Saylor.org's Ancient Civilizations of the World/The Caliphate

From Wikibooks, open books for an open world
Jump to: navigation, search

Introduction[edit]

Umayyad Caliphate at its greatest extend.

The Umayyad Caliphate (Arabic: بنو أمية‎, trans. Banu Umayyah; "Sons of Umayyah") (c. 661–750 CE/41–132 AH) was the second of the four major Islamic caliphates established after the death of Muhammad. It was ruled by the Umayyad dynasty, whose name derives from Umayya ibn Abd Shams, the great-grandfather of the first Umayyad caliph. Although the Umayyad family originally came from the city of Mecca, their capital was Damascus. At its greatest extent, it covered more than five million square miles (13,000,000 km2), making it one of the largest empires the world had yet seen, and the seventh largest contiguous empire ever to exist. After the Umayyads were overthrown by the Abbasid Caliphate, they fled across North Africa to the Iberian Peninsula (Al-Andalus), where they established the Caliphate of Córdoba, which lasted until 1031 before falling due to the Fitna of al-Ándalus. Muslim rule continued in Iberia for another 500 years in several forms: Taifas, Berber kingdoms, and under the Kingdom of Granada until the 16th century AD.

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

Genealogic tree of the Umayyad family.

According to tradition, the Umayyad family (also known as the Banu Abd-Shams) and Muhammad both descended from a common ancestor, Abd Manaf ibn Qusai and they are originally from the city of Mecca. Muhammad descended from Abd Manāf via his son Hashim, while the Umayyads descended from Abd Manaf via a different son, Abd-Shams, whose son was Umayya. The two families are therefore considered to be different clans (those of Hashim and of Umayya, respectively) of the same tribe (that of the Quraish). However Muslim Shia historians point out that Umayya was an adopted son of Abd Shams so he was not a blood relative of Abd Manaf ibn Qusai. While the Umayyads and the Hashimites may have had bitterness between the two clans before Muhammad, after Muhammad, the rivalry turned into a severe case of tribal animosity.

Even though Caliph Muawiyah (661–80) is considered the founder of the Umayyad dynasty, most historians consider him to have been the second ruler of the Umayyad dynasty. It is true, hee was the first to assert the Umayyads' right to rule on a dynastic principle, but it was really the caliphate of Uthman Ibn Affan (644–656), a member of Umayyad clan himself, that witnessed the revival and then the ascendancy of the Umayyad clan to the corridors of power. However, since Uthman never named an heir, he cannot be considered the founder of a dynasty.

After the assassination of Uthman in 656, Ali, a member of the Hashimite clan and a cousin of Muhammad, was elected as the caliph. He soon met with resistance from several factions, owing to his relative political inexperience. Fearing a danger to his life, Ali moved his capital from Medina to Kufa. The resulting conflict, which lasted from 656 until 661, is known as the First Fitna ("civil war"). Ali was first opposed by an alliance led by Aisha, the wife of Muhammad. The two sides clashed at the Battle of the Camel in 656, where Ali won a decisive victory.

Following this battle, Ali fought a battle against Muawiyah, head of the Umayyad clan, known as the Battle of Siffin. For reasons that remain obscure, the battle was stopped before either side had achieved victory, and the two parties agreed to arbitrate their dispute. Both the terms and the result of the arbitration, however, are subjects of contradictory and sometimes confused reports. Following the battle, a large group of Ali's soldiers, who resented his decision to submit the dispute to arbitration, broke away from Ali's force, rallying under the slogan, "arbitration belongs to God alone." The constant conflict had begun to affect his standing, and in the following years some Syrians seem to have acclaimed Muawiyah as a rival caliph. Ali was assassinated in 661. Muawiyah marched to Kufa, where he persuaded a number of Ali's supporters to acclaim him as caliph instead of Ali's son, Hasan. Following his elevation, Muawiyah moved the capital of the caliphate to Damascus.

Umayyad Caliphate[edit]

Under the Umayyads, the Caliphate grew rapidly in territory. Islamic rule expanded westward across North Africa and into Hispania and eastward through Persia and ultimately to the ancient lands of Indus Valley, in modern day Pakistan. This made it 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). Although not ruling all of the Sahara, homage was paid to the Caliph by Saharan Africa, usually via various nomad Berber tribes. However, it should be noted that, although these vast areas may have recognised the supremacy of the Caliph, de facto power was in the hands of local sultans and emirs.

For a variety of reasons, including that they were not elected via Shura and suggestions of impious behaviour, the Umayyad dynasty was not universally supported within the Muslim community. Some supported prominent early Muslims like Al-Zubayr; others felt that only members of Muhammad's clan, the Banu Hashim, or his own lineage, the descendants of Ali, should rule.

