|Ibn Tulun Mosque, Cairo|
661 - 680 Caliphate of Mu'awiyya.
669 - 718 The Umayyads, under the banner of jihad, mounted a series of sieges against Christian Byzantine Constantinople all of which failed. Since the Muslim understanding of jihad demanded that successful conquest, as ordained by God, must be inevitable, the cognitive dissonance these defeats engendered was difficult to explain and endure especially as they came at the hands of Christians ("infidels"). A technological factor in the Byzantines' success resisting these attacks was their use of "Greek fire": crude oil or tar from natural wells along the Black Sea which, on board Byzantine warships, was used with devastating results in flamethrowers directed against enemy vessels. (See Roger Crowley, 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West (New York: Hyperion, 2005), 11-15)
c. 675 - c. 749 Life of John of Damascus (Yahnah ibn Mansur ibn Sargun), an Arab Christian. In his Concerning Heresies, he catalogued one hundred and three heresies that in his view had departed from the Christian faith. Islam is listed as number "101" in the sequence. The idol worshipping Arabs, John says, were converted by "a false prophet named Mohammed." John's writings constitute the earliest Christian anti-Muslim polemic on record. Particularly interesting to note is that at this point in time, John at least (and presumably a significant number of other Christians as well) did not regard Islam as a religion in its own right, but instead, merely a deviant form of Christianity. (More: "Wars of Words and Images")
|Dome of the Rock and Western Wall||Detail, Dome of the Rock|
692 Completion of Qubbat al-Sakhra, the "Dome of the Rock" in Jerusalem by the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik. The Dome of the Rock was the first masterpiece of Islamic architecture. It was built over the rocky summit of Mount Moriah, the location of the Jewish temples (Solomonic, Persian, Herodian) and the place where, according to Genesis Chp. 22, Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac. The place is also known to Jews, therefore, as the "Temple Mount." Muslims believe Muhammad (as recounted in the Hadith) arrived here on his "Night Journey" (al-Isra) from Makkah (Mecca) on a steed named al-Buraq. He prayed two raka'at (cycles of Muslim prayer) at the site of the temple (bayt al-Maqdis), then was transported into heaven by Jibril (Gabriel) where he met 'Isa (Jesus), Yusuf (Joseph), Harun (Aaron), Musa (Moses), and Ibrahim (Abraham) before descending and returning to wash at Mecca's well of Zam Zam near the Ka'aba, the spring revealed to Hajira (Hagar) and Ismail (Ishmael) to save them from dying of thirst. The whole event is also called al-Mir'aj ("The Ascent"). Muslims call the area around the Dome of the Rock al-Haram al-Sharif ("The Noble Enclosure"). Excerpts from the Qur'an adorn the building inside and out: sura 36: 1-6, for example, which emphasizes Muhammad's role as an admonisher to a people who have failed to heed God's revelations, and sura 112 which was intended to remind Christians that Jesus, while an important prophet, was not the son of God. The Dome of the Rock is adjacent to the al-Aqsa mosque. (More: "Wars of Words and Images") (See also BBC Guide to Jerusalem's holy sites)
698 The Muslim conquest of North Africa was completed.
Umayyad Mosque, Damascus (l. and r.)
705 The Great Umayyad Mosque was built in Damascus by the Caliph al-Walid on the site of the Basilica of St. John (before that it had been a temple of the Roman god Jupiter). It was the fourth holiest mosque in Islam after those in Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem and included a tomb believed to contain the head of John the Baptist.
