Book Notes: Goldschmidt and Davidson, “A Concise History of the Middle-East”


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Most Relevant Audience: Anyone interested in history of religious fundamentalism, religious violence, and Islam

Date: 9/10/2009

Arthur Goldschmidt Jr. and Lawrence Davidson. A Concise History of the Middle East (Westview Press, 2006)


Climate – mostly dry. – p. 7

Natural Resources – deforestation has left barren lands, “drinkable water is scarce almost everywhere and has become so precious that wars have been fought over it.” – p. 9

Oil is mostly in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, Iraq, and United Arab Emirates.

Human Diversity – 9/10 are Islamic. 50% population speak Arabic, the other half speak Turkish/Persian. – p. 10

1/5 of Iraq are Kurds

Chapter 2 – Middle East Before Muhammad

“Although the human species probably originated in Africa, the main breakthroughs to civilization occurred in the Middle East…writing and the preservation of records were Middle Eastern inventions.” – p. 15

Achaemenid dynasty (550-330 B.C.) to Persia (Iran) was conquered by Alexander the Great.

Middle Eastern culture absorbed into Roman Empire, Christianity dominated Islam’s future heartland, and Constantine (1st Christian Roman Emperor) declared Constantinople the new capital, which used to be “Byzantium.” – p. 17

Christianity and nature of Christ (incarnation) became core conflict in Rome. The Council of Nicaea in 325 declared Arianism (which said Jesus was created) a heresy, “its followers were persecuted as if they had been traitors of the Roman Empire.” – p. 19

The Council in Ephesus in 430 declared Nestorians (Jesus is two persons) as heresy. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 declared the Monophysites (Jesus contains in his single person, total divine nature) a heresy. “Whenever the Byzantine emperor upheld the Chalcedon formula, the Orthodox bishops would use their political power to persecute Egyptians and Syrians who would not recant their Monophysite (or Nestorian) heresy. This policy turned dissenters against Constantinople and would later lead to the Arab conquests and the subjection of Middle Eastern Christianity to Islam.” – p. 19

“Christological issues were vital to these Middle Eastern peoples, whose lives in this world were guided by religion to prepare for the Judgment Day and the life to come. Someday, perhaps, our descendants will wonder why we fought over abortion, affirmative action, and gun control.” – p. 20

The Arabs

No one is exactly sure where Arabs came from, perhaps Ishmael, or ancestors of Assyrians or Arameans. They eventually settled in Syria and Mesopotamia. They were the first to really take advantage of the camel. – p. 23

Arabs moved around in the harsh Arabian Desert as tribes. Sometimes caravans would do small skirmishes to protect themselves and survive.

Arabic Culture

Though they were “warlike,” they were not Barbarians. Due to this always-moving lifestyle, nothing in art or creativity developed – except poetry. They lived by the moral, principles of “Muruwwah,” which were all that was needed to survive in the desert. Their poetry was influential to their culture, and language. – p.24

(Reminder, this is all Pre-Islam)

In the South, however, there existed a plush land of development and trade. Saba is the best known city state, which is known from the biblical mention of the Queen of Sheba. – p. 25

The Sabeans made economic connections with the Roman Empire, as well as colonizing East Africa. Their main export was frankincense (used for cremation). Christianity’s spread hurt that business since they bury their dead.

6th Century Conditions

Arabia was under conflict: Three major Empires (520-575 AD) – p. 25

Byzantine                                      Sasanid Persia                                            Ethiopia

(Orthodox Christianity)               (Zoroastrian – Manichaenism)               (Monophysite Christian)

All three paid Arabs to fight for them.

Mecca – started out as a religious shrine and trade station. It was useless for farming, but it gain popularity among the Arabs for three reasons:

  1. Annual Poetry Fair
  2. Arafat (already a Pilgrimage Site)
  3. Kabah – cube structure that stores about 360 idols.

“Later, some Muslims would portray pre-Islamic Mecca as a sinkhole of wanton vice and corruption…they believed that Abraham and Ishmael had earlier built the Ka’bah for the worship of the one true God…” – p. 26

“Every Muslim caliph for more than six centuries could trace his ancestry back to this family of traders, shrine keepers, and politicians. Under their leadership, the centers of Middle-Eastern power would shift from the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian plateau to the Arabian Desert and the Fertile Crescent…The prime cause of this transition will soon become clear: Muhammad, the last, and greatest of Islam’s prophets, was a Meccan of the Quraysh.” – p.26

Chapter 3 – The Prophet of Mecca

In 570, an Ethiopian army tried to capture Mecca.

Muhammad was probably born then, “a few months after his father’s death. Before Muhammad was six, his mother also died. His grandfather, taking responsibility for the boy, sent him out to live with Bedouin Arabs.” When he died, his uncle took over, where Muhammad learned about buying and selling as a merchant. Muhammad’s family was from the Hashimites, “a relatively poor branch of the ruling Quraysh tribe.” – p. 29

A woman named Khadija “entrusted him with the care of her caravan, when he acquitted himself well, she broke with Arab custom and proposed marriage to him…She bore six children, and Muhammad took no other wives during her lifetime.” – p. 30

Muhammad was discontent with Mecca’s leaders not upholding muruwwa, the code of Arab behavior. Mecca was religiously diverse, Arabs tended towards polytheistic animism. “…But Meccas merchants, profoundly practical, scoffed at such notions as the bodily resurrection or the Day of Judgment and at holy laws that might interfere with their pursuit of money.” – p. 30-31

“On many evenings he went to a nearby cave to meditate. One night in 610, during the Arabic month of Ramadan, Muhammad was visited by an angel who exhorted him to read aloud. In awe and terror, he cried aloud “I cannot read” (for Muhammad, Muslims believe, was illiterate).” – p. 31

The angel claimed to be Gabriel. He ran back home, then his wife and cousin said he wasn’t mad, but “God’s long-awaited messenger to the Arabs.” – p. 31

Remember this, for the fact that Islam came for the Arabs, will be significant later on as to how non-Arab Muslims should be treated.

He doubted he was a prophet, but his wife and friend didn’t. – p. 31

Early Muslims

“Although they came from every class and many of Mecca’s clans, [the first believers] were mainly young men from the upper-middle stratum.” – p. 32

Some early converts:

  • Muhammad’s uncle’s son Ali, who was raised in Muhammad’s home. He would later marry Muhammad’s daughter and be a leader of Islam.
  • Abu-Bakr, Muhammad’s best friend, who had wealth and good social standing.
  • Arkum was a young member of a strong clan.
  • Zayd ibn Haritha – “a captured Christian Arab whom Muhammad adopted.” – p. 33

Muhammad’s message disrupted families and threatened the established order.” – p. 33

  1. Montgomery Watt’s summary of Muhammad’s message:
  2. God is good and all-powerful.
  3. God will call all men and women back to Himself on the last and will judge and reward them on the basis of their actions on earth.
  4. People should thank God through worship for the blessings he has given on earth.
  5. God expects people to share their worldly goods with others needier then themselves.
  6. Muhammad is God’s designated messenger to His own people, the Arabs.

The word “Muslim,” picked up from there, which simply means a follower of Islam.

Meccan Opposition

Note that early Muslims originally faced Jerusalem to pray, before they overtook Mecca. – p. 33

Muhammad’s claims started getting weightier. “Following the Quranic revelation, he said that he had journeyed in one night, upon a winged horse, first to Jerusalem, then up through the seven levels of Heaven, where he saw the celestial Ka’bah and received from God the fundamentals of the Islamic creed, and that he had talked to Moses during his return to earth. Although the Quran confirmed Muhammad’s claims, the pagans mocked him.” – p. 34

The fourth point (outlined above, on giving) put Meccan leaders on the spot, though Muhammad was never “trying to undermine Mecca’s economy.” – p. 34

In 619 his wife and uncle Abut-Talib died, who was his source of protection in Mecca. It was time for the Muslims to move, they really had no choice.

The Emigration (Hijra)

In 620 Muhammad “was visited by six Arabs from an agricultural oasis town called Yathrib (now Medina), located about 270 miles north of Mecca.” Yathrib’s two pagan tribes were quarreling, “and they could no longer protect themselves against the three Jewish tribes with which they shared the oasis. They asked Muhammad to come and, because of his reputation as an honest man, arbitrate their quarrels. The next year more pilgrims came from Yathrib and some embraced Islam.” In return, they gave the Meccan Muslims a place in Yathrib, where he became chief judge of the city.

In 622, he and Abu-Bakr went to Yathrib. – p. 35

This is where Muhammad was elevated as both a religious and political leader. The united community, or  umma, found expression in their Constitution of Medina (that is, Yathrib now renamed).

This Hijra, on the Muslim calendar, is the first year. – p. 36

Struggle for Survival

The Jews in Medina obviously contested Muhammad’s religious authority. “Muhammad, for his part, saw Islam as the first and most natural monotheism, not as a pale imitation of Judaism or Christianity.” – p. 35

His revelations (Quran) called Abraham a Muslim.

