Sunday, 27 August 2017


Umayyad Caliphate was the second Muslim Caliphate that emerged after Rashidun Caliphate but the Caliphate is commonly known as Umayyad Dynasty as it was centered on the Umayyad clan of Quraysh tribe of Makkah. At its peak, the Umayyad Dynasty was ruling Middle East, North African, Iberian Peninsula, Persia and Central Asia due to which the dynasty is known as the largest Muslim dynasty and one of the largest empires of human history. Umayyad Caliphate also kept the unity of Islamic Caliphate as more than one Muslim dynasties appeared soon after the fall of Umayyad Dynasty.

But despite great political and military achievements, Umayyad Dynasty could only lasted for around 90 years and it was replaced by the Abbasid Caliphate in 750 AD (Later, Umayyad ruled Iberian Peninsula from 756 to 1031 AD).

Reasons for the Fall of Umayyad Dynasty

It is quite surprising that such a huge and politically powerful umpire could only last for 90 years. There are several reasons behind the fall of Umayyad Dynasty. The most important ones are mentioned below.

Battle of Karbala

First Umayyad caliph Muawiya bin Abi Sufiyan (RA) appointed his son Yazid bin Muawiya as the new ruler of caliphate. This appointment was rejected by prominent sahaba as many people viewed it as against the principles of Islam. Grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Hussain bin Ali (RA), was among those people who opposed this decision. Yazid tried to take oath of allegiance from him which ended in Hussain’s martyrdom in the Battle of Karbala. 

Due to assassination of Prophet’s grandson at the hands of an Umayyad ruler, majority of Muslims disliked the rule of Umayyads while the Shia and Abbasid used it as propaganda against Umayyads which proved to be an important reason for the fall of Umayyad dynasty.

Shia and Kharijite

Shiites have the view that only Prophet’s family has the right to rule over Muslims while Kharijites had an anarchist ideology who fought against every ruler. Both of these groups had different ideologies but their enmity of Umayyad’s was similar. They both fought against almost every Umayyad ruler whenever they got the chance and they never let the Umayyads to rule peacefully. Shia also supported the Abbasid movement that brought the downfall of Umayyad Caliphate.  

Tribal differences

Different Arab tribes had hostility against each other that was suppressed by Islamic ideology. But the effect of Islamic unity weakened with passage of time and the tribal differences emerged again during Umayyad dynasty. A famous tribal rivalry was between the southern tribes of Yemen and northern tribes of Egypt. Later Umayyad rulers also supported various tribes for their own benefit that escalated these tribal differences that created differences between tribes and bloodshed in the country.

The tribes of Syria and Iraq were under the influence of Byzantines and Persians respectively. Their differences also played important role in the fall of Umayyad Dynasty.  

Form of Government

In Rashidun Caliphate, any capable Muslim can became a ruler through Shura (consensus among Muslims). But it was not the case during Umayyad dynasty that was established on monarchial form of government where only son, brother or close relative of a caliph of Umayyad clan could be the new ruler. 

Not only that it was against the wishes of most of the Muslims but this system also paved the way for several incompetent rulers in the later part of Umayyad Dynasty that brought the downfall of Umayyad Dynasty.

Bad treatment of faithful Generals

As stated above, large areas of Asia, Europe and Africa were conquered during Umayyad Dynasty and there were several Muslim Generals who played important role in these conquests. But few among them were treated badly by Umayyad rulers due to differences. 

Umayyad ruler Sulayman bin Abdul Malik punished Musa bin Nusayr (African governor), Muhammid bin Qasim (conqueror of Sindh and Multan) and Qutayba bin Muslim (conqueror of Transoxiana) as they favored the succession of Walid’s son in place of Sulayman.

Another ruler Yazid bin Abdul Malik exterminated the faithful Yemenite tribes who played important role in strengthening the rule of Umayyads. These acts discouraged faithful generals and political figures of Umayyads that paved the way for their destruction.  

Battles against Khazars

Umayyad battles against Khazars in Caucasus also played an important role in the fall of the empire. The Umayyads were later able to conquered most of the area under Khazar rule but only at the cost of heavy casualties. 

Due to stiff resistance from Khazars, large part of Umayyad army was placed in Caucasus which proved disastrous as the revolt of Abbasids could not be subjugate due to presence of most part of army away from the capital. If Umayyads didn’t have to send large forces to Caucasus, then it was quite possible for them to defeat the Abbasids.

Arab-non Arab conflict

Umayyad Dynasty was mainly an Arab dynasty supported by Arab tribes. The Umayyads tried to flourish Arabian culture and language also in non-Arab areas of the caliphate. In order to increase the revenue, even the newly converted Muslims of non-Arab areas (commonly known as mawali) were taxed heavily. 

Such steps created unlikeness of Umayyad caliphate in the non-Arab parts of Caliphate. These newly converted Muslims also took greater effect of Hussain’s martyrdom at the hands of Umayyad. Shia and Kharijites took advantage and spread their ideologies in Persia and Maghrib (North Africa) respectively. Abbasids were also mainly supported by non-Arabs (especially Persians) during their successful revolt against the Umayyads.

Abbasid Movement

In the later stage of Umayyad dynasty, Abbasids (a clan of Hashemite Arabs) started their movement secretly against the Umayyads. The movement was well received in the parts of former Persian Empire (especially Khurasan) where many people dislike Umayyad rule. Abbasids took sympathies of these areas by using their close relation to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). 

Initially, the movement was secret but the Abbasids started armed rebellion in 747 when Umayyads were facing internal conflicts. Abbasids started gaining areas from time to time and the whole Umayyad Caliphate came to an end in 750 with the decisive Battle of Zab and Abbasids replaced the Umayyads as the new rulers of Islamic Empire.   

No comments:

Post a Comment