In the beginning of the 6th century A.D. a dynasty known as the Jafnids, enter into the history alike of the Roman and Persian empires. They ruled over the tribe of Ghassān in the extreme north-west of Arabia, east of the Ghassān. Jordan, from near Petra in the south to the neighbourhood of Rosāfa in the north-east. Of their origin little is known except that they came from the south. A part of the same tribe inhabited Yathrib (Medina) at the time of Mahomet. The first certain prince of the Jafnid house was Hārith ibn Jabala, who, according to the chronicle of John Malalas, conquered Mondhir (Mundhir) of Hīra in 528. In the following year, according to Procopius, Justinian perceived the value of the Ghassānids as an outpost of the Roman empire, and as opponents of the Persian dependants of Hīra, and recognized Hārith as king of the Arabs and patrician of the Roman empire. He was thus constantly engaged in battles against Hīra. In 541 he fought under Belisarius in Mesopotamia. After his death about 569 or 570 the friendly relations with the West continued, but about 583 there was a breach. The Ghassānid kingdom split into sections each with its own prince. Some passed under the sway of Persia, others preserved their freedom at the expense of their neighbours. At this point their history ceases to be mentioned in the Western chronicles. There are references to the Ghassānid Nu’mān in the poems of Nābigha. Arabian tradition tells of their prince Jabala ibn Aiham who accepted Islam, after fighting against it, but finding it too democratic, returned to Christianity and exile in the Roman empire. As Islam advanced, some of the Ghassānids retreated to Cappadocia, others accepted the new faith.
In the last decade of the 5th century a new power arose in central Arabia. This was the tribe of Kinda under the sway of the family of Āqil ul Murār, who came from the south. They seem to have stood in much the same relation to Kinda. the rulers of Yemen, as the people of Hīra to the Persians and the Ghassānids to Rome. Abraha in his invasion of the Hejaz was accompanied by chiefs of Kinda. Details of their history are not known, but they seem to have gained power at one time even over the Lakhmids of Hīra; and to have ruled over Bahrein as well as Yemama until the battle of Shi‛b ul Jabala, when they lost this province to Hīra. The poet Amru‛ul Qais was a member of the princely family of Kinda.
Outside the territory of the powers mentioned above, Arabia in the 6th century was in a state of political chaos. Bahrein, inhabited chiefly by the Bani‛Abd Qais and the Bani Bakr, was largely subject to Persian influence near Other parts of Arabia. its coast, and a Persian governor, Sebocht, resided in Hajar, its chief town. In Oman the Arabs, who were chiefly engaged in fishing and seafaring, were Azdites mixed with Persians. The ruling dynasty of Julanda in their capital Suhār lasted on till the Abbasid period. No Persian officials are mentioned in this country; whether Persians exercised authority over it is doubtful. On the west coast of Arabia the influence of the kingdom of Yemen was felt in varying degree according to the strength of the rulers of that land. Apart from this influence the Hejaz was simply a collection of cities each with its own government, while outside the cities the various tribes governed themselves and fought continual battles with one another.
Time of Mahomet.—Thus at the time of Mahomet’s advent the country was peopled by various tribes, some more or less settled under the governments of south Arabia, Kinda, Hīra and Ghassān, these in turn depending on Abyssinia, Persia and Rome (i.e. Byzantium); others as in the Hejaz were ruled in smaller communities by members of leading families, while in various parts of the peninsula were wandering Arabs still maintaining the traditions of old family and tribal rule, forming no state, sometimes passing, as suited them, under the influence and protection of one or another of the greater powers. To these may be added a certain number of Jewish tribes and families deriving their origin partly from migrations from Palestine, partly from converts among the Arabs themselves. Mahomet appealed at once to religion and patriotism, or rather created a feeling for both. For Mahomet as a religious teacher and for the details of his career see Mahomet. It is enough here to outline his actions in so far as he attempted to create a united, and then a conquering, Arabia. Though the external conquests of the Arabs belong more properly to the period of the caliphate, yet they were the natural outcome of the prophet’s ideas. His idea of Arabia for the Arabians could only be realized by summoning the great kings of the surrounding nations to recognize Islam; otherwise Abyssinia, Persia and Rome (Byzantium) would continue their former endeavours to influence and control the affairs of the peninsula. Tradition tells that a few years before his death he did actually send letters to the emperor Heraclius, to the negus of Abyssinia, the king of Persia, and Cyrus, patriarch of Alexandria, the “Mukaukis” of Egypt, summoning them to accept Islam and threatening them with punishment in case of refusal. But the task of carrying out these threats fell to the lot of his successors; the work of the prophet was to be the subjugating and uniting of Arabia. This work, scarcely begun in Mecca, was really started after the migration to Medina by the formation of a party of men—the Muhājirun (Refugees or Emigrants) and the Ansār (Helpers or Defenders)—who accepted Mahomet as their religious leader. As the necessity of overcoming his enemies became urgent, this party became military. A few successes in battle attracted to him men who were interested in fighting and who were willing to accept his religion as a condition of membership of his party, which soon began to assume a national form. Mahomet early found an excuse for attacking the Jews, who were naturally in the way of his schemes. The Bani Nadīr were expelled, the Bani Quraiza slaughtered. By the time he had successfully stormed the rich Jewish town of Khaibar, he had found that it was better to allow industrious Jews to remain in Arabia as payers of tribute than to expel or kill them: this policy he followed afterwards. The capture of Mecca (630) was not only an evidence of his growing power, which induced Arabs throughout the peninsula to join him, but gave him a valuable centre of pilgrimage, in which he was able by a politic adoption of some of the heathen Arabian ceremonies into his own rites to win men over the more easily to his own cause. At his death in 623 Mahomet left Arabia practically unified. It is true that rival prophets were leading rebellions in various parts of Arabia, that the tax-collectors were not always paid, and that the warriors of the land were much distressed for want of work owing to the brotherhood of Arabs proclaimed by Mahomet. The tribes were a seething mass of restlessness, their old feuds ready to break out again. But they had realized that they had common interests. The power of the foreigner in Arabia was broken. Islam promised rich booty for those who fought and won, paradise for those who fell.
Early Caliphs. I. Conquest.—One task of the early caliphs was to find an outlet for the restless fighting spirit. Abu Bekr (632-634), the first of these caliphs, was a man of simple life and profound faith. He understood the intention of Mahomet as to foreign nations, and set himself resolutely to carry it out in the face of much difficulty. Hence as soon as he assumed office he sent out the army already chosen to advance against the Romans in the north. The successful reduction of the rebels in Arabia enabled him in his first year to send his great general Khālid with his Arab warriors first against Persians, then against Romans. His early death prevented him from seeing the fruits of his policy. Under the second caliph Omar (634-644) the Persians were defeated at Kadesiya (Kadessia), and Irak was completely subdued and the new cities of Kufa and Basra were