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Expansion from 622-750, with modern borders overlaid
| Sasanian Empire
Kingdom of Makuria
Kingdom of the Franks
Kingdom of the Lombards
Duchy of Aquitaine
| Rashidun Caliphate
Umayyad Caliphate (after Rashidun period)
Abbasid Caliphate (after Umayyad period)
|Commanders and leaders|
According to traditional accounts, the Muslim conquests (Arabic: الغزوات, al-Ġazawāt or Arabic: الفتوحات الإسلامية, al-Futūḥāt al-Islāmiyya) also referred to as the Islamic conquests or Arab conquests, The military career of Muhammad began in the 7th century. He established a new unified polity in the Arabian Peninsula which under the subsequent Rashidun (The Rightly Guided Caliphs) and Umayyad Caliphates saw a century of rapid expansion of Muslim power.
They grew well beyond the Arabian Peninsula in the form of a Muslim empire with an area of influence that stretched from the borders of China and India, across Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Sicily, and the Iberian Peninsula, to the Pyrenees. Edward Gibbon writes in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:
Under the last of the Umayyads, the Arabian empire extended two hundred days journey from east to west, from the confines of Tartary and India to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. And if we retrench the sleeve of the robe, as it is styled by their writers, the long and narrow province of Africa, the solid and compact dominion from Fargana to Aden, from Tarsus to Surat, will spread on every side to the measure of four or five months of the march of a caravan. We should vainly seek the indissoluble union and easy obedience that pervaded the government of Augustus and the Antonines; but the progress of Islam diffused over this ample space a general resemblance of manners and opinions. The language and laws of the Quran were studied with equal devotion at Samarcand and Seville: the Moor and the Indian embraced as countrymen and brothers in the pilgrimage of Mecca; and the Arabian language was adopted as the popular idiom in all the provinces to the westward of the Tigris.
The Muslim conquests brought about the collapse of the Sassanid Empire and a great territorial loss for the Byzantine Empire, eventually also resulting in its collapse. The reasons for the Muslim success are hard to reconstruct in hindsight, primarily because only fragmentary sources from the period have survived. Most historians agree that the Sassanid Persian and Byzantine Roman empires were militarily and economically exhausted from decades of fighting one another. The rapid fall of Visigothic Spain remains less easily explicable.
Some Jews and Christians in the Sassanid Empire and Jews and Monophysites in Syria were dissatisfied and welcomed the Muslim forces, largely because of religious conflict in both empires, while at other times, such as in the Battle of Firaz, Arab Christians allied themselves with the Persians and Byzantines against the invaders. In the case of Byzantine Egypt, Palestine and Syria, these lands had only a few years before being reacquired from the Persians, and had not been ruled by the Byzantines for over 25 years.
Fred McGraw Donner, however, suggests that formation of a state in the Arabian peninsula and ideological (i.e. religious) coherence and mobilization was a primary reason why the Muslim armies in the space of a hundred years were able to establish the largest pre-modern empire until that time. The estimates for the size of the Islamic Caliphate suggest it was more than thirteen million square kilometers (five million square miles), making it larger than all current states except the Russian Federation.
- 1 List of the conquests
- 2 Background
- 3 Military campaigns
- 3.1 Conquest of Persia and Mesopotamia: 633–651
- 3.2 Conquest of Transoxiana: 662–751
- 3.3 Conquest of Sindh: 664–712
- 3.4 Conquest of Hispania (711–718) and Septimania (719–720)
- 3.5 Attempts to Conquer the Caucasus: 711–750
- 3.6 End of the Umayyad conquests: 718–750
- 3.7 Conquest of Nubia
- 3.8 Incursions into southern and central Italy: 831–902
- 3.9 Conquest of Anatolia: 1060–1360
- 3.10 Decline and collapse: 1800–1924
- 4 Reasons
- 5 See also
- 6 References
List of the conquests
The individual Muslim conquests, together with their beginning and ending dates, are as follows:
Byzantine–Arab Wars: 634–750
Wars were between the Byzantine Empire and at first the Rashidun and then the Umayyad caliphates and resulted in the conquest of the Syria region, Egypt, North Africa and Armenia (Byzantine Armenia and Sassanid Armenia).
