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They believed that the caliph should come from the family of Muhammad. The other group was the Sunnis or Sunnites. The Sunni Muslims were considered more traditionalists and had accepted the first three caliphs. They also in general terms were willing to acknowledge that the caliphs were not infallible and did not have to come from the family of Muhammad. A member of the Umayyad family had declared himself caliph in Damascus in 660 and formally became the accepted caliph with Ali’s demise in 661. The new Umayyad caliph was steadfastly opposed by the Shi’ites but received general support or at least acceptance from the majority Sunni group.
14 In 711 Muslims swept into Spain and Portugual taking control of the Iberian Peninsula. Raids were then launched against the area of modern day France from Spain. The Franks dispatched forces to deal with these raids. A decisive skirmish took place in 732 at the Battle of Tours (also called the Battle of Poitiers) in which the Franks under the Mayor of the Palace Charles Martel defeated a Muslim raiding party. Though not a huge battle in the numbers of men on each side who fought, the battle was, as mentioned, decisive in that only rarely after that would the Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula pose any real threat to the rest of Western Europe. The Umayyads had been far more political, military and economic leaders and had seemed in general a bit less concerned with religious matters. This stimulated criticism of the Umayyad caliphs especially among the Shi’ites. The Umayyad dynasty was extinguished in 750 as 90 family members and the last Umayyad caliph were all slaughtered. Only one Umayyad escaped the massacre and managed to continue to control the Iberian Peninsula from his center at Cordova. A new caliph was chosen from the family of Muhammad’s paternal uncle Abbas which inaugurated the birth of the Abbasid dynasty who moved the capital of the caliphate from Syria back to Baghdad. By the tenth century, the power of the caliph in Baghdad was weakening as real power shifted into the hands of the local emirs who in theory still acknowledged the authority of the caliph in Baghdad although often times not in practice. In addition, by the tenth century, more than one man claimed to be caliph as the Shiites revolted from time to time and rival caliphs to the one ruling in Baghdad popped up. In essence, the centralized organization of Islam around the caliph in Baghdad (there were caliphs ruling from Baghdad until 1258) was collapsing. The tenth century also witnessed the rise of the Seljuq Turks (named for their first leader Seljuq). The Seljuqs swiftly conquered Iran, Palestine, Syria and most of Iraq including Baghdad. Islamic world leadership now clearly began a shift toward the Turks. Caliphs continued to rule from Baghdad until 1258 but were no more than puppets of the Seljuqs rulers.