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After the death of Mahomet the question arose who was to be his “representative.” The choice lay with the community of Medina; so much was understood; but whom were they to choose? The natives of Medina believed themselves to be now once more masters in their own house, and wished to promote one of themselves. But the Emigrants (see Mahomet) asserted their opposing claims, and with success, having brought into the town a considerable number of outside Moslems, so as to terrorize the men of Medina, who besides were still divided into two parties. The Emigrants’ leading spirit was Omar; he did not, however, cause homage to be paid to himself, but to Abu Bekr, the friend and father-in-law of the Prophet. The affair would not have gone on so smoothly, had not the opportune defection of the Arabians put a stop to the inward schism which threatened. Islam suddenly found itself once more limited to the community of Medina; only Mecca and Tāif (Tāyef) remained true. The Bedouins were willing enough to pray, indeed, but less willing to pay taxes; their defection, as might have been expected, was a political movement.[2] None the less was it a revolt from Islam, for here the political society and the religious are identical. A peculiar compliment to Mahomet was involved in the fact that the leaders of the rebellion in the various districts did not pose as princes and kings, but as prophets; in this appeared to lie the secret of Islam’s success. 1. Reign of Abu Bekr.—Abu Bekr proved himself quite equal to the perilous situation. In the first place, he allowed the expedition against the Greeks, already arranged by Mahomet, quietly to set out, limiting himself for the time to the defence of Medina. On the return of the army he proceeded to attack 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.[3] 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;[4] 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.[5] 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,[6] 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 with the laws.” After the administration of justice he directed his organizing activity, as the circumstances demanded, chiefly towards financial questions—the incidence of taxation in the conquered territories,[7] and the application of the vast resources which poured into the treasury at Medina. It must not be brought against him as a personal reproach, that in dealing with these he acted on the principle that the Moslems were the chartered plunderers of all the rest of the world. But he had to atone by his death for the fault of his system. In the mosque at Medina he was stabbed by a Kufan workman and died in November 644. 3. Reign of Othman.—Before his death Omar had nominated six of the leading Mohajir (Emigrants) who should choose the caliph from among themselves—Othman, Ali, Zobair, Ṭalḥa, Sa‛d b. Abi Waqqāṣ, and Abdarraḥmān b. Auf. The last-named declinedl to be a candidate, and decided the election in favour of Othman. Under this weak sovereign the government of Islam fell entirely into the hands of the Koreish nobility. We have already seen that Mahomet himself prepared the way for this transference; Abu Bekr and Omar likewise helped it; the Emigrants were unanimous among themselves in thinking that the precedence and leadership belonged to them as of right. Thanks to the energy of Omar, they were successful in appropriating to themselves the succession to the Prophet. They indeed rested their claims on the undeniable priority of their services to the faith, but they also appealed to their blood relationship with the Prophet as a corroboration of their right to the inheritance; and the ties of blood connected them with the Koreish in general. In point of fact they felt a closer connexion with these than, for example, with the natives of Medina; nature had not been expelled by faith.[8] The supremacy of the Emigrants naturally furnished the means of transition to the supremacy of the Meccan aristocracy. Othman did all in his power to press forward this development of affairs. He belonged to the foremost family of Mecca, the Omayyads, and that he should favour his relations and the Koreish as a whole, in every possible way, seemed to him a matter of course. Every position of influence and emolument was assigned to them; they themselves boastingly called the important province of Irak the garden of Koreish. In truth, the entire empire had become that garden. Nor was it unreasonable that from the secularization of Islam the chief advantage should be reaped by those who best knew the world. Such were beyond all doubt the patricians of Mecca, and after them those of Tāif, people like Khālid b. al-Walīd, Amr-ibn-el-Ass, ‛Abdallah b. abī Sarḥ, Moghīra b. Sho‛ba, and, above all, old Abu Sofiān with his son Moawiya. Against the rising tide of worldliness an opposition, however, now began to appear. It was led by what may be called the spiritual noblesse of Islam, which, as distinguished from the hereditary nobility of Mecca, might also be designated as the nobility of merit, consisting of the “Defenders” (Ansar), and especially of the Emigrants who had lent themselves to the elevation of the Koreish, but by no means with the intention of allowing themselves thereby to be effaced. The opposition was headed by Ali, Zobair, Ṭalḥa, both as leading men among the Emigrants and as disappointed candidates for the Caliphate. Their motives were purely selfish; not God's cause but their own, not religion but power and preferment, were what they sought.