Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan ibn al-Hakam 644 – 705 was the fifth Umayyad caliph, ruling from April 685 until his death. A member of the first generation of born Muslims; his early life in Medina was occupied with pious pursuits. He held administrative and military posts under Caliph Mu’awiya I, founder of the Umayyad Caliphate; and his own father, Caliph Marwan I. By the time of Abd al-Malik’s accession, Umayyad authority had collapsed across the Caliphate as a result of the Second Muslim Civil War and had been reconstituted in Syria and Egypt during his father’s reign.
In a significant departure from his predecessors, rule over the Caliphate’s provinces was centralized under Abd al-Malik, following the elimination of his rivals. Gradually, loyalist Arab troops from Syria were tasked with maintaining order in the provinces as dependence on less reliable, local Arab garrisons receded. Tax surpluses from the provinces were forwarded to Damascus and the traditional military stipends to veterans of the early Muslim conquests and their descendants were abolished, salaries being restricted to those in active service.
The most consequential of Abd al-Malik’s reforms were the introduction of a single Islamic currency in place of Byzantine and Sasanian coinage and the establishment of Arabic as the language of the bureaucracy in place of Greek and Persian in Syria and Iraq, respectively. His Muslim upbringing, the conflicts with external and local Christian forces, and rival claimants to Islamic leadership all influenced Abd al-Malik’s efforts to prescribe a distinctly Islamic character to the Umayyad state.
Abd al-Malik ibn Marwān Builds the Dome of the Rock
Another manifestation of this initiative was his founding of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the earliest archaeologically attested religious monument built by a Muslim ruler and the possessor of the earliest epigraphic proclamations of Islam and the prophet Muhammad. The foundations established by Abd al-Malik enabled his son and successor, al-Walid I (r. 705–715), who largely maintained his father’s policies, to oversee the Umayyad Caliphate’s territorial and economic zenith. Abd al-Malik’s centralized government became the prototype of later medieval Muslim states.
In 685/86 or 688, Abd al-Malik began planning the construction of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Its dedication inscription mentions the year 691/92, which most scholars agree is the completion date of the building. It is the earliest archaeologically-attested religious structure to be built by a Muslim ruler and the building’s inscriptions contain the earliest epigraphic proclamations of Islam and of the prophet Muhammad.
The inscriptions proved to be a milestone, as afterward, they became a common feature in Islamic structures and almost always mention Muhammad.