The Arabs, who are now to play their surprising part of history, are historically considered among the most important people of the Semitic race. The name ' Saracen ', applied to them is of a doubtful origin, but seems to come from the two Arabic words meaning "Sons of the Desert". They are divided into two distinct classes: town and tent dwellers. It is to the latter class that the term 'Bedouins' is properly applied. Secured in their inaccessible deserts, the Arabs have never, as a nation, bowed their necks to any foreign conqueror, although parts of the Arabian Peninsula have been repeatedly subjugated by different invaders.
Arabia, the biggest peninsula in the world, in the south-west of Asia. It is bounded on the north by the Syrian Desert; on the east by the Persian Gulf; on the south by the Indian Ocean; and on the west by the Red Sea. This vast region which embraces an area twice and half the area of Egypt is divided into several parts, differing from each other in the features of their soil, climate and the appearance of their dwellers. The most important part is Hijaz proper, containing the famous cities of Medina and Mecca, the birthplace of the Arab Prophet, 80 kilometers from the Red Sea shores and the port of Jeddah, the leading place of the Muslim pilgrims. Hijaz stretches from the North to the South, between the Red Sea and the chains of mountains which run down to the Indian Ocean. The south-west corner of the peninsula is named Yemen. Hadramut lies to the east of Yemen, bordering the Indian Ocean. Oman rests on the Gulf of Oman. The High tableland which stretches from the mountains of Hijaz eastwards to the desert of Al-Ahsa and Al-Bahrain on the Persian Gulf is Called Nejd.
Pre-Islam Religious Conditions of Arabia
Before the rise of Islam at the hands of Prophet Mohamed, the Arabs were idolaters and their holy city was Mecca. In Mecca, there was the ancient and most revered shrine of the Kabba, where a sacred black stone (that was believed to have been given by an angel to Prophet Abraham) was preserved. To this Mecca Shrine, pilgrimages were (and are still) flowing from the most remote parts of Arabia. Polytheism was the prevailing religion of Arabia. Each tribe (and consequently each city) had its own special gods and goddesses, temples and distinct forms of worship. In Mecca, which was considered the centre of their national life, there were 360 idols in the Kabba Shrine representing all the gods and goddesses worshipped by the Arabs. There were still many followers of other faiths. The Jews and the Christians were to be found in great numbers in some parts of the Peninsula. At that time, there was much unrest in Arabia. This Southern land experienced conditions similar to those which Judea witnessed at the time of the appearance of Christ. There were many seekers after God, people who were dissatisfied with the old idolatry and had the readiness to embrace a higher faith. Such was the religious condition of the tribes of Arabia about the beginning of the seventh century of our era. Then, from among them appeared a prophet under whose teachings the followers of all idolatrous worships were led to give assent to a single and simple creed. They were animated by a great enthusiasm that drove them forth from their deserts upon a career of conquest which could not be strayed, until they had overrun the fairest portions of the Roman and Persian Empires and given a new religion to a large part of the human race, numbering no less then three hundred millions of them.
Prophet Mohamed (PBUH)
Prophet Mohamed (Pbuh), the last prophet from God to humanity, was born in the holy city of Mecca, probably in the year 570 AD, from Koreish Tribe, the custodians of the sacred Kabba Shrine. In his early life, he was a shepherd and a watcher of flocks by nights and the great religious teachers Moses and David had been before him. His father, Abdullah, the youngest of Abudl Muttalib's sons, was married to a lady from Yathreb named Amna, but he died in his twenty-fifth year, not long after his marriage. A few days after his death, Amna gave birth to a baby boy, who was named 'Mohamed' by his grandfather. At only six, Mohamed (Pbuh) lost his mother and he was thrown upon the care of his grandfather. After the death of his grandfather (about 579 AD), Mohamed was confided to the charge of his uncle Abu Talib who became the patriarch of Mecca. Mohamed passed his early life in his uncle's house. From early youth, the Prophet was given to meditation. He traveled twice into Syria with his uncle. At his 25, Mohamed (Pbuh) married a lady named Khadija, who was famous for the nobility of her character. They had several children but all their sons died young, The Prophet's daughter, Fatima Az'zahra, outlived her brothers to see the great events of their father's life and she was married to Ali, the son of Abu Talib. Mohamed led a calm quite life for the next fifteen years. He spent a month every year in meditation and spiritual communion in a cave in Mount Hira, not far from Mecca. The Prophet's soul was early and deeply stirred by the contemplation of those themes that ever attracted religious minds. He declared that he had visions in which Angel Gabriel appeared giving him revelations that he was commanded to make known to his fellowmen. The new faith he was to teach starts with the belief in the primary fact that "there is but one God, and Mohamed is His prophet". The first to accept his holy mission and to abandon idolatry was his wife Khadija, followed by Ali and several notable men: Abu Baker, Omar, Hamza and Osman(Radi'Allah anhom). For a long time, Mohamed (Pbuh) endeavored to gain adherents merely by persuasion, but such was the incredulity which he everywhere met that at the end of three years his disciples numbered only forty persons.
