The Banu Umayya (Arabic: بَنُو أُمَيَّة, translit. Banū Umayya, lit. 'Sons of Umayya') or Umayyads (الأمويون), were a clan of the Quraysh tribe descended from Umayya ibn Abd Shams. They staunchly opposed the Islamic prophet Muhammad, but embraced Islam before the latter's death in 632. A member of the clan, Uthman, went on to become the third Rashidun caliph in 644–656, while other members held various governorships. One of these governors, Mu'awiya I, won the First Muslim Civil War in 661 and established the Umayyad Caliphate with its capital in Damascus, Syria. This marked the birth of the Umayyad dynasty, the first hereditary dynasty in the history of Islam, and the only one to rule over the entire Islamic world of its time.
The Sufyanid line founded by Mu'awiya failed in 683 and Umayyad authority was challenged in the Second Muslim Civil War, but the dynasty ultimately prevailed under Marwan I, who founded the Marwanid line of Umayyad caliphs. The Umayyads drove on the early Muslim conquests, including North Africa, Spain, Central Asia, and Sindh, but the constant warfare exhausted the state's military resources, while Alid revolts and tribal rivalries weakened the regime from within. Finally, in 750 the Abbasid Revolution overthrew Caliph Marwan II and massacred most of the family. One of the survivors, Abd al-Rahman, a grandson of Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik, escaped to Muslim Spain (al-Andalus), where he founded the Umayyad Emirate of Córdoba, which Abd al-Rahman III elevated to the status of a caliphate in 929. After a brief golden era, the Caliphate of Córdoba disintegrated into several independent taifa kingdoms in 1031, thus marking a definitive end to the Umayyad dynasty.
The Umayyads, or Banu Umayya, were a clan of the larger Quraysh tribe of Mecca. Their eponymous progenitor was Umayya ibn Abd Shams. The historian Giorgio Levi Della Vida suggests that information in Islamic traditional sources about Umayya, as with all the ancient progenitors of the tribes of Arabia, "be accepted with caution", but "that too great skepticism with regard to tradition would be as ill-advised as absolute faith in its statements". Della Vida further asserts that since the Umayyads who appear at the beginning of Muslim history in the early 7th century were no later than third-generation descendants of Umayya, the latter's existence is quite plausible.
In the early 7th century, prior to their conversion to Islam, the main branches of the Umayyads were the Aʿyās and the ʿAnābisa. The former included the descendants of Umayya's sons Abūʾl-ʿĀṣ, al-ʿĀṣ, Abūʾl-Īṣ and al-ʿUwayṣ, all of whose names shared the same or similar root, hence the eponymous label, "Aʿyās". The ʿAnābisa, which is the plural form of ʿAnbasa, a common name in this branch of the clan, gathered the descendants of Umayya's sons Ḥarb, Abū Ḥarb, Abū Sufyān ʿAnbasa, Sufyān, ʿAmr and Umayya's possibly adopted son, Abū ʿAmr Dhakwān.
Two of the sons of Abūʾl-ʿĀṣ, ʿAffān and al-Ḥakam, each fathered future caliphs, ʿUthmān and Marwān I, respectively. From the latter's descendants, known as the Marwanids, came the Umayyad caliphs of Damascus who reigned successively between 684 and 750, and then the Cordoba-based emirs and caliphs of al-Andalus (Muslim Spain), who held office until 1031. Other than those who had escaped to al-Andalus, most of the Marwanids were killed in the Abbasid purges of 750. However, a number of them settled in Egypt and Iran, where one of them, Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani, authored the famous source of Arab history, the Kitab al-Aghani. Uthman, the third Rashidun caliph, who ruled between 644 and 656, left several descendants, some of whom served political posts under the Umayyad caliphs. From the Abu'l-'Is line came the politically important family of Asid ibn Abu'l-'Is, whose members served military and gubernatorial posts under various Rashidun and Umayyad caliphs. The al-'As line, meanwhile, produced Sa'id ibn al-'As, who served as one of Uthman's governors in Kufa.
The most well-known family of the 'Anabisa branch was that of Harb's son Abu Sufyan Sakhr. From his descendants, the Sufyanids, came Mu'awiya I, who founded the Umayyad Caliphate in 661, and Mu'awiya I's son and successor, Yazid I. Sufyanid rule ceased with the death of the latter's son Mu'awiya II in 684, though Yazid's other sons Khalid and Abd Allah continued to play political roles in the caliphate with the former being credited as the founder of Arabic alchemy. Abd Allah's son Abu Muhammad Ziyad al-Sufyani, meanwhile, led a rebellion against the Abbasids in 750, but was ultimately slain. Abu Sufyan's other sons were Yazid, who preceded Mu'awiya I as governor of Syria, Muhammad, 'Amr, 'Utba and 'Anbasa. Only the last two left progeny. Another important family of the 'Anabisa were the descendants of Abu 'Amr, known as the Banu Abu Mu'ayt. Abu 'Amr's grandson ʿUqba ibn Abī Muʿayt was captured and executed on Muhammad's orders during the Battle of Badr for his previously harsh incitement against the prophet. 'Uqba's son, al-Walid, served as 'Uthman's governor in Kufa for a brief period. The Banu Abu Mu'ayt made Iraq and Upper Mesopotamia their home.
