webAfriqa Library

UNESCO — General History of Africa
Volume I. Methodology and African Prehistory

Joseph Ki-Zerbo, ed. 1981, 820 pp.

2. — M. El Fasi and I. Hrbek
The coming of Islam and the expansion of the Muslim empire

In Chapter I an attempt was made to look at the main events in the Old World in their relations to African history In the period between the first/ seventh and fifth/eleventh centuries. This survey indicated that one of the most dynamic forces at work during this period was Islamic society in all its manifestations in the spheres of religion, politics, economics and culture.
The purpose of this chapter is to describe the coming of Islam, its political expansion and doctrinal evolution, as the background needed for a better understanding of historical and ideological issues that will be dealt with or touched upon in this as well as in the remaining volumes of the General History of Africa.

Preliminary remarks

From the Islamic point of view it is not correct to say that the Prophet Muhammad Is the founder of Islam or that he was preaching a new faith. Islam is not the name of some unique faith presented for the first time by Muhammad, as he was the last of the prophets each reiterating the faith of his predecessor. This is based on the following Islamic doctrine: God having, since He created men, sent prophets to guide them and to show them the best path to follow on earth and prepare for their eternal bliss, decided at last that mankind had reached such a degree of perfection that it was fit to receive His last revelation and to understand and appreciate the laws that should govern its behaviour in every field. His choice for the role of this last prophet fell on an Arab from the town of Mecca called Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah, belonging to the tribe of Kuraysh.
Muhammad's predecessors in the prophetic missions were — apart from some lesser figures — Abraham, Moses and Jesus Christ, who all preached belief in one unique God on the ground of scriptures that were sent and revealed to them from Heaven. Those who believed in those prophets and scriptures, Jews and Christians, are called ahl al-Kitāb (people of the Book) and as possessors of a part of the revealed truth, have the right to special consideration from Muslims. It was God's purpose from the start to let all mankind believe solely in Him as the highest being. Thus the successive messages contained two main tenets: monotheism and universality. The first people to be given this message were the Jews but in the course of their history they deviated from the original message by usurping the monotheistic belief for themselves and denying it to others. To rectify this deviation from His original purpose God sent Jesus, who indeed restored the universality of monotheism. But the Christians, like the Jews, deviated, this time by proclaiming Jesus son of God and thus abandoning the monotheistic creed. And it was Muhammad who was entrusted with the mission of bringing the whole of humanity back to genuine universal monotheism, Islam. Muhammad is thus not the founder of Islam, a religion that already existed 1, but the last in the chain of the prophets, being the “Seal of the prophets” (khātimu l-anbiyā'). Islam thus venerates all preceding prophets as messengers of God's will. According to the Islamic doctrine, Jesus was a mere mortal, although it was God's will to make his birth a miracle like the creation of the first man, Adam, ancestor of the human race. It does not follow that he had the least particle of divinity. His mother, the Virgin, our lady Miryam — mawlātunā Miryam as the Muslims call her — enjoys the greatest respect in the Islamic world. Jesus was not killed by the Jews but God recalled him to His presence. He did not need to redeem the sin of Adam since God forgave Adam before compelling him to leave paradise and live on earth.
Muhammad himself insisted that he was only a man and made a clear distinction between his humanity and his role as Prophet: “I am a mortal like you. In matters revealed to me by God, you must obey my instructions. But you know more about your own worldly affairs than I do. So my advice in these matters is not binding.” 2 But since it was inconceivable that Muhammad as the Messenger of God would act contrary to Divine will, belief in his guidance in worldly matters became firmly established in the Islamic faith. We will return to the role of Prophetic tradition (sunna) later.

The life of Muhammad

It would obviously take too long to recount the Prophet's life here in detail. Since there exists a vast literature in several languages dealing with it, we will point out only the main events.
The Arabian peninsula on the eve of the seventh century of the Christian era was inhabited by a great number of politically independent tribes who together formed a linguistic and cultural community. The majority of them were nomads (Beduins) but in South Arabia as well as in numerous oases sedentary populations practised agriculture. Along the ancient trade route leading from the shores of the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean existed a few towns whose inhabitants were engaged in commerce but still retained the customs and moral code of the nomads. Mecca was the main commercial and religious centre of Arabia. The religion of the pre-Islamic Arabs was largely animistic and gods or spirits believed to inhabit blocks of stone, rocks trees or wells were worshipped. Some of the gods were of astral origin (the Sun, the planet Venus). There was also a notion of a supreme being called Allah but he was not the object of worship; more important seems to have been the worship of Al-Lāt, “the goddess”. The idols of some of these gods were set up in an ancient sanctuary in Mecca known as the Ka'ba. In general the Arabs in these times — both nomadic and sedentary — cared little for religious matters, religion being for them only a part of the customs of their forefathers.
In Arabia there were also large settlements of people of Jewish faith; many of them were converted Arabs who lived mainly in oases and had a similar “tribal” organization to the Arabs, who practised traditional religion. Christianity had found its way into Arabia very early; its main centres were in South Arabia (Nadjran) and on the fringes of the desert in Mesopotamia and Transjordan. Individual Christians were scattered in all towns while in the desert lived solitary monks.
But it was first to the pagan Arabs that Muhammad was sent with the Divine message. Born in Mecca after his father's death and early orphaned, he had spent his life as a trader until he was 40. He was known for his probity and justice in all his dealings; in no other way was he distinguished from the others. In about the year 61o of the Christian era he received the first revelation of God. Dictated to him by the angel Gabriel this ordered him to preach Islam to his fellow men. These first revelations centred on the unity of God and the last day and exhorted men not to neglect religion in favour of worldly business. They also contained a statement of the principles of equality of all men without regard to their social position or wealth.
When Muhammad started his preaching and assembled around himself a small communitv of believers, the Meccan oligarchy of wealthy merchants and bankers soon became aware of the revolutionary content of the message and considered it a threat to their privileges. There was also the danger that Mecca as the centre of Arabic traditional religion with its sanctuary of the Ka'ba would lose its importance through the new religion. The annual pilgrimage visited by thousands of the Arabs from the whole peninsula, was a source of considerable profit for the Meccan merchants. And although Muhammad at the beginning did not aspire to any political leadership in Mecca, his moral and intellectual qualities strengthened by his Prophetic mission and communication with God made him in the eyes of the oligarchy a dangerous rival. So the history of Muhammad and his community until the year 622 is a story of persecution and even attempts on the Prophet's life. Under these circumstances the Prophet ordered several of the new converts including one of his daughters and her husband to emigrate to Christian Ethiopia where they were friendly received by the Negus 3. The idea of leaving a country where injustice, oppression and persecution are prevalent, and taking refuge somewhere else where the Muslims can gather their forces before returning to renew their quest for life according to Islamic principles, is a key idea in Islam, repeated often in the subsequent history of many Islamic revivalist movements.
When the persecutions reached their peak, Muhammad and his followers moved to the oasis town of Yathrib, subsequently called Madīnat al-Nabī (the City of the Prophet), shortly to be known as Medina. This happened in the year 622 of the Christian era and that date is the first year of the Muslim calendar. The transfer from Mecca to Medina is called hidjra; the usual translation “the flight” is incorrect as the true meaning of the Arabic word is “severing previous tribal ties and entering into new ones”.

