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Old Tuesday, March 24, 2015
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Default Islam in North Africa

Islam in North Africa

Muslim army crossing the Egyptian border
In December 639 'Amr ibn al-'As left for Egypt with a force of 4,000 troops. Most of the soldiers belonged to the Arab tribes. The Arab soldiers were also joined by some Roman and Persian converts to Islam.
However, 'Umar, the Muslim caliph, reconsidered his orders to Amr, thinking it foolhardy to expect to conquer such a large country as Egypt with a mere 4,000 soldiers. Accordingly, he wrote a letter to 'Amr commanding him to come back.

The messenger, 'Uqbah ibn 'Amr, caught up to Amr at Rafah, a little short of the Egyptian frontier. Guessing what might be in the letter, 'Amr ordered the army to quicken its pace. Turning to 'Uqbah, 'Amr said that he would receive the caliph's letter from him when the army had halted after the day's journey. 'Uqbah, being unaware of the contents of the letter, agreed and marched along with the army. The army halted for the night at Shajratein, a little valley near the city of El Arish, which 'Amr knew to be beyond the Egyptian border.

Amr then received and read the 'Umar's letter and went on to consult his companions as to the course of action to be adopted. The unanimous view was that as they had received the letter on Egyptian soil, they had permission to proceed.
When 'Umar received the reply, he decided to watch further developments and started concentrating fresh forces at Madinah which could be dispatched to Egypt as reinforcements.

On Eid al-Adha, the Muslim army marched from Shajratein to El Arish,[2] a small town lacking a garrison. The town put up no resistance, and the citizens offered allegiance on the usual terms. The Muslim soldiers celebrated the Eid festival there.

Conquering of Pelusium and Belbeis
In the later part of December 639 or in early January 640, the Muslim army reached Pelusium, an Eastern Roman garrison city that was considered Egypt's eastern gate at the time. The Muslims siege of the town dragged on for two months. In February 640 an assault group led by a prominent field commander Huzaifah ibn Wala successfully assaulted and captured the fort and city.

After the fall of Pelusium the Muslims marched to Bilbeis, Belbeis was the first place in Egypt where the Byzantines showed some measure of resistance towards the Arab invaders.

Two Christian monks accompanied by Cyrus of Alexandria and the famous Roman general Aretion came out to negotiate with'Amr ibn al-'As.
'Amr gave them three options: to either convert to Islam, or to pay Jizya, or to fight the Muslims.

They requested three days to reflect, then. At the end of the five days, the two monks and the general decided to reject Islam and Jizya and fight the Muslims.

They thus disobeyed their ruler, Cyrus of Alexandria, who wanted to surrender and pay Jizya. Cyrus subsequently left for the Babylon Fortress, while the two monks and Aretion decided to fight the Arabs.

Amr ibn al-'As subsequently attempted to convince the native Egyptians to aid the Arabs and surrender the city, based on the kinship between Egyptians and Arabs via Hagar.

When the Egyptians refused, the siege of Bilbeis was continued until the city fell after a month. Towards the end of March 640 the city surrendered to the Muslims

Siege of Babylon
Amr had visualized that the conquest of Egypt would be a walkover. This expectation turned out to be wrong. Even at the outposts of Pelusium and Bilbeis the Muslims had met stiff resistance. The siege of Pelusium had lasted for two months and that of Bilbeis for one month.
After the fall of Bilbeis the Muslims advanced to Babylon, near modern Cairo.

The Muslims arrived at Babylon some time in May 640 AD. Babylon was a fortified city, and the Romans had prepared it for a siege.The Muslims besieged the fort of Babylon some time in May 640. The fort was a massive structure 60 ft. high with walls more than 6 ft. thick and studded with numerous towers and bastions.

A Muslim force of some 4,000 men attacked the Roman positions unsuccessfully. For the next two months fighting remained inconclusive, with the Byzantines having the upper hand by repulsing every Muslim assault.