“He had brought Into Islam Jewish practices…such as fasting on Yom Kipper (Day of Atonement) and facing Jerusalem during Muslim worship. The Jews were not convinced. Even the Medinans who converted to Islam, called ansar, grew tired of supporting the Meccan immigrants, who showed no aptitude for farming, the economic basis of their oasis.” – p. 36

(Mild failure of economic collectivism it seems)

“If Muhammad was ever to lead Medina’s Jews and ansar, the emigrants would have to find ways to support themselves. The Quran suggested that they might raid the Meccan caravans, (22:39).” – p. 36

“Muhammad and his men knew little about raiding techniques. But raid they did, and after a few fiascos, they hit the Meccans hard enough to hurt. To do this they attacked even during the month in which pagan Arabs were forbidden to raid because of their traditional pilgrimage to Mecca. This shocked many Arabs, but a Quranic revelation supported their stance.” – p. 36 – see 2:213

In 624, Muhammad and his 300 (about) men took down a “rich Ummayad caravan returning from Syria” and about 1000 men. “The victory at Badr enhanced the prestige of Islam – and of Medina – among the tribal Arabs…the umma survived.” – p. 37

Muslim Life in Medina

Revelations from Muhammad “now laid down laws about marriage and divorce, inheritance, theft and other crimes, and interpersonal relations more than they told of God’s power and the impending Judgment Day. Moreover, Muhammad’s own sayings and actions…were becoming an authoritative guide for Muslim behavior…non-Muslims often note two accusations that have been made against him: his list for women and his mistreatment of the Jews.” – p. 37

Muhammad’s Marriages

“Before Islam, Arab men used to take as many wives as they could afford, unless they belonged to tribes in which many women were dominant.” – p. 37

The Quran, however, limited men to four wives, though Muhammad “took as many as ten.” – p. 38

“Aisha, who became his favorite wife, was the daughter of Abu-Bakr, his best friend; she was nine years old when she came to live with him… Muhammad believed that his marriages were prescribed for him by God, and he always enjoyed the company of women.” – p. 38

  • Much like Joseph Smith in Mormonism, conveniently coming up with revelations to justify womanizing behavior.

Inconsistencies of his behavior included 1. “He forbade the wailing at funerals until his infant son died.” And 2. “He forgave many of his foes he faced in battle, but not the poets who made fun of his mission.” – p. 38

Muhammad and the Jews

“Muhammad’s relation with the Jews of Medina deteriorated as his own power grew…The Jews opposed the Constitution of Medina, and they were turning some of the less sincere ansar against him, by trying to trick him with clever arguments and by publicly mocking him and his followers…Following a Quranic revelation, Muhammad changed the direction of prayer – south towards Mecca instead of North towards Jerusalem.” – p. 38

Aisha bint Abi-Bakr

  • She was six years old when married to Muhammad, nine when moved in (623).
  • After Muhammad’s death, she spent 50 years proclaiming Islam. “Much of the early basis for Islamic religious law (the Sharia) is rooted in her accounts of Muhammad’s teachings.” Though, she often disagreed with Ali.
  • “While on a trip through the Arabian desert, she became separated from Muhammad and the rest of their caravan. Muhammad ordered a search for her, and she was eventually found and brought back to the main group by a young male Muslim. Aisha and her young escort probably spent several hours alone. It was at this point that Ali, Muhammad’s son-in-law and cousin, recommended that Muhammad divorce her. As it happened, Muhammad received a revelation from God condemning all such gossip and settling strict requirements for proving adultery…Aisha has been a role model for Sunni Muslim women through the ages, and her actions continue to inspire women to challenge the patriarchal systems used to justify gender inequality in the Muslim world.” – p. 39


Changes occurred in rituals, dietary laws, etc. “Islam was becoming not only more distinct but also more Arabian.” – p. 40

Muhammad persecuted Jews by confiscation of property and sometimes death. “We should understand the situation as the people then saw it. The Jews were not defenseless. The Muslims could have lost their grip on Medina and fall prey to the Meccans and their tribal allies. Neutralizing their enemies was essential to their security, if not their survival.” – p. 40

The Winning of Mecca

Everyone in Medina still had roots in Mecca and missed it. So Muhammad and the group went to Mecca in 628 and worked out a peace treaty (Hudaybiya truce) with the Meccans. The umma essentially expanded and moved to Mecca.

This combined army defeated Arab armies. Power to Islam and Muhammad took off even more. “Traditional accounts maintain that by 632 nearly all Arab tribes were Muslim.” P. 41

Muhammad’s death

“Soon after his return to Medina, Muhammad retired to Aisha’s room. He appointed her father, Abu-Bakr, to head public worship in his place. Then, on 8 June 632, he died.” – p. 41

Chapter 4 – What is Islam?

“Islam” = “submit” – “There is not God whatever but the one God: Muhammad is the messenger of God.”

This is the first of the five pillars of Islam, and it is in white letters on the Saudi Arabian flag.

Muslims believe in Torah (but that Allah wrote it), and that God’s earlier revelations…were corrupted and had to be corrupted by the Quran. Modern scholarship has shown that the books of the Bible were written down only after some time had passed…Muslims ask, therefore, whether Jesus changed some passages of the Torah to depict themselves as God’s chosen people (a concept rejected by Islam) or whether Christians rewrite the Gospels to prove the divinity of Jesus.. .” – p. 45

According to Muslims, The Quran affirms that he was born of the Virgin Mary, that he is a “word” of God, and that he will someday return, but it denies that he was crucified or that he was the Son of God…”

“No more prophets will come before judgment day.” – p. 46

Five Pillars of Islam – p. 47

  1. Witness (Shahadah) – “There is not God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.”
  2. Worship (Salat) – Facing Ka’bah in Mecca 5 times a day. Adult men go to Mosque on Friday afternoon.
  3. Fasting (Sawm) – Fast during Ramadan. Muslim calendar has 354 days.
  4. Tithing (Zakat) – “alms” – sharing
  5. Pilgrimage (Hajj’r) – Muslims must travel to Mecca during 12th month of last Muslim year.

“Muslims believe that Abraham and Ishmael found the Black Stone and erected the Ka’bah around it.” – p. 48

They believe Abraham sacrificed Ishmael, not Isaac on the alter. – p. 49

Some believe in a 6th pillar: jihad. The word means “struggle in the way of God.”

“Non-Muslims think of the jihad as Islam’s holy war against all other religions. This is not wholly true. To be sure, the Qu’ran (9:29) commands Muslims to “fight against those who do not believe in God or the Judgment Day, who permit what God and His messengers have forbidden, and who refuse allegiance to the true faith from those who have received scriptures, until they humbly pay tribute.’” – p. 49

But this passage was revealed “when the Muslims were at war with Mecca.” – p. 49

In relation to other monotheisms, “those who agreed to live in peace and to pay tribute were entitled to Islam’s protection; those resisted or rebelled against Muslim rule were crushed. Some modern Muslims interpret jihad to mean defending Islam against attacks, whether verbal or military, from non-Muslims.” – p.49

Muslims can’t drink intoxicating liquors, drugs (mind/brain altering ones), can’t gamble, or usury, or eat pork. “Men may not wear silk clothes or gold jewelry.” – p.49

Most marriages are arranged by parents. Sex before marriage is wrong. Most women wear veils in public. Muslims are also very concerned about hygiene. “Cleanliness is close to godliness.”

Chapter 5 – Early Arab Conquests

Succession Issue

Muhammad never actually chose a successor. – p. 53 The umma really didn’t need any more revelations, but they still needed a guide. Abu-Bakr, best friend of Muhammad and father his wife Aisha, succeeded him. – p. 54

When Muhammad died, “tribes started breaking up. Zakat was no longer required since he was dead, which threatened the unity of umma. “Islam might vanish entirely. To avert these dangers, he [Bakr] sent his best generals…to force the tribes to rejoin the umma. Although the ridda wars were costly, the tribes capitulated…and were eventually forgiven.” – p. 54

But more was needed. “The caliph’s brilliant answer was to turn the Bedouin’s combative energies away from one another and toward conquering the settled lands to the north, the territories of the Byzantine (Roman) and Sasanid (Persian) empires.” – p. 55

Bakr’s successor, Umar (634-644) forgave tribe rebels and enlisted them in a jihad. Within about a decade, Palestine, Syria, and Egypt and Cyrenaica would be captured. “Western historians once viewed the Arab victories as the main events separating the ancient world from the Middle Ages. Europeans were almost cut off from the rest of the world.” – p. 55

No one in 625 would have guessed the Meccan Arabs would be ruling the Middle East.

From the time of Muhammad’s death until 661, Persia (present day Iraq/Iran), Syria (Palestine), and chunks of Egypt were conquered under the Rashidun (first four caliphs).

How did this happen? How did they win against such odds?

  • Agility – They chose their battles carefully. They had both horses for speed and camels for endurance and distance. They used the desert as an escape – they knew it well. Dust storms often worked in their favor.
  • Weakened opponents – The Sasanid and Byzantine empires were already fighting each other, so they were both low on resources.
  • Widespread discontentment – “The subjected peoples, especially those under Byzantine rule in Syria and Egypt, were discontented…The disgruntled Syrian and Egyptian Christians viewed the Muslim Arabs as liberators from the Byzantine yoke and often welcomed them.” – p. 56

What were they stressed out about? For a large part, the Trinity debate!

