According to traditional accounts, the Muslim conquests (Arabic: الغزوات, al-Ġazawāt or Arabic: الفتوحات الإسلامية, al-Fatūḥāt al-Islāmiyya) also referred to as the Islamic conquests or Arab conquests, began with the Islamic prophet Muhammad. 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 the Indian subcontinent, 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:
The Muslim conquests brought about the collapse of the Sassanid Empire and a great territorial loss for the Byzantine Empire. The reasons for the Muslim success are difficult to reconstruct in hindsight, primarily because only fragmentary sources from the period have survived. Many 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 explicable.
Jews and Christians in Sassanid Persia and Jews and Monophysites in Roman Syria were dissatisfied and sometimes even welcomed the Muslim forces, largely because of religious conflict in both empires. In the case of Byzantine Egypt, Palestine and Syria, these lands had only a few years before been 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.
The individual Muslim conquests, together with their beginning and ending dates, are as follows:
Byzantine–Arab Wars: 634–750
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Wars were between the Byzantine Empire and at first the Rashidun and then the Umayyad caliphates and resulted in the conquest of the Greater Syria, Egypt, North Africa and Armania (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
- The conquest of Crete, 820
- The conquest of southern Italy, 827
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.
Conquest of Persia and Iraq: 633–651
In the reign of Yazdgerd III, the last Sassanid ruler of the Persian Empire, a 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 destroyed at the Battle of Nahāvand. Then, in 651, Yazdgerd III was murdered at Merv, ending the dynasty. His son Peroz II 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
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.
In 711, an expedition led by Muhammad bin Qasim defeated Raja Dahir at what is now Hyderabad in Sindh, and established the Umayyad domination in the area by 712.
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 Srilanka sent many 8 ships full of gifts for the Calipf Al-Walid and the ruler of present Iraq, Hajjaj. But the pirates plundered the ships at the Debal of Sindh, which is now known as "Karachi". Hajjaj demanded compensation from Dahir. But Dahir denied to take responsibility for the crimes committed by the pirates.
For all these reasons. Hajjaj 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 after the defeats inflicted on them by the Gurjara Pratiharas[Citation needed]. The emir of Sindh paid tribute to the Rashtrakuta king of Southern India[Citation needed].
Further Muslim conquests in India were halted after the defeat of Arabs in Battle of Rajasthan at the hands of Hindu kings.
Conquest of Hispania (711–718) and Septimania (719–720)
The conquest of the Iberian Peninsula and Septimania commenced when the Moors (Black Africans, Berbers and Arabs) invaded Visigothic Christian Iberia (modern Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, 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) and largely Basque regions in the 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.
Conquest of the Caucasus: 711–750
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. 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 700s, 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, Gurak (a Turco-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 Rajputs 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 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: 700–1606
After 2 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 that governed relations between the two peoples for more than six hundred years. Therefore Islam progressed peacefully in the area through intermarriages with only a few Nubians in parts of northern and upper nubia and contacts with Arab merchants and settlers over a long period of time after the earlier attempts at conquering Nubia (in the 7th century)failed.
However, In 1171 AD the Nubians invaded Egypt, but they were defeated by the Muslim Ayyubids. From 1172 - 1173 AD the Ayyubids fought and defeated another Nubian invasion force from Makuria which had penetrated Egypt. This time the Ayyubids not only repelled the invasion, but actually conquered some parts of northern Nubia in retaliation.
In the late 13th century the Sultan of Egypt,Sultan Baybar, defeated and subjugated the kingdom of Makuria . Sultan Baybar made the Kingdom of Makuria a vassal state of Egypt. Decades later In 1315 the Christian kingdom of Makuria was conquered by the Mamelukes, and a Muslim prince of Nubian royal blood was placed on the throne of Dongola as king.
During the 15th century, the Funj, an indigenous people appeared in southern Nubia and established the Kingdom of Sinnar, also known as As-Saltana az-Zarqa (the Blue Sultanate). The kingdom officially converted to Islam in 1523 and by 1606 it had supplanted the old Christian Nubian kingdom of Alwa (Alodia) and controlled an area spreading over the northern and central regions of modern day Sudan thereby becoming the first Islamic Kingdom in Sudan. Their kingdom lasted until 1821.
Incursions into southern 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 the Italian Peninsula. In 846 the Aghlabids sacked Rome.
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.
Byzantine-Ottoman Wars: 1299–1453
Further conquests: 1200–1800
After the Mongol Empire destroyed the Abbasid Caliphate, rampaged through most of the Muslim world following the Battle of Baghdad (1258), they soon converted to Islam, beginning an era of Turkic and Mongol expansions of Muslim rule into Eastern Europe Central Asia and India. Timur envisioned the restoration of the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan. Unlike his predecessors Timur was also a devout Muslim (As he converted after the conquest of Damascus) and referred to himself as the Sword of Islam. His armies were inclusively multi-ethnic and multicultural. During his lifetime Timur would emerge as the most powerful ruler in the Muslim world after defeating the formidable Mamluks of Egypt and Syria, the emerging Ottoman Empire and the declining Sultanate of Delhi; Timur had also decisively defeated the Knights Hospitaler at Smyrna and since then referred to himself as a Ghazi. By the end of his reign Timur had also gained complete suzerainty over all the remnants of the Chagatai Khanate, Ilkhanate, Golden Horde and even the Yuan Khanate. However the ruins of his huge and massive empire would carve out three of the worlds most powerful empires to pick up the ruins. The Ottoman Empire in the west would fill up the power to the west of his empire, gradually taking up most of the middle east. The Saffavids would occupy Persia and Central Asia whilst a descendant of Tamerlane would invade Kabul and from here would carve out an empire stretching from the borders of Persia in the west to the Bay of Bengal in the east. This empire would be known later as the Mughal 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 last surviving Muslim empire, the Ottoman Empire, collapsed in 1918 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 from the remnants of the collapsed Ottoman Empire.
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