Representation of Medina
Plate 2. Representation of Medina: this plaque shows, in elevation, the Mosque of Medina built
on the site of the house of Muhammad, whose tomb is situated in the prayer room. After
accomplishing the pilgrimage to Mecca, many Muslims come to Medina to honour the memory
of the Prophet. These plaques, which decorated the walls of the mosques, from the seventeenth
century on war were probably donated by pilgrims.

Muhammad was invited to Medina by its inhabitants who came to be known as Ansār (the Helpers); the Meccan emigrants were called Muhādjirūn (those who undertook the hidjra, or Emigrants) and these two groups form together the Ashāb — the Companions — (of the Prophet). In the next years until his death, in 11/632 the Prophet strengthened and governed the Muslim community (Arabic, umma), beat off the attacks of his Meccan enemies and gained supremacy by means of diplomacy and war over a wide confederacy of the Arab “tribes”. When he was sufficiently strong he returned to Mecca as the victor and religious and political leader whose authority was supreme. At the time when God recalled him from this life, Muhammad was virtually lord of most of Arabia and already prepared to expand Islam outside the peninsula.

The Quranic teachings

Both in Mecca and Medina the Prophet received a continuous flow of revelations in the form of verses (āya, pl., āyāt) arranged in chapters (sūra, pl., sūrāt). The 114 sūras of unequal length form together the Quran.
The Quran is not a “holy book” written by Muhammad. The word means recitation and what Muhammad did was to recite the word of God spoken to him by the angel Gabriel. “The Quran is purely divine, while at the same time being intimately related to the inmost personality of the Prophet Muhammad. The Divine Word flowed through the Prophet's heart.” 4 It is not, as generally believed, the Bible of Muslims; the position of the Quran in Islam is quite different because for Muslims the Quran is what Christ himself is for the Christians: the Word of God. The nearest parallel in Islam to the Christian New Testament as the record of Jesus's deeds and sayings is the hadīth. It would be therefore highly blasphemous to attempt to apply textual criticism to the Quran as was done with the Bible, whereas criticism of the hadīth is permissible and has since early times been exercised by Muslim scholars.
The teachings of the Quran are comprehensive and destined to give man guidance in his relations with God as well as with other members of human society. The Quranic precepts and principles form the basis of the Islamic faith.
The first principle is the absolute monotheism expressed in perhaps the shortest and simplest credo of any religion in the world: “There is no god but God and Muhammad is the Prophet of God.” To pronounce this short sentence (shahāda) is all that a convert to Islam needs to do to become a Muslim. The belief in Muhammad's prophetic nature is an integral part of this credo because without his prophetic mission the perfection of Islam would not exist.
The shahāda thus forms the first of what are called the “Five Pillars of Islam (arkān al-islām). The second is the duty of every Muslim to perform ritual prayer (salāt) five times a day. The prayers fix the minds of the believers on God throughout the whole day. It is recommended that prayers should be performed in common with others standing and sitting in ordered rows; all believers pronounce them facing the direction of Mecca. An indispensable part of the prayer is the prescribed ablution before its performance. Thus the prayers have also a practical hygienic value and instil in men the values of collective discipline.

Representation of Mecca
Plate 2.2 Representation of Mecca: this plaque, which was made in Iznik, shows in elevation,
the plan of the Great Mosque of Mecca with its seven minarets, In the middle of the courtyard
one can see the Ka'ba — said to have been built by Abraham — in an angle of which is embedded
the Black Stone that every Muslim should, if possible, come to worship at least once in his
lifetime. Each small building — and each door — is designated by its name in Naskhi script.
Above the plan a Quranic inscription, also cursive (Sūra 3: 90-2), recalls the duty of pilgrimage.

