Muslim conquest of Egypt

Before the Muslim conquest of Egypt or Arab conquest of Egypt, Egypt was part of the Byzantine Empire. Egypt had been conquered just a decade before by the Sassanid Empire under Khosrau II (616–629 AD); however, Emperor Heraclius recaptured it after a series of campaigns against the Sassanid Empire. The Rashidun Caliphate took advantage of the exhaustion of the Byzantine army and captured Egypt ten years after its reconquest by Heraclius. Before the Muslim conquest of Egypt had begun, Byzantium had already lost the Levant and its Ghassanid allies in Arabia to the Caliphate. The loss of the prosperous province of Egypt and the defeat of the Byzantine armies severely weakened the empire, allowing for further territorial losses in the centuries to come.[1]

Rashidun invasion of Egypt

Rashidun army crossing the Egyptian border

All Gizah Pyramids
Pyramids of Giza

In December 639, 'Amr ibn al-'As left for Egypt with a force of 4,000 troops. Most of the soldiers belonged to the Arab tribe of 'Ak, although Al-Kindi mentions that one-third of the soldiers belonged to the Arab tribe of Ghafik. The Arab soldiers were also joined by some Roman and Persian converts to Islam. However, 'Umar, the Muslim caliph, reconsidered his orders to Amr, thinking it foolhardy to expect to conquer such a large country as Egypt with a mere 4,000 soldiers. Accordingly, he wrote a letter to 'Amr commanding him to come back.[2]

The messenger, 'Uqbah ibn 'Amr, caught up with Amr at Rafah, a little short of the Egyptian frontier. Guessing what might be in the letter, 'Amr ordered the army to quicken its pace. Turning to 'Uqbah, 'Amr said that he would receive the caliph's letter from him when the army had halted after the day's journey. 'Uqbah, being unaware of the contents of the letter, agreed and marched along with the army. The army halted for the night at Shajratein, a little valley near the city of El Arish, which 'Amr knew to be beyond the Egyptian border.[3] 'Amr then received and read 'Umar's letter and went on to consult his companions as to the course of action to be adopted. The unanimous view was that as they had received the letter on Egyptian soil, they had permission to proceed.

When 'Umar received the reply, he decided to watch further developments and started concentrating fresh forces at Madinah that could be dispatched to Egypt as reinforcements. On Eid al-Adha, the Muslim army marched from Shajratein to El Arish,[2] a small town lacking a garrison. The town put up no resistance, and the citizens offered allegiance on the usual terms. The Muslim soldiers celebrated the Eid festival there.

Conquest of Pelusium and Belbeis

In the later part of December 639 or in early January 640, the Muslim army reached Pelusium, an Eastern Roman garrison city that was considered Egypt's eastern gate at the time. The Muslim siege of the town dragged on for two months. In February 640, an assault group led by a prominent field commander Huzaifah ibn Wala successfully assaulted and captured the fort and city.[4][5][6][7][8][9] Armanousa, the daughter of Cyrus who fiercely resisted the Muslims in Pelusium and fell hostage in their hands, was sent to her father in the Babylon Fortress.[10]

The losses incurred by the Arab Muslim army were ameliorated by the number of Sinai Bedouins who, taking the initiative, had joined them in conquering Egypt.[11] These Bedouins belonged to the tribes of Rashidah and Lakhm.[12] The ease with which Pelusium fell to the Muslim Arabs, and the lack of Byzantine reinforcements to aid the city during the month-long siege, is often attributed to the treachery of the Egyptian governor, Cyrus, who was also the Monothelite/Monophysite Patriarch of Alexandria.[11][13]

After the fall of Pelusium, the Muslims marched to Belbeis, 65 kilometres (40 mi) from Memphis via desert roads and besieged it. Belbeis was the first place in Egypt where the Byzantines showed some measure of resistance towards the Arab conquerors. Two Christian monks accompanied by Cyrus of Alexandria and the famous Roman general Aretion came out to negotiate with 'Amr ibn al-'As. Aretion was previously the Byzantine governor of Jerusalem, and had fled to Egypt when the city fell to the Muslims. 'Amr gave them three options: to either convert to Islam, to pay Jizya, or to fight the Muslims. They requested three days to reflect, then—as mentioned by al-Tabari—requested two extra days. At the end of the five days, the two monks and the general decided to reject Islam and Jizya and fight the Muslims. They thus disobeyed their ruler, Cyrus of Alexandria, who wanted to surrender and pay Jizya. Cyrus subsequently left for the Babylon Fortress, while the two monks and Aretion decided to fight the Arabs. The fight resulted in the victory of the latter and the death of Aretion. 'Amr ibn al-'As subsequently attempted to convince the native Egyptians to aid the Arabs and surrender the city, based on the kinship between Egyptians and Arabs via Hagar.[14] When the Egyptians refused, the siege of Belbeis was continued until the city fell after a month. Towards the end of March 640, the city surrendered to the Muslims.[13] With the fall of Belbeis, the Arabs were only one day away from the head of the Delta.

