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�PAGE � �PAGE �2� Umayyads


The Periods of the Islamic Civilisation (Umayyads)


The Periods of the Islamic Civilisation (Umayyads)


With the termination of the pious caliphate the establishment of the Umayyad caliphate, a fundamental change came over the administrative policy and ideals of the Muslim state. The accession of Amir Mauwiyah to the throne of the caliphate of Islam brought about a great constitutional change. The Umayyads however, maintained an extremely strong army, and vast territories were acquired by generals. Their society had undergone considerable changes with the incoming of several policies in the administration of the state.


Rise and achievement of Umayyad Dynasty

Umayyads, the was the first Muslim dynasty, from 661 to750. (Umayads, 2010) The murder of Hazrat Ali was the when the Umayyad Dynasty came into being. This would resolve the issue of succession for a short period of time.

The Umayyads were successful in forming quickly as they had associations with the Meccan Merchant Clan and a lot of alliances.

Due to this, Islam reclaimed their stability and began to grow. They had a strong connection with Mecca but still they made Damascus as their capital. Mainly because it was a Syrian city which could earn them some profit (Bosworth 1996). Apart from this, they could have interrupted communication from with the rest of the Islamic Empire.

Intellectual activities in Umayyad Dynasty

The sons of the desert were ignorant of learning, having no heritage of culture and they brought nothing to the lands they conquered. With the expansion of Islamic empire, the Muslims came into contact with the ancient seats of civilization such as Mesopotamia, Persia and Egypt. This contact with the ancient civilization was a divine boom to them (Hawting, 1981).

The Umayyad glorified their region with vast territorial expansions, and the achievements of the Muslim in the domain of culture and learning was by no means insignificant. The Umayyad caliphs were, however more interested in the patronage of poetry, music architecture and painting, yet to some extent there is hardly and branch of learning in which the Muslim did not make any contribution (Crone& Martin1986).

Religious-Philosophical Movements

The Umayyad period had witnessed the rudiments of many relegio-philosophical movements. In the first half of the eighth century, Basra became the centre of intellectual activities and the first traces of a sect were traced which maintained the principle that thought must not be arrested under any compulsion and it freely searched truth and justice. Thus started the Mutazilite movement (Donner, 1981).

The followers of this movement are called Mutazilites (Rationalist in Islam).The Holy Quran gives great importance to the study of the sciences of reasoning, i.e. Hikmat (Humphreys 1991). Hikmat (Scholasticism or Rationalism) predicted the rise of different theologico-philosophical parties which rendered the interpretation of the Quranic texts, religious doctrines and practices. With the extraordinary expansion of Islam, the Muslim conquerors came into the contact with the Greek thought and Neoplatonic philosophy which were later on cultivated in Syria, Egypt Iraq and Persia.

Religious Organization under Umayyad

Religion had always remained a binding force for Muslims to safeguard their common interests and also to spread the religion throughout the world. The Muslim victors always opined that religion of Islam must be given superior position overall and for its unanimous acceptance; they ventured unilateral action for this religion (Bosworth, 1996). The world at large was subdued by the ardent fighters of Islam and even today it is vigorously preserved in all corners of the world in spite of relentless reaction against Islam.

Most of the European historians allege that the Umayyad period was an irreligious and reactionary to Islam, but this charge is not correct .The religious organization under the Umayyads remained almost the same as under the Pious Caliphs (Previté-Orton, 1971). Religious dogmas till remained elastic; and if people were executed for their views, they were done so because their views were dangerous to the dynastic interests of the Umayyads and not because they held religious views different form the common ones.( Hussaini ,1970). Under the Umayyads, the Muslim laws were not codified. The judged were vested with vast discretionary powers to punish the law violators and at that time the practice to denounce the people as Kafirs on the slightest pretext was not yet in vogue.

The Umayyad caliphs without bringing any change continued the same arrangement for the conduct of prayers and the care of the mosques which had existed under the pious Cliphate (Bewley, 2002). A large number of mosques were built and the old ones were renovated and enlarged. The fundamentals of Islam were practiced and followed the same old spirit of early Muslims and they brought about striking changes only in the sphere of administration just to keep up uniformity all over Muslim Empire (Donner, 1981).