The third pillar is the fast (saum) which consists of forgoing all material pleasures (eating, drinking, sexual relations etc.) from dawn (not from sunrise as is often believed) to sunset during Ramadan, the tenth month of the lunar year. Hence the expression “to observe Ramadān”, meaning to observe the Muslim fast. The sick, persons travelling during Ramadan, women in labour, workers engaged in arduous tasks and warriors in campaign are exempt from the fast provided that they fast for an equivalent number of days at another time of the year. Fasting is an act of renunciation, of self-denial and as such enhances the spiritual life. It also teaches the rich to undergo the pangs of hunger and so to sympathize with the poor who suffer these privations during the whole year.
The fourth pillar is a highly important obligation to society. It is the compulsory alms known as zakāt which consists in giving to the poor and to certain categories of needy persons a part of the goods that have remained in one's possession for the whole year. This portion varies from 2.5 per cent to io per cent. The zakāt not only emphasized the importance of charity but was also necessary in the early days of Islam to sustain the community which was composed largely of poor emigrants without any means. The zakāt was collected by the Islamic community (umma) and then divided among the categories indicated by the Quran. It corresponded to the modern social welfare of the state.
The fifth pillar is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca (hadjdj). This institution reflects Islam's continuous concern that men should get to know one another and meet as often as possible. It is in the hadjdj that the universel message of Islam is most visible and evident as the Muslims from every corner of the world assemble in the month of Dhu l-hidjdja at Mecca to perform various ceremonies whose purpose is to commemorate Abraham's sacrifice at this place. The pilgrimage is obligatory for every Muslim but he is compelled to carry out this duty only if he has the means to do it, if there is no danger on the journey, or if his health is good. He must also be able to leave his family with sufficient means during his absence. For all these reasons the number of people able to carry out this duty is small in relation to the total number of Muslims. But even so, the hadjdj is the largest multinational gathering of human beings on the face of the earth today. Those who perform it are given in these few days a visible proof that they are members of a vast worldwide brotherhood of Islam without distinction of race or language. It fills the pilgrim with a deep awareness of Islamic values and makes him a venerated person after his return as one who was present at the place where the Prophet Muhammad lived and where God revealed the Quran.
Another set of Muslim beliefs is contained in Surā 4, verse 135: “Believe in God and in His Prophet and in the Book which He has sent down to His Prophet and the books which He sent down formerly. He who disbelieves in God and His angels, His books and His apostles and the Last Day, has strayed away [from the truth].”
The Day of judgment is one of the cornerstones of the Islamic faith; the whole history of mankind will find its end by the resurrection and the Day of judgment. The dead await this hour in their tombs whereas the Prophets and martyrs go directly to paradise. All people will appear at the Last judgment before God to be judged according to their deeds and then sent either to paradise (djanna, lit. garden) or to hell.
The Quran also contains a number of prohibitions and recommendati(ns for the worldly life. It forbids the eating of pork and some other animals and the drinking of wine and other alcoholic drinks. In Surā 17, verses 23-40 we find guidance for everyday behaviour: ostentatious waste, pride and haughtiness are condemned and the Faithful are ordered to give just weight and measure.
Although slavery is considered to be a recognized institution, slaves must be kindly treated, allowed to marry and encouraged to buy their liberty. Masters are recommended to free slaves who are believers 5.
Islam proclaims the equality of men and women. The Prophet proclaimed that “Women are fully men's sisters before the law.” Customs wholly alien to the orthodox doctrine have masked this fine aspect of Islam. But in law Muslim women have enjoyed a legal status that women in other religious systems might until recently have envied them. Muslim women have always had the right to go to law without referring to their husbands and to administer their property independently of them. A woman is not required to bring her husband a dowry, it is the latter who is compelled to pay the bride a certain sum and to give her certain gifts, all of which becomes the wife's personal property.
The Quran allows a man four legal wives; it thus constituted progress compared with pre-Islamic times when polygamy was unrestricted. Islam, moreover, subjected polygamy to such conditions that it could be regarded as having taken a step towards the abolition or at least a diminution of this social phenomenon. This is clearly to be seen from these Quranic verses: “Marry of the women who seem good to you, two or three or four; but if you fear that you cannot do justice [to so many] then marry one only or any female war-captive you may possess” (4:3) and “You will not be able to deal equally between your wives, even if you wish it” (4: 29) 6.

Sharī'a and fikh

Islam is not only a religion, it is a complete way of life, catering for all the fields of human existence. Islam provides guidance for all walks of life; individual and social, material and moral, economic and political, legal and cultural, national and international 7.
The sharī'a is the detailed code of conduct comprising the precepts governing modes and ways of worship and standards of morals and life. It consists of laws that allow and prescribe and that judge between right and wrong. Though each Prophet had the same dīn (religious faith), he brought with him a different sharī'a that would suit the conditions of his time and his people. Muhamnmd as the last Prophet brought with him the final code which was to apply to all mankind for all time to come. The previous sharī'a were thus abrogated in view of the comprehensive sharī'a of Muhammad.

Quran leaf in Kufi script
Plate 2.3 Quran kaf'in Kufic script, ninth century, Abbasia (Iraq)

The sources of the Islamic sharī'a are the Quran and the hadīth, i.e. the words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad preserved and handed down by his Companions. Thousands of hadīth were sifted and collected by scholars in collections of traditions, the most famous of them being those of al-Bukhāri (d. 256/87o) and Abu Muslim (d. 261/875). The content of the Prophetic tradition is called sunna, i.e. the conduct and behaviour of Muhammad.
The science that codifies and explains the prescripts of sharī'a, is called fikh and the scholars who are concerned with it are the fakīhs (Arabic pl., fukahā') or doctors of law; fikh being the Islamic science par excellence, the fakīhs are considered as scholars ('ulāmā', sing., 'ālim).
After the great conquest of many countries with different social and economic conditions inherited from ancient times, a number of problems were encountered by the Muslim community. Others arose from the establishment of a state widely different from and more complex than the original community in Medina. Since the Quran seldom deals with particular cases and sets out only general principles governing the lives of Muslims, it soon became apparent that the answers to some problems confronting the Muslim community were to be found neither in the Holy Book nor in the hadīths of the Prophet. So two additional sources were added to the Islamic law. First, the reasoning by analogy (kiyās) that consists of comparing the case for which a solution is sought with another similar case already settled on the strength of the Quran or a particular hadīth. Secondly, the answer to a problem might be also resolved by the consensus of eminent doctors of law (idjmā').
Between the second/eighth and third/ninth centuries eminent scholars in various intellectual centres of the Muslim world, particularly in Medina and Baghdad, codified the whole of the Islamic law into a coherent system. Their individual approaches to this enormous task differed and so emerged four legal schools (madhhab, pl. madhāhib) named after their founders who bear also the honorific title of Imām.
These four madhāhib are the Hanafi, Māliki, Shāfi'i and Hanbali schools. All of them are completely orthodox (Sunnite) and differ mainly on points of detail; it is not proper to call these schools sects. The founders of these schools codified the law on the basis of the principles set out above and added others. While unanimously agreed on the text of the Quran and on the hadīths regarded by all Muslim scholars as the most authentic, each Imām by personal preference (known as idjtihād) gave priority to one or other ofthe other sources of the law.
Although there were various shifts in the course of history, each of these schools is now adhered to in specific geographical areas: the Hanafite school is dominant in those regions that came under the sway of the Turkish dynasties, i.e. Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Central Asia and northern India/Pakistan; the Shāfi'ite madhhab is to be found mostly along the shores of the Indian Ocean, from southern Arabia and East Africa to Indonesia; Mālikism very soon implanted itself in North Africa, Muslim Spain and in the western and central Sudan. The last school, the Hanbali, which was formerly widely adhered to in Syria and Iraq, is now virtually confined to Saudi Arabia.
The differences between the various madhāhib are not fundamental, they mostly concern details of ritual and minor points of law. One of the central features of Islamic law is the assessing of all human acts and relationships in terms of the following concepts: obligatory (wādjib), recommended (mandūb), indifferent (mubāh), reprehensible or disapproved (makrūh) and forbidden (mazhūr). The whole of Islamic law is permeated by religious and ethical considerations such as the prohibition of interest on loans or unjustified enrichment in general, the prohibition of gambling and other forms of speculation, the concern for equality of two contracting parties and the concern for a just average, together with abhorrence of extremes.
Another feature that distinguishes fikh from other legal systems is that it was created and developed by private jurists. It did not grow out of an existing legal system: it created itself. The state did not play the part of legislator, it did not decree the laws and there were for a long time no official codes of laws issued by state organs. Instead the laws were incorporated in scholarly handbooks that had the force of law and served as references in actual juridical decisions.
Islamic religious structure, true to its egalitarian principles and conscience, had never produced any form of external organization or any kind of hierarchy. There is no priesthood and no church. Everybody is his own priest and there is no intermediary between the believer and God. Although it recognized idjmā, the consensus of doctors of law as a valid source of doctrine, there was neither council nor curia to promulgate its decisions.
The consensus was reached informally, either by tacit assent on the part of those qualified to express their opinion or sometimes by prolonged debate in writing before an agreement was reached by the majority. Thus the elaboration of Islamic doctrine in all fields developed, pushed forward by a number of eminent and brilliant thinkers who followed the famous saying of the Prophet: “Seek science from the cradle to the grave.”
It happened, however, that the “ulāmā” in their quest for establishing Islamic precepts for every minute detail of worship and everyday life were too much absorbed by the formal side of the Divine law leaving not enough place for individual devotion. Thus a reaction against the intellectualism and formalism emerged in the form of Islamic mysticism, sufism 8. There was already a strong note of asceticism and mysticism among the early Muslims and many famous mystics before the twelfth century contributed positively to the intensification of the Islamic faith. On the other hand some adherents of sufism were prone to neglect religious obligations of the sharī'a, considering themselves absolved from the universal obligations of the Muslim. In the eleventh century the great theologian al-Ghazālī (d. 505/1111) achieved the incorporation of sufism into orthodoxy by stressing both the necessity of a personal approach to God and the duty to follow the prescripts of the sharī'a as being inseparable parts of Muslim religious life. Soon afterwards the sūfīs began to organize themselves in mystical associations or brotherhoods (Arabic, turuk, sing. tarīka) around different spiritual leaders known as shāykhs. The oldest of these tarīkas is the Kadirīya, founded in Baghdad by 'Abd al-Kadir al-Djilāni (d. 561/ 1166) which soon expanded into various Muslim countries. With time the number of the tarīkas increased so that nearly every Muslim belonged to this or that tarīka and participated in the mystical exercises called dhikr (invocation or litany).
From these respectable and recognized brotherhoods must be separated the cult of saints who are called marabouts 8b in the Maghrib; many of these marabouts exploited naive Muslims by pretending to perform miracles, by preparing various amulets and talismans, and by claiming to have a direct access to God thus being able to intercede for others. This is highly un-Islamic as every Muslim is his own priest and only God may be venerated and directly approached. Islam makes man completely independent of all beings except God. From the point of view of genuine Islam the cult of “saints” is the result of a parasitical excrescence.

