The Dynastic Caliphates


In 661, the Umayyad family became the first of the dynastic caliphates of the Islamic world. Based in Syria, the Umayyads expanded the Islamic empire east as far as the borders of India and China and west to the Atlantic and the Pyrenees. In 750, they were overthrown by the House of ‘Abbas. The ‘Abbasids moved the capital from Syria to Iraq and established themselves in the city of Baghdad. Although they officially ruled from 750-1258, the ‘Abbasids were effective for only the first century of this period. In the east, the Tahirids and Saffarids established local dynasties in Persia. In addition, the Samanids succeeded in establishing their domain in Central Asia, where they made great in roads for the Islamic empire. In the west, an independent emirate was established in Spain in 756. Dynasties in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt soon followed.

As Islam expanded its borders over time, Arab Muslims (the progenitors of Islam’s rise) were  compelled to share power with new non-Arab converts to Islam, particularly Persians in the east and Berbers in the west. Dynasties in Persia in particular led to a cultural renaissance in the 10th and 11th centuries.

Around the same time, Turks entered the Islamic mosaic. In the 11th century, they migrated westwards both noth and south of the Caspian and Black seas. The Seljuk Turks established a “universal sultanate” in the 11th century, claiming authority over Sunni Islam and the ‘Abbasids whom they recognized. Turkish Muslims carried the faith to new areas in India, Asia Minor and Central Asia.