Administrative System of the Umayyad Dynasty

Under the Umayyads, the khilafat of the Holy Prophet was changed into dynastic, hereditary and de facto kingship. Under the Republic, the Caliph was elected by the franchise, and the ceremony of election to be held at the public mosque, where the Muslim population by the city and all around assembled and took the oath of allegiance (Kennedy, 1986).

During the Umayyds religion was no more the primary concern of the ruling chiefs. Political opposition was killed mercilessly. The Umayyads maintained a very large and strong army and they conquered vast territories through their generals and heroes. The Umayyad Caliphs became truly kings with the abundance of power, wealth and influx of slaves. The administrative machinery under the Umayyads was of a primitive strong character (Imamuddin, 1970).

We hear of the following administrative departments under the Umayyads.

The Board of Finance.

The Military Board.

The Board of Correspondence.

The Board of Posts and

The Board of Miscellaneous Revenues.

The Court during Umayyad Dynasty

It is quite natural that the court had engaged with the abundance of power and wealth. The court was the production of egoism and aggrandizement. It took birth because the so-called Caliph of Umayyad dynasty wanted to show pomp and show to foreign visitors and also to emphasize the kingly pride over the subjects (Goldziher 1981).

The saintly Caliph Umar II heroically and courageously combated the penetrated evil of de facto kingship and he did away with all practices followed by his predecessors .He returned all his wealth and that of his wife to the state treasury, led simple life and was fully contented with the meal served in the state kitchen for the poor and helpless (Zaidan 1981).

.Umar II turned out courtiers, songsters, poets and musicians from the royal court. He sat on the floor at his great grand father Umar I had done. Umar II put in his best efforts to get a junta of scholars and holy men for rendering necessary advices on all important issues of the state and in this way, the Shura though not in its original form was restored (Ahsanullah 1986).

Important Leaders of Umayyad Dynasty

Mu'awiyah Bin Abu Sufyan

Mu'āwīyah ibn Abī Sufyān' ‎ was a friend of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) and he also became the Umayyad caliph in Damascus. Mu'āwīyah took the position of caliphate after Ali's murder in 661 and his leadership ended in 680 (Bewley 2002). Mu'awiyah ruled the geographically and politically diverse dynasty, which was spreading fast. It had already spread till Egypt and Iran, by strengthening the influence of his allies in the recently conquered areas.

He introduced numerous bureaucracies, known as divans, to help him in governing and the centralizing the entire empire. He considered a brilliant and successful leader. Throughout his rule, Islam went through 20 years of inner harmony and strengthened its power over Iraq and Iran (Husaini, 1970). Mu'awiyah was considered to be an efficient administrator and hired the best people for administrative positions. He also personified fully the virtue of humanity and kindly forgave even a few of his most awful enemies. That mercy and kindness is what assisted in establishing the new administrative structure.

Abdul Malik Bin Marwan

Abdul Malik Bin Marwan was the fifth Caliph of the Umayyad dynasty. He was an intellectual and a competent ruler. Ibne Khaldoon considered him to be an intelligent leader when it came to state affairs (Kennedy 2000).

He introduced a lot of changes like: All over the empire Arabic was made the authorized language of government, uniform currency across the entire empire was made compulsory, development and reform of postal service, renovated the damaged Kaabah and began the ritual of making a silk cover for the Kaabah (Hourani 1991). He is called the father of kings as all 4 of his sons succeeded him.

Al-Walid I ibn Abd al-Malik

Al-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik' or Al-Walid I tenure lasted from 705 to 715(Goldschmidt 2002). He carried on the development of the Islamic empire which his father, Abd al-Malik had started, he was also considered as an efficient ruler. Like his father, he continued to allow Al-Hajjaj bin Yousef to freely make decisions, and Al-Hajjaj proved to be fruitful for him, and Transoxiana and Sindh was conquered.

