Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf
|Umayyad governor of the Hejaz|
|Monarch||Abd al-Malik (r. 685–705)|
|Preceded by||Tariq ibn Amr|
|Succeeded by||Yahya ibn al-Hakam|
|Umayyad governor of Iraq|
|Monarch||Abd al-Malik (r. 685–705) |
Al-Walid I (r. 705–715)
|Preceded by||Bishr ibn Marwan|
|Succeeded by||Yazid ibn Abi Kabsha al-Saksaki|
|Born||c. 661 CE|
Ta'if, the Hejaz, Umayyad Caliphate
|Died||714 (aged 53)|
Wasit, Iraq, Umayyad Caliphate
|Relations||Muhammad ibn Yusuf al-Thaqafi (brother)|
|Parents||Yusuf ibn Hakam al-Thaqafi (father) |
al-Fari'a bint Hammam ibn Urwa al-Thaqafi (mother)
Abū Muhammad al-Ḥajjāj ibn Yūsuf ibn al-Ḥakam ibn ʿAqīl al-Thaqafī (Arabic: أبو محمد الحجاج بن يوسف بن الحكم بن عقيل الثقفي; Ta'if 661 – Wasit, 714 (40-95 AH)), known simply as al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf (Arabic: الحجاج بن يوسف, romanized: al-Ḥajjāj ibn Yūsuf), was perhaps the most notable governor who served the Umayyad Caliphate. He began his service with the Umayyads under Caliph Abd al-Malik (r. 685–705), who successively promoted him as the head of the caliph's shurta (security forces), the governor of the Hejaz (western Arabia) in 692–694, and the practical viceroy of a unified Iraqi province and the eastern parts of the Caliphate in 694. Al-Hajjaj retained the last post under Abd al-Malik's son and successor al-Walid I (r. 705–715), whose decision-making was highly influenced by al-Hajjaj, until his death in 714.
As governor of Iraq and the east, al-Hajjaj instituted key reforms. Among these were the minting of silver dirhams with strictly Muslim religious formulas instead of the coins' traditional, pre-Islamic Sasanian design; changing the language of the dīwān (bureaucracy) of Iraq from Persian to Arabic; and the introduction of a uniform version of the Quran. To revive agricultural production and increase tax revenue, al-Hajjaj expelled non-Arab Muslim converts from the garrison cities of Kufa and Basra to their rural villages of origin and collected from them the jizya (poll tax) nominally reserved for non-Muslim subjects and oversaw large-scale canal digging projects. In 701, al-Hajjaj, with reinforcements from Syria, crushed a mass rebellion led by the Kufan Arab nobleman Ibn al-Ash'ath whose ranks spanned the Arab troops, Muslim converts and religious elites of Iraq. Consequently, al-Hajjaj further tightened control over the province, founding the city of Wasit to house the loyalist Syrian troops whom he thereafter relied on to enforce his rule. A highly capable though ruthless statesman, strict in character, a harsh and demanding master, al-Hajjaj was widely feared by his contemporaries and became a deeply controversial figure and an object of deep-seated enmity among later, pro-Abbasid writers, who ascribed to him persecutions and mass executions.
Origin and early life and career
Al-Hajjaj was born in ca. 661 in the city of Ta'if in the Hejaz. He belonged to the clan of Abu Aqil, called after al-Hajjaj's paternal great-grandfather. The clan was part of the Banu Awf branch of the Banu Thaqif tribe. Members of the Thaqif attained high military and administrative ranks in the nascent Caliphate and played important command and economic roles during and after the early Muslim conquests, particularly in Iraq. The tribe's political influence continued to grow with the advent of the Umayyad Caliphate in 661. Al-Hajjaj's ancestry was not particularly distinguished: the Abu Aqil family was poor and its members had worked as stone carriers and builders. His mother, al-Fari'a, had been married and divorced by al-Mughira ibn Shu'ba, a member of the Thaqif who was appointed governor of Kufa by the first Umayyad caliph, Mu'awiya I (r. 661–680). As a boy, al-Hajjaj acquired the nickname Kulayb ("little dog"), with which he was later derisively referred to. His early life is obscure, except for his having been a schoolmaster in his hometown—another source of derision to his enemies—where he taught his pupils to copy and recite the Quran. His father Yusuf ibn al-Hakam and elder brother Muhammad were also teachers in Ta'if.
