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The Islamic Caliphate

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the first sura of the Qur'an, 20th century calligraphythe first sura of the Qur'an, 20th century calligraphy

The Islamic world, except in Spain, had no border with the Carolingian empire. Its weight in the history of the Middle East, as the main contributor to the history there, starting in 630 or as the nominal origin of the dynasties found in Spain or North Africa, or the good relations Charlemagne had with Harun ar Rachid, makes the Islamic world a center of interest. The caliph was the "Commander of the Faithful", a religious and a political ruler at the same time, the heir to the Prophet Muhammad. The Franks had conflictual relations with the Umayyads of Al Andalus, which culminated by the Battle of Tours in 732 A.D. Pippin the Short, with the establisment of the Abbasid like caliphs and pro-Abbasid rulers being in Spain, represented that a alliance was valuable against the Umayyads of Spain which constituted a strategic threat both to the Carolingian on their southern border, and to the Abbasid at the western end of their dominion. A Frankish embassy went to Baghdad by 765 A.D. as a Abbasid one visited the Franks by 768. Commercial relations also occurred. After that the concern with the Umayyad Emirate of Cordoba kept under Charlemagne. A pro-Abbasid governor of Barcelona and Girona sought the alliance of Charles, together with the governors of Zaragoza and of Huesca. That is evoked in the Annals of Fulda like 'And, a meeting being formed in a place called Padrabrunn [Paderborn], there came near the King Ibinalarabi, a Sarracene, prefect of Caesarea Augusta.' The caliph of Baghdad of the time also prepared a invasion force. But the Frankish campaign in Spain of 778 A.D. was not as successful as hoped, but it eventually ended by the tragic Battle of Roncevaux Pass. The Abassid alliance kept however against Byzantium or the Umayyads as numerous embassies took place. During one of those, a elephant named Abu 'Abbas was given like a gift by Caliph Harun al-Rashid. Charlemagne envoys also reached to the Patriarch of Jerusalem. A embassy by Harun's son was still sent by 831 A.D. to Louis the Pious. At last, it is also reported that by the early 9th century A.D., the daughter of Lothar II and mother of several Italian king sent a embassy to the Caliph of Baghdad for friendship and a marital alliance

The history of Islam began in the Arabic Peninsula, in Mecca, with Muhammad, the Prophet and founder of the new religion. Caravan routes which existent accross the Arabic Peninsula since the domestication of camles since about the 12th-13th centuries were first trading incense from the confines of Arabia Felix. Beginning about O A.D., other products were traded like spices, pearls from the Indian ocean and silk from India. Caravans were journeying along oasis and merchant cities and local tribes were providing for their safety like the Nabateans with their city of Petra, current Jordan and then, beginning in the 6th century A.D., the Qurayshits in the city of Mecca, which are such tribes. Nabateans accepted the Persian guardianship under King Cyrus and took profit of the destruction of the Jewish kingdoms. Under the Lagids, the successors to Alexander the Great, the Nabateans performed raids and piracy in the Red Sea (to protect their trade routes). Albeit the sole 'Barbarians' in the area which did not pass under Greek tutelage, they however endured their cultural influence. Then they paid tribute to Romans. Arabia, from the Indian Ocean to the borders of the Near-East, was the land of the Arabic tribes, the properity of which had built upon trade routes which they mastered with their camels. By the turn of the Christian era, the Nabatean kingdom, with is capital city in Petra, current Jordan, then until 270 A.D., the one of Palmyre had been bord where the trade routes ended. North of Arabia then, inscribed itself into the conflicts between Byzantium and Persians, with the Ghassanids vassalized by the former and Lakhmids by the latter respectively as the region of Mecca became the new commercial center for the peninsula. Thus, from a political point of view, by the time of Muhamad, that region is siding both powers of the time, the Christian Byzantine empire and the Mazdean Sassanid Persians. In the Arabic Peninsula Christians or Jews are present due to the proximity of both Mount Sinai or Jerusalem. Such a context allowed thus to a monotheistic message dedicated to the Arabic populations. Muhammad had been