The Islamic sects

The origin of the main divisions into sects is political; it became a matter of doctrinal divisions only later.
The chief problem around which the opinions of early Muslims revolved was that of the succession of Muhammad, not as a Prophet — as he was the last of the Prophets — but as the head of the Islamic community. During his lifetime the Prophet indicated on several occasions that the valid system for governing the community was shurā or consultation, today known as democracy. After his death his immediate successors were elected and began to be designated as caliphs. The first four caliphs, called by Muslims al-khulafā’ al-rashīdūn (the rightly guided caliphs) were Abū Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthmān and ‘Ali; all of whom belonged to the Kuraysh tribe and were related to Muhammad by marriage. ‘Ali, moreover, was the Prophet's cousin. When the third Caliph, ‘Uthmān, was murdered by a group of Muslims who had revolted because they were offended by some of his policies, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib was elected Caliph in Medina, then the capital. His appointment, however, was not accepted by some companions, particularly Mu'āwiya, Governor of Syria. The result was civil strife between the followers of 'Ali and those of Mu'awiya. The Caliph ‘Ali agreed to the setting up of an arbitration commission consisting of two members, one representing him and the other Mu'awiya. But many of ‘Ali's followers rejected that solution and expressed their disapproval by seceding from him; hence their name Kharidjites (from Arabic, kharadja: to go out). They regarded the arbitration which did not end favourably for ‘Ali as an act of treason against God, the sole arbiter. During the first/seventh and second/eighth centuries, and in some places even later, the Khāridjites revolted again and again against the caliphs and the central government of the Umayyads and then the Abbasids, mostly in Iraq, Arabia, Iran and adjacent countries. The Khāridjites very early split into many sects that differed both in theory and practice. But there were some common features. They insisted on the importance of acts, not only faith' and asserted that anyone guilty of grave sin was an unbeliever and an apostate and should therefore be killed. One of their main doctrines concerned the Imāmate, that is the leadership of the Muslim community. In contrast to other Muslims who considered that the Imāmate (or Caliphate) is the prerogative of certain lineages (either the Kurayshites in general or specifically the family of ‘Alī), the Kharidjites insisted that anyone, even a black slave, could be elected as the head of the Muslim community if he possessed the necessary qualifications of piety, integrity and religious knowledge. These democratic tendencies, verging sometimes on anarchy, attracted many people who were dissatisfied with the government for one reason or another. In general the Khāridjites, although democratic, pious and preaching a purified Islam, repulsed many by their intolerance towards other Muslims and thus constituted only minorities in the eastern lands of the Caliphate. In the Maghrib some of the Khāridjite sects, the Ibādites, the Nukkārites and the Sufrites found a fertile soil for their doctrines among many Berbers dissatisfied with the oppressive Umayyad regime 9.
Those Muslims who stayed with ‘Alī were those who were persuaded that the Caliphate (they preferred to call this institution Imāmate) should go to the family of the Prophet, represented by ‘Alī and his descendants from his marriage with Fatima, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad. They were called Shī'atu ‘Alī, i.e. the party of ‘Alī, whence their name Shī'ites in European languages. Whereas the Khāridjites differed from orthodox Islam on political and ethical issues only, the Shī'ites went further and added many new doctrines of purely religious content. The Shī'ites rejected the principle of the consensus of the community, and substituted for it the doctrine that there was in every age an infallible Imām to whom alone God entrusted the guidance of mankind. The first Imām was ‘Alī, and all succeeding ones were his direct descendants. The Imāms are considered to be divinely appointed rulers and teachers of the faithful, and to possess superhuman qualities which were transmitted to them from the first man, Adam, through Muhammad. For these reasons they are the only ones to have the right to lead the Muslim community; the Shī'ites believe that even after the last Imām has “disappeared” from the world, he continues his guidance as the “hidden Imām”. He will reappear one day to restore peace and justice to the world as the Mahdī (the divinely guided one).
Shī'ism very soon split into a large number of sects between which the main difference arose from the question of who should be the “hidden Imām”. The most important in the course of history became the group called the Twelvers (Ithna' asharīyya) which recognizes the twelfth descendant of ‘Alī, Muhammad al-Mahdī, who disappeared in 266/88o. The stronghold of the Twelvers today is Iran where this brand of Shī'ism has been the state religion since the eleventh/sixteenth century. Significant groups are found also in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and India. During the Abbasid Caliphate the adherents of Twelver Shi'ism were more numerous, mainly in the big cities.
Those Shi'ites who recognized the seventh Imam, Ismā'il, separated themselves from the main body and became known as Ismā'īliyya or the Seveners (Sab'iyyuna). Apart from beliefs held in common with other Shi'ites, the Ismā'īliyya developed a set of special doctrines based mostly on Neo-Platonism, such as the theory of emanation of the world intellect that manifests itself in Prophets and Imāms. In their exegesis of the Quran they looked for hidden meanings accessible only to initiates. The Ismā'īliyya functioned for a long time as a secret society; it came into the open with the coming of the Fātimids who were the most successful among all the Shī'ite branches and founded an empire that stretched from the Atlantic to Syria and Hidjāz 10. Late offshoots of the Ismā'īliyya were the Druzes in Lebanon and Syria and then the “Assassins” (al-Hashīshiyyūn), a terroristic sect, who were active in the period between the sixth/twelfth and eighth/fourteenth centuries in the Middle East with centres in Iran and Lebanon.
From the struggle among the Muslims orthodoxy at last emerged victorlous in the shape of Sunnism, comprising adherents of the sunna, i.e. the way of the Prophet. Sunnites comprise today more than go per cent of the world's Muslim population. The doctrinal differences between the Sunnite and Shi'ite Islam are these: the sources of Sunnite laws are the Quran, the hadah of the Prophet, the consensus of the community and analogy, whereas the four bases of Shī'ite law are the Quran, the hadīth of the Prophet and of the Imāms, the consensus of the Imāms, and reason. Although the Shī'ites perform the pilgrimage to Mecca, they prefer to visit the tombs of ‘Alī and his son Husayn in the towns of Nadjaf and Kerbelā in Iraq.
Not all descendants of ‘Alī and Fātima — those who have the right to the honorific title shārīf - were eo ipso adherents of Shi'ite doctrines. The majority of Shārīfs were and are Sunnites. In many parts of the Muslim world where the shārīfs came to power as sultans or emirs, as in Morocco (the Idrīsids and the two Shārīfian dynasties of Sa'dis and Alawis) or the Hashimites in Hidjāz, Iraq and Jordan, they followed the path of orthodoxy and never claimed any of the supra-human qualities ascribed to the Imams by Shī'ites.
Nevertheless one concept of Shī'ite origin, the belief in the coming of the Mahdī, penetrated into Sunnite Islam. It was not an official teaching as in Shī'ism but on the level of popular religion in which the Mahdīs seen as a Messiah who will return to the earth, slay the anti-Christ and fill the world with justice as it was before filled with injustice and tyranny.
Through the centuries Mahdīs appeared in various Muslim countries from time to time, the most famous examples being those of the Sudanese Mahdī Muhammad ibn ‘Abdallah and the Somali, Muhammad ibn 'Abdille.

