In the period following the death of The Prophet, there was a large power gap in the leadership of Islam. In 661 C.E., about thirty years after Muhammad's death, eventually a line of caliphs or, literally "successors", who claimed descent from The Prophet's uncle Umayya, secured the spiritual and temporal leadership of Islam. This was the source of the major schism in Islam, between the sunni and shi'i: the shi'i maintained that legitimate leaders of the Muslim world, who they termed Imams, could only be lineally descended Muhammad's cousin Ali, while the sunni, who formed the large majority, maintained that anybody who was of The Prophet's bloodline and was acclaimed by the majority of Muslims could serve.

The Umayyad Caliphs enjoyed wide popular support at first, and expanded the military conquests the Arabs had made at the time of the Islamic Revolution. However, support for them waned over time. This was the result of misrule on the part of the Umayyads, and, after pushing as far north as France, military setbacks and discontent in the ranks of the soldiers, and smoldering discontent on the part of the substantial shi'i minority. The Umayyads themselves proved to be their own worst enemies, behaving more like kings than religious leaders - rumors were rampant of the caliphs drinking wine and having promiscuous sex, hardly appropriate for the leaders of a religion that forbids both.

This discontent expressed itself in a series of regional revolts and shi'i uprisings, and by 747 C.E., a general uprising in the Muslim world. The revolt swept the Umayyads out of power very quickly, and 750 C.E., their dynasty had lost power everywhere except in Moorish Spain, where they would hold onto power for several hundred more years. They were replaced everywhere else by the Abbasid Caliphs, who claimed descent from The Prophet's other uncle, Abbas.

The first four caliphs (khalifah), combined spiritual (imam) and temporal (amir al-mu`minin) rulers in succession to Muhammad, were chosen from among his companions. The third, Uthman, was of the Umayyad family, descendants of one Umayya, and Uthman reigned 644-656. After him came Ali, but on Ali's death in 661 the caliphate became hereditary in the Umayyad dynasty, and with this came the split between the Sunni and Shi'i branches of Islam, the Umayyads commanding the dominant Sunni branch.

Already in their expansion from Arabia the new Muslim power extended from Egypt (captured 640) to Central Asia (the important city of Merv captured 651). Under the Umayyads the capital was moved out of Arabia to Damascus, and they continued to push both west and east.

Carthage fell in 698, the Berbers of North Africa were converted in 702, and in 711 General Tariq having crossed to Gibraltar, which now bears his name (jebel Tariq) conquered almost all of the Visigothic kingdom of Spain, leaving only the Basques and the northern coastal kingdom of Asturias under Christian control. The Berbers proved a valuable acquisition both as warrior allies and because they had recently discovered the trans-Saharan route to the Black African empire of Ghana, rich with gold, which the Berbers traded for salt they got from Saharan salt mines.

Eastward the Umayyad Caliphate reached as far as Tashkent in campaigns of 704-15 and took Sindh, now part of Pakistan, in 712-13, and northward they took all the Caucasus and some beyond. However, they could not make further progress against the Byzantine Empire, though their Middle Eastern heartland had come from Byzantine provinces recently captured by Persia. The Byzantines invented Greek fire and had naval superiority.

In 747 the Abbasid Dynasty, descendants of Abbas, an uncle of Muhammad, revolted in Persia, and began to take over, and the Umayyad Caliphate fell in 750.

The Abbasids never took Spain, and here the Umayyad line remained, with the title of emir from 756. It was this state that Charlemagne fought. Charlemagne did not get far in Spain, but the Christian north, now represented by the Kingdom of Galicia, gradually prised land from the Umayyad Emirate.

The Umayyads experienced a revival in the tenth century. In about 900 a Fatimid Caliphate was established in the Maghreb, and began to push eastward, eventually taking Egypt away from the weakened Abbasid Caliphate. The Umayyads of Spain took advantage by moving into the vacuum and occupying Morocco. They declared themselves caliphs once more in 929. But after 1031 they degenerated into a multitude of petty states.

Umayyad Caliphs of the main line:

Muawiya I       661-680
Yazid I         680-683
Muawiya II      683-684
Marwan I        684-685  (g-gr. of Umayya)
Abd al-Malik    685-705
al-Walid I      705-715
Sulayman        715-717  (br.)
Umar II         717-720  (gr. of Marwan I)
Yazid II        720-724  (s. of Abd al-Malik)
Hisham          724-743  (br.)
al-Walid II     743-744  (s. of Yazid II)
Yazid III       744      (s. of al-Walid I)
Ibrahim         744      (br.; deposed)
Marwan II       744-750  (gr. of Marwan I)

Umayyad Emirs then Caliphs of Andalusia or Cordoba:

Abd ar-Rahman I    756-788  (gr. of Hisham above)
Hisham I           788-796
al-Hakam I         796-822
Abd ar-Rahman II   822-852
Muhammad I         852-886
al-Mundhir         886-888
Abdallah           888-912  (br.)
Abd ar-Rahman III  912-961  (gr.; caliph from 929)
al-Hakam II        961-976
Hisham II          976-1009  (see note below)
Muhammad II       1009
Sulayman          1009-1010
Muhammad II again 1010
Hisham II again   1010-1013
Sulayman again    1013-1016
Ali ibn Hammud    1016-1018
Abd ar-Rahman IV  1018
al-Qasim          1018-1021
Yahya             1021-1023
al-Qasim again    1023
Abd ar-Rahman V   1023-1024
Muhammad III      1024-1025
Yahya again       1025-1027
Hisham III        1027-1031

Relationship to previous ruler is son except where otherwise marked, but after the deposition of Hisham II the succession in the Caliphate of Cordoba is too fractious to be worth marking. They were in terminal decline by then.

Colin McEvedy, The New Penguin Encyclopedia of Medieval History
John Morby, The Wordsworth Handbook of Kings and Queens

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