Siege of Babylon

Mohammad adil-Muslim conquest of Egypt
Map detailing the route of the Muslims' invasion of Egypt.

Amr had visualized that the conquest of Egypt would be a walkover. This expectation turned out to be wrong. Even at the outposts of Pelusium and Belbeis, the Muslims had met stiff resistance. The siege of Pelusium had lasted for two months and that of Belbeis for one month. Both battles were preludes to the siege of Babylon, which was a larger and more important city. Here, resistance on a larger scale was expected.[2] After the fall of Belbeis, the Muslims advanced to Babylon, near modern Cairo. The Muslims arrived at Babylon some time in May 640 AD.[15] Babylon was a fortified city, and the Romans had prepared it for a siege. Outside the city, a ditch had been dug, and a large force was positioned in the area between the ditch and the city walls. The Muslims besieged the fort of Babylon some time in May 640. The fort was a massive structure 18 metres (60 ft) high with walls more than 2 metres (6 ft) thick and studded with numerous towers and bastions. A Muslim force of some 4,000 men unsuccessfully attacked the Roman positions. Early Muslim sources place the strength of the Byzantine force in Babylon about six times the strength of the Muslim force. For the next two months, fighting remained inconclusive, with the Byzantines having the upper hand by repulsing every Muslim assault.[15]

Some time in May 640 AD, 'Amr sent a detachment to raid the city of Fayoum. The Byzantines had anticipated this and had therefore strongly guarded the roads leading to the city. They had also fortified their garrison in the nearby town of Lahun. When the Muslim Arabs realized that Fayoum was too strong for them to invade, they headed towards the Western Desert, where they looted all the cattle and animals they could. They subsequently headed to Oxyrhynchus (Per-Medjed), which was defeated. The Arabs then returned to Lower Egypt down the River Nile.[16]

Reinforcements from Madinah

In July, 'Amr wrote to 'Umar requesting reinforcement; but before the letter reached him, the caliph had already dispatched the first reinforcement, which was 4,000 strong. The army was composed mostly of the veterans of the Syrian campaigns. Even with these reinforcements, 'Amr was unsuccessful. By August 640, 'Umar had assembled another 4,000 strong force, which consisted of four columns, each of 1,000 elite men. Zubair ibn al-Awam, a renowned warrior and commander, veteran of the Battle of Yarmouk and once a part of Khalid ibn Walid's elite mobile guard, was appointed the supreme commander of army—'Umar had indeed offered Zubair the chief command and governorship of Egypt, but Zubair had declined. The column commanders included Miqdad ibn al-Aswad, Ubaidah ibn as-Samit, and Kharijah ibn Huzaifah. These reinforcements arrived at Babylon sometime in September 640. The total strength of the Muslim force now rose to 12,000, quite a modest strength to resume the offensive.[3]

Battle of Heliopolis

Fifteen kilometres (10 mi) from Babylon was Heliopolis.[15] The Muslim army reached Heliopolis in July 640.[17] It was the city of the Sun Temple of the Pharaohs and was famous for its grandiose monuments and learning institutions.[18] There was the danger that forces from Heliopolis could attack the Muslims from the flank while they were engaged with the Roman army at Babylon. With some detachments, 'Amr and Zubair marched to Heliopolis. There was a cavalry clash near the current neighbourhood of Abbaseya. The engagement was not decisive, although it resulted in the occupation of the fortress located between the current neighborhoods of Abdyn and Azbakeya. The defeated Byzantine soldiers retreated to either the Babylon Fortress or the fortress of Nikiû.[19] At an unguarded point of the wall of Heliopolis, Zubair and some of his picked soldiers scaled the wall of the city, and after overpowering the guards, opened the gates for the main Muslim army to enter the city. Heliopolis was thus captured by the Muslims. 'Amr and Zubair returned to Babylon.

Conquering of Fayoum and Babylon

When news of the Muslims' victory at Heliopolis reached Fayoum, its Byzantine garrison under the command of Domentianus evacuated the city during the night and fled to Abuit. From Abuit, they fled down the Nile to Nikiu without informing the people of Fayoum and Abuit that they were abandoning their cities to the enemy. When news of this reached 'Amr, he ordered a body of his troops to cross the Nile and invade Fayoum and Abuit. The Muslim soldiers captured the entire province of Fayoum without any resistance from the Byzantines.[20]

