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A simple chronology, relying in part on "Islam" by Karen Armstrong, and other sources is presented here. We recommend Armstrong's book highly. It is a delightful and quick read. Meant for those not yet acquainted with Islam.

All dates are in Common Era, CE.

Mohammed: circa 570 to 632. Born a polytheist, he is considered by Muslims to be God's last and greatest prophet.

* 610: Mohammed receives first revelations in a cave on the summit of Mount Hira just outside Mecca. He adopts the name of "Prophet" and prepares to convert the Quaraish to monotheism.

* 612: Mohammed begins to preach.

* 616: Mohammed and his converts feel persecution.

* 620: Mohammed invited to lead Arabs in Medina.

* 622: The Quaraish resist his new religion. With 70 Muslim families, Mohammed makes the migration (Hijrah, or Hegira) to Yathrib. After making himself ruler he changes the name of the town to Medina. This marks the beginning of the Muslim era and Medina became seat of the Caliphate.

* 630: Mohammed captures Mecca. With the Quaraish now in submission, the Kabah, the central place of worship for Arabian tribes, becomes the main shrine of Islam.

* 632: Mohammed dies. Abu-Bakr, Mohammed's father-in-law becomes caliph (deputy of the Prophet). With Umar, he devises a system whereby Islam enforces religious and political fealty. Military conquest of Middle East begins.

* 634: Abu-Bakr dies and Umar become caliph.

* 637: Arabs occupy the Persian capital of Ctesiphon.

* 638: Muslims defeat the Romans, enter Palestine.

* 641: Conquest of Syria completed. Catholic Archbishop invites Muslims to help free Egypt from oppressive Rome. These alliances formed between Muslims, Christians, and Jews were based on liberation, rather than subjugation, of conquered peoples. Egypt, Persia and the Fertile Crescent came under the rules of four "Righteous Caliphs" until 662.

* 661: The Fertile Crescent and Persia yield to the Omayyad and Abbasid caliphates, whose reigns last until 1258 and 820, respectively.

* 662: Egypt falls under the control of the Omayyad and Abbasid caliphates until 868.

* 669: Muslim conquest reaches Morocco in North Africa. The region is ruled by the Omayyad and Abbasid caliphates until 800.

* 680: Death of Mu'awiya, who is succeeded by his son, Yazid.

* 685-687: Shi'ite revolt in Iraq.

* 700: Islamic mysticism arises and becomes known as Sufism. In this tradition an individual establishes an intimate relationship with Allah. It is based on the Qur'an verse 7:172 which describes the covenant between God and the individual's soul before the creation of the universe. The Sufi objective is a freedom that promotes harmony with one's physical life, resulting in mystical union.

* 710: Conquest of Spain begins.

* 717-718: Attempt to conquer Constantinople fails.

* 732: Battle of Tours or Poitiers halts Islamic expansion into France.

* 750: Abbasids rule the Islamic world except for Spain which falls under the rule of a descendant of the Omayyad family. They move the capital to Baghdad in Iraq. Their orientation resembles Persian absolutism. The Arabian Nights, a compilation of stories written under the reign of the Abbasids, is representative of the lifestyle and administration of this Persian influenced government. Abd al-Rahman of the Omayyad dynasty flees to Spain and creates the "Golden Caliphate" in Spain.

* 751: Battle of Talas: Arabs learn paper making from Chinese prisoners of war.

* 765: A school of medicine is established in Baghdad.

* 750-850: The Four orthodox schools of law are established.

* 768: Oral histories of Mohammed are first recorded by the historian Ishaq ibn Yasar.

* 857: Sufi Al-Muhasibi introduces the study of conscience into Sufism.

* 865: Rhazes distinguishes between measles and smallpox. Historians consider him the greatest medieval physician.

* 877: Syria and different sects of Lebanon are ruled by various Muslim dynasties of Egypt until 1250 CE.

* 945: Shiites invade Baghdad; The Abbasid Empire becomes a powerless symbol. Until the sixteenth century, rule of Islamic civilization is decentralized and different sects are ruled by various caliphs.

