marwānid period
The adoption of patrilineal succession by Muʿāwiya b. Abī Sufyān (d.680) and the subsequent production of Abbasid era texts after nearly two-hundred years of patrilineal legitimising rhetoric means that the available sources are not invested in representing the role of matrilineal kinship ties. However, recent prosopographical work focused on kinship and genealogy in early Islam confirms the importance of the matrilineal line amongst the early Islamic elite as visible in the nasab tradition. The proposed paper shall build on this and make a case for using matrilineality to study Marwānid (685-750) succession by investigating and identifying the mothers of caliphs and heirs. Firstly, the appeal to matrilineality is visible in onomastics and naming practices, such as in the case of Hishām b. ʿAbd al-Malik (r. 724-743) whose mother ʿĀʾisha bt. Hishām b. ʿIsmāʿīl al-Makhzūmī is remembered as explicitly naming him after her own father, governor of the Ḥaramayn under ʿAbd al-Malik. Umayyad poetry also eulogised maternal kin relations and referred to caliphs by their maternal nasab, e.g., ʿUmar b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (r.717-20) appears nearly exclusively in the poetry of al-Farazdaq as Ibn Layla - his mother was Laylā bt. ʿĀṣim b. ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb. Finally, by incorporating the matrilineal line into the wider discussion of early Islamic legitimacy the paper shall demonstrate overlooked aspects of succession, stressing maternal relations across heirs and intermarriage amongst the Marwānids. Mothers should not be viewed exclusively for childbearing, but also their role in establishing and maintaining dynastic rule through their unions. Overall, I intend to demonstrate that we cannot understand a succession system in which a pool of heirs can only be selected from agnatic relations without factoring in the most fundamental of distinguishing features, who their mothers were.
Geographic Area
All Middle East
Sub Area
7th-13th Centuries