After a short, undetermined period, al-Hajjaj and his father left their teaching jobs and took up military service under Caliph Yazid I (r. 680–683), who was facing increasing opposition to his rule in the Hejaz. He participated in the Second Muslim Civil War, fighting in the battles of al-Harra (682) and of al-Rabadha (684)—both near Medina—but without particular distinction. At al-Harra, where a Syrian army dispatched by Yazid defeated the local defenders of Medina who had discarded the Caliph's authority, al-Hajjaj fought in the brigade of Hubaysh ibn Dulja al-Qayni. He fled the field in that engagement. According to verses recorded in the Kitab al-aghani, al-Hajjaj acknowledged: "I took to flight ... but later, I made good my fault by renewing the attack. For a sheikh takes to flight only once". He and his father were among the few to survive the battle at al-Rabadha, where Hubaysh ibn Dulja, the commander of the expedition, was slain fighting forces loyal to the Mecca-based anti-Umayyad caliph Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr. Al-Hajjaj's first public post, as governor of Tabala in the Tihama region 240 kilometres (150 mi) south of Ta'if, was unremarkable. Al-Hajjaj abandoned the post, considering it beneath his ambition. An Arabic proverb later developed out of this anecdote: ahwan ʿala al-Hajjaj min Tabala ("as insignificant as Tabalah is to al-Hajjaj").
Soon after Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (r. 685–705) acceded to the caliphate, al-Hajjaj left his hometown and went to the Umayyad capital, Damascus, where he entered the security force (shurta) of the Caliph.[a] The commander of the shurta, the Caliph's main adviser Rawh ibn Zinba al-Judhami, was impressed with al-Hajjaj's military capabilities and thinking. Upon Rawh's recommendation, Abd al-Malik appointed al-Hajjaj to enforce the Caliph's authority over a large army he mobilized for an expedition against the Zubayrid ruler of Iraq, Ibn al-Zubayr's brother Mus'ab, in 689/90. The Caliph was satisfied by the rapidity and efficiency with which al-Hajjaj restored discipline during a mutiny by the troops. During Abd al-Malik's siege of the rebel leader of the Qays tribes of the Jazira (Upper Mesopotamia), Zufar ibn al-Harith al-Kilabi, in al-Qariqisiya in the summer of 691, al-Hajjaj was sent as an emissary of the Caliph alongside the theologian Raja ibn Haywa to negotiate a reconciliation with Zufar.
As a result of his success suppressing the Caliph's mutinous troops, Abd al-Malik entrusted al-Hajjaj with command of the army's rear-guard. He achieved further feats of valour, so that after the defeat of Mus'ab at the Battle of Maskin, Abd al-Malik entrusted him to subdue Ibn al-Zubayr in Mecca. In late 691 he set out from Kufa at the head of 2,000 Syrian troops. After taking over Ta'if unopposed, he halted there as Abd al-Malik had charged him to try to secure Ibn al-Zubayr's capitulation by diplomatic means if possible, and to avoid the shedding of blood in Mecca. Ibn al-Zubayr rejected the Umayyad offers, and al-Hajjaj, after receiving reinforcements and the Caliph's permission, moved to attack Mecca. The Umayyad troops bombarded the city with catapults from Mount Abu Qubays, not letting up even during the hajj; even the Ka'aba was not spared, despite the presence of the assembled pilgrims. When a sudden thunderstorm broke out, which his soldiers interpreted as divine wrath, he was able to rally them and convince them that it was actually a sign of victory. Finally, in October 692, after seven months of siege and the defection of several thousand of his supporters, including two of his sons, Ibn al-Zubayr was killed alongside his last remaining loyal followers, fighting around the Ka'aba.
