A Tale of two cities and the Abbasid Caliphate 132- 656 / 750 – 1258

A Tale of two cities and the Abbasid Caliphate 132- 656 / 750 – 1258

By Osman Sid Ahmed Ismail Al Bili

Bulletin of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, No.17 (1994)

Introduction: The murder of Ali B. Abi Talib (661 AD) the fourth of the Patriarchal Caliphs left Muawiya, his arch enemy, with no serious rival to the position of Caliph albeit there were other contenders. Equally unrivalled for the position of Caliphal Capital was Damascus, the ancient capital of Syria, from which Muawiya ruled as governor since the days of the second Caliph Umar I (634-644 AD) and from which he challenge Ali B. Abi Talib to a stalemate situation till the assassination of Ali did them part, the latter to heavens, the former to the position of Caliph for a good many years (662-680 AD).

Muawiya in the circumstances had no problem of a choice of a capital let alone the need to found one. From all aspects, political, military, strategic, economic, cultural, etc. Syria was second to none as ruling province. Damascus had no rival as Caliphal Capital. The fate of the Umayyads, Sufyanids and Marwanids, was tied to the fate of both city and province. The fall of these to the rebel forces of what came to be known as the Abbasid Revolution (750 AD) meant the fall of the Umayyads except for what survived far away in Muslim Spain.

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