Umayyad and ‘Abbasid Caliphates

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The Umayyads tried to convert the Islamic conquests into a secular state. The Umayyad caliphs extended the territories of Islam to the walls of Constantinople, the borders of China, and along the southern coast of the Mediterranean to Spain. The Umayyads attempted to maintain a strictly Arab elite within their state. As the number of non-Arab converts to Islam grew, dissatisfaction with the concept of Arab—especially Quraysh—dominance festered. Demands for greater equality among all Muslims coalesced with reformers’ claims into a broad movement that unseated the Umayyads. Distant relatives of Muhammad, the ‘Abbasids, were recognized as rightful successors. In 750 the ‘Abbasids replaced the Umayyads as rulers everywhere but in Spain. At the outset, the ‘Abbasids represented the reform movement and set out to govern according to strict religious principles. Arabs lost their control of Islamic government which was opened to all Muslims. The ‘Abbasids created a new capital in Baghdad, a recognition of the new importance of Iraq and Persia in the new government. The ‘Abbasids claimed absolute rights of government based on the righteousness of their claims to power. The caliphs created a centralized bureaucracy on the model of the eastern empires. Slave soldiers replaced the originally Arab armies. By the tenth century, the ‘Abbasid caliphs lost absolute control over Islam. Local military commanders, emirs, took over provincial governments. Various Shi’ite movements successfully established separatist governments. The most important Shi’ite revolution resulted in the creation of the Fatimid caliphate in Egypt. A third caliphate arose in Spain under the Umayyad, ‘Abd ar-Rahman III. External invasion led to the final collapse of the ‘Abbasids. Seljuk Turks conquered Baghdad in 1055, while much of northern Africa fell to Moroccan Berbers. The invasions disrupted the commercial and economic systems of the Islamic

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