Within a century of Muhammad's recitations of the Qur'an, an Islamic state stretched from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to Central Asia in the east. This new polity soon broke into a civil war known to Islamic historians as the First Fitna, and later affected by a Second Fitna. Through its history, there would be rival dynasties claiming the caliphate, or leadership of the Muslim world, and many Islamic states and empires offered only token obedience to a caliph unable to unify the Islamic world.
The subsequent empires of the Ummayyads, Abbasids, the Mughals, and the Seljuk Turk, Safavid Persia and Ottomans were among the largest and most powerful in the world. The peoples of the Islamic world gave rise to many centers of culture and science and produced notable scientists, astronomers, mathematicians, doctor nurses and philosophers during the Golden Age of Islam. Technology flourished; there was much investment in economic infrastructure, such as irrigation systems and canals; stress on the importance of reading the Qur'an produced a comparatively high level of literacy in the general populace.
In the 18th and 19th centuries A.D., Islamic regions fell under the sway of European imperial powers. Following World War I, the remnants of the Ottoman empire were parcelled out as European protectorates. Since then, there has been no major widely-accepted claim to the caliphate (which had been last claimed by the Ottomans).
Although affected by various ideologies, such as communism, during much of the twentieth century, Islamic identity and Islam's salience on political questions have arguably increased during the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century. Rapid growth, western interests in Islamic regions, international conflicts and globalization influenced Islam's importance in shaping the world of the twenty-first century.
There are several Muslim versions of early Islamic history as written by the Sunni, Shi'a, and Ibadi sects. Nineteenth century Western scholars tended to privilege the Sunni versions; the Sunni are the largest sect, and their books and scholars were easily available. Over the last hundred years, Western scholars have become much more willing to question the orthodox view and to advance new theories and new narratives.
According to the traditionalist view, the Qur'an began with Muhammad's claims of divine revelations in 610 AD. The verses of the Qur'an were written down and memorized during his life. Mecca was conquered by the Muslims in the year 630 AD. In 628 the Meccan tribe of Quraish and the Muslim community in Medina signed a truce called the Treaty of Hudaybiyya. A 10 year peace was to be broken by Quraish who, with their allies, the tribe of Bakr, attacked the tribe of Khuza'ah who were allies of the Muslims. Muhammad died in June 632. The Battle of Yamama was fought in December of the same year, between the forces of Muslim Caliph Abu Bakr and Musailima.
After Muhammad died, a series of Caliphs governed the Islamic State: Abu Bakr, Umar, Usman, and Ali. These first Caliphs are popularly known as the "Rashidun" or "rightly-guided" Caliphs. After the Rashidun, a series of Caliphates were established. Each caliphate was like a monarchy, developed its own unique laws and adopted a particular sect of Islam as a State religion. Until the ninth century C.E. the Muslim World would remain a single political entity under the leadership of one Caliph. The early Caliphate is also known as the Arab Empire or Islamic Empire.
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Period = from:630 till:960 TimeAxis = orientation:horizontal ScaleMajor = unit:year increment:30 start:630 ScaleMinor = unit:year increment:10 start:630
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from: 632 till: 661 color:orange text:Al-Rashidun
from: 661 till: 750 color:cyan text:Ummayad
from: 750 till: 960 color:green text:Abbasid
Following Muhammad's death, a series of four Caliphs lead the Islamic Empire during this period.
Baghdad was made the new capital of the caliphate (moved from the previous capital, Damascus) due to the importance placed by the Abbasids upon eastern affairs in Persia and Transoxania. It was at this time, however, that the caliphate showed signs of fracture and the uprising of regional dynasties. Although the Ummayad family had been killed by the revolting Abbasids, one family member, Abd ar-Rahman I, was able to flee to Spain and establish an independent caliphate there, in 756. In the Maghreb region, Harun al-Rashid appointed the Arab Aghlabids as virtually autonomous rulers, although they continued to recognise the authority of the central caliphate. Aghlabid rule was short lived, as they were deposed by the Shiite Fatimid dynasty in 909. By around 960, the Fatimids had conquered Abbasid Egypt, building a new capital there in 973 called "al-Qahirah" (meaning "the planet of victory", known today as Cairo). Similar was the case in Persia, where the Turkic Ghaznavids managed to snatch power from the Abbasids. Whatever temporal power of the Abbasids remained had eventually been consumed by the Seljuq Turks (a Muslim Turkish clan which had migrated into mainland Persia), in 1055.