Under the Rashidun
- The conquest of Syria, 637
- The conquest of Armenia, 639
- The conquest of Egypt, 639
- The conquest of North Africa, 652
- The conquest of Cyprus, 654
Under the Umayyads
- The conquest of North Africa, 665
- The first Arab siege of Constantinople, 674–678
- The second Arab siege of Constantinople, 717–718
- Conquest of Hispania, 711–718
- The conquest of Georgia, 736
Frontier warfare continued in the form of cross border raids between the Umayyads and the Byzantine Isaurian dynasty allied with the Khazars across Asia Minor. Byzantine naval dominance and Greek fire resulted in a major victory at the Battle of Akroinon (739); one of a series of military failures of the Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik across the empire that checked the expansion of the Umayyads and hastened their fall.
The prolonged and escalating Byzantine–Sassanid wars of the 6th and 7th centuries and the recurring outbreaks of bubonic plague (Plague of Justinian) left both empires exhausted and vulnerable in the face of the sudden emergence and expansion of the Arabs. The last of these wars ended with victory for the Byzantines: Emperor Heraclius regained all lost territories, and restored the True Cross to Jerusalem in 629.
Nevertheless, neither empire was given any chance to recover, as within a few years they were struck by the onslaught of the Arabs (newly united by Islam), which, according to Howard-Johnston, "can only be likened to a human tsunami". According to George Liska, the "unnecessarily prolonged Byzantine–Persian conflict opened the way for Islam".
In late 620s Muhammad had already managed to conquer and unify much of Arabia under Muslim rule, and it was under his leadership that the first Muslim-Byzantine skirmishes took place. Just a few months after Heraclius and the Persian general Shahrbaraz agreed on terms for the withdrawal of Persian troops from occupied Byzantine eastern provinces in 629, Arab and Byzantine troops confronted each other at the Mu'tah. Muhammad died in 632 and was succeeded by Abu Bakr, the first Caliph with undisputed control of the entire Arab peninsula after the successful Ridda Wars, which resulted in the consolidation of a powerful Muslim state throughout the peninsula.
Conquest of Persia and Mesopotamia: 633–651
In the reign of Yazdgerd III, the last Sassanid ruler of the Persian Empire, an Arab Muslim army secured the conquest of Persia after their decisive defeats of the Sassanid army at the Battle of Walaja in 633 and Battle of al-Qādisiyyah in 636, but the final military victory didn't come until 642 when the Persian army was defeated at the Battle of Nahāvand. These victories brought Persia (modern Iran), and its territories and provinces comprising Caucasian Albania (Azerbaijan and southern Dagestan), Armenia, Assyria (Assuristan) and Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and south east Anatolia under Arab Muslim rule. Then, in 651, Yazdgerd III was murdered at Merv, ending the dynasty. His son Peroz III escaped through the Pamir Mountains in what is now Tajikistan and arrived in Tang China.
Conquest of Transoxiana: 662–751
Following the First Fitna, the Umayyads resumed the push to capture Sassanid lands and began to move towards the conquest of lands east and north of the plateau towards Greater Khorasan and the Silk Road along Transoxiana. Following the collapse of the Sassanids, these regions had fallen under the sway of local Iranian and Turkic tribes as well as the Tang Dynasty. The conquest of Transoxiana (Ar. Ma wara' al-nahr) was chiefly the work of Qutayba ibn Muslim, who between 705 and 715 expanded Muslim control over Sogdiana, Khwarezm and the Jaxartes valley up to Ferghana. Following Qutayba's death in 715, local revolts and the defeats at the hands of the Chinese-sponsored Turgesh (chiefly the "Day of Thirst" in 724 and the Battle of the Defile in 731) led to a gradual loss of the province: by 738, the Turgesh and their Sogdian allies were raiding Khurasan south of the Oxus. However, the murder of the Turgesh khagan, Su-lu, and the conciliatory policies of Nasr ibn Sayyar towards the native population opened the way for a swift, albeit not total, restoration of Muslim control over Transoxiana in 739–741. Muslim control over the region was consolidated with the defeat of the armies of Tang China in the Battle of Talas in 751.
Conquest of Sindh: 664–712
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During the period of early Rajput supremacy in North and North-West India(modern day Pakistan) (7th century), the first Muslim invasions were carried out simultaneously with the expansion towards Central Asia. In 664, forces led by Al Muhallab ibn Abi Suffrah began launching raids from Persia, striking Multan in the southern Punjab, in what is today Pakistan.
The west of Indian sub-continent was then divided into many states. Their relation between each other were very weak. Al-Ḥajjāj ibn Yūsuf the ruler of Iraq knew this and waited for the best moment to strike.