The teaching of Prophet Mohamed (Pbuh) at last aroused the anger of a powerful party of Koreish. Being the guardian of the Kabba's national idols, that party feared that they would be compromised in the eyes of other tribes once they were to allow such heresy to be openly taught by one of their number. Accordingly, they began to persecute the Prophet (Pbuh) and his followers, especially after the death of Abu Talib and Khadija To escape this persecution, Mohamed (Pbuh) fled to the neighboring city of Medina. The Higera (or flight as the word signifies) occurred in 622 AC and was considered by the Muslims as such an important event in the history of their religion that they adopted it as the beginning of a new era, from which, dates the Islamic Calendar (Hijri).
Mohamed (PBUH) at Medina
The people of Medina ("Yathreb") received the Prophet and his followers with great enthusiasm. Mohamed (Pbuh) himself assisted in the building of the first mosque where he preached his simple religion of Islam. He preached brotherly love and kindness towards all human beings, especially children, widows and orphans. Not only did the Prophet (Pbuh) abolish all tribal distinction applying himself to the task of introducing order at Medina, but he also abolished blood feud and repressed lawlessness. Equal rights were granted to the Jews, who lived in large numbers in and about Medina. Mohamed made peace among hostile tribes, especially the Owes and the Khazrags whom he called Ansaar (or helpers) and placed them on equal foot with the Emigrants.
His cause was warmly espoused by the inhabitants of Medina. With the character of a lawgiver, a moral teacher, and also that of a warrior, Mohamed (Pbuh) now declared it to be the will of God that the new faith should spread by the sword. The Meccans were much outraged with the Medinites for sheltering Mohamed (Pbuh) and his disciples, whom they considered as revolutionaries. Conflicts between them and the people of Medina were unavoidable. The first conflict took place in the valley of Badr, a few miles from Medina, where the Meccans were defeated and lost a large number of prisoners. In the third year, Abu Sufian, son of Harb, son of Ommeya, with a large army of the Meccans and their allies, entered the Medinite territories. The Muslim force, which proceeded to repel the attack, was smaller in number. A battle took place at the foot of a hill called Ohod, which ended with the defeat of the Medinites. The Loss of the Meccans was too great to allow them to attack the city and they retreated to Mecca. In the fifth year of the Hegira, the Meccans again tried to invade Medina with a large army of 10.000 men. They sieged and held the city which was warded off by the vigilance of the Prophet (Pbuh). At last, rain and storm killed their horses, and with their provisions becoming scanty, the Meccan army dissolved the way it had gathered. The Jews broke their promise to defend the city and joined the Meccans in their attack on Medina. In the sixth year, the Prophet (Pbuh) granted a charter to all monks and Christians. In this charter, the Prophet (Pbuh) undertook to protect the Christians, to guard them from all injuries, to defend their churches and the residences of their priests. In the eighth year of the Hegira, Mohamed (Pbuh) marched with ten thousand men against the idolaters in Mecca and entered it almost unopposed. With his followers, Mohamed (Pbuh) entered the Kabba and unrelentingly destroyed the idols saying:"Truth has come and falsehood vanisheth; verily falsehood is evanescent. " Later, the new creed (Islam) became firmly established among the independent tribes of Arabia.
Mohamed (Pbuh) sent embassies to the kings and princes of the adjacent countries such as Persia and Byzantium, and to the Negus of Abyssinia and Cyre of Egypt to invite them to embrace Islam. The king of Persia drove the envoy from his presence with contumely but the Byzantine Emperor received the ambassador with courtesy. Cyre, on the other hand, sent to the Prophet (Pbuh) a present and two Coptic maidens. Mohamed (Pbuh) married one of them named Maria who adopted the new faith and begat a baby boy named Ibrahim. A large number of embassies came from all parts of Arabia to offer their allegiance to Islam. The Principal companions of the Prophet (Pbuh) received those embassies with their envoys in their houses and entertained them with instructing the newly–converted people in the duties of Islam. When multitudes of Arabs came flocking to join his faith, Mohamed (Pbuh) felt that his mission was accomplished, and having a premonition of his end, he made up his mind to make a farewell pilgrimage to Mecca in 632 AC. He addressed the assembled multitude from the top of Gebel Arafat in words which yet have lived in the hearts of all Muslims.
Prophet Mohamed (Pbuh) spread his faith peacefully, except when he was forced to fight against the idolaters to defend his religion. There are uncountable evidence proving his tolerance, and following are merely some of which: I- Prophet Mohamed (Pbuh) granted to the Jews of Medina the same rights given to the Muslims, provided that they would help them in defending the city. But the Jews had broken their pledged faith and joined the Meccans in their attack on Medina. Thus, he had to expel them from Medina. II-In the sixth year of the Hegira, Mohamed (Pbuh) granted to the monks and to all Christians a charter to protect them, to guard them from all injuries, to defend their churches, to help them in the repair of their churches and monasteries and not to force any Christian to reject his religion. III-On entering Mecca, in the eighth year of Hegira, the Prophet (Pbuh) forgave who had so cruelly ill-treated him. In the hour of triumph, every evil suffered was forgotten and a general amnesty was extended to the Meccans. IV-He treated the prisoners with great kindness in their captivity. He released him who either paid a pawn or who taught ten of the Ansaars reading and writing. The Effects of Islam: I-The recklessness of heathenism was abandoned and the fundamental doctrine became the unity of God: "There is no God save Allah". II-It elevated their character and behaviors: drunkenness and gambling were forbidden, burying girls (a brutal custom among tribes) came to an end. III-Islam preached brotherly love, kindness to children, widows, and orphans as well as gentleness to animals. IV-An end was put to tribal disputes and a united nation came into existence. V-Before the advent of Islam, people persecuted those who were different from them in religious doctrines but Islam preached complete tolerance. VI- One-hundred years after the death of Prophet Mohamed (Pbuh), his followers were the masters of an empire greater than that of Rome at its zenith, an empire extending from the Bay of Biscay to the Indus and the confines of China; and from the Aral Sea to the Upper cataracts of the Nile. VII-It was not only an empire that the Muslim Arabs built, but a culture as well. Heirs of the ancient civilization that flourished on the banks of the Tigris and the Euphrates, in the land of the Nile and on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, they likewise absorbed and assimilated the main features of the Greco–Roman culture, and subsequently acted as a medium for transmitting to Medieval Europe many of those intellectual influences which awoke the Western world and set it on the road towards its modern renaissance.