Like his father, Al-Walid himself carried on the effectual leadership, he developed a welfare system, and he built a lot of hospitals, improved and built educational institutions and encouraged art (Hawting 2000). Al-Walid was loved architecture and he renovated the Masjid al Nabawi in Medina. He was famous for his piety, and there are of records which show his constant reciting of the Qur'an and the huge dinners he arranged in Ramadan. After him, his brother Suleiman took up the rule (Bosworth 1996).


Downfall of the Umayyad Dynasty

The death of Umer II marked the end of the glorious period in the history of the Umayyad Empire (Ayoob, 2007). The Umayyad Dynasty came to a down fall due to the actions of their caliphs. The caliphs were used to effectively rule and develop the Dynasty but instead they only thought them their own luxuries. The behaviour of the caliphs was even affecting people who were extremely loyal to them. People began getting extremely annoyed at the caliphs (Goldschmidt, 2002). Another issue was the conflict of the Shia Faction; they came from places which the Umayyad had previously conquered. They were direct descendants of Ali and Shias. This ultimately led to the decline of the Umayyad Dynasty.

Abu Muslim was a native of Ispahan, but descendant from an Arab stock. He was brought in service by Muhammad, the great- grandson of Abbas, the real designer to oust the Umayyads from the sovereignty of Islam and to install the descendents of that prophet (Hourani 1991). He was greatly impressed by the extraordinary caliber and acumen of Abu Muslim, and he deputed him to launch large scale propaganda against the Umayyads in Characin (Haiti 2002).

Abu Muslim strongly championed the cause of the House of Al-Abbas, and he made Khurasan a centre of his political and revolutionary activities to topple down the suzerainity of the Umayyds. The political condition of the country was much favourable for sowing the seeds of hatred, contempt and revolution.

In his context, Prof Hitti (2002) says, "taking advantage of the widespread discontent as posing of the true faith, the descendents of AL-Abbas soon became the champions and leaders of the anti-Umayyad movement. For their headquarter and seat of propaganda they chose a little village South of the Dead Sea,al Humaymah by name, seemingly harmless and loof from the rest of the world but in reality strategically close to caravan route and the junction of the pilgrim roads."

The gradual worsening condition of the eastern provinces and gradual fall of the cities into the hands of Abu Muslim greatly disturbed Marwan. Marwan discovered that Ibrahim was the man behind his revolt and so he was at once arrested. The arrest of Ibrahim did not response the conquest of Abu Muslim and he started move vigorously attacking the dwindling Umayyad dynasty (Humphreys 1991). Eclipse of the Umayyads became imminent and rise of Abbasids as rule become certain.

In the mosque of Kufa As-Saffah was declared as the caliph of the Muslim Empire in October, 749 A.D .Marwan the last caliph of the Umayyads, made futile attempts to recover the caliphate. In the battle of Zab, Marwan was defeated and killed and his head was sent to Abul Abbas (Bosworth, 1996).Abu Muslim was responsible to dig the grave for the Umayyads and to lay the foundation of the Abbasid dynasty.

Impact of Umayyad on Abbasid

The impact of the Umayyad on Abbasid was that had built the main foundation for the upcoming empire to stand on.

The Abbasids inherited a powerful and vast empire from the Ummayads. They were strong enough to achieve more because the ground had been prepared for them by the great Umayyads, and the founder of Abbasids dynasty took advantage of this.

Apart from this the empire had no impact as the Abbasid changed all the systems, and way of government rule.


Thus, it can be concluded that the ummayd dynasty was a great dynasty and it's down fall meant a great loss for Islam. The fact that it was the first dynasty it builds a strong base for other upcoming dynasties. It's prefect religious organizations, intellectual activities and administrative system all proved their greatness.

However, the fact that they lost their main aim and wondered of the path towards luxuries and their downfall inevitable. Rise and fall is a part of every dynasty, their fall was due to their own mistakes, while their rise was due to the fact that they followed the great rules of their religion.



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