As we already know, at the outset, the Umayyads justified their claim to be the legitimate leaders of the Muslim community by presenting themselves as avengers for the blood of the caliph ‘Uthman, who was assassinated by a group of Egyptian mutineers. The Umayyads and their supporters argued that by failing to punish ‘Uthman’s murderers, ‘Ali, who was recognized by many as successor to ‘Uthman, forfeited his right to the caliphate. Mu‘awiya, a relative of ‘Uthman, albeit from a different branch of the Umayyad clan, positioned himself as the leader of the avenging faction. After the first civil war ( fitna ) and the death of ‘Ali in 656, he was declared caliph ( khalífa ), that is the “successor or deputy of the Prophet” and the “commander of the faithful” ( amír al-mu’minín ). 1

With time, the Umayyads began to claim a religious authority of their own, arguing that their triumph over their numerous opponents in the first and second civil wars was an unmistakable sign of God’s favor toward their house. In other words, their victory was predetermined and made possible by God, who thus vindicated their status as the only rightful leaders of the Muslim community. What more evidence did one need to confirm their legitimacy? 2 After a while, the Umayyads began to style themselves not simply as the successors or deputies of the Prophet but also as the representatives of God himself. 3 This concept of Umayyad legitimacy is finely captured in the following praise of the caliph Mu‘awiya by a court poet:

The earth is God’s; He has entrusted it to His khalífa. God has adorned you with the caliphate and guidance; for what God has decreed there is

no change.