The Byzantine garrison at Babylon had grown bolder than ever before and had begun to sally forth across the ditch, though with little success. There had been a stalemate between the Muslim and Byzantine forces at Babylon, until the Muslim commanders devised an ingenious strategy and inflicted heavy casualties on the Byzantine forces by encircling them from three sides during one of their sallies. The Byzantines were able to retreat back to the fort, but were left too weak for any further offensive action. This situation forced the Byzantines to negotiate with the Muslims. The Byzantine general Theodorus shifted his headquarters to the Isle of Rauda, whilst Cyrus of Alexandria, popularly known as Muqawqis in Muslim history, entered into negotiations with the Muslims, which failed to give any productive results. Emissaries were also exchanged between Theodorus and 'Amr, leading to 'Amr meeting Theodorus in person. After fruitless negotiations, the Muslims acted on 20 December, when, in a night assault, a company of hand picked warriors led by Zubair managed to scale the wall, kill the guards and open the gates for the Muslim army to enter. The city of Babylon was captured by the Muslims on 21 December 640, using tactics similar to those used by Khalid ibn Walid at Damascus. However Theodorus and his army managed to slip away to the island of Rauda during the night.[21]

Surrender of Thebaid (Southeastern Egypt)

On 22 December, Cyrus of Alexandria entered into a treaty with the Muslims.[22] By the treaty, Muslim sovereignty over the whole of Egypt, and effectively on Thebaid, was recognized, and the Egyptians agreed to pay Jizya at the rate of 2 diners per male adult.[15] The treaty was subject to the approval of the emperor Heraclius, but Cyrus stipulated that even if the emperor repudiated the treaty, he and the Copts of whom he was the High Priest would honor its terms, recognize the supremacy of the Muslims and pay them Jizya.[23] Cyrus submitted a report to Heraclius and asked for his approval to the terms of the treaty. He also offered reasons in justification of the acceptance of the terms of the treaty. 'Amr submitted a detailed report to 'Umar and asked for his further instructions. When 'Umar received this report, he wrote back to say that he approved of the terms provided Heraclius agreed to submit to them.[15] He desired that as soon as the reactions of Heraclius were known, he should be informed so that further necessary instructions could be issued promptly.[22] Heraclius's reaction to Cyrus's report was violent. He removed him from the viceroyship of Egypt, but he remained the Head of the Coptic Church: this was a matter in which the emperor could not interfere. Heraclius sent strict orders to the commander-in-chief of the Byzantine forces in Egypt that the Muslims should be driven out from Egypt. Cyrus waited on 'Amr and told him that Heraclius had repudiated the treaty of Babylon. He assured 'Amr that so far as the Copts were concerned the terms of the treaty would be followed. 'Amr reported these developments to 'Umar. 'Umar desired that, before the Byzantines could gather further strength, the Muslims should strike at them and drive them from Alexandria. It is recorded that Cyrus requested three favors from the Muslims, namely:

  1. Do not break your treaty with the Copts;
  2. If the Byzantines after this repudiation ask for peace, do not make peace with them, but treat them as captives and slaves; and
  3. When I am dead allow me to be buried in the Church of St. John at Alexandria.[3][24]

This position was to the advantage of the Muslims, as the Copts were the natives of the land of Egypt and[23] both the Byzantines and the Muslims were strangers.

March to Alexandria

Alexandrie 112004 02
Ancient Roman theaters in Alexandria.

The Byzantine commanders knew that the next target of the Muslims would be Alexandria. They accordingly prepared for the expected siege of the city. Their strategy was to keep the Muslims away from Alexandria by destroying their power through continued sallies and attacks from the fort. Even if this did not keep them away, it would weaken them morally and physically. It would be more of a war of patience than strength.[22] In February 641, 'Amr set off for Alexandria from Babylon with his army. All along the road from Babylon to Alexandria, the Byzantines had left regiments to delay, and if possible, inflict losses on the advancing Muslims. On the third day of their march from Babylon the Muslims' advance guard encountered a Byzantine detachment at Tarnut on the west bank of the Nile.[15] The Byzantines failed to inflict heavy losses, but they were able to delay the advance by one more day. The Muslim commanders decided to halt the main army at Tarnut and send the advance guard cavalry forward to clear the way from the possible Byzantine detachments. This was done so that the main army could reach Alexandria as soon as possible without being delayed by Byzantine regiments mid-way. Thirty kilometres (20 mi) from Tarnut, the Byzantine detachment that had withdrawn from Tarnut the day before, joined the detachment already present at Shareek to form a strong offensive force. They attacked and routed the Muslim advance guard. The next day, before the Byzantines could resume their offensive to annihilate the Muslim advance guard completely, the main Muslim army arrived, prompting the Byzantines to withdraw. At this point the Muslim commanders decided not to send forward the advance guard, so the whole army marched forward, beginning the following day. The Muslims reached Sulteis where they encountered a Byzantine detachment. Hard fighting followed, but the Byzantine resistance soon broke down and they withdrew to Alexandria. The Muslims halted at Sulteis for a day. Alexandria was still two days' march from Sulteis. After one day's march the Muslim forces arrived at Kirayun, twenty kilometres (12 mi) from Alexandria. Here the Muslim advance to Alexandria was blocked by a Byzantine detachment about 20,000 strong. The strategy of the Byzantines was that either the Muslims would be driven away before they actually arrived at Alexandria, or that they would be as weak as possible if they did. The two armies were deployed and fighting followed, but action remained indecisive,.[3] This state of affairs persisted for ten days. On the tenth day the Muslims launched a vigorous assault. The Byzantines were defeated and they retreated to Alexandria. The way to Alexandria was now cleared, and the Muslim forces resumed the march from Kirayun and reached the outskirts of Alexandria in March 641 AD.

