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Muslim conquests (632–732), ( , Fataḥ, literally opening,) also referred to as the Islamic conquests or Arab conquests, began after the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He established a new unified political policy 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.

The grew well beyond the Arabian peninsula in the form of a vast Muslim Empire with an area of influence that stretched from northwest Indiamarker, across Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, southern Italymarker, and the Iberian Peninsulamarker, to the Pyreneesmarker. 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 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.

Others suggest that many of the peoples living under the rule of these empires, for example Jews and Christians in Persia and Jews and Monophysites in 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 Syriamarker, 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 Donner McGraw, however, suggests that formation of a state in the 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 Federationmarker.


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 Greater Syria, Egyptmarker, North Africa and Armeniamarker (Byzantine Armenia and Sassanid Armenia).

Under the Rashidun

Under the Umayyads

Later conquests

Frontier warfare continued in the form of cross border raids between the Ummayyads and the Byzantine Isaurian dynasty allied with the Khazars across Asia Minormarker. 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.
Conquests of Muhammad and the Rashidun

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-Qādisiyyahmarker 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 Mervmarker, ending the dynasty. His son Pirooz II escaped through the Pamir Mountainsmarker in what is now Tajikistanmarker and arrived in Tang China.

Conquest of Transoxiana: 662–709

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. By 709, however, all of Greater Khorasan and Sogdiana had come under Arab control. By 751, the Arabs had extended their influence further east to the borders of China, leading to the Battle of Talasmarker.

Conquest of Sindh: 664–712

During the period of early Rajput supremacy in north India, during the 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 Multanmarker in the southern Punjab in what is today Pakistanmarker.

In 711, an expedition led by Muhammad bin Qasim defeated Raja Dahir at what is now Hyderabadmarker in Sindhmarker and established Umayyad rule by 712.

The west of Indian sub-continent was then divided into many states. And theirrelation between each other were very weak. Al-Ḥajjāj ibn Yūsuf the ruler of Iraq knew this and waited for the best moment to strike.

During this period some rebels came to Sindh from Arab committing various crimes. But King Dahir gave them shelter in his kingdom. By this Hajjaj got extremely mad.

As Muslim Empire and Dahir's kingdom were contiguous to each other, frequentborder clashes took place. As a result relation between the two got worse.

The King of Ceylonmarker, the present Srilanka sent many 8 ships full of giftsfor the Calipf Al-Walid and the ruler of present Iraq, Hajjaj. But thepirates plundered the ships at the Debal of Sindh, which is now known as"Karachi". Hajjaj demanded compensation from Dahir. But Dahir denied to takeresponsibility of the crimes committed by the pirates.

For all these reasons. Hajjaj sent soldiers against Dahir. But first two expeditions failed! Then in 712 C.E. 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 Karachimarker to Kashmirmarker, reaching the borders of Kashmir within three years. After his recall, however, the region devolved into the semi-independent Arab ruled states of Mansura and Multan.

Conquest of Hispania: 711–718 and Septimania 719–720

The conquest of the Iberian Peninsula and Septimaniamarker commenced when the Moors (mostly Berbers with some Arabs) invaded Visigoth Christian Iberia (modern Spainmarker, Portugalmarker, Gibraltarmarker, Andorramarker, Septimaniamarker) in the year 711. Under their Berber 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 (Asturiasmarker) and largely Basque regions in the Pyrenees.

This territory, under the Arab name Al-Andalusmarker, became first an Emirate and then an independent Umayyad Caliphate, the Caliphate of Córdoba, after the overthrowing of the dynasty in Damascusmarker by the Abbasid. When the Caliphate dissolved in 1031, the territory split into small Taifas, and gradually the Christian kingdoms started the Reconquest up to 1492, when Granadamarker, 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 Minormarker 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 Frank Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours in 732 and then at the Battle of the River Berre checking the Umayyad expansion at Narbonnemarker.

In 738, the Umayyad armies were defeated by the Indian 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 Cordobamarker, 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 revolt coupled with mawali dissatisfaction as second class citizens in respect to Arabs created the support base necessary for the Abbasid revolt in 750. 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 Idrisid 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 Fatimid.

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 Seljuk, Khwarezmshah and the Ayyubid 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 Cataloniamarker, reconquering Girona in 785 and Barcelonamarker 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 Almoravid and Almohad, until all of the Muslims were expelled from the Iberian peninsula.

Conquest of Nubia: 700–1606

After many 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.

Islam progressed peacefully in the area through intermarriage and contacts with Arab merchants and settlers over a long period of time after the failure of military conquest. In 1315, a Muslim prince of Nubian royal blood ascended the throne of Dongolamarker 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 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 Tunisiamarker as their launching pad conquered Palermomarker in 831, Messinamarker in 842, Ennamarker in 859, Syracusemarker in 878, Cataniamarker in 900 and the final Byzantine stronghold, the fortress of Taorminamarker, 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 and Calabria was soon lost to the apanate of Italy. 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 break down 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 Cretemarker (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 Buyid, a resurgent Byzantium recaptured Crete and Cilicia in 961, Cyprusmarker 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 Manzikertmarker 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

Ottoman expansion until 1683
In Sub-Saharan Africa, the Sahelian kingdom expanded Muslim territories far from the coast. Muslim traders spread Islam to kingdoms across Zanj along the east African coast, and to Southeast Asia and the sultanates of Southeast Asia such as those of Mataram and Sulu.

After the Mongol Empire destroyed the Abbasid Caliphate, following the Battle of Baghdad , they conquered Muslim lands but soon converted to Islam, beginning an era of Turkic and Mongol expansions of Muslim rule into Eastern Europe under the Golden Horde; across Central Asia under Timur, founder of the Timurid dynasty; and later into the Indian subcontinent under his descendant Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire. Meanwhile in the 17th century, Barbary corsairs were conducting raids into Western and Northern Europe, as far as the islands of Britainmarker and Icelandmarker. Eastern Europe suffered a series of Tatar invasions, the goal of which was to loot, pillage and capture slaves into jasyr.

The modern era saw the rise of three powerful Muslim empires: the Ottoman Empire of the Middle East and Europe, the Safavid Empire of Persia and Central Asia, and the Mughal Empire of India; along with their contest and fall to the rise of the colonial powers of Europe.

Decline and collapse: 1800–1924

The Mughal Empire declined in 1707 after the death of Aurangzeb and was officially abolished by the British after the Indian Rebellion of 1857. 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 constitutionally abolished by President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as part of his reforms.

See also


  1. Martin Sicker (2000), The Islamic World in Ascendancy: From the Arab Conquests to the Siege of Vienna, 'Praeger.
  2. Medieval Sourcebook: Ibn Abd-el-Hakem: The Islamic Conquest of Spain
  3. Spain The conquest, Encyclopædia Britannica
  4. Bernard Lewis (1993), Islam and the West, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0195090616.
  5. Bernard Lewis (1990), "Europe and Islam", The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, at Brasenose College, Oxford University.
  6. Supply of Slaves


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