Islamic attitudes towards non-Muslims

Islam makes a sharp distinction between those non-Muslims who belong to a religious system with revealed Books, that is the ahl al-Kitāb (People of the Book) and those non-Muslims considered to be polytheists, idolaters or adherents of traditional religions. In conformity with the doctrine of the successive revelations and of the Prophetic chain, the Jews and the Christians as possessors of the Holy Books are not forced to adopt Islam. This tolerance was applied also to the Zoroastrians as well as to the adherents of some ancient Near Eastern religious systems known as the Sabeans and later even to the Hindus (notwithstanding their multitude of gods) and the Buddhists.
As regards the second group, since the Prophet Muhammad was sent to preach Islam particularly to those who as yet have not received any revealed guidance, he and his successors were obliged to combat traditional religion and to convert the “Infidels”. These were given the choice of either becoming Muslims or fighting; in the case of defeat their lot was captivity and slavery.
There are many erroneous conceptions about the djihād. This word is usually, but erroneously, translated as “holy war” but nothing of this sort is encompassed in the term which means “effort to the utmost of one's capacity”. The true meaning of the word is best illustrated by the saying of the Prophet on returning from an expedition against an Arab kabīla that adhered to traditional religion: “We have returned from a lesser djihād to accomplish the greater djihād”, that is, to struggle for inner perfection.
As far as the djihād as warlike activity is concerned, there was in the early days a tendency to make it the sixth “Pillar” of Islam, mainly among the Khāridjites, but this was not generally accepted. The legal schools (with the exception of the Hanbalites) considered djihād an obligation if certain conditions were fulfilled, among them that the unbelievers should begin hostilities and that there should be a reasonable hope of success. In special situations djihād becomes an individual duty incumbent even on slaves, women and minors; this happens when the enemy attacks Muslim territory and whoever abstains from this duty is a sinner and a hypocrite.
The wars of expansion of the Islamic state after the death of the Prophet were not directed to the religious conversion of the conquered peoples since the majority of these adhered to religions with revealed scriptures, being Christians, Zoroastrians and Jews. These peoples were obliged to pay the poll tax (djizya) and then became protected (dhimmī) without being forced to abandon their religions. The conversion to Islam of individuals or even of groups was a very minor part of the aim of the djihād; the essential aim was the expansion of the Islamic state as the sphere within which the sharī'a was paramount. This came to be expressed in the distinction between Dār al-islām and Dār al-harb, the sphere of Islam and the sphere of war. The term Dār al-islām, or the Islamic oekoumene, does not imply that all its inhabitants must be Muslims but rather that it is the part of the world where Islamic social and political order reigns supreme and Islamic public worship is observed. The Dār al-harb is the opposite of the Dār al-islām, the rest of the world that is as yet not under Islamic sway; theoretically It will one day disappear and integrate into the Islamic oekoumene as expressed in the Quranic words (9:33): “He it is who sent his Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth to make it prevail over all religions despite the pagans.”
Nevertheless, from the third/ninth century onwards, when the universal Caliphate broke up into smaller states, a relation of mutual tolerance was established between the Muslim world and the Dār al-harb; its conquest was postponed from the historic to the messianic time. Political and commercial relations with European, Asiatic and African states were governed by the recognition of some of them as belonging to an intermediate category: Dār al-sulh, the sphere of truce. This provided the main legal basis for peaceful contacts and communications with non-Muslim states. Another measure to facilitate these contacts was the introduction of the safe-conduct, called aman, which the head of a Muslim state could give to the subjects of any non-Muslim state (they were then called musta‘minūn) and this made possible not only diplomatic exchanges but also the residence of European and other merchants in Muslim countries.