Reinforcements from Madinah
In July, 'Amr wrote to 'Umar requesting reinforcement; but before the letter reached him, the caliph had already dispatched the first reinforcement, which was 4000 strong. The army was composed mostly of the veterans of Syrian campaigns.
Even with these reinforcements, 'Amr was unsuccessful. By August 640, 'Umar's assembling of the 4000 strong elite force had been completed. It consisted of four columns. Each column was one thousand strong and appointed a commander each, while Zubair ibn al-Awam, a renowned warrior and commander, veteran of the Battle of Yarmouk and once a part of Khalid ibn Walid's elite force mobile guard, was appointed the supreme commander of army.
These reinforcements arrived at Babylon sometime in September 640. The total strength of the Muslim force now rose to 12,000, quite a modest strength to resume the offensive.

Conquering of Babylon
There had been a stalemate between the Muslim and Byzantine forces at Babylon, until the Muslim commanders devised an ingenious strategy and inflicted heavy casualties on the Byzantine forces by encircling them from three sides in one of their such sallies.
The Byzantines were able to retreat back to the fort but were left too weak for any further offensive action. This situation forced the Byzantines to enter in negotiations with the Muslims.

Cyrus of Alexandria entered in negotiations with the Muslims, which failed to give any productive results.
After fruitless negotiations, the Muslims acted on 20 December, when, in a night assault, a company of hand picked warriors led by Zubair managed to scale the wall, kill the guards and open the gates for the Muslim army to enter.
The city of Babylon was captured by the Muslims on 21 December 640, using tactics similar to those used by Khalid ibn Walid at Damascus.

Surrender of Thebaid (Southeastern Egypt)
On the 22nd of December, Cyrus of Alexandria entered into a treaty with the Muslims. By the treaty, Muslim sovereignty over the whole of Egypt, and effectively on Thebaid, was recognized, and the Egyptians agreed to pay Jizya at the rate of 2 diners per male adult.]

The treaty was subject to the approval of the emperor Heraclius, but Cyrus stipulated that even if the emperor repudiated the treaty, he and the Copts of whom he was the High Priest would honor its terms, recognize the supremacy of the Muslims and pay them Jizya.

Cyrus submitted a report to Heraclius and asked for his approval to the terms of the treaty. He also offered reasons in justification of the acceptance of the terms of the treaty. 'Amr submitted a detailed report to 'Umar and asked for his further instructions.

When 'Umar received this report, he wrote back to say that he approved of the terms provided Heraclius agreed to submit to them. He desired that as soon as the reactions of Heraclius were known, he should be informed so that further necessary instructions could be issued promptly.


March to Alexandria
The Byzantine commanders knew that the next target of the Muslims would be Alexandria. They accordingly prepared for the expected siege of the city. Their strategy was to keep the Muslims away from Alexandria by destroying their power through continued sallies and attacks from the fort. Even if this did not keep them away, it would weaken them morally and physically.
In February 641, 'Amr set off for Alexandria from Babylon with his army. All along the road from Babylon to Alexandria, the Byzantines had left regiments to delay, and if possible, inflict losses on the advancing Muslims. The Byzantines failed to inflict heavy losses, but they were able to delay the advance by one more day.

The Muslims reached Sulteis where they encountered a Byzantine detachment. Hard fighting followed, but the Byzantine resistance soon broke down and they withdrew to Alexandria. The Muslims halted at Sulteis for a day. Alexandria was still two days' march from Sulteis.

After one day's march the Muslim forces arrived at Kirayun, twelve miles from Alexandria. Here the Muslim advance to Alexandria was blocked by a Byzantine detachment about 20,000 strong. The strategy of the Byzantines was that either the Muslims would be driven away before they actually arrived at Alexandria, or that they would be as weak as possible if they did.
The two armies were deployed and fighting followed, but action remained indecisive,.[3] This state of affairs persisted for ten days. On the tenth day the Muslims launched a vigorous assault. The Byzantines were defeated and they retreated to Alexandria. The way to Alexandria was now cleared, and the Muslim forces resumed the march from Kirayun and reached the outskirts of Alexandria in March 641 AD.