It was the Chalcedonians (Orthodox Christianity, Jesus has both divine and human nature) vs. the Monophysites (Jesus had one nature, not two) vs. the followers of Heraclitus (two natures, but one will).

“The Copts, for example, turned Egypt over in 640 to Amr’s Arab forces, which, even with reinforcements, numbered fewer than 10,000. Likewise, the Jews, numerous in Palestine and Syria, chose Muslim indifference over Byzantine persecution.” – p. 57

  • “The sudden collapse of Sasanid Persia, after having been master of Egypt, Syria, and much of Arabia as recently as 625 caused a vacuum that the Arabs were quick to fill.” – p. 57

“…The Arabs picked up one Persian province after another, until the last Sasanid shah died, a fugitive, in 651.”

Review: From Muhammad came Bakr, and then Umar and then Uthman. Umar and Uthman executed the large takeovers/conquests.

Bakr died in 634, then Umar came to the throne.

Beginnings of Islamic Government

Umar “was shrewd enough to see that Arab tribes…might rebel when they were not fighting.” – p. 57

Military Discipline

He set up a “diwan” (register) that carefully divided the spoils into shares for members of the umma, ranging from Muhammad’s widows and associates to the humblest Arab soldier.” – p.58

Civil Government

After the conquests, the government remained mostly the same. Taxes went to Medina instead of Constantinople. “It was hard for early Muslims to get used to the conversion of non-Arabs to Islam. Having assumed that Muhammad was God’s messenger to the Arabs, they conferred honorary Arab status on any non-Arab male convert. They did this by making him a client member (mawla…) of an Arab tribe, Persians and Arameans were especially apt to turn Muslim. Soon the mawali outnumbered the Arabs living in such towns as Basra and Kufa. How ironic, considering that those cities had been set up to keep the Arabs from being corrupted by Persian civilization.” – p. 59

Dissension in the Umma

“Before he died, Umar appointed a shura, or electoral committee, to choose the third caliph. Some modern writers cite the shura to prove that early Islam was democratic.” – p. 59

Uthman (644-656) is said to be kind of weak, but “he decided on a single authoritative version of the Quran and ordered the burning of all copies that contained variant readings.” – p. 59

This ticked off some poets who used the variant editions.

His family also helped in ruling.

“Uthman’s mistake was to continue Umar’s policies in a more complex time, without having Umar’s forceful character. Perceiving this, the Muslims in Iraq’s garrison towns began plotting against him.” – p. 60

Uthman’s Troubled Caliphate

It sounds like the Arabs  at this place and time had built up this lust and sort of conditioning for war, conquering, and plunder. So after they took everything there was to take at that given time, they just chilled out in their wealth – bored. “They sat idly in their garrison towns, bewailed the lost opportunities for booty, and plotted against the caliphate [Uthman] in far-off Medina.” – p. 60

Uthman’s rebels consisted of the following:

  • Muslim elders (Medinans)
  • Quran reciters who lost other versions.
  • Tribal Arabs who “chafed at having no new lands to seize and plunder.”

A revolt started in Kufa, 655, and reached Medina within a year. They went into Uthman’s house and killed him, “as he sat with his wife, reciting from the Quran.” Five days later, Ali became the fourth Caliph.

Ali, as we have already observed, was the son of Muhammad’s uncle, the first male convert to Islam, and the husband of Muhammad’s daughter Fatima. Ali was “pious and generous. Regrettably, he proved to be a weak Caliph.” – p. 61

Challenges to Ali

Muhammad’s associates Talha and Zubayr, along with Aisha who considered “Ali unfit to rule because he had not tried to protect Uthman. This was a strange accusation, as none of the challengers liked or defended the third Caliph…Aisha had never forgiven him for having accused her of infidelity to Muhammad.” – p. 61

Then came the Battle of the Camel, where Ali killed Talha and Zubayr. This was the first Muslim vs. Muslim battle in history.

Uthman’s cousin, who’s tribe was outraged at Uthman’s murder, waged war against Ali’s forces in skirmishes in 657. But it ended in a truce. This was battle of Siffin. Those who resented the truce broke off from Ali’s army and became known as Kharijites, which means “those who leave.”

Long story short, “in 661, Ali was murdered by a Kharijite seeking revenge for his sect’s defeat.” – p. 62

Changes in the Government of Islam

Ali’s death ended “the era of Rashidun…caliphs.” Later Muslims would look back on this period as a golden age to which many longed to return….” – p. 62

Mu-awiya (602-680)

“The man who saved the umma and the caliphate from anarchy was the Umayyad governor of Syria, Mu’awiya. He never faltered in his determination to discredit Ali for the murder of Uthman…” – p. 62

He had the rare ability to “refrain from using force unless absolutely necessary. As Mu’awiya put it: ‘I never use my sword when my whip will do, nor my whip when my tongue will do.’” – p. 62

p- 63 – Biography of Mu’awyia ibn-abi-Sufyan (602-680)

  • He was the founder of the Umayyad Dynasty (the dominate clan in Mecca)
  • Converted to Islam in 630 after the capture of Mecca.
  • He was an excellent leader and built the first Muslim navy.
  • He chose to stay in Syria, replacing Medina as capital for Damascus.
  • He adopted modern systems of government, “imperial, bureaucratic administrations,” which alienated “those who cherished the practices of the Prophet and his companions.” – p. 63
  • Fascinating enough, he claimed his Caliphate while in Jerusalem, what if he made it the capital? – p. 64
  • He originally started off as a Meccan merchant.
  • He eventually appointed his son Yazid as the next caliph.

“The Umayyad dynasty, although condemned by most Muslim historians on moral grounds, built up the great Arab empire.” – p. 66

Mu’awiya’s Successors

Yazid was hated by many. He grew up “a bold warrior but a heavy drinker.” – p. 66

He favored his tribe over the Qays. During the conquest years there were two confederations:

South: Kalbs       and the              North (Qay)

Eventually, these two factions “escalated into a full-scale civil war, part of Islam’s second fitnah.” – p. 66 (The first fitnah was between Ali and Mu’awiya.)

Husayn’s Rebellion: The Beginning of Shi-ism

Muhammad’s grandson, Husayn, didn’t think Mu’awiya’s caliphate was legitimate. He died in battle against the Umayyads in 680.

“The significance of these events was that the partisans of the Prophet’s ‘martyred’ descendants, Ali and Husayn, vowed never to recognize the Umayyads as legitimate caliphs. They came to be called Shi’at Ali (the party of Ali), from which came the name Shi’ites, or Shi’is. From Iraq they spread throughout the empire, wherever Muslim’s sought a pretext to defy Umayyad rule. Today the Shi’is make up the second largest Muslim sect.” – p. 67

The Sunnis, however, accepted the ruling Umayyad caliphs.

Ali was the first “imam” or “leader.” – . p. 67

“In 685 a group of penitent Shi’is in Kufa started a two-year revolt that was notable for its appeal to non-Arab converts.” – p. 69

Chapter 6 – The High Caliphate

“High Caliphate” = 685-945

In this period, it was first ruled by Marwanid Umayyads in Damascus, then by Abbasids in Baghdad. “Both dynasties belonged to the Quraysh tribe and were backed by those Muslims who came to be called Sunnis.” – p. 71

The caliphal state/Muslims had a powerful military and continued conquests until 750 “when the Abbasids took over from the Umayyads. After that time some land was lost, and the caliphal state began to break up.” – p. 71

Abd al-Malik took the caliph in 685. The Arabic language became systematized and required. He also started a new Muslim currency. “The caliphal state was becoming an empire.” – p. 74

Conquering continued, “The North African Berbers, after surrendering to the Arabs, converted to Islam and joined their armies.” They took over what is now Spain and Portugal, attacked the Turks in present day Afghanistan, and continued to conquer Pakistan. They Byzantine empire still lasted though. “Constantinople, guarded by thick walls, withstood three Umayyad sieges, the last of which…lasted from 712-718.” – p. 75

There were three types of taxes in the caliphate state:

  • Zakat – a tax on animals, produce, and earnings.
  • Property taxes paid to umma, mainly by conquered non-Muslims.
  • Head tax paid by male Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians in return from exemption for military service.

The problem was it treated new converts to Islam unfairly.

Umar II (717-720) fixed that problem. – p. 75

Umar II “wanted to treat all Muslims fairly and equally.” – p. 75

“Conversion to Islam was usually socially or economically motivated, not forced. It was Hisham (r. 724-743) who finally set the taxes into a system that would be upheld for the next thousand years.” That system consisted of:

  • Muslims pay Zakat
  • Property owners paid on their land or buildings, a tax called Kharaj.
  • Christian and Jewish men paid per capita tax called jizya. – p. 76

Downfall of Umayyads

“Despite the fiscal reforms of Umar II and Hisham, the Umayyad caliphate remained an Arab kingdom. Muslims could ensure this as long as the conquests continued. But as they slowed down in the 740s, the Arab tribes that supplied most of the warriors became worthless because of their constant quarrels.” – p. 76

“In 747, a Persian named Abu-Muslim declared a revolution to support the Abbasids…the revolt spread.” – p. 77

“Abu-Muslim’s troops crushed the Umayyad’s army in January 750, pursued their last caliph to Egypt, and killed him. Then they went on to wipe out all the living Umayyads…”– p. 77

Abbasid Caliphate

This overthrow was a turning point in Islamic history. This revolution

  • Made Iraq the power center instead of Syria.
  • It was the rise of Persian influence.
  • Decreasing drive to take over the rest of the world (Christian Europe)

Pictures of Aladdin and Arabian Nights rings true for Abbasid Empire under the 5th Caliph Harun al-Rashid (r. 786-809). – p. 77-78

The Building of Baghdad

The capital switched from Damascus to Baghdad, where the Tigris and Euphrates river meet.

