Also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, this was the continuation of the Roman Empire in the East during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottomans (Muslims) in 1453. During most of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe.
The last Iranian empire before the rise of Islam, it was recognized as one of the leading world powers alongside its neighboring arch-rival the Roman-Byzantine Empire for a period of more than 400 years. These two kingdoms struggled for territory. The result was a vast region ruled by two weakened empires. The various groups living in this area endured heavy taxation and the consequences of centuries of fighting. The potential for dramatic change was great because the people were tired of living in a state of war.
A city in Saudi Arabia. The spiritual center of Islam. In AD 570, as a member of the Quraysh tribe, Muhammad was born in this city.
A small, cubical building in the courtyard of the Great Mosque at Mecca containing a sacred black stone: regarded by Muslims as the House of God and the objective of their pilgrimages.
The ninth month of the Muslim calendar.
Literally translated as "the recitation." The sacred text of Islam, divided into 114 chapters, or suras: revered as the word of God, dictated to Muhammad by the archangel Gabriel, and accepted as the foundation of Islamic law, religion, culture, and politics.
Literally translated as "the god." Arabic-speakers of all Abrahamic faiths, including Christians and Jews, use the word "Allah" to mean "God".
The old Arab quarter of a North African city, located in Saudi Arabia. In AD 622 Muhammad and his followers traveled here after facing strong opposition from his own tribe in Mecca.
Muhammad's departure from Mecca to Medina in AD 622, prompted by the opposition of the merchants of Mecca. Created the first Muslim community, and is widely considered to mark the beginning of Islam.
Literally translated as "submission." The religion articulated by the Quran, a text considered by its adherents to be the verbatim word of Allah, and by the teachings and example of Muhammad. It is the world's second-largest religion and the fastest-growing major religion, with over 1.7 billion followers or 23% of the global population known as Muslims. An Abrahamic monotheistic religion that upholds that God is one and incomparable and that the purpose of existence is to worship God. Muslims consider Muhammad to be the last prophet of God.
Battle of Badr
Muhammad's attacks on caravans headed into and out of Mecca led the people of Mecca to send a force against him. The Battle of Badr, fought on March 13 AD 624 in present-day Saudi Arabia, was a key battle in the early days of Islam and a turning point in Muhammad's struggle with his opponents among the Quraysh in Mecca. The battle has been passed down in Islamic history as a decisive victory attributable to divine intervention. It is one of the few battles specifically mentioned in the Quran.
A person who follows or practices the religion of Islam, a monotheistic and Abrahamic religion based on the Quran. Considers the Quran to be the verbatim word of God as revealed to the Islamic prophet and messenger Muhammad
From an Arabic word that means "to succeed." An Islamic steward (or leader), a person considered a religious successor to the Islamic prophet Muhammad and a leader of the entire Muslim community.
Wars of Apostasy
Many of the Arab tribes decided that their loyalty to Islam ended when Muhammad died in AD 632. They sought political and religious independence. This breach provoked conflicts, and Abu Bakr's forces defeated all who sought independence. He maintained unity by military force. Bakr and his successors also sent Arab forces to attack areas of the Sassanid Empire to distract the Muslim soldiers from possible rebellion.
Uthmann, the third caliph, was killed by his own troops in AD 656 following a dispute. His army chose Ali, a cousin of Muhammad, as the next caliph. This led to a split that resulted in the two major groups in Islam. One group believes that Muhammad intended Ali, his cousin (and son-in-law), to be his successor. This group refers to their leader as Imam rather than caliph.
Uthmann, the third caliph, was killed by his own troops in AD 656 following a dispute. His army chose Ali, a cousin of Muhammad, as the next caliph. This led to a split that resulted in the two major groups in Islam. One group believes that Muhammad did not appoint a successor. Instead, they believe that any worthy Muslim could be selected to lead Islam. This group refers to their political leader as caliph and their spiritual leader as Imam.
An Islamic leadership position. It is most commonly in the context of a worship leader of a mosque and Muslim community by Sunni Muslims.
One of various reports describing the words, actions, or habits of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The term comes from Arabic meaning a "report", "account" or "narrative". Second only to the Quran in developing Islamic law, and regarded as an important tool for understanding the Quran. Based on spoken reports that were in circulation in society after the death of Muhammad. Different branches of Islam refer to different collections, and the relatively small sect of Quranists reject the authority of any of the collections.
Developed by Muhammad while still living in Medina. Basic acts in Islam, considered mandatory by believers and the foundation of Muslim life. The Shia and Sunni both agree on the essential details for the performance and practice of these acts. 1) Shahada: The declaration "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His prophet." 2) Salat: Prayer five times daily, observing strict rituals each time. 3) Zakat: Giving charity. Muslims are required to give at least 2.5 percent of their income to the needy. 4) Sawm: Fasting during the month of Ramadan. 5) Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime.