The Koran and Its Teachings
The doctrines of Islam (which means "Submission to God") are contained in the Holy Koran. From time to time, Prophet Mohamed (Pbuh) recited to his disciples portions of the "Heavenly Book" as its contents were revealed to him in his dreams and visions. These communications were held in the "Breasts of men" or written down upon pieces of pottery, the board shoulder bones of Sheep, and the ribs of palm leaves. Soon after the death of the Prophet (Pbuh), these scraps of writing were religiously collected, and then arranged chiefly according to length. Such was the origin of the sacred book of Islam. The fundamental doctrine of Islam is the unity of God: "There is no God save Allah", a declaration which echoes throughout the Koran .To this is added the equally binding declaration that "Mohamed is the Prophet of Allah". The Koran orders the practice of five cardinal virtues or duties: the first is the unity of God; the second is performing prayers five times a day (with the believer's face turned towards Mecca and engage in devotion); the third is almsgiving (or payment of the so-called holy tax); the fourth is keeping the fast of Ramadan (which lasts a whole month, throughout this period, no food must be eaten during the day time); the fifth duty is making a pilgrimage to Mecca. Every person who can possibly do so is required to make this journey.
Islam is not based merely upon the Holy Koran. Rather, it rests in part upon what is known as the Sunna. The Sunna is a great body of traditions of the Prophet's sayings (those not forming a part of the scared book), actions, practices, and decisions handed down from his immediate companions. The first collection of these was made in the second century of the death of the Prophet (Pbuh). These traditions are sacred and authoritative.
Immediately after the Prophet's death, the question arose as to who was to succeed him. Some alleged that the post should be hereditary in the Hashemite family; others believed that it would be elective among all of Muslims and some others admitted that it should be elective from the tribe of Koreish. Ali's adherents said that he was more worthy to succeed the Prophet (Pbuh) and that the claims to the Caliphate of Abu Baker, Omar, and Osman were false. They continued: "Had Ali been accepted for the headship of Islam, the birth of those disastrous pretensions that led to so much bloodshed in the Moslem world would have been averted." These adherents are called "Shi'ites" since they fully supported Ali and his descendants. The Shi'ites were hostile to the Ommeyades who usurped the Caliphate from Ali and his sons, particularly after the Massacre of Karbela and the murder of Hussein Ibn Ali in Yezid's reign.
Abu Baker, 632-634
The principle of universal suffrage (Biaa) which is the old tribal custom was followed in the choice of a successor to the Prophet (namely, Abu Baker). By virtue of his age, experience and position, Abu Baker had held at Mecca occupying a high place in the estimation of the Arabs and was hastily elected to the office of Caliph. He was recognized as a man of wisdom and moderation. Abu Baker's responsibility was very grave because on him depended whether the new creed would survive or not. Some of the tribes (who had recently abandoned idolatry) reverted at once to their old ways and several imposters (who had appeared in distant districts in the lifetime of Prophet Mohamed (Pbuh)) began harrying the Muslims. The first concern of the Caliph was to organize the administration. The rising of the tribes was due to two reasons: firstly, the strict rules of morality enforced by Islam (such as the repression of lawlessness, blood feuds, drunkenness and gambling) and secondly, the tribes' unwillingness to pay the poor-tax. Shortly before his death, Prophet Mohamed (Pbuh) had given orders for the dispatch of an expedition into Syria to seek reparation for the murder of the Muslim envoy. To give effect to his master's last wishes and restore order on the northern frontier, Abu Baker sent forward the troops led by Osama (the son of Zaid). Osama achieved victory over the Banu Ghassan. Shortly afterwards, he came back to help Abu Baker to reduce the insurgent apostates to obedience. The task of subjection was entrusted to Khalid (son of Walid) who was a skilled soldier.
