Echoes of the Fall of the Umayyads in Traditional and Modern Sources: A Case Study of the Final Eight Years of the Umayyad Empire with Some Reference to Gramsci’s Theory of Cultural Hegemony
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
The prolonged decline of the Umayyads is among the most intriguing episodes in Muslim history, and has generated a lasting impact on subsequent Muslim socio-political and religious thinking. The early sources for the Umayyad period comprise various conflicting reports, and problems of reconstruction become more complex since most sources were composed during Abbāsid times, meaning they were generally hostile towards the Umayyads. The time frame of the study covers the last eight years of the Umayyad empire; more precisely the period from the death of Hishām b. Abd al-Malik (d. 125/743) to the end of the Umayyad era 132/750. Meticulous and careful examination of the pre-modern sources, combined with modern research approaches has helped in identifying the objectives of various early historiographers in their descriptions of Umayyad decline. The study focuses primarily on analysing the pre-modern sources (specifically al-Ya'qubi, al-Tabari, al-Mas'udi, Ibn Athir and Ibn Khaldun) and applies a thematic approach to the source materials, through which the various strands that defined and illustrated that decline can be followed. This makes it possible to evaluate how extensively each of three themes (the role of religious movements, the mawāli, and al-'asabiya) was dealt with in the early historiographies and to what extent they differ from one another. The development of religious ideas and how they contributed to the fall of the Umayyads and the rise of oppositional forces is also central in this regard and three religious movements (the 'Abbasids, Khawarij, and Qadariya) are explored. On the basis of the information gleaned from comparing the writings of the early historiographers, the study has also adopted a comparative study of modern historiography and approaches in assessing the Umayyad fall. Gramsci’s theory of cultural hegemony is used to explain and interpret aspects of the formation and development of the Umayyad period; it can also be used to assess the viability of the ideology, organisation and strategy of the early oppositional movements as a counter-hegemonic ideological force.
PhD in Arab and Islamic Studies