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24
CALIPHATE

the rebels. The holy spirit of Islam kept the men of Medina together, and inspired in them an all-absorbing zeal for the faith; the Arabs as a whole had no other bond of union and no better source of inspiration than individual interest. As was to be expected, they were worsted; eleven small flying columns of the Moslems, sent out in various directions, sufficed to quell the revolt. Those who submitted were forthwith received back into favour; those who persevered in rebellion were punished with death. The majority accordingly converted, the obstinate were extirpated. In Yamama (Yemama) only was there a severe struggle; the Banū Ḥanīfa under their prophet Mosailima fought bravely, but here also Islam triumphed.

The internal consolidation of Islam in Arabia was, strange to say, brought about by its diffusion abroad. The holy war against the border countries which Mahomet had already inaugurated, was the best means for making the new religion popular among the Arabs, for opportunity was at the same time afforded for gaining rich booty. The movement was organized by Islam, but the masses were induced to join it by quite other than religious motives. Nor was this by any means the first occasion on which the Arabian cauldron had overflowed; once and again in former times emigrant swarms of Bedouins had settled on the borders of the wilderness. This had last happened in consequence of the events which destroyed the prosperity of the old Sabaean kingdom. At that time the small Arabian kingdoms of Ghassān and Hira had arisen in the western and eastern borderlands of cultivation; these now presented to Moslem conquest its nearest and natural goal. But inasmuch as Hira was subject to the Persians, and Eastern Palestine to the Greeks, the annexation of the Arabians involved the extension of the war beyond the limits of Arabia to a struggle with the two great powers (see further Arabia: History).

After the subjugation of middle and north-eastern Arabia, Khālid b. al-Walīd proceeded by order of the caliph, to the conquest of the districts on the lower Euphrates. Thence he was summoned to Syria, where hostilities had also broken out. Damascus fell late in the summer of 635, and on the 20th of August 636 was fought the great decisive battle on the Hieromax (Yarmuk), which caused the emperor Heraclius (q.v.) finally to abandon Syria.[1] Left to themselves, the Christians henceforward defended themselves only in isolated cases in the fortified cities; for the most part they witnessed the disappearance of the Byzantine power without regret. Meanwhile the war was also carried on against the Persians in Irak, unsuccessfully at first, until the tide turned at the battle of Kadisiya (Kadessia, Qādisīya) (end of 637). In consequence of the defeat which they here sustained, the Persians were forced to abandon the western portion of their empire and limit themselves to Iran proper. The Moslems made themselves masters of Ctesiphon (Madāin), the residence of the Sassanids on the Tigris, and conquered in the immediately following years the country of the two rivers. In 1639 the armies of Syria and Irak were face to face in Mesopotamia. In a short time they had taken from the Aryans all the principal old Semitic lands—Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, Assyria and Babylonia. To these was soon added Egypt, which was overrun with little difficulty by 'Amr ibn-el-Ass (q.v.) in 640. (See Egypt: History, § Mahommedan.) This completed the circle of the lands bordering on the wilderness of Arabia, within these limits annexation was practicable and natural, a repetition indeed of what had often previously occurred. The kingdoms of Ghassan and Hira, advanced posts hitherto, now became the headquarters of the Arabs; the new empire had its centres on the one hand at Damascus, on the other hand at Kufa and Baṣra, the two newly-founded cities in the region of old Babylonia. The capital of Islam continued indeed for a while to be Medina, but soon the Hejaz (Hijaz) and the whole of Arabia proper lay quite on the outskirt of affairs.

The ease with which the native populations of the conquered districts, exclusively or prevailingly Christian, adapted themselves to the new rule is very striking. Their nationality had been broken long ago, but intrinsically it was more closely allied to the Arabian than to the Greek or Persian. Their religious sympathy with the West was seriously impaired by dogmatic controversies; from Islam they might at any rate hope for toleration, even though their views were not in accordance with the theology of the emperor of the day. The lapse of the masses from Christianity to Islam, however, which took place during the first century after the conquest, is to be accounted for only by the fact that in reality they had no inward relation to the gospel at all. They changed their creed merely to acquire the rights and privileges of Moslem citizens. In no case were they compelled to do so; indeed the Omayyad caliphs saw with displeasure the diminishing proceeds of the poll-tax derived from their Christian subjects (see Mahommedan Institutions).

It would have been a great advantage for the solidity of the Arabian empire if it had confined itself within the limits of those old Semitic lands, with perhaps the addition of Egypt. But the Persians were not so ready as the Greeks to give up the contest; they did not rest until the Moslems had subjugated the whole of the Sassanid empire. The most important event in the protracted War which led to the conquest of Iran, was the battle of Nehāwend in 641;[2] the most obstinate resistance was offered by Persia proper, and especially by the capital, Istakhr (Persepolis). In the end, all the numerous and partly autonomous provinces of the Sassanid empire fell, one after the other, into the hands of the Moslems, and the young king, Yazdegerd III. (q.v.), was compelled to retire to the farthest corner of his realm, where he came to a miserable end.[3] But it was long before the Iranians learned to accept the situation. Unlike the Christians of western Asia, they had a vigorous feeling of national pride, based upon glorious memories and especially upon a church having a connexion of the closest kind with the state. Internal disturbances of a religious and political character and external disasters had long ago shattered the empire of the Sassanids indeed, but the Iranians had not yet lost their patriotism. They were fighting, in fact, against the despised and hated Arabs, in defence of their holiest possessions, their nationality and their faith. Their subjection was only external, nor did Islam ever succeed in assimilating, them as the Syrian Christians were assimilated. Even when in process of time they did accept the religion of the prophet, they leavened it thoroughly with their own peculiar leaven, and, especially, deprived it of the practical political and national character which it had assumed after the flight to Medina. To the Arabian state they were always a thorn in the flesh; it was they who helped most to break up its internal order, and it was from them also that it at last received its outward death-blow. The fall of the Omayyads was their work, and with the Omayyads fell the Arabian empire.

2. Reign of Omar.—Abu Bekr died after a short reign on the 22nd of August 634, and as a matter of course was succeeded by Omar. To Omar's ten years' Caliphate belong for the most part the great conquests. He himself did not take the field, but remained in Medina with the exception of his visit to Syria in 638; he never, however, suffered the reins to slip from his grasp, so powerful was the influence of his personality and the Moslem community of feeling. His political insight is shown by the fact that he endeavoured to limit the indefinite extension of Moslem conquest, to maintain and strengthen the national Arabian character of the commonwealth of Islam,[4] and especially to promote law and order in its internal affairs. The saying with which he began his reign will never grow antiquated: “by Allah, he that is weakest among you shall be in my sight the strongest, until I have vindicated for him his rights; but him that is strongest will I treat as the weakest, until he complies

  1. De Goeje, Mémoires d'hist. et de géog. orient. No. 2 (2nd ed., Leiden, 1864); Nöldeke, D.M.Z., 1875, p. 76 sqq.; Balādhurī 137.
  2. The accounts differ; see Balādhurī 305. The chronology of the conquests is in many points uncertain.
  3. Balādhurī 315 sq.; Tabarī i. 1068.
  4. He sought to make the whole nation a great host of God; the Arabs were to be soldiers and nothing else. They were forbidden to acquire landed estates in the conquered countries; all land was either made state property or was restored to the old owners subject to a perpetual tribute which provided pay on a splendid scale for the army.