born in Mecca in 570, as some weeks after his father died. Muhammad was a Arab and a member of the tribe of the Qurayshits, which pretended to directly descend from Ismael, Abraham's son. He was raised by his grandfather who, according to the custom had him entrusted to a Beduin foster-mother. Coming back home, he lost successively his mother and his grandfather. It was his uncle, Abu-Talib who took him in charge. He either worked as a sheperd or he accompanied his uncle to Syria when the latter led a caravan there. He eventually maried a rich widow, Khadijah, the agent of who he was to sale her goods in Syria. Khadidja's cousin, Waraqa ibn Nawfai, was a Nestorian priest. Reaching 40 years old, Muhammad began his predication. He soon encountered the hostility of the inhabitants of Mecca since the new faith he called to was questioning the city's revenues coming from the pagan shrine, the Kaaba. The tribe of the Qurayshits were the rulers of Mecca. They were not, strictly speaking, polytheistic as they revered a main god and several smaller ones around him. Muhammad thus, through his predication, mostly obliged to revere the sole main god, Allah. Whence the main faith proclamation of Muslims states that 'La illahi illa Allahou...,' which is 'There is no other gods than God.' It was the sedentary Arabs of Mecca who, at the contrary of the nomadic ones, who supplied Muhammad with troops. People of Mecca, as they inhabited at the crossroad of large caravans which traded between the Mediterranean and Asie, were brokers, bankers or long-range merchants. They also were the owners of the 'Kaaba', that cubic building holding the dark stone, a fundamental fetish to the peninsula. 'Allah' was the 'summus Deus' to the tribes' gods and godesses as tribes mostly worried about temporal things. Some spirituality had reached through the oases Jews -- which were also considered sorcerers -- and miscellaneous types of Christians, the hermits of Syria included as all those people was considered like superior beings by the Arabs due to their virtue and intelligence. Arab 'hanifs', who were saint men from the tribes and tending to spirituality, had preceded Muhammad who was to be a converting hanif as his encounter with Christian monks during his caravaning journeys was determining. His visions -- according to the Arabic tradition about dreams -- about the age of 30, which were revealed by archangel Gabriel, decided him to preach a new monotheism. Also proclaiming a social agenda defending the poor he reminded of some predecessors with a mix of sacred and of political-style secular. Muhammad was obliged to leave for Medina (then Yathrib) in 622. That took place one year after he lost Khadijah along with Abu-Talib, who had been his protector against the Qurayshits. This constitutes the Hijra ("emigration"), which was to become the first year of the Muslim calendar. After a series of battles fought against the ruling Quraysh tribe of Mecca, which came to be helped by Jewish tribes which Muhammad had expelled from Medina, Mecca eventually surrendered to Muhammad, who was a the head of 20,000 followers, in 630. Muhammad died in 632. The settlement in Medina changed Muhammad into a man of action. First he unified the inhabitants of the city, of them the Jews who were preparing to take power among troubles there. The Jews however mocked Muhammad false Biblical knowledge which triggered his distrust against 'people of the Book' as Islam since, through the concept of Ismael or the Kaaba considered the ancien temple of Abraham, turned national, Arabic and 'muslim' only. As soon as then, on a other hand, Muhammad, a sincere hanif began not to keep such as he was respectful of the Arabic traditions only, with values like war, perfidity or stratagems. At last, when he entered a winner into Mecca, theocentric Islam turned into a egocentric 'Muhammadianism,' with a lot of suras now circumstancial to his benefit, like the right of repudiation, for example. Not taking in account the influence of Umar, a convert who was to be his successor. Islam is a religion of strength -- a evidence being that Muslim mystics will have to borrow from Christianity for more subtlety -- and a religion where man is abandoned to destiny and determinism. Islam is also very unfair to Arabic women. Some do not hesitate to conclude that some faith points are allowing the Arabs to save themselves cheap as allowing them altogether keep what they are, voluptuous, harsh into profit and raging with retaliation. The concept of hadiths -- tales of the Prophet's life -- then of the 'ijtihad' -- the capability to add to Quran -- were to perpetuate that pragmatism of the last period of Muhammad in Mecca as that techniques allowed to add according to needs. Once the new religion firmly settled, the main elements of Islam were the following. 