The fi rst four caliphs, traditionally known as ‘rightly guided’, hold a spe-cial place in Islamic history. The coming to power of ‘Ali’s antagonist Mu‘awiya, the founder of the Umayyad dynasty, in 661, was a decisive turning point. No longer would the faithful be led by one of the ageing associates of Muhammad. Indeed, the parents of the new caliph had been two of their most bitter enemies, for his father, Abu Sufyan, had led military operations against the Muslims of Madina and only embraced Islam when there seemed to be no alternative, while according to some later traditions his mother had been condemned to death by the Prophet. The company that Mu‘awiya kept gave o ence to the pious, who were scandalised at such people as al-Akhtal (‘the loquacious’), e ectively the court poet for much of the Umayyad period (661-750). A heavy drinker and womaniser, he not only disdained e orts to convert him from Christianity, but looked back with nostalgia on the pre-Islamic past.