Conquest of Alexandria and fall of Egypt

Siege of Alexandria 641
The Muslims laid siege to Alexandria in March 641 AD. The city was heavily fortified: there were walls within walls, and forts within forts. There was no dearth of provisions and food supply in the city. The city also had direct access to the sea, and through the sea route help from Constantinople in the form of men and supplies could come at any time.

As 'Amr surveyed the military situation, he felt that Alexandria would be a hard nut to crack. The Byzantines had high stakes in Alexandria, and they were determined to offer stiff resistance to the Muslims.

It is said that Heraclius, the Byzantine emperor, collected a large army at Constantinople. He intended to march at the head of these reinforcements personally to Alexandria. But before he could finalize the arrangements, he died.

The troops mustered at Constantinople dispersed, and consequently no help came to Alexandria. This further demoralized the Byzantines.
The siege dragged on for six months, and in Madinah 'Umar got impatient. In a letter addressed to 'Amr, the caliph expressed his concern at the inordinate delay in the invasion of Egypt.

On behalf of the Egyptians, Cyrus of Alexandria sued for peace, and his request was granted. After the invasion of Egypt 'Amr is reported to have written to Caliph 'Umar:

"We have conquered Alexandria. In this city there are 4,000 palaces, 400 places of entertainment, and untold wealth."
The permanent loss of Egypt meant a loss of a huge amount of Byzantium's food and money. The loss of Egypt and Syria, followed later by the invasion of the Exarchate of Africaalso meant that the Mediterranean, long referred to as the "Roman lake", was now contested between two powers: the Muslim Caliphate and the Byzantine Empire.

An attempt was made in the year 645 to regain Alexandria for the Byzantine Empire, but it was retaken by 'Amr in 646. In 654 an invasion fleet sent by Constans II was repulsed. From that time no serious effort was made by the Byzantines to regain possession of the country.

Stance of the Egyptians towards the invading Muslims
The Muslims were assisted by some Copts, who resented the persecutions of the Byzantines, and of these some turned to Islam.
In return for a tribute of money and food for the occupying troops, the Christian inhabitants of Egypt were excused from military service and left free in the observance of their religion and the administration of their affairs. This system was a new institution, as a mandate by a religion. But it was adopted as an institution, by the Muslims from previous poll tax systems in the ancient Middle East. Indeed, the Egyptians had been subject to it - as non-Romans - during Roman rule before the adoption of Christianity by the Roman state. After that, all non-Christian subjects of the Roman Empire had to pay it, including non-Christian Egyptians. The Persians also had a similar poll tax system.

'Amr, the Muslim commander, made his entry into the city of Alexandria. The inhabitants received him with respect, for they were in great tribulation and affliction.

'Amr exacted the taxes which had been determined upon, but he took none of the property of the churches, and he committed no act of spoliation or plunder.

Egypt under Muslim rule

Muslims gained control over Egypt due to a variety of factors, including internal Byzantine politics, religious zeal and the difficulty of maintaining a large empire.
Amr ibn al-Aas had popular support in Egypt amongst the Coptic Christian population.
It is said. "Of all the early Muslim conquests, that of Egypt was the swiftest and most complete.
Within a space of two years the country had come entirely under Arab rule. Even more remarkably, it has remained under Muslim rule ever since. Seldom in history can so massive a political change have happened so swiftly and been so long lasting"

Fustat, the new capital
With the fall of Alexandria the Muslims were the masters of Egypt. At the time of their Egyptian campaign, Alexandria was the capital of the country. When Alexandria was captured by the Muslims, the houses vacated by the Byzantines were occupied by the Muslims.

The Muslims were impressed and attracted by Alexandria, "the queen of cities". 'Amr wished for Alexandria to remain the capital of Muslim Egypt.[3] He wrote to Caliph 'Umar seeking his permission to do this. 'Umar rejected the proposal on the basis that Alexandria was a maritime city and there would always be a danger of Byzantine naval attacks.

He suggested that the capital should be established further inland at a central place, where no mass of water intervened between it and Arabia.

'Amr next proceeded to choose a suitable site for the capital of Egypt. His choice fell on the site where he had pitched his tent at the time of the battle of Babylon.

