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in category Umayyads

What are the best books on Umayyad history?

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For a general reader who wants a reliable overview...
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Masters in Education from Nottingham University in the UK. Also studied Masters in Islamic Studies and Islamic Banking & Finance. Political activist with interests in Geopolitics, History and Phil ...
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The study of Umayyad history (661-750 CE/41-132 AH) is an important subject of Islamic history and overall human history. A number of awesome military achievements led the Umayyads to reach westward to Spain and eastward to Indonesia in less than forty years after they came to power.

The problem of finding primary sources written about the subject is difficult. The Arabic sources dealing with the Umayyads are secondary material written by scholars hostile to the dynasty and living under the Abbasid regime, which in itself carried out a revolution that toppled the Umayyads.

Given the nature of these historical sources, one must raise the question of whether a reliable understanding of the period will ever be possible.

"The Umayyads" by Abdulhadi Alajmi is a careful attempt at understanding Umayyad history.

For those lacking previous knowledge of the subject these works very valuable:

  • Kennedy 1986 and Wellhausen 1927 are classic in the field as general sources about early Muslim history.
  • Hawting 1987 and Hawting 2002 are more focused on Umayyad history, best after reading Kennedy 1986. Hawting has a good general overview: Hawting, G. R. The First Dynasty of Islam: The Umayyad Caliphate A.D. 661-750. This book provides a basic description of Umayyad rule, how it dealt with its military, diwan (treasury department) and taxation, the issue of mawali (Arab and non-Arab clients) and the overall conception of legitimacy. This book is a blueprint for students of early Islamic history.
  • Donner 1998 is more focused dealing with some specific issues, such as the authenticity of the Qu'ran and rebuttal of the skeptic hypothesis. This work deals with ways Muslim scholars during the Umayyad regime began writing down Islamic traditions. This work is very valuable for its rebuttal of claims about the nonauthenticity of the Qu'ran and other written traditions.
  • Landau-Tesseron 1992 is for advanced students in the field, since it deals with the translation of early sources. Translation of the history of al-tabari's section on Umayyad decline this is a valuable book for students aiming to account for early narrations compiled by Muslim historians on the subject.
  • Marin-Guzman 2004 is very advanced, requiring a significant background in the field, therefore suitable only for advanced students.
  • Khalid Yahya Blankinship's "The End Of The Jihad State: the Reign of Hisham Ibn Abd al-Malik and the Collapse of the Umayyads" chronicles the decline of the Umayyads, very thorough and detailed.


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