Time passes by, bound to its Creator’s will. Within that passing, occur course altering events which we humans come to remember as history.
These events that I have described to be ‘course altering’ are the pillars upon which human society constantly shapes itself, affecting in turn the politics, the religions, the economic nexuses and the ethnic tussles that govern the lives of people. In light of this principle, nothing can be described to be more course altering than the impact Islam has had on humankind. The countless empires and rulers that have traversed the planes and seas, bearing the flag of Islam all along the way, have certainly left their marks in the history books. And nowhere is this fact more evident than the chart of the Islamic History of the World created by Justice Dr. Syed Mohammed Anwer.
Before I delve into the ingenuity and creativity that has been poured into this project to forge this portrait of Islamic history, I shall first describe the inventor of this creation and why he felt it necessary to fashion this chart in such a way that would in turn make Islamic history understandable and accessible for people from all walks of life, regardless of their academic background. Being a master of Oriental learning, Justice Dr. Syed Mohammed Anwer gathered information about the various Islamic governments that had spanned the face of the Muslim world since the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. He employed his skills in the disciplines of history, numismatics and linguistics, constantly scrutinizing the data that he had amassed over the countless years of his investigation. Initially planning to author a book based on several volumes, he immediately realized the hurdles that he would face in imparting his reservoir of knowledge to the world. He argued that in the age of the internet, one could not confine knowledge to traditional means only. Thus, recognizing the need for an instantaneous source of information, he conjured up the idea of a chart that would illustrate all of the Islamic governments that have existed to date altogether in their entirety at a single place.
Never before has there been anything that could display the history of the lands governed under Muslim rule altogether in one place. From New Guinea in the east to Morocco in the west, this chart encapsulates Muslim rule in its geographic and historic entirety all in one place. The chart has been divided into two horizontal and vertical axes on each parallel side. The two horizontal axes, above and below, display the historic and contemporary names of each and every region/area/country under Muslim rule, progressing from South East Asia on the extreme right-hand side towards Western Europe located on the extreme left-hand side of the chart. In addition to this, the two vertical axes, on the right and left, indicate the progression of years according to both the Gregorian and Hijri calendars, starting from the Nabawi period below, up until the year 2020. Furthermore, color indicates the areas under Muslim rule, while white indicates the areas under non-Muslim rule. The grey areas illustrate local Muslim tribal rule in a particular region. All the 21st century contemporary Muslim states have been depicted with the green color at the top of the chart. Moreover, the zebra patterns indicate periods of unrest within a specific region. Finally, it must also be noted that the chart has been published in both the Urdu and English languages.
We must realize the true potential and purpose of this project. The chart of the Islamic history of the world can be utilized in various academic disciplines. This chart lays the foundation for understanding the political struggles between nations, the integration and assimilation of diverse cultures together, how this in turn led to the emergence of different languages through the intermingling of different ethnic groups, how different legal systems exchanged and imposed their ideas. One can employ this chart to navigate through the different economic systems, political structures and legal frameworks provided by Muslim governments to the world. It can even be used to understand the different art forms and architectural styles brought into existence through the various empires that have governed the earth through the ages.
As I cannot sum all the Islamic history of the world into these five pages, I shall attempt to provide you with a glimpse into the annals of Islamic history along with some fascinating events and personalities encapsulated within this chart. Let us begin with Pakistan, particularly from the period in which it first came into contact with Islam. A common misconception held by people in this regard is that Mohammed Bin Qasim, the famous Arab military commander under the Umayyad Caliphate, was the first person who brought Islam to the region of what is now modern day Pakistan, through the military conquest of Sindh in 711 AD. However, this is exactly where the chart of the Islamic history of the world sets the record straight. According to the chart, Islam had already arrived within the borders of modern-day Pakistan during the period of Hazrat Umar under the banner of the Rashidun Caliphate in 643 AD. After defeating the Hindu rajas of the Rai Kingdom in the Battle of Rasil, the Rashidun Caliphate annexed the Makran region, expanding all the way till the western banks of the River Indus itself. In addition to this, there was another prominent Arab General who fought under the flag of both the Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphate whose name has mostly been forgotten by the people of our time. His name was Muhallab bin Abi Sufra. According to the Al-Hind: The Making of the Indo-Islamic World, Vol 1 by André Wink and the Tarikh-e-Farishta by Muhammad Qasim Farishta, Muhallab bin Abi Sufra under the Ummayad Caliphate carried out several successful expeditions from 662 AD-665 AD, leading campaigns through Kabul and entering the territory of modern-day Pakistan through the Khyber Pass, ultimately reaching as far as Multan and Sindh in 664 AD. Thus it was only after two major military expeditions by the Muslim forces, first by Hazrat Umar in 643 AD and subsequently by Muhallab bin Abi Sufra in 664 AD, did Muhammed bin Qasim conquer Sindh in 711 AD more than half a century later, completely cementing the legacy of Islam in the region.
