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secular leaders) founded by Muawiyah I in 661 and lasting until 750. Uthman ibn
Affan, a member of the prominent Umayyad family of Mecca, had been elected to the
caliphate in 644 to succeed Umar I, but his weakness and nepotism resulted in
rebellion and he was murdered in 656. Uthman was succeeded by Ali, son-in-law of
the prophet Muhammad and chief of the legitimist party, which believed that only a
member of Muhammad\u2019s family could rightfully hold the caliphate. However,
Muawiyah I, governor of Syria and first Umayyad caliph, revolted against Ali and,
supported by Amr, the conqueror of Egypt, gained the advantage. Hailed as caliph at
Jerusalem in 660, Muawiyah I was in complete control soon after the assassination of
Ali the following year. Under Muawiyah I the capital was changed from Medina to
Damascus. Muawiyah I developed an administrative system modeled after the
Byzantine Empire and before his death in 680 had secured the throne for his son,
thus putting the state on a dynastic basis. Conquest was begun again with an
offensive on all fronts. Under Muawiyah I and his Umayyad successors, Muslim control
of the Mediterranean region was completed. The Arabs, led by a fierce North African
Berber army commanded by Tariq, crossed from North Africa and eventually
conquered Spain; in the east they met no effective opposition until they had passed
the borders of India. They were stopped in the west by the Franks under Charles
Martel and by the Byzantine Empire, which repulsed an attack on Constantinople
early in the 8th century.
Under the Umayyad dynasty, political and social ascendancy remained in the
hands of a few Arab families from Mecca and Medina. This caused the Muslim
population, which had grown enormously as the empire expanded, to become
increasingly discontented, especially since the Umayyads had found it
necessary to increase their income from taxation. Lands were now taxed
without regard to religion, and Muslims were exempt only from personal taxes.
Opposition centered in Persia where there was continued opposition to Syrian
domination and where the legitimists allied themselves with the Abbasids,
who claimed descent from Abbas, the uncle of the prophet Muhammad. The
Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads in 750, killed the caliph, Marwan II, and
gained the caliphate for themselves. Members of the Umayyad family were
located and slain, except for Abd-ar-Rahman I, who escaped to C\u00f3rdoba,
Spain, in 756 to rule as an independent emir. The Abbasids moved the capital
of the empire eastward to a new city, Baghd\u00e2d, which they founded on the
Succeeding to an emirate diminished by provincial governors who acted like
independent rulers, Abd-ar-Rahman at once set out to reassert Umayyad
authority over all his territories; he recaptured Toledo, the last of the wayward
cities, in 932. In the meantime, however, he had built up a navy unmatched
anywhere in the world at the time and had wrested part of Morocco from the
Fatimids. He also inflicted several defeats on the Christian kingdoms of Le\u00f3n
and Navarre, checking their expansion; by 929 he felt confident enough to
assume the title of caliph.
Abd-ar-Rahman's greatest legacy was the transformation of C\u00f3rdoba, which in splendor rivaled Baghd\u00e2d and Constantinople (present-day \u00ddstanbul), into the greatest cultural center in the Western world, a distinction it held for some 200 years.2
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