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History of Islam

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Muslim history began in Arabia with Muhammad's first recitations of the Qur'an in the 7th century. Islam's historical development has affected political, economic, and military trends both inside and outside the Islamic world. As with Christendom, the concept of an Islamic world is useful in looking at different periods of human history; similarly useful is an understanding of the identification with a quasi-political community of believers, or ummah, on the part of Islam's practitioners down the centuries.


Within a century of the prophet Muhammad's final 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 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. People in the Islamic world made many centers of culture and science and produced notable scientists, astronomers, mathematicians, doctors 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, no major widely-accepted claim to the caliphate (which had been last claimed by the Ottomans) remained.

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.

Note on early Islamic historiography

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. In the year 623 CE Meca became the royal city.

Early Caliphate

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 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.


Al-Rashidun - "The Rightly-Guided Khalifahs"

With Muhammad's death in 632, there was a moment of confusion about who would succeed to leadership of the Muslim community. With a dispute flaring between the Medinese Ansar and the Meccan Muhajirun as to who would undertake this task, Umar ibn al-Khattab, a prominent companion of Muhammad, nominated Abu Bakr: Muhammad's intimate friend and collaborator. Others added their support and Abu Bakr was made the first Khalifah, literally "successor", leader of the community of Islam.

Abu Bakr's immediate task was to avenge the recent stalemate between the Muslims and the Byzantine Empire forces of the Eastern Roman Empire, although a more potent threat soon surfaced in the form of a number of Arab tribes who were in revolt after having learned of the death of Muhammad. Some of these tribes refused to pay the Zakat tax to the new caliph, while other tribes touted individuals claiming to be prophets. Abu Bakr swiftly declared war upon, and subdued these tribes, in the period of time known as the Ridda wars, or "Wars of Apostasy".

Abu Bakr's death in 634 resulted in the succession of Umar as the caliph, and after him, Uthman ibn al-Affan, and then Ali ibn Abi Talib. These four are known as the "khulafa rashidūn" (" Rightly Guided Caliphs"). Under them, the territory under Muslim rule expanded greatly. The decades of warring between the neighboring Persian and Byzantine empires during the Roman-Persian Wars had rendered both sides weakened and exhausted. Not only that, it had also caused them to underestimate the strength of the growing new power, especially their excellent military leaders, Khalid ibn al-Walid and ‘Amr ibn al-‘As, as well as the Arabs' superior military horsemanship. This, coupled with the precipitation of internal strife within Byzantium and its exposure to a string of barbarian invasions, made conditions somewhat favorable for the Muslims.

At the Battle of Yarmuk (636), Muslim armies led by Khalid ibn al-Walid won a crushing victory over the Byzantines, thus paving the way for the conquest of Roman Syria and Palestine (634—640) and Roman Egypt (639 — 642). After a decisive victory over the Sassanid Empire at the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah in 637, Muslims conquered the Persian Empire, Iran. Five years later, after a revolt during the Battle of Nihawānd, the conquest of Persia was effectively complete. Conquest also included the lands of Iraq, Armenia (642) and even as far as Transoxiana and Chinese Turkestan. Depopulation and decline caused by the Plague of Justinian may have contributed to the success of the Arabs.

The First Fitna

Despite the military successes of the Muslims at this time, the political atmosphere was not without controversy. With Umar assassinated in 644, the election of Uthman as successor was met with gradually increasing opposition. He was subsequently accused of nepotism, favoritism and of introducing reprehensible religious innovations, though in reality the motivations for such charges were economic. Like Umar, Uthman too was then assassinated, in 656. Ali then assumed the position of caliph, although tensions soon escalated into what became the " First Fitna" (first civil war) when numerous companions of Muhammad, including Uthman's relative Muawiyah (who was assigned by Uthman as governor of Syria) and Muhammad's wife Aisha, sought to avenge the slaying of Uthman. Ali's forces defeated the latter at the Battle of the Camel, but the encounter with Muawiyah proved indecisive, with both sides agreeing to arbitration. Ali retained his position as caliph but had been unable to bring Mu'awiyah's territory under his command. When Ali was fatally stabbed by a Khawarijite dissenter in 661, Mu'awiyah was ordained as the caliph, marking the start of the hereditary Ummayad caliphate.