'islam' means 'submission' as faithfuls are subjugating themselves to God's will as revealed through the Quran. In terms of the Islam, which is a monotheistic religion, God's speech was handed down to men by the prophets (the 'rassulun,' in Arabic) as Muhammad was the last of those, or the 'Seal of prophets.' Whatever the fundamental divergence could be which was to appear later among Muslims between Sunnis (or the orthodox Islam) and Shiites (the 'imams' only, who are exemplary leaders, may reveal the true message of the Quran), all Muslims agree about the 'five pilars of Islam,' which are the basis and practice of it. Those are the profession of faith which asserts Allah and his Prophet Muhammad, five prayers a day, taxes under the form of the 'zakat,' or alms, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and the 'hadj,' which is the pilgrimage to Mecca which is to be performed once at least

Sassanids, a new expression of the Persian empire after the Parthians, exists from 224 to 651 and represents a "golden age" for the area. The Sassanids, along with the Byzantines are, during 400 years, one of the great powers of Western Asia, encompassing a vast territory from Iraq and Armenia up to Afghanistan and western Pakistan. According to their own terms, the Sassanid empire was the "Eranshahr,' the 'Iranian Empire' or the 'Aryan Empire.' Historians consider the Sassanid era like the culmination of Persian civilization as the dynasty resurrected Iranian traditions and sought to suppress Greek cultural influence. The Sassanid Empire developed in the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. as a decline appeared in the 5th and early 6th centuries. The 6th and 7th centuries A.D. were to mark the final decline of it after a revival. It is possible that the reality of the new dynasty was that of silk merchants linked to current Indian Punjab and having introduced the culture of silk in western Persia. It was the Sassanids who adopted the title of 'Shahanshah' or 'King of Kings' as they dominated a set of local sovereigns. Sassanids quickly entered conflict in the West with Rome (check the famous episode of emperor Valerian, who was taken prisoner in Edessa). The Sassanid empire will ultimately always be challenged on its western and eastern borders throughout the entire dynasty. The rapid revival under King Chosroes (6th century A.D.) was to see the welcome of the Greek philosophers and scholars expatriated after the closure of the Neoplatonic school in Athens in 529, the development of a small local nobility as the basis of government and even the capture of Jerusalem and the Holy Cross. But the pressure of Byzantium then brought to anarchy, the decline of economy, a rigidity of society , an emancipation of provincial lords, which was to last until the arrival of the Arabs in 642 A.D. The last descendant of the Sassanid dynasty took refuge in the court of China and the Sassanid survived some time like the governorate of a small territory under suzerainty of the Chinese
The principle of succession among the Sassanids showed the attachment to the dynasty despite the role of the nobility. Sassanid society is a ethnic one (Aryians/non-Aryans) and of castes with a rigid system reinforced by Zoroastrianism, the State religion. The Sassanid society is a feudal society: land belongs to the king, to the nobles and to small landowners. Agriculture grew and the breeds of horses in the country was to be at the base of Arabian horses. Sassanids controled the silk trade in its western part. Gold was the prestige currency, silver the salary of armies and bronze the daily currency. The Sassanid army, with war elephants and armored cavalry looked like it was one of the most effective of the end of Antiquity
The Zoroastrian religion, founded around 1400-1000 B.C. had the Avesta like its founding text, which was transmitted orally and then written after the 5th century A.D. (which includes the songs of Zoroaster, hymns, comments), and the Magi were its priests. Zoroastrianism featured a main god, Ahura Mazda (God of Heaven), and others like as Anahita (warrior Goddess and of fertility) and Mithra (God of the Sun and Justice). It is under the Sassanids that the evolution towards the well-known dualism was made between a principle of Good (Ahura Mazda) and a bad spirit (Ahriman), a concept that was be found in Manicheism (a syncretism which incorporated Jesus, Buddha and Zoroaster, a deviance protected by King Shapur I (c. 255 A.D.) and which could be found in some Buddhist sects or in the Cathars in the medieval West, but also in the Twelver Shiism. The concern for purity however was to bring incest into the royal family. The Mazdakism, a reform of the Zoroastrianism, fairly close to ancient Judaism, was to be more intolerant