As Muslim Empire and Dahir's kingdom were contiguous to each other, frequent border clashes took place. As a result relation between the two got worse.
The King of Ceylon, the present Sri Lanka sent many 8 ships full of gifts for the Calipf Al-Walid and the ruler of present Iraq, Hajjaj Bin Yosuf. But the pirates plundered the ships at the Debal of Sindh, which is now known as "Karachi". Same Pirates were also involved in plundering the innocent merchants and cities near the coast. A woman was also victim of those Pirates acts. In response to the letter sent by her to Hajjaj Bin yousaf in early 711 AD, he demanded to take action against Pirates from Raja Dahir. But Raja Dahir denied to take responsibility for the crimes committed by the pirates.
For all these reasons. Hajjaj Bin yousaf sent soldiers against Dahir. But first two expeditions failed. Then in 712 CE Hajjaj sent the third expedition. The commander-in-chief of this expedition was Muhammad bin Qasim Al-Thaqafi the nephew and son-in-law of Hajjaj.
Qasim subdued the whole of what is modern Pakistan, from Karachi to Multan. After his recall, however, the region devolved into the semi-independent states of Mansura and Multan ruled by local Muslim converts. The Arabs were effectively driven out regions east of the Indus river after the defeats inflicted on them by the Chalukyas and Gurjara Pratiharas at Navsari and Ujjain respectively. The Gurjara Praatiharas remained "enemies" of the Muslims and checked their expansion into India.
Conquest of Hispania (711–718) and Septimania (719–720)
The conquest of the Iberian Peninsula and Septimania commenced when the Moors (Berbers, Arabs and north west Africans) invaded Visigothic Christian Iberia (modern Spain, Portugal, Andorra, Septimania) in the year 711. Under their Moorish leader, Tariq ibn Ziyad, they landed at Gibraltar on April 30 and worked their way northward. Tariq's forces were joined the next year by those of his superior, Musa bin Nusair. During the eight-year campaign most of the Iberian Peninsula was brought under Islamic rule—save for small areas in the northwest (Asturias, Cantabria) and largely Basque regions in the western Pyrenees.
This territory, under the Arab name Al-Andalus, became first an Emirate and then an independent Umayyad Caliphate, the Caliphate of Córdoba, after the overthrowing of the dynasty in Damascus by the Abbasids. When the Caliphate dissolved in 1031 due to the effects of the Fitna of al-Ándalus, the territory split into small Taifas, and gradually the Christian kingdoms started the Reconquest up to 1492, when Granada, the last kingdom of Al-Andalus fell under the Catholic Monarchs.
Attempts to Conquer the Caucasus: 711–750
After the conquest of Armenia, Muslim armies began to raid into the Caucasus, where they were confronted by the Khazars. Initial Muslim raids in the 640s and early 650s ended with the defeat of an Arab force led by Abd ar-Rahman ibn Rabiah outside the Khazar town of Balanjar.
Hostilities broke out again in the 710s, with raids back and forth across the Caucasus but few decisive battles. The Khazars, led by a prince named Barjik, invaded northwestern Iran and defeated the Umayyad forces at Ardabil in 730, killing the Arab governor al-Jarrah al-Hakami and briefly occupying the town.The Arabs eventually drove them back into the Caucasus, killing Barjik. Arab armies led first by the Arab prince Maslama ibn Abd al-Malik and then by Marwan ibn Muhammad (later Caliph Marwan II) poured across the Caucasus and eventually (in 737) defeated a Khazar army led by Hazer Tarkhan, briefly occupying Atil itself. The difficult terrain and hostile population made a permanent occupation impossible; the Arab armies withdrew and Khazar independence was re-asserted. The frontier between the two groups eventually became static around Derbent ; although the Khazars would continue to raid Muslim territory, there were no more major battles.
End of the Umayyad conquests: 718–750
The success of the Bulgarian Empire and the Byzantine Empire in dispelling the second Umayyad siege of Constantinople halted further conquests of Asia Minor in 718. In 716 Khan Tervel signed an important agreement with Byzantium. During the siege of Constantinople in 717–718 he sent 50,000 troops to help the besieged city. In the decisive battle the Bulgarians massacred around 30,000 Arabs and Khan Tervel was called The saviour of Europe by his contemporaries. After their success in overrunning the Iberian peninsula, the Umayyads had moved northeast over the Pyrenees where they were defeated in 721 at the Battle of Toulouse and then at the Battle of Covadonga. A second invasion was stopped by the Frankish Mayor of the Palace Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours in 732 and then at the Battle of the River Berre checking the Umayyad expansion at Narbonne.
