Umayyad Caliphate

map showing the extent of Umayyad Dynasty (661-750 AD)

Introduction of Umayyad Caliphate:

Umayyad Caliphate is first of the Muslim Empires (or Islamic Empires) of the world which ruled the Caliphate Empire (661-750 A.D.) Both Muhammad and Umayyads had a common ancestor named Abd Manaf ibn Qusai from where they descended. Muhammad descended from Hashim (Son of Abd Manaf ibn Qusai) and Umayyads descended from Hashim’s brother Abd-Shams, and the name of his son was Umayya

Features of Umayyad Caliphate:

gold coin from Umayyad EmpireThe Umayyad Dynasty’s Caliphs bear an unmatched social equality. They literally live a normal and modest life. They seek to follow their unique sense of dressing and were much curious about material goods and rituals. They alienated their court from the community of the Muslims and are closely attached with their own community.

Mu’awiyya, the first Umayyad Dynasty Caliph, introduced a completely different idea of kingship in the Muslim world, by vesting the authority of leadership to the super-normal individuals. He also introduced a new method of selecting caliphs, whereby the caliph was elected by a small group of powerful tribal leaders. The powerful leaders were influenced by Mu’awiyya so that his son Yajid gets selected as the new Caliph of Umayyad Caliphate. Thus, it is known that the Yajid’s succession was possible due to his father for whom the Umayyad Dynasty is basically popular as a hereditary dynasty. And it is due to this reason the Islamic historians call the Umayyad period as “kingdom” (Mulk) rather than caliphate.

The Umayyad Caliphate marked many changes in the Islamic Government. The adoption of Byzantine administration and financial systems were the most significant one whereby Mu’awiyya moved the administrative center of Islam from Medina to Damascus in Syria. He was influenced by his closest advisor to take on the Byzantine administration in Damascus. He allotted a large number of Christian administrator and counselors into the Byzantine administrational institution.

Another change was the establishment of wealth and monarchical accessories that flourished the efflorescence of art, architecture and writings in Islamic culture. This issue brought negative image to the Umayyads among many Muslim People of the Muslim Empires. It was recognized as a fundamental distortion of the religious and social principles of Islam.

Though, Mu’awiyya caliphate created much of the drawbacks, it also had merit points. Mu’awiyya was a brilliant ruler, under whose tenure, Islam enjoyed peace and strong military and political control over Iran and Iraq. Mu’awiyya was a generous and judicious administrator. He fully personified the Arabic virtue of “Leniency” or “Hilm”. His leniency  and forgiveness helped to establish a new administrative structure.

Periodic Wars:

As the new caliph of Umayyad Dynasty Yajid took the thrown, a second civil war with the followers of Ali broke out after the death of Mu’awiyya. Yajid killed Ali’s son Huasyn and few of his followers at Karbala in Iraq. This brutal act inspired the people of Medina to revolt but Yajid defeated this revolt and then laid siege to Mecca. During that event, Yajid took his last breath and the dynasty was succeeded by his teenage son, who was named Mu’awiyya II.

However, Mu’awiyya II could not rule the dynasty for long, due to his early death. This brought the Islamic world to a big disorder as the new hereditary caliphate was too young for the establishment to rule on.

A new Umayyad Caliphate was formed thereby in 684. Two tribes namely the Kalb and the Qays argued around for two candidates for caliph; Ibn- al- Zubayr and Marwan- ibn- al- Hakam. Marwan ibn al- Hakam won the clash who was supported by the Kalbites and became the caliph of the new Umayyad Dynasty. But Marwan also could not rule the dynasty for long. He died a year later and the Islamic world came into the hands of his son ‘Abd al-Malik’ who ruled from 685 to 705. But during his reign, all of the Arab was under the control of Ibn al- Zubayr and much of Iraq had fallen under the control of a rebel al- Mukhtar. In 692, Ibn al- Zubayr defeated al- Mukhtar whereas at the later phase, Abd al- Malik could succeed in defeating Ibn al- Zubayr at Mecca. He became so anxious for his victory that he destroyed all of  Ka’aba and Mecca and the holy place. This resulted in the end of Umayyad Caliphate’s control over Islam allowing both the oppositional forces the Shi’a and the Kharjites to remain powerful.

The Last of the Umayyad Dynasty:

The Umayyad Empire had a new beginning with the arrival of al- Wahid I, the son and successor of Abd al-Malik during 705-715 AD. He took the early Islamic Empire to the furthest extents. He moved to Carthage across west to North Africa, by conquering Egypt from the Byzantine. In 711, the Strait of Gibralter was crossed by Muslim armies and they began conquering Spain with the help of the Berber armies of North Africa. By 716, all of the Spain came under the control of Muslim power as the Visigoths of Spain got defeated by the Muslims. In 736, they expanded their Umayyad Empire to the Tours i.e. south of Europe, France, and towards the east, the Umayyad Empire could made up to Indus river of India from Spain in 710.

Al- Wahid introduced the beginning of Islamic architecture, art and culture in the history of Islamic world. The great mosque at Damascus is the great and the most famous architectural project of Al- Wahid caliphate. He was a great patron, artist and an excellent writer. He formed a new and partly secular culture which was based on Islamic ideas. He merged islamicization with arabicization, which created huge confusion among the people. Specially, based on similarity and descent the ethnic identity of being Arab became the tribal identity for the Arabs. Though, on the conquered people the conversion was not forced, the statue of Arabs and their culture were being threatened by the Coptic speaking (Egypt) and Persian speaking Muslims. With an intention to alleviate that threat, al- Wahid acknowledged Arabic as the only official language of the empire. This move cemented the predominance of Arabic language and culture in the Islamic world.

The Decline of the Umayyad Caliphate:

The last of the Marwani Caliphs to enjoy long reigns in Umayyad Dynasty was Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik who ruled for 20 Years from 724 to 743 A.D. This period saw the expansion of the Muslim Empires out of Spain and later into France which was later opposed and stopped in 736 A.D. by Franks.

Upon the death of Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik in 743, rebellions were starting to arise by the Kharjites and by disaffected non-Arabs against the Umayyad Dynasty. Eventually one of the rebellious groups, the Abassids overthrew the Umayyad Dynasty. The Abassids along with their allies Alids defeated the last of the Umayyad Dynasty’s ruling Caliphs Marwan II (744-750 A.D.).

Umayyad Caliphs List:

Caliphs of Damascus

  1. Muawiya I ibn Abu Sufyan (661 A.D.–680 A.D.)
  2. Yazid I ibn Muawiyah (680 A.D.–683 A.D.)
  3. Muawiya II ibn Yazid (683 A.D.–684 A.D.)
  4. Marwan I ibn al-Hakam (684 A.D.–685 A.D.)
  5. Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (685 A.D.–705 A.D.)
  6. al-Walid I ibn Abd al-Malik (705 A.D.–715 A.D.)
  7. Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik (715 A.D.–717 A.D.)
  8. Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz (717 A.D.–720 A.D.)
  9. Yazid II ibn Abd al-Malik (720 A.D.–724 A.D.)
  10. Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik (724 A.D.–743 A.D.)
  11. al-Walid II ibn Yazid (743 A.D.–744 A.D.)
  12. Yazid III ibn al-Walid (744 A.D.)
  13. Ibrahim ibn al-Walid (744 A.D.)
  14. Marwan II ibn Muhammad (ruled from Harran in the Jazira) (744 A.D.–750 A.D.)



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