The first Ummayad caliph, Muawiya I, was able to conquer much of North Africa, mainly through the efforts of Muslim general Uqba ibn Nafi. There was much contention surrounding Mu'awiyah's assignment of his son Yazid as successor upon the eve of his death in 680, drawing protest from Husayn bin Ali, grandson of Muhammad, and Ibn az-Zubayr, a companion of Muhammad. Both led separate and ultimately unsuccessful revolts, and Ummayad attempts to pacify them became known as the " Second Fitna". Thereafter, the Ummayad dynasty continued rulership for a further seventy years (with caliph Umar II's tenure especially notable), and were able to conquer the Maghrib (699 — 705), as well as Spain and the Narbonnese Gaul at a similar date.

Under the Ummayads, the Muslim world expanded into North Africa and Iberia in the West, and Central Asia in the East. According to Jonathan Bloom and Sheila Blair, "The Muslims, no longer Arab merchants from the heartland of Arabia, became masters of the economic and cultural heartland of the Near East, and their faith, Islam, was no longer an obscure Arabian cult but the religion of an imperial elite."

Much of the population of this new empire was non-Muslim, and aside from a protection tax ( jizya) and other restrictions, the conquered people found their religions tolerated. Indeed, Muslim authorities often discouraged conversions. Nevertheless, most of the population eventually converted to Islam, which created tension as greater numbers of non-Arabs (mostly Persians) converted. The tensions increased when Shiites joined the protest against Ummayad rule.

Umayyad rule was interrupted by a second civil war (the Second Fitna) in the early 680s, re-established, then ended in 750.

Abbasids - "Islamic Golden Age"

The gains of the Ummayad empire were consolidated upon when the Abbasid dynasty rose to power in 750, with the conquest of the Mediterranean islands including the Balearics and Sicily. The new ruling party had been instated on the wave of dissatisfaction propagated against the Ummayads, cultured mainly by the Abbasid revolutionary, Abu Muslim. Under the Abbasids, Islamic civilization flourished. Most notable was the development of Arabic prose and poetry, termed by The Cambridge History of Islam as its " golden age." This was also the case for commerce and industry (considered a Muslim Agricultural Revolution), and the arts and sciences (considered a Muslim Scientific Revolution), which prospered, especially under the rule of Abbasid caliphs al-Mansur (ruled 754 — 775), Harun al-Rashid (ruled 786 — 809), al-Ma'mun (ruled 809 — 813), and their immediate successors.

Abbasid Caliphate and contemporary states and empires in 820.

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 'messiha' 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.

Regional powers

The Abbasids soon became caught within a three-way rivalry of Arabs, Persians and the immigrant Turks. In addition, the cost of running a large empire became too great. The political unity of Islam began to disintegrate. The Emirates, still recognizing the theoretical leadership of the caliphs, drifted into independence, and a brief revival of control was ended with the establishment of rival caliphates. Eventually the Abbasids ruled as puppets for the Buwayhid emirs. During this time, great advancements were made in the areas of astronomy, poetry, philosophy science and mathematics.

Spain & the Umayyads

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 caliph, and established with it a caliphate parallel to the one in Baghdad. A large number of Berbers from Morocco migrated to Andalus, but also large numbers of Jews and Christians lived alongside Muslims.

"Toleration, a common language and a long tradition of separate rule all helped to create a distinctive Andalusian consciousness and society. Its Islamic religious culture developed on rather different lines from those of the eastern countries."

During the 11th century, the Umayyad kingdom of al-Andalus broke down into over forty Taifas, which in the end built the preconditions for the Christian reconquest. The latter re-established Christian rule more and more southwards, ending all Muslim rule in 1492 with the reconquest of the kingdom of Granada.

The Fatimids

The Fatimids, (Fatimid Caliphate), who are believed to be the descendants of Fatima, is the Shi'a Ismaili dynasty that ruled from 5 January 910 to 1171. The ruling elite of the state belonged to the Ismaili branch of Shi'ism. The leaders of the dynasty were also Shia Ismaili Imams, hence, they had a religious significance to Ismaili Muslims.

The Fatimids established sovereignty over Egypt, North Africa, Sicily and Syria. Under the Fatimids, the city of Cairo was established and built into an imperial military and cultural centre.

The Fatimid territories of Syria and Palestine fell to the invading Seljuks in the late eleventh century. They would, however, continue to rule in Egypt until its conquest by Saladin in the late twelfth century.

The Seljuks

A series of new invasions swept over the Islamic world. The newly converted Seljuk Turks swept across and conquered most of Islamic Asia, Syria and Palestine. The Seljuks made religion an instrument of the state, while giving the clergy significant say over the affairs of the government. They also put an end to Caliphal institutions. These policies would be carried out by successive governments of Nur al-Din, Saladin and Mamluks.

