The Umayyad Dynasty: Rulers & Warfare

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  • 0:02 Islam After Mohammed
  • 1:06 Rise of the Umayyad Dynasty
  • 1:51 War & Decline
  • 2:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson explores Islam after the death of Mohammed. In doing this, it highlights the culture and conflicts of the Umayyad Dynasty and its ruling caliphs.

Islam After Mohammed

The name Mohammed is familiar to many. In fact, if you asked a bunch of people, I'm guessing a lot of them would be able to link Mohammed to Islam. However, I'm guessing just a few of them would be able to tell you what happened to the Islamic world after Mohammed's death. To shed some light on this topic, today's lesson will take a look at the Umayyad Dynasty.

However, before we get to the Umayyads, we should probably back up and explain what happened after Mohammed's death. After the death of Mohammed, his followers sought a leader for their newly founded Islamic faith. With this, they turned to Abu Bakr, Mohammed's father-in-law who also happened to be one of his very good friends. As their new leader, they bestowed on him the title of caliph. A caliph is an Islamic religious ruler whose name actually means successor. The first caliphs after Mohammed were known as the Rightly Guided Caliphs. Showing the importance of this position, a government under the rule of a caliph is called a caliphate.

Rise of the Umayyad Dynasty

Unfortunately, not all Muslims agreed that Mohammed's father-in-law should have been given power. With this, unrest plagued the rule of the Rightly Guided Caliphs. Eventually, they lost their power and a new caliph named Muawiyah moved the capital from Medina to Damascus. This began what has come to be known as the Umayyad Dynasty.

Unlike the Rightly Guided Caliphs, the caliphs of the Umayyad Dynasty were more interested in politics and economics than religion. They made Arabic the official language and were the first to mint Arabic money. Along with this, they worked to improve the infrastructure of their lands. They rebuilt ancient irrigation systems, constructed stunning places of worship, and even promoted the arts.

War & Decline

Despite their desire to grow economically, the Umayyad Dynasty was plagued with warfare. First, they found themselves continually fighting the Byzantine Empire over the city of Constantinople.

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