The Quraysh were the dominant force of Mecca in the pre-Islamic era, deriving significant prestige among the Arab tribes through their protection and maintenance of the Ka'aba, which at the time was regarded by the largely polytheistic Arabs across the Arabian Peninsula as their most sacred sanctuary. By circa 600, they had developed trans-Arabian trade networks, organizing caravans to Syria in the north and Yemen to the south. A certain Qurashi tribesman, Abd Manaf ibn Qusayy, who based on his place in the genealogical tradition would have lived in the latter half of the 5th century, was apparently charged with the maintenance and protection of the Ka'aba and its pilgrims. These roles passed to his sons Abd Shams, Hashim and others. In Arab legend, Abd Shams and Hashim, who became the progenitor of the Hashimids (known in Arabic as the Banu Hashim), were Siamese twins that were separated by the cut of a sword. Accordingly, the blood that subsequently flowed between the infant brothers represented the persistent conflict that later emerged between their descendants. Likewise, the challenging of Abd al-Muttalib ibn Hashim by Abd Shams' son Umayya to a munafara (an Arab contest for honor decided by a judge, who in this case was a senior member of the Khuza'a tribe) served as a harbinger of the rivalry between the Umayyads and the Hashimids (the Alids and Abbasids) during the first two centuries of Islamic history.
The Banu Umayya, along with the other major clans of the Quraysh, resided in the lower valley of Mecca, in the immediate vicinity of the Ka'aba. Umayya succeeded his father Abd Shams as the qa'id (wartime commander) of the Meccans. This position was apparently an occasional political post whose holder oversaw the direction of Mecca's military affairs in times of war instead of an actual field command. This proved instructive as the later Umayyads were known for possessing considerable political and military organizational skills. By the dawn of Islam in the 620s, they had developed into the strongest clan of Meccan Quraysh.
Early Islamic period
The descendants of Abd Shams, including the Umayyads, were the principal leaders of Qurashi opposition to the Islamic prophet Muhammad, himself a member of the Banu Hashim. The Umayyad chieftain Abu Sufyan was the leader of the Meccan army that fought the Muslims under Muhammad at the battles of Uhud and the Trench. Abu Sufyan and his sons, along with most of the Umayyads, ultimately embraced Islam toward the end of Muhammad's life, most likely following the Muslim victory over the Meccans at the Battle of Hunayn in 629. To secure the loyalty of certain prominent Umayyad leaders, including Abu Sufyan, Muhammad offered them gifts and positions of importance in the nascent Muslim state. He installed another member of the clan, Attab ibn Asid ibn Abi'l-'Is, as the first governor of Mecca. The first caliph, Abu Bakr, appointed Abu Sufyan's sons Yazid and Mu'awiya I to command posts in the Muslim armies that were dispatched to conquer Syria.
Uthman ibn Affan, a wealthy merchant of the Banu Umayya, early convert to Islam and son-in-law and close companion of Muhammad was chosen to succeed Caliph Umar upon the latter's death in 644. Uthman initially kept his predecessors' appointees in their provincial posts, but gradually replaced many with members of the Banu Umayya or his maternal kinsmen from the Banu Umayya's parent clan, the Banu Abd Shams. Mu'awiya ibn Abi Sufyan remained governor of Syria, al-Walid ibn Uqba and Sa'id ibn al-'As were successively appointed to Kufa, while Marwan ibn al-Hakam became his chief adviser.
The descendants of Umayya ibn Abd Shams and ʿAbd al-Muttalib
Family tree of the Umayyad dynasty in Syria and al-Andalus
- Della Vida 2000, p. 837.
- Della Vida 2000, p. 838.
- Della Vida 2000, pp. 838-839.
- Della Vida 2000, p. 839.
- Watt 1986, p. 434.
- Hawting 2000, pp. 21-22.
- Hawting 2000, p. 841.
- Peters, p. 18.
- Poonawala 1990, p. 8.
- Ahmed 2010, p. 106.
- Ahmed 2010, p. 107.
- Note: Uthman (indicated in blue color) is the nephew of Al-Hakam ibn Abi al-'As, not a brother of Abu Sufyan as it was incorrectly drawn and placed in the following schematic diagram.
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— Imperial house —
Cadet branch of the Quraysh
|Rashidun Caliphate as elective caliphate|| Caliphate dynasty
661 – 6 August 750
Umayyad dynasty as caliphal dynasty
| Ruling house of the Emirate of Córdoba
15 May 756 – 16 January 929
|Emirate elevated to Caliphate|
|| Ruling house of the Caliphate of Córdoba
16 January 929 – 1017
| Ruling house of the Caliphate of Córdoba
1023 – 1025
| Ruling house of the Caliphate of Córdoba
1026 – 1031
into Taifa kingdoms