ThatUmayyaden Caliphateforever changed the face of the Islamic world through military expansion and created a vast empire. Some saw their dynasty (661 - 750 n. Chr.)as a golden age, while others criticized thatCaliphsas secular compared to their pious predecessors. TThe Umayyads were more concerned with expanding and administering the territory of the Islamic world than spreading the word of God or converting people to Islam. Whichever viewpoint you agree with, it's hard to deny that the Umayyad Empire was a transformative period in Islamic history.
A politico-religious state that ruled the Islamic community in the centuries following the death of Prophet Muhammad.
The Rule of a Caliphate. The caliph is regarded as the successor to the Prophet Muhammad as the religious and secular leader of the Islamic people.
The Umayyad Empire (AD 661 - 750) was one of the largestpoliticallyandculturalcenters of the early Middle Ages. The Umayyad caliphs ruled the Islamic world in the following centuryProphet Muhammad's Tod in632 u. Zwhen they succeededRashidun-Kalifat. This made the Umayyad dynasty the second Islamic caliphate.
The capital of the Umayyads was the citydamascus,Syria. However, this Islamic empire was best known for its successful conquests. By the end of the dynasty, the regions of the Umayyad Empire stretched from Western Europe to Southeast Asia. This led to the long-term Islamization from Central Asia.
The first Caliphate of Islam to rule the Islamic world since the death of Prophet Muhammad in 632 CE. When Caliph Ali was assassinated in 661 CE, the Rashidun Caliphate ended and the Umayyad dynasty took over.
The process by which a society moves towards the religion of Islam.
The historian Andrew Marsham expresses the importance of the Umayyads in the following quote:
[...] It is no exaggeration to say that the power structures of the Umayyad Empire both facilitated and shaped the development of the religious and ethnic formations in the southern Mediterranean, the Middle East and western Central Asia. [...] These changes have profoundly and permanently changed all these regions.1
Fig. 1 - Map showing the territory of the Umayyad Caliphate (Legend: Brown = expansion under Prophet Muhammad; Orange = expansion under Rashidun Caliphate; Yellow = expansion under Umayyad Caliphate).
So how did this vast empire fall? The caliphs faced military defeats and financial problems for some time before the end of the empire in 750.After the Byzantine army led a crushing defeat of Umayyad forces in 740, civil war broke out in the Islamic worldKaysandKalbfactions. In 749 C.E. the war was won by Abu al-Abbas al-Saffah, founder of the Third Islamic Empire (theAbbasid Caliphate) and executed members of the Umayyad ruling family.
Only one survivor escaped Abd-ar-Rahman. He fled to Spain, where he founded the Emirate of Cordoba. There the Umayyad dynasty survived in Spain until 1031 CE.
Although the Umayyad Empire was one of the most important empires in the world, historians encounter a major problem when studying it: all the sources we have about the Umayyads come from themcenturies later. Most of the sources come from the Abbasid Caliphate, the Islamic dynasty that succeeded the Umayyads and which harshly criticized it. Therefore, it can be difficult for historians to see through thisPrejudice against the Umayyadsthese later sources to learn the truth of what was happening in the Islamic world under the Umayyads.
Caliphs of the Umayyad Dynasty
There were fourteen caliphs who ruled the Islamic empire under the Umayyad dynasty:
- Caliph Mu'awiya I (661–680)
- Caliph Yazid I. (680-683)
- Caliph Muawiya II (683–684)
- Caliph Marwan I. (684–685)
- CaliphAbd al-Malik(685-705)
- Kalif Al-Walid I. (705-715)
- Kalif Sulayman (715-717)
- Caliph Umar (717–720)
- Caliph Yazid II (720-724)
- Caliph Hisham (724–743)
- Kalif Al-Walid II (743-744)
- Caliph Yazid III (744)
- Caliph Ibrahim (744)
- Caliph Marwan II (744–750)
Timeline of the Umayyad Caliphate
Here is a timeline outlining some of the major Umayyad events.
