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Establishment of the Umayyad Caliphate in Damascus & Granting of Governorships in Iraq to Mughira and Ziyad 662CE

Establishment of the Umayyad Caliphate in Damascus

Thus began the Umayyad Caliphate 661-750, the first dynasty in the history of Islam, and Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan رضي الله عنه became its first Caliph 661-680, establishing its capital at Damascus. Once the disorder and the turbulence in various parts of the empire, especially in Iraq, which had bedevilled it for the last ten years, had been brought under control, often quite ruthlessly, the government was again centralised, but this time in Damascus, a metropolitan city with old cultural and administrative traditions.

Syria also had the best-trained, best disciplined and most loyal army of all the provinces. Even in Makkah and Madinah, there was unease about Muawiya رضي الله عنه becoming Caliph, because, like his father Abu Sufyan رضي الله عنه, he had remained a bitter opponent of the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم until the fall of Makkah in 630, when he became a Muslim. But the main source of dissension was Iraq and, in particular, the cities of Basra and Kufa. However, once order had been restored in the provinces, the second phase of expansion of the empire began. Under Umayyad rule, the Muslim empire expanded as far as the borders of India and China in the east, and to the Atlantic and the Pyrenees in the west. To say nothing of North Africa and Spain, this vast area was united under a single rule for the first time since the time of Alexander the Great (356-323BCE).

Granting of Governorships in Iraq to Mughira and Ziyad 662

Muawiya رضي الله عنه relied heavily on two of his lieutenants, Mughira ibn Shuba رضي الله عنه and Ziyad ibn Abihi, to suppress opposition to his rule from the Kharijites and supporters of the murdered Caliph Ali رضي الله عنه . Mughira, an unscrupulous opportunist, and Ziyad ibn Abihi (ibn Abihi meaning 'son of his father' i.e. of doubtful paternity) were both members of the Thaqif clan of the town of Taif. Mughira was given the governorship of Kufa and the task of making the local population submit to Muawiya's رضي الله عنه authority. Ziyad [d. 673], with his eloquence, wisdom and ruthlessness, was a most remarkable man. By his personal qualities, he had overcome the stigma of being the son of a vagrant slave girl, and had eventually been appointed governor of Basra by Caliph Aliرضي الله عنه .

After the murder of Ali رضي الله عنه , he refused to cooperate with Muawiyaرضي الله عنه , but transferred his allegiance to him a year later, in 662. Muawiya رضي الله عنه , for his part, publicly acknowledged Ziyad as his half-brother through the extra-marital relations of his own father, Abu Sufyan رضي الله عنه, declaring him to be Ziyad ibn Abi Sufyan رضي الله عنه . This was an extremely shrewd move on the part of Muawiya رضي الله عنه , since it gave Ziyad credibility and enormous satisfaction in a matter of personal pride, though Muawiya attracted considerable if short-lived criticism for this action. He was then given the most difficult job of the governorship of Basra, where he started his rule with an impromptu speech from the pulpit of the mosque' announcing the severest measures against the lack of restraint prevalent in the region. His proclamations did not turn out to be hollow threats; he adopted the most ruthless measures in restoring government authority, which had been totally undermined by rival religious and tribal factions.

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