Journal of Islamic Archaeology, Vol 6, No 2 (2019)

From Arabia to Bilād al-Shām: Muʿāwiya’s Development of an Infrastructure and Monumental Architecture of Early Umayyad Statehood

Beatrice St. Laurent
Issued Date: 10 Mar 2020

Abstract


This article first examines the early history of Muʿāwiya and his monumental architectural achievements in Arabia. He was from a wealthy land-owning elite Arabian family of traders from the Meccan Qurayshi tribe. As Companion and scribe of the Prophet he was well-positioned to achieve the goals of tribal unification, agricultural development, initiating a period of architectural construction and state-building. Second the article’s major focus is his monumental architectural construction in Greater Syria evidenced in the archaeological and re-evaluated textual evidence, which support his creation of statehood infrastructure for the Umayyads in Bilād al-Shām. As governor of Syria and later as the first Sufyānid Amīr al-muʾminīn or Commander of the Faithful in the Dār al-Islam, he controlled the development of an architecture and bureaucratic infrastructure of state throughout the region. After arrival with the armies of conquest in 634, he became provincial governor of Syria in 638/639 and continued the process of tribal unification and state-building at the behest of the Rashidun caliphs ʿUmar and ʿUthman.  As Amīr al-muʾminīn he continued tribal consolidation, settling disputes by moving populations within the Dār al-Islam. He also engaged in monumental architectural development throughout the realm including mosques, palaces and fortresses, invented the miḥrāb–the stone or space (later the niche) indicating the direction of prayer toward Mecca, and established what was later known as the ribāṭ system along the Mediterranean coast. Though there are meager documentary survivals of texts and inscriptions, there is now sufficient archaeological and recent secondary scholarly evidence particularly in a revision textual usage to claim that Muʿāwiya created the Umayyad state and monuments reflecting statehood during his reign as Commander of the Faithful in Syria with multiple capitals in Damascus, al-Jābiya, al-Ṣinnabra and Jerusalem.

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DOI: 10.1558/jia.40700

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