Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 September 2013
By the 650s an Arabian–Muslim empire stretched across the East Mediterranean and the Middle East, from Tripoli, in North Africa, to Balkh, in northern Afghanistan. The establishment of garrison camps (amṣar) in many of the conquered provinces in the 630s and 640s began the sedentarisation of the Arabian armies and contributed to the consolidation of their cultural and religious unity, but did not prevent conflict over the leadership of the empire and the division of its resources. Two especially widespread outbreaks of such conflict dominated the second half of the seventh century (656–61 and 683–92). However, the idea that the Muslims should be led by one leader seems to have been sufficient to give internal conflict a centripetal character: competitors fought for control of the Muslim empire, not for independence from it. The victory of the Sufyanid branch of the Umayyad dynasty in the first civil war and the Marwanid branch of the same dynasty in the second meant that it fell to these scions of the Meccan, Qurashī clan of cAbd Shams to establish the institutions that would perpetuate the success of the Muslim ‘conquest society’.
The Umayyad family, led by Abū Sufyān b. Ḥarb b. Umayya, had been very influential in pre-Islamic Mecca. One of Abū Sufyān's sons, Yazīd (d. 639), had been among the leading conquerors of the Roman diocese of Oriens (‘Syria’) in the 630s.