710 A Berber named Tariq ibn Malik led a Muslim raiding party across the narrow eight mile straits from North Africa into Spain, or, al-Andalus, as the Muslims called it (the word is etymologically linked to "Vandals" -- Philip Hitti, History of the Arabs, Tenth Edition (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1970), 498). Several months later, he was followed by Tariq ibn Ziyad who landed at Gibraltar (Arabic: Jebel Tariq, "Tariq's Mountain") with an invasionary force of 7,000. By 718, the Muslims had subjugated the Iberian peninsula despite resistance from the Visigoth Christians under King Roderick. In 756, Abd al-Rahman revived the defeated Umayyad caliphate in Cordoba ushering in a period of great cultural, artistic, scientific, and intellectual advancements marked by unprecedented tolerance among Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
al-Masjid al-Aqsa, Jerusalem
710 - 715 The al-Aqsa Mosque ("the distant") was built by the Umayyad Caliph al-Walid in Jerusalem after the reference to al-masjid al-aqsa ("the distant mosque") in the Qur'an (17:1). It is the third holiest pilgrimage site in Islam (behind Mecca and Medina; The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus is the fourth holiest). The mosque was adjacent to Dome of the Rock. (See also BBC Guide to Jerusalem's holy sites)
711 Islam reached India (Indus river). Christian decrees against the Jews in Spain were reversed by the Muslim conquerors. Jews living in the region began to think their persecutions were over as they found themselves invited by the Arabs to join in the creation of what would become one of the most glorious cultures of the Middle Ages.
730 Printing was invented in China.
ca.730 Onset of the "Iconoclastic Controversy" in the Byzantine Christian Church. There were two phases, 730-787, and, 814-842. Divisions generally ran along geographical lines between the West, which did not favor the veneration of images in worship, and the East, which did. One of the foremost voices in favor of images was that of John of Damascus. The controversy contributed to the final schism between the Eastern and Western Church in 1054.
732 In October, Charles Martel ("the Hammer") halted Muslim expansion northward into Europe at the "battle" of Poitiers-Tours on the banks of the Loire. In actuality, this was a great non-event. After days of posturing at one another, the parties fought a single, light skirmish after which the Muslims retreated south under cover of night.
747-822 Life of Abu Muhammad bin Umar al-Waqidi, author of al-Tabaqat ("Generations") and Kitab al-Maghazi ("Book of Campaigns"), sources for the history of early Islam and biography of the Prophet Muhammad.
750 Collapse of the Umayyad dynasty at the hands of the Abbasids, aided by those arch enemies of the Umayyads, the Persian Shiites who were still smarting from the humiliating slayings of their imams, Ali and Husayn, by the early Umayyad caliphs. The locus of power shifted from Damascus to Baghdad. The Abbasids adopted Sasanian customs such as absolute monarchy and highly centralized bureaucracy. As historian William L. Cleveland writes, "The Abbasid rulers with their more direct exposure to the Iranian idea of an absolute king of kings, carried the evolution of the caliphate to absolutist monarchy further than any of their predecessors. The Abbasid caliphs lived in luxurious palaces, isolated from all but their most trusted inner circle of courtiers and advisers. They came to identify themselves not simply as successors to the Prophet but as 'shadows of God on earth,' and they exercised vast powers over their subjects." (William L. Cleveland, A History of the Modern Middle East, Second Edition (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000), 18)
A key event in the Abbasid revolution was the mission of Bukayr bin Mahan to a dissident group of Shia muwallin ("protected ones") in the district of Khurasan. To stir up these muwallin, Bukayr invoked the memory of the pledge to fight on behalf of the first Muslims (Second Aqaba). It appears he took liberties with the account of that event. In any case, the muwallin made a similar pledge to ally themselves with the Prophet's kinsmen, the Abbasids, in their war against the infidel Umayyads.
After the revolt was over, the Abbasids continued to evoke the memory of the Prophet's political vision as they consolidated what resembled a Persian (Sasanian) style of hierarchical rule. The earliest histories of the Prophet Muhammad and the founding of Islam we have (from the pens of al-Waqidi, Ibn Hisham, and al-Tabari) all come from the Abbasid period.
750 - 1258 Period of the Abbasid Caliphs.
751 Arab troops assisted in the defeat of Chinese armies at Talas near Samarkand.
754 - 775 Caliphate of al-Mansur. His many supreme achievements included the building of the city of Baghdad between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers in Iraq, the first "custom-designed" Islamic city in the world.
