Dear Muʿāwiya


Islamic Conquests
ʿAmr b. al-ʿĀṣ
ʿAbd Allāh b. Saʿd b. Abī al-Sarḥ
ʿUthmān b. ʿAffān


Based on the Armenian chronicle attributed to Sebēos, some scholars have argued for a large, failed Muslim expedition against Constantinople in or around 654 CE during ʿUthmān’s caliphate and Muʿāwiya’s governorship of Syria. Others seem to ignore the possibility, especially since there is no reference to such a siege in Arabic-language sources beyond perhaps one sentence in the history of Khalīfa b. al-Khayyāṭ. The poet Abū al-ʿIyāl al-Hudhalī, active in Egypt during the reigns of ʿUmar and ʿUthmān, provides a third possible source for this event in his description of a major Muslim military defeat against the Byzantines. Julius Wellhausen, in an overlooked article, noticed the historical significance of the poem but misdated it to the 660s. This essay redates the poem to the early to mid-650s and suggests that it refers to an early failed assault on Constantinople. It further argues that although the event is virtually ignored by the Arabic-language sources, it can help explain the Egyptian military’s hostility to ʿUthmān, which culminated in his assassination.
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