Saturday, April 21, 2018
CHRISTWAR INSTITUTE: Teaching Program #004
Dr. Bill Warner Radio Interview
The early Muslim conquests (Arabic: الفتوحات الإسلامية, al-Futūḥāt al-Islāmiyya) also referred to as the Arab conquests and early Islamic conquests began with the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the 7th century. He established a new unified polity in the Arabian Peninsula which under the subsequent Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphates saw a century of rapid expansion.
The resulting empire stretched from the borders of China and the Indian subcontinent, across Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Europe (Sicily and the Iberian Peninsula to the Pyrenees). Edward Gibbon writes in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:
Under the last of the Umayyads, the Arabian empire extended two hundred days journey from east to west, from the confines of Tartary and India to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean ... We should vainly seek the indissoluble union and easy obedience that pervaded the government of Augustus and the Antonines, but the progress of Islam diffused over this ample space a general resemblance of manners and opinions. The language and laws of the Quran were studied with equal devotion at Samarcand and Seville: the Moor and the Indian embraced as countrymen and brothers in the pilgrimage of Mecca, and the Arabian language was adopted as the popular idiom in all the provinces to the westward of the Tigris.
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.
Some Jews and Christians in the Sassanid Empire and Jews and Monophysites in Syria were dissatisfied and welcomed the Muslim forces, largely because of religious conflict in both empires, while at other times, such as in the Battle of Firaz, Arab Christians allied themselves with the Persians and Byzantines against the invaders. In the case of Byzantine Egypt, Palestine and Syria, these lands had only a few years before being reclaimed from the Persians.
Fred McGraw Donner, however, suggests that formation of a state in the Arabian peninsula and ideological (i.e. religious) coherence and mobilization was a primary reason why the Muslim armies in the space of a hundred years were able to establish the largest pre-modern empire until that time. The estimates for the size of the Islamic Caliphate suggest it was more than thirteen million square kilometers (five million square miles).
The prolonged and escalating Byzantine–Sassanid wars of the 6th and 7th centuries and the recurring outbreaks of bubonic plague (Plague of Justinian) left both empires exhausted and weakened in the face of the sudden emergence and expansion of the Arabs. The last of these wars ended with victory for the Byzantines: Emperor Heraclius regained all lost territories and restored the True Cross to Jerusalem in 629.
Nevertheless, neither empire was given any chance to recover, as within a few years they were overrun by the advances of the Arabs (newly united by Islam), which, according to Howard-Johnston, "can only be likened to a human tsunami". According to George Liska, the "unnecessarily prolonged Byzantine–Persian conflict opened the way for Islam".
In late 620s Muhammad had already managed to conquer and unify much of Arabia under Muslim rule, and it was under his leadership that the first Muslim-Byzantine skirmishes took place in response to the Byzantine forces incursions. Just a few months after Heraclius and the Persian general Shahrbaraz agreed on terms for the withdrawal of Persian troops from occupied Byzantine eastern provinces in 629, Arab and Byzantine troops confronted each other at the Battle of Mu'tah as a result of Byzantine vassals murdering a Muslim emissary. Muhammad died in 632 and was succeeded by Abu Bakr, the first Caliph with undisputed control of the entire Arab peninsula after the successful Ridda Wars, which resulted in the consolidation of a powerful Muslim state throughout the peninsula.
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