Some of the tribes gave their adherence without fighting, others were unyielding. Khalid fought great battles against the latter and both sides suffered severely. At the Battle of Yemama, the formidable tribe of Banu Hanifa, headed by its leader, was thoroughly defeated. The imposter Mosailima was killed. Afterwards, the insurgents gradually submitted and were received back into Islam. After the death of Mohamed (Pbuh), Abu Baker was considered the founder of Islamic nation, because he maintained the unity of the Muslims by reducing the insurgents in less than a year. These victories were due to the valor and audacity of his military commanders such as Khalid. He also turned the eyes of the Arabs toward conquering foreign lands where the Arabs met with victory and gained loot and booty and a field to fight for the cause of God. On the eastern part Arabia, he started his conflict with the Banu Taghlib who owed allegiance to Persia. In this manner, they resembled the Banu Ghassan who – chiefly Christians – were beaten by the Arab troops in his time. Abu Baker religiously collected the various parts of the Koran lest those who learned it by heart should be killed in the wars against the apostates. He followed the Prophet's example in seeking the advice of his immediate companions in governing the Arabs. The following extract of his speech when he became Caliph shows the best principles of Islamic democracy: "O people! Behold me – charged with the cares of government, I am not the best among you; I need all your advice. If I do well, support me; if I mistake, correct me ………. As I obey God and His Prophet, obey me; and if I neglect the law of God and the Prophet, I have no more right to your obedience." (Syed Athar Hussein, The Glorious Caliphate, Lucknow, 1947, p-19) In 634 AC, Abu Baker died at the age of sixty three, after a reign of only two years and a half. He is described as "a man of very fair complexion, thin countenance, of slender build and with a stoop". Gentle but firm, he was extremely simple in his habits.
Omar Ibn El Khatab, 634-644
Omar's accession to the Caliphate was of immense value to Islam. He was a man of strong moral fibre who had a keen sense of justice, possessed a great energetic character, and thoroughly versed in the character of his people. He organized the administration of Arabia and extended the Islamic Empire by conquering Persia, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. He established two new towns in Iraq via Basra on the Shatt el-Arab (which was peopled, chiefly by Arabs), and Kufa on the western bank of the Euphrates, three miles south of Hira. Another city called Fustat was built near the apex of the Delta, on the eastern bank of the Nile, on the site on which Omar pitched his campِ, to be the seat of the government and the new capital of Egypt instead of Alexandria. Omar divided over each province so that he might regulate the finance of the new empire and check the work of the governors. He attended to the affairs of his subjects by day and by night. In addition, he created new departments for military affairs of the soldiers, pensions of the ex-officials and allowances to the widows and the poor. Justice was entrusted to responsible judges, independent of the governors of the states. The Arabic Calendar was used in his time. Omar minted the Dirham, the Muslims before his reign had used the Persians and the Byzantine coins.
All people were equal before the law. His policy was based on forming a national unity of the Arab tribes, talking one language and following one faith. Conquest of Persia The first contact between the Muslims and the Persians was in Iraq, where the Persians fought a battle and were defeated with heavy loss and Hira, after a short resistance, capitulated to the Muslims. When Omar acceded to the caliphate, he prepared a strong army of 30,000 men under the command of Saad Ibn Abu Wakkas to conquer Persia. The Battle of Kadessia was hotly contested. It lasted for three days and was distinguished by heroic feats on both sides. On the last day, the Persians were defeated with heavy loss; their general was killed and the rest of the army fled towards the North. This battle decided the fate of Chaldea and Mesopotamia. Madain, the capital of Persia (fifteen miles higher up the river) opened its gates and capitulated after a siege of some duration. The entire country lying to the west of the Tigris submitted to the Arabs. Once more, the defeated Persians attempted to take revenge and regain independence but failed as they were badly beaten in the Battle of Jalula, about fifty miles to the north east of the capital. The battle of Nehawand (at the foot to the Elburz) decided the fate of Asia and was called 'the Victory of Victories'. The Persians who outnumbered the Arabs by six to one, where defeated with terrible loss. Thus, Persia passed under Muslim domination. Under Muslim rule, the peasantry where released from the hideous oppression of the large land-holders. Broken aqueducts were restored and new ones built. Muslims were ordered not to interfere with the religion of the people. Those who adhered to their old faith were designated Zimmis (the protected people). Among the Persian converts and the Arab rulers, intermarriage became frequent.
The Muslim Persians received the designation of Mawalis (friends or clients). The Arabs built the two towns of Kufa and Basra to replace Madian. Conquest of Syria and Palestine. Ghassan was a province established by the Romans in the north west of Arabia, so as to protect the lands under the Roman suzerainty from the raids and attacks of the Arabs. Prophet Mohamed (Pbuh) sent a messenger to the Ghassanites asking them to embrace the new faith, but they killed him. Abu Baker, soon after his accession, sent a punitive expedition under Osama, and the Romans at the same time massed a large army to eradicate the new-born danger. Abu Baker sent four well-equipped armies under the command of four generals from different parts of the country. The gentle and kind-hearted Abu Obaidah el Garrah was in command of the division of Homs. The Palestine division was under the command of Amr, the son of Al Aas, (famous for his conquest of Egypt). In the Battle of "El Yermuk", the Arabs under the command of Khalid, the son of Walid, showed high military qualities against the well-equipped and experienced Roman army. Though superior by six to one, the Romans were defeated with fearful slaughter, a part of their army was driven into the river and drowned, and the whole of Southern Syria lay at the feet of the Arabs.
