History of Europe and the Islamic world :

The dynasties and rulers of the Islamic world and the Europe have shaped the present Islamic countries and European countries. Islam tried to move into Europe but was stalled in many occasions. In the world of Islam Umayyads, Abbasid were the famous dynasties. After the death  Prophet Mohammed’s son-in-law, Ali, a group called Umayyad became powerful. This group chose Mu’awiya as their caliph and he was their fifth caliph. He ruled when Muslims were not sure what kind of governance they wanted. Some wanted it to be a religious government while others wanted it to be secular. Mu’awiya built up a secular government and moved his capital to Damascus in 661. He evne modelled it after the Byzantine Empire and had Christian administrators. He identified his Yazid as his successor and this was not conforming to the Muslim tradition and can be said to be the first Muslim dynasty to rule the Islamic world.

 

Umayyad

Yazdi’s rule was short and infamous for challenging Hussein the grandson of Prophet Mohammed. Many people related to Hussein as he was the direct descendent and was the fourth Caliph whom Mu’awiya overthrew. Hussein was forced to take an oath of loyalty to Yazid which he refused. So Yazid ordered massacre of women and children and Hussein was also killed. This massacre is still mourned by Shia Muslims. After Yazdi his son Abd-al-Malik took over and reigned for twenty years. He followed his grandfather’s footsteps. He was also one of the greatest rulers of the Umayyad dynasty. Abd-al-Malik spread his control over Persia and North Africa. The most important thing he did was to unify the coinage of the empire in 696.He built mosques in the new lands. He made Arabic the common language. On the coins only the verses from Quran was etched and not the image of the emperor. It was during his reign the Dome of the Rock was constructed in 691 in Jerusalem which had a golden dome and wonderful calligraphy. The work started by Abd-al-Malik was continued by his heirs and they extended their borders from the Iberian Peninsula in the west to the Indus River in the east. Their expansion was stopped by Charles Martel and his force which was comprised of Frankish forces.

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Abbasids

This rise and power was opposed by another rising faction called Abbasids. Abbasids opposed the secular policy and wanted a more religious government. Umayyads in 750 were finally under the control of this new faction. They tried to kill as many members as possible of Umayyad faction to avoid the resurgence of them. Abd-al-Rahman of Umayyad escaped to Spain and established Umayyad dynasty there.  The Abbasids were a coalition of the Persian and Arab tribes. Once they took over the Muslim lands they shifted their capital to Baghdad in 762. When they tried to move east in 751, they came in conflict with the Chinese. Muslims won in that battle and the Chinese captives taught them the method of making paper.  The 9th and 10th century saw a golden period of the rule of Abbasid. Generally when the reign is good, art and literature flourish with all other all round development of the people. There were many scholars and many other language books were translated into Arabic. By the 11th century the hold of the Abbasid dynasty was weakening. They had followed a decentralized system of governance but the same system gave way to disintegration too. The creativity and scientific temperament went for two more centuries but came to a grinding halt with the invasion of Mongol in 1258.

 

Umayyads in Spain

Meanwhile Abd-al-Rahman managed to get support from the Arabs there and established his supremacy there. Islam was the official language and around 785 the construction of the Great Mosque of Cordoba began. It is an architectural marvel and this Cordoba became the capital of the Arabs in Spain. Under the rule of Abd-al-Rahman and his immediate successors the rule of Umayyad dynasty reached its zenith of glory. Rebellions were crushed. Taking advantage of religious clashes in the Middle East, he named himself the caliph which took both religious and political powers. He asserted power over the Fatimids. Cordoba which was heavily populated became the largest city of Europe. Literature, science and religion flourished during these years. The Umayyads in Spain were displaced in 1031.

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European Rulers

Charlemagne who was also known as Charles the Great became the ruler of the Franks (from 768), Lombards (from 774) and the Holy Roman Empire (from 800). Since he was born to his parents before their canonical marriage was only a co –ruler with his brother Carloman I. His brother died and then he took over as the sole ruler. Like his father he became the protector of the Papacy. He thwarted the incursion of the Muslims and united many nations in Western Europe and is called ‘Father of Europe’. His rule for thirteen years encouraged the Carolingian Renaissance which was a period of vigorous intellectual and cultural activity within the western church. All the later rulers of western Europe take pride in being known as the descendants of Charlemagne who died in 814. The Caroligian rule went on for few more decades but they could not better what Charlemagne did.

 

William I ruled from 1028 to 1089. He had problems in accessing the throne because he was born from an illicit relationship between Robert I and his mistress. Yet he took over as the Duke of Normandy from 1035. He married Matilda of Flanders and annexed it to his kingdom. He was promised England by Edward, who was his cousin. But Edward did not keep up his word and gave it to Harold Godwinson an English earl. So he had to attack England and then win it after killing Harold in the Battle of Hastings. He became the king of England and the first Norman to do it on October 14th 1066. He had trouble keeping his colonies together. He had support of the papacy. William I ruled until his death in 1089.

 

Frederick I who was crowned King of Germany in 1152 became the Holy Roman Emperor is 1155.He is considered as the greatest Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire during the medieval ages. His ambition, political acumen and excellent organization skills made him almost supernatural. He brought in the rule which balanced the power between the papacy and the ruler. Frederick died in 1190.

 

Louis VI was the king of France from 1108 to 1137. He managed to get complete control over the royals and nobles. He was successful in resolving conflicts between barons. He is also known as the father of communes and towns. He fought wars against the King of England Henry IV and later stalled an attack with Henry V form England. He was an ally to Flanders and he further expanded his control by marrying his son to Eleanor the daughter of Duke of Aquitaine. He had good relationship with church and clergy. Louis VI died in 1137 and ruled till his end.

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Henry II was born in 1133. He was the Duke of Normandy, count of Anjou and duke of Aquitaine and King of England from 1154. He became the Duke of Aquitaine by marrying the Eleanor who had divorced Louis VI. Henry II expanded the Anglo-French domains and also made the royal administration strong. He did not have very good relationship with the archbishop of Canterbury.

 

Some Women Rulers

There were many strong women who ruled or played an important part in the governance of the kingdoms. Some of them were Eleanor of Aquitaine, Matilda and Blanche of Castile. Men wooed to marry Eleanor (1137-1204) because she was the heiress of Aquitaine. She married Louis VI, divorced him and then married Henry II. She was very good at governance too. Matilda (1102-1167)was the Norman who ruled England. She is best described by the inscription on her tomb in Rouen, France. “Here lies Henry’s daughter, wife and mother; great by birth, greater by marriage, but greatest in motherhood.”  Blanch of Castile acted as regent twice during the rule of her son Louis IX. The first one was when he was a minor between 1226 and 1234 and the second time was during his absence from 1248 to 1252.

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