Unit 2 Chapter 4 Lesson 1 Rise of Muslim States

Describe the origins and features of the Umayyad and Abbasid empires.

The Expansion of Muslim Rule

The Expansion of Muslim Rule

ESSENTIAL QUESTION 1 What lands did the Umayyads add to the Muslim Empire?

Once the Umayyads had taken control, they began to conquer new lands. In less than 100 years, their empire spanned parts of three continents—Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Expansion to the East

Under the Umayyads, the Muslim Empire expanded. When they took power in 661, the empire’s eastern boundary extended into Persia. (See the map below.) They quickly pushed that border farther eastward into Central Asia. At first, Umayyad armies staged hit-and-run raids, attacking such cities as Bukhara  and Samarkand. These were the region’s major trading centers. Soon, however, occasional raids turned into organized campaigns for conquest. By the early 700s, the Umayyads had taken control of much of Central Asia.

Westward Expansion

The Umayyads also expanded the empire to the west. By 710, they controlled the whole of North Africa from the Nile River to the Atlantic Ocean. The following year, they moved northward across the Mediterranean Sea into the  Iberian Peninsula. The Iberian Peninsula is the southwestern tip of Europe where the modern nations of Spain and Portugal are located. Using military force and treaties, they took control of nearly all of the peninsula.

From strongholds in Spain, Muslim forces launched raids ever deeper into Europe. However, Christian forces stopped their advance in 732 at the Battle of Tours. (See the map above.) Over the next few years, Muslim forces retreated back to Spain.

ESSENTIAL QUESTION 1 What lands did the Umayyads add to the Muslim Empire? Much of Central Asia, western North Africa, Peninsula

Uniting Many Peoples

ESSENTIAL QUESTION 2 How did the Umayyads build a unified empire?

By the early 700s, the Umayyads controlled a huge empire that covered many lands. As a result, Umayyad leaders needed to take steps to unite and govern the many peoples of this far-flung empire.

Umayyad Government

The Umayyads patterned their government on the bureaucracy used in the lands they won from the Byzantine Empire. A bureaucracy is a system of departments and agencies that carry out the work of the government. Umayyad caliphs, through this bureaucracy, ruled the entire empire from their capital city of Damascus.

To rule the different provinces of the empire, the caliphs appointed Muslim governors called emirs . These emirs relied on local clan leaders to help them govern. Working with local leadership helped the Umayyads win support in lands far from Damascus.

A Common Language and Coinage

At first, language served as a barrier to unity in the empire. People in different parts of the empire spoke their own languages. Abd al-Malik, who became caliph in 685, solved this problem. He declared Arabic the language of government for all Muslim lands. Having a common language for government helped people throughout the empire communicate more easily with other regions. Even so, most Muslims still spoke their own languages in everyday life.

Around 700, Abd al-Malik further unified the empire by introducing a common coinage. Coins were engraved with Arabic quotations from the Qur’an. The coins helped the spread and acceptance of Islam and the Arabic language. They also made commerce among the different parts of the empire much easier.

The Pilgrimage

Muslims from across the empire made the pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca. On the hajj, pilgrims shared their languages and cultures. In addition, they brought knowledge of the Arabic culture and Umayyad rule back to their homelands. So the pilgrimage helped bring about the blending of many different cultures.

ESSENTIAL QUESTION 2 How did the Umayyads build a unified empire? Set up strong  with many departments and agencies, introduced a  language and coinage

The Overthrow of the Umayyads

ESSENTIAL QUESTION 3 What caused the Muslim Empire to split? 


The Umayyads conquered many new lands and brought Islam to large numbers of people. By the mid-700s, however, the Umayyads faced major challenges to their rule.

Rising Protests

Some Muslims felt that the Umayyads did not take their duties as leaders of Islam seriously. They accused the Umayyads of being too interested in living a life of luxury and holding on to power. Over time, different groups throughout the empire began to protest Umayyad rule.

The Abbasids

One group, the Abbasids , gained support from other Muslims who opposed the Umayyads. By 750, these combined forces had taken power. According to some historians, the Abbasids invited Umayyad leaders to a meeting to talk about peace. At that meeting, the Umayyads were murdered.

Only one prominent Umayyad, Abd al-Rahman, escaped this ambush. He fled to Spain. There, he re-established the Umayyad dynasty. After this, the Muslim Empire was permanently split into eastern and western sections.


ESSENTIAL QUESTION 3 What caused the Muslim Empire to split? Different groups throughout the empire began to ​​​​​​​ Umayyad rule


How did the Umayyads bring new lands into the Muslim Empire? The Umayyads pushed the empire’s eastern boundary deep into Central and extended the western boundary to the Iberian Peninsula.