Abu Baker died about that time and Omar (who succeeded him) deposed Khalid from the chief command and made Abu Obaidah the General-in-Chief. Khalid worked under Abu Obaidah and the Syrian cities one by one capitulated to the Muslims. Damascus, Homs, Hama, Kinnisrin, Aleppo and other important towns opened their gates to Abu Obaidah. Whilst Abu Obaidah had thus subjugated the greater part of Northern Syria, the operations of Amr Ibn Al Aas, were not less successful in Palestine. The Battle of Ajnadin was as disastrous to the Romans as the day of "El Yermuk". Their army was entirely destroyed. But the Arabs had little difficulties in the submission of Jaffa, Nablus, Gaza, Ramleh, Akka and many other towns. Jerusalem resisted for a time. After a siege of some duration, the patriarch sued for peace, and asked to surrender the plate to the Caliph in person, and the Caliph agreed. The road was then open to Egypt, the granary of the surrounding nations.
The Conquest of Egypt
The frequent incursions into Syria from the Egyptian side and the harassment to which the sea-board was subjected by the Romans, led the Caliph, after some hesitation, to authorize an expedition into the land of the Pharaohs. Amr Ibn Al-Aas started with only 4,000 men. The success of Amr was due to the bad condition of Egypt in the last part of the Roman reign: such was their oppression in collecting the various taxes that the people were groaning and craving for a better life in the change of rules. The taxes levied numbered more than twenty, the heaviest of which were the wheat tax, the capitation and the land tax. What made matters worse were the religious disputes accompanied by persecution, all of which caused the ruination of the country. There was a bitter hostility between the national Monophysite of "Jacobite", and the official "Chalcedonian" (which the curators of Constantinople supported in Egypt). Cruelly persecuted, the Jacobites looked forward to a change that was to bestow tolerance upon them. Moreover, the standing army was powerless against any foreign invasion. And these conditions combined made the Egyptians welcome the new conquerors. On crossing the eastern frontiers of Egypt, Amr with his 4,000-men-army, almost all horsemen, armed with lances, swords and bows, marched along the caravan route along the coast of Sinai facing no difficulty. The first opposition the Arabs met was at Pelusuim (el Farma) where the Roman garrison held out for a month. Again, Amr besieged Belbeis (some thirty miles from Misr) for a month before it surrendered. On his way to the fortress of Babylon, he defeated scanty grouping of the Romans and the rest retreated to a fortress where they could defend themselves for some time. This ancient castle still stands (at least in part) and is known as Kasr-esh-Shema. It was built by Trajan on the site of a Persian fort, and had been fortified by the Romans not long before the Arab invasion. Before approaching the castle, Amr occupied "Umm Duneyn" (Ezbekiya), a village lying a little to the north of the fortress. Its possession gave him the command of plenty of boats, and he sent bands of his Arabs up the river to invade the Faiyum Oasis and other parts of Upper Egypt. The Arabs counted on the aid of at least the neutrality of the native Copts, of whose hostility to the Romans Amr had become well aware during his earliest visit to Egypt. About the middle of June 640, a big reinforcement of 12,000 men under Ez-Zubair Ibn El Awwam, accompanied by several of the companions of the Prophet was sent at Amr's request. He had taken up a position at Heliopolis (on, Ain-Shams), some miles to the north of Babylon. In July 640, the Romans were routed with much slaughter at Heliopolis and fled to Babylon. The Arabs besieged the fortress for eight months and its garrison at last capitulated on April 641. Before the battle of Heliopolis, El Mukawkis "Cyrus" (the governor of Egypt and the powerful patriarch of Alexandria), accompanied by others, opened negotiations with the Arabs with a view to peace.
The Arabs offered: conversion to Islam, or the payment of a poll-tax, or war to the knife. The negotiators were willing to submit to the poll-tax, but the Roman garrison utterly refused. When the garrison found the situation critical, they renewed the negotiation and submitted to the poll-tax, provided that the fortress should be left in their hands until Heraclius gave his final decision. Heraclius utterly repudiated this agreement, summoned Cyrus to Constantinople to account for his conduct, and reproached and disgraced him Heraclius' death precluded any hope of relief from Constantinople. Accordingly, the weary garrison of Babylon submitted in April 641. When the fortress of Babylon was taken, the Arab general marched north towards Alexandria along the Rosetta branch and defeated all the Roman troops he met on his way.
On reaching Alexandria, he besieged it then left an army surrounding it and went with his troops to conquer other parts. He passed through Sakha and Athreeb in the Delta and continued his march in Upper Egypt as far as Thebes. He then came back to Babylon where he found Cyrus had returned armed with full powers to conclude a treaty which was finally signed in November 641, the chief articles of which were:
1) Those who held their own creed were to pay the poll-tax.
2) It was agreed that the Alexandrians should pay a monthly tribute, and deliver up 150 soldiers and 50 civilians as hostages.
3) The Muslims should not interfere with the churches and affairs of the Christians.
4) The Muslims should hold aloof from Alexandria for 11 months during which the Roman army would leave the city and embark. And they embarked in September 642.
