Al-Walid I

Al-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik
الوليد بن عبد الملك

Coins of Al-Walid I, found in Sistan
Caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate
Reign 8 October 705 – 23 February 715
Predecessor Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan
Successor Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik
Born 668
Died 23 February 715 (aged 47)
Issue Abd al-Aziz, Yazid III, Ibrahim, al-Abbas
Full name

Al-Walīd ibn ‘Abd al-Malik

Arabic: الوليد بن عبد الملك
House Banu Abd Shams
Dynasty Umayyad
Father Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan
Mother Walida bint Al-Abbas[1]

Al-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik (Arabic: الوليد بن عبد الملك) or Al-Walid I (668 – 23 February 715) was an Umayyad Caliph who ruled from 705 until his death in 715. His reign saw the greatest expansion of the Caliphate, as successful campaigns were undertaken in Transoxiana in Central Asia, Sind, Hispania in far western Europe, and against the Byzantines.


He was born to Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan and his wife who was from the central Arabian region of Najd. Al-Walid was born in 668 and died in 715. Walid continued the expansion of the Islamic empire that was sparked by his father and was an effective ruler. His father Abd al-Malik had taken the oath of allegiance for Walid during his lifetime.[2]. As such the succession of Walid was not contested. His reign was marked by a number of conquests in both the east and west with historians considering his reign as the apex of Islamic power.

Walid continued the effective rule that was characteristic of his father, he developed a welfare system, built hospitals and educational institutions.

Walid was also known for his own personal piety, and many stories tell of his continual recitation of the Qur'an and the large feasts he hosted for those fasting during Ramadan.

Walid was married to his first cousin Umm Banin bint Abd al-Aziz ibn Marwan.

Walid was succeeded by his brother Sulayman and was buried in Bab al-Saghir cemetery in Damascus. His grave is still present to this date.


The Arab Empire at its greatest extent.
  Expansion under the Prophet Mohammad, 622-632
  Expansion during the first four caliphs, 632-661
  Expansion during the Umayyad Caliphate, 661-750
Khirbat ul Minya

Walid continued his father's policies of expanding Islamic power through conquests and took the early Islamic empire to its farthest extent. In 711, Muslim armies crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and began to conquer the Iberian Peninsula using North African Berber troops. By 716, the Visigoths of Iberia had been defeated and Iberia was under Muslim control. In the east, Islamic armies made it as far as the Indus River in 712. Under Walid, the Caliphate stretched from the Iberian Peninsula to India. Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf continued to play a crucial role in the organization and selection of military commanders in the East, serving as effectively the viceroy there.

Walid paid great attention to the development and expansion of a well-organized military. He built the strongest navy of the Umayyad era which was a key element in Caliphate's expansion into Iberia.

Like his father, Walid continued to allow Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf free rein, and his trust in Hajjaj paid off with his successful conquests of Transoxiana and Sindh. Musa ibn Nusayr and his retainer Tariq ibn Ziyad conquered Al-Andalus; whilst Mohammad Bin Qasim Conquered Sindh (present day Pakistan). Hajjaj was responsible for picking the generals who led the successful eastern campaigns, and was successful in his campaign against Ibn Zubayr during the reign of Walid's father. Others, such as Walid's brother Maslamah, advanced against the Byzantines and into Adharbayjan.

Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari describes how Qutayba ibn Muslim, Khurasan's governor, led forces extending the Caliphate to the east. Qutayba conquered Samarkand, advanced into Farghana and sent envoys to China. (v. 23)

Al-Tabari records how Hajjaj tortured Yazid ibn al-Muhallab. Yazid escaped and made his way to Walid's brother Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik who granted him refuge. Hajjaj pressed Walid about this and Walid commanded Sulayman to send him Yazid in chains. Sulayman had his own son approach Walid chained to Yazid and spoke in favour of Yazid's safety. Walid accepted this and told Hajjaj to desist. (v. 23, p. 156f)

Islamic culture and civilization

Walid began the first major building projects of Islam. The history of Islamic architecture can be said to have begun in earnest with Walid. Around 701, al-Walid ordered the building of Al-Aqsa Mosque, opposite his father's Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. Walid repaired and refurbished Masjid al Nabawi in Medina. He also improved roads, mountain passes and wells in Hijaz (al-Tabari v. 23, p. 144).

He renovated the Christian Basilica of Saint John the Baptist so he could build a great mosque, now known as the Great Mosque of Damascus or simply the Umayyad Mosque (Arabic: جامع بني أمية الكبير, transl. Ğām' Banī 'Umayyah al-Kabīr). The mosque holds a shrine which is said to contain the head of John the Baptist, honored as a prophet by Muslims and Christians alike (he is considered a Prophet of Islam and is known as Yahya). The head was said to have found during the excavations for the building of the mosque. The tomb of Saladin stands in a small garden adjoining the north wall of the mosque.

It was during Walid's reign that Islamic court culture began to develop. With the Caliph as the patron, artists and writers began to develop a new, partly secular culture based on Islamic ideas.

Walid coupled Islam with Arabic culture and values. Conversion was not forced on conquered peoples. However, since non-believers had to pay an extra tax, many people did convert for religious and non-religious reasons. This created several problems, particularly since Islam was so closely connected with being Arab. Being Arab was more than an ethnic identity, it was a tribal identity based on kinship and descent. As more and more Muslims were non-Arabs, the status of Arabs and their culture was threatened. In particular, large numbers of Coptic-speaking (Egypt) and Persian-speaking Muslims threatened the primacy of the very language that Islam was based on. In part to alleviate that threat, Walid instituted Arabic as the only official language of the empire. He decreed that all administration was to be done only in Arabic. It was this move that cemented the primacy of Arabic language and culture in the Islamic world.

Umayyad Mosque built by Walid



Wikisource has original works written by or about:
Al-Walid I
  1. Dr. Eli Munif Shahla, "Al-Ayam al-Akhira fi Hayat al-Kulafa", Dar al-Kitab al-Arabi, 1st ed., 1998, p. 236
  2. Muhammad and conquests of Islam by Francesco Gabreili
Al-Walid I
Born: 668 Died: 23 February 715
Sunni Islam titles
Preceded by
Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan
Caliph of Islam
Umayyad Caliph

705 – 23 February 715
Succeeded by
Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik
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