Renowned for his poetry mocking the Umayyads, Ibn Qays al-Ruqayyat says, "Some people dislike the Umayyads because, when angered, they show restraint. "
28 Şubat 2024 Çarşamba

After the reign of the four rightly-guided caliphs, which lasted for 30 years, the Umayyads, also known as the Banu Umayya, became the first dynasty to dominate the Islamic empire. They were descendants of Umayya, the son of Abd Shams, who was the twin brother of Hashim, the great-grandfather of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The third caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, belonged to this family.

During the pre-Islamic era (jahiliyyah) and after the advent of Islam, this large, powerful, and proud family always had many rivals and detractors. Abu Sufyan, the grandson of Umayya, was the leader of the Meccan tribe during the time of the emergence of Islam. His wife, Hind, accepted Islam during the conquest of Mecca. The Prophet appointed him as the governor of Najran. He lost one eye in the battles of Taif and Yarmouk.

The Umayyad Caliphate, which began when Muawiyah ibn Abu Sufyan, the brother-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad and revelation scribe, took over the caliphate from Hasan ibn Ali in 661, ended with the last caliph Marwan II losing his throne in 750.

The first period of Umayyad rule consisted of Muawiyah, his son Yazid, and his grandson Muawiyah II. When Muawiyah II abdicated after only six months of caliphate in 684, Marwan ibn al-Hakam, the grandson of Muawiyah's great-uncle, became caliph. Marwan was the son-in-law of Uthman ibn Affan. After him, 10 caliphs ruled in succession during the Umayyad dynasty.

Golden Era

The Umayyads transformed the Islamic state into one of history's greatest empires. This brief caliphate period stands as one of the brightest epochs in Islamic history, marked by conquests, construction, and scholarly activities.

During the Umayyad period, the political dominion of Muslims extended from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the depths of Turkestan in the east; from Anatolia and the Caucasus in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south. Muslims turned towards the heart of Europe, crossing the Pyrenees. Istanbul was besieged several times, with the first siege under the command of Yazid. In fact, during one of these sieges, Muslims established a neighborhood in the city and stayed for a few years. The Arab Mosque stands as a memory of those days.

The Umayyads, by blending Byzantine and Persian political structures with Muslim Arab culture in the conquered territories, not only through conquests but also through the political and administrative institutions they established, imparted an imperial character to their rule.

The Umayyad Mosque (Jami al-Umawi) also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus
The Umayyad Mosque (Jami al-Umawi) also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus

Why Did They Not Like Them?

In a turbulent time, they seized power through force. They sternly suppressed opposition with powerful governors like Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad and al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. When the integrity of the state was at stake, they managed the internal and external policies of the empire with great shrewdness and astuteness, showing no mercy.

A certain faction, desiring wealth, status, and aiming to sow discord to divide society, would often incite rebellion under the guise of supporting Ali ibn Abi Talib and the Ahl al-Bayt (the family of the Prophet Muhammad), rallying partisans to gain power. The caliphs responded harshly to them. While they faced consequences for their actions, they also caused harm to the Ahl al-Bayt. What is strange is that almost everyone criticizes the Umayyads for their harsh treatment of opponents, but no one says anything about the troublemakers and rebels who drenched the country in blood.

However, the Umayyads left the people free to go about their business without interfering with those who did not challenge their political authority. During this period, not only religious sciences but also technical, social, and literary sciences advanced significantly. Scholars everywhere produced valuable works.

Tragic End

The Umayyad era was also marked by struggles against non-Sunni movements, especially the Kharijites and Shiites, who were political opponents.

Despite suppressing numerous uprisings, the Shiite uprising under the leadership of Abu al-Abbas al-Saffah and under the command of a professional revolutionary named Abu Muslim al-Khurasani ultimately led to the downfall of the Umayyad state. The capable caliph, Marwan II, was defeated on the banks of the Zap River. Although he retreated to Egypt, the Abbasids mercilessly slaughtered any member of the Umayyad family they found.

A few individuals managed to escape the massacre, and one of them would go on to establish the Umayyad Caliphate in Al-Andalus (Spain). This brilliant state, founded by a young man emerging from the ashes of the dynasty, is evidence of the Umayyads' skills in politics, military, and culture.

Renowned for his poetry mocking the Umayyads, Ibn Qays al-Ruqayyat (d. 694) says, "Some people dislike the Umayyads because, when angered, they show restraint. That is, their adversaries wanted them to get angry, lose control, and when that didn't happen, their animosity increased" (Al-Qurtubi).

Do Muslims Know Nothing About Architecture?

The Umayyad period also demonstrated great vitality in terms of intellectual and cultural movements. During this era, which is considered the pinnacle of poetry and rhetoric, studies were conducted on grammar. Diacritical marks were added to the Quran to ensure correct recitation. The study of hadiths and jurisprudence was vibrant, and it was during this period that the collection and written documentation of hadiths began.

The science of history advanced significantly. Particularly, medicine and chemistry experienced bright days. Caliph Walid implemented the world's first quarantine. Fully equipped hospitals were established, and medical faculties were founded in Antioch and Harran. Khalid, the son of Caliph Yazid, was a knowledgeable chemist. The opening of the first free schools also occurred during this period.

They dazzled the eyes with architectural masterpieces erected in every corner of the country. They repaired and improved the Masjid al-Haram and the Masjid al-Nabawi. The Masjid al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock stand as their legacies. The Umayyad Mosque (Jami al-Umawi) built by Caliph Walid in Damascus, refuting the Byzantines' statement, "The Muslims know nothing about architecture!", is considered one of the most splendid works of the medieval era and a pride of the Muslims.

The borders of the Umayyad Empire
The borders of the Umayyad Empire

Real Cause of Animosity

Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, his sons Walid and Hisham, and his nephew Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz are among the greatest Umayyad caliphs. They sought Quranic knowledge in their officials, emphasizing its importance. They provided assistance to the poor and sick, and granted salaries to Muslims and non-Muslim citizens who were unable to work.

They spread Islam as a state religion to vast territories, respected the religious, and won their hearts by appointing just governors. They supported the moderate Sunni religious development against the opponents from various innovated sects aimed at overthrowing Umayyad power. This is the true reason behind the hidden agenda of animosity towards the Umayyads.

First Expedition to Istanbul

Despite widespread propaganda suggesting otherwise, the Umayyad caliphs, except for a few, were not bad individuals. Many of them, such as Mu'awiya II, Abd al-Malik, and Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, were scholars and righteous figures. The founder of the dynasty was a companion of the Prophet Muhammad, his brother-in-law, and a scribe of revelations. Under their rule, the Islamic countries made progress in material and spiritual aspects from all sides. The citizens lived in peace and prosperity.

Among Islamic rulers, there were those influenced by flatterers and hypocrites who strayed into oppression and sin. However, scholars, through their books and words, strived to guide them onto the right path by enjoining good and forbidding wrong. Thus, even the worst among them were more just and beneficial than the best of irreligious governments. None of them ever considered hindering the development of Islam; they always strived to serve the religion and the people. The legacies they left for future generations are too numerous to count. The traces left by these caliphs, and indeed many of the caliphs themselves, are still evident today.