As a reward, Abd al-Malik gave al-Hajjaj the governorship of the Hejaz, Yemen, and al-Yamama (central Arabia). As governor, al-Hajjaj led the hajj in person in the years 73 and 74 AH (693 and 694 CE), and restored the Ka'aba to the shape and dimensions it had originally, rejecting the alterations made by Ibn al-Zubayr following the first Umayyad siege in 683. Al-Hajjaj was able to restore peace in the Hejaz, but his severity occasioned the frequent personal intervention of the Caliph.
Governor of Iraq
In early 694, Caliph Abd al-Malik sent al-Hajjaj to govern Iraq. This involved combining the governorships of Kufa and Basra, which had not been done since the days of Ziyad ibn Abi Sufyan twenty years earlier. The caliph had previously appointed his brother Bishr ibn Marwan governor of Kufa, but when he died in early 694, this "experiment in family rule" (Hugh N. Kennedy) had clearly not been a success, and al-Hajjaj, whose ability and loyalty had been amply demonstrated, was appointed to this crucial post. The governorship of Iraq was indeed "the most important and responsible administrative post of the Islamic state" (A. Dietrich), as it comprised not only Iraq proper, but also included the lands conquered by troops from the two colony towns (misr) of Kufa and Basra, i.e. Persia, Khurasan and the other eastern provinces of the Caliphate. The governor of Iraq was therefore in charge of a huge super-province or vice-royalty stretching from Mesopotamia to the still expanding borders in Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, comprising half of the Caliphate's territory and producing more than half its income. In addition, the post was of particular political sensitivity due to the long history of Kharijism and political dissent in Iraq, particularly in Kufa. This discontent was driven by various tribal, economic, and political factors. The population of Kufa contained people from almost all Arab tribes, but also many of those undesired elsewhere, such as the vanquished of the Ridda wars. Although it dominated the fertile lands of the Sawad, many of these were assigned by the Umayyads to princes of the dynasty, while the average Kufan was given land as a stipend for military service; but as the size of the stipend was determined by the earliness of conversion to Islam, many received only minuscule grants. Finally, the Kufans were largely left out of the spoils of conquest in the East; it was the Basrans who secured the lion's share, taking over far more extensive and richer territory like Khurasan or Sindh, while the Kufans were left with the mountains of Jibal and central Persia as their city's sole dependencies. Al-Hajjaj's purview originally excluded Khurasan and Sistan, which were governed by the largely ineffectual Umayyad prince Umayya ibn Abdallah ibn Khalid ibn Asid, but in 697/8 he received these two provinces as well, expanding his rule over the entire eastern half of the Caliphate. He remained in this post until his death in 714, and throughout this period, encompassing the remainder of Abd al-Malik's reign and most of that of his successor al-Walid (r. 705–715), he would be "the dominant feature in the sources" (G. R. Hawting).
Relations with the caliphs
Al-Hajjaj was, in the words of A. Dietrich, "the most loyal servant that a dynasty could wish for", and his loyalty was reciprocated by Abd al-Malik with his full trust. The relationship was further strengthened through family ties: al-Hajjaj's daughter wed Masrur, son of al-Walid I (r. 705–715), while the daughter of his brother Muhammad was wed to the future Yazid II (r. 720–724); the latter named his first-born son after al-Hajjaj, who in turn named three of his sons after members of the dynasty. Abd al-Malik named one of his sons al-Hajjaj, to whom the This close relationship is further evidenced by the many surviving letters exchanged between the two men. Al-Hajjaj's relationship with Abd al-Malik was much different than with the latter's successor, al-Walid, with whom the correspondence was restricted to their official functions. On the other hand, while Abd al-Malik was able to restrain his over-zealous governor whenever he was "extortionate in the raising of taxes, was too liberal with public resources, or was shedding more blood than was necessary" (A. Dietrich), al-Walid considered himself in al-Hajjaj's debt because he had championed the succession of al-Walid against Abd al-Malik's brother Abd al-Aziz ibn Marwan, and the new Caliph allowed his powerful governor free rein and relied heavily on his counsel even in the appointment and dismissal of officials. If his meddling in the succession had secured him the favour of al-Walid, it had also caused the declared enmity of al-Walid's brother Sulayman (r. 715–717). Sulayman furthermore had championed the cause of Yazid ibn al-Muhallab, whom al-Hajjaj had imprisoned. The possibility of Sulayman's accession so frightened al-Hajjaj that he wished not to outlive al-Walid.
