The Umayyad period (661-750 AD) is considered to be one of the most flourishing periods in the history of Jordan. Jordan reaches a peak in monumental architecture and in the urban expansion into desert lands, where the concentration of palatial Umayyad architecture is greater than any other region in the Near East. However, past studies regarding the Islamic period lack a scientific approach because their analysis seems to be either consciously or unconsciously biased. European scholars can be ethnocentric and Islamic and Arab scholars who can in turn be classed as having biases: those who studied Islamic history and regard it as a pure holy issue that cannot be criticized in any way, and those who prefer some periods to others because the ruling dynasty or family meshes with their own group of beliefs. For example, if a scholar is Sunni, he would most likely underestimate Fatimid accomplishments, because the founders of that Dynasty were Shi’ite. Sectarian conflict sometimes contributes to a biased analysis and investigation of some periods. Scholars must try hard to be objective and to analyze Islamic periods from a critical point of view.
Starting in the 19th century, the European scholar’s analysis of Islamic history was based primarily on unsubstantiated Eurocentric perceptions rather than on concrete evidence or objective research (Walmsley 2001, 515). The whole Islamic period is categorized by the idea of a number of “thundering hoards” who invaded the highly civilized Graceo-Roman lands and caused a lot of devastation. Some writers even went so far as to say that the Muslims came and built their little dirty houses among the magnificent Roman and Byzantine monuments. They had no sense of discipline or cleanliness and they stabled their horses and camels in the rich Byzantine basilicas (Macaulay and Beny 1977). Some say that Muslims had never absorbed the concept of state because they stayed in their culture attached to Mecca and that they were not able to absorb the cultures of the people they invaded (Conrad 1983, 26).
Jordan has experienced in the last few decades a number of excellent studies and a concentration of research that is unparalleled by those of previous years and of neighboring countries. Jordan became one of the most important countries in the Near East to reevaluate our understanding of the early Islamic period (Whitcomb 2001, 503). The excavations carried out so far, have changed the whole idea about Jordan during the Islamic period in general and the Umayyad period in particular. The intensive excavations provided us with a clearer image of the early Islamic period (Whitcomb 1995, 468). The archaeological evidence together with the historical data gives us a better understanding of the period of transition from Pre-Islamic Arabia into the early period of Islam. The thousands of documents unearthed in the Giza Synagogue in Cairo and in other parts outside Cairo shed more light on the history of the Southern Levant and can be considered as a major written source for that period (Schick 1998, 75). The rich documents were studied thoroughly and published by Adolf Grohmann and they reveal many facts about the different institutions of the early Islamic state (Grohnmann, 1955).
In fact, Jordan is important for understanding the rise and the decline of the Umayyad Empire. The famous arbitration between Mu’awiya Ibn Abi Sufiyan the establisher of the Umayyad Dynasty and the fourth rightly guided Caliph Ali Bin Abi Talib took place in Udhruh at the mount of Jarba, a site situated in the Southern part of Jordan. The meeting did not lead directly to the birth of the Umayyad Caliphate, but it had a great effect on the events to come later. The Jordanian tribes supported Mu’awiya Ibn Abi Sufyan against Ali. A tribe called Kalab constituted his greatest support. The Kalab tribe were mainly settled in the Southern Levant. Concerning the decline of the Umayyad Empire, the Abassid Revolution was also initiated from al Humeimah, a historical site situated in the south of Jordan.
The Umayyad period, in terms of the family lines, can be divided into two main periods: The Sufyanids during the reign of the first three Caliphs and the Marwanids during the reign of the next eleven Caliphs (Hawting 1998, 840).