The Arabs took another year to complete their conquest since they met serious resistance in some towns and provinces. Amr extended his conquest to Libya, because it had been ceded to Egypt during the last period of the Byzantine rule. So, he marched on and captured Cyranaica and Tripoli. His soldiers went southward to the northern frontiers of the Sudan. The whole of Egypt, up to the borders of the Sudan on the south and Libya on the west, became subject to Muslim domination. Measures were taken to improve the conditions of the peasantry. The land was left in the hands of the cultivators; the old irrigation works were restored and the ancient canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea was cleared out. The Egyptian Christians (who are called the Copts) were treated with marked favor in consequence of their good will towards the Muslims. Taxation was regulated upon a fixed and moderate scale, and trade was fostered by light customs dues.
The Weakness of the Romans and the Persians: Among the causes of such a victory was the weakness of both the Romans and the Persians. The incessant wars between Persia and the Roman Empire made the armies of both combatants inter-penetrate and spread awe and panic in both territories. Both powers were terribly exhausted and looked for a lasting peace to heal their wounds and recover their strength. The Persians being in a sorry plight, Abu Baker and Omar sent them armies which wiped out the Sassanite Persian Empire and caused the loss of half the Roman Empire.
Numerous Taxes Levied: The cost of the war and the expenditure on administration made the Persians and the Romans levy numerous taxes on their subjects whose race and interest were different from them. These people never resisted the Arabs in their conquest but stood aloof to see which would be victorious. The conquerors, in many cases, met with assistance from Syria and Egypt.
The Nature of the Arabs: The poverty of Arabia accustomed its inhabitants and animals to doing with little food. The soldier used to carry only what food he and his horse needed for some weeks. On the other hand, the Persian and the Roman soldiers needed much food, drink and equipment. This not only necessitated considerable expenditure, but also a strong guard over the supply train.
Religious Persecution versus Islamic Tolerance: The Roman Empire was divided into so many religious creeds that the government was forced to devote much effort to reconciling the various religious factions. When the Roman Empire tailed, it persecuted those who embraced a creed different from that of the Romans. The Egyptians and the Syrians were badly treated and were deprived from religious freedom and their priests were scattered and exiled. When the persecuted heard of the tolerance of the new faith, they welcomed the Arabs' conquest.
Numerous Races in the Non-Arab Armies: The armies of the Arabs were one race; spoke one language; and had the same feelings, all of which led them to understand each others. The Persian and Roman soldiers were of different races and spoke different languages. Many were mercenaries who were more delighted when chaos prevailed than when they had to conquer people having valueless loot.
Fervor for Religion: The Arab was devotedly faithful to his religion; did his best to make it prevail; and was ready to be a martyr so that he might go to Paradise. Islam filled the Muslim hearts with national pride that drove them to war with the Persians and the Romans of whom they had been terribly scared.
Osman Ibn Affan, 644-656.
When Omar was stabbed, he was kept in his house suffering from his wounds. Some Emigrants (Muhagereen) asked him to nominate some one to be their Caliph, but he entrusted the election to six notables of El-Madina. They were Ali, Osman, Talha, Ez-Zubair Ibn el Awwam, Saad Ibn Abu Wakkas and Abdel Rahman Ibn Oaf. The choice of the electorate fell upon Osman Ibn Affan. Osman was about seventy years old, and had been one of the very earliest companions of the Prophet (Pbuh). He was a man of medium size and large of limb. Though very old and feeble, he was virtuous and honest. His chief merit lay in his piety. As for his policy, Osman tried during his long caliphate to consolidate the Muslim rule in the Islamic Empire established by Omar, suppress the revolts and drive the enemies back. The aggression of the Turks in Transoxiana led to the conquest of Balk, Heart, Kabul and Ghazni. The risings in south Persia led to the subjugation of Kerman and Sistan. Then effective measures were taken for the development of the two cities' material resources. An Islamic fleet of warships, constructed by Muawiyah, conquered Cyprus in 649 and after some years Rhodes was taken. Abdullah Ibn Abi Sarh made another fleet. A large fleet sent by the Romans to reconquer Egypt was destroyed off Alexandria.
Abdullah Ibn Abi Sarh marched along the coast of Cyranaica and Tripoli and threatened Carthage (Tunis). Reinforcement was sent, the Romans routed and their general killed. Thus, the Romans lost Carthage. The rising in Nubia led Abdullah to besiege Dongola and at last make a trade treaty with them, known as 'the Pact', the chief articles of which are: 1) The Arabs should neither fight against the Nubians nor attack them. 2) The inhabitants of both parties could enter in the domains of each for trade and not for residence. 3) The Nubians should protect the Muslims when they were to go for trade, and allow them to build a mosque at Dongola, which was built on the eastern bank of the Nile. In the East, on the other hand, Muawiyah having been reinforced by an army, spread desolation and panic in Asia Minor, and went through Armenia and imposed a poll-tax upon them. Osman's Last Days It was Osman who collected the authorized forms of the Koran and was careful to instruct the people in the public mosque of El Medina. Osman bestowed large gifts upon his relatives. His weakness was apparent when he displaced most of the lieutenants employed by Omar, and appointed in their stead incompetent and worthless members of his own family. During the first six years of his rule, the people, though grievously oppressed by the new governors, remained quiet. But the wickedness of his favorites created a great sensation among the people. There were loud complaints over the oppression of his governors. At the end of his reign, confusion reached its utmost limit all over the Empire. Some leaders of the deputations besieged his house and at last two of the besiegers scaled the wall, entered the house and there killed the aged Caliph.