During this time, expansion continued, sometimes by military warfare, sometimes by peaceful proselytism. The first stage in the conquest of India began just before the year 1000. By some 200 (from 1193 — 1209) years later, the area up to the Ganges river had been conquered. In sub-Saharan West Africa, it was just after the year 1000 that Islam was established. Muslim rulers are known to have been in Kanem starting from sometime between 1081 to 1097, with reports of a Muslim prince at the head of Gao as early as 1009. The Islamic kingdoms associated with Mali reached prominence later, in the 13th century.
During the Abbasid reign, Baghdad became one of the greatest cultural centers of the world. The Abbasids were said to be descendents of Abbas the uncle of Muhammad claiming that they were the 'messiah' or saviours of the people under the Ummayad rule. Abbasid caliphs Harun al-Rashid and Al-Mamun were great patrons of arts and sciences, and enabled these domains to flourish. Islamic philosophy also developed as the Shariah was codified, and the four Madhabs were established and built. This era also saw the rise of classical Sufism. The greatest achievement, however, was completion of the canonical collections of Hadith of Sahih Bukhari and others.
The Arabs first began their conquest of southern Spain or al-Andalus in 710 and created a province under the Caliphate which extended as far as the north of the peninsula. After the Abbasids came to power, some Ummayads fled to Muslim Spain and established themselves in Córdoba. By the end of the 10th century, the ruler Abd al-Rahman III (912-61) took over the title of
Beginning in the 8th century C.E. the Christian kingdoms of Spain had begun the Reconquista aimed at retaking Al-Andalus from the Moors. In 1095, Pope Urban II, inspired by the perceived holy wars in Spain and implored by the eastern Roman emperor to help defend Christianity in the East, called for the First Crusade from Western Europe which captured Edessa, Antioch, Tripoli and Jerusalem. The Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem emerged and for a time controlled many holy sites of Islam. Saladin, however, restored unity within the Umma by defeating the Fatimids, and was then able to put an end to the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187 C.E. Other crusades were launched with at least the nominal intent to recapture the holy city and other holy lands, but hardly more was ever accomplished than the errant looting and occupation of Christian Constantinople, leaving the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire severely weakened and ripe for later conquest. However, the crusaders did manage to weaken Muslim territories preventing them from further expansion into Christendom.
Almoravid dynasty was a Berber dynasty from the Sahara that flourished over a wide area of North-Western Africa and the Iberian peninsula during the 11th century. Under this dynasty the Moorish empire was extended over present-day Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Gibraltar, Tlemcen (in Algeria) and a great part of what is now Senegal and Mali in the south, and Spain and Portugal in the north.
Almohad Dynasty or "the Unitarians," were a Berber Muslim religious power which founded the fifth Moorish dynasty in the 12th century, and conquered all northern Africa as far as Egypt, together with Al-Andalus.
In the fourteenth century, Alauddin Khilji extended Muslim rule south to Gujarat, Rajasthan and Deccan. Various other Muslim dynasties also formed and ruled across India from the 13th to the 18th century such as the Qutb Shahi and the Bahmani, but none rivalled the power and extensive reach of the Mughal Empire at its peak.
As Islam spread, three main Muslim political powers emerged. Aceh, the most important Muslim power, was based firmly in Northern Sumatra. It controlled much of the area between Southeast Asia and India. The Sultunate also attracted Sufi poets. The second Muslim power was the Sultanate of Malacca on the Malay peninsula. The Sultanate of Demak was the third power emerged in Java, where the Muslim emerging forces defeated the local Majapahit kingdom in the early 16th century. Although the sultanate managed to expand its territory somewhat, its rule remained brief.
Portuguese forces captured Malacca in 1511 under the naval general Afonso de Albuquerque. With Malacca subdued, Aceh Sultanate and Brunei established themselves as the centre of Islam in Southeast Asia. Brunei sultanate remains intact even to this day.
With Mongol conquest in the east, the Ayyubid dynasty ruling over Egypt had been surpassed by the slave-soldier Mamluks in 1250. This had been done through the marriage between Shajar al-Durr, the widow of Ayyubid caliph al-Salih Ayyub, with Mamluk general Aybak. Military prestige was at the center of Mamluk society, and it played a key role in the confrontations with the Mongol forces. After the assassination of Aybak, and the succession of Qutuz in 1259, the Mamluks challenged and decisively routed the Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut in late 1260. This signalled an adverse shift in fortunes for the Mongols, who were again defeated by the Mamluks at the Battle of Homs a few months later, and then driven out of Syria altogether. With this, the Mamluks were also able to conquer the last of the crusader territories.