Islamic expansion, the rise and fall of the Caliphate

Some aspects of the rise of the Islamic world and its impact on various parts of Africa were already touched upon in the preceding chapter. Here we propose to present a brief outline of the political history of the Caliphate from the death of the Prophet Muhammad to the end of the fifth/ eleventh century. As the history of the African parts of the Islamic world are fully covered in a number of chapters in this Volume, we will focus our attention more on the developments in its more eastern provinces. This is necessary not only owing to the obvious importance of the Islamic world as the leading cultural area of the period but more so because the repercussions of the historical changes in Persia, Arabia and adjacent countries were of immediate importance in the Indian Ocean region and thus in parts of East Africa, too.
Under the first four caliphs (al-khulafā' al-rashīdūn, “the rightly guided caliphs”), Abū Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthmān and ‘Alī 11, Muslim Arabs started their expansion outside the Arabian peninsula. The nomadic Arab kabīlas, united now by the bond of a common faith and forbidden by it to continue their internecine fighting, led by a pleiad of brilliant generals of Meccan origin, won in a few years a series of victories over the armies of the two great powers, the Byzantine empire and Sassanid Persia. The campaign against the Byzantines in Syria took only two years before the emperor and his troops evacuated these provinces forever in 15/636. The conquest of Persia lasted longer and after initial setbacks the Arabs went from victory to victory. The battle of Kādisiyya and the occupation of the capital, Ktesiphon, in 16/637 opened all the fertile lowlands of Iraq west of the Tigris to the Arabs. From their newly founded military bases of Basra and Kīfa the Muslim armies penetrated the Iranian highlands in pursuit of the retreating Persian armies. The last great battle at Nihawend (21/642) sealed the fate of the Sassanid empire. The Muslims then occupied other parts of Iran and pushed their advance to the east so that by 29/650 they stood on the borders of India, in northern Iraq, in Armenia and on the Amu-Darja (Oxus).
After the conquest of Syria the Arab armies turned towards Egypt which offered an even easier field of conquest. Between 18/639 and 21/642 the whole of Lower Egypt with its capital, Alexandria, fell to the invading forces and Byzantium thus lost another rich province. It served later as the starting point for a further Arab advance into North Africa 12.
One of the principal reasons for the lightning successes of the Muslims was the financial and military exhaustion of both empires after their long series of wars. In addition, the Byzantines were hated by their Semitic and Coptic subjects because of their oppressive taxation and their persecution of the “heretical” Monophysite churches. The situation in the Sassanid empire was somewhat similar; the most fertile provinces of Iraq were inhabited by the Christian Aramaic-speaking peoples who stood in opposition to the Zoroastrian ruling classes. just before the Arab onslaught dynastic strife had torn apart the empire, weakening its political and military structure. In general in most of the conquered countries the local inhabitants offered no resistance to the invading Arabs as they had little or nothing to lose by the change of masters; in some cases the Muslims were even welcomed.
The civil war after the death of ‘Uthmān between ‘Alī and Mu'āwiya, which ended with the death of the former and the coming of the Umayyad dynasty to power in 41/661, as well as the need for the dynasty to consolidate its power, stopped the external expansion of the Arab state for some years. But already in the reign of Mu'āwiya the frontiers were expanded in North Africa under ‘Ukba ibn Nāfi‘, and in the east, where the entire province of Khurasan (north-castern Iran and Afghanistan) was conquered and the River Oxus crossed (between 43/663 and 54/674). Twice at this time the Arab armies penetrated to the walls of the Byzantine capital but in both cases were unable to conquer it. A third and most serious attempt was made much later, in 98/716-17, when the Arabs unsuccessfully attacked Constantinople from sea and land. It was left to the Ottoman Turks to add this bastion of Eastern Christianity to the Islamic world in the ninth/ fifteenth century.

