The Umayyad family ruled the Caliphate from Syria from 661 to 750, then continued in power in Spain until 1031. Everyone loves to hate the Umayyads. They were the Prophet Muhammad’s nemeses, leading the Meccan troops against the early Muslim community. They converted comparatively late. They made the Caliphate hereditary, while it had been passed on by council before. They besieged Mecca to fight their enemies. They killed the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. They were, overall, known for drinking, womanizing, and partying.
However, we rely on sources written during the reign of those who overthrew them. If we look at the material evidence left from their reign, we see a more dynamic picture. They created an empire out of the piecemeal conquests. They built the Great Mosque of Damascus and the Dome of the Rock. We’re not going to be able to rehabilitate the Umayyad caliphs entirely, but we might acknowledge just how important the Umayyad period was to the development of Islamic History.