The Türgesh Kaganate, a Turkic dynasty of the 8th century, saw significant initial success fighting against the Umayyads. In 717, the Kara Turgesh elected Suluk as their Khaghan. The new ruler moved his capital to Balasagun in the Chuy valley, receiving the homage of several chieftains formerly bond to the service of Bilge Khaghan of the Türküt. Suluk acted as a bulwark against further Umayyad encroachment from the south: the Arabs had indeed become a major player in recent times, despite the fact that Islam had yet to make many converts in central Asia. Suluk's aim was to reconquer all of Transoxiana from the Arab invaders - his series of conquests was paralleled to the west by the activity of the Khazar empire. In 721 Turgesh forces, led by Kül Chor, defated the Caliphal army commanded by Sa'id ibn Abdu'l-Aziz near Samarkand. Sa'id's successor, Al-Kharashi, massacred Turks and Sogdian refugees in Khujand, causing an influx of refugees towards the Turgesh. In 724 Caliph Hisham sent a new governor to Khorasan, Muslim ibn Sa'id, with orders to crush the "Turks" once and for all. Confronted by Suluk on the way, however, Muslim reached Samarkand with only a handful of survivors, and the Turgesh were enabled to raid freely. A string of subsequent appointees of Hisham were soundly defeated by Suluk, who in 728 even managed to take Bukhara and later on destroyed a large part of the Caliphate's army in Khurasan, discrediting Umayyad rule and maybe putting the foundations for the Abbasid revolution. The Turgesh state was at its apex of glory, controlling Sogdiana, the Ferghana Valley. It was only in 732, that two powerful Arab expeditions to Samarkand managed, if with embarrassing losses, to reestablish Caliphal authority in the area; Suluk renounced his ambitions over Samarkand and abandoned Bukhara, withdrawing north. In 734 an early Abbasid follower, al-Harith ibn Surayj, rose in revolt against Umayyad rule and took Balkh and Marv before defecting to the Turgesh three years later, defeated. In 738 Suluk, along with his allies Ibn Surayj, Ghurak (a Sogdian leader) and men from Usrushana, Tashkent and Khuttal to launch a final offensive. He entered Jowzjan but was defeated by the Umayyad governor Asad at the Battle of Sa'n or Kharistan.
In 738, the Umayyad armies were defeated by the Indian Hindu kings at the Battle of Rajasthan, checking the eastern expansion of the empire. In 740, the Berber Revolt weakened Umayyad ability to launch any further expeditions and, after the Abbasid overthrow in 756 at Cordoba, a separate Arab state was established on the Iberian peninsula, even as the Muhallabids were unable to keep Ifriqiya (Africa) from political fragmentation.
In the east, internal revolts and local dissent led to the downfall of the Umayyad dynasty. The Khariji and Zaidi revolts coupled with mawali dissatisfaction as second class citizens in respect to Arabs created the support base necessary for the Abbasid revolt in 748. The Abbasids were soon involved in numerous Shia revolts and the breakaway of Ifriqiya from the Caliph's authority completely in the case of the Idrisids and Rustamids and nominally under the Aghlabids, under whom Muslim rule was extended temporarily to Sicily and mainland Italy before being overrun by the competing Fatimids.
The Abbasid caliph, even as he competed for authority with the Fatimid Caliph, also had to devolve greater power to the increasing power of regional rulers. This began the process of fragmentation that soon gave rise to numerous local ruling dynasties who would contend for territory with each other and eventually establish kingdoms and empires and push the boundaries of the Muslim world on their own authority, giving rise to Mamluk and Turkic dynasties such as the Seljuks, Khwarezmshahs and the Ayyubids who fought the crusades, as well as the Ghaznavids and Ghorids who conquered India.
In Iberia, Charles Martel's son, Pippin the Younger, retook Narbonne, and his grandson Charlemagne actually established the Marca Hispanica across the Pyrenees in part of what today is Catalonia, reconquering Girona in 785 and Barcelona in 801. This formed a permanent buffer zone against Muslims, with Frankish strongholds in Iberia (the Carolingian Empire Spanish Marches), which became the basis, along with the King of Asturias for the Reconquista, spanning 700 years which after the fall of the Caliphate of Córdoba contested with both the successor taifas as well as the African-based Muslim empires, such as the Almoravids and Almohads, until all of the Muslims were expelled from the Iberian peninsula.