755 Arab armies assisted the Chinese in quelling a rebellion of Tartars.
Tile, Alhambra, Granada
760 Arab scholars adopted Indian numerals, and began the development of algebra (al-jibra, "the restoration") and trigonometry (more). Also this year, there was a massacre of Arabs and Persians in Yangzhou, China.
778 Charlemagne, King of the Franks and soon-to-be Holy Roman emperor, was invited by a confederacy of Arab chiefs in northeastern Spain to advance against Abd al-Rahman. However, upon reaching Saragossa, he was forced to retreat. On the way back home through the Pyrenees, the Franks were attacked by Basques and other mountaineers who inflicted grave losses. Among the leaders who died was Roland, whose heroism is celebrated in the "Chanson de Roland," a great epic poem of the Middle Ages.
|786 Construction on La Mezquita ("The Mosque") at Cordoba (Spain) began.|
786 - 809 Caliphate of Harun al-Rashid in Baghdad and the "Golden Age" of the Abbasids.
793 Viking raids began in Europe.
800 On Christmas day, Charlemagne knelt before Pope Leo III who crowned him Holy Roman Emperor. This marked the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire which was characterized by the ongoing struggle between the religious and secular powers: i.e. between the kings in France, Germany, and England on the one hand, and the Pope in Rome on the other.
800 - 909 The Arab Aghlabid Dynasty ruled Tunisia, which began to attain high levels of stability and prosperity. Olive production and other forms of agriculture flourished as advanced irrigation systems were introduced. New palace cities appeared: al-Abbasiya in 809 and Raqqada in 877. (see also)
807 A rebellion in Toledo was quelled by Amrus Ibn Yusuf, the governor appointed by Caliph al Hakam. Amrus employed a tactic we saw before at the expense of the German chieftain, Odoacer, and will see again (with a slight variation): "the great banquet ruse." In what seemed to be a magnanimous peace-making gesture, Amrus invited hundreds of his notable Toledan enemies. In the courtyard of his new castle was a long ditch. Beside the ditch Amrus stationed his executioner. As each guest entered the courtyard, the sword fell upon his neck and his body was thrown into the ditch.
813 - 833 Caliphate of Mamun in Baghdad. The cultural renaissance continued.
834 Death of Abu Muhammad Abd al-Malik Ibn Hisham, editor of the most influential biography of the Prophet Muhammad written by Hunayn Ibn Ishaq (809-873), a Christian and physician to the Caliph al-Mutawakkil.
838 – 870 Life of Persian physician ‘Ali Tabari, born Jewish but converted to Islam. He wrote The Book of Religion and Empire: A Semi-Official Defense and Exposition of Islam Written By Order at the Court and With the Assistance of the Caliph Mutawakkil A.D. 847-861 (trans. by A. Mingana, Lahore Pakistan: Katchery Road, n.d.) Ali Tabari’s supersessionism can be seen in his claim that the Bible cannot compare with the Qur’an in unity, lucidity, and eloquence and in his claim that the Bible contains clear predictions of the rise of the Islamic community (Genesis 21:13) and of the life of God’s final prophet, Muhammad (Deuteronomy 18:15, and 18:18-19, p. 85). And, based on the Arabic meaning of Muhammad’s name (hamada “praised”), he argues that David predicted the coming of the Prophet in many of the Psalms where the word “praised” appears, as in Ps. 48:1, “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. (p. 88) Predictions of the coming of Muhammad in Isaiah include Isaiah 2:19, where ‘Ali Tabari reads “from the glory of His majesty,” as, from the glory of his Hamd, hence, again a prediction based on the etymology of Muhammad’s name (p. 93) . Finally, to the famous Christian prediction of the birth of Jesus in Isaiah 9:6, ‘Ali Tabari claims that it is Muhammad’s arrival which is foretold, not that of Jesus, on the basis that the Hebrew clause, “and the government will be upon his shoulder,” should more accurately be rendered, “and the prophecy will be upon his shoulder. (p. 95)
Prophecies of the coming of Muhammad, says ‘Ali Tabari, appear in the New Testament as well. He mentions the Paraclete text in John 14:26 and 15:26, for example, and similarly in John 16:7,8, and 13. (p. 141) The “house of God” in I Peter 4:17 is interpreted as the city of Maccah (Mecca), p. 142). (See also "Wars of Words and Images")
839-923 Life of Abu Jafar Muhammad bin Jarir al-Tabari. His works included an extensive commentary on the Qur'an, Jami' al-Bayan fi Tafsir al-Qur'an ("The Full Exposition of Quranic Commentary") and a history of the world, Tarikh ar-Rusul wa-l-Muluk ("History of Prophets and Kings").