The Sassanid civilization often took back elements of other civilizations as three languages were commonly practised, the Pahlavi, the Greek and the Parthian. The Academy of Gundishapur, which was founded by King Shapur Ist, was to include in particular a faculty of medicine -- where medicine developed in connection with Zoroastrianism's issues of staining, and based on Aristotle and Gallien via Nestorians Christians. Gundishapur was also to host the Byzantine refugees during the closure of the Pagan schools of Athens, or the so-called 'Translatio Studiorum' movement. Philosophy, medicine, astronomy, faith and science were then closely linked. Music was in great esteem and it was eventually to give the Arab-Andalusian music. Plastic arts, town planning and architecture also hold a important place. Under King Chosroes Ist (531-579 A.D.), many books were brought from India and translated into Pahlavi

It's Abu Bakr, Muhammad's father-in-law, who became Muhammad first successor (632-634), and the first to bear the title of "caliphate" ("deputy" -of Muhammad). He became the "commander of the faithful". Islam, this new religion, was too a way to unify into a same religious and political community the Arab tribes and the nomadic Beduins. As they were progressively converted, the Arabs outside Mecca -- nomadic Beduins -- were used according to their skills for raiding, a kind of was which eventually was justified after the event only like the 'Jihad' or 'holy War.' In the Byzantine dominions of Syria, the Arab conquest even took a aspect of panarabism as the inhabitants there were of the same race than the Arabs. A lot of eastern Christians, who were considered heretics by Byzantium or who refused some heretic Byzantine emperors selves, Islam often was considered a mere heresy, a arianism. It appeared too that the neighbouring, northern powers, North of the Arabic Peninsula, the Byzantine empire and the Sassanids (a dynasty of Persia) were weak and a tempting prey with their perpetual wars between each other and their internal decay. At last, religious fervor, or the expanding population were other reasons of the Arab conquest. The punctual start of the conquest was amusingly triggered by the outrage provoked upon a Christian Arab by the ruler of the Sassanids, Chosroes II. As the Beduins and the Arabs revolted, Chosroes II was totally defeated, and fled to the Byzantine emperor Heraclius. This victory made a great impression upon the Arab mind, as the conquest of the Middle East definitively began in 634. In a stunning 8 years, the Arabs armies swept the region, Egypt included, destroying the Sassanids and evincing the Byzantines. They eventually reached the confines of the Aral Sea by 650, that is 16 years only after the beginning of the conquest! Such quick victories was certainly due to the Arabs having a form a warfare suitable for the desertic areas, as, mounting camels, they were self-sufficient and did not need supply lines. Coming out of the desert, they stroke the ennemy, as, in case of failure, they could easily retreat back. No decisive defeat could be obtained against them by the Byzantines and the Persians who were not able to get armies large enough nor they could provide garrisons for proper defensive fortifications. It's the second caliph, Umar (634-644) who organized the administration of the conquests. Arab conquerors did not wanted so much to convert conquered people than that they pay tribute as the reverse was true too. Conquered people prefered to convert to escape tribute

->The 'Rightly Guided Caliphs'
The first set of 4 Caliphs who succeded to Muhammad, namely Abu Bakr (632-634 A.D.), Umar or Omar I (634-644), Uthman ibn Affan or Othman (644-656), and Ali (656-661) are termed the 'Khulafa Rashidun Caliphs' (the 'rightly guided Caliphs') according to the Sunni tradition. The terms hints to they have been considered like model leaders among Sunni, providing a example of a governance based upon Islamic righteousness and merit. The terms by the way are due to two Arab scholars dedicated to canonical collections of 'hadiths:' 'Hold firmly to my example [ or the sunnah] and that of the Rightly Guided Caliphs!' All those Caliphs had been close companions of the Prophet and relatives of him, as they were either elected by a council or chosen following the wishes of their predecessor. In the Shi'ite tradition Ali only is considered a rashid and the three first mere usurpers