Conquest of Alexandria and fall of Egypt

The Muslims laid siege to Alexandria in March 641 AD.[23] The city was heavily fortified: there were walls within walls, and forts within forts. There was no dearth of provisions and food supply in the city. The city also had direct access to the sea, and through the sea route help from Constantinople in the form of men and supplies could come at any time.

As 'Amr surveyed the military situation, he felt that Alexandria would be a hard nut to crack.[22] The Byzantines had high stakes in Alexandria, and they were determined to offer stiff resistance to the Muslims. They mounted catapults on the walls of the city, and these engines pounded the Muslims with boulders. This caused considerable damage to the Muslims and 'Amr ordered his men back from the advance position so that they might be beyond the range of the missiles. A see-saw war followed.[3] When the Muslims tried to go close to the city they were hit with missiles. When the Byzantines sallied from the fort, they were invariably beaten back by the Muslims.

It is said that Heraclius, the Byzantine emperor, collected a large army at Constantinople. He intended to march at the head of these reinforcements personally to Alexandria. But before he could finalize the arrangements, he died. The troops mustered at Constantinople dispersed, and consequently no help came to Alexandria. This further demoralized the Byzantines. The siege dragged on for six months, and in Madinah 'Umar got impatient. In a letter addressed to 'Amr, the caliph expressed his concern at the inordinate delay in the invasion of Egypt. He further instructed that the new field commander would be 'Ubaidah, and he would launch an assault on the fort of Alexandria. 'Ubaidah's assault was successful and Alexandria was captured by the Muslims in September 641. Thousands of Byzantine soldiers were killed or taken captive while others managed to flee to Constantinople on ships that had been anchored in the port. Some wealthy traders also left.[15]

On behalf of the Egyptians, Cyrus of Alexandria sued for peace, and his request was granted. After the conquest of Egypt, 'Amr is reported to have written to Caliph 'Umar:

We have conquered Alexandria. In this city there are 4,000 palaces, 400 places of entertainment, and untold wealth.

The permanent loss of Egypt meant a loss of a huge amount of Byzantium's food and money. The loss of Egypt and Syria, followed later by the invasion of the Exarchate of Africa also meant that the Mediterranean, long referred to as the "Roman lake", was now contested between two powers: the Muslim Caliphate and the Byzantine Empire. In these events, the Byzantine Empire, although sorely tested, would be able to hold on to Anatolia, while the walls of Constantinople would save it during two great Arab sieges, from the fate of the Persian Empire.[25]

An attempt was made in the year 645 to regain Alexandria for the Byzantine Empire, but it was retaken by 'Amr in 646. In 654 an invasion fleet sent by Constans II was repulsed. From that time no serious effort was made by the Byzantines to regain possession of the country.

Invasion of Nubia

The land of Nubia lay to the south of Egypt. It stretched from Aswan to Khartoum and from the Red Sea to the Libyan Desert. The Nubians were Christians and were ruled by a king. The capital of the kingdom was Dongola. In the summer of 642, 'Amr ibn al-'As sent an expedition to Nubia under the command of his cousin 'Uqbah ibn Nafi. The expedition was ordered by 'Amr on his own account. It was not a whole scale invasion but merely a pre-emptive raid to show the arrival of new rulers in Egypt to the bordering kingdoms.[26] 'Uqbah ibn Nafi, who later made a great name for himself as the Conqueror of Africa, and led his horse to the Atlantic came in for an unhappy experience in Nubia. In Nubia, no pitched battle was fought. There were only skirmishes and haphazard engagements, and in this type of warfare the Nubians excelled. They were skilful archers and subjected the Muslims to a merciless barrage of arrows. These arrows were aimed at the eyes and in the encounter 250 Muslims lost their eyes.

The Nubians were very fast in their movements.[13] The Muslim cavalry was known for its speed and mobility, but it was no match for the Nubian horse riders. The Nubians would strike hard against the Muslims, and then vanish before the Muslims could recover their balance and take counter action. The hit-and-run raids by the Nubians caused considerable damage to the Muslims. 'Uqbah wrote to 'Amr of this state of affairs.[22] He said that the Nubians avoided pitched battle, and in the guerilla tactics that they followed the Muslims suffered badly. Thereupon 'Amr ordered 'Uqbah to withdraw from Nubia. 'Uqbah accordingly pulled out of Nubia with his forces.