Shortly after, they won a decisive victory over the Byzantines, at the Battle of Manzikert, paving the way for further conquest of Christian Anatolia.

The Crusaders

Beginning in the 8th century 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, defeated the Fatimids and put an end to the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187. 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.

The Mamluks

In 1250, the short-lived Ayyubid dynasty (established by Saladin) was overthrown by slave regiments, and a new dynasty - the Mamluks - was born. The Mamluks soon expanded into Palestine, expelled the remaining Crusader states and repelled the Mongols from invading Syria. Thus they united Syria and Egypt for the longest period of time between the Abbasid and Ottoman empires (1250-1517).

Islam in Africa

The first continent outside of Arabia to have an Islamic history was Africa beginning with the hijirah to Ethiopia. Islam in Ethiopia can be dated back to the founding of the religion; in 615, when a band of Muslims were counseled by Muhammad to escape persecution in Mecca and travel to Ethiopia, which was ruled by, in Muhammad's estimation, a pious Christian king. Moreover, Islamic tradition states that Bilal, one of the foremost companions of Muhammad, was from Ethiopia.

Islam in Maghreb

The Maghreb meaning "place of sunset" or " western" in Arabic, is the region of Africa north of the Sahara Desert and west of the Nile — specifically, coinciding with the Atlas Mountains. Geopolitically, the area includes Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya, Western Sahara, and sometimes Mauritania, which is often placed in West Africa instead. This part of Islamic territory has independent governments during most part of history of Islam. There were some great governments.

Idrisid dynasty The Idrisids were the first Arab dynasty in the western Maghreb, ruling from 788 to 985. The dynasty is named after its first sultan Idris I.

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.

Islam in East Africa

There were Islamic governments in Tanzania. The people of Zayd were allegedly the first muslims to immigrate to East Africa. Islam came to east Africa mainly through trade routes. the African peoples that lived along these routes became converts due to the close contact they had to Arabs traders in areas like Tabora, from which they affected the manners of muslims. this led to eventual conversion without encouragement nor discouragement of the muslim Arabs. In pre-colonial east Africa, the structure of islamic authority was held up through the 'Ulama (wanawyuonis, in Swahili). Their base was mainly in Zanzibar. These leaders had some degree of authority over most of the muslims in East Africa at this time; specially before the territorial boundaries were established. This is because the majority of muslims lived within the sphere of influence of the Sultanate in Zanzibar, the chief Qadi there was recognized for having the final religious authority. Reference: August H. Nimtz, Jr.Islam and Politics in East Aftrica. the Sufi Order in Tanzania. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1980.

Islam in West Africa

Usman dan Fodio after the Fulani War, found himself in command of the largest state in Africa, the Fulani Empire. Dan Fodio worked to establish an efficient government, one grounded in Islamic law. Already aged at the beginning of the war, dan Fodio retired in 1815 passing the title of Sultan of Sokoto to his son Muhammed Bello.

Islam in Asia

Indian Subcontinent

Islamic rule came to the region in the 8th century, when Muhammad bin Qasim conquered Sindh, (Pakistan). Muslim conquests were expanded under Mahmud and the Ghaznavids until the late twelfth century, when the Ghurids overran the Ghaznavids and extended the conquests in northern India. Qutb-ud-din Aybak, conquered Delhi in 1206 and began the reign of the Delhi Sultanates.

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.


During the lifetime of Muhammad, Arab merchants reached China via the Silk Road and introduced Islam. Then, in 650, the third Caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, sent an official delegation to the Tang dynasty. The Chinese emperor ordered the establishment of the first Chinese mosque in the city of Chang'an, and this event is considered to be the birth of Islam in China. By the early ninth century Islam had reached as far south as Hangzhou.

The Mongol invasions of China and Persia, brought the two regions under a single political entity. This led to increased contacts and cultural exchange between China and the Muslim world. Following the Mongols, the succeeding Ming dynasty was also tolerant of Muslims. During its reign, many Muslim attained high posts. These policies were, however, reversed by the Qing dynasty, when it came to power.

Southeast Asia

Islam reached the islands of Southeast Asia through Indian Muslim traders near the end of the 13th century. Soon, many Sufi missionaries translated classical Sufi literature from Arabic and Persian into Malay. Coupled with the composing of original Islamic literature in Malay, this led the way to the transformation of Malay into an Islamic language. By 1292, when Marco Polo visited Sumatra, most of the inhabitants had converted to Islam. The Sultanate of Malacca was founded by Parameswara, a Srivijayan Prince in the Malay peninsula. Through trade and commerce, Islam spread to Borneo and Java, Indonesia. By late 15th century, Islam had been introduced to the Philippines.

