Here are some bullet points to get you started in your assignment.
The Abbasid Caliphate
- ruled from 750-1258 and then from 1261-1517. The breif interruption was due to the Mongol sack of their capital city of Baghdad.
- founded by the decendents of Muhammad's uncle.
- seized power by overthrowing the Umayyad empire.
- capital city was Baghdad for most of their rule.
- sought to accept non-muslims into their societies. Accepted Persian support and influence into their court.
- stressed value of knowledge. Oversaw the golden age of Islamic culture in literature, art, architecture, technology and science.
- embraced Sunni Islamic practices.
The Umayyad Caliphate
- established after the death of Muhammad by a powerful family from Mecca. Ruled only from 661-750.
- capital city was Damascus
- had a social structure where Arab Muslims were at the top and everyone else was below. They tried to keep non-Arab muslim influences out of their court.
- stressed military conquest rather than aquisition of knowledge. Did oversee the building of many important buildings (the Dome of the Rock)
- Sunni Islam.
I hope this helps get you started.
One more thing,
dbello mentioned in his post that the Abbasid's were Sh'ite, which was true in the beginning, but after they consolidated power they switched to Sunni practices, which cost them supporters.
The Islamic Empire between 632-750 AD was full of internal conflict, and as a result separated into two different sects: the Sunn'i (Umayyad) and the Shi'ite (Abbasid) The Sunn'i continued to follow the teachings of the early caliphs (the Prophet Muhammads' successors) the Shi'ite followed Muhammad's son-in-law, Ali. The Umayyad Caliphs were responsible for several military conquests and thus converting the conquered to Islam. The Abbasids overthrew them in 749 and moved the capital to Baghdad. They were also responsible for spliting and sharing power between the Arabs religious goals, the Persians administrative authority, and the Turks' military might. In addition, There were advances in medicine, science, mathematics, and philosophy under the Abbasids.