Ibn al-Ash'ath's revolt and aftermath
Arriving at Kufa, al-Hajjaj gave an inaugural sermon at the local mosque that has become famous and is "often cited as an example of Arab eloquence" (G. R. Hawting). The situation he found there was one of disorder. The troops of Basra and Kufa, ostensibly garrisoned at Ramhurmuz under al-Muhallab ibn Abi Sufra had instead, upon the death of Bishr, left the camp and were idling in the cities. In order to restore discipline, al-Hajjaj announced that any man who did not within three days return to the camp would be put to death and his property be left open to plunder. This proved effective, but when he went to the troops to distribute the pay, al-Hajjaj faced another mutiny under Ibn al-Jarud because of making cuts in pay that the troops refused to accept. These problems overcome, al-Hajjaj sent the troops against the Kharijites. In 696 al-Muhallab defeated the Azariqa who had rallied around Qatari ibn al-Fuja'a as their anti-caliph, and in spring 697 another Kharijite leader, Shabib ibn Yazid al-Shaybani, was defeated on the Dujayl river in Khuzistan with the aid of Syrian troops. In the same year, al-Hajjaj suppressed the rebellion of the governor of Mada'in, al-Mutarrif ibn al-Mughira ibn Shu'ba, who had allied with the Kharijites.
These campaigns eradicated the Kharijite rebellion, but came at a cost to his relationship with the Iraqis: the campaigns against the Kharijites were extremely unpopular, and measures like the cuts in pay, according to Hugh N. Kennedy, "[seem] almost to have goaded the Iraqis into rebellion, as if looking for an excuse to break them". The explosion came in 699: when he had been conferred the governorships of Khurasan and Sistan, al-Hajjaj had given it to al-Muhallab, but in Sistan, the situation was far more unstable, and the country had to be essentially reconquered. An army under the local governor Ubayd Allah ibn Abi Bakra had suffered a heavy defeat against the ruler of the kingdom of Zabulistan, known as the Zunbil, and now al-Hajjaj ordered Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn al-Ash'ath, the most pre-eminent member of the Kufan aristocracy (the ashrāf) to lead an army against the Zunbil. This army was drawn from the Kufan soldiery, and such was the splendour of its equipment, or perhaps the "proud and haughty manner of the Kufan soldiers and ashrāf who composed it" (G. R. Hawting), that it became known in history as the "Peacock Army". This expedition marked the beginning of a rebellion that came close to destroying not only al-Hajjaj's, but also Umayyad, power in Iraq.
Ibn al-Ash'ath led his army to Sistan, and, as A. Dietrich writes, "at first carried out his campaign carefully and according to orders; he pacified each territory as it was conquered, ensured supplies and accustomed his troops gradually to the different climatic conditions". Al-Hajjaj, however, sent letter after letter to his commander, demanding an immediate assault against the Zunbil. The tone of these letters was extremely offensive, and he threatened to dismiss Ibn al-Ash'ath and appoint his own brother Ishaq to command the expedition instead. Al-Hajjaj's harsh tone and unreasonable demands, as well as the army's evident reluctance to continue such a protracted and arduous campaign so far from their homes, provoked a widespread mutiny, led by Ibn al-Ash'ath himself. The rebel army marched back to Iraq, growing to over 100,000 strong in the process as they were joined by other malcontents, and being transformed from a mutiny against al-Hajjaj—denounced as an enemy of God and a latter-day Pharaoh—to a full-blown anti-Umayyad movement.
