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HIST231: Empire and States in the Middle East and Southwest Asia

Unit 3: The Umayyad and Abbasid Empires   After the period called “Rightly Guided Caliphs,” the Umayyad Caliphate emerged in the mid-600s CE following a succession struggle among the descendants of Muhammad.  In less than 50 years, the Umayyad Dynasty’s military forces secured political control of a vast region stretching from the Punjab region of India westward across the Middle East and North Africa to Spain.  Umayyad leaders eventually moved their seat of power from Arabia to Damascus (in modern-day Syria).  The Umayyads did not force conquered peoples to convert to Islam, but they did tax non-Muslim peoples heavily to provide revenues for the state.  In the mid-700s, growing discontent with Umayyad rule led to a revolt that brought the Abbasid family to power.  The Abbasid Dynasty shifted political power from Damascus to Baghdad and attempted to develop bureaucratic institutions to consolidate and manage their vast empire.  In this unit, you will study the formation of the Umayyad Empire and its impact on the peoples and cultures of the Middle East and Southwest Asia.  You will also look at the differences between Umayyad and the Abbasid imperial administrations and the major challenges that both dynasties faced as they attempted to govern a vast and complex political-religious empire.

Unit 3 Time Advisory
This unit should take you 16.5 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 3.1: 4 hours ☐    Readings: 2 hours for each reading

☐    Subunit 3.2: 9.5 hours ☐    Introduction: 5.5 hours

☐    Readings: 3.5 hours

☐    Web Media: 2 hour

☐    Subunit 3.2.1: 0.5 hour

☐    Subunit 3.2.2: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 3 Assignment: 3.5 hours

Unit3 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
- Identify the origins of the Umayyad and Abbasid Empires. - Assess how these dynasties reshaped political and economic life throughout the Middle East and Southwest Asia. - Discuss the transition from elected leadership in Islam to dynastic rulers. - Describe Islam’s interaction with Europe. - Analyze the political dominance of Islam in the Iberian Peninsula.

3.1 Rise of the Umayyad Empire   - Reading: University of Notre Dame: “Medieval Period of Expansion” Link: University of Notre Dame: “Medieval Period of Expansion” (HTML)

 Please revisit the “Medieval Period of Expansion” article you read
in subunit 2.3, focusing this time on the rise and fall of the
Umayyads, the first Muslim dynasty. You should also be able to
understand the dynasty’s rise and fall in the broader context of
Islamic expansion in medieval times.  

 Reading this text and studying the maps will take approximately 1
hour.  
    
 Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a [Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
license](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/). It is
attributed to the University of Notre Dame.  
  • Reading: Fordham University’s Internet History Sourcebook: Oleg Grabar’s “Ceremonial and Art at the Umayyad Court” Link: Fordham University’s Internet History Sourcebook: Oleg Grabar’s “Ceremonial and Art at the Umayyad Court” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the entire text carefully.  It depicts the high-culture in this very wealthy empire.  The reading should take approximately 2 hours to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use on the webpage displayed above.

3.2 Conquest of Spain   - Reading: BBC’s “Muslim Spain” Link: BBC’s “Muslim Spain” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire text.  What do you think of the enduring Islamic legacy in Spain today?  This reading and question should take you approximately 2 hours to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use on the webpage displayed above.

  • Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Peter Halsall’s version of Ibn Abd-el-Hakem’s “The Islamic Conquest of Spain” Link Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Peter Halsall’s version of Ibn Abd-el-Hakem’s “The Islamic Conquest of Spain” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the entire text.  This piece is written by a 9th century Egyptian author and as such one of the earliest account of the capture of Spain by Islamic armies.  Taking notes and reading this entire text should take you approximately 1.5 hours to complete
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use on the webpage displayed above.

  • Web Media: BBC’s “Muslim Spain” Link: BBC’s “Muslim Spain” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Please click on “Listen Now” on the audio file by the BBC.  You will hear a rich discussion on how Islamic Spain contributed to Western Civilization.  This web media will supplement the BBC reading in this subunit.  Listening to the audio file and taking notes should take you approximately 2 hours to complete
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use on the webpage displayed above.

3.2.1 Collapse of the Umayyad Empire   - Reading: University of Calgary: The Applied History Research Group’s “The Collapse of the Umayyad Dynasty” Link: University of Calgary: The Applied History Research Group’s “The Collapse of the Umayyad Dynasty” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire text, which explains the reasons behind the collapse of the first Islamic dynasty.  This reading should take you less than 30 minutes to complete.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use on the webpage displayed above.

3.2.2 Shifting Power Base from Damascus to Baghdad   - Assessment: The Saylor Foundation's “The Umayyad and the Abbasid Empires” Link: The Saylor Foundation's “The Umayyad and the Abbasid Empires” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above to download the assessment.  Please write out approximately one paragraph answers for each question.  After completing this assessment, please check your responses against the Saylor Foundation’s “Guide to Responding to the Umayyad and the Abbasid Empires.” (PDF) Your answers should contain, but not be limited to, the information provided in the answer sheet.  This assessment should take approximately 3 hours to complete.

  • Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of Yakut’s “Baghdad under the Abbasids, ca. 1000 CE” Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of Yakut’s “Baghdad under the Abbasids, ca. 1000 CE” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the entire text.  This 11th century document offers a detailed description of the city of Baghdad at the height of the Abbasid Empire.  Yakut, the author, explains how the city is laid out on both sides of the Tigris River and describes the royal palace of the caliph.  He also mentions the extensive military fortifications of the city and describes the fine quality of the building materials used to construct the palaces of the nobles along the bank of the Tigris.  His account highlights the beauty and sophistication of Baghdad under the Abbasids.  After reading this text, write a brief paragraph that summarizes life in Baghdad under the Abbasids.  This reading and paragraph should take you approximately 1.5 hours to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use on the webpage displayed above.

  • Web Media: BBC’s “Abbasid Caliphs” Link: BBC’s “Abbasid Caliphs” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the “listen now.”  The link will take you to an informative interview on the subject.  Melvyn Bragg discusses the Abbasids with several world renown scholars.  Listening to this podcast and taking notes should take you approximately 2 hours to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use on the webpage displayed above.