Arab Settlement in the Middle East
Why did Islam and the Arab succeed in spreading throughout the Greater Middle-East/ Gulf against the Byzantines and Persians?
This period of the High Caliphate saw the Umayyad and family reigning in Islam. However, relative power of various groups changed during this time. Non-Arabs who changed to Islam and adopted the Arabic language enhanced the emergence of Islamic civilization. The reign of the Umayyad was re-established when Abd al-Malik took over power from his father, and in 691, he was able to conquer Iraq (Persia) from the army of Abdallah (Goldschmidt & Davidson, 2013, p.62). When Hajjaj, the army general from Umayyad, captured Arabia, Abdal al-Malik made Arabic the administrative language of the Caliphate. In order to totally abolish the dependency from Byzantine Empire, al-Malik introduced the first distinct Muslim coin (Meri & Bacharach, 2006 p. 3). Muslim rulers were of the perception that the use of their own coins meant their sovereignty.
The Byzantine Empire was quite difficult to conquer based on its huge population that consisted of various tribal units, who were mainly Christians. Even though they had lost possession of Syria and North Africa earlier on, the empire eventually became part of the Arab because of the lack of understanding between Christians (January, 2009 p.50). The succession battle in the Byzantine throne also weakened the empire, thereby making it easier for Abbasid caliph’s troops to conquer. The Abbasid Caliph came into power when the Persians declared their support for the Abbasids. The revolt against the Abbasids did not bear much significance, since other political groups emerged to extend the power of the Muslims across the Middle East.
What were the military successes of the Umayyad and Abbasids Arab Empires?
Umayyad and Abbasid empires existed between AD 685 and AD 945. The caliphate state had a strong army unlike that of Western Europe, Byzantine Empire, India and China (Goldschmidt & Davidson, 2013 p. 60). Therefore, they were able to conquer more territories, until the Abbasids took over power. Despite the military prowess of the caliphate, Arab dominance began to diminish during the reign of the Umayyad. The Abbasid took over power, which altered the Islamic history. As the state expanded into an empire, the Arab conquests continued, as the Muslim navy drove away the Byzantines from the western side of the Mediterranean.
Abd al-Malik played a critical role in the establishment of the Arab Empire. His successor expanded the territory towards what is today known as Syria and Portugal. The greatest Arab conquest was when the Muslim armies decided to head east of Persia. They managed to conquer the Turks, and moved on through Transoxiana, and eventually reached the northwest border of China. This border marked the end of the Arab invasion (Goldshmidt & Davidson, 2013 p. 63). The fall of the reign of Umayyads brought about divisions among the Arab tribe, thereby resulting into the rise of Abbasid caliph. The remaining supporters of Umayyad were defeated by the Abu-Muslim troops as they went ahead to also conquer Egypt.
The revolution of Abbasid changed the history of Islam, since it was able to work out on the replacement of the tribal aristocracy of the Arabs. The need for development of cities and strong military enabled Abbasid to remain in power, however, the Persians, who had already attained positions in the army, and administration shortchanged them. There are a few Turks who moved to the Middle East from Central Asia and were integrated into the administration of Abbasid. Some of the Turkish boys who were brought into the region as slaves became part of the Abbasid army, since they could be trusted more than the Persians. The reinforcement from the foreigners hindered the empire from further deterioration.
Goldschmidt, A., & Davidson, L. (2013). A concise history of the Middle East. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.
Meri, J. W., & Bacharach, J. L. (2006). Medieval Islamic civilization: An encyclopedia. New York: Routledge.
January, B. (2009). Arab conquests of the Middle East. Minneapolis, Minn: Twenty-First Century Books.