Conquest of North Africa

After the preemptive raid on Nubia in the south 'Amr decided to undertake campaigns in the west, so as to secure the western borders of Egypt and clear the region of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan from Byzantine influence. Some time in September 642, 'Amr led his troops west. After one month of marching the Muslim forces reached the cities of the Pentapolis. From Burqa, 'Uqbah bin Nafi was sent at the head of a column to undertake a campaign against Fezzan. 'Uqbah marched to Zaweela, the capital of Fezzan. No resistance was offered, and the entire district of Fezzan, what is present day north-western Libya, submitted to the Muslims. 'Uqbah then returned to Burqa. Soon after the Muslim army marched westward from Burqa. They arrived at Tripoli in the spring of 643 C.E. and laid siege to the city. The city fell after a siege of one month. From Tripoli, 'Amr sent a detachment to Sabratha, a city 65 kilometres (40 mi) from Tripoli. The city put up feeble resistance, and soon surrendered and agreed to pay Jizya. From Tripoli, 'Amr is reported to have written to the caliph the details of the operations in the following words:

We have conquered Burqa, Tripoli and Sabratha. The way to the west is clear, and if the Commander of the Faithful wishes to conquer more lands, we could do so with the grace of God.

'Umar, whose armies were already engaged in a massive campaign of conquering the Sassanid Empire did not wanted to engage himself further along north Africa, when Muslim rule in Egypt was as yet insecure. The caliph accordingly disapproved of any further advances and ordered 'Amr to first consolidate the Muslims' position in Egypt, and issued strict orders that there should be no further campaigning. 'Amr obeyed, abandoning Tripoli and Burqa and returning to Fustat. This was towards the close of the year 643 AD.[27]

Stance of the Egyptians towards the invading Muslims

In return for a tribute of money and food for the occupying troops, the Christian inhabitants of Egypt were excused from military service and left free in the observance of their religion and the administration of their affairs. This system was a new institution, as a mandate by a religion. But it was adopted as an institution, by the Muslims from previous poll tax systems in the ancient Middle East. Indeed, the Egyptians had been subject to it—as non-Romans—during Roman rule before the adoption of Christianity by the Roman state. After that, all non-Christian subjects of the Roman Empire had to pay it, including non-Christian Egyptians. The Persians also had a similar poll tax system.

Egypt under Muslim rule

Mohammad adil-Rashidun-empire-at-its-peak-close
Rashidun Empire at its peak under third Rashidun Caliph, Uthman- 654
  Strongholds of Rashidun Caliphate

Muslims gained control over Egypt due to a variety of factors, including internal Byzantine politics, religious zeal and the difficulty of maintaining a large empire. The Byzantines did attempt to regain Alexandria, but it was retaken by 'Amr in 646. In 654 an invasion fleet sent by Constans II was repelled. From that time no serious effort was made by the Byzantines to regain possession of Egypt.

In the book "The Great Arab Conquests" Hugh Kennedy writes that Cyrus the Roman governor had expelled the Coptic patriarch Benjamin into exile. When Amr occupied Alexandria, a Coptic nobleman (duqs) called Sanutius persuaded him to send out a proclamation of safe conduct for Benjamin and an invitation to return to Alexandria. When he arrived, after thirteen years in concealment, Amr treated him with respect. He was then instructed by the governor to resume control over the Coptic Church. He arranged for the restoration of the monasteries in the Wadi Natrun that had been ruined by the Chalcedonean Christians, which still exists as a functioning monastery in the present day.[28]

On Amr's return the Egyptian population also worked with Amr.[29] In the book "The Great Arab Conquests" Hugh Kennedy writes "The pious biographer of Coptic patriarch Benjamin presents us with the striking image of the patriarch prayed for the success of the Muslim commander Amr against the Christians of the Cyrenaica. Benjamin survived for almost twenty years after the fall of Egypt to the Muslims, dying of full years and honour in 661. His body was laid to rest in the monastery of St Macarius, where he is still venerated as a saint. There can be no doubt that he played a major role in the survival of the Coptic Church"[28] Coptic patriarch Benjamin also prayed for Amr when he moved to take Libya.[30]

In the book "The Great Arab Conquests" Hugh Kennedy writes "Even more striking is the verdict of John of Nikiu. John was no admirer of Muslim government and was fierce in his denunciation, but he says of Amr: 'He extracted the taxes which had been determined upon but he took none of the property of the churches, and he committed no act of spoliation or plunder, and he preserved them throughout all his days'"[31] He writes "Of all the early Muslim conquests, that of Egypt was the swiftest and most complete. Within a space of two years the country had come entirely under Arab rule. Even more remarkably, it has remained under Muslim rule ever since. Seldom in history can so massive a political change have happened so swiftly and been so long lasting."[31]

