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Umayyads

With many influences of science and literature from both inside and outside the caliphate, the Umayyads are perfectly placed to blend religious conviction with philosophical study.

After the death of Mohammad (632 CE) and his oldest companions, the struggle to obtain temporal and spiritual power over the Muslim community dramatically intensified. The Umayyads, members of the Quyash tribe to which the Prophet also belonged, seized control of the caliphate and further expanded the empire, ushering in a golden age in Islamic culture.

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Born into the most powerful tribe in Mecca, Mu’awiya was appointed governor of the rich province of Syria in 641 before taking power as caliph in 661 as head of the Islamic empire. Under the command of Mu’awiya and his successors, the imperial realm was expanded to the borderlands of China and to the Iberian Peninsula across the southern coast of the Mediterranean. Through conquest, the empire's center of power shifted to the slopes of Hedjaz in present-day Syria. From the capital of Damascus and its territories in the Near East, the Empire began to develop a structure based on three pillars: the Arab tribal structure, the Sasanian aristocratic system, and the Byzantine bureaucratic system. During the reign of Abd al Malik (685–705) an Arab-Muslim administrative structure with Arabic as the official language replaced the former Greek structure. Forced into exile after the Abbasid Revolution in 750, the Umayyad dynasty managed to retain power in the Iberian Peninsula in Al-Andalus. Until 1031 this dynasty continued to support the brilliant courtly culture that it had previously encouraged in Damascus. This region of six million inhabitants situated at the crossroads between the Islamic world and western Christianity was a melting pot that gave rise to spectacular developments in the arts and sciences. Musicians, poets, philosophers, mathematicians, and astronomers of all faiths interacted and continued to reside in Al-Andalus even after the last caliph of the dynasty was overthrown.

Did you know?

Ziryab was a musician, poet, astronomer, and geographer who incarnated the cultural and intellectual fusion that existed at the court of Cordoba. He is attributed with the invention of the plectrum (or pick) and the addition of a fifth string to the oud, which would subsequently become the model for the Western lute.