His tent had been fixed about a quarter of a mile north east of the fort. It is reported that after the battle was over, and the army was about to march to Alexandria, the men began to pull down the tent and pack it for the journey, when it was found that a dove had nested on top of the tent and laid eggs. 'Amr ordered that the tent should remain standing where it was. The army marched away but the tent remained standing in the plain of Babylon.
In this unusual episode 'Amr saw a sign from Heaven. He decided "where the dove laid its nest, let the people build their city". As 'Amr's tent was to be the focal point of the city, the city was called Fustat, which in Arabic means the tent.

The first structure to be built was the mosque which later became famous as Mosque of 'Amr ibn al-'As. In the course of time, Fustat extended to include the old town of Babylon. It grew to become a bustling city and the commercial centre of Egypt.

Reforms of Caliph Umar.

To consolidate his rule in Egypt, 'Umar imposed the jizya on Egyptians.
By 'Umar's permission, 'Amr ibn al-'As decided to build a canal to join the Nile with the Red Sea;it would help the traders and Arabia would flourish through this new trade route.

Moreover it would open new markets for the Egyptian merchants and open for them an easy route for the markets of Arabia and Iraq. This project was presented to Caliph 'Umar, who approved it. A canal was dug, and within a few months was opened for merchants.

It was named Nahar Amir ul-Mu'mineen The canal of Commander of the Faithful referring to the title of the Caliph 'Umar.

Amr proposed another project: digging a canal that would join the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. The project was once again sent to 'Umar for approval, but Umar viewed it as a threat to national security and rejected on the basis that it would open a way for Byzantine navy to enter the Red Sea via that canal and posing a threat to Madinah itself.

This project however was completed in the form of what is now known as the Suez Canal 1300 years later.

Each year the caliph instructed a large amount of jizya to be used on the building and repairing of canals and bridges.

North Africa

Conquest of North Africa
'Amr decided to undertake campaigns in the west, so as to secure the western borders of Egypt and clear the region of Cyrenaica,Tripolitania and Fezzan from Byzantine influence.

'Uqbah bin Nafi was sent at the head of a column to undertake a campaign against Fezzan. 'Uqbah marched to the capital of Fezzan.

No resistance was offered, and the entire district of Fezzan, what is present day north-western Libya, submitted to the Muslims. 'Uqbah then returned .
Soon after the Muslim army marched westward .They arrived at Tripoli in the spring of 643 C.E. and laid siege to the city. The city fell after a siege of one month.

From Tripoli, 'Amr is reported to have written to the caliph the details of the operations in the following words:
"We have conquered Burqa, Tripoli . The way to the west is clear, and if the Commander of the Faithful wishes to conquer more lands, we could do so with the grace of God."

'Umar, whose armies were already engaged in a massive campaign of conquering the Sassanid Empire did not wanted to engage himself further along north Africa, when Muslim rule in Egypt was as yet insecure.

The caliph accordingly disapproved of any further advances and ordered 'Amr to first consolidate the Muslims' position in Egypt, and issued strict orders that there should be no further campaigning. 'Amr obeyed, abandoning Tripoli and Burqa and returning to Fustat.

Second invasion

Muawiya appointed Uqba ibn Nafi
The years 665 to 689 saw a new Arab invasion of North Africa.
It began to protect Egypt "from attack by Byzantine ".
So "an army of 40,000 Muslims advanced through the desert to Barca, took it, and marched to the neighborhood of Carthage", defeating a defending Byzantine army of 30,000 in the process.

Next came a force of 10,000 Arabs led by the Arab general Uqba ibn Nafi and enlarged by thousands of others. Departing from Damascus, the army marched into North Africa and took the vanguard.

In 670 the city of Kairouan (roughly eighty miles or 160 kilometers south of modern Tunis) was established[ as a refuge and base for further operations.
This would become the capital of the Islamic province of Ifriqiya, which would cover the coastal regions of today's western Libya,Tunisia, and eastern Algeria.

