Empire Established

Usually, we organize early Islamic history by dynasty: the Rightly-Guided Caliphs ruled first, but they’re followed by the Umayyads, then the ‘Abbasids–the Umayyads and ‘Abbasids both adopt a hereditary succession to the Caliphate. However, there is every reason to rethink the traditional organization along dynastic lines. After the second fitna, the Umayyads embarked on an administrative reform aimed at standardizing administration across provinces. The Caliphate that emerges from the Marwanid Reforms will survive the turnover in power, lasting into the early ‘Abbasid period.

The next three weeks will focus on the continuities between the late Umayyad and early ‘Abbasid periods. We pick up in the aftermath of the second fitna to follow some of the most celebrated building programs of the early Caliphate: the Dome of the Rock, Great Mosque of Damascus, and then Baghdad. This unit goes up until the so-called “Decade of Anarchy,” when a fast turnover of caliphs allows regional princes to come to power.

Week 4: Late Umayyads

Week 5: Early Abbasids

Week 6: Decade of Anarchy