Uqba ibn Nafi then used Egypt as a launch pad to move across North Africa all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.[32] In the book "The Great Arab Conquests" Hugh Kennedy writes that when Uqba reached the Atlantic, he is said to have ridden his horse into the sea until the water was below his chest, and then shouted 'O Lord, if the sea did not stop me, I would go through lands like Alexander the Great, defending your faith'. Kennedy writes further that this image of a warrior whose conquest in the name of God was stopped only by the ocean remains important in the history of the conquests.[33]

Fustat, the new capital

With the fall of Alexandria the Muslims were the masters of Egypt. At the time of their Egyptian campaign, Alexandria was the capital of the country. When Alexandria was captured by the Muslims, the houses vacated by the Byzantines were occupied by the Muslims. The Muslims were impressed and attracted by Alexandria, "the queen of cities". 'Amr wished for Alexandria to remain the capital of Muslim Egypt.[3] He wrote to Caliph 'Umar seeking his permission to do this. 'Umar rejected the proposal on the basis that Alexandria was a maritime city and there would always be a danger of Byzantine naval attacks.[15]

He suggested that the capital should be established further inland at a central place, where no mass of water intervened between it and Arabia.[22] As per the treaty with Cyrus of Alexandria, the wealth of the Egyptians in Alexandria was spared and that of Romans and Greeks was taken as booty. Greek citizens were given a choice, to return to Greek territories safely without their wealth, or to stay in Alexandria and pay Jizya. Some chose to stay, while others went to Byzantine lands.

'Amr next proceeded to choose a suitable site for the capital of Egypt. His choice fell on the site where he had pitched his tent at the time of the battle of Babylon. His tent had been fixed about 400 metres (.25 mi) north east of the fort. It is reported that after the battle was over, and the army was about to march to Alexandria, the men began to pull down the tent and pack it for the journey, when it was found that a dove had nested on top of the tent and laid eggs. 'Amr ordered that the tent should remain standing where it was. The army marched away but the tent remained standing in the plain of Babylon. In this unusual episode 'Amr saw a sign from Heaven. He decided "where the dove laid its nest, let the people build their city". As 'Amr's tent was to be the focal point of the city, the city was called Fustat, which in Arabic means the tent. The first structure to be built was the mosque which later became famous as Mosque of 'Amr ibn al-'As.[34] The city of Fustat was built due east of Babylon. In the course of time, Fustat extended to include the old town of Babylon. It grew to become a bustling city and the commercial centre of Egypt.[22]

Reforms of Caliph Umar

To consolidate his rule in Egypt, 'Umar imposed the jizya on Egyptians. However, during later Umayyad rule higher taxes were imposed on the Egyptians.

By 'Umar's permission, 'Amr ibn al-'As decided to build a canal to join the Nile with the Red Sea; it would help the traders and Arabia would flourish through this new trade route. Moreover, it would open new markets for the Egyptian merchants and open for them an easy route for the markets of Arabia and Iraq. This project was presented to Caliph 'Umar, who approved it. A canal was dug, and within a few months was opened for merchants. It was named Nahar Amir ul-Mu'mineen i.e. The canal of Commander of the Faithful referring to the title of the Caliph 'Umar.[22]

Amr proposed another project: digging a canal that would join the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.[23] The project was once again sent to 'Umar for approval, but Umar viewed it as a threat to national security and rejected on the basis that it would open a way for Byzantine navy to enter the Red Sea via that canal and posing a threat to Madinah itself.[3] This project however was completed in the form of what is now known as the Suez Canal 1300 years later. Each year the caliph instructed a large amount of jizya to be used on the building and repairing of canals and bridges.[35] The Arabs remained in control of the country from this point until 1250, when it fell under the control of the Mamelukes.

See also

References

  1. ^ Haykal 1944, chpt. 18
  2. ^ a b c Haykal 1944, chpt. 19
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Al-Maqrizi, Mawaiz wa al-'i'tibar bi dhikr al-khitat wa al-'athar.
  4. ^ Al-Kamil, pp. 451–452
  5. ^ Al-Gawzi, Al-Montazim, pp. 532–534
  6. ^ al-Tabari, History of the Kings, p. 862
  7. ^ Abu Salih the Armenian, The churches and monasteries of Egypt and some neighbouring countries, tr. B.T.A.Evetts, p. 168
  8. ^ Butler 1902, p. 234
  9. ^ Kamil Salih, Pope Benjamin the First and the Arab invasion of Egypt, p. 65
  10. ^ Al-Maqrizi, Mawaiz wa al-'i'tibar bi dhikr al-khitat wa al-'athar, p. 231
  11. ^ a b Butler 1902, p. 213
  12. ^ Al-Maqrizi, Mawaiz wa al-'i'tibar bi dhikr al-khitat wa al-'athar
  13. ^ a b c "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-02-14. Retrieved 2005-10-08.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ Butler 1902, p. 216
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h Butler 1902
  16. ^ Butler 1902, pp. 254–255
  17. ^ Raymond, Andre, Cairo, transl. Willard Wood, (Harvard University Press, 2000), p. 10.
  18. ^ Butler 1902, p. 258
  19. ^ Butler 1902, p. 263
  20. ^ Butler 1902, p. 264
  21. ^ Haykal 1944, chpt. 21
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h Haykal 1944, chpt. 22
  23. ^ a b c d "Umar (634-644)", The Islamic World to 1600 Multimedia History Tutorials by the Applied History Group, University of Calgary. Last accessed 20 Oct 2006
  24. ^ Haykal 1944, chpt. 23
  25. ^ Kaegli, Walter. Heraclius: Emperor of Byzantium.
  26. ^ Akram, A.I., Muslim Conquest of Egypt and North Africa, ISBN 978-0-19-597712-7
  27. ^ Haykal 1944, chpt. 24
  28. ^ a b Kennedy 2007, p. 164
  29. ^ Kennedy 2007, p. 167
  30. ^ Kennedy 2007, p. 163
  31. ^ a b Kennedy 2007, p. 165
  32. ^ Kennedy 2007, p. 212
  33. ^ Kennedy 2007, p. 214
  34. ^ http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/nikiu2_chronicle.htm
  35. ^ Haykal 1944, chpt. 25

