Islam and the Early Islamic Empires
Arabs Before MuhammadBefore Muhammad, the Arabs lived exclusively in the Arabian peninsula and on the desert fringes of Syria, Jordan, and Iraq. Empires such as the Sasanids and the Byzantines subsidized Arab cheiftains in the area to protect their empires from invasion. More people throughout history on the Arabian subsisted as farmers or sailors rather than as pastoral nomads, however both lifestyles were present.
Birth of MuhammadIn approximately 570 CE, the Islamic prophet Muhammad is born in the Arabian city of Mecca. At the time, Mecca is a peaceful but popular city that is geographically separated from the rest of the Middle East yet still accessible to pilgrims and trade. In his early life, Muhammad was orphaned at a very young age. He was known to retreat often into a cave named Hira in the nearby mountains, a precursor to later in his life, when he would be visited by the angel Gabriel in the same cave.
Jan 1, 610
Muhammad begins preaching-gains followingAround 610, Muhammad began to come up with his revalations, and started to gain a small following. Initially this following consisted solely of the close friends and family members with whom he shared his revalations. Eventually, however, his following grew into a large group that would later become the Muslims.
Jan 1, 622
Muhammad and his Followers Move to MedinaAs Muhammad begins to gather a real following in Mecca, he is forced out by the religious leaders of the city, who feared that acceptance of Muhammad as the sole agent of the one true god would threaten their power and prosperity. For this reason, Muhammad and his followers flee and take up residence in Medina, another impoerant city 215 miles to the North. This marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar.
Jan 1, 625
Islamic Culture Begins to FormSocial structures in Islamic culture begin to form in Medina, where Muhammad and his followers have fled. Many groups such as the Meccan migrants and other Medina groups form together into a single umma, a community defined solely by acceptance of islam and of Muhammad as the "Messenger of God."
Jan 1, 632
Muhammad DiesIn 632, after a brief illness, Muhammad dies. He never returned to Mecca, but his following in Medina has seen immense growth and has formed into a major state basead on common faith in a single god rather than on kinship. There is major debate regarding who should take control of the Muslim community.
Jan 1, 656
First Civil War in Islam BeginsAfter Muhammad's death, debate over who should take his place was fierce among Muslims. Abu Bakr took charge of the first Caliphate, but after Uthman-the third caliph- was assassinated, the umma broke into war. Ali, a blood relative of Muhammad, was placed in power.
Jan 1, 660
Shiites and Sunnis Fully SplitSunnis and Shiites split the Muslim umma in a debate over whether the leader of the caliphate should be a blood relative of Muhammad such as Ali or a qualified person such as Abu Bakr. This debate and separation would continue to divide the Muslim umma into the modern era with no clear end in sight.
Jan 1, 680
Ummayad CaliphateAfter the Muslim Civil War, the Ummayad caliphate takes power. This caliphate began to expand its territory outside of the Arabian Peninsula, fighting enemies like the Byzantine Empire for power in regions such as Egypt and Syria.
Jan 1, 755
Abbasid CaliphateAfter the Umayyad Caliphate, the Abbasid Caliphate took power. This caliphate survived until nearly 1258, when Mongol invaders killed the last od them in Baghdad. While it lasted, the Abbasid Caliphate expanded Muslim power and influence through Northern Africa and almost all of the Middle East.