Public Piety

Abbasids made display of their poetry “which had been their main justification for seizing power from the high-living Umayyads.” – p. 78

“Both merrymaking and holy wars were popular activities.” – p. 80

Anti-Abbasid Revolts

“The revolts became more frequent and varied than ever before.” – p. 80

“Kharijite groups rebelled in Oman and North Africa, forming states of their own.” – p. 80

Two Shi’ias felt tricked and one (a descendent of Husayn) revolted in 762 in Mecca, and another descendent in Basra. Shi’ia revolts increased; Shi’ism at this point in history had three branches.

“Abu-Muslim was popular in Khurasan, where the Persians viewed him as their leader, not merely the standard-bearer of the Abbasid revolution. The first two Abbasid caliphs Abu al-Abbas and Mansur, used him to defeat the Umayyads and crush the Shi’is. But Mansur feared that his own dynasty could be overthrown by the Persians.” – p. 80

“Revolts soon broke out in Khurasan. One of his friends, possibly a Zoroastrian, tried to destroy the Ka’ba. Then a ‘veiled prophet’ claiming to be Abu-Muslim began a rebellion that lasted almost twenty years. Backed by thousands, he robbed caravans, wrecked mosques, and virtually ruled Khurasan. Years later, Azerbaijan saw another reincarnation of Abu-Muslim, a Persian named Bulak whose rebellion also lasted twenty years.” – p. 81

“These uprisings were inspired by Pre-Islamic religions such as Zoroastrianism (the faith of the Sasanid rulers).” – p. 81

Persians in Power

The Persians replaced the Arabs and Syrians in the military and civil administration. – p. 81

They used their knowledge of literature to show their superiority of over Arabs. This movement is called the Shu’ubiya. – p. 82

Mamun’s Caliphate (813-833)

Mamun “deserves a high rank among the Abbasid caliphs, even though his rise to power resulted from a bloody civil war that almost wiped out Baghdad.” – p. 82

He founded the major intellectual center called Bayt al-Hikma (House of Wisdom). He developed a systematic theology and philosophy called Mu’tazila. This became the “rationalist formulation of Islam, stressing freewill, over divine predestination. Under Mamun and his two successors, each-high ranking Muslim official or judge was tested by being asked whether he believed that God had created call things, including the Quran. A yes answer meant that he was a Mu’tazilite, one who opposed the popular idea that the Quran had eternally existed, even before it was revealed to Muhammad.” – p. 84

Mamun was “the son of Caliph Harun al-Rashid by a Persian slave girl named Marajil. Thanks to his mother and a host of non-Arab tutors, Mamun grew up with a wide interest in a variety of philosophical and scientific approaches to knowledge.” – p. 83

He struggled with his half brother for the throne, but Mamun proved worthy. “Apparently a rationalist at heart, he was troubled by the paradoxes and contradictions inherent in some of the more popular Muslim belief.” – p. 83

“In the year 827 Mamun imposed his views on his judges and administrators.”

“Mamun sponsored the search for new knowledge by supporting translations of Greek works of philosophy and science…[he] was also a conqueror; in 830 and in 833 he led his armies against the Byzantine Empire.”

He died at the age of 48 to a fever “after eating some local dates.” – p. 83

Decline of Abbasids

An Abbasid governor founded his own dynasty called the “Aghlabids.” Around 800 they raided “nearby Sicily, Italy, and southern Frace.” – p.84

“Egypt’s Christians overthrew their Abbasid governor in 832, and a Byzantine navy invaded the Nile Delta some-twenty year later.” – p. 84 Christianity would start a re-growth.

Under al-Mu’tasim (r. 833-842), Turkish boys were systematically “bought from traders in Central Asia, taken to Baghdad, converted to Islam, and trained to be soldiers, administrators…Soon they became the strongest element in the Abbasid army…Hardy and disciplined, the Turks took over the caliphal state – both the capital and some of its provinces – from within.” – p. 85


“The Arab conquests brought together people of diverse languages, religions, cultures, and ideas. Artistic and intellectual creativity flourished as a result.” – p. 85

“The political unity of the umma ended when the Umayyads had held on to Spain after 750. During the late ninth and tenth centuries, a welter of Muslim dynasties took control of the various parts of North Africa, Syria, and Persia. Finally, Baghdad was captured in 945 by a Shi’i dynasty called the Buyids, and the Abbasids ceased to be the masters of even their own house.” – p. 85

Chapter 7 – The Turks, Crusaders, and Mongols (10-13th Centuries)

The Christians made an effort to take back “the Holy Lands” from Muslims. “The general effect of the Christians onslaught, though, was to make Islam more militant by the twelfth century than it ever had before.” – p.  88

“Christians were gaining some areas and Muslims in others. Two centuries later, however, Islam’s heartland was hit by a dreadful disaster – the invasion of the Mongols, who had build up a great empire under Jenghiz  Khan and his heirs. Nearly every Muslim state in Asia was conquered or forced to pay tribute to the Mongols. Only an unexpected victory by the Mamluks in Egypt saved Muslim Africa from the same fate.” – p. 88

“The dynasties…underwent a cycle of growth, flowering, and decay, usually lasting about one century.  The names of the dynasties mentioned here maybe forgettable, but please remember the dynamics of this period in Middle East history.” P. 88

Shi Islam in power

Sects in Islam

“…  This Sunni’s designation is more political than theological.” – p. 89

Meant “accepting the religious norms of the umma.” – p. 89

Shii “is a part of sin of Ali as in muhammad’s true successor, at least as imam (leader) or spiritual guide of the umma… Shi’ism split into many sects, some grew up and died out early, such as the Hashimites…  Others stayed underground until be all the Abbasid caliphate grew week then, then surfaced in revolutionary movements.” – p.  89

3 Major Shii sects

  1. Twelve-Imam (Ja’fari) “believed in a line of ‘infallible imams extending from Ali to Muhammad al-Muntazar.”
  2. Isma’ilis (Seveners) – 760
  3. Zaydis – 724

“The Kharijites were the Muslims who had turned against Ali in 657.” – p.90

They would uphold any male leader who held to Islamic law.

Fatimid Caliphate

Wanted to replace “faltering Abbasids.” P. 91

“The Fatamid caliphs chose a site north of Fustat for the capital of what they hoped would be the new Islamic empire. They called their city al-Qahira…we know it as Cairo…is again Islam’s largest city….” – p. 91

They also founded the university/mosque al-Azhar.

“The Fatimids did not try to convert their Sunni Muslim subjects to Isma’ili Shi’ism. They respected the religious freedom of the many Christians and Jews over whom they ruled.” Except Caliph al-Hakim (996-1021) – p. 91

The Druze sect is funky, some Muslims consider them heretics.

Buyid Dynasty

Captured Baghdad and Abassids in 945. They revived “Persian sovereignty and culture.” – p. 93

“During the 10th Century, all Persia came to be ruled by such families: the Shi’I Buyids on the west and the Sunni Samanids in the east. Both consciously revived the symbols and practices of Persia’s pre-Islamic rulers, the Sasanids.” – p. 94

The Turks

The Turks came from Central Asia and Mongolia. – p. 95

“The original religion revolved around Shamans, who were wizards supposedly capable of healing the sick and communicating with the world beyond.” – p. 95

Two Turkish dynasties founded by Sunnis:

  1. Ghaznavid 977 – “…extended rule into the Indian sub continent, although their efforts to force Hindus to adopt Islam have discredited them among some Indians.” – p. 96
  2. Seljuk 956+ – “In 1040 the Seljuks and their allies defeated the Ghaznavids and occupied Khurasan.” They made a major victory over the Byzantines in 1071. “The Seljuks claimed to be the saviors of Islam.” – p. 97 But when Malkshah died in 1092, the Seljuk empire collapsed.

Summary of Seljuk Empire:

“The restoration of Sunni rule in southwest Asia, the spread of Persian institutions and culture, the development of the Madrasa (mosque-school) for training ulama in Islamic law.” – p.97

The Crusades

Byzantines (Christians) “were alarmed by the rise of Seljuk power during the 11th Century – so alarmed, in fact, that the Byzantine emperor begged the Roman pope…to save his realm from the Muslim menace…” – p. 98

Pope Urban II said OK, but only to “prove the papacy’s power in relation to the secular rulers of Christendom.” In 1095 he gave a speech “inviting all Christians to join in a war to regain Jerusalem’s Sepulcher from ‘the wicked race.’” – p. 98

They took Antioch “after a nine-month siege, progressed southward along the Syrian coast, and reached the walls of Jerusalem in June 1099.” 15,000 crusaders vs. 1000 Fatimid troops. “Human blood flowed knee-deep in the streets of Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock was stripped of hundreds of silver candelabra and dozens of gold ones, and then turned into a church.” – p. 99

“Four Crusader states were established.”

