Umayyads and Abbasids
The Umayyad Period
The Rise of the Abbasids
Expansion under the Umayyads
• Late 7th century: Islam spread to Asia
• 8th century: Spread to India, N. Africa,
• Threatened France, but Islamic armies
were turned back by Charles Martel at the
Battle of Tours (also called Poitiers) in 732
– Islam dominated the Mediterranean from
Spain to central Asia
Quick Expansion center of control
changes DBC
The Spread of Islam
Umayyad Rule
• Arab conquest state, ruled by an Arab elite
• Army comprised of slave soldiers. Often not
allowed to convert.
• Muslim/Arab warrior elite ruled provinces
• Rejected assimilation of converts
• Kept governments intact, but staffed them with
• Capital now Damascus
At first blocked by Byzantine &
Defeat at Byzantium
– 717: Caliph Suleiman wanted to end the Christian
empire once and for all.
• Attacked Constantinople with 80,000 troops and a strong
naval force.
– Emperor Leo III beat off the attack. Besieging
armies suffer through a cold winter
– 718: Must of the Muslim fleet destroyed by Greek
Fire. Suleiman fled.
• Leo III retook Asia Minor. Byzantium will last 500 years
Greek Fire - exact composition
composition include such chemicals as liquid petroleum, naphtha,
burning pitch, sulphur, resin, quicklimeand bitumen, along with some
other "secret ingredient".
Umayyad Decline
• Series of weak self-indulgent rulers
• c. 750. The Merv Revolt
– 50,000 Persian warriors settled in E. Iran
– converted to Islam, fought in battles, but earned
little booty
– resented corrupt rule from Baghdad
– When Umayyads sent troops to the area, revolt
broke out!
The Abbasid Revolt
Revolt spread through the eastern provinces
Resented Arab rule: the Mawali
Marched under the Black Abbasid banner
Abu al-Abbas, Muhammed’s uncle’s g.g.
• Alliance with Shi’ite factions
– 750: defeat the Umayyad caliph in the Battle of the
River Zab
The end of the Umayyads
• Abu al-Abbas wanted to end the Umayyad
• Murdered all surviving members at a feast of
• One escaped, the grandson of the last
Umayyad caliph, and fled to Spain
• He established the Cordoba Caliphate. It
lasted until 1492 CE
The World and the Abbasids
The Early Abbasids
• Capital: Baghdad: Arabic court language
• Influenced by the Near East idea of divine
kingship: “Shadow of God on Earth”
• Lots of court pomp and ritual
• When the caliph appeared in public, his
executioners were with him!
• Bound by Shari’a : Islamic law but not
Abbasid Wine Bowl
Abbasid Glass Work
Abbasid Government
• Caliph ruled with large, complex
• Manned by Persians and Mawali
• Some aspects of universalism
• Diverse people united by Arabic language
and Islam
• End of wars of expansion
Society Under the Abbasids
• Long Distance Trade with Banking and
Letters of Credit along the Silk Road
• Key: Export of Mesopotamia agriculture,
Nile Agriculture, sheep, date palm.
• East Asian crops spread westward,
including rice, sugar cane.
• Slave state: Many Africans working S.
Iraq salt mines, or in military
Textile Making
Rug Weaving: High Art Armenia, Bokhara
Chinese trade. Learned paper making
Perfumes, medicines, cosmetics, art in
ceramics, metals
• Imported Indian “0” developed algebra and
Intellectual Life
• Translated Greek and Roman classical
• Philosophy, science, astronomy,
geography, math
• No interest in mythology, drama or poetry
• Preserved and made additional
• Worked particularly with Aristotle’s work
Abbasid Mosque in Nayin
al Razi (865-925) (Rhazes)
20 volume medical encyclopedia
Translated into Latin 1270
Printed in Europe 1486 onwards
“On the Fact that even Skilled Physicians
Cannot Heal All Diseases”
• “Why Frightened Patients Easily Forsake
even the Skilled Physician”
Other Thinkers
• al-Biruni (973-1056)
– Geography, Travels in India
• al-Kindi (d.870)
– reconciled Islam with Neoplatonism
• al Farabi (d.950), Ibn Sina (Avicenna d.
1036), Ibn Rushd (Averroes d. 1198)
– All Islamic scholars of Aristotle
Map of the Abbasid Caliphate
The Islamic Empire
Trends Towards
• Eventually turned against their Shi’ite allies
and other factions
• Large empire lent itself to regionalism
• Numerous violent harem conspiracies and
civil wars followed by more stable rulers
• Utilized slave armies of Africans, Slavs and
Berbers that eventually became a political
force known as Mamluks
Apex from which to spread the
• Harunu r-Rashid is the most famous of the
Abbasid Caliphs.
• The Abbasid period, is recognized of being the
one in Muslim history bringing the most elevated
scientific works.
• The Muslim world continued the achievements of
classical Europe (especially the 9th and 10th
centuries), India and former science of the Middle
East, during a period when Europe was unable
contribute much to the cultural and scientific
• The Abbasid era is often regarded as the golden
age of Muslim civilization.
Weakened role in the region
• In 1055 the Turkish Seljuks conquered Baghdad, but this
had little influence to the position of the Caliphs, who
continued to play only his limited symbolical role.
• With the fall of the traditional Caliphate in 1258, when the
Mongols took over Baghdad, a new line of Abbasid
Caliphs continued in Cairo.