Al-Hajjaj tried to stop the rebels at Tustar, but the rebels were victorious (early 701). Al-Hajjaj abandoned Basra to the rebels, and Ibn al-Ash'ath entered the city in triumph. Reinforced with Syrian troops, al-Hajjaj managed to score a minor victory, after which the bulk of the rebel army left Basra for their natural stronghold, Kufa. Al-Hajjaj recaptured Basra and pursued Ibn al-Ash'ath to Kufa, encamping near the city. Ibn al-Ash'ath's progress had sufficiently alarmed the Umayyad court that they sought a negotiated settlement, even though they kept sending Syrian reinforcements to al-Hajjaj. Abd al-Malik offered to dismiss al-Hajjaj, appoint Ibn al-Ash'ath as governor over one of the Iraqi towns, and raise the Iraqis' pay so that they received the same amount as the Syrians. Ibn al-Ash'ath was inclined to accept, but the more radical of his followers, especially the scholars known as qurrāʾ, refused, believing that the offered terms revealed the government's weakness, and pushed for outright victory. The two armies eventually met in the Battle of Dayr al-Jamajim in April 701, which resulted in a crushing victory for al-Hajjaj and his more disciplined Syrians. Kufa surrendered after that, and al-Hajjaj further undercut Ibn al-Ash'ath's support by promising amnesty to those who surrendered, providing however that they acknowledged that their rebellion had been tantamount to renouncing Islam; those who refused were executed. The remnants of the rebel army fled to Basra, but were soon evicted and pursued by the Syrians to Khuzistan and Sistan. There Ibn al-Ash'ath sought refuge with the Zunbil, but was either assassinated by the latter or committed suicide to avoid being surrendered to al-Hajjaj. Most of his remaining followers tried to reach Herat, but were defeated by al-Muhallab's son, Yazid ibn al-Muhallab, who surrendered those of north Arab provenance (Mudaris) but let the southern Arab (Yemeni) go.
The failure of Ibn al-Ash'ath's revolt led to the tightening of Umayyad control over Iraq. In 702 al-Hajjaj founded the city of Wasit, situated midway between Basra and Kufa, where he moved his seat. There he gathered all Syrian troops present in Iraq, ostensibly in order to rein in the Syrians and prevent excess at the expense of the populace, but in reality his aim was to isolate the Syrians from the locals and solidify their loyalty to him. Henceforth Iraq passed under virtual Syrian occupation, and the Iraqis, regardless of social status, were deprived of any real power in the governance of the region. Al-Hajjaj was now the undisputed master not only of Iraq, but of the entire Islamic East; only the governor of Khurasan, Yazid ibn al-Muhallab, retained some autonomy. Although Yazid was able to refuse several summons to Wasit, finally in 704 al-Hajjaj persuaded the Caliph to dismiss him, and Yazid was put in prison.
Campaigns of expansion
As governor of Iraq and viceroy of the East, al-Hajjaj supervised a major wave of expansion. He appointed Muhammad ibn al-Qasim al-Thaqafi to lead the conquest of northwestern India, Qutayba ibn Muslim to conquer Transoxiana, and Mujja'a ibn Si'r to Oman. Although al-Hajjaj himself undertook no campaign during these years, his role was essential: not only did he select the generals who carried out these campaigns, but also "prepared them very carefully, sparing no expense, since he calculated that with victory he would recover his expenses many times over" (A. Dietrich).
The relationship between al-Hajjaj and Muhammad ibn Qasim has always been one of great debate. Many accounts list al-Hajjaj as being his uncle or father in law. According to the Chach Nama, the oldest chronicle of the Arab conquest of Sindh, the primary reason al-Hajjaj ordered an expedition against Raja Dahir, was the pirate raid off the coast of Debal, resulting in the capturing both gifts to the caliph from the King of Serendib (modern Sri Lanka) as well as the female pilgrims on board who were captured. Upon hearing of the matter, al-Hajjaj wrote a letter to the Raja, and upon unsuccessful resolution being reached, launched a military attack. Other reasons attributed to al-Hajjaj's interest was in (1) gaining a foothold in the Makran, Balochistan and Sindh regions, (2) protecting the maritime interests of the caliphate, and (3) to punish the armies from Sindh for participating alongside the Persians in various battles such as those at Salasal, Qādisiyyah and Nahawand and also the granting of refuge to fleeing rebel chieftains.
