Dynasties and Empires of the Muslim World

The next fourteen hundred years (see previous article) are a remarkable story of dynasties and empires struggling for power across the globe. We begin with the Umayyad Dynasty.

The Umayyad Dynasty

The Umayyad Dynasty lasted for nearly one hundred years (661 – 750). The successor dynasty, Abbasid caliphate (750 – 1258), brought the rule of Islam into a new dimension of political power and wealth. Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid caliphs, became a major center for the political and economical activity of the empire. During this period the Islamic community experienced a renaissance in art, craft, education, science, commerce and law.

By the end of the tenth century, the caliphs lost their political power, and the empire began to break up into smaller provinces led by governors and warlords. Different political and religious views caused more division within the Islamic community.

The Mongol Invasion

In 1258 Baghdad fell under the Mongol army. The Mongol invasion was devastating. However, the Muslims converted their Mongol and Tatar conquerors, and by the fifteenth century the Islamic community had recovered.

Three New Empires

From the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries Islam expanded into many new territories around the world. The political power of the Islamic community rose to new heights again with the uprising of three new empires – the Mughal in India, the Safavieh in Iran and the Ottoman in Anatolia (Turkey). These three empires had control over most of North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, India and central Asia. During the reign of these three empires, Islam spread throughout many new regions in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and many were converted to Islam.

The Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire was the most aggressive of them all and was the leading force against the Byzantine Empire. By the end of the thirteenth century the Ottomans had conquered several Byzantine provinces, including Greece and Bulgaria, Constantinople, long a bulwark of Christendom against the Muslim advance, fell in 1453 and became Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire.

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the Ottoman Turkish Empire continued to expand, especially under Suleiman the Magnificent (1520 – 1566). Its advance to the West was stopped at the gates of Vienna in 1529, but it expanded southeastward, occupying Iraq and parts of Arabia. This was a time of bloodshed and horror for many.

The Safavieh empire fell in the eighteenth century and Mughal Empire fell in the nineteenth century. The Ottoman Empire continued but their siege of Vienna in 1683 failed as it had in 1529. By 1699 the Ottomans had suffered several defeats by the Ho0ly Alliance of Austria, Poland, Venice and the Russians. Greece became independent in 1829, and Algeria was occupied by the French in 1830. In 1922 the Ottoman Empire was abolished and was replaced by the Turkish republic.

The Twentieth Century

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries became an era of European colonization of the Muslim states. By the beginning of 1900 there were few Islamic states left. The British and French took control of most of the Islamic world. However, after World War II most of these colonies became independent and joined the United Nations – Iraq in 1932, Syria in 1947, Indonesia in 1950, Egypt in 1952, Morocco, Tunisia and Sudan in 1956, Malaysia in 1957, Nigeria in 1960 and Algeria in 1962.


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