III. The Postclassical Period, 500–1500 > B. The Middle East and North Africa, 500–1500 > 1. The Rise and Expansion of Islam, 610–945 > c. The Umayyad Caliphate
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
c. The Umayyad Caliphate
For a complete list of the Umayyad caliphs, see Appendix III.  1
MU’AWIYA I, THE FOUNDER OF THE UMAYYAD DYNASTY. Mu’awiya established the first Arab-Islamic dynasty, with its capital at Damascus. He rested his state on the support of the Arab tribes, gathering around him a circle of tribal chieftains with whom he consulted regularly. While he ruled as a caliph, opponents defined his regime as a form of kingship (mulk), an un-Islamic departure from the precedent of the Rashidun caliphs.  2
Mu’awiya founded a decentralized state in which local governors, particularly in the most troublesome province of Iraq, were given free rein to collect taxes and punish rebels. The day-to-day administration of each province continued to be run by Byzantine and Sassanid bureaucrats who maintained pre-Islamic governmental divisions (diwans) and conducted official business in Greek and Pahlavi.  3
Islamic forces crossed the Oxus River into central Asia, the northeastern boundary of the Islamic expansion.  4
First Muslim attack on Constantinople.  5
The garrison city of Qayrawan in Tunisia was founded. It served as the base for the further expansion of Islam westward across North Africa.  6
Ziyad ibn Abihi, governor of Kufa, sent 50,000 troops to the Iranian oasis of Merv as part of a policy to resettle Arabs in the area. These soldiers eventually intermarried with the indigenous Zoroastrian-Iranian population, and their descendants played a major role in the 8th-century Abbasid revolution that overthrew the Umayyad dynasty.  7
The isle of Rhodes was taken by the Umayyads.  8
Arab forces captured Crete.  9
A series of unsuccessful campaigns against Constantinople (See 673–78) as well as raids against Armenia.  10
680, Oct. 10
Death of Husayn, the son of Ali, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and third leader (imam) of the Shi’ite Muslims. After Mu’awiya's death, Husayn had attempted to wrest political control from the Umayyad government. On his way to Kufa in search of military support he and his followers were surrounded by Umayyad troops at Karbala and then killed after being deprived of water for days. The suffering and death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson came eventually to be commemorated by the Shi’ite community as a martyrdom, in a yearly ritual of communal mourning (the ashura) held on the tenth day of the Islamic month of Muharram.  11
Umayyad forces reached Tangier and the Atlantic Ocean.  12
SECOND CIVIL WAR. The Umayyads put down several serious challenges to their rule, restoring their effective hold on power after almost a decade of rebellions. The most lengthy threat came from Abdallah ibn al-Zubayr, whose father, al-Zubayr, had risen against the fourth caliph, Ali, in 656. Ibn al-Zubayr demanded that the caliph be selected from among the tribe of Quraysh, not just the Umayyad clan. He claimed the office and raised a revolt in Arabia and Iraq that lasted till 692, when Umayyad forces killed him in Mecca.  13
Another challenge to the Umayyads came from the Qays tribal confederation based in northern Syria and Iraq. It threw its support behind Ibn al-Zubayr, but the rival tribal confederation of Kalb (based in southern Syria and Palestine) backed the Umayyads, and in a bloody battle in Marj Rahit (July 684) they defeated the Qaysis. The feud between the northern and southern tribal groups continued to fester, weakening the Umayyad base of political and military support.  14
In 685–87 the Umayyads also faced the revolt organized in Kufa by al-Mukhtar on behalf of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya, a son of Ali by a concubine. The uprising tapped the support of the mawali, or non-Arab converts to Islam, who were emerging as an important social group with grievances against the regime for being treated as second-class Muslims and having to pay the taxes demanded of non-Muslims, despite their conversion. Al-Mukhtar proclaimed Ibn al-Hanafiyya as the Mahdi, the messianic redeemer who would come at the end of time to institute a reign of justice. (This was the first appearance of this idea, which became common in Islam, particularly in its Shi’ite forms.) The uprising was crushed in 687.  15
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.