Bibliography

External links

'Amr ibn al-'As

'Amr ibn al-'As (Arabic: عمرو بن العاص‎; c. 585 – 6 January 664) was an Arab military commander who led the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 640. He was a contemporary of Muhammad and one of the Sahaba ("Companions") who rose quickly through the Muslim hierarchy following his conversion to Islam in the year 8 AH (629). He founded the Egyptian capital of Fustat and built the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As at its center.

Al-Muqawqis

Al-Muqawqis (Arabic: المقوقس‎, Coptic: ⲭⲁⲩⲕⲓⲁⲛⲟⲥ, ⲕⲁⲩⲭⲓⲟⲥ) is mentioned in Islamic history as a ruler of Egypt, who corresponded with the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He is often identified with Cyrus, Patriarch of Alexandria, who administered Egypt on behalf of the Christian Byzantine Empire. However, this identification is challenged as being based on untenable assumptions. An alternative view identifies al-Muqawqis with the Sassanid governor of Egypt. He was a Greek man and was known as Kirolos, leader of the Copts.

Augustamnica

Augustamnica (Latin) or Augoustamnike (Greek) was a Roman province of Egypt created during the 5th century and was part of the Diocese of Oriens first and then of the Diocese of Egypt, until the Muslim conquest of Egypt in the 640s.

Some ancient episcopal sees of the province are included in the Catholic Church's list of titular sees.

Battle of Heliopolis

The Battle of Heliopolis or Ayn Shams was a decisive battle between Arab Muslim armies and Byzantine forces for the control of Egypt. Though there were several major skirmishes after this battle, it effectively decided the fate of the Byzantine rule in Egypt, and opened the door for the Muslim conquest of the Byzantine Exarchate of Africa.

Battle of Nikiou

The Battle of Nikiou was a battle between Arab Muslim troops under General Amr ibn al-A'as and the Byzantine Empire in Egypt in May of 646.

Beer in Egypt

Beer in Egypt has long held a significant role, and its presence in the country is thought to date back to the Predynastic period. In ancient Egypt wine was preferred by the upper class, whereas beer was a staple for working class Egyptians and a central part of their diet. Despite religious restrictions and conflicting views on alcohol after the Muslim conquest of Egypt the consumption of beer did not cease, and it still remains the most popular alcoholic beverage in the country by far, accounting for 54 percent of all alcohol consumption.

Coptic history

Coptic history is part of history of Egypt that begins with the introduction of Christianity in Egypt in the 1st century AD during the Roman period, and covers the history of the Copts to the present day. Many of the historic items related to Coptic Christianity are on display in many museums around the world and a large number is in the Coptic Museum in Coptic Cairo. its true.

Cosmas I of Alexandria

Cosmas I or Kosmas I (Greek: Κοσμάς Α′) served as Greek Patriarch of Alexandria between ca. 727 and his death in 768.

Cosmas was the first residential Chalcedonian (Melkite) patriarch to be established in Alexandria following the Muslim conquest of Egypt in the 640s. The see had remained vacant since, but Cosmas was appointed with the consent of both the Umayyad Caliph and the Byzantine Emperor. The chronicler Theophanes the Confessor reports that in 742/3, he abjured Monotheletism, the dominant doctrine among Alexandrian Melkites since it had been promulgated by Emperor Heraclius. As Cosmas himself was most likely not a Monothelete, this has been interpreted by modern scholarship as a garbled reference to Alexandria's recognition by the other Chalcedonian patriarchates.

Cyrus of Alexandria

Cyrus of Alexandria (Arabic: المقوقس‎ al-Muqawqis) was a Melchite patriarch of the Egyptian see of Alexandria in the 7th century, one of the authors of Monothelism and the last Byzantine prefect of Egypt. He died in Alexandria on March 21, 642.