Ali Ibn Abi Taleb, 656 – 661
The Ommeyades' Hostility On the tragic death of Osman, Ali Ibn Abi Taleb was proclaimed Caliph without opposition. Ali was the Prophet's cousin and at the same time his son-in-law. He married Fatima, in the line of whom the offspring of Prophet Mohamed (Pbuh) was propagated. From the very beginning, he met with the hostility of the Ommeyades. He gave orders for the dismissal of the corrupt governors appointed by Osman. Some of Osman's nominees gave up their posts without resistance while some others revolted. Among the latter was Muawiyah Ibn Abu Sufian who governed Syria, and who had, with the wealth of the province, collected a large force of mercenaries who supported him in raising standard of rebellion. The Battle of Khoraiba or Camel This was not the only difficulty Ali had to face. Talha and Ez-Zubair, two prominent members of the Koreish, forgetting their oath of featly, escaped first to Mecca and then towards Iraq, where they were joined by Ayesha.
The insurgents were able to collect a large army intended to attack the Caliph. The fight took place at Khoraiba where Talha and Ez-Zubair were killed, and Ayesha was taken prisoner. She was sent back with every mark of consideration and respect to El-Medina. The Battle of Siffin Then, the Caliph proceeded to Syria. There he met the rebels at a place called Siffin, to the west of Rakka. Those rebels were defeated in three successive battles, and Muawiyah was ready to fly from the field, when a rise of his accomplice Amr Ibn Al-Aas saved them from destruction. He made his mercenaries the copies of the Koran to their lances and flags and shouted for quarter. Arbitration The Caliph's soldiers desisted from pursuit and caused him to consent to the course suggested. The choice of an arbitrator on his side fell unfortunately on a weak old man named Abu Musa Al Ashaari who was not a match for the astute Amr Ibn Al Aas who represented Muawiyah. The Kharijis Being deprived of the fruit of his victories by his own soldiers, the Caliph thus retreated in disgust with his army to Kufa. There, the men who had shouted for the preference of arbitration, now repudiated and denounced it as sinful. They openly mutinied and their conduct became at last so serious as to compel the Caliph and attack them at Nahrawan. The majority fell fighting, and a few escaped to "Al Bahrain" where the Kharijis formed the nucleus of the fanatical horde that harassed the Empire by their sanguinary attacks.
The Outcome of Arbitration Whilst these events were tacking place in the East, the Caliph's representative had either proved a traitor, or been thoroughly duped by Amr who made him pronounce the deposition of Ali, and he would do the same with Muawiyah, then they should elect a new Caliph. The simple Musa fell in the trap and pronounced the deposition of Ali. Amr who followed him said: "I accept the deposition of Ali, and appoint Muawiyah in his place". This audacious announcement infuriated the followers of the Caliph. The two parties separated, vowing vengeance. The war against Muawiyah proceeded. Assassination of Ali Shortly afterwards, while Ali was offering his devotions at the public of Kufa (the then capital of the Empire after El Madina), he was truck down by the hand of an assassin. Ali's Character Dying in the prime of his life, Ali was one of the most kind-hearted Muslims that ever lived. Mild beneficent, humane, and ready to help the weak and the distressed, his life was devoted to the cause of Islam. His forbearance and magnanimity were misunderstood, and his humanity and love of truth were turned by his enemies to their own advantage. He was so brave that he won the title of the "Lion of God" and such was his learning that he was called the "Gate of knowledge". With Ali's death, the Republic of Islam reached its end.
The End of the Orthodox Caliphate
Hassan Ibn Ali Hassan, the eldest son of Ali Ibn Abi Taleb, was elected to the vacant caliphate by the unanimous suffrage of Kufa and its dependencies. No sooner did he assume the position than Muawiyah invaded Iraq. Mistrust of the Iraqi supporters led him to weigh the proposals of Muawiyah. The negotiations resulted in a treaty by which the Caliphate was assigned to Muawiyah for life and upon his death it was to devolve on Hussein, the younger son of Ali. After a short time, Hassan was poisoned at the instigation of Yezid Ibn Muawiyah. The End of the Orthodox Caliphate The Republic lasted thirty years during which, a great change had come over the Arabs. The Caliph, by virtue of his position, was the supreme head in religious and civil affairs and was called 'the Commander of the Faithful'. He looked into complaints; prepared the armies and chose the generals. He was the supreme authority in justice which was administered by civil judges who were appointed by him and were independent of the governors. The Orthodox Caliphs took the Koran and the Sunna as their guides. Every detail of the administration was thus looked after and nothing was undertaken without consulting the principal companions of the Prophet (Pbuh). Several of the companions were entrusted with special duties without having any official post or title.