The conquest soon came to halt, as, except private initiatives towards North Africa, nothing was left to conquer. This likely was the cause of the apparition of internal quarrels in the Islamic world. Religion either became the expression of underlying dissatisfactions or rebellions used religion for their expression. This was likely facilitated by the fact that it was under the caliphate of the third caliph, Uthman (644-656), that the Quran had been compiled. It's during about these such years, by the end of the 660's, that appeared the most famous translation -and the most important unto the fate of Islam, of such quarrels, with the secession of the partisans of Ali, the Shias. Uthman came to face the opposition of Ali (Ali ibn Abu Talib), the cousin of Muhammad and his son-in-law (he had married Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet and his sole surviving child). Ali's pietism claimed that innovations were not respectful of the Quranic directives. Ali became the spokesman for Beduins which had volunteered for military service during the conquest of Iraq and Egypt and which were dissatisfied with the allocations of lands, revenues and pensions. Meanwhile, it was the Arabs of the peninsula which were enjoying the most the benefits of the conquest. The rebels eventually killed Uthman. Ali was then choosen caliph. Muawiyah-ibn-Umayya, the governor of Syria, a kinsman of Uthman and a member of the Quraysh lineage of the Prophet, went, from his capital Damascus, to encounter the forces of Ali. It's then than the most extreme followers of the latter disagreed in turn with him, due to an attempt by him to seek an arbitration, as the victory was fleeing. They left Ali on the base that fighting rebels needs to fight then with no any spirit of arbitrage and that the will of Allah would have been revealed by the outcome of the battle. These dissenters in the battle of the Plain of Siffin were called Kharajites (from the verb "kharaja" -to go out). On the other hand, despite an attempt of a political solution, none was found, as Muawiyah was declared caliph by some of his supporters and Ali was murdered by a Kharajite in 661 at the instigation of him. He further induced Ali's eldest son, Hassan, to renounce the caliphate. Those facts led the Shias returned to their fight as Muawiyah was proclaimed caliph, founding the first famed dynasty of the Islamic world, the Umayyads. Shias only accept since to acknowledge like the chief of the Muslim community a member of Muhamad's family. Ummayads were tolerant in terms of religion and they protected the arts coming from the Byzantine tradition. They leaned upon local cultures and they developed a brilliant civilization. These Muslims came to be considered the orthodox Muslims, the People of the Sunna, the Sunnis.The struggle renewed some time during the year 680 when Yazid I, Muawiyah's son and successor had to vigorously crush a plot by Ali's second son, Husayn. Husayn was eventually killed in Karbala (present day Iraq) this same year by the Umayyad troops. Both the burial place of Ali, in Najaf, and the one of Husayn in Karbala, are still holy places of pilgrimage for the Shias today. Sunnis eventually, came to be those who admit the authority of the first three caliphs as Shiites refused it and stated that Ali and his heirs had been the sole called to succeed to Muhammad. The other consequence of the schism was that the political capital of the Islamic world escaped defintively the Arabic Peninsula. The latter just retained Mecca, the site of the holy pilgrimage, as Ali first, them Muawiyah, moved their capital in Kufa (present day Iraq) and Damascus respectively