• In Cairo they played the same type of role as in Baghdad,
but now even the symbolical role was limited by
• This, the last branch of Abbasids, stayed in office until
Arabic Language & writing
• calligraphy – beautiful
writing is different from
illuminated writing
• Arabic script has been
used much more
extensively for decoration
and as a means of artistic
• Language identifies and
connects “Arabs” more
than Latin connects the
The basmalah ("In the name of God the
Merciful the Compassionate" - the opening
words of the Quran) is here done in an
elaborate thuluth script with the letters
joined so that the entire phrase is written
without lifting the pen from the paper.
Quran does not prohibit the representation of humans or animals in
drawings, or paintings, but as Islam expanded in its early years, it inherited
some of the prejudices against visual art of this kind that had already taken
root in the Middle East.
– early Muslims tended to oppose figural art (and in some cases all art) as
distracting the community from the worship of God and hostile to the
strictly unitarian religion preached by Muhammad
– all four of the schools of Islamic law banned the use of images and,
declared that the painter of animate figures would be damned on the
Day of Judgment.
Wherever artistic ornamentation and decoration were required, Muslim
artists, forbidden to depict, human or animal forms, for the most part were
forced to resort either to what has since come to be known as "arabesque"
– These are designs based on strictly geometrical forms or patterns of
leaves and flowers or, very often, to calligraphy.
Arabic calligraphy came to be used not only in producing copies of the
Quran (its first and for many centuries its most important use), but also for
all kinds of other artistic purposes as well
– porcelain and metalware,
– carpets and other textiles
– Coins
– architectural ornament (primarily on mosques and tombs but also,
especially in later years, on other buildings as well).
Arabic language – the great
• Of those people who embraced Islam but did not
adopt Arabic as their everyday language, many
millions have taken the Arabic alphabet for their
own, so that today one sees the Arabic script
used to write languages that have no basic
etymological connection with Arabic.
• The languages of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan
are all written in the Arabic alphabet, as was the
language of Turkey until some fifty years ago.
• It is also used in Kashmir and in some places in
the Malay Peninsula and the East Indies, and in
Africa it is used in Somalia and down the east
coast as far south as Tanzania.
Influence of Islam up to the
creation of the Arabic Empires
• Centered in Mecca
• Conflict between Mecca and Medina
• Hasan and the schism
Concepts and terms from Ch. 6
Abu Baker
Battle of Siffin
Concepts and terms from Ch. 7
Harun al-Rashid
Seljuk Turks
Ibn Khaldun
Bhaktic cults
Mahmud of Ghazni
Mahmud of Ghur
Succession: Abu Bakr (632-34)
• 632 Muhammed died without warning
• Abu Bakr elected Caliph (deputy,
successor). Friend and early convert.
• Ali, son in law to Muhammed was passed
over: Too young
• Bakr worked and led the movement.
• Success: Ridda Wars: fought off Bedouin
led by other Charismatic leaders.
Islam Spreads
• Bakr continued the Arab unification process
• Recognized the weakness of the
Persian/Byzantine Empires
• They were at constant war with one another
• Began to take Byzantine territory
– Christians and Jews respected: people of the
– Social restrictions, extra taxes
– Some Christians saw Muslims as liberators
Uthman (644-54)
• From the old Umayyad family. Former
Meccan enemies of Muhammed now
• Codification of the Qu’ran: Variants
• 651 Expansion deep into Sassanian
territory (Persia)
• 654 Uthman assassinated.
Division and Schism
• Ali’s supporters name him Caliph
– The Ummayyads rejected him
• Ali refuses to prosecutes the assassins
Ummayads later declare an open vendetta
against him
– Mecca vs Medina Clan tensions
– Syrian and Iraqi factions
– N/S Arabian tribal tensions
• Retired for 19 years to enjoy the good life
• When Mu’awiya died, he went to Mecca
with several followers expecting to be
named Caliph.
• But the Umayyads appointed a new caliph,
who surrounded Ali with an army.
• 679 Hasan led a great suicide charge. His
head was sent to the capital.
• This would result in the Sunni-Shi’ite split
But expansion continued....
• 674: Besieged Constantinople
• 700: Umayyads ruled from N. Africa
almost to China: An empire! Why?
• Surplus of military energy and religious
zeal and well qualified generals
• Weakness of the Byzantium and Persian
states, and their poor rule over provinces.
• Sunnis
90% of Islam
Recognize 4 caliphs as legitimate
No Iman
• Shiites
10% of Muslims (mainly in Persia,
Lebanon, Yemen, Afghanistan)
recognize only Ali and blood relatives as
Imans: infallible, divinely guided, leaders
of the faith
Green turbans: indicate a blood relative of
the Prophet
Cult of Martyrdom
• What was the fictional account of life at the court of
the Caliph al-Rashi?
• Give one 3 causes of the disruption of agricultural
economy of the Abbasid Empire.
• What two practices that began in the Abbasid
Empire are indications of the changing role of
• What was the religious splinter dynasty that
captured Baghdad in 945?
• Who was the Muslim leader responsible for the
reconquest of most of the territories belonging to the
Christian Crusaders?
• What was the fictional account of life at the court of the Claliph
al-Rashi? -The Thousand and One Nights
• Give one 3 causes of the disruption of agricultural economy of
the Abbasid Empire.
– Spiraling taxation
– Destruction of the irrigation works
– Pillaging by mercenary armies which led to the abandonment of many
• What two practices that began in the Abbasid Empire are
indications of the changing role of women?
– Seclusion
– veiling
• What was the religious splinter dynasty that captured Baghdad in
– Buyids
• Who was the Muslim leader responsible for the reconquest of
most of the territories belonging to the Christian Crusaders?
– Saladin

Slide 1