The history of the Umayyad Caliphate, its triumph, and its collapse

The history of the Umayyad Caliphate, its triumph, and its collapse

The history of the Umayyad Caliphate

The Umayyad dynasty was the first caliphate after the era of Khulafaur Rashidun in Islamic history. The name of this dynasty was taken from Umayyah bin ‘Abd asy-Shams or Muawiyah bin Abu Sufyan alias Muawiyah I, one of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, who later became the caliph and led in 661-680 AD. Broadly speaking, the era of the Umayyad Caliphate was divided into two main periods, namely the years 661-750 AD centered in Damascus (now the capital of Syria), then the period 756-1031 AD in Cordoba as Muslim powers came to power in Spain, Andalusia.


The establishment of the Umayyad dynasty stems from the events of the Tahkim or the Shiffin War. As described by Abdussyafi Muhammad Abdul Latif in The Rise and Fall of the Umayyad Caliphate (2016), this is a civil war between the Muawiyah 1 camp and Ali bin Abi Talib, the 4th caliph after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. 

The Shiffrin war occurred after the death of the third caliph, Uthman bin Affan, on June 17, 656, which opened up opportunities for Ali bin Abi Talib, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, to lead. After Ali ibn Abi Talib died on January 29, 661, the leadership was continued by Hasan, son of Ali and grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, for several months. Hasan then relinquished his post. After Hasan bin Ali resigned, Muawiyah I emerged as a leader even though it was colored by various polemics among the Muslims themselves. 

This is where the history of the Umayyad Caliphate begins. The triumph of the Umayyad Caliphate Broadly speaking, the reign of the Umayyad dynasty which lasted for nearly 90 years was divided into two periods, namely the Caliphate period centered in Damascus (Syria) and the era of glory in Spain, Andalusia, with its center in Cordoba. Thus, the territory of the Umayyad Caliphate was very wide. 

Quoted from the History of Islamic Civilization (2017) by Muhammad Fathurrohman, the region covers most of the Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, the coast of South Africa Andalusia, the area now occupied by Portugal and Spain. 

The vast territory of the Umayyad Caliphate could not be separated from a series of conquests that were continuously carried out and commanded by its leaders, with a lot of dynamics occurring among the Umayyads themselves. 

This series of conquests was the embryo of the Crusaders on a mission against Europe. The mission was carried out both from the eastern route to Constantinople and via the western route which finally arrived in Spain. The Umayyad dynasty had an important role in the development of Islam. 

This caliphate was once led by influential figures, including Al-Walid bin Abdul-Malik and Umar bin Abdul Aziz. During the reign of Al Walid bin Abdul-Malik (705-715), the power of the Umayyad Caliphate extended to Spain. The conquest of Andalusia took place in 711 AD. Development is prioritized at this time. 

The construction of hospitals and the Al Amawi Mosque in Damascus, the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and the expansion of the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, are historically important roles of the Umayyad dynasty. When Umar bin Abdul Aziz (717-720) became caliph, the field of Islamic scholarship was a top priority. 

Hadith archiving, Arabic language development, the science of qiraah (reading the Koran), fiqh, to various written works and scientific products are growing rapidly at this time.

The Fall of the Umayyad Dynasty The glory of the Umayyad dynasty began to decline when groups dissatisfied with the government began to emerge. 

The Abbasids led this resistance effort and ultimately weakened the Umayyad power. The middle of the 6th century became a crucial period for the Umayyad Caliphate. In this period, the Umayyads began to experience defeat from the Abbasid forces. 

Finally, in 750 AD Damascus was captured by the Abbasids which practically made the Umayyad government fall. The last caliph of the Umayyad dynasty in Damascus written Imam Subchi in Islamic Religious Education: History of Islamic Culture (2015), was Marwan II bin Muhammad (744-750). 

Since then, the Umayyad era in Damascus has ended and a new era has begun in Andalusia with its center in Cordoba, Spain. The reign of the Umayyad Caliphate in Cordoba lasted quite a long time. However, the collapse began to appear in the course of the early 9th century. Intrigue and upheaval began to emerge among themselves. The Umayyad territory was gradually dispersed. In 1031, Hisham III as Umayyad Caliph in Cordoba at that time resigned from his position. 

The situation is getting even more chaotic due to a leadership crisis. The absence of a qualified leader forced the council of ministers to abolish the position of caliph. The Umayyad government in Andalusia was divided into small countries until finally the Islamic rule in Cordoba was destroyed.

The Umayyad Timeline in Damascus

  • 661 AD – Muawiyah I becomes caliph and establishes the Umayyads
  • 670 CE- Extension into North Africa, the conquest of Kabul
  • 677 CE- Conquest of Samarkand and Tirmiz, attack on Constantinople
  • 680 CE – Death of Muawiyah, Yazid I ascending the throne, events of Karbala
  • 685 AD- Caliph Abdul-Malik affirms Arabic as the official language
  • 700 AD- Campaign against the Barbarians in North Africa
  • 711 AD- Conquest of Spain, Sind, and Transoxiana
  • 713 AD- Conquest of Multan
  • 716 AD- Attack on Constantinople
  • 717 AD- Umar bin Abdul-Aziz becomes caliph, massive reforms
  • 749 CE- The defeat of the Umayyad army in Iraq by the Abbasid forces
  • 750 AD – Abbasids take Damascus, Umayyad Caliphate falls
  • 756 AD- Separated from the Abbasids, moved to Cordoba List

Leader of the Umayyad Caliphate Main Caliphate in Damascus

  • Muawiyah I bin Abu Sufyan, 661-680
  • M Yazid I bin Muawiyah, 680-683 AD
  • Muawiyah II bin Yazid, 683-684 CE
  • Marwan I bin al-Hakam, 684-685 CE
  • Abdullah bin Zubair bin Awwam, 685 AD (transition)
  • Abdul-Malik bin Marwan, 685-705 CE
  • Al-Walid I bin Abdul-Malik, 705-715 CE
  • Sulaiman bin Abdul-Malik, 715-717 CE
  • Umar II bin Abdul-Aziz, 717-720 CE
  • Yazid II bin Abdul-Malik, 720-724 AD
  • Hisham bin Abdul-Malik, 724-743 CE
  • Al-Walid II bin Yazid II, 743-744 CE
  • Yazid III bin al-Walid, 744 CE
  • Ibrahim bin al-Walid, 744 CE
  • Marwan II bin Muhammad, 744-750 AD
  • The Emirate of Cordoba Abdur-rahman I, 756-788 AD
  • Hisham I, 788-796 AD
  • Al-Hakam I, 796-822 CE
  • Abdur-Rahman II, 822-888 AD
  • Abdullah bin Muhammad, 888-912 AD
  • Abdur-Rahman III, 912-929 AD
  • Caliphate in Cordoba Abdur-rahman III, 929-961 AD
  • Al-Hakam II, 961-976 AD
  • Hisham II, 976-1008 AD
  • Muhammad II, 1008-1009 AD
  • Solomon, 1009-1010 AD
  • Hisham II, 1010-1012 AD
  • Solomon, 1012-1017 AD
  • Abdur-Rahman IV, 1021-1022 CE
  • Abdur-Rahman V, 1022-1023 CE
  • Muhammad III, 1023-1024
  • M Hisham III, 1027-1031 AD

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