There were numerous rebellions against the Umayyads, as well as splits within the Umayyad ranks (notably, the rivalry between Yaman and Qays). Eventually, supporters of the Banu Hashim and the supporters of the lineage of Ali united to bring down the Umayyads in 750. However, the Shiʻat ʻAlī, "the Party of Ali", were again disappointed when the Abbasid dynasty took power, as the Abbasids were descended from Muhammad's uncle, `Abbas ibn `Abd al-Muttalib and not from Ali.

The Caliphate in Hispania[edit]

During the Umayyad dynasty, Hispania was an integral province of the Umayyad Caliphate ruled from Damascus, Syria. When the Caliphate was seized by the Abbasids, Al-Andalus (the Arab name for Hispania) split from the Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad to form their own caliphate. The Caliphate of Córdoba (خليفة قرطبة) ruled most of the Iberian Peninsula from the city of Córdoba from 929 to 1031. This period was characterized by remarkable flourishing in technology, trade and culture; many of the masterpieces of Spain were constructed in this period, including the famous Great Mosque of Córdoba. The title Caliph (خليفة) was claimed by Abd-ar-Rahman III on 16 January 929; he was previously known as the Emir of Córdoba (أمير قرطبة).

All Caliphs of Córdoba were members of the Umayyad dynasty; the same dynasty had held the title Emir of Córdoba and ruled over roughly the same territory since 756. The rule of the Caliphate is considered as the heyday of Muslim presence in the Iberian peninsula, before it fragmented into various taifas in the 11th century.

Administration[edit]

One of the Umayyad's first tasks was to create a stable administration for their empire. They followed the main ideas of the Byzantine Empire which had ruled the same region previously, and had three main governmental branches: political and military affairs; tax collection; and religious administration. Each of these was further subdivided into more branches, offices, and departments.

To assist the Caliph in administration there were six "boards": Diwan al-Kharaj (the Board of Revenue), Diwan al-Rasa'il (the Board of Correspondence), Diwan al-Khatam (the Board of Signet), Diwan al-Barid (the Board of Posts), Diwan al-Qudat (the Board of Justice) and Diwan al-Jund (the Military Board).

Provinces[edit]

A coin weight from the Umayyad Dynasty, dating back to 743. Made of glass, it is one of the oldest Islamic objects in an American museum. It is owned by the Walters Art Museum.

Geographically, the empire was divided into several provinces, the borders of which changed numerous times during the Umayyad reign. Each province had a governor appointed by the khalifah. The governor was in charge of the religious officials, army leaders, police, and civil administrators in his province. Local expenses were paid for by taxes coming from that province, with the remainder each year being sent to the central government in Damascus. As the central power of the Umayyad rulers waned in the later years of the dynasty, some governors neglected to send the extra tax revenue to Damascus and created great personal fortunes.

As the empire grew, the number of qualified Arab workers was too small to keep up with the rapid expansion of the empire. Therefore, Muawiya allowed many of the local government workers in conquered provinces to keep their jobs under the new Umayyad government. Thus, much of the local government's work was recorded in Greek, Coptic, and Persian. It was only during the reign of Abd al-Malik that government work began to be regularly recorded in Arabic.

Currency[edit]

In the Umayyad Caliphate, pre-existing coins remained in use, but with phrases from the Quran stamped on them. In addition to this, the Umayyad government began to mint its own coins in Damascus (which were similar to pre-existing coins), the first coins minted by a Muslim government in history. Gold coins were called dinars while silver coins were called dirhams.

Society[edit]

The Umayyad Caliphate exhibited four main social classes:

1. Muslim Arabs

2. Muslim non-Arabs (clients of the Muslim Arabs)

3. Non-Muslim free persons (Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians)

4. Slaves

Muslim Arabs[edit]

The Muslim Arabs were at the top of the society, and saw it as their duty to rule over the conquered areas. Despite the fact that Islam teaches the equality of all Muslims, the Arab Muslims held themselves in higher esteem than Muslim non-Arabs and generally did not mix with other Muslims.

Muslim non-Arabs[edit]

The inequality of Muslims in the empire led to social unrest. As Islam spread, more and more of the Muslim population became non-Arabs. This caused tension as the new converts were not given the same rights as Muslim Arabs. Also, as conversions increased, tax revenues off non-Muslims decreased to dangerous lows. These issues continued to grow until they helped cause the Abbasid Revolt in the 740s.

Non-Muslims[edit]

Non-Muslim groups in the Umayyad Caliphate, which included Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and pagan Berbers, were called dhimmis. They were given a legally protected status as second-class citizens as long as they accepted and acknowledged the political supremacy of the ruling Muslims. They were allowed to have their own courts, and were given freedom of their religion within the empire. Although they could not hold the highest public offices in the empire, they had many bureaucratic positions within the government. Christians and Jews still continued to produce great theological thinkers within their communities, but as time wore on, many of the intellectuals converted to Islam, leading to a lack of great thinkers in the non-Muslim communities.

Attribution[edit]

"The Umayyad Caliphate" (Wikipedia) "The Umayyad Caliphate" (Wikipedia)