Domestic government and reforms
Already in 695, al-Hajjaj began minting the new gold and silver coins, which superseded the Byzantine and Sasanian coins still used until then. He established mints at Kufa and later in Wasit and decreed strict punishments for counterfeiters. The new coins contained the name of Allah, and hence were initially opposed by many theologians who argued that they would also be used by infidels, but they quickly became a success and "helped to promote the circulation of money and the stabilization of economic conditions" (A. Dietrich). Al-Hajjaj also ordered the translation of the tax registers (diwān) into Arabic from the Persian in which it had hitherto been kept, so that he could supervise it personally.
Following his victory over the Iraqis, al-Hajjaj began a series of reforms aimed at restoring tranquility and prosperity to the troubled state after almost twenty years of civil war and rebellions. He invested much effort in reviving agriculture, especially in the Sawad, and thereby increasing revenue through the kharāj (land tax). He began to restore and expand the network of canals in lower Iraq. According to al-Baladhuri, he spared no expense to repair embankments when they broke, awarded uncultivated lands to deserving Arabs, and took measures to reverse the flow of the rural population to the cities, especially the new converts (mawālī). According to the historian Ibn Abd al-Hakam (d. 871), al-Hajjaj, with the support of Abd al-Malik, was the first to collect the jizya (poll tax) from the mawālī, though its imposition was nominally restricted to non-Muslim subjects of the Caliphate.
Allegations of tampering with the Quran
As part of his efforts to strengthen uniformity in the state, he also tried to introduce a definitive, uniform version of the Quran so as to eliminate theological quarrels. Al-Hajjaj's version also probably included new vowel diacritics, and purged the text of any references hostile to the Umayyads. He declared this version to be the only valid one, while prohibiting the use of Ibn Mas'ud's qirā'a.
The orientalist Arthur Jeffery claimed that al-Hajjaj made changes to the Quran, purging the text of any references hostile to the Umayyads and declaring his version to be the only valid one. Other authors however argue that it is difficult to assess any role had by al-Hajjaj, though they argue for plausibility of a widely known account that has him ordering Nasr ibn Asim to introduce new vowel diacritics, a story that is unchallenged, despite the strong hostility of Muslim sources towards al-Hajjaj. Jeffery argued that al-Hajjaj seemed "to have made an entirely new recension of the Qur'an", basing his argument on a Muslim source and two Christian sources.
The Muslim source is a hadith report in Sunan Abu Dawood, which details eleven changes. Researcher Umar Ibn Ibrahim Radwan, argues that the changes could be categorised as differences in the qira'at. Doubting the authenticity of the hadith report, Radwan argues that the codex of Uthman, a caliph favored by al-Hajjaj, had already been memorised by thousands of Muslims and that the Abbasid dynasty, which was known for polemically showcasing the negative aspects of Umayyad rule, would have taken the opportunity to show that the Umayyads had corrupted the Quran. One of the Christian sources was a letter reported by Levond to have been written by the Byzantine emperor Leo III addressed to Caliph Umar II. Jeffrey notes the authenticity of the letter is disputed by historian, including John Wansbrough, who denied that Levond had reported it. Neal Robinson argues that even if the letter was authentic, the activity of al-Hajjaj would have been limited to destroying sectarian writings and early codices which preserved the suras (Quranic chapters) in a different order. The other Christian source is an apologetic letter attributed to Abd al-Masih al-Kindi. The dating of the letter is disputed, the Arabist Paul Kraus concluding that its composition dated to the beginning of the 10th century. Moreover, other authors have rejected that the letter had any factual basis, arguing that it was a polemical work.
According to the Islamic historical tradition, in c. 700, al-Hajjaj improved written Arabic by adding diacritical marks to the bare rasm of early "defective" Arabic so that consonants such as these five letters ـبـ ـتـ ـثـ ـنـ ـيـ (y, n, th, t, b) could be distinguished from one another. However, some historians believe these language reforms occurred earlier in Syria or Iraq before the advent of Islam.
Death and legacy
Al-Hajjaj died in Wasit in May or June 714 at the age of 53 or 54. On his deathbed, he appointed his son Abd Allah to replace him as leader of the Friday prayers. He penned a letter to al-Walid, which concluded as follows:
When I meet God and find favour with Him, therein shall be the joy of my soul. The eternity of God sufficeth me, and I therefore place not my hopes on mortals. Those who were before us have tasted of death, and after them we also shall taste it.