After this, as Edward Gibbon writes, the fearless general "plunged into the heart of the country, traversed the wilderness in which his successors erected the splendid capitals of Fes and Morocco, and at length penetrated to the verge of the Atlantic and the great desert". In his conquest of the Maghreb (western North Africa) he besieged the coastal city Tangier, overwhelming what had once been the traditional Roman province of Mauretania Tingitana.

But here he was stopped and partially repulsed.
In their struggle against the Byzantines and the Berbers, the Arab chieftains had greatly extended their African dominions, and as early as the year 682 Uqba had reached the shores of the Atlantic.

In the book "The Great Arab Conquests" Hugh Kennedy writes

"When Uqba reached the Atlantic. He is said to have ridden his horse into the sea until the water came up to its belly. He shouted out 'O Lord, if the sea did not stop me, I would go through lands defending your faith.

The image of the Arab warrior whose progress in conquering in the name of God was halted only by the ocean remains one of the most arresting and memorable in the whole history of the conquests.

Uqba was betrayed by a berber leader kasila who had embraced Islam.
He damaged the muslim army on large scale also killed uqba bin nafi.
Kairwan was lost and rebellion by the berbers

Third invasion

Caliph Abdul Malik Appointed Zahir and then Hassan.
It began with the retaking of Ifriqiya.
Hassan once again conquered the lost kairwan. He marched towards west.
But the Byzantine Empire responded with troops from Constantinople, joined by soldiers and ships from Sicily and a powerful contingent of Visigoths from Hispania.

But Hassan inflicted a crushing defeat on both berbers and Byzatines

The Arabs launched a new assault by sea and land, forcing the Byzantines and their allies to evacuate Carthage.

The Arabs totally destroyed the city and burned it to the ground. forcing the Byzantines to leave that part of North Africa for good.

By 698, the Arabs had conquered most of North Africa from the Byzantines. The area was divided into three provinces: Egypt with its governor at al-Fustat, Ifriqiya with its governor at Kairouan, and the Maghreb (modern Morocco) with its governor at Tangiers.

Musa bin Nusair: a successful Yemeni general in the campaign, was made governor of Ifriqiya and given the responsibility of putting down a renewed Berber rebellion.Musa also had to deal with constant harassment from the Byzantine navy. So he built a navy of his own which went on to conquer the Christian islands of Ibiza, Majorca, andMinorca. Advancing into the Maghreb, his forces took Algiers in 700.

Completion of the conquest
By 709, all of North Africa was under the control of the Arab caliphate.
At this time the population of Ceuta included many refugees from a Visigothic civil war that had broken out in Hispania (modern Portugal and Spain). These included family and confederates of the late King Wittiza, Arian Christians fleeing forced conversions at the hands of the Visigothic Catholic church, and persecuted Jews. Perhaps it was they, through Count Julian, who appealed to the North African Muslims for help in overthrowing Roderic, the new king of the Visigoths.

As Gibbon puts it, Musa received an unexpected message from Julian, "who offered his place, his person, and his sword" to the Muslim leader in exchange for help in the civil war. Though Julian's "estates were ample, his followers bold and numerous", he "had little to hope and much to fear from the new reign." And he was too feeble to challenge Roderic directly. So he sought Musa's aid.

For Musa, Julian, "by his Andalusian and Mauritanian commands, ... held in his hands the keys of the Spanish monarchy." And so Musa ordered some initial raids on the southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula in 710. In the spring of that same year Tariq ibn Ziyad—a Berber, a freed slave, and a Muslim general—took Tangier. Musa thereupon made him governor there, backed by an army of 1,700.

The next year, 711, Musa directed Tariq to invade Hispania for Islam. Disembarking from Ceuta aboard ships provided by Julian, Tariq plunged into the Iberian Peninsula, defeated Roderic, and went on to besiege the Visigothic capital of Toledo. He and his allies also took Córdoba, Ecija, Granada, Málaga, Seville, and other cities.
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Default Islam in Central Asia

Islam in Central Asia


Pre-Islam Era

The first people known to have occupied Central Asia were Iranian nomads who arrived from the northern grasslands of what is now Uzbekistan sometime in the first millennium B.C. At this time, cities such as Bukhoro (Bukhara) and Samarqand (Samarkand) began to appear as centres of government and culture. By the fifth century B.C., the Bactrian, Soghdian, and Tokharian states dominated the region. As China began to develop its silk trade with the West, Iranian cities took advantage of this commerce by becoming centres of trade.