853 The first book was printed in China.
868 - 905 Period of the Tulunid Dynasty in Egypt, founded by Ahmed Ibn Tulun, the dashing young governor sent by the caliph in Baghdad to rule Egypt. Ahmed quickly acquired the political and military means to challenge the caliph, and proceeded to set up an independent regime. His mosque, built between 876 and 879, is the second oldest in Cairo (Amr built the first one), and until the year 2002 the oldest mosque maintained in its original condition. In 905, Baghdad succeeded in reestablishing control bringing an end to the Tulunids.
870 Death of Muhammad Ibn Ismail al-Bukhari author of one of the two most prominent sahih ("authentic") collections of hadith ("sayings") of the Prophet Muhammad. His death was followed in 875 by the death of Abu-l-Husayn Muslim Ibn al-Hallaj (usually just referred to as "Muslim") author of the second of the two most prominent sahih. These two sahihan were regarded as the most authoritative of the six leading collections, a reputation confirmed by their documented isnad ("chain") of transmission stretching back to the time of the Prophet. Shia collections of hadith are known as khabar ("news") and date to the Buyid Period, 945-1062.
872 - 950 Life of the Muslim philosopher Abu al-Nasr al-Farabi. Farabi's interests and expertise were encyclopedic. In addition to being one of the most important thinkers of the Muslim middle ages, he was a renowned linguist and musician, too.
ca. 874 An Iraqi peasant and Batini ("one devoted to esoteric practices") Ismaili Shiite named Hamdan Qarmat started a new sect that came to be known as the Qarmatians. Based in Kufa, Iraq and called the "Bolsheviks of Islam" by some modern writers, they practiced a form of communistic living (shared property) and became fiercely militant. The Qarmatians in 899 established an independent state on the western shores of the Persian Gulf (capital at al-Ahsa) from which they terrorized southern Iraq and disrupted pilgrimage routes to Mecca. In 930, they attacked Mecca and made off with the Black Stone from the Ka' aba (it was returned in 951 by the Fatimid caliph al-Mansur). (see Hitti, 443ff.)
878 A massacre of Arabs and Persians occurred in Canton.
897 - 967 Life of Abu al-Faraj Ali al-Isfahani who died in Baghdad. He is renowned as the author of Kitab al-aghani ("The Book of Songs"), an enormous collection of songs and folklore and one of the best sources on the social history of the early Islamic period.
900 The Samanid dynasty in Persia (Iran). Persian Islamic culture flourished.
909 The Shiite Fatimid Caliphate was established in Tunisia rivaling Baghdad.
912 - 961 Caliphate of Abd al-Rahman III in Spain. There were now three rival caliphs: in Baghdad (Abbasid), Tunis (Fatimid), and Cordoba (Umayyad). Al-Rahman's caliphate and that of his successor, al-Hakam II (961-976), mark the high point of Muslim rule in the West.
935 The Qur'an by this time came to be in final written form. The man chiefly responsible for this, Ja'far Muhammad al-Tabari (died 923), the giant of Quranic exegesis, had published a thirty volume commentary on the Qur'an. From this time, when there were three rival caliphs and Islamic unity was disintegrating, many began to consider the "gates of ijtihad " (independent thinking and interpretation of Islamic texts and law) closed. The Rationalists ( Mutazilites ) began to lose ground to the Traditionalists: from this point on, taqlid (tradition or "adoption" of previous authorized interpretations) began to dominate Islamic theology and jurisprudence. This debate would continue into the twenty-first century.