Organization of the Islamic Empire during the Republic
Investiture of a Caliph Among the Arabs' pre-Islamic traditions was the right of the members of tribes to vote in the election of the chief. This old tribal custom was followed in the choice of a successor to Prophet Mohamed (Pbuh). This choice was only restricted to the inhabitants of the seat of the government in El Medina. When the Caliph was elected and the multitude swore allegiance to him, he showed the fundamental principles of government. He said: "O people! Behold me — charged with the cares of government, I am not the best among you; I need all your advice and all your help. If I do well, support me. If I mistake, correct me ………. As I obey God and His Prophet, obey me; and if I neglect the law of God and the Prophet, I have no more right to your obedience." (Syed Athar Hussein, The Glorious Caliphate, Lucknow, 1947, p-19) The Diwans Omar organized the administrations of the Empire, established the state archive, created the offices of Hajib (or chamberlain) and of the sahib ush Shurta (or captain of the guard), and reorganized the police. Omar was regarded as the practical founder of the political administration of Islam. He divided the Islamic Empire into provinces appointing in each province a governor called "Wali". The wali was the military and civil head of the province. Assisted by other high officials, the governor in his province controlled the public service, led prayers and delivered the Friday oration (Khutba). The Saheb el Kharaj looked into the Diwan ul Kharag board of land-tax. The Sahib ush Shurta was responsible for the public security in the province. In addition, there were many other local assistants to run the affairs of the province. The revenue of the Empire was gathered from five different sources: (a) The land-tax gathered from the Zimmis (non-Muslim subjects) under the name of 'Kharaj'. (b) The capitation tax (Jazia) which was levied on the People of the Book so that they might be exempted from military service. (c) The tithes taxes which were levied on imports and exports. (d) The poor taxes which were levied on the rich people. (e) The spoils of the war.
Egypt under the Caliphate
As much as Egypt's administrative machinery is concerned, it was one of the greatest Islamic provinces governed by a viceroy appointed by the Caliph. As for its boundaries, Egypt comprised Upper and Lower Egypt at the beginning of the Arab conquest. Later, Nubia, Sinai and Northern Hijaz were ceded and in 765 Barca was annexed. The governor was appointed over all the above mentioned territories during the reign of the Orthodox and Ommeyade Caliphs, while he was appointed over a part of it in the time of the Abbassids.
The governor was almost independent, but used to consult the Caliph on thorny problems. During the Abbassid rule, the governors were never kept in their province for any length of time; consequently, many never attempted to do any beneficial reforms. The governor was the administrative and military head of the province; since he represented the Caliph in governing the province. By virtue of his office, he led prayers and delivered the Friday oration (Khutba). He used as well to supervise the collection of the land taxes, command the army and look after the police. The Kharaj was later taken out his hands and was entrusted to a functionary appointed directly by the Caliph. Under the Ommeyades, all the governors were Arabs, among whom where the sons and the brothers of the sovereigns. In the second half of the Abbassid Dynasty, the Turkish generals interfered in the civil affairs of the Empire and enforced their will. So, the caliphs used to choose governors from among those who preferred to stay at Baghdad –near the caliphs– to gain their satisfaction and sympathy and sent deputies to govern Egypt on their behalf. No sooner did anyone of them settle in the province than he was removed, since the average period of governing Egypt did not exceed two years. The outcome of this short sighted policy was the prevalence of chaos and turbulence. Thus, the internal condition of Egypt went from bad to worse.
Amr Ibn Al-Aas wanted to make Alexandria the seat of the government; so he asked the Caliph's permission but he was ordered to select a more central position, because Alexandria was liable to be cut off by the Nile inundation from land communication with El Medina, then the seat of Caliphate . When Amr Ibn Al-Aas built Fustat, the Arab tribes which took part in the conquest of Egypt dwelt in the new metropolis. When Al-Ma'mun came to Egypt and crushed the turbulence spreading at that time he allowed the Arab soldiers to live in the villages and the Arabs were permitted to migrate to Egypt. A large number of the Kais tribe descended at Wadi Hoaf, on the eastern bank of the Nile.
The Arabs kept for themselves the political and spiritual offices. When trained on the administrative work and when the Arabic language replaced the Coptic language in the reign of Abdul Malik Ibn Merwan, the Arabs were appointed to these administrative posts. So they competed with the Copts who were infuriated at the loss of their jobs and they unsuccessfully revolted several times. Thus, the Copts began to learn Arabic until it became the national language and the Coptic clergy had to introduce it into the churches so that the congregations might understand the service.
After the Arab conquest of Egypt, the population of the country formed a mixture of many races such as the Copts, the Romans, the Abyssinians and the Arabs. At that time, many Romans preferred to take Egypt as their home.Many Copts converted to Islam and learnt the Arabic language to understand the Koran and accomplish the ritual prayers. They married Arab women, mixed with the Arabs, and were appointed to the various vacant posts. Islam diffused widely after the arrival of El-Ma'mun to Egypt and the crushing of the insurgents.
The Arabs followed an equitable method in imposing taxes, regarding in their estimation and their collection the season of harvesting the crops and the condition of the annual flood, so that the farmer could pay the land-tax without being oppressed. Among the most important taxes at the time was the capitation of "Jazia". This impost was in existence in the Roman Empire under the same designation and was in force under the Sassanides in the Persian Empire. The Romans and the Persians levied it on certain people of their empires. The Muslims followed this precedent and it was fixed on a mild and equitable basis. It was laid down that the tax should be levied on the Zimmis (non-Muslims) so as to cause the least possible hardship. The Copts who were styled "People of the Book" were treated with justice and humanity. When Amr Ibn Al-Aas conquered Egypt, he exempted every non- Muslim from fighting on payment of two dinars a year. Thus, women, lads, old men and the disabled were exempted from paying it.