  1. Kingdom of Jerusalem
  2. Principality of Antioch
  3. Counties of Tripoli
  4. Edessa

“The Armenians would remain the Crusader’s staunchest allies.” – p. 99

“It is wrong to suppose that the [Abbasid Caliph] was an Islamic pope who could command all Muslims to wage jihad against the Crusaders. Besides, the lands taken by the Crusaders were inhabited mainly by Christians of various sects.. .” – p. 99

“The Crusaders never took a city that really mattered to the political or economic life of Islam, such as Aleppo, Damascus, Mosul, Baghdad, or Cairo. Relative to the Muslim world in 1100 as a whole, the First Crusade was only a sideshow….” – p. 99

It took Muslims so long to drive out the Crusaders because of internal quarreling. The turning point, was when Mosul’s governor re-captured Edessa in 1144. – p. 100

Rise of Salah al-Din

At this point in time, Egypt became the major focus.

“Egypt was not led by a lieutenant of Nur al-Din, Syria’s ruler, for Salah al-Din proclaimed himself sultan as soon as the Fatimid caliph died in 1171.” – p. 100

One of his challenges was an offshoot of the Shi’ia Isma’ilis, the Assassins. “Then he maganed to take Jerusalem and most of Palestine from the Crusaders between 1187 and 1192.” – p. 100

He was a shrewd military leader. In 1229, “the Ayyubid [Egypt + Syria under Salah al-Din’s rule] sultan in “Cairo chose to lease Jerusalem back to the Crusaders, who also held the coast of Syria and Palestine.” – p. 101

“Because he took Jerusalem back from the Crusaders, Muslims regained the self-confidence – just in time to face a far fiercer challenge from the East…” – p. 101

The Mongol Invasion

The Mongols are nomads from Asia. They worshipped “their own deity, Tengri (Eternal Blue Sky). But in the late 12th century, warrior chieftain known as Jenghiz Khan united the eastern Mongol tribes into a great confederation.”

He fought prince Muhammad of the Khqarizm-Shah Turks. “From 1218 to 1221 the Mongols chased Muhammad’s army, laying waste to the great cities and some of the farmlands in Transoxiana, Khwarizmi, and Khurasan. The atrocities perpetrated by the Mongols defy description: They slaughtered 700,000 inhabitants of Meru; their engineers broke dams…they poured molten gold down the throat of a Muslim governor…The Mongols hoped to paralyze the Muslims with such fear that they would never want to fight back.” – p. 102

The Mongols eventually teamed up with the “kingdom of Little Armenia (which had earlier backed the Crusaders against Islam). This led many Europeans to think that the greater alliance between the Mongol East and the Christian West would crush the Muslim world forever.” – p. 102

Destruction of the Caliphate

Jenghiz died in 1227, settling things down a bit, until his grandson Hulegu “renewed the attack” in 1256. The Mongols then wiped out the Assassins, “who had terrorized the Sunni Muslims for two centuries,” and crossed the Zegros Mountains into Iraq. “Hulegu’s forces proceeded to bombard Baghdad with heavy rocks flung from catapults until the caliph surrendered in February of 1258.” – p. 102

They “murdered possibly a million Muslims.” – p. 102

Hulegu was at first “interested in philosophy and science.” – p. 103 His mother and favorite wife were Nestorian Christians.

“It was a melancholy end to the independent Abbasid caliphate to the prosperity and intellectual glory of Baghdad, and, some historians think, to Arabic civilization itself.” – p. 104

Mamluk Resistance

The Mamluks “seized Egypt from their Ayyubid masters” in 1250. They took Palestine and defeated the Mongols in 1260, after Hulegu’s brother died. – p. 104

“Hulegu and his descendants settled down in Iraq and Persia, calling themselves the Il-Khanid dynasty. Eventually, they adopted Persian culture, including Islam, and repaired some of the damage they had done. The Mamluks survived for centuries, driving the last Crusaders out of Palestine in 1293. The kingdom they founded in Egypt and Syria became the major Muslim center of power, wealth, and learning for two centuries.” – p.105

Chapter 8 – Islamic Civilization

“At least up to about 1000 C.E., Muslims were a minority within the lands of Islam…the civilization evolving in the Middle East drew on many religious and philosophical traditions.” – p. 107

Islamic is a more comprehensive term than Arabic.” – p. 107

Rules and Laws

Organized law code is Shar’a (Arabic, “way”) – p. 108

“Gradually, Arabia’s traditional norms took on a Muslim pattern, as the companions inculcated the values of the Qu’ran and the sunna in their children and instructed the new converts to Islam.” – p. 108

“Because of the Arab conquests, the early Muslims picked up many concepts and institutions from Romans and Persian law.” – p. 108

“By the time the Abbasids took power in 750, Muslims were studying the meaning of the Qu’ran, the life of Muhammad, and the words and deeds ascribed to him by those who had known him. Thus evolved a specifically Islamic science of right vs. wrong, or jurisprudence.” – p. 109

That jurisprudence is called fiqh.

Sources of Law

  1. Qur’an
  2. Sunna of Muhammad
  3. Consensus of the umma (those who studied the law)
  4. For some, judicial opinion.

The Hadith is an oral report that confirms the historical use of a law through chains of reporters (isnad).

Sunni Legal Systems

The completion of the Shari’a for Sunnis was the 9th century. – p. 110

There are four major systems of legal thought.

  1. Hanafite rite – largest, “predominates in Muslim India, Pakistan” and old Ottoman Empire territory.
  2. Maliki rite – developed in Medina, made use of hadiths Today, it prevails in upper Egypt and North Africa.
  3. Shafi rite – synthesis of above two, but stresses analogy – today found in Indian Ocean, Indonesia.
  4. Hanbali rite – from theologian “Ahmad ibn Hanbal (855), rejected analogy, consensus, and judicial opinion as its sources.” – p. 111 This is the official system of present-day Saudi Arabia.

Shi’i Legal Systems

Difference with Sunni Law – “whereas Sunni rites no longer allow reinterpretation of the Shar’ia, in Shi’ism imams can interpret the law.” – p. 111

Administration of Law

At first, enforcement was handled directly by caliph, but as Islam grew larger and more complex they set up schools to train Muslims to know the law. “Students would read the law books and commentaries under the guidance of one or several masters. When they had mastered enough information to serve as yadis, they would be certified to practice on their own.” – p. 112

Mufti – Jurisconsult who answered tough technical questions about the law.

Shahid – witness “who certifies that a certain act took place.”

Muhtasib – enforces commercial laws and maintains local order.

  • There are no prosecutors or district attorneys. Caliph appoints qadis to ensure justice.

“When the caliphate ceased to symbolize Muslim unity, then everyone’s acceptance of the Shar’ia bridged the barriers of contending sects and dynasties.” – p. 112

Applicability of the Law

“Islam today must deal with the same issue facing Orthodox Judaism: How can a religion based on adherence to a divinely sanctioned code of conduct survive in a world in which may of its nation-states and leading minds no longer believe in God – or at any rate act as if they do not?” – p. 113

Back then in a formal Islamic social environment, they preferred a caliph, “the common saying was that a 100,000 years of tyranny was preferable to one day of anarchy.” – p. 114

“Strictly speaking, Muslims dislike class differentials, but the concept of ruler and subject was taken over from the Sasanid rulers of Pre-Islamic Persia…concepts of class structure did not originate in Islam, which stressed the equality of all believers; they went back to ancient times and existed in most agrarian societies.” – p. 115

“Although some hadiths showed that Muhammad and his companions wanted to play down distinctions based on family origins, early Islam did accord higher status to descendants of the first Muslims, or of Arabs generally, than to later converts to the religion..The division based on religion, though, were deep and fundamental…Religion and politics were inextricably intertwined. Christians and Jews did not have the same rights and duties as Muslims….” – p. 115

  • Though their treatment was much better than “the Jews in medieval Christendom, czarist Russia, or Nazi Germany.” – p. 116

Family Life

Marriages are arranged by parents, “between cousins was preferred because they helped keep the family’s property intact.” – p. 116

Only rich men could afford four wives (the max). “Islamic law made divorce easy for husbands and difficult for wives, but in practice divorce was rare.” – p. 116

Personal Relationships

“Compared with our society, early Muslims had less freedom and privacy but more security and less loneliness.” – p. 118

Intellectual Life

“Regrettably, many Westerners still believe that the Arab conquests of the Middle East stifled its artistic, literary, and scientific creativity. On the contrary, it was the Arabs who saved many of the works of Plato, Aristotle, and other Greek thinkers for later transmission to the West. In fact, no field of intellectual endeavor was closed to Muslim scholars.” – p. 119

“The Arab conquests brought Muslims into contact with the other philosophical ideas of the Hellenistic world” which “found its way into Mamun’s Bayt al-Hikma in 9th Century Baghdad.” The encyclopedic writings of Aristotle, translated by Syrian Christians into Arabic, inspired such Muslim thinkers as al-Kindi, al-Farabi, Ibn Sina…and Ibn Rush.” – p. 119

Math and Science

“Muslims were using decimal fractions at least two centuries before Westerners knew about them.” – p. 120

In medicine, Muslims “were especially indebted to Nestorian Christians.” – p. 120

“One [Muslim] astronomer is said to have built a planetarium that reproduced not only the movements of the starts but also peals of thunder and flashes of lightening. Long before Copernicus or Galileo expounded their theories, Muslim scientists knew that the earth was round and that it revolved around the sun.” – p. 121

“Muslim historians were the first to try and structure history by seeking patterns in the rise and fall of dynasties, people, and civilizations.” – p. 121 – This culminated in Ibn Khalluh’s school Maqaddima.


