Islamic/Arabic Empire


The Arabian Peninsula - much of the Arabian Peninsula is covered with desert.  Only a small portion of land is useful for agriculture. People living on the peninsula have had to adapt to the climate. Arab herders called Bedouins have done so for centuries. They are nomads who move in search of water and grazing land. Bedouins live in clans, which provide government, security, and support in the desert. 

The Arabian Peninsula is well situated for trade. Is a crossroads of three continents Asia, Africa, and Europe and is surrounded by several bodies of water. Small market towns and oases grew into cities that served as stops along trade routes. Trade was also important for cultural exchange. The area became home to many different religious beliefs. Mecca was an important center for trade and religion.


The spread of Islam:

632 - After Mohammed's death, the Muslim empire needed a new leader. The leaders of the dominant group within the Muslim community selected Abubakar, Mohammed's father-in-law, to be caliph. When some Muslims rebelled, he used military force to reunite the community and conquer the lands to the North.

634-661 - Abubakar died in 634. The next three caliphs selected from and by top ranks of Muslims were Umar, Uthman, and Ali. Umar's armies took territory from the Byzantine and Persian empires. Uthman and Ali continued to expand Muslim territory and completed the conquest of Persia. Mohammed’s successors had almost quadrupled the size of the Empire by 661. The Muslims were often welcomed as liberators. They allowed conquered peoples to keep their own religions, and Jews and Christians held important roles. Many people converted to Islam.

661- In 661 Ali was assassinated. The system of selecting a caliph died with him. The Umayyads took power and established a dynasty. They moved the Muslim capital from Medina to Damascus, which made it easier to control newly conquered lands. These actions divided Muslims. A group called the Shi’a did not accept the rule of the Umayyads. They believed the caliph should be a relative of Mohammed. Those who accepted the Umayyads were called Sunnis. They believed that anyone who followed the Sunnah or Mohammed's example, could rule. The Umayyads moved quickly to further expand the Muslim empire.

Late 600s-early 700s - Under the in the Umayyads, the Muslim empire continue to expand. By the early 700s, the Empire included much of central Asia and all of North Africa. In 711, they moved northward across the Mediterranean Sea into the Iberian Peninsula. The Umayyads massive territory made unity difficult. People in different parts of the empire spoke their own languages. Abd Al-Malik, who became caliph in 685, declared Arabic the language of government for all Muslim lands, which helped solve this problem.

Mid 700s-750 - The Umayyads conquered new lands and brought Islam to many people. However, by the mid-700s, some Muslims accused them of being too interested in luxury and power. Groups began to protest their rule. By 750, a group called the Abbasids had taken power.


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