|661||Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan founded the Umayyad Caliphate.|
|680||The death of the Shia Imam Husayn led to the beginning of theSecond fitna.|
|711-714||The Empire conquered Spain and regions in present-day Pakistan.|
|715||Sulayman became caliph. There was no more empire expansion.|
|717-718||An unsuccessful attempt to take Constantinople meant that Umar II withdrew the Umayyad forces.|
|743-747||ThatThird fitnah.Marwan II appeared as caliph.|
|750||The Umayyad caliphate fell and was succeeded by the Abbasid caliphate.|
|756||The surviving member of the Umayyad dynasty founded the Emirate of Cordoba.|
Literally translated from Arabic, fitna means a test or trial. However, in the context of the history of Islam, a fitna is a civil war between opposing factions within the Islamic world. There were two fitnas during the Umayyad Caliphate, the second of which led to the fall of the Umayyad dynasty in 750 CE.
Founder of the Umayyad Caliphate
Was the founder and first Caliph of the Umayyad CaliphateMuawiya ibn Abi Sufyan. He was born inMeccaand rose to become governor of Syria before founding the Umayyad Empire.
Fig. 2 - Drawing of the Fatimid caliph.
Im624 n. Chr., Muawiya fought alongside Meccan leaders against the Prophet Muhammad in the Islamic watershedBattle of Badr. The Meccans criticized the Prophet's emphasis on converting non-Muslims to Islam. However, the Meccans lost the battle.
After Prophet Muhammad died, Muawiya became one of the main opponents of theRashidun-Kalifatduring theFirst fitna.
Fate changed for Muawiya in661 n. Chr.when he fought successfully against the fourth caliph, Ali, son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad.Ali was murdered, and the way was clear for Muawiya to take over the leadership of the Islamic community.
He established a new dynasty to take over the Rashidun Caliphate.He decided to give his dynasty a name.sons of Umayya' because Umayya was a common ancestor he shared with the Prophet Muhammad, and so the name enhanced his legitimacy to rule the Islamic world.
Umayyad Caliphate: Umayyad population
At its greatest extent in the 730s, the Umayyad Empire was the largest in history by land area to date.2- Andrew Marsham, historian
The Umayyad Empire greatly increased the population of the Islamic world over timeterritorial conquest, but estimates of the population during the Umayyad heyday vary widely.
An estimate put forward by Colin McEvedy and Richard Jones, authors ofAtlas of World Population History(1978), is that the Umayyads ruled a population of about20-30 million people.3
The Islamic empire was divided into different regions, each governed by a governor appointed by the caliph. However, the rapid expansion of the Umayyads meant that there were not enough Arab laborers to cover the entire area. Therefore, the Umayyads often allowedexisting populationsto keep their jobs under the new government. This meant that administration was initially conducted in various languages, includingPersian,Greek, andCoptic. Only in the late stages of the dynasty did the empire synthesize administrationArabic.
The population of the Umayyad Empire was divided into four social classes:
- Islamic Arabs
- Islamic non-Arabs
- Dhimmis - Non-Islamic free people (including Christians and Jews)
- enslaved people
The divisions between these groups could be bitter and acrimonious, and helped herald the fall of the Empire. Because Islamic Arabs saw themselves at the top of the pecking order, anddid not mixwith other Islamic communities from non-Arab areas.
However, as the empire expanded, the non-Arab population naturally increased as a proportion of the Islamic population. These new converts were not given the same rights as the Islamic Arabs who created important workssocial unrest.
In addition, tax revenues from dhimmis declined in later periods as non-Muslims began to convert to Islam, resulting in scarce resources. These social problems contributed to thisAbbasidische Revolutionin them740er.
Umayyad Empire: Achievements and Legacies
The Umayyad Empire was a towering monument of the early medieval world, and its achievements are being reassessed and expanded.