Conquest of Nubia
After two attempts at military conquest of Nubia failed (see First Battle of Dongola), the Arab commander in Egypt concluded the first in a series of regularly renewed treaties known as AlBaqt (pactum) with the Nubians, which governed the relations between the two peoples for more than six hundred years. Thereafter Islam progressed peacefully in the area through intermarriages with Nubians and contact with Arab merchants and settlers. It should be noted that according to some Muslim sources the second invasion of Nubia by the Muslims was actually a victory which led to the AlBaqt treaty. In one Muslim source the leader of the second invasion, Abdullah ibn Sad ibn Abi Sarh, is actually called the conqueror of Nubia
Incursions into southern and central Italy: 831–902
The Aghlabids rulers of Ifriqiya under the Abbasids, using present-day Tunisia as their launching pad conquered Palermo in 831, Messina in 842, Enna in 859, Syracuse in 878, Catania in 900 and the final Byzantine stronghold, the fortress of Taormina, in 902 setting up emirates in Sicily. In 846 the Aghlabids sacked the extra muros Roman Basilicas of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, both lying outside the Aurelian Walls.
Berber and Tulunid rebellions quickly led to the rise of the Fatimids taking over Aghlabid territory . The Kalbid dynasty administered the Emirate of Sicily for the Fatimids by proxy from 948. By 1053 the dynasty died out in a dynastic struggle and interference from the Berber Zirids of Ifriqiya led to its breakdown into small fiefdoms which were captured by the Italo-Normans by 1091.
Conquest of Anatolia: 1060–1360
The Abbasid period saw initial expansion and the capture of Crete (840). The Abbasids soon shifted their attention towards the east. During the later fragmentation of the Abbasid rule and the rise of their Shiite rivals the Fatimids and Buyids, a resurgent Byzantium recaptured Crete and Cilicia in 961, Cyprus in 965, and pushed into the Levant by 975. The Byzantines successfully contested with the Fatimids for influence in the region until the arrival of the Seljuq Turks who first allied with the Abbasids and then ruled as the de facto rulers.
In 1068 Alp Arslan and allied Turkmen tribes recaptured many Abbasid lands and even invaded Byzantine regions, pushing further into eastern and central Anatolia after a major victory at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. The disintegration of the Seljuk dynasty, the first unified Turkic dynasty, resulted in the rise of subsequent, smaller, rival Turkic kingdoms such as the Danishmends, the Sultanate of Rûm, and various Atabegs who contested the control of the region during the Crusades and incrementally expanded across Anatolia until the rise of the Ottoman Empire.
Decline and collapse: 1800–1924
The Safavid Empire ended with the death of its last ruler Ismail III who ruled from 1750 until his death in 1760. The Mughal Empire struggled with exhausting wars with the Maratha, internal strife, corruption and revolts, and fractured after 1719; the remaining loyal Mughal territory shrank throughout the next century and a half at the hands of the expanding British Empire until it was finally absorbed into the British Raj in 1857. The last surviving Muslim empire, the Ottoman Empire, collapsed in 1918 at the hands of the British Empire and its allies, in the aftermath of World War I. On March 3, 1924, the institution of the Caliphate was abolished by President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as part of his reforms in creating Turkey as a secular republic and a Turkish nation state from the remnants of the collapsed Islamic multi-ethnic Ottoman realm.
Local populations of Jews and indigenous Christians, marginalized as religious minorities and taxed heavily to finance the Byzantine–Sassanid Wars, often aided Muslims to take over their lands from the Byzantines and Persians, resulting in exceptionally speedy conquests. As new areas joining the Islamic State, they also benefited from free trade while trading with other areas in the Islamic State; so as to encourage commerce, in Islam trade is not taxed, wealth is taxed. The Muslims paid Zakat on their wealth to the poor. Since the Constitution of Medina was drafted by the Islamic prophet Muhammad, the Jews and the Christians continued to use their own laws in the Islamic State and had their own judges. Therefore they only paid for policing for the protection of their property. To assist in the quick expansion of the state, the Byzantine and the Persian tax collection systems were maintained and the people paid a poll tax lower than the one imposed under the Byzantines and the Persians. Before Muhammad united the Arabs, they had been divided and the Byzantines and the Sassanid had their own client tribes that they would pay to fight on their behalf.
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