A “caliphate” is a region controlled by an Islamic state and government. The word caliphate is used to name both the government who controls the region and the region itself.
The rule of the Islamic caliphates across their 1000-year span is collectively known as the Age of The Islamic Empire. The Islamic caliphates, as part of the Islamic Empire, had a huge impact on the development of culture and society in the ancient and mediaeval eras.
The Islamic caliphates were 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 were the successors to Muhammad, and therefore had 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 Umayyad Caliphate ruled from 661 – 750 A.D. Following the collapse of the Rashidun Caliphate, the Umayyads came to power. It was the second of the four major caliphates.
It was also the first caliphate to be based on a system of dynastical succession, meaning that the role of caliph was passed from father to son instead of being subject to election.
The Umayyad Caliphate collapsed in 750 A.D., when the Abbasid Caliphate took control of their territory, and was the second shortest of the four caliphates.
The first caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate was Muawiyah I. Following the First Muslim Civil War, Muawiah took control of the Rashidun Caliphate and imposed himself as ruler of the Muslims.
Muawiyah made the capital of his new caliphate the city of Damascus, where he ruled together with his own government.
The death of Muawiyah in 680 A.D. led to another time of great conflict in the Muslim world, and the new caliph was not chosen until the year 744 A.D. Marwan II was the second (and last) caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate.
The Umayyad Caliphate was one of the largest empires the world had ever been seen in the ancient era. At its peak, the Umayyad Caliphate covered 11,100,000 square kilometers of the world, and had an estimated 62 million people living in it.
The Umayyad Caliphate was important to the Islamic Empire because it unified (brought together) the many different regions it was made up of.
This was achieved by establishing a common language (Arabic), a common currency, and a common system of measurement used throughout the regions, sort of like the metric system nowadays.
The Umayyad Caliphate was also run on a system of government like that of Western Europe and Rome, which deepened its connection to the rest of the world at the time.
The Umayyad Caliphate was a time of great achievement for the Islamic Empire, particularly when it came to architecture; the Umayyad Mosque is one of the most famous Muslim buildings in the world, having been built in the caliphate’s capital of Damascus.
The government of the caliphate was modelled after that of the Byzantine Empire, primarily because the Byzantines had previously controlled most Umayyad territories. By using a system that had previously been established, it was less likely that the public would complain about their new rulers.
The territory of the Islamic Empire was divided into provinces. Each province was ruled by a set of governors chosen by the caliphate’s supreme leader. The government was further split into many agencies called “diwans,” that handled different aspects of the country’s infrastructure.
Due to how quickly Christianity had spread in Europe, most of the caliphate’s population were Christian when they first took over. Though they could practice their own faith, all non-Muslims had to pay a tax that Muslims were exempt from.
The Umayyad Caliphate was run on a social hierarchy, where Muslim Arabs were the most important class, and all non-Muslims (dhimmis) were below them. Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians were recognized as second-class citizens, and could not hold the highest public offices in the Empire, but could still work in the government and own property.
As the Empire expanded, the people of the Empire grew dissatisfied with how secular (non-religious) the Umayyad government had become. The people rebelled against the government, with the Umayyad’s rivals, the Abbasids, eventually rising to power and seizing control of the caliphate.
– 661-750 A.D.
– Muawiyah I and Marwan II.
– Arab Muslims.
– The Abbasids.