Many of the developments in Islam that were formally attributed to the Abbasid period — for example, the emergence of Islamic theology and Islamic law, the rise of scholarship in the Islamic world, and the development of important institutions of Muslim government — are now dated by many scholars in the Umayyad period.5- Tanveer Anjum, Historian
Some Umayyad achievements and legacies include:
The Umayyad Empire greatly increased the size of the Islamic world. His armies conquered territorySpaintoIn the event thatwho take control of many important cities includingBukhara, Samarkand, Khwarezm, Tashkent and Fergana.
Islamization of Central Asia
The Umayyad conquests had a profound, long-term impact on thereligiousandculturallife of the regions conquered by them. Particularly adopted the southern Mediterranean, the Middle East and western AsiaIslam.
development of Islam
Many of the elements that we now consider fundamental to Islam developed during the Umayyad period.
For example theKoranwas created during this time. In addition, the annual Hajj pilgrimageMeccabegan during the Umayyad rule. The late Umayyad period also saw the beginning of the formal tradition of theHadith- the accounts of the life and times of the Prophet Mohammad and his companions.
Despite rapid expansion, the Umayyad Empire managed to effectively control its territory through developmenthigh quality infrastructure. One of the key achievements of the Umayyads was the creation of aPostsystem, allowing communication to flow smoothly throughout their empire. Another important system was their financial infrastructure - abanking systemthat was based on credit.
The Umayyads built some of the most impressivearchitecturethe world knew. They mixed earlier architectural styles with inspirationByzantineandMesopotamia decorationsto create a fusion of Eastern and Western inspired design.
The Umayyads also pioneered new types ofIslamic places of worship. Before this point, Islamic mosques had been temporary and simple. However, the Umayyads introduced distinctive new features, including more aisles, decorative panels,mihrabs and minarets. Two of the crowning architectural achievements of this era were the creation of theGreat Mosque of Damascusand theFelsendomatJerusalem.
Fig. 3 - The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
Rise of Sufism
Sufism established itself as a vocal force within the Islamic world during the Umayyad Empire. The origins of this mystical tradition within Islam can be interpreted as emergentcriticism of materialismthe Umayyads. This is an opinion emphasized by the historian of Sufism, Tanvin Anjum. The Sufi teachings ofvoluntary povertyin contrast to the wealth of the ruling family and the constant desire to acquire new land.6
A special branch of Islam. Sufism is the mystical branch of Islam whose followers focus on developing the individual's direct personal awareness of Allah. They tend to interpret the Koran more liberally. A Sufi can be either Sunni or Shia or both.
Controversial perspectives on the Umayyad legacy
The majority of Islamic historians portray the Umayyads in a negative light, criticizing their focus on expansion and administration rather than spreading the word of God as the Rashidun Caliphate did.
One of the terms sometimes used against the Umayyads in this regard isMulch: a term for a kingship with strong connotations of tyranny. However, modern Arab nationalists tend to portray the Umayyad Empire as a key element of the Arab Golden Age because of its military and cultural achievements.
Umayyad Caliphate - Key Take-aways
- The Umayyad Caliphate ruled the Islamic world from 661 to 750 AD.
- The founder of the Umayyad Caliphate was Caliph Muawiya. He chose the name Umayyad for his dynasty because Umayyad was a common ancestor that he and Prophet Muhammad shared.
- The population of the Umayyad Caliphate is difficult to estimate. Some historians assume that the empire had 20 million inhabitants, others believe that this figure was as high as 60 million.
- The main achievement of the Umayyad Caliphate was the expansion of the Islamic Empire. By the end of their era, the empire stretched from Spain to India.
- The Umayyads also built fantastic architecture, including the Great Mosque of Damascus and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
- Andrew Marsham, The Umayyad World (2021), S. 1.
- Andrew Marsham, The Umayyad World (2021), S. 4.
- Colin McEvedy und Richard Jones, Atlas of World Population History (1978), S. 128.
- Alain George and Andrew Marsham, "Introduction: Umayyad Elites and the Foundation of the Islamic Empire" in Power, Patronage, and Memory in Early Islam (2018).
- Tanvir Anjum, "Sufism in History and its Relation to Power", Islamic Studies Journal (2006).