The empire ruled most of present-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan for several centuries, before it declined in the early 18th century, which led to India being divided into smaller kingdoms and princely states. The Mughal dynasty was eventually dissolved by the British Empire after the Indian rebellion of 1857. It left a lasting legacy on Indian culture and architecture. Amongst the famous buildings built by the Mughals, include: Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Badshahi Mosque, Lahore Fort, Shalimar Gardens and Agra Fort. During the empire's reign of power, Muslim communities flourished all over India, particularly in Gujarat, Bengal and Hyderabad. Various Sufi orders from Afghanistan and Iran were very active throughout the region. Consequently, more than a quarter of the population converted to Islam.
Although claiming to be the descendants of Ali ibn Abu Talib, the Safavids were originally Sunni (the name "Safavid" comes from a Sufi order called Safavi). Their origins go back to Firuz Shah Zarrinkolah, an Iranian local dignitary from Iran's north. During their rule, the Safavids recognized Shiism as the State religion, thus giving Iran a separate identity from its Sunni neighbours.
In 1524, Tahmasp acceded to the throne, initiating reviving arts in the region. Carpet making became a major industry, gaining new importance in Iran's cities. But the finest of all artistic revivals was the commissioning of the Shahnama. The Shahnama was meant to glorify the reign of the Shah through artistic means. The two-volume copy contained 258 large paintings to illustrate the works of Firdawsi, a Persian poet. The Shah also prohibited the drinking of wine, forbade the use of hashish and ordered the removal of gambling casinos, taverns and brothels.
Tahmasp's grandson, Shah Abbas I, also managed to increase the glory of the empire. Abbas restored the shrine of Imam Reza at Mashhad, and restored the dynastic shrine at Ardabil. Both shrines received jewelry, fine manuscripts and Chinese porcelains. Abbas also moved the empire's capital to Isfahan, revived old ports, and established thriving trade with the Europeans. Amongst Abbas's most visible cultural achievements was the construction of Naqsh-e Jahan Square ("Design of the World"). The plaza, located near a Friday mosque, covered twenty acres, thus dwarfing Piazza San Marco and St. Peter's Square.
Further growth was brought to a sudden halt, as Bayezid I had been captured by Mongol warlord Timur (also known as "Tamerlane") in the Battle of Ankara in 1402, upon which a turbulent period known as the Ottoman Interregnum ensued. This episode was characterized by the division of the Ottoman territory amongst Bayezid I's sons, who submitted to Timurid authority. When a number of the territories recently conquered by the Ottomans regained independent status, potential ruin for the Ottoman Empire became apparent. However, the empire quickly recovered, as the youngest son of Bayezid I, Mehmed I, waged offensive campaigns against his other ruling brothers, thereby reuniting Asia Minor and declaring himself the new Ottoman sultan in 1413.
At around this time the naval fleet of the Ottomans developed considerably, such that they were able to challenge Venice, traditionally a naval power. Focus was also directed towards reconquering the Balkans. By the time of Mehmed I's grandson, Mehmed II (ruled 1444 — 1446; 1451 — 1481), the Ottomans felt strong enough to lay siege to Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium. A decisive factor in this siege was the use of firearms and large cannons introduced by the Ottomans (adapted from Europe and improved upon), against which the Byzantines were unable to compete. The Byzantine fortress finally succumbed to the Ottoman invasion in 1453, 54 days into the siege. Mehmed II, entering the city victorious, renamed it to Istanbul. With its capital conceded to the Ottomans, the rest of the Byzantine Empire quickly disintegrated. The future successes of the Ottomans and later empires would depend heavily upon the exploitation of gunpowder.
In the early 16th century, the Shi'ite Safavid dynasty assumed control in Persia under the leadership of Shah Ismail I, upon the defeat of the ruling Turcoman federation Aq Qoyunlu (also called the "White Sheep Turkomans") in 1501. The Ottoman sultan Selim I quickly sought to repel Safavid expansion, challenging and defeating them at the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514. Selim I also deposed the ruling Mamluks in Egypt, absorbing their territories into the Ottoman Empire in 1517. Suleiman I (also known as Suleiman the Magnificent), Selim I's successor, took advantage of the diversion of Safavid focus against the Uzbeks on the eastern frontier and recaptured Baghdad, which had previously fallen under Safavid control. Despite this, Safavid power remained substantial, with their empire rivalling the Ottomans'. Suleiman I also advanced deep into Hungary following the Battle of Mohács in 1526 — reaching as far as the gates of Vienna thereafter, and signed a Franco-Ottoman alliance with Francis I of France against Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire 10 years later. Suleiman I's rule (1520 — 1566) signified the height of the Ottoman Empire, after which it fell into a relative decline with European empires rapidly industrialising.