Poetry stayed big. – p. 122


“Calligraphy (handwriting) was the most important art form.” – p. 122


Climax of theological development was with Mu’tazila. He formulated the following:

  1. God is one.
  2. God is just, rewarding righteous and punishing the wicked.
  3. God does not cause evil.
  4. People are responsible for their own actions.
  5. Only reason – which goes with revelation, can guide people to know God.
  6. One should try to justify God’s ways to humanity.
  7. The Qu’ran was created.

Muslims reacted against the Mu’tazilites insufficiencies, Ahmad ibn Hanbal (the head of the Hanbalite rite system) opposed the rigid application of logic to the laws of Islam.

Hanbal “concluded that divine revelation was a better guide than reason for human action. The Qu’ran, he argued, was an attribute of God – eternally existent yet separate from God’s existence.” – p. 124

Hanbal was later arrested for his believes because he would not recant them in court. He was released by a new Caliph and then he founded four law schools.

Abu-Hamid al Ghazi (1111) was “one of Baghdad’s greatest law teachers. His main achievement as a theologian was his use of Aristotelian logic to prove the main tenets of Islam, but he also wrote a singing attack on Muslim philosophers.” – p. 124


“Sufism is an experience, a path, in to the real nature of things, and ultimately to God.” – p. 124

“Islam always contained elements of mystical spirituality, but Sufism emerged as a distinct movement during the second century after the hijra. At first it was a movement of ascetics, people who sought to exhalt their souls by denying themselves the comforts of the flesh. Their driving force was a strong fear of God, but this fear later evolved into believe in God’s love…(p. 25) the Safavid dynasty which ruled Persian from 1501 to 1736 began as a Sufi order. Sufism also held together the warrior ghazis who founded the Safavid dynasty’s better-known rival, the Ottoman Empire. The Safavids were Shi’is, and the Ottoman’s Sunnis; indeed both of the main branches of Islam could accommodate Sufism.” – p. 126

Muslim Divisions Review

“…the apogee of Muslim power and artistic expression was not revealed until the 16th Century, the gun powder era….” – p. 127

Chapter 9 – Firearms, Slaves, and Empires

Muslim power did not peak before the Mongol conquests. – p. 129

In the 13th Century, the Mongols whipped the Muslims, “unbroken until the time of Hitler and Stalin.” – p. 129

Hulegu was “their champion wrecker.” But his descendants (Il-Khanid dynasty) converted to Islam. Hulegu laid grounds for a succession of Muslim city-states. States that didn’t take advantage of gunpowder and modern weaponry were crushed. England and Holland were strong, but at the cost “of the land owning aristocracy.” – p. 130

The Mamluks

The Mamluks “saved Egypt from the Mongol menace in 1260” and were “Turkish ex-slaves who recently seized power from the Ayyubids.” – p. 130

Mamluk Ruling System

They developed a unique pattern: son would take father’s place as sultan, and then get over-thrown by the strongest Mamluk party. “It should have been the worst governmental system in history; oddly enough, it worked for more than two hundred and fifty years.” – p. 131

The Baybars (1260-1277) were crafty leaders. They made many alliances and “made Egypt the richest Muslim state.” – p. 131

“Baybars set up a lasting political system. Only lately have Muslim and Western scholars learned the secrets of Mamluk power and endurance. A mamluk, as we noted earlier, is a slave. Slavery in early Islam was not as bad as we tend to think, for it often enabled gifted young men to rise to power through army or the bureaucracy.” – p. 132

“In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the greatest source of new Mamluks was the Kipchak Turkic tribe. Then, after 1382, the Circassians took the lead, sending their sons to the barracks and their daughters to the harems of Muslim sultans and amirs (princes) .” – p. 131

The process of becoming a mamluk began at age 10-12, being sold into service of the reigning sultan and put into training camps with others of the same age. From there he would develop a loyalty to his teachers and leave as a freed soldier.” – p. 132

“Succession to the sultanate was seldom hereditary. The Mamluk sultans rose through the ranks of the sultans’ mamluks. Their ability to reach the top depended upon their military skills and political acumen.” – p. 132

“No Muslim dynasty that you have studied so far managed to rule Egypt and Syria for as long as the Mamluks did.”

Decline of Mamluks

Their system “caused mamluks to crave wealth and power, and in fact, they amassed huge estates. They also taxed free peasants and merchants so heavily that many turned into nomads. The Black Death and other epidemics reduced the population of Egypt and Syria by two-thirds. Mamluk attempts monopolize commerce into luxury goods so antagonized both European Christians and Asian Muslims that the lucrative trade routes began shifting away from Egypt during the fifteenth century.” Which led to “Portugal’s efforts to sail around the world and also Columbus’s voyages to the Americas.” – p. 134

While the Mamluks used horses and swords and arrows, the Ottoman Empire had better military technology and took down the Mamluks in 1516-17.

Mongol Il-Khanids

The first rivals of Mamluks were Il-Khanids, led by Hulegu (1265). He set up his capital in Tabriz, which was close to Great Silk trading route that went to China and also close to large concentrations of Christians. p. 134

Religious Issue

What religion would Hulegu adopt? “The late thirteenth century was the last golden age for such Christian sects as the Nestorians and the Jacobites (Syrian Monophysites).” – p. 135

Most early Il-Khanids were Buddhist, but they “tolerated all faiths that did not try to convert Muslims…In time, tribal Mongols, intermarried with Turkish or Persian Muslims, adopted their language, and then took on their religion. The death in 1294 of Qubilas Khan…severed the remaining ties between the Il-Khanids and the great Mongol Empire, which was not becoming just one more “Chinese” dynasty. A year later, a new Il-Khanid ruler, Ghazan Khan (r. 1295-1304) formally embraced Islam.” – p. 135

“The Mongol conquests introduced Persian artists and craftsman to the achievements of Chinese civilization.” – p. 136

“The late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were a time of economic revival and intellectual brilliance for Persia, as Islamic civilization east of the Tigris took on a distinct Persian character.” – p. 136

Tamerlane and the Timurites

As Il-Khanids faded, “a new military star rose in the east.” – p. 136

Tamerlane, a prince born in 1336, built up an army of Muslim turks “in hopes of building a universal empire like that of Jenghiz Khan.” – p. 136

In 1369 he started conquering Khurasan. Russia’s Mongols, the Golden Horde, tried to fight against his forces, but Timur went through Georgia, Armenia etc. wreaking havoc and death everywhere. “Posing as a devout Muslim, Timur inflicted special torments on Middle Eastern Christians.” – p. 136

After leaving the Middle East, “he turned against India.” – p. 137

From 1400-1403, “he took Aleppo and Damascus from the Mamluks and almost wiped out the rising Ottoman Empire at Ankara.”

His death in 1405 “stopped Timur’s soldiers from setting out to conquer China itself.” – p. 137

After his death, the Mamluks recovered Syria, etc.

Gunpowder Technology

“Gunpowder had been used in China for fireworks since the tenth century, possibly earlier…By 1330 both Christian and Muslim armies in Spain were loading gunpowder into cannons.” – p. 138

Rom the 14-15th centuries the Germans and Italian gunsmiths were refining these advancements.

“Any European country who wanted to keep his territory – or even survive – had to obtain these new implements. Those Muslim states that opposed Europe also had to acquire firearms.” – p. 138

The Ottoman Empire

In the late thirteenth century, the Byzantine Empire was recovering from the “Fourth Crusade, a Venetian occupation of Constantinople itself.” – p. 140

Venetians ruled Constantinople for about 60 years, but the Byzantines get it back in 1262.

“Osman I (1280-1326) was a warrior chief who led a band of pastoral nomads and calvary adventurers on raids into Byzantium to win new territories for Islam and for other Turkic tribes from the east, who constantly sought more grazing lands for their flocks.” – p. 141

The nomads and Ottomans teamed up to besiege Bursa, the Byzantine stronghold. While “Osman lay dying, they finally took the city. It became the first real capital of the Ottomans (the name that Europeans would give to Osman’s descendents).” – p. 141


“Orhan (r. 1326- 1360) was the first Ottoman to have coins minted in his name and to assume the other attributes of Muslim sovereignty as he expanded his realm northwest…” – p. 141

“He incorporated administrative procedures and financial practices characterized by the Byzantines.” –p. 143

  • Serbia was Europe’s great Christian power. The king Lazar, got together about 100k troops to “defend his bastion against the Ottoman menace” Murad I (1360-1389) took him down, though he and Lazar both died in 1389.
  • The next Ottoman ruler, Bayezid I (1389-1402) laid siege to Constantinople in 1395, up against Hungary’s king with English, French, German, and Balkan Knights. – p. 141
  • But Constantinople did not fall.