What were key events of the Umayyad dynasty? ›
Conquest of most of Spain by the Umayyad Dynasty. Military conquests as far as the Beas river in parts of modern-day Pakistan by the Umayyad forces - under Muhammad ibn Qasim. Successful annexation of modern-day Transoxiana by Qutayba ibn Muslim. Sulayman rises to power; expansion of the Umayyad Caliphate is halted.Why were the Umayyad caliphs successful? ›
Answer and Explanation: The success of the Umayyad caliphate is due to their expansion and organization. The Umayyad centralized their authority in a capital city of Damascus and used administrators to govern their ever-expanding empire.When did the Umayyad dynasty begin and end? ›
Umayyad dynasty, (661–750) First great Muslim dynasty. It was founded by Muʿāwiyah I, who triumphed over the Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law, ʿAlī, to become the fifth caliph. He moved the capital from Medina to Damascus and used the Syrian army to extend the Arab empire.What are three achievements of the Umayyads? ›
The Dome of the Rock. The Great Mosque in Damascus. The Great Mosque in Córdoba. These remarkable architectural and artistic achievements are associated with the Umayyads, “first” dynasty of the Islamic World.What were the achievements of the Umayyad Caliphate? ›
These included creating a common coinage, establishing Arabic as the official language throughout the empire, and standardizing weights and measures. They also built some of the most revered buildings of Islamic history including the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.How did the Umayyads gain power? ›
However, following the assassination of 'Ali ibn Abi Talib—Muhammad's cousin, son-in-law, and fourth caliph (r. 656–61)—in 661, Mu'awiya, the governor of Syria under the Rightly Guided Caliphs, seized power and established the Umayyad caliphate, the first Islamic dynasty (661–750).What is the main reason of Umayyad dynasty's failure? ›
Military Defeat, Financial Crisis, and Revolts.What changes did the Umayyads make? ›
What changes did Umayyads make during their rule? The Umayyads abandoned the simple life of previous caliphs and surrounded themselves with wealth and ceremony. - Most notably, they moved the capital from Mecca to Damascus.What was significant about the Umayyad period? ›
What was the significance of the Umayyad dynasty? The expanse of the Umayyad empire and its program of Arabization were responsible for spreading Islam and the Arabic language over a vast area.What happened to the Umayyads? ›
In 750, the Umayyad dynasty in Syria fell to the Abbasids. The one surviving member, 'Abd al-Rahman I (reigned 756–88), escaped to Spain and established autonomous rule there. He rebuilt Córdoba, the capital city, to reflect his Syrian heritage and the Byzantine roots of the Umayyad capital of Damascus.
Who defeated the last Umayyad caliph? ›
Marwān II, (born c. 684—died 750, Egypt), last of the Umayyad caliphs (reigned 744–750). He was killed while fleeing the forces of Abū al-ʿAbbās as-Saffāḥ, the first caliph of the ʿAbbāsid dynasty.What were the major achievements of the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties? ›
- Ruled vast empire with important trading cities. ...
- Developed innovations in the building of canal and irrigation systems. ...
- Perfected mosque construction techniques. ...
- Ruled longer. ...
- Developed sophisticated system of banking that used checks. ...
- Advanced navigational and sailing techniques.
Legacy of the Umayyad Caliphate
During the period of the Umayyads, Arabic became the administrative language, in which state documents and currency were issued. Mass conversions brought a large influx of Muslims to the caliphate.
- The Abbasid Caliphate Created an Inclusive Society. ...
- The Construction of Baghdad. ...
- Dominance Over the Silk Road. ...
- Translation of Writing by Ancient Greek Philosophers. ...
- Major Contributions to Science. ...
- Literature in the Abbasid Caliphate. ...
- Major Technological Progress.