By the end of the 19th century, the Ottoman empire had declined due to internal conflict and the failure to keep pace with European technological and economic development. Their decision to back Germany in World War I meant they shared the Central Powers' defeat in that war, which led directly to the overthrow of the Ottomans by Turkish nationalists led by Kemal Atatürk. Following World War I, its remnants were parceled out as European protectorates or spheres of influence. Ottoman successor states include today's Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Lebanon, Montenegro, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, other Balkan states, North Africa and the north shore of Black sea.
Many Muslim countries sought to adopt European political organization and nationalism began to emerge in the Muslim world. Countries like Egypt, Syria, and Turkey organized their governments with definable policies and sought to develop national pride amongst their citizens. Other places, like Iraq, were not as successful due to a lack of unity and an inability to resolve age-old prejudices between Muslim sects and against non-Muslims.
Some Muslim countries, such as Turkey and Egypt, sought to separate Islam from the secular government. In other cases, such as Saudi Arabia, the new government brought out new religious expression in the re-emergence of the puritanical form of Sunni Islam known to its detractors as Wahhabism which found its way into the Saudi royal family.
In 1947, after the partition of India, Pakistan became the largest Islamic Country in the world (by population) and the tenth largest post-WWII state in the modern world. In 1971, after a bloody war of independence the Bengal part of Pakistan became an independent state called Bangladesh.
Today, Pakistan is second largest Islamic country in the world followed by Indonesia. Pakistan is presently the only nuclear power of the Muslim world.
Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, by population. India has the second largest Muslim population.
In 1958-59, Talal proposed the formation of a National Council. As he proposed it, it would have been a consultative body, not a legislature. Still, he thought of it as a first step toward broader popular participation in the government. Talal presented this proposal to the king when the Crown Prince was out of the country. Saud simply forwarded the proposal to the ulama asking them whether a National Council was a legitimate institution in Islam. The idea seems to have died in committee, so to speak. It would be revived more than three decades later. A Consultative Council came into existence in 1992.
Meantime, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries came into existence in 1960. For the first decade or more of its existence, it was ineffectual in terms of increasing revenue for member nations. But it would have its day. Tension between Faisal and Saud continued to mount until a final showdown in 1964. Saud threatened to mobilize the Royal Guard against Faisal and Faisal threatened to mobilize the National Guard against Saud. It was Saud who blinked, abdicating and leaving for Cairo, then Greece, where he would die in 1969. Faisal then became King.
The 1967 war had other effects. It effectively closed the Suez canal, it may have contributed to the revolution in Libya that put Muammar al-Gaddafi in power, and it led in May 1970 to the closure of the "tapline" from Saudi Arabia through Syria to Lebanon. These developments had the effect of increasing the importance of the petroleum in Libya, which is a conveniently short (and canal-free) shipping distance from Europe.
In 1970, it was Occidental Petroleum which constituted the first crack in the wall of oil company solidarity in dealing with the oil producing nations; specifically, in this case, with the demands for price increases of the new Qaddafi government.
In October 1973, another war between Israel and its Muslim neighbors, known as the Yom Kippur War, got underway just as oil company executives were heading to Vienna, site of a planned meeting with OPEC leaders. OPEC had been emboldened by the success of Libya's demands anyway, and the war strengthened the unity of their new demands.
The Arab defeats in the Six Day and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars triggered the 1973 oil crisis. In response to the emergency re-supply effort by the West that enabled Israel to defeat Egyptian and Syrian forces, the Arab world imposed the 1973 oil embargo against the United States and Western Europe. Faisal agreed that Saudi Arabia would use some of its oil wealth to finance the "front-line states," those that bordered Israel, in their struggle.
The centrality of petroleum, the Arab-Israeli Conflict and political and economic instability and uncertainty remain constant features of the politics of the region.
In 1979 the Iranian Revolution (also called "The Islamic Revolution" ) transformed Iran from a constitutional monarchy, under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to a populist theocratic Islamic republic under the rule of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a Shi`i Muslim cleric and marja. Following the Revolution, an Iranian referendum established the Islamic republic as a new government, and a new constitution was approved, electing Ruhollah Khomeini Supreme Leader of Iran. During the following two years, liberals, leftists, and Islamic groups fought with each other, and ultimately Islamics captured power. At the same time, the U.S., USSR, and most of the Arab governments of the Middle East feared that their dominance in the region was challenged by the new Islamic ideology, so they encouraged and supported Saddam Hussein to invade Iran, which resulted in the Iran-Iraq war.