Revision:Causes of islamic conquest

  • Early Islamic conquests saw fragmented tribal society unified and led by a ruling elite committed to settlement and Islam.

 

  • Arab migrations to Fertile Crescent explained result of policy towards tribesmen. Recruited and settled in garrison towns – easier to control them and instruments of expansion and control. Incentives strong – wealth of army pay, respect

 

  • Little evidence migration to settle on rich new lands – emigrant tribesmen preferred to remain clustered in garrison towns or in quarters of established towns.

 

  • Overpopulation? Umar had difficulty recruiting for 3rd civil war and would surplus population survived in marginal environment? Tenuous at best does not explain sudden burst of energy.

 

  • Collapse of Arabian luxury trade – affects Quraysh and Thaqif and to send tribesmen forward to recapture this implies political integration with control. Migration state policy and implemented by the state – served economic interests of the ruling elites. “The sooner one settles, the sooner one receives a stipend”.

 

  • Difficult to assess strategic or tactical prowess as almost nothing known. Musims had no technological advantage and were inferior in terms of cavalry.

 

  • Conquests made easier by exhaustion of Byzantine and Sasanian Empire due to prolonged warfare, confusion that reigned in Sasanian ruling house, disruption caused by recent enemy occupation of Syria and Iraq, destruction wrought by immense floods in Southern Iraq, disaffection for religious and other reasons, convenience of inner lines of communication that Muslims enjoyed

 

  • Single most important – remarkable degree to which a new a new Islamic state with an expansionist policy could harness for its purposes rugged warriors of Arabia.

 

  • Rise of state made it possible to weld into a effective fighting force tribesmen whose energies had previously been consumed by petty quarrels among themselves and whose political horizons limited to own tribe and own affairs.

 

  • Success conquests first and foremost product of organizational breakthrough of proportions unparalleled in Arabian world.

 

  • How could have succeeded without rise of a state capable of integrate Arabia’s fragmented society and draw on it to attain well-defined political and military objectives. Not too rash to suggest might have succeeded without Byzantine and Sasanian troubles.

 

  • Muslims succeeded because able to organize effective conquest movement – impact new religion of Islam which provided ideological underpinnings for remarkable breakthrough in social organisations – truly an Islamic movement – Islam set of beliefs preached by Muhammad – social and political ramifications sparked whole integration process and hence ultimate cause of conquests’ success.

 

  • Question is why did they pursue expansionist aims? Religious reasons – the elite saw expansion as divine order or way forward – clearly felt by contemporaries to be profound effect – look at social and political changes. Islam provides ideological sanction for personal expansion aim. Either God’s will or ideologically comfort for persona desire.

 

  • Much of elite – Quraysh and Thawif and many Medinese expand political boundaries to secure the trans-Arabian commerce – or recapture routes that had moved north.

 

  • Ample evidence suggesting elite still interested in trade – Quraysh with long-standing links Syria may well have wanted to go there – financial advantages acquisition of properties, ability of state to levy taxes, booty in wealth and slaves – example ‘Utba b. Abi Sufyan Umar’s tax agent over Kinana tribe wanted to use money for trade.

 

  • Expansion in order to preserve hard-won position at top of the political hierarchy.

 

  • Policy of encouraging tribesmen to emigrate - upon which continual dominance based itself dependent on conquest of new domains in which emigrant tribesmen could be lodged – early strategy then to get Syria or Iraq or part of state’s drive to consolidate power over all Arab tribes including those on Syrian desert and fringes of Iraq. Process generated direct cashes with Byzantine and Sasanian Empires – led ultimately to conquest of Syria and Iraq - does not necessarily imply conquest of Syria and Iraq conscious objective from the start.

 

  • Absence of primary sources that might illuminate actual motivations – objectives will remain guesses - true causes of Islamic conquests will remain forever beyond grasp of historical analysis

GENERAL POINTS – starting point civilisation medieval Islam – beginning of the end of late antique world. Dramatic change political patterns prevailing led to geo-political realities turned upside down.