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 themself as the centre of Islam in Southeast Asia. Brunei sultanate remains intact even to this day.

Mongol Invasions

The wave of Mongol invasions, which had initially commenced in the early 13th century under the leadership of Genghis Khan, marked a violent end to the Abbasid era. The Mongol Empire had spread rapidly throughout Central Asia and Persia: the Persian city of Isfahan had fallen to them by 1237. With the election of Khan Mongke in 1251, sights were set upon the Abbasid capital, Baghdad. Mongke's brother, Hulegu, was made the head of the Mongol Army assigned with the task of subduing Baghdad. This was achieved at the Battle of Baghdad (1258), which saw the Abbasids overrun by the superior Mongol army. The last Abbasid caliph, al-Musta'sim, was captured and killed; and Baghdad was ransacked and subsequently destroyed. The cities of Damascus and Aleppo fell shortly afterwards, in 1260. Any prospective conquest of Egypt was temporarily delayed due to the death of Mongke at around the same time.

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 centre 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.

Three Muslim empires

In the 15th century and 16th centuries three major Muslim empires were created: the aforementioned Ottoman Empire in much of the Middle East, Balkans and Northern Africa; the Safavid Empire in Greater Iran; and the Mughul Empire in Greater India. These new imperial powers were made possible by the discovery and exploitation of gunpowder, and more efficient administration. By the end of the 19th century, all three had declined significantly, and by the early 20th century, with the Ottomans' defeat in World War I, the last Muslim empire collapsed.

Mughal Empire

The Mughal Empire was a product of various Central Asian invasions into the Indian subcontinent. It was founded by the Timurid prince Babur in 1526 with the destruction of the Delhi sultanate, with its capital in Agra. Babur's death some years later, and the indecisive rule of his son, Humayun, brought a degree of instability to Mughal rule. The resistance of the Afghani Sher Shah, through which a string of defeats had been dealt to Humayun, significantly weakened the Mughals. Just a year before his death, however, Humayun managed to recover much of the lost territories, leaving a substantial legacy for his son, the 13 year old Akbar (later known as Akbar the Great), in 1556. Under Akbar, consolidation of the Mughal Empire occurred through both expansion and administrative reforms.

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.

Safavid Empire

The Safavids ( Persian: صفویان) were an Iranian dynasty from Iranian Azarbaijan that ruled from 1501 to 1736, and which established Shi'a Islam as Iran's official religion and united its provinces under a single Iranian sovereignty, thereby reigniting the Persian identity.

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.

Ottoman Empire

The Seljuk Turks fell apart rapidly in the second half of the 13th century, especially after the Mongol invasions in Anatolia. This resulted in the establishment of multiple Turkish principalities, known as beyliks. Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman dynasty, assumed leadership of one of these principalities ( Söğüt) in 1281, succeeding his father Ertuğrul. Declaring an independent Ottoman emirate in 1299, Osman I led it to a series of consecutive victories over the Byzantine Empire. By 1331, the Ottomans had captured Nicaea, the former Byzantine capital, under the leadership of Osman's son and successor, Orhan I. Victory at the Battle of Kosovo against the Serbs in 1389 then facilitated their expansion into Europe. The Ottomans were firmly established in the Balkans and Anatolia by the time Bayezid I ascended to power in the same year, now at the helm of a swiftly growing empire.

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.

The Suleiman Mosque (Süleymaniye Camii) in Istanbul was built on the order of sultan Suleiman the Magnificent by the great Ottoman architect Sinan in 1557

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 gradual decline.


During the 18th century, Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab (1703 – 1792) led a religious movement ( Wahhabism) in Najd (central Arabia) that sought to purify Islam. Wahhab wanted to return Islam to what he thought were its original principles as taught by the as-salaf as-saliheen (the earliest converts to Islam) and rejected what he regarded as corruptions introduced by bid‘ah (religious innovation) and Shirk (polytheism). He allied himself with the House of Saud, which eventually triumphed over the Rashidis to control Central Arabia, and led several revolts against the Ottoman empire. Initial success (the conquest of Mecca and Medina) was followed by ignominious defeat, then a resurgence which culminated in the creation of Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism and similar fundamental Islamic schools of thought are cited as the ideological inspiration for the terroristic activities of Muslims against non-Muslims in the 20th and 21st Centuries.