Bayezid and Timur fought by Ankara in 1402. The Ottoman sultan was defeated, taken prisoner, and then he died in captivity. Bayezids four sons tried to rebuild the Ottoman Empire for 11 years, but only Mehmet I (r. 1413-1421) was successful. – p. 143

Mehmet fought new wars against Turkish amirs in Anatolia, the Venetian navy etc. and suppressed revolts. The king of Hungary called for a Crusade around 1444. The Christians reached the Black Sea port and got spanked by Murad II (r. 1421-1451).

The Ottoman Zenith

In 1453, Mehmet II (1451-1481) seiged Constantinople. “But this time the Ottoman ships and guns succeeded where earlier Arab and Turkish attacks had failed. Constantinople was taken, pillaged for three days, and converted into the new Ottoman capital.” – p. 143

It soon prospered and became “as rich as it had ever been under the Byzantines. The Greek patriarch gained civil and religious authority over all Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire.” – p. 143

Greek orthodox Christians used to say “Better the turban of the Turk than the taria of the pope.” – p. 144

Mehmet went on to conquer, but died before getting to Rome. His son, Bayezid II (1481-1512) was rather passive, but he kept control. He soon decided to “seize control” after a Shi’I rebellion from Turks in Anatolia – caused by the rise of the Safavids in Azerbaijan.

Selim I, “the Inexorable (r. 1512-1520) transformed the Ottoman Empire from a ghazi state on the western fringe of the Muslim world into the greatest empire since the early caliphate.” They spanked the Safavids in 1514. Two years later they took over the huge Mamluk Empire.

“As the new masters of Syria, Egypt, and Hijaz, the Ottomans now ruled the heartland of Arab Islam…Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem came under Ottoman rule.” – p. 144

Suleyman “the Lawgiver” or “the Magnificent” (r. 1520-1566) defeated/annexed Hungarians, Vienna, N. Africa coast, Safafids

Causes of Ottoman Success

The system of succession caused the best man to win, as opposed to just ruling because you were part of the family. – p. 146

“To avoid costly struggled, they established a rule that the man who succeeded to the sultanate should have all his brothers put to death.” – p. 146

  • Seems here they are learning from history, but alas, this is a sad way of dealing with a 1000 year problem (let’s just kill them).

“As was the standard in Islam, the functions of the ruling class were to expand and defend the lands of the Ottoman Empire and to ensure the maximum exploitation of its sources of wealth.” – p.147

They trained boys in same way Mamluks did. The ruling class was made of 4 branches. Under the Administration was

  1. Military – Soldiers, Janissaries, etc.
  2. Scribal – Controlled finances. Multezims were tax collectors/farmers that gathered the taxes for any given area of land. But eventually, because the state needed money, “the system came to exploit and oppress Ottoman subjects.” – p. 148
  3. Cultural – Administered justice, managed youth training schools, etc. – p. 149

The religious community was called the millet.

The janissaries are like the navy seals of the Ottoman Empire, only even more hardcore. They were forbidden to marry or own land. They worked together in a “Sufi brotherhood called the Bektashis.” – p. 148 All their food and gear was paid for by the government, and “by the sixteenth century they also received salaries.” – p. 148

Ottoman Decline – Signs and Causes

  • The accession of Selim II in 156 and the defeat of the Ottoman navy at Lepants in 1571 “are commonly identified as the first signs of decline.”
  • “Well into the seventeenth century, Ottoman armies went on attacking European Christians and Persian Shi’s almost at will.” – p. 150
  • Training standards were relaxed; janissaries could now marry and own land.
  • Ottoman ships were still using oars while everyone else was using sails (irony! The Ottoman empire came into power by utilizing the latest technology, and now its falling by not using the latest technology. It seems the Mamluks and Ottomans both liked their old ways, and not change.)
  • In 1699, the Ottomans signed a treaty that clearly put them on the defensive.
  • Their army was designed to only run one campaign at a time. “If two states could coordinate an attack on the Ottoman Empire from different sides, the army might well be defeated.” – p. 151
  • Severe taxation caused multezims and rural populations to leave looking for better conditions.
  • “To uphold Muslim law, the Shari’a, they guarded against blameworthy innovations. They carried this caution to absurd lengths when they forbade the importation of Arabic and Turkish printing presses into the empire until the 18th Century, lest a printed Quran violate the principle that God’s word was written.” – p. 151
  • “The basis reason for the Ottoman loss of power, though, was the disappearance of the balance among the various forces within the ruling class.” – p. 151

Persia Under the Safavids

Rise of Saffavid Power (in Iran)

The Saffavid state began when Isma’il (thirteen years old) declined 12-imam Shi’ism would be the states’ sold religion after calling himself the shah.

Even though just about every Muslim dynasty at this time was Sunni, Isma’il went on a mission to conquer the whole Muslim world for Shi’ism, supported by his kizilbash warriors. – p. 153

Within ten years, “the Saffavids, though Turkish by race, had taken control of all Persia.” – p.153

But, they lost a battle to the Ottomans in 1514, the Battle of Chaldiran. Isma’il was so shaken “that he spent the last decade of his life hunting and drinking.” – p. 153

The kizilbash knew about gunpowder weapons but “viewed them as unmanly and awkward to carry on horseback.” – p. 153

The Saffavid Zenith

“The Saffavids drive to conquer the rest of the Muslim world shifted to creating a good life for themselves.” Artistry and architecture got big. – p. 154

Reign of Shah Abbas I (1587-1629) was a high point. He also, like the Mamluks and Ottomans, had a system of training boys from young ages. They likewise had a three branch government –p. 154

In 1772, a group of tribal “Afghans seized Isfahan, and the Safavids took to the hills of Azerbaijan, their first home. The Ottoman Empire, breaking a 90-year truce, invaded the region. The Persians were appalled, and a leader Nader Afshar, along with Persian and Turkish tribes drove out the Afghans and eventually the remaining Safavids. In 1736 he crowned himself Shah, and tried to convert Shi’ism to Sunnis. After he was assassinated in 1747, the empire collapsed. – p. 155

Chapter 10 – European Interests and Imperialism

In the eighteenth century – Muslims started losing power to the West. European ships now controlled the seas. – p. 157

The Ottoman Weakness

  • 1683 – Ottomans failed to take Vienna
  • 1699 – they signed a treaty “ceding Hungary to the Habsburgs and the Aegean cost to Venetians.
  • 1718 – gave up more lands.
  • 1774 – lost the Crimea War and “allowed Russia to speak on behalf of their Orthodox Christian subjects.”
  • 1798 – Napoleon occupied Egypt and invaded Palestine.


  • Rich sultans became corrupt, didn’t care about defending the empire. “Sultan Ibrahim (1640-1648)…had his 280 concubines tied up in sacks and drowned in the Bosporus.” – p. 159
  • Alcohol abuse was becoming common

Some sultans saw these corruptions and make reforms:

  • Osman II (1618-1620) – killed revolting janissaries.
  • Murad IV (1623-1640) – killed “25,000 rebellious subjects in a single year.” – p.159
  • Mahmad I (1730-1754) – taught new fighting tactics using European methods.
  • Selim III (1789-1807)

Ahmad III (1703-1730) – introduced the “first Ottoman printing press.” – p. 159

The most important European countries of the 1800s were Russia, Habsburg Austria, Britain, and France. – p. 161

Czarist Russia

Russia was under Muslim rule (Mongol/Golden Horde) since the fifteenth century, centered in Moscow. Russia sought control of the Straights to trade through the Black Sea, which was surrounded by Ottoman territory. They also wanted to rule Istanbul. When Constantinople fell and got renamed to Istanbul by the Muslims, Moscow became the heart of Greek Orthodoxy. – p. 162

Habsburg Austria

Habsburg Austria took Hungary in 1699. “The Habsburg emperors may have pursued commercial interests, but they also saw themselves as carrying on the old crusading traditions against the Muslim Turks.” – p.164

Britain and Middle East

Britain had the most powerful navy, and they defeated France in the 7-Years War (1756-1763).

“Britain decided in the 1830s that the Ottoman Empire would be the best guardian of its routes to India and soon committed itself firmly to the empire’s defense.” – p. 164

“The largest European conflict between the time of Napoleon’s defeat and the outbreak of WWI was the Crimean War.” It was caused by the fear that Russia would grow to powerful.” – p. 165 (It was France, Brits, and Ottomans vs. Russia… (“Peace negotiations began in 1856 under Nicholas I’s son and successor, Alexander II, through the Congress of Paris. Furthermore, the Tsar and the Sultan agreed not to establish any naval or military arsenal on the Black Sea coast. The Black Sea clauses came at a tremendous disadvantage to Russia, for it greatly diminished the naval threat it posed to the Turks. Moreover, all the Great Powers pledged to respect the independence and territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire.” – Wikipedia)

Britain often fought battles against Russia to stop them from a conquering spree. “These nineteenth century events foreshadowed Britain’s attempt to dominate the Middle East after WWI.” – p. 165

France: Protector and Civilizer

“The best friend of the Ottoman Turks was France.” – p. 165

France had a strategic location, ports on both Atlantic and Mediterranean.