Fig. 2.1 — The expansion of the Islamic state

A second wave of conquests on all fronts was launched under the Caliphs ‘Abd al-Malik (65/685-86/705) and al-Walīd I (86/705-96/715); in the West the whole Maghrib was subjugated and Spain invaded, in the north-east Central Asia (Transoxania) was conquered and at the same time the Arab armies pushed as far as the Indus River, adding the new province of Sind to the Caliphate. Campaigns in Transcaucasia achieved the incorporation of Georgia and Armenia into the orbit of the Arab empire. Further advance in the West was stopped by the Franks, while the attempts to the north of the Caucasus were frustrated by the Turkish Khazars, so that for a long time the Pyrenees and the Caucasus marked the limits of the empire 13.
Thus a hundred years after the Prophet's death the Arab state already comprised an enormous territory that became the core of the Islamic world. At this time the Arabs were its undisputed masters and formed the exclusive ruling class. The Umayyad policy was to perpetuate this situation in which all non-Muslims had to pay taxes, whilst Muslim Arabs were exempt and even had pensions paid out to them from these revenues. The Arab ruling class did not look favourably therefore on mass conversions in the conquered lands and the new Muslims, each of whom had to attach himself to an Arab kabīla as a client (mawlā, plural mawālī), still had to pay the taxes as before. On the other hand the conquered peoples, be they Persians, Copts or Arameans (in Syria and Iraq) were employed in growing numbers in an increasingly complex state administration. The Arabs, with their unsophisticated background of nomadic life, were unable to cope with the enormous administrative problems arising from the continuing expansion. Thus they willingly adopted the Byzantine and Sassanid administrative systems already existing in the provinces and left their running in the hands of the converted natives. The contradictions arising from the fact that a minority usurped all the political power together with the economic privileges, while the majority, although already Muslim, was denied access to them, were the main causes of the crisis that ended with the fall of the Umayyads and the coming of a new dynasty, the Abbasids. The victory of the latter was made possible by the support of all the dissatisfied elements, mostly non-Arab Muslims, who claimed their full share in a communitv founded on the principle of equality among all believers. The Abbasid revolution put paid to the “Arab kingdom” — as the Umayyad period is sometimes called — and inaugurated the Islamic empire where distinctions followed religious, not national lines. The Arabs lost the privileged status conferred on them as the first bearers of Islam but Arabic continued to be the language of the state, literature and science employed widely by peoples of non-Arab origin.
Under the Umayyads the centre of the empire was Syria with its capital at Damascus; although the eastern provinces were in no way neglected, most attention was naturally turned to the Mediterranean world, Egypt, North Africa and Spain.
The transfer of the capital from Syria to Iraq where the Abbasids founded Baghdad (in 144/762) was not only a geographical shift of the centre of gravity of the empire, it was also a symbolic act opening a new era. In place of the Umayyad emphasis on Arabism, their successors laid stress on Islam as the basis of their regime and the promotion of orthodox Islam became one of the chief tasks of the caliphal administration.
During the first century of Abbasid rule the territory of the Caliphate continued to expand but on a less grandiose scale than before: the Caspian provinces were annexed and in 212/827-8 the dependent dynasty of the Aghlabids began to conquer Sicily. On the other hand the Abbasid realm had been from the start much smaller than that of the Umayyads since Muslim Spain never belonged to it. A totally independent dynasty had already been founded in Spain by a scion of the house of Umayya in 138/756 and this lastesd for two-and-a-half centuries. In the course of the first fifty years of their rule the Abbasids lost control of all the African provinces west of Egypt either to the Khāridjites or the Idrīsids; in 184/800 the governor of Ifrīkiya, al-Aghlab, became virtually independent and founded his own dynasty 14.
The causes of the gradual disintegration of great empires in former times are well known: the impossibility with the available means of communication to control effectively from one centre an enormous realm composed of countries with heterogeneous populations on various cultural and economic levels, and, as corollary to this, the tendency of provincial governors to break away from the central government. In the case of the Abbasid Caliphate these general causes were intensified by the presence of dissident movements of heterodox sects, often combined with social upheavals.
Until the second half of the third/ninth century, however, a succession of remarkably efficient caliphs was able to maintain effective rule and control. But after the Zandj revolt 15 the inevitable process of disintegration gained momentum as an array of short-lived local dynasties emerged in Iran and Central Asia as well as in Arabia and Syria. During the fourth/tenth century even the core of the Abbasid realm, Iraq, fell under the sway of the Shī'ite dynasty of the Buwayhids, who made the Abbasid caliphs their puppets. In the west the Fātimids founded a rival caliphate and began to put into effect their grandiose plans of domination over the whole Islamic world. They did not succeed entirely but detached Egypt, Syria and Arabia from the Abbasid territory. And since in 317/929 the Spanish Umayyad ‘Abd al-Rahman III took the caliphal title of the “Prince of the believers” (amīr al-mu’minīn) there were for a while three caliphs in Islam. Although in the mid fifth/eleventh century the Turkish Saldjuks, who adhered to Sunnite Islam, liberated the Abbasids from the yoke of the Buwayhids, they were in no way prepared to restore the political power of the caliphs of this dynasty.
The Central Asiatic Turks had been a dominating factor in Muslim Near Eastern countries since the third/ninth century; the armies of the Muslim states were composed mostly of the Turkish cavalry and Turkish generals (amīrs) soon assumed the role of kingmakers. The novelty of the Saldjuk invasion was that a whole Turkish people was now on the move to conquer most of western Asia for themselves. This move inaugurated the era of Turkish pre-eminence in the political and military history of large parts of the Islamic world. Taking the torch from the Arabs the Turks expanded Islam in various directions. Already the predecessors of the Saldjuks, the Ghaznavids of Afghanistan, had launched the military conquest of India to the east of the Indus River; in their steps followed other dynasties so that the mightiest of them, the Great Mughals, who came to power in the tenth/sixteenth century, could claim that the greater part of India belonged to Dār al-islām.
The Saldjuks themselves added to the Islamic world many new territories in eastern and central Asia Minor, the great bastion of the Byzantine Christian empire which had for so long stood in the way of Muslim advance. In the following centuries the rest of it fell under the sway of other Turkish dynasties; the crowning of the new Turkish Muslim offensive came about with the conquest of Constantinople in 857/1453 by the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II Fātih.
In the eighth/fourteenth century the whole Islamic world with the exception of the Maghrib and Muslim Spain came under the rule of the Turkish or the Turkicized Mongol dynasties who gave a new vigour to Islam. The great historian Ibn Khaldūn considered the almost universal supremacy of the Turks in Islam as a proof of God's concern for the welfare of the Muslims. At a period when the Muslim world went through a crisis and became weak and defenceless, God in His wisdom had brought new rulers from among the Turks to revive the dying breath of Islam and restore the unity of the Muslims 16.
In terms of the development of Islamic religious thought the Abbasid period represents a formative period for various branches of religious sciences, particularly of jurisprudence (fikh) and of speculative theology (kalam). These branches evolved not in a straightforward way but they took their shape as a result of fierce debates within the Muslim community itself and of controversies with outside opponents, mostly Christians and Manicheans (called zindīks).
A fundamental place in the birth and development of Muslim thought as a whole is held by the Mu'tazila. This is a name given to an early school of Muslim religious thinkers who, influenced by Greek philosophy, wished to place at the service of Islam the resources of reason and thereby take these weapons from their opponents and turn them against them. In European literature the Mu'tazilites are sometimes called “freethinkers” or “liberals” but those labels are erroneous. The Mu'tazila was not a sect and among its adherents were numbered Sunnites and Shi'ites alike; they tried to present the dogmas of Islam as acceptable not only to faith but also to reason and also to give a systematic presentation of religious beliefs. Among the themes dealt with by the Mu'tazilites the principal ones concerned the nature of God, the nature of the Quran and man's relation to God. They insisted on the unity and oneness of God, even rejecting the real attributes of God and all forms of anthropomorphism. As far as concerns the Quran, they held the opinion that it was not eternal but created in time. The last great theme derived from the Islamic tenet about the Divine justice. The Mu'tazila found it difficult to reconcile the doctrine of predestination with the goodness of God; it was abhorrent to them to think that man would be punished for deeds which God had commanded him to perform. God is always obliged to command good and since He does not desire evil, He does not ordain it; it is man who creates evil. For some time in the first half of the third/ninth century the Mu'tazilite doctrine achieved the status of the Abbasid state religion; the Mu'tazilites were highly intolerant of the view of others and insisted with force on having theirs widely accepted. But after a brief reign as the dominant school they were in their turn persecuted and suppressed. However, in spite of the rejection of its main doctrines the Mu'tazila was of crucial importance for the development of Sunnite orthodox theology. By forcing the orthodoxy to rethink some fundamental issues of the faith it was indirectly responsible for the definitive formulation of the beliefs of “those who are faithful to the tradition of the Prophet” (ahl al-sunna) as represented by the teachings of the prominent figures of the Islamic theology like al-Ash'arī (d. 324/935) and al-Bākillānī (d. 403/1013).
These Sunnite theologians lived and worked at a time when the prospects of Sunni Islam and of the Abbasid Caliphate were at their lowest ebb. The schismatic Fātimids reigned over a half of the Islamic world and threatened the rest ideologically and politically. The Shī'ā was flourishing even within the Abbasid domain where the Buwayhids made the caliphs into puppets. Petty Shī'ite dynasties governed in parts of Arabia, in Syria and northern Iran.
The coming of the Saldjuks did more than restore the territorial unity of Islam; it was accompanied by a great religious revival of Sunni orthodoxy.
It is interesting to note that this revival of orthodoxy and the reaction against heterodoxies started almost simultaneously in the East (the Saldjuks) and the West (the Almoravids); in both cases the bearers of the orthodoxy were recently converted nomadic peoples from the fringes of the Islamic world. The religious zeal and military prowess of the Turks and Berbers also found expression in the renewal of the struggle on the frontiers with the Christians, in Anatolia as well as in Spain.