[9] Their party was a mixed one. To it belonged the men of real piety, who saw with displeasure the promotion to the first places in the commonwealth of the great lords who had actually done nothing for Islam, and had joined themselves to it only at the last moment. But the majority were merely a band of men without views, whose aim was a change not of system, but of persons in their own interest. Everywhere in the provinces there was agitation against the caliph and his governors, except in Syria, where Othman's cousin, Moawiya, son of Abu Sofiān (see below), carried on a wise and strong administration. The movement was most energetic in Irak and in Egypt. Its ultimate aim was the deposition of Othman in favour of Ali, whose own services as well as his close relationship to the Prophet seemed to give him the best claim to the Caliphate. Even then, there were enthusiasts who held him to be a sort of Messiah. The malcontents sought to gain their end by force. In bands they came from the provinces to Medina to wring concessions from Othman, who, though his armies were spreading terror from the Indus and Oxus to the Atlantic, had no troops at hand in Medina. He propitiated the mutineers by concessions, but as soon as they had gone, he let matters resume their old course. Thus things went on from bad to worse. In the following year (656) the leaders of the rebels came once more from Egypt and Irak to Medina with a more numerous following; and the caliph again tried the plan of making promises which he did not intend to keep. But the rebels caught him in a flagrant breach of his word,[10] and now demanded his abdication, besieging him in his own house, where he was defended by a few faithful subjects. As he would not yield, they at last took the building by storm and put him to death, an old man of eighty. His death in the act of maintaining his rights was of the greatest service to his house and of corresponding disadvantage to the enemy. 4. Reign of Ali.—Controversy as to the inheritance at once arose among the leaders of the opposition. The mass of the mutineers summoned Ali to the Caliphate, and compelled even Ṭalḥa and Zobair to do him homage. But soon these two, along with Ayesha, the mother of the faithful, who had an old grudge against Ali, succeeded in making their escape to Irak, where at Baṣra they raised the standard of rebellion. Ali in point of fact had no real right to the succession, and moreover was apparently actuated not by piety but by ambition and the desire of power, so that men of penetration, even although they condemned Othman's method of government, yet refused to recognize his successor. The new caliph, however, found means of disposing of their opposition, and at the battle of the Camel fought at Baṣra in November 656, Ṭalḥa and Zobair were slain, and Ayesha was taken prisoner. But even so Ali had not secured peace. With the murder of Othman the dynastic principle gained the twofold advantage of a legitimate cry—that of vengeance for the blood of the grey-haired caliph and a distinguished champion, the governor Moawiya, whose position in Syria was impregnable. The kernel of his subjects consisted of genuine Arabs, not only recent immigrants along with Islam, but also old settlers who, through contact with the Roman empire and the Christian church, had become to some extent civilized. Through the Ghassanids these latter had become habituated to monarchical government and loyal obedience, and for a long time much better order had prevailed amongst them than elsewhere in Arabia. Syria was the proper soil for the rise of an Arabian kingdom, and Moawiya was just the man to make use of the situation. He exhibited Othman's blood-stained garment in the mosque at Damascus, and incited his Syrians to vengeance. Ali's position in Kufa was much less advantageous. The population of Irak was already mixed up with Persian elements; it fluctuated greatly, and was largely composed of fresh immigrants. Islam had its headquarters here; Kufa and Baṣra were the home of the pious and of the adventurer, the centres of religious and political movement. This movement it was that had raised Ali to the Caliphate, but yet it did not really take any personal interest in him. Religion proved for him a less trustworthy and more dangerous support than did the conservative and secular feeling of Syria for the Omayyads. Moawiya could either act or refrain from acting as he chose, secure in either case of the obedience of his subjects. Ali, on the other hand, was unable to convert enthusiasm for the principle inscribed on his banner into enthusiasm for his person. It was necessary that he should accommodate himself to the wishes of his supporters, which, however, were inconsistent. They compelled him suddenly to break off the battle of Sifiān, which he was apparently on the point of gaining over Moawiya, because the Syrians fastened copies of the Koran to their lances to denote that not the sword, but the word of God should decide the contest (see further below, B. 1; also Ali). But in yielding to the will of the majority he excited the displeasure of the minority, the genuine zealots, who in Moawiya were opposing the enemy of Islam, and regarded Ali's entering into negotiations with him as a denial of the faith. When the negotiations failed and war was resumed, the Kharijites refused to follow Ali's army, and he had to turn his armies in the first instance against them. He succeeded in disposing of them without difficulty at the battle of Nahrawān, but in his success he lost the soul of his following. For they were the true champions of the theocratic principle; through their elimination it became clear that the struggle had in no sense anything to do with the cause of God. Ali's defeat was a foregone conclusion, once religious enthusiasm had failed him; the secular resources at the disposal of his adversaries were far superior. Fortunately for him he was murdered (end of January 661), thereby posthumously attaining an importance in the eyes of a large part of the Mahommedan world (Shī‛a) which he had never possessed during his life.


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