The 20th century

The modern age brought radical technological and organizational changes to Europe and Islamic countries found themselves less modern when compared to the many western nations. Europe's state-based government and rampant colonization allowed the West to dominate the globe economically and forced Islamic countries to question change.

Demise of the Ottoman Empire

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 Ataturk. 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.

Partition of India

The partition of India refers to the creation in August 1947 of two sovereign states of India and Pakistan. The two nations were formed out of the former British Raj, including treaty states, when Britain granted independence to the area (see Undivided India). In particular, the term refers to the partition of Bengal and Punjab, the two main provinces of the would be Pakistan.

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 third largest Islamic country in the world followed by Bangladesh . 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.

Arab-Israeli conflict

The Arab-Israeli conflict spans about a century of political tensions and open hostilities. It involves the establishment of the modern State of Israel as a Jewish nation state, the consequent displacement of the Palestinian people, as well as the adverse relationship between the Arab nations and the state of Israel (see related Israeli-Palestinian conflict). Despite initially involving the Arab states, animosity has developed between other Muslim nations and Israel. Many countries, individuals and non-governmental organizations elsewhere in the world feel involved in this conflict for reasons such as cultural and religious ties with Islam, Arab culture, Christianity, Judaism, Jewish culture or for ideological, human rights, or strategic reasons. While some consider the Arab-Israeli conflict a part of (or a precursor to) a wider clash of civilizations between the Western World and the Arab or Muslim world, others oppose this view. Animosity emanating from this conflict has caused numerous attacks on supporters (or perceived supporters) of each side by supporters of the other side in many countries around the world.

Due to the Islamic belief that land conquered by Muslims must remain Muslim-controlled, many in the Muslim world hold a keen and fiery interest in the removal of the state of Israel much in the same way that they feel that Spain must once again become Muslim Spain.

Oil wealth

Between 1953 and 1964, King Saud re-organized the government of the monarchy his father, Ibn Saud, had created. Saudi Arabia's new ministries included Communication (1953) Agriculture and Water (1953), Petroleum (1960), Pilgrimage and Islamic Endowments (1960), Labour and Social Affairs (1962) and Information (1963). He also put his Talal, one of his many younger brothers (by 29 years his younger) in charge of the Ministry of Transport.

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, Austria, 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.

Two Iranian revolutions

The Iranian Constitutional Revolution took place between 1905 and 1911. The revolution marked the beginning of the end of Iran's feudalistic society and led to the establishment of a parliament in Persia and restriction of the power of Shah (king). The first constitution of Iran was approved. But after the final victory of revolutionaries over Shah, the modernist and conservative blocks began to fight with each other. Then World War I took place and all of the combatants invaded Iran and weakened the government and threated the independence of Iran. The system of constitutional monarchy created by the decree of Mozzafar al-Din Shah that was established in Persia as a result of the Revolution was weakened in 1925 with the dissolution of the Qajar dynasty and the accession of Reza Shah Pahlavi to the throne.

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.

The 21st century

Islam in the world.(Green: Sunni, Red: Shia, Blue: Ibadi

Islam in Turkey

Since the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, there has been a strong tradition of secularism in Turkey established by institutionalized by Atatürk's Reforms. Although the First Grand National Assembly of Turkey had rallied support from the population for the Independence War against the occupying forces on behalf of Islamic principles, Islam was gradually omitted from the public sphere after the Independence War. The principle of secularism was thus inserted in the Turkish Constitution as late as 1937. This legal action was assisted with stringent state policies against domestic Islamist groups and establishments to delete the strong appeal of Islam in the Turkish society. Even though an overwhelming majority of the population, at least nominally, adheres to Islam in Turkey; the state, which was established with the Kemalist ideology has no official religion nor promotes any and it actively monitors the area between the religions using the Presidency of Religious Affairs. The Republic Protests were a series of peaceful mass rallies by Turkish secular citizens that took place in Turkey in 2007. The target of the first protest was the possible presidential candidacy of the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, afraid that if elected President of Turkey Erdoğan would alter the Turkish secularist state

European Islam

Certain academics, such as Jorgen Nielsen (Towards a European Islam, London: Macmillan Press, 1999), suggest that there is currently emerging a new brand of Islam in Europe, which is often termed European Islam. While this new kind of Islam is not exactly defined, it could be described as combining on the one hand the religion's basic duties and on the other European culture, values and traditions (such as secularism, democracy, gender equality as perceived by the west, the European system of law, etc.). Which is perplexing since these ideals are not congruent with the Islamic faith.


Dynasties of Muslim Rulers

There are Muslim Dynasties which the can be found in list of dynasties of Muslim Rulers

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