The end of the fifth/eleventh century was thus marked in the Islamic world by significant changes on many levels. In political terms it heralded the definitive preponderance of the Turks in the East and of the Berbers in the West. The Fātimids, whose power reached its zenith just in the middle of the century, had by its end lost their Maghriban provinces (to the Zīrīds and the Hilālī Arabs) as well as Syria with Palestine but retained their hold on Egypt and the Red Sea regions. The Saldjuk offensive against the Byzantines in Asia Minor evoked reaction in Western Europe which took the form of the First Crusade. Although the territorial gains of the Franks, as the Crusaders were called in Muslim countries, were not excessively large, the implantation of the Christians in the Holy Land and on the Mediterranean shores of Asia introduced a new political factor into the Near Eastern scene. It took nearly a century before Jerusalem was taken back by the Muslim armies, and another before the last remnants of the Christian states were wiped out.
In Muslim Spain the occupation of Toledo in 478/1085 and the Christian offensive against the Muslim mulūk al-tawā'if that followed threatened for the first time the existence of Islam on the Iberian peninsula. The danger was for a while stopped by the intervention of the Berber Almoravids. In the central Mediterranean the Muslims lost Sicily forever.
No less important were the changes in economy and trade. With the arrival of the Saldjuks the institution of ikā' — a kind of system of military fief-holdings — became characteristic of the economic life and sociopolitical structures in large parts of the Muslim world. In spite of various interpretations of this institution it is clear that on it was built a production system typologically corresponding to European feudalism. Although in Egypt and the Maghrib this system developed fully only later, it became universal and typical until the twelfth/nineteenth century.
The period of the fourth/tenth and fifth/eleventh centuries also saw a gradual shift of the terminal of the Indian Ocean trade from the Arab/Persian Gulf to the Red Sea and thus to the Fātimid orbit. Egypt profited most from this change and became for a long time to come the main centre of the transit trade between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. At the same time the Italian merchant republics monopolized the European side of the transit trade and soon also the maritime control of the eastern Mediterranean from where Muslim shipping almost disappeared.
We have already mentioned the triumph of orthodox Sunnite Islam in the fifth/eleventh century. Although the Shī'ā lost much both territorially and religiously, it continued to exist in many parts of the Islamic world; none the less with the gradual decline of the Fātimids the Shī'ite religion was deprived of its powerful exponents and it had to wait some centuries until the Safawid dynasty in Persia raised it once again to the level of a state religion.
Two measures contributed substantially to the victory of Sunnite Islam at this time: the first was the establishment of madrasas, higher religious institutions for the education of the ulamā'. Although a few schools of the madrasa type existed in the East already before the Saldjuks, it is generally accepted that under this dynasty on the initiative of the famous vizier Nizām al-Mulk (d. 485/1092) the madrasas became universal religious teaching institutions, being quickly established in nearly all Muslim countries. The madrasa was founded as a counterweight to similar institutions in Fātimid Egypt and to provide a more effective defence against the organized spread of Ismā'īli propaganda; the madrasa was rightly called “the bulwark of the orthodoxy”. The second contributory factor was the recognition and incorporation of sufism into the fold of official Islam and the emergence of sūfī brotherhoods; ‘ulamā' became their members and were thus able to steer both the leaders and members towards orthodoxy and away from heterodoxy. Orthodox sufism as practised by the recognized tarīkas, also stressed moral perfection, preached personal effort (the greater djihād) as an indispensable basis of Muslim social values and insisted on charitable acts and self-negation.

1. C. Quran, 28:53 where the people of the Book say: “Verily before it [i.e. the Quran] we were Muslims”.
2. It is therefore erroneous to call the Muslims Muhammadans or Islam Muhammadanism. These words were introduced into European languages on the model of Buddhism and Christianity, religions in which the founders are worshipped as divine beings.
3. Cf. Chapter 19 below.
4. R. Fazlur, 1966, pp. 33ff,
5. For a discussion of the Islamic attitude to slavery, cf. Chapter 26 below.
6. The famous Egyptian thinker Muhammad 'Abduh (d. 1323/1905) considered on the strength of the interpretation of these verses that the Quran imposed virtually monogamy. Cf. R. Levy, 1957, p. 101.
7. K. Ahmad, 1976, p. 37.
8. From Arabic sūf, wool, to denote the practice of wearing a woollen robe. In Arabic, Sufism is called tasawwuf.
8b. Marabout, from colloquial arabic « mrabou », stems from classical arabic murābit : « he who is in a ribāt », a type of fortress at Islam's frontier marches « fortified convent », where pious exercises alternated with military practices or expeditions. The root of the word, rbt, means « to tie » (cf. lat. religare, religion). The direct plural case al-murâbitin yielded Almoravides. [translated from F. Dumont's L'anti-Sultan ou Al-Hajj Omar Tal du Fouta, combattant de la Foi (1794-1864)T.S. Bah]
9. See Chapters 3, 9-12 below.
10. Cf. Chapter 12 below.
11. Abū Bakr, 11/632-13/634 ‘Umar, 13/634-23/644 ‘Uthmān, 23/644-35/656 ‘Alī, 35/656-4o/661.
12. Cf. Chapters 7, 8 and 9 below.
13. The Arab troops defeated by Charles Martel at Poitiers in 114/732 seem to have been merely a raiding party, not an army of occupation. Whether the campaigns against the Khazars aimed at the total conquest of the South Russian steppes is open to question.
14. Cf. Chapter 10 below.
15. Cf. Chapters 1 above and 26 below.
16. Ibn Khaldūn, 1867, V0l. 5, p. 371.

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