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The Xenophile Historian


570-632: Lifetime of Mohammed. A moderately successful caravan leader, he began preaching his own form of monotheism in 610. The pagans of his home city, Mecca, ran him out of town in 622, but he found friends and a base of support in Medina. There he became a spiritual and political leader, raising an army and taking back Mecca in 630. Arabia was united under Moslem rule during the last years of his life.

632-661: The original Islamic state (Caliphate) is ruled by four of Mohammed's followers: Abu Bekr, Omar, Uthman and Ali. All of the Middle East except Turkey is conquered, as well as Egypt and Libya. At the end of this period, arguments over who was the real heir of Mohammed led to the split between Sunni and Shiite Moslems.

661-750: The Umayyad Caliphate: The family of Muawiya, the Sunni leader, rules all of Islam from Damascus. North Africa and Spain are conquered (but Islam is stopped in France, remember the battle of Tours!), while other Islamic armies go over the Caucasus and east into Afghanistan, Central Asia and Pakistan. Arab fleets come to dominate both the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, but every attempt to take Constantinople by land or sea fails.

749-1258: The Abbasid Caliphate: Ruling from a new capital (Baghdad), this is the last state that could claim to have all of Dar al-Islam under its control. The fervor that drove the first Islamic conquests disappears, and with it unity goes as well; parts of the empire break off one by one, until after 900 only Iraq is left. However, this age was culturally brilliant. Arab mathematics, art, science, literature, etc. were the best in the world during this period.

8th-11th Centuries: The Turks are converted and civilized. They bring back to Islam the missionary zeal that had been lost under the Abbasids. The first Turkish state was the Ghaznavid Emirate in Afghanistan. More important to us are the Seljuk Turks, who conquered and briefly ruled the Middle East and Central Asia in the late 11th century. In 1071 they fought and defeated the Byzantines in the battle of Manzikert; this gives them control of Turkey, allowing the Turks to migrate west and settle in their present location. At the same time the Turks captured the Holy Land, starting the Crusades.

9th-15th Centuries: The Reconquest. The Christians regain control of Spain and Portugal, one piece at a time. The last Moors (Moslems) and Jews are expelled in 1492, just a few months before Columbus sets sail. El Cid, a famous 11th century knight, was one of the heroes of the Reconquista.

11th Century: Beginning of the conversion of Black Africa, a process that has continued to this day. The first important Islamic state south of the Sahara was Mali, converted around 1230. On the east coast, Arab trading posts from Somalia to Mozambique introduce Islam to the tribes living there. Nubia (modern Sudan), previously Christian, is converted between 1276 and 1498. Christianity in Ethiopia, now surrounded by Moslems on all sides, survived because Portugal came to the rescue in the 16th century.

11th-13th Centuries: Islam spreads all over India, but only a fraction of the population is converted. The most successful Indian Moslem state is the Mogul Empire, lasting from 1526 to 1858.

1095-1291: The Crusades. The first one is by far the most successful, where knights from all over Europe take back Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the coast of Turkey. After this the Crusaders gradually lose ground to powerful Moslem states in Syria and Egypt. Finally in 1291 the sultan of Egypt captures the last European port in the Holy Land, Acre.

13th-14th Centuries: The Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan and his successors ravage the Middle East so badly that parts of it (Iraq) still haven't recovered today. Islam is rocked to its foundations when Baghdad and the Abbasid Caliphate are destroyed in 1258. However, by 1300 the Mongols in the Middle East, Russia and Central Asia convert to Islam. In the Chinese portion of the empire Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis, deliberately discriminates in favor of the non-Chinese minority; this allows Islam to become established in four provinces of western China (Gansu, Ningxia, Xinjiang and Yunnan), where sizeable communities exist today.

13th-16th Centuries: Half of Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the southern Philippines) is converted.

13th-16th Centuries: The rise of the Ottoman Empire, founded in Turkey by Osman, the leader of a Turkish tribe fleeing the Mongols. By 1400 Turkey, Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria and much of Greece is under Ottoman control. The once-great Byzantine Empire is reduced to the city of Constantinople. Constantinople is taken in 1453 and made into the new Turkish capital; this marks the end of the Middle Ages. In the 16th century Ottoman power reaches its zenith, conquering all of the Middle east except for Iran and the remote parts of Arabia, all of North Africa except Morocco, and the Balkan region of Europe.

15th-16th Centuries: Portuguese ships break the Moslem monopoly on Indian Ocean commerce with superior Western technology. Not long after this the Moslem states in Southeast Asia are overrun by the Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch. Ottoman control of the Mediterranean is broken by Spain at the battle of Lepanto (1571).

15th-18th Centuries: The Moslem Mongol states (khanates) in Russia are annexed by the Russians.

17th-19th Centuries: The Ottoman Empire loses ground in both North Africa and Europe to the Europeans. Eventually it becomes so backward and decrepit that it is called "The Sick Man of Europe."

18th-19th Centuries: Russia conquers the Moslem communities of Central Asia, other Europeans occupy Africa. The decline of the Mogul Empire allows the British to take over India.

Early 20th Century: Dar al-Islam reaches its lowest point at the end of World War I, when Britain and France carve up what is left of the Ottoman Empire. The only independent Moslem countries left are Albania, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and part of Arabia. However, Turkey becomes a modern secular nation overnight, and the first stirrings of Arab nationalism create the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Arab-Israeli conflict begins.

Late 20th Century: The Moslem world regains its independence from the West. The creation of OPEC causes the largest peacetime transfer of wealth in history, making the Arabs fabulously wealthy. Other trends to follow are the continuing Arab-Israeli conflict, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, and attempts (so far unsuccessful) to unite the Arab nations.

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