The cause of his death, according to the medieval historian Ibn Khallikan (d. 1282), was a stomach cancer. The following year, al-Walid died as well, and his brother Sulayman came to power. As the heir apparent, Sulayman had allied with many of al-Hajjaj's opponents, particularly Yazid ibn al-Muhallab, whom he appointed governor of Iraq shortly after his accession. Possibly having been convinced by such allies that al-Hajjaj had provoked hatred among the Iraqis toward the Umayyads as opposed to fostering their loyalty, the caliph deposed the late viceroy's appointees and allies in the province and throughout the eastern Caliphate. This was likely due to their connection with al-Hajjaj personally. Among those who fell from grace was al-Hajjaj's kinsman, Muhammad ibn al-Qasim, who was dismissed from his governorship of Sindh and executed in Wasit.
In the assessment of historian Julius Wellhausen, al-Hajjaj was "harsh and at times hard, but not cruel; neither was he petty or bigoted". Though he was criticized in the early Muslim sources for his bombardment of Mecca and the Ka'aba during his siege of Ibn al-Zubayr, "other shameful deeds" al-Hajjaj was held responsible for are the "inventions and fabrications of the hatred of his enemies". Among these was a charge by an anonymous source recorded by al-Tabari that al-Hajjaj massacred between 11,000 and 130,000 men in Basra following his suppression of Ibn al-Ash'ath's revolt, in contrast to the older traditional Muslim sources, which held that al-Hajjaj granted a general pardon in Kufa and Basra after his victory for rebels who renounced Ibn al-Ash'ath.
Al-Hajjaj's first wife was Umm Aban, a daughter of Nu'man ibn Bashir al-Ansari, an aide of Caliph Mu'awiya and onetime governor of Kufa. Before being appointed governor of Iraq, he was also wed to another daughter of Nu'man, Hamida, after she had been divorced by Abd al-Malik's chief adviser, Rawh ibn Zinba; al-Hajjaj divorced Hamida during his governorship in Iraq. During his governorship of Medina, al-Hajjaj married Umm al-Julas, a daughter of Abdallah ibn Khalid ibn Asid, a member of the Umayyad dynasty. This followed his divorce of Umm Kulthum bint Abd Allah ibn Ja'far, a grandniece of Caliph Ali (r. 656–661). While al-Mas'udi holds al-Hajjaj divorced Umm Kulthum to humiliate the family of Abu Talib (the father of Ali), accounts recorded in the Kitab al-Aghani and by Ibn Abd Rabbihi and Ibn al-Athir hold that Abd al-Malik ordered al-Hajjaj to divorce her and return her dowry after petitions by her father and the Umayyad prince Khalid ibn Yazid ibn Mu'awiya; the modern historian Shiv Rai Chowdhry argues the latter account is more credible. During his rule in Iraq, al-Hajjaj married Hind, a daughter of al-Muhallab, but according to the historian al-Tabari, divorced her in 708/09 because she cried audibly at the torture of her brother Yazid in al-Hajjaj's prison. With his marriage to Umm Banin bint al-Mughira ibn Abd al-Rahman, a great-granddaughter of al-Harith ibn Hisham, al-Hajjaj became one of the few non-Qurayshites to marry into the prominent Banu Makhzum clan; two of his sons also married into the clan.
According to the historian Ibn Hazm (d. 1064), al-Hajjaj had four sons: his eldest Muhammad, and Abd al-Malik, Aban and Sulayman (or al-Walid). The latter three were named after members of the Umayyad dynasty. Al-Tabari mentions a son named Abd Allah. Muhammad died during al-Hajjaj's lifetime and his descendants were recorded living in Damascus as late as the 9th century. Abd al-Malik also had descendants recorded living in the 9th century, in Basra, while Aban and Sulayman (or al-Walid) died without progeny.
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Bishr ibn Marwan
| Governor of Iraq
Yazid ibn Abi Kabshah al-Saksaki
Tariq ibn Amr
| Governor of Medina
Yahya ibn al-Hakam