Mu’awiya ibn Abi Sufyan is a crucial figure for the history of Islam and one who has either been ignored because of the lack of information on this period of history, vilified for political reasons by the Shi’ites, or transformed into a completely secular ruler by certain Western Orientalist. When Mu’awiya became the caliph in 41/661, he put an end to a period of destructive civil war and initiated the Umayyad dynasty which lasted for roughly 90 years until it was overthrown by the Abbasids. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how the crisis would have been resolved without his success in drawing the Muslim community together again.
In Mu’awiya, we have the master politician and diplomat who set about developing a form of governance in which Islam could express itself in the wider social and economic circumstances in which it found itself as a result of the success of the early conquests. The Umayyad’s represent the fusion of Islam with Arab democratic individualism and the Byzantine legacy.