The breakup of the Abbasid Caliphate paved the way between 950-1080 for several Kurdish dynasties to set up locally autonomous states: the Shaddadids (c. 950) and the Rawwadids (later 10th century) in Azerbaijan, the Hasanuyids (c. 960) and Annazids (c. 990) in the central Zagros region, and the Marwanids (982) in southeastern Anatolia. (See Peter N. Stearns (ed.), The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth Edition (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 2001), 117).
960 - 1278 The Song dynasty in China, during which Muslims dominated the administration of China's commercial sea interests. A Jewish community in Kaifeng, China was established in 965.
961-976 Caliphate of al-Hakam II in Andalus (Spain).
965-1039 Life of the Arab astronomer, physicist, and mathematician Ibn al-Haytham (known in the West as "Alhazan"). His book on optics, Kitab al-Manazir, was one of the definitive scientific works of the Middle Ages.
969 The Fatimids invaded Egypt from Tunis and moved the seat of their Shiite caliphate to a new city built just north of Fustat. The caliph, al Mu'izz, and his general, Jawhar, named the city al-Qahira, ("the Victorious"). The Fatimids having abandoned Tunisia, political instability set in there as rivalries broke out between two of their vassals: the Zirids and Hammadids.
ca. 990 In Baghdad, Abu 'l-Farag Muhammad Ibn Ishaq al-Nadim published his encyclopedia al-Fihrist ("The Catalogue").
994-1064 Life of Muslim theologian and polemicist Ibn Hazm. Ibn Hazm found horrifying such passages as Genesis 7:26 (“We shall make mankind in our own image, similar to us”), and Genesis 3:22 (“Man has become like one of us - in the knowledge of good and evil.” He used the Quranic principle of abrogation (naskh: that some early divine revelations were superseded by later ones - s. 2:106) to argue for the outright dismissal of both the Old and New Testaments. If the Qur’an, which Ibn Hazm believed to be God's final revelation to humankind, could proclaim this principle explicitly, then, the previous two revelations (i.e. the Bible) were ipso facto abrogated. (See Hava Lazarus-Yafeh, Intertwined Worlds: Medieval Islam and Bible Criticism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992), 17ff.). (More: "Wars of Words and Images")
996 - 1021 Caliphate of al-Hakim in Cairo, who came to the throne at age eleven.
998 Al-Azhar University was commissioned in Cairo (built in 972 by Jawhar).
|al-Azhar, Cairo, 972|
1000 Botanical gardens at Seville and Toledo (Spain) were constructed by Muslims. (more)
1006 The Turks adopted the Arabic script.
1046 - 1049 The Persian Ismaili missionary, Nasir al-Khusraw, who lived in Egypt during the time of the caliph al Mustansir, (shortly before the economic and political decline set in) left a glowing report of Fatimid luxury and prosperity in Cairo.
1048 - 1123 Life of the Persian mathematician, astronomer, and poet Omar Khayyam (author of the Rubaiyat).
1050 Death of the scientist and traveler, al-Biruni, a native of Afghanistan, author of a classic travelogue of India, and a scientific treatise on the workings of springs according to hydrostatic principles.
1055 Seljuk Turks from Central Asia, non-Muslim cousins of the Mongols, captured Baghdad and ruled on behalf of the Abbasid caliphate. They converted to Islam and became Sunni Muslims. So began a Sunni revival in Baghdad after a century of Shiite rule. Paradoxically, in one of Islam's darkest political times, the Islamic faith itself scored one of its greatest victories (a paradox that would be repeated in the cases of the Mongols in the thirteenth century and the Ottoman Turks in the fourteenth). The Seljuk ruler, Tughril, called himself al-sultan ("the power"). Thus was born the office of the sultanate which would last until 1924. At that time it was abolished together with the caliphate by Turkey's first president, Mustapha Kemal.
