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The Islamic World to 1600

North Africa

Until the mid-7th century, North Africa west of Egypt was under Byzantine control. Egypt, as we have already seen, was conquered during Umar's reign between 640 and 645. The Arabs soon sought to gain territory further west, into the region they called the Maghrib, literally, the West. This territory consisted of present-day Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, and was collectively known as the Byzantine province of Africa. The Byzantines controlled several significant trading ports on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, but they did not have adequate control over the Berbers of the North African interior. A major reason for the success of the Arab conquest of North Africa would be the ability of the Muslims to gain the loyalty of the Berbers.
The Berbers

Byzantine influence in the region was wavering even before the first Arab invasion, and it was further weakened by the series of raids the Arabs conducted into the region immediately after capturing Egypt in 645. The Arabs' goal seemed to be more the protection of Egypt than making any new, permanent territorial gains, and thus no attempts at settlement were made at this

com/tore. the Arabs turned their attention to the conversion of the Berbers. because of its importance as the centre of the Islamic faith in the Maghrib. the city that The Great Mosque of Kairouan would become the Arab base in North Courtesy of LexicOrient Africa. Spain Before the Muslim invasion. the ancient city of Carthage. The Arabs first raided Carthage in 678. Tariq. they had conquered the former Roman and Byzantine city. Arab armies had taken Tangier under the command of a Berber. the Arabs had taken Tunisia. By 710. Tripoli fell again in 666.000 Berbers had been recruited into the Arab army. An official campaign to conquer North Africa began in 663. plagued by internal strife.htm third holiest city in Islam in the medieval period. With the Byzantine Empire defeated in virtually all its North African territories. and this time the Muslims ensured their control of their new lands by not immediately retreating to Egypt after the conquest. when the new Umayyad dynasty under Mu'awiya ushered in a new era of Muslim expansion. and by 675. the Arabs were able to focus on the true "prize" of North Africa. and by 695. but they did not follow that conquest with the establishment of a permanent Arab presence in the city. and with such Berber support. the Arabs were able to stretch their empire all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Kairouan would also become the http://i-cias. had been a Christian territory. 12. ruled by the Visigoths. By the early 8th century. the Iberian peninsula. which included present-day Spain and Portugal. and the Arabs soon controlled most major cities in Libya. The kingdom was weak in the early 8th century. The Arabs even succeeded in temporarily driving the Byzantines out of Tripoli in 645. a . after Mecca and Medina. From Kairouan.point. which was located just north of Kairouan. who then led them into Spain in 711. Tariq. By 670. No further raids were conducted until 661. they had completed construction of Kairouan.

An Arab Chronicle of the Battle of Poitiers The Muslims set up their Spanish capital at Cordoba in 717 and named their new territory Al-Andalus. Much of the Muslim settlement in the region was accomplished by Berber converts from North Africa who crossed the Straits of Gibraltar into Spain to pasture their animals. Central Asia The third region that the Umayyads chose as the focus of their expansion. Of particular advantage to Tariq and his army was a civil war that was raging over the kingdom's succession. Jabal Tariq. including Bordeaux." The disorganisation of the Spanish defenders proved to be their downfall. who would later establish one of Islam's greatest empires under the Ottomans. a province in eastern Persia. The area had been inhabited by a variety of Turkish communities. and it was not long after the conquest that the Umayyads began to realise the difficulty of governing such a distant territory. After that. As a province of the Umayyad caliphate. the Muslims remained on the southern side of the Pyrenees during their 700 years in Europe. This distance gave Muslim governors of Spain a great deal of independence. From Khurasan.Berber who led the Muslim forces into Spain in 711. The Muslims also wanted a route into China. or Mountain of Tariq. after North Africa and Spain. In 732 they were finally defeated by the Franks at the Battle of Poitiers. and the Muslims completed their conquest of most of the Iberian peninsula swiftly. They crossed the Pyrenees and occupied several Frankish cities. the Muslims crossed the Jaxartes River into China and briefly occupied the town of Kashgar in 714. In 715. the Umayyad capital. These conquests mark the introduction of Islam to the Turks. was the area of Central Asia stretching east to the Indus River. The inability of the Umayyads to effectively control their vast empire would be a great factor in their downfall in 750. . Tariq's military success in Spain led the conquerors to name the now-famous rock on the southern tip of Spain. Spain was a great distance from Damascus. took advantage of these weaknesses when he led the invasion. whose disunity made them an easy target for Muslim attack. That name has since become "Gibraltar. The Muslims were so confident after conquering almost all of Spain that they continued to push northeast into present-day France. A southern region of Spain today retains that name. the Muslims took the Central Asian cities of Bukhara and Samarkand. Andalucia. to enable their participation in the lucrative silk trade.

Proceed to the Collapse of the Umayyad Dynasty The Islamic World to 1600 / The University of Calgary Copyright © 1998. as Pakistan remains a Muslim state today. setting the stage for a further move into India in the future. they invaded the Sindh. The Applied History Research Group . In 712. That region has been Islamic for over 1. These Muslim conquests in Central Asia were also significant because they gained much of the territory of present-day Pakistan for Islam. in the Indus Valley. Muslim forces also conquered new territory further south.200 years.Meanwhile.