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The Umayyads were an Islamic dynasty established by the caliph Muawiyah I (Mu'awiya) in 661. An earlier caliph, Uthman (r. 644-56), had been a member of the powerful Umayyad clan, but he was murdered and replaced by Ali. When Muawiyah, previously governor of Syria, seized the caliphate, he made the succession hereditary and thus inaugurated dynastic rule. From their capital at Damascus, the Umayyad caliphs ruled a vast empire, extending from Europe to India, until 750. Thereafter the line continued in Spain until 1031.

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In place of the theocratic government of the early caliphs, Muawiyah created a more autocratic and secular regime, which sought to maintain the privileges of the Arabs and the fruits of their conquests. Islam was reserved as a privilege of the Arabs and was not forced upon the conquered peoples, whose society was preserved and strongly influenced the government, art, and economy of the dynasty. In government, Muawiyah adopted the bureaucratic structure of the former Byzantine state as well as hereditary succession. In art and architecture a similar adaptation was made; the most important innovation was the mosque.

A policy of continuous expansion, reaching its maximum extent under al-Walid I (r. 705-15), brought northwest Africa, Spain, western India, and portions of Central Asia into the Islamic empire and added greatly to Umayyad wealth. This expansion was the result of an efficient Syrian army and a powerful navy. The Umayyad period was characterized by Arabization--the spread and intermarriage of Arabs with native peoples and the adoption of Arabic as the common language within the empire. The dynasty collapsed because of internal tribal and geographical rivalries and a return to the principles of Islam as the foundation of the state. It was overthrown by the Abbasids, who massacred most members of the family. The Umayyad dynasty survived only in Spain, where Abd Al-Rahman I founded (756) the Umayyad emirate (later caliphate) of Cordoba.

Michael W. Dols

Shaban, M. A., The Abbasid Revolution (1970) and Islamic History A.D. 600-750 (1971).


General Information

Umayyad, also Omayyad, first great Arab Muslim dynasty of caliphs (religious and secular leaders) founded by Muawiyah I in 661 and lasting until 750. Uthman ibn Affan, a member of the prominent Umayyad family of Mecca, had been elected to the caliphate in 644 to succeed Umar I, but his weakness and nepotism resulted in rebellion and he was murdered in 656. Uthman was succeeded by Ali, son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad and chief of the legitimist party, which believed that only a member of Muhammad's family could rightfully hold the caliphate. However, Muawiyah I, governor of Syria and first Umayyad caliph, revolted against Ali and, supported by Amr, the conqueror of Egypt, gained the advantage. Hailed as caliph at Jerusalem in 660, Muawiyah I was in complete control soon after the assassination of Ali the following year. Under Muawiyah I the capital was changed from Medina to Damascus. Muawiyah I developed an administrative system modeled after the Byzantine Empire and before his death in 680 had secured the throne for his son, thus putting the state on a dynastic basis. Conquest was begun again with an offensive on all fronts. Under Muawiyah I and his Umayyad successors, Muslim control of the Mediterranean region was completed. The Arabs, led by a fierce North African Berber army commanded by Tariq, crossed from North Africa and eventually conquered Spain; in the east they met no effective opposition until they had passed the borders of India. They were stopped in the west by the Franks under Charles Martel and by the Byzantine Empire, which repulsed an attack on Constantinople early in the 8th century.

Under the Umayyad dynasty, political and social ascendancy remained in the hands of a few Arab families from Mecca and Medina. This caused the Muslim population, which had grown enormously as the empire expanded, to become increasingly discontented, especially since the Umayyads had found it necessary to increase their income from taxation. Lands were now taxed without regard to religion, and Muslims were exempt only from personal taxes. Opposition centered in Persia where there was continued opposition to Syrian domination and where the legitimists allied themselves with the Abbasids, who claimed descent from Abbas, the uncle of the prophet Muhammad. The Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads in 750, killed the caliph, Marwan II, and gained the caliphate for themselves. Members of the Umayyad family were located and slain, except for Abd-ar-Rahman I, who escaped to Córdoba, Spain, in 756 to rule as an independent emir. The Abbasids moved the capital of the empire eastward to a new city, Baghdâd, which they founded on the Tigris River.

Umayyad Dynasty

General Information

The Umayyad Dynasty (ummawiyy) was the first dynasty of caliphs of the Prophet Muhammad who were not closely related to Muhammad himself, though they were of the same Makkah clan. The first dynasty reigned from 661 to 750.

Muawiyah had been the governor of Syria under the 3rd and 4th caliphs, Uthman ibn Affan and Ali Ben Abu Talib. He fought and killed Ali in Egypt in 661 and declared himself caliph of Islam. He founded the dynasty and set the capitol to Damascus.

The Umayyads were overthrown in the east by the Abbasid Dynasty. An Umayyad prince, Abd-ar-rahman I, took over the Muslim territory in Spain and founded a new Umayyad dynasty there.

Umayyad Caliphs (661-750)

Umayyad Emirs of Cordoba (Spanish Umayyad Caliphs 929-1031)

Umayyad Caliphs of Cordoba


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Unfortunately, we are not aware of any scholarly texts on this subject which have yet been translated into English. We know that a number of Arabic scholars have written wonderful texts in Arabic, and look for the day when we will be able to add higher quality texts to this presentation.

Also, see:
Islam, Muhammad
Koran, Qur'an
Pillars of Faith
Testament of Abraham
Revelation - Hadiths from Book 1 of al-Bukhari
Belief - Hadiths from Book 2 of al-Bukhari
Knowledge - Hadiths from Book 3 of al-Bukhari
Times of the Prayers - Hadiths from Book 10 of al-Bukhari
Shortening the Prayers (At-Taqseer) - Hadiths from Book 20 of al-Bukhari
Pilgrimmage (Hajj) - Hadiths from Book 26 of al-Bukhari
Fighting for the Cause of Allah (Jihad) - Hadiths of Book 52 of al-Bukhari
ONENESS, UNIQUENESS OF ALLAH (TAWHEED) - Hadiths of Book 93 of al-Bukhari
Hanafiyyah School Theology (Sunni)
Malikiyyah School Theology (Sunni)
Shafi'iyyah School Theology (Sunni)
Hanbaliyyah School Theology (Sunni)
Maturidiyyah Theology (Sunni)
Ash'ariyyah Theology (Sunni)
Mutazilah Theology
Ja'fari Theology (Shia)
Nusayriyyah Theology (Shia)
Zaydiyyah Theology (Shia)
Imams (Shia)
Qarmatiyyah (Shia)
Ishmael, Ismail
Early Islamic History Outline
Kaaba, Black Stone
Sunnites, Sunni
Shiites, Shia
Sahih, al-Bukhari
Abu Bakr
Fatimids (Shia)
Ismailis (Shia)
Islamic Calendar
Interactive Muslim Calendar

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