The Birth of the Islamic Caliphate: Cultural-Political Polymorphism and Sociology of Empires

Pavel Osinsky, Appalachian State University

The birth of the Arab Caliphate with its symbiosis of religious and political power defies conventional representations of premodern imperiogenesis as a process of political centralization and military expansion. That what has become known as the Umayyad/Abbasid Empire, had emerged out of a religious community, formed around Prophet Muhammad, which has turned subsequently into a military-religious order of the warriors of Islam. By blending a structural theory of status lineages and a social-psychological interpretation of sectarian formation, this study seeks to explain peculiarity of imperiogenesis in the seventh century Arabia. The paper problematizes the notions of “state-building” or “imperial statecraft” that imply that political actors follow deliberate strategies of “building” states and asserts that ultimate political crystallizations may be rather distant from original motivations of the alleged “empire-builders.”

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 Presented in Session 143. Politics of Civilizations and Empires