A “caliphate” is a region controlled by an Islamic state and government, usually under a system of law taken from guidelines given in the Quran. (The Quran is the sacred text of Islam.)
The word caliphate refers to both the government who controls this region and the region itself; this means that a caliphate (government) controls a caliphate (region) in the Islamic world.
Although there are no significant caliphates left in the world today, caliphates controlled Asia and North Africa for nearly a millennium, and had a huge impact on the development of the world.
The caliphate is ruled by a leader called a “caliph” and his government, or “caliphate”. The tradition of the caliphate began after the death of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.
Caliphs are seen as successors to Muhammad, and it is their responsibility to manage the practice and spread of Islam in his place.
The powers of the caliphs were similar to those of the king – while the caliphs held supreme authority, they sought advice from their governments in most matters, and were generally run as oligarchies (systems of government in which more than one person holds all the power.)
The Abbasid Caliphate was the third major caliphate that came into existence after the death of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. The Abbasid Caliphate ruled over the Islamic Empire during the peak of its power.
It was run on a system of dynastical succession. This meant that the role of leader passed from father to son by default, instead of being chosen by public election.
The Abbasid Caliphate had two major periods; the first period lasted from 750 – 1258 A.D., while the second period lasted from 1261 – 1517 A.D. The end of the first period came when the Abbasid capital of Baghdad was destroyed by the Mongol forces of Asia, forcing the government to flee to Egypt.
While the Abbasid Caliphate still held religious power from their new base in Cairo, they lost much of their political influence, and were no longer the force they had been in centuries previous.
In all, the Abbasid Caliphate had 61 caliphs; however, as 22 of these were caliphs of the Abbasidian Caliphate in Cairo, their position was far less powerful than the 39 who came before.
Like the Umayyad Caliphate before, the Abbasid Caliphate ruled over a huge empire that encompassed most of the Middle East, Asia, and parts of North Africa.
The one territory which the Abbasid Caliphate lost was the country of Spain – there, the Umayyad Caliphate’s practices remained in place. This is because the country was far enough away from the Middle East to resist Abbasid control.
The Golden Age of Islam was a time of huge development for the early Islamic world. There were a great number of scientific, technological and cultural advances in this period (790 – 1258 A.D.), and Arabic art and architecture reached heights which had never been seen before.
An example of this achievement can be seen in the Abbasid completion of the world’s first medical encyclopedia, The Canon of Medicine, in 1025 A.D. this encyclopedia was the standard medical textbook in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe for centuries after its completion.
Other important contributions made during the Golden Age of Islam include the invention of algebra (a crucial part of modern mathematics) and the development of many trigonometric principles that are used as the basis for most kinds of design, construction and problem-solving.
The field of biology also saw development during this period, as Arabic scholars discovered more about the human cardiovascular system (i.e., how the human heart works).
Technically, the Abbasid Caliphate ended twice. The first time, in 1258, the Mongols ransacked the capital of Baghdad and forced the caliphate to flee to Egypt. The second time the Abbasid Caliphate ended was in 1517, when it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire – the fourth major caliphate.
– The Umayyad Caliphate. The Ottoman Caliphate.
– Dynastical succession is a system of ruling in which the role of leader passes from father to son, or to the closest male relative of the leader who came before.
– In the Abbasid Caliphate’s second period, the caliphate held no real political power, and the title of “caliph” was just a ceremonial role.