Fustat

Fustat (Arabic: الفسطاط‎ al-Fusţāţ, Coptic: ⲫⲩⲥⲧⲁⲧⲱⲛ), also Fostat, Al Fustat, Misr al-Fustat and Fustat-Misr, was the first capital of Egypt under Muslim rule. It was built by the Muslim general 'Amr ibn al-'As immediately after the Muslim conquest of Egypt in AD 641, and featured the Mosque of Amr, the first mosque built in Egypt and in all of Africa.

The city reached its peak in the 12th century, with a population of approximately 200,000. It was the centre of administrative power in Egypt, until it was ordered burnt in 1168 by its own vizier, Shawar, to keep its wealth out of the hands of the invading Crusaders. The remains of the city were eventually absorbed by nearby Cairo, which had been built to the north of Fustat in 969 when the Fatimids conquered the region and created a new city as a royal enclosure for the Caliph. The area fell into disrepair for hundreds of years and was used as a rubbish dump.

Today, Fustat is part of Old Cairo, with few buildings remaining from its days as a capital. Many archaeological digs have revealed the wealth of buried material in the area. Many ancient items recovered from the site are on display in Cairo's Museum of Islamic Art.

John of Nikiû

John of Nikiû (fl. 680-690) was an Egyptian Coptic bishop of Nikiû (Pashati) (now Zawyat Razin) in the Nile Delta and general administrator of the monasteries of Upper Egypt in 696. He is the author of a Chronicle extending from Adam to the end of the Muslim conquest of Egypt. John of Nikiû's Chronicle contains important historical details otherwise unknown.

Kharija bin Huzafa

Kharija bin Huzafa, was a companion of Muhammad and later one of the successful commanders of the Rashidun army. He served under the Rashidun caliphs, Abu Bakr and Umar. One of the main field commanders during the Muslim conquest of Egypt, he was sent with reinforcements from Madinah and served In Egypt from 640 to 642 as a corps commander.

Mosque of Amr ibn al-As

The Mosque of Amr ibn al-As (Arabic: جامع عمرو بن العاص‎), also called the Mosque of Amr, was originally built in 641–642 AD, as the center of the newly founded capital of Egypt, Fustat. The original structure was the first mosque ever built in Egypt and the whole of Africa. Through the twentieth century, it was the fourth largest mosque in the Islamic world.The location for the mosque was the site of the tent of the commander of the Muslim army, general Amr ibn al-As. One corner of the mosque contains the tomb of his son, 'Abd Allah ibn 'Amr ibn al-'As. Due to extensive reconstruction over the centuries, nothing of the original building remains, but the rebuilt Mosque is a prominent landmark, and can be seen in what today is known as Old Cairo. It is an active mosque with a devout congregation, and when prayers are not taking place, it is also open to visitors and tourists.

Patriarch Peter IV of Alexandria

Peter IV served as Greek Patriarch of Alexandria from 642 to 651. Following the Muslim conquest of Egypt, he sought refuge in Constantinople.

Pope Benjamin I of Alexandria

Pope Benjamin I of Alexandria, 38th Pope of Alexandria & Patriarch of the See of St. Mark. He is regarded as one of the greatest patriarchs of the Coptic Church. Benjamin guided the Coptic church through a period of turmoil in Egyptian history that included the fall of Egypt to the Sassanid Empire, followed by Egypt's reconquest under the Byzantines, and finally the Arab Islamic Conquest in 642. After the Arab conquest Pope Benjamin, who was in exile, was allowed to return to Alexandria and resume the patriarchate.

Siege of Alexandria (641)

The major Mediterranean port of Alexandria, the capital of the Byzantine province of Egypt, was permanently seized from the (Eastern Roman, or) Byzantine Empire by forces of the Rashidun Caliphate in the middle of the 7th Century AD. This marked the end of Eastern Roman maritime power over (and financial dominance of) the Eastern Mediterranean and thus brought about a decisive geopolitical shift, also spreading the Rashidun's control further.

Siege of Babylon Fortress

The Babylon Fortress, a major military stronghold of the Byzantine Empire in Egypt, was captured by forces of the Rashidun Caliphate after a prolonged siege in 640. It was a major event during the Muslim conquest of Egypt.

Ubada ibn as-Samit

Ubadah ibn aṣ-Ṣāmit (Arabic: عبادة بن الصامت‎) was a companion of Muhammad and later one of the successful commanders of Rashidun army and served under the Rashidun caliphs Abu Bakr and Umar. He was one of the main field commanders during the Muslim conquest of Egypt, sent with reinforcement from Medina. He served in Egypt as a corps commander from 640 to 642.

Zubayr ibn al-Awam

Az-Zubayr ibn Al-Awam (Arabic: الزبير بن العوام بن خويلد‎; 594–656) was a companion of Muhammad and a commander in the Rashidun army.

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