A law developed early in the history of Islam. Based on the teachings of Muhammad and those who have interpreted his teachings. The term means "way" or "path"; it is the legal framework within which the public and some private aspects of life are regulated for those living in a legal system based on Islam.
An Islamic term referring to the religious duty of Muslims to maintain and spread the religion. In Arabic, the word is a noun meaning the act of "striving, applying oneself, struggling, persevering". Some Muslims view this as a mental struggle for each believer to become a good Muslim. However, the Qu'ran uses this term in the context of a "holy war" against non-Muslims. From the beginning of Islam, Muhammad commanded his followers to kill or subdue all unbelievers.
Literally translated as "unfaithful." A term used in certain religions for those who do not believe the central tenets of one's own religion, are members of another religion, or are not religious.
The second of the four major Arab caliphates to succeed the Islamic prophet Muhammad. This caliphate was centered on a dynasty (family) hailing from Mecca. This family had first come to power under the third caliph, Uthman ibn Affan. Syria remained their main power base, and Damascus was their capital. This caliphate continued the Muslim conquests, incorporating the Caucasus, Transoxiana, Sindh, the Maghreb and the Iberian Peninsula (Al-Andalus) into the Muslim world. At its greatest extent, this caliphate covered 4,300,000 sq mi and 62 million people (29% of the world's population), making it one of the largest empires in history in both area and proportion of the world's population.
The capital and the largest city in Syria. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, it is also a major cultural and religious center. First settled in the second millennium BC, it was chosen as the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate from AD 661 to AD 750. After the victory of the Abbasid dynasty, the seat of Islamic power was moved to Baghdad.
The third of the four major Arab caliphates to succeed the Islamic prophet Muhammad. This dynasty descended from Muhammad's youngest uncle, Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib, from whom the dynasty takes its name. They assumed authority over the Muslim empire from the Umayyads in AD 750. This caliphate first centered its government in Kufa, but in 762 the caliph Al-Mansur founded the city of Baghdad. Their leadership over the vast Islamic empire was gradually reduced to a ceremonial religious function, but the dynasty retained control over Mesopotamia. The capital city of Baghdad became a center of science, culture, philosophy and invention.
The capital of Iraq. The largest city in Iraq, the second largest city in the Arab world (after Cairo, Egypt), and the second largest city in Western Asia (after Tehran, Iran). Located along the Tigris River, the city was founded in the 8th century and became the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. Within a short time of its inception, it evolved into a significant cultural, commercial, and intellectual center for the Islamic world. This, in addition to housing several key academic institutions (e.g. House of Wisdom), garnered the city a worldwide reputation as the "Center of Learning". Throughout the High Middle Ages, it was considered to be the largest city in the world with an estimated population of 1,200,000 people. The city was largely destroyed at the hands of the Mongol Empire in 1258, resulting in a decline that would linger through many centuries due to frequent plagues and multiple successive empires.
The capital city of the Byzantine Empire. It was inaugurated in AD 324 from ancient Byzantium as the new capital of the Roman Empire by Emperor Constantine the Great, after whom it was named, and dedicated on May 11, AD 330. From the mid-5th century to the early 13th century, it was the largest and wealthiest city in Europe and was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times as the home of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and as the guardian of Christendom's holiest relics such as the Crown of Thorns and the True Cross. While the Muslim armies conquered all the Byzantine lands in the middle east, they could not overpower this city. The city eventually fell to the Ottomans (Muslims) after a month-long siege in AD 1453.
An incendiary weapon developed c. 672 and used by the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. The Byzantines typically used it in naval battles to great effect, as it could continue burning while floating on water. It provided a technological advantage and was responsible for many key Byzantine military victories, most notably the salvation of Constantinople from two Arab sieges, thus securing the Empire's survival. The impression it made on the western European Crusaders was such that the name was applied to any sort of incendiary weapon, including those used by Arabs, the Chinese, and the Mongols. These, however, were different mixtures and not the Byzantine formula, which was a closely guarded state secret. Byzantine use of incendiary mixtures was distinguished by the use of pressurized nozzles to project the liquid onto the enemy. The exact composition is unknown to this day. It remains a matter of speculation and debate, with various proposals including combinations of pine resin, naphtha, quicklime, calcium phosphide, sulfur, or niter.
A statesman and military leader who, as Duke and Prince of the Franks and Mayor of the Palace, was de facto ruler of Francia from 718 until his death. Dealing with the Islamic advance into Western Europe was his foremost concern. Arab and Islamic forces had conquered Spain (AD 711), crossed the Pyrenees (AD 720), seized a major dependency of the Visigoths (AD 721-725), and advanced toward Gaul. In October 732, this leader confronted the army of the Umayyad Caliphate in an area between the cities of Tours and Poitiers (France), leading to a decisive, historically important Frankish victory known as the Battle of Tours, ending the "last of the great Arab invasions of France," a military victory termed "brilliant". Apart from the military endeavors, this leader is considered to be a founding figure of the European Middle Ages.