* 950: Al-Farabi, the greatest Arabic philosopher, teaches that the enlightened individual could perfect his life through philosophy and not be corrupted by the common beliefs.

* 997: Mahmud, the "Sword of Islam," ruler of a Turkish dynasty in Gujarat, raids northwestern India until his death in 1030.

* 1010: Firdawsi completes his Epic of Kings, the great epic poem of Persia.

* 1037: Avicenna teaches a rationalistic philosophy which borders Sufi mysticism. As a physician, he discovers that disease can be spread through the contamination of water and that tuberculosis is contagious.

* 1100E: Islamic rule weakens because of power struggles among Islamic leaders and Christian crusades.

* 1123: Omar Khayyam, the greatest of the Islamic poets, writes The Rubaiyat which becomes popular in the West.

* 1126: The Aristotelian Averroes of Cordova is the last important Islamic philosopher.

* 1243: Turkish nomads settle in Asia Minor.

* 1248: Muslim control in Spain is reduced to the Kingdom of Granada.

* 1260: Roger Bacon wrote down the formula for gun powder: "Saltpetre VII parts, V parts charcoal and V parts sulphur. ...with such a mixture you will produce a bright flash and a thundering noise, if you know the trick". Similar information was known to the Chinese. It was not long before warfare depended on gunnery, which Islam rejected as not chivalrous.

* 1350-1918: The Ottoman Empire.

* 1258: Mongols sack Baghdad.

* 1379-1401: Tamerlane establishes an empire in Persia, Iraq and Syria.

* 1402: Tamerlane defeats Ottomans at Ankara.

* 1436 Johann Gutenberg invents the printing press. Unlike their embrace of paper, the Muslims outlawed the use of printing presses. Other cultures forthwith became better informed.

* 1453: Constantinople conquered by Ottomans.

* 1492: Ferdinand and Isabella end Muslim rule in Spain. Columbus dealt a second historical blow to Islam by essentially delivering a new world to Western Europe. Islam turned increasingly inward; the enlightenment and other Western achievements in governance and modernization passed it by.

* 1520-1566: Suleiman II the Magnificent revived the Ottoman prospects for war.

* 1543: Blasco de Garay, a naval officer under Charles V, is said to have propelled a ship of two hundred tons, by steam, in the harbor of Barcelona. This innovation hastened the demise of Islam.

* 1571: The naval Battle of Lepanto. The Spaniards defeat the Ottoman Turks decisively.

* 1603: Battle of Urmiyah. Turks suffer defeat. Persia occupies Tabriz, Mesopotamia.

* 1683: The Turks lift the siege of Vienna and retreat. Kara Mustafa the Grand Wazir executed for the failure of the expedition. This ended any immediate threat of Islam to Europe.

* 1703-1730: Cultural revival under Ahmed III, an Ottoman Sultan.

* 1774: Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca was a most repressive treaty. The Ottomans signed to end their war with Russia. Crimea was completely lost. Turkish domination in the Black Sea was at an end.

* 1822-1830: Greek War of Independence.

* 1853-1856: The Crimean War.

* 1876: Ottoman Constitution is promulgated.

* 1914: Ottoman Empire enters World War I.

* 1915: Mustafa Kemal Ataturk emerges as a military hero at the Dardanelles. He became the charismatic leader of the Turkish national liberation struggle in 1919. He put an end to the Ottoman dynasty.

* 1923: Ataturk creates a Republic in Turkey, establishes a new government representative of the nation's will. He instituted sweeping reforms in politics as well as in the social, legal, economic, and cultural spheres. Islam remains the mainstream religion, but the government is secular.

Brief recap for today.

The history of Islam from the 15th Century is a history of opportunities missed and missed again. Slow to pick up on gunpowder, printing press, and seamanship, they lost battle after battle and all participation in New World developments. Slow to recognize the power of the press, Islam lost the communication battle early on. The same thing happened in science and technology. Islam goes by rules promulgated in the Qur'an, the Hadith, and the Sharia. Islamic culture (like its conservative-Christian brethren) does not ask questions when questions are the precursors of discovery, development, and the staff of life.


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