From the lapping shores of the Arabian Sea Muslims coursed westward towards conquests in Europe. The historic footprint of Muslim rule stretched from Spain and the South of France (Narbonne, Nîmes and Toulouse) to the Southern coast of Italy (Apulia). Moreover, they also dominated the Islands of the Mediterranean Sea with Muslim rule extending from Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and Malta all the way to Crete, Rhodes and Cyprus.
After the Umayyad’s had expanded their hegemony into the heart of western Europe, they set the stage for one of the most famous empires that ruled the Iberian Peninsula. The Empire of Córdoba, which we have come to remember as Muslim Spain/Al-Andalus (711 AD-1492 AD), was a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. The empire facilitated advancements in the fields of science, mathematics, geography, philosophy and astronomy. Along with laying the foundation for Muslim Spain, the Umayyads also pushed forward into France by 716 AD capturing the cities of Narbonne, Nîmes and Toulouse. 759 AD marked the final year of Islamic expansion within France.
In addition to this, there were also other Islamic empires that had subsequently come to rule the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. This included the Aghlabids (800 AD-909 AD), a Muslim dynasty who ruled parts of modern-day Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. They led successful expeditions into Corsica and Sardinia conquering Sicily in 827 AD, forming the Emirate of Sicily which lasted until 909 AD under Aghlabid rule. They were also able to capture Bari in the Southern region of Apulia situated in mainland Italy, leading to the formation of the Emirate of Bari in 847 AD. Finally, the Aghlabids were successful in capturing the island of Malta in 870 AD, bringing it under complete Muslim control. The Aghlabids were overthrown by the Fatimid Caliphate in 909 AD, causing the Emirate of Sicily and Malta to become a part of their dominion. Much like their predecessors, they also led several expeditions into Corsica and Sardinia in 909 AD. The Fatimids by 948 AD had lost control of Sicily and Malta to the Kalbid dynasty. Initially appointed by the Fatimids themselves, the Kalbids gradually gained autonomy and by 948 AD started ruling the Emirate of Sicily and Malta up until 1091 AD.
When Islamic rule came to an end in the Iberian Peninsula by 1492 AD and the last of the Moriscos had been expelled from Spain by 1692 AD, a new empire emerged from the eastern banks of the Bosporus. I am indeed pointing towards the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922). Spanning three continents, the Ottoman Empire ruled much of North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the Balkans. As they famously took the city of Constantinople by 1453 AD, they started pushing towards Eastern and Central Europe. They had already captured Sofia (Bulgaria) along with subsequently seizing the region now part of modern-day North Macedonia by 1392 AD. Greece had been completely captured by 1460 AD along with Serbia in 1459 AD and Albania by 1468 AD. The Ottomans had also conquered all of the territories part of modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina by 1483 AD. This in turn opened the gates for the conquest of Budapest and by 1541 AD they had full control over Hungary. The Ottomans had been immensely successful in their campaigns of Eastern and Central Europe reaching as far as Vienna (Austria) by the middle of the 16th century. Furthermore, they had also developed a formidable naval force over the years of their conquests. Employing their naval might, they managed to take the Islands of Rhodes by 1522 AD, Cyprus by 1571 AD and Crete by 1646 AD.
