Arabs and Islam in the Middle East

The Rise of the Arab and Islam in Greater Middle-East/ Gulf against Byzantines and Persians

After the death of Muhammad, what followed was one of the most outstanding military campaigns in history. The Arabs spread Islam in the Middle East in an amazingly high speed and within a short time. The conquests that were carried out by the sword began in the harsh Arabia deserts and spread as far as Spain, Portugal, Southwest of the Pacific, and East and Central Asia. One of the most fascinating elements of the spread of Islam was the way the new religion of the Arab tribes rapidly became one of the major religions of the world and succeeded against the Byzantines and Persians.

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The era of the Umayyad and the Abbasids is also known as the period of the high caliphate. During this time of the high caliphate, the Umayyad and family reigned in Islam. The relative power of different individuals changed as non-Arabs converted to Islam and adopted the Arabic language, which enhanced the spread of Islam. Importantly noted, the Byzantine Empire was quite huge and difficult to conquer. In fact, as Goldschmidt and Davidson (2006) elaborate, if you had asked people during this period who would rule the Middle East in the coming generation, the majority would have said the Byzantine Empire or maybe some new Roman or Persian dynasty. The Arab armies were small and under-equipped, while some had not embraced the Muslim zeal. However, despite their weaknesses, the Arabs conquered the Byzantine Empire as they were favored by various factors. For instance, according to Goldschmidt and Davidson, although the Arabs armies were small, they were more organized and engaged in few wars that resulted in decisive victories and enabled them to gain vast expanses of territories. Similarly, although some Arabs belonged to the Christian tribes estranged from the Byzantines, this did not prevent them from fighting for the caliphate. The people under the Byzantine rule were discontented and viewed the Arab fighters as liberators. Along with that, in an attempt to abolish the dependency of the Muslim Arabs from the Byzantine Empire, al-Malik who took power in 691 from his father introduced the first Muslim coin.

Military Successes of the Umayyad and Abbasids Arab Empires

After the death of Muhammad, a caliph ruled the Muslim territory, which was theocratic to a political as well as religious authority. The Umayyad caliphate took up power after the Sunni-Shiite split in 656 to 661 (McCannon, 2006). The Umayyad ruled from Damascus and Syria and expanded the Islam Military conquest. During this time, the caliphs made official the Arabic language and even imposed taxations to people who resisted converting to Islam. During the military successes one ruler stood out; al-Malik who played a critically significant role in establishing the Arab Empire. His successor was no different as he expanded the Muslim territory to modern-day Syria and Portugal. Along with that, the greatest conquests was when the armies headed east of Persia and managed to conquer the Turks, and moved on to Transoxiana and later northwest border of China. Unfortunately, a series of rebellious resistance led to the collapse of the Umayyad Empire and gave rise to the Abbasid Caliphate, which ruled from 750 to 1258. After the Abbasid took power, they continued in their conquest to expand their Empire as they drove off the Byzantines from the West side of the Mediterranean.  As Goldschmidt and Davidson (2006) note, the accession of the Abbasid to power was a turning point in the history of Islam. Like other historic revolutions, the rise of the Abbasids saw the shift of power from Syria to Iraq, the rise of the Persian effect, the growing desire to spread Islam all over Europe, and the ever increasing interest in arts of civilization.


Goldschmidt, A., & Davidson, L. (2006). A concise history of the Middle East. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.

McCannon, J. (2006). Barron’s how to prepare for the AP world history examination. Hauppauge, N.Y: Barron’s.

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