Explanation: The main achievements of the Ummayyad Caliphate was that they were able to bring large swaths of land under muslim control and were able to reduce the power of their neighbours and keep them in check.What was conquered by the Umayyads? ›
The Umayyad conquest of Hispania, also known as the Muslim Arab conquest of Iberia, was the initial expansion of the Umayyad Caliphate over Hispania (in the Iberian Peninsula) from 711 to 718.Was the Umayyad Caliphate the biggest empire? ›
Established following the death of Muhammad in 632 CE, the vast Umayyad dynasty comprised over 4 million square miles, making its empire one of the largest in history.
The Umayyad were able to expand their empire by a significant military force. Using a predominantly Syrian army, the Umayyads expanded their rule to northern India and across North Africa.Who overthrew the Umayyads and how? ›
The Abbasids overthrew the Umayyad dynasty in 750 CE, supporting the mawali, or non-Arab Muslims, by moving the capital to Baghdad in 762 CE.Why were the Umayyads overthrown? ›
Non-Arabs were treated as second-class citizens regardless of whether or not they converted to Islam, and this discontent cutting across faiths and ethnicities ultimately led to the Umayyads' overthrow.
Why were the Umayyad caliphs overthrown? ›
Answer and Explanation: The Abbasid Dynasty overthrew the Umayyad Caliphate in the Abbasid Revolution of 750-751 AD. The Abbasids rose up against the Umayyads because of the failed policies of the Umayyads, most notably their failed campaigns against the Eastern Romans (Byzantines).Was the Umayyad Caliphate a superpower? ›
While Europe lay in the Dark Ages, the Umayyad Caliphate established the largest empire the world had yet seen, the political, military, economic and cultural superpower of its day.Did the Umayyads conquer Egypt? ›
Muslim conquest of Egypt.
|Territorial changes||Rashidun Caliphate annexes Egypt, Cyrenaica and Tripolitania|
|Battle of Tours|
|Date 10 October 732 Location Moussais-la-Bataille, France47.3936°N 0.6892°E Result Frankish victory, withdrawal of the Umayyad army|
|Kingdom of the Franks (Western Franks) Vascones||Umayyad Caliphate|
|Commanders and leaders|
In 661 following the death of Ali, the Umayyad dynasty came to power moving their capital city to Damascus that had been conquered from the Eastern Roman Empire. They were a powerful Sunni family whose rule was rejected by Ali's son Hussein.When did the Umayyad empire fall? ›
At its greatest extent, the Umayyad Caliphate covered 11,100,000 km2 (4,300,000 sq mi), making it one of the largest empires in history in terms of area. The dynasty in most of the Islamic world was eventually overthrown by a rebellion led by the Abbasids in 750.
Military Defeat, Financial Crisis, and Revolts.What changes did the Umayyad dynasty make? ›
The Islamic Caliphate became one of the largest unitary states in history, and one of the few states to ever extend direct rule over three continents (Africa, Europe, and Asia). The Umayyads incorporated the Caucasus, Transoxiana, Sindh, the Maghreb, and the Iberian Peninsula (Al-Andalus) into the Muslim world.What caused the rise of the Umayyad empire? ›
At the time of the death of the Third Caliph, Uthman Ibn Affan, the Islamic Empire conquered Persia, the Levant, Anatolia, and Egypt and was slowly encroaching on North Africa. But Uthman's murder unleashed an era of instability known as the Great Fitna, which saw the rise of the Umayyad Caliphate.What is the Umayyad Caliphate known for? ›
What was the significance of the Umayyad dynasty? The expanse of the Umayyad empire and its program of Arabization were responsible for spreading Islam and the Arabic language over a vast area.
How did the Umayyad dynasty fall? ›
In 750, the Umayyad dynasty in Syria fell to the Abbasids. The one surviving member, 'Abd al-Rahman I (reigned 756–88), escaped to Spain and established autonomous rule there. He rebuilt Córdoba, the capital city, to reflect his Syrian heritage and the Byzantine roots of the Umayyad capital of Damascus.How did Umayyad treat non Muslims? ›
Non-Arabs were treated as second-class citizens regardless of whether or not they converted to Islam, and this discontent cutting across faiths and ethnicities ultimately led to the Umayyads' overthrow.