Using an extensive network of cities and settlements in the province of Mawarannahr (a name given the region after the Islamic victories) in Uzbekistan and farther east in what is today China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the Soghdian intermediaries became the wealthiest of these Iranian merchants. Because of this trade on what became known as the Silk Route, Bukhoro and Samarqand eventually became extremely wealthy cities, and at times Mawarannahr was one of the most influential and powerful Persian provinces of antiquity. The dominant religion until the 6th Century in the region was Zoroastrianism, but Buddhism, and Christianity also attracted large numbers of followers.

The wealth of Mawarannahr was a constant magnet for invasions from the northern steppes and from China. Numerous intraregional wars were fought between Soghdian states and the other states in Mawarannahr, and the Persians and the Chinese were in perpetual conflict over the region. Alexander the Great conquered the region in 328 B.C., bringing it briefly under the control of his Macedonian Empire.


The Arrival of Islam

However it was not the wealth of the region that attracted the first Muslims to Central Asia but the drive to seek the pleasure of Allah (SWT) by conveying the message of truth - Al Islam.

The opening of Central Asia and the implementation of Islam was completed in the eighth century A.D., and brought to the region a new belief and culture that until now continues to be dominant.

The Muslims first entered Mawarannahr in the middle of the seventh century through raids during their conquest of Persia. The Soghdians and other Iranian peoples of Central Asia were unable to defend their land against the Khilafah because of internal divisions and the lack of strong indigenous leadership.

The Muslims, on the other hand, were led by a brilliant general, Qutaybah ibn Muslim, and were highly motivated by the desire to spread the Islamic ideology. Because of these factors, and the strength of the Islamic aqeedah and the nature of the Shariah, the population of Mawarannahr was easily liberated.

The new way of life brought by the Muslims spread throughout the region. The native cultures were replaced in the ensuing centuries as Islam moulded the people into a single ummah - the Islamic ummah. However the destiny of Central Asia as an Islamic region was firmly established by the Khilafah's (Caliph Abu'l-Abbas) victory over the Chinese armies in 750 in a battle at the Talas River. Under Islamic rule, Central Asia was an important centre of culture and trade for centuries. The language of government, literature, and commerce, originally Persian became Arabic (however as the Abbasid Caliphate began to weaken and Arabic became neglected, the Persian language began to regain its pre-eminent role in the region as the language of literature and government). Mawarannahr continued to be an important political player in regional affairs.

During the height of the Abbasid Caliphate in the eighth and the ninth centuries, Central Asia and Mawarannahr experienced a truly golden age. Bukhoro became one of the leading centres of learning, culture, and art in the Muslim world, its magnificence rivalling contemporaneous cultural centres such as Baghdad, Cairo, and Cordoba.

Some of the greatest historians, scientists, and geographers in the history of Islamic culture were natives of the region, and one of the copies of the Noble Quran originally prepared in the time of Caliph Uthman is kept in Tashkent.

The new Islamic spiritual and political situation in Central Asia determined a new technological and cultural progress. It marked the production of the Samarkand paper (since the 8th century under the Chinese influence the people of Samarkand learned to manufacture paper from the rags), which supplanted papyrus and parchment in the Islamic countries at the end of the 10th century.

Furthermore scientists who were citizens of the Khilafah such as al-Khorezmi, Beruni, Farabi, Abu Ali ibn Sino (Avicenna) brought fame to the area all over the world, generating respect across the world, and many scientific achievements of the epoch made a great impact on the European science (it is enough to mention the astronomical tables of Samarkand astronomers from Ulughbek's observatory).

During the comparatively peaceful era of Islamic rule, culture and the arts flourished in Central Asia. Jizya was imposed upon all who refused to accept Islam and the Jewish historian Benjamin of Tudela noted during his travels in 1170 the existence of a Jewish community numbering 50,000 in nearby Samarkand.
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