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(750–1258) The second of the two great Sunnite dynasties of the Islamic Caliphate. The 'Abbasids took their name from an uncle of the Prophet Muhammad, al-'Abbas, whose descendants formed one of several groups agitating for change under the Umayyad dynasty. The Umayyad enforcement of a brand of Arab chauvinism, wherein non-Arab Muslims were relegated to a lower status, led to a revolution in which the 'Abbasids claimed the Caliphate and enforced a more universal community of believers. This was symbolized by their movement of the caliphal capital from Damascus to Baghdad, an area closer to the geographic centre of the empire and nearer the Persian hinterland. Under their rule, Islamic culture flourished, new heights in philosophy and science were attained, and the period was widely seen as the golden age of the Islamic world. During that time, however, the Caliphate's authority slowly began to erode as regional power centres developed throughout the empire. Although central authority was intermittently reasserted by strong-willed caliphs, by the 13th century 'Abbasid authority was largely spiritual. The last 'Abbasid caliph was executed by Mongol invaders, but a shadow Caliphate (of dubious authenticity) continued into the early 20th century. See alsoAbu Muslim.
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