In Damascus, a city which was acquired to the Monophysicist heresy, it had been Mansur ibn Sarjun, a Christian notable and grandfather to St John Damascene, who had negociated the city's surrender. Sarjun, his son, was steward and ministry of armies to Muawiyah, the founder of the Ummayad dynasty. Christian elites played a lesser role since the Ummayads passed to less of tolerance under Caliphe Walid I (705-715). Administration's documents which had been written in Greek or Persan until then, turned Arabic or the church of St John the Baptist replaced by the Great Mosque of the Ummayads. The church was dating back to Emperor Theodosius (379-395) as Byzantine architects and craftsmen still participated and brought a remain of influence but the oriental influence was strongly establishing itself like the main one. Legend runs that the Mosque of the Ummayads would gather, each Friday -- the day to the weekly prayer -- the 'council of the invisible Saints who are secretly ruling the work of the world.' The Ummayads took back to the conquest. It's under their reign, because they considered the Mediterranean a strategic asset against the Byzantines, that North Africa and Spain were conquered, as the Muslims fell short to occupy the South of Gaul, being crushed at Poitiers, by Charles Martel. The Arabic move into Spain was, from their point of view, about the conquest of Europe as, after submitting Gauls, Italy and peoples of Germania, they wanted to follow the Donau river since its source to the Black Sea where they wanted to besiege Constantinople. Their project was like founding a new Roman empire around the Mediterranean. A navy was built from the Syrian shipyards (that Byzantium had built), as a professional, loyal army, and an efficient government were organized. By 730, the Islamic world of the Umayyads stretched from Spain and Morocco in the West to Samarkand and Kabul in the East, as Damascus was the unrivaled city of the time. During the 89 years that the Umayyad dynasty lasted, the prosperity and trade flourished, with educated Jews and Christians, many of them Greek, employed in the caliphal courts, where they studied and practiced medicine, alchemy, and philosophy. The Iraqi provinces of the empire however remained a place of rebellions as the people there had been desappointed that the center of the Islamic world and the capital had moved to Syria. Umayyads had white like their color, Abassids black as Fatimids later had the green

Eventually, by the 740's, Iraqi and Iranian rebels who now were residing in Khorasan, in northeastern Persia, organized in Merv (present day Mary, former USSR) a movement which rallied to Abd al Abbas, a descendant of the Prophet's uncle, akin to the Shia line via the Prophet's grandfather, Hashim. Khorasan had joined Shia in the 8th century A.D. Iran had been islamised but not arabized likely because of its strong Indo-Aryan identity. His troop's flags were black in color. His membership of the Shia line made that the Shias were supporters of the rebels. Abu Muslim, the head of these Hashimite rebels launched the attack against the Umayyads in 747 and occupied Iraq. 3 years laters, Abd al Abbas -who himself was not a Shia, became the first caliph of a new dynasty, the Abbasids. Abbasids were the proponents of a more rigorous, and more egalitarian too, Islam in terms of their attitude towards non-Arabs converts. They however islamized deeply the regions conqueredDespite this change of rulers, with the Abbasids claiming to a new era of justice and prosperity, the Islamic world mostly kept on like before. The capital however was moved to a new-founded city, Baghdad, which had been created by the second Abassid caliph and which was developed by the third caliph, Al Mansur (754-775). Baghdad, "Madinat-as-Salam", the "City of Salvation", popularly "Bagdad", the "Garden of Dat", from a Muslim dervish, was to remain the rich and brilliant capital of the Arab empire during five centuries, beyond the Abbasids. 100,000 men had been employed to build the city. Baghdad had been deviced according to a circular plan, with a diameter 1.6 miles and a wall with 360 towers! A numerous population soon overwhelmed that original design and brought a worksmen and merchants faubourt, or Al Karh, South of the city, along with residential neighbourhoods, East, which were built around the caliph's palace, or Al Khilafa. By 814 A.D., Baghdad was the largest city in the world. As the Khorasan, on the other hand, was remaining the favourite province of the Abassid rulers, becoming the very center of the power, Baghdad, during the seven first caliphs, became a mix of Arab and Iranian culture, attaining to a never reached again summit of Islamic civilization. The Abassid caliphe was ruling with the help of hundreds of civil servants serving specialized 'departments', or 'diwan' and the vizir was at the head of those. The military was constituted by Turks, or 'Mameluks' (in Arabic, 'possessed'). The bimetallism used by Abassids was due to their gold mines in Sudan and Nubia and silver ones in the Hindu Kush. Manufactures products of the Caliphate was mostly silk garments and carpets as their trade occured with Byzantines (whence they obtained valuable crockery, drugs, slaves