1057 Arab Hilali bedouins overran the Zirid and Hammadid states in Tunisia and laid waste to the region of Qayrawan. Sedentary farmers fled into the mountains as nomadic ways took root. The prosperity that had come with the Aghlabids vanished.
1066 Norman conquest of England by William the Conqueror.
ca. 1070 The Berber al-Moravids conquered the area we call Morocco and founded Marrakesh as their capital. "Morocco" is a European name that derives from "Marrakesh." The Moravids went on to conquer southern Spain, al-Andalus. The Moravids practiced Kharijite Islam, a legalistic puritanical form that emphasized egalitarian ways but rejected theological reasoning and sufi mysticism (see also entry for 1085 below). From classical Islamic times northwest and north central Africa have been known as al-Maghrib al-Arabi ("the Arab West"). The area includes modern Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. Maghrib (also meaning "sunset") comes from the Arabic root gh-rab-ba which gives us gharb ("West," "violence") and words like gharib ("foreign," "alien"), mughtarib ( "stranger"), ghurba ("exile"), among other similar words. An older related root, the Phoenician ereb, meaning "sunset," would in time yield the name of the continent to the West: "Europe." In Pharaohnic times, the West was where the sun went to "die" each night: to pass into and through the underworld until it rose again in the East the next morning. The Arabic words associated with the West have preserved some of this sense of darkness and malice (see also). By contrast, "the East" (ash-sharq together with the verb sh-ra-qa: to rise, shine, radiate) carries more positive and affirmative resonances for many speakers of Arabic throughout history.
1085 Muslims lost Toledo to Christian forces under King Alfonso VI of Castile and Leon, the first stage of the Christian reconquista of Spain. The Umayyad caliphate in Cordoba had broken up. Smaller Muslim enclaves called taifas formed. Muslim unity began to break down in Andalus. The weaker petty kings of the taifas (Ar. muluk al-tawaif) invited the powerful al-Moravid ruler Yusuf Ibn Tashfin in Morocco to defend them against Alfonso.
1086 Battle of Zallaqa (Spain). Ibn Tashfin defeated Alfonso VI preserving Muslim sovereignty in al-Andalus.
by 1087 Muslim Arab medicine was being taught at Salerno, Italy. (It had been introduced into China during the Tang Dynasty, 618-907) At Salerno, the key figure was Constantine "The African" (ca. 1020-1087), a Tunisian Muslim who arrived there ca. 1065 with Greek medical texts he had translated into Arabic. An expert linguist, he went on to help translate these texts into Latin, a contribution that allowed Europe to benefit from centuries of Greek and Muslim medical knowledge.
1090 First indication that the compass was in use in Arab navigation.
1090 - 1100 al -Hashasheen, members of a secretive, fiercely militant sect with roots in the Ismaili Shiite tradition, appeared in Iran and Syria. Their name stemmed from their reputed fondness for smoking hashish, and furthermore contributed the English word, "assassin." Their founder was a Persian, al-Hasan Ibn-al-Sabbah who died in 1124.
An eleventh century tale set in the eighth century, tells of a half-breed named Basil “Digenes” (literally, “two people”), the product of the union of an Arab Muslim amir and a Greek Christian princess whom the amir abducts and later marries after converting to Christianity for her sake and resettling in Romania. The boy Basil had a second name, “Akrites” (“one who dwells on the border”). In addition, “Akrites” was a military term designating a class of soldiers whose mission was to safeguard the frontier regions of the Byzantine Empire. Basil, then, is a boy who carries the heritage of two races. He lives on the border between the two worlds, Christian and Muslim, and moves back and forth across that border with somewhat unsettling alacrity (what post-colonial critics often call “liminality”). The tale went through many versions and may have inspired the later epic of El Cid (Arabic name al-Sayyid – “Master” or “Lord”) in Spain, the eleventh century mercenary hero who at various points fought on both the Christian and Muslim sides. (See "Wars of Words and Images")