The chart of the Islamic history of the world has also depicted the various Muslim Khanates and states that ruled the plains of Russia, starting with Volga Bulgaria (922 AD-1240 AD), a Turkic Bolgar state situated in the present day Republic of Tartarstan, within the Russian Federation. The Volga Bolgars were the first people to voluntarily convert to Islam in the region of what is now modern-day Russia. Almis Iltabar, who later changed his name to Jafar ibn Abdullah, was the first Muslim Emir of Volga Bulgaria. Later on, this Muslim state like many others of its time, fell prey to Mongol invasions from the east in 1240 AD. This later on resulted in the Muslim Golden Horde (1313-1502) ruling most of Russia from the Volga River in the east up until the Crimean Peninsula in the west. Here, we come across another example of a king willingly converting to Islam whose name was Öz Beg Khan. He converted to Islam in 1313 AD laying the foundation for the various Muslim Khanates that in turn succeeded the Golden Horde. Beginning with the Crimean Khanate (1441 AD-1783 AD) that encompassed lands along the coast of the Black Sea, encompassing parts of modern-day Ukraine, Russia and Moldova. There was also the Khanate of Kazan (1438-1552) which also covered the area of what is modern day Tartarstan with its capital being situated in the city of Kazan. In addition to this, there was the Khanate of Astrakhan (1466 AD-1556 AD) which was situated on the banks of the Volga river near the Caspian Sea in what is now called the Astrakhan Oblast. Finally, there was the Khanate of Sibir (1468-1598) situated near the city of Tobolsk within south-western Siberia.
When speaking of Muslim rule in the world, we often tend to forget the empires that ruled within the Continent of Africa, especially in regard to Western Africa as information and records are very difficult to come by. According to the chart of Islamic History of the World, one of the greatest empires that ruled Western Africa was the Mali Empire (1230 AD-1670 AD). Known through the descriptions of the accounts of Ibn Khaldun (the famous Tunisian historian) and Ibn e Battuta (the famous Moroccan explorer), the Mali Empire stretched from modern day Niger and Mali all the way to the coast of Senegal and Gambia. Centered in the cities of Gao, Timbuktu and Jenne, the Mali Empire profited off of the Trans-Saharan trade networks exchanging goods ranging from gold and copper to salt. Perhaps the most famous ruler of the Mali Empire was Mansa Kankan Musa (1312 AD-1337 AD) who famously made his pilgrimage to Mecca commencing in 1324 AD. During the journey towards Mecca, Musa had been recorded to have spent so much gold that within the cities of Cairo, Medina, and Mecca, the sudden influx of gold devalued the metal significantly causing the prices of goods to become greatly inflated. The North-African scholar, al-Umari who lived in Cairo a few years after Mansa Musa’s visit, wrote about the phenomena that I have just described, declaring that of all the Muslim rulers of west Africa Musa was ‘the most powerful, the richest, the most fortunate, the most feared by his enemies and the ablest to do good to those around him’.
The chart has also highlighted the various Muslim empires that were present in Southeast Asia. One of the largest empires among them was the Bruneian Empire (1368 AD-1888 AD). This empire covered most of modern-day Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and parts of Philippines. Its rulers had converted to Islam by the 15th century. Their empire covered almost all of the island of Borneo including the modern-day Province of Palawan situated in the Philippines. Furthermore, according to the chart there were also three Muslim kingdoms that were present in the south of modern-day Thailand. These included the Sultanate of Patani Darussalam (1457 AD-1902 AD) along with the Kingdom of Reman (1810 AD-1902 AD) and the Kingdom of Setul (1808 AD-1916 AD). These three kingdoms covered the area of the three southern provinces of Thailand which include Satun, Patani and Yala.
As we gaze upon the various empires exhibited by the chart of the Islamic History of the World we are faced with the realization of our past. This realization has provided us with the answers to the biggest questions faced by the people who study history. Starting with how Islamic rule spread from a small city in the Arabian Peninsula extending from the Archipelagos of Southeast Asia at one end to Western Africa and Europe at the other. How Muslim rule reached its peak in the 15th and 16th century in the world, how the European colonial era brought a period of disruption for Islamic rule in the world and finally how, as the 20th century unfolded, we witnessed a revival of Islamic rule all across the world due to the several independence movements against the colonial powers. Therefore, not only has this chart allowed us to understand the history of Muslim rule, but it has also permitted us to discover where we stand today and what the future might have in store for Islamic governments all across the world.
The writer is working for a think tank based in Islamabad. He has done LLB (Hons) from London University and pursuing his Master’s in International Law from Islamabad.
E-mail: @[email protected]
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