and jewels), India (whence rubies, ebony, elephants and tigers), Africa (gold and slaves) or even Scandinavia through the Kazars and Bulgars. Abassids were constantly at war with the Byzantine empire. The city of Bagdad, on the other hand, was a vast emporium of trade with links to Asia and the Mediterranean. Baghdad became second in size only to Byzantium, with a population numbering at one million. Aachen, by that same time, had a population of 10,000 only. A control of the flows of the Tigris and the Euphrates allowed to a highly productive agriculture in the region. It is Harun ar Rashid, the famed caliph of the Thousand and One Nights, which was the ruler of the Abassid Caliphate in 786-806, at the time of Charlemagne. He already was supporting the intellectual, philosophical, scientific, and literary, activity in his kingdom, as the apogee was reached under his son, Al Mamun (813-833). Caliphe Harun ar Rashid settled in Raqqa, a city on the shores of the Euphrates river and still existing in current Syria, from 796 to 806 A.D. with two palaces built at the borders of the city, which had been constructed by 772 by Caliphe Al Mansur, the one who had also founded Baghdad and endowed with a circular plan too. Raqqa turned a stop on the Silk Road and attracted workmen famed in the ceramic work. This apogee of the Islamic world soon came to an end however. On one hand, as soon as 756, Spain, then Morocco in 788 and Tunisia in 800 had passed to local dynasties, breaking away from the Abbasids. The oppositon between the Shias of Iran and the Sunni appartenance of the Abbasids, on the other hand, led to a strong decline. A civil war occurred between the two sons of Harun ar Rashid. As the eventual caliph, Al Mamun decided to maintain his capital in Baghdad, not to disappoint, this time, the Iraqi Shias, a series of local dynasties appeared in Iran: the Tahirids (821-873), the Suffarids (867-ca. 1495), and the Samanids (819-1005). Egypt on its side, broke away, after the episode of the Tulunids (868-905), at the hands of the Fatimids by 969 A.D., Ismaili Shiites which had come from the Ifriqiya and turned mighty opponents to Baghdad like taking Damas in 970. By 869-883, a state of black slaves, the "Zanj", was founded in southern Iraq and soutwestern Iran. The diversity of the Arab empire was a force, yes, but it was a weakness at the same time, bringing more reasons of tension beyond the profound division between Shias and Sunnis. At last, the decay of the Abbasids was accentuated by the development of the prominence of the Turks in the empire! Turks were nomadic people of Central Asia and Transoxiana. The Abbasid caliphs took them as slave-warriors or "Mamluks", by the early 9th century. As soon as 833 they came to reach the offices of free officers and, due to their military proficiency and dedication, they occupied high positions at the court. The Turkish commanders, by the 10th century had no Iranian or Arab rivals anymore, and they were able to appoint or depose the caliphs. The caliphate came to be reduced to its sole religious function, as the caliph just remained the religious legitimizer of the power held by the Mamluks. Bagdad was occupied a while (945-1055) back by an Iranian dynasty, the Buwayhids. They were Shias, as they allowed too caliphs to the throne (as the caliphs, moreover were Sunnis). It was the famed Seljuks, another group of Turks who eventually took the power in 1055. They were coming from the North of the Oxus River. As they were Sunnis, they were welcome in Bagdad. Beginning about 1000 A.D. the whole Middle East split up into a multitude of kingdoms which were ruled by Turkish princes. Those were intolerants and constantly fighting each other. The caliphs however kept on to be figureheads only. The main lines of the Seljuk rule were to extend towards Byzantium, in Asia Minor and to their original Central Asia. It was only one of them, Malek Shah, who came to a more classical rule of the islamic world, with an effective control on the Eastern Mediterranean and the North of Arabia. The next steps of the history of the Arabs were to be the Crusades, and the arrival of the Mongol hordes. The Abbassid Caliphate officially passed in 1258, under the attack of Hulagu, a heir to Djingyz Kahn, who took Baghdad

Website Manager: G. Guichard, site Learning and Knowledge In the Carolingian Times / Erudition et savoir à l'époque carolingienne, http://schoolsempire.6te.net. Page Editor: G. Guichard. last edited: 4/24/2019. contact us at ggwebsites@outlook.com
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