Frenchman Napoleon occupied Egypt in 1798. “For three years Britain and Turkey engaged in military and diplomatic maneuvers to get the French troops out of Egypt.” – p. 166

“By the end of the nineteenth century, in spite of French opposition, Britain dominated the Nile Valley.” – p. 167

Chapter 11 – Westernizing Reform in the Nineteenth Century

“Europe’s power rose so dramatically between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries that every other part of the world had to adopt or go under.” – p. 169

Lots of tribes lost their land to English colonists (colonization at this time).

“When we speak of the Reform Bills in English history, we mean acts of Parliament that extended voting rights to more people in the nineteenth century. A reform party in US politics usually is an out-group fighting against corrupt or unjust practices.” – p. 170

Farmers rebelled and broke off of the Ottoman Empire in Anatolia and the Balkans.


The Mamluks treated peasants harshly, the country was running into chaos.

Napoleon’s Occupational

Napoleon was sent by French “government in 1798 to conquer Egypt and, if possible, Syria and Iraq.” – p. 171

“I, more than the Mamluks, serve God…and revere His Prophet Muhammad and the glorious Quran…Tell your nation that the French are also faithful Muslims.” – p. 171 (Napoleon, to the Mamluks)

Napoleon and his men were not Muslims, nor did they restore Ottoman sovereignty.” – p. 172

The French occupied Egypt until 1801. Anglo-Ottoman forces drove them out. Napoleon did bring the printing press to Egypt. When Napoleon left, there was a power vacuum. Mehmet Ali filled that gap.

Mehmet Ali did many reforms, adopted to better European systems and battle techniques. – p. 175

He was a commander of Albanian regiment of the Ottomans. He wiped out the Mamluks and took control of agriculture. A move from subsistence farming to cash crop farming took place. He used the ag money to fund his schemes.

“Mehmet Ali was the first non-Western ruler to grasp the significance of the Industrial Revolution.” – p.173

“A new Arabic press was set up to print translated textbooks and a government journal.” – p. 174

Mehmet Ali’s Military Empire

He used Egyptian farmers as soldiers. “They hated military service.” – p. 174

Unfortunately, Ali cared nothing about Egyptians, and all his industrial accomplishments dwindled away; factories were closed, ag systems collapsed.

Westernization of Ottoman Empire

Sultan Selim III (1789-1807)

In fear of reforming to European ways, he restructured the entire government, a “nizam-i-jedid” (new order). He also reformed the army, training up soldiers in secret – but this ticked of the janissaries, so they killed all the new soldiers and locked up Selim in a bloody civil war. – p.175

Mahmud II

This guy was one of the new trained soldiers, but one who escaped the wrath of the janissaries. Regardless of Selim’s ordeal, he built up his own secret army and ordered a general attack on the janissaries in 1826. The janissaries got beat. This event was called the “Auspicious Event.”

Then Mahmud II reformed, regrouped, and retrained the military, and also made an educational system with schools – though they were only in French, German, and not Arabic/Turkish.

“The general aim of the Ottoman reforms was to transfer power from the traditional ruling class to the sultan and his cabinet.” – p. 177 (frankly, a lot like many other rulers, and even people like Putin)

But the Ottoman Empire kept losing battles. In 1829, the Greeks won their independence with the help of Russia. But strangely, a treaty in 1833 had Russia agree to protect the Ottoman Empire. – p. 178

Tanzimat Era

Muhmad II died, Mustafa Reshid Pasha came to the center.

Reshid was born in Constantinople, and rose in administrative lines; was an Ottoman ambassador in France and then Britain from 1834-1836. 1837, appointed minister of foreign affairs.

“He became convinced that the empire must westernize to survive.” – p.179

“Only after the Ottoman Empire was defeated in WWI would Turkey, now independent and divested of its empire, thoroughly westernize its society.” – p.179

“The Romanians were among many European peoples who rebelled in 1848; it took a Russian invasion to quell their revolt. Without firm British backing, the Ottoman reform movement would have collapsed. Unfortunately, Britain’s support of Ottoman territorial integrity was on a collision course with Russia’s attempts to spread its influence in the Balkans. The crash was the Crimean War of 1853-56. The Ottoman Empire, aided by British and French troops, defeated Russia and regained some lands in the Balkans and the Caucuses. But the price for Western support” was the 1856 Imperial Script where “all Ottoman subjects whether Muslim or not, would now enjoy equal rights under the law.” – p. 180

Persia Under the Qajars

“Persia was the only Middle Eastern country outside the Arabian Peninsula that was never fully absorbed by the Ottoman Empire.” Under Nadar Sha (1747) the country declined. – p. 180

Problems of Reformers in the 19th Century Middle East

  • They threatened Muslim culture and values. – p. 182
  • They were costly.
  • Shortage of trained personnel to run new institutions they had set up.

Chapter 12- Rise of Nationalism

“nationalism”  – is “desire of large group of people to create or maintain a common statehood…” – p. 185

Islam historically had the umma, But even though “nationalism shouln’t exist in Islam” it did.

The rise of nationalism was 40 years before WWI. – p. 88

“As middle Easterners learned how to work like Europeans, some also started to think like them.” – p. 186  So they formed nations.

Egyptian Nationalism

Cairo was rather westernized/Europeanized.

Khedive Isam-il (1863-1879)

  • He was Mehmet Ali’s grandson
  • He expanded Egypt and made it look great, but perhaps only to brag in the face of Europe.
  • “He also won a fateful privilege: the right to take out foreign loans without Ottoman approval.” – p. 188

Financial Problems

  • He had lots of cotton exports, and higher taxes, but it wasn’t enough.
  • When Isma’li left the throne under Ottoman direction, he left it 93 mil Eg. Pounds in the red.

Beginnings of Nationalism – Isma’li brought shock to Egypt, and caused people to get together, which eventually cohered into a nationalist party. – p. 190

Ahmed Urabi (1841-1911)

  • Urabi was a military leader and national hero of Egypt.
  • The British occupied Egypt in 1882, when the nationalists’ power was broken. – p. 191

Lord Cromer and the British Occupation – Egypt was in a bad shape by the time they took over. But Cromer restored it.

Revival of Egyptian Nationalism – Mustafa established the Nationalist Party in 1907. – p. 194

Ottomanism, Pan-Islam, and Turkism

“Until the 20th century no educated Ottoman, even if Turkish was his native tongue, cared to be called a Turk. The Ottoman Empire, though Westerners called it Turkey, was definitely not a Turkish nation-state.” – p. 195

Early Nationalism in the Ottoman Empire

“The New Ottomans of the 1870s had added the idea of a constitution that would set up an assembly representing all the empire peoples. The constitution was drafted in 1876 – the worst possible time, with several nationalist rebellions going on.” – p. 195

“The ensuing Russo-Turkish War put the empire in such a peril that no one could have governed under the Ottoman constitution.” – p. 196

Lots of sultans around this time were kind of nutz, cruel, crazy.

Young Turks in Power

Democracy seemed to sweep the empire, but at WWI, “Democracy was dead in the Ottoman Empire.” – p. 197

Nationalism in Persia

Nationalism requires 8 things:

  1. Previously existing state
  2. Religion
  3. Language
  4. Race
  5. Lifestyle
  6. Shared economic interests
  7. Common enemies
  8. Shared historical consciousness.

Persia had all this. “It is not surprising, therefore that a Persian nationalist movement arose between 1870 and 1940. Basically it was a reaction against the threat of a Russian military takeover, against growing dependence on the West, and against the divisive effects of tribalism in the rural areas.” – p. 199

Constitutionalist Movement

Oil Discoveries

“In the years leading up to WWI, Persia as a whole seemed to be drifting toward becoming a Russian protectorate.” – p. 201

“Ahmed Urubi and Mustafa Kamil are heroes to the Egyptian people today; Khedive Isma’li and Lord Cromer are not.” – p. 202

Chapter 13 – The Roots of Arab Bitterness

Arab Nationalism – “It is the belief that the Arabs constitute a single nation and should have a common governance.” – p. 203

But, who is “Arab”? That’s the problem. Earlier it was Bedouin, not anymore…

  • The Arab world essentially hasn’t been unified since the high Caliphate.
  • From 1500-2000, most Arabs belonged to Ottoman Empire.
  • The Christian Arab community emerged around the 1820s. – p. 206
  • “The centralizing trend of Ottoman reforms…alienated some Arabs, high ranking officials as well as local land lords, from what they were coming to view as a Turkish empire.” – p. 207
  • Three movements led to Arab autonomy
    • Ottoman Decentralization Party (1912)
    • Al-Fatat (youth) – demanded equal rights for Arabs. (1913)
    • Al-Ahd (Covenant) – “secret society of Arab officers in the Ottoman Army,” they tried to make it a dual-monarchy – similar to Austria-Hungary government at the time.


The Ottomans supported Germany, “the sultans officially proclaimed a jihad against Britain, France, and Russia.” – p. 210

Britain and Arabs

  • Sharif = descendent of Muhammad
  • Amir = prince

“The British government instructed its Cairo representation to contact Husayn, hoping to dissuade him from endorsing the jihad or better yet, to persuade him to lead an Arab rebellion against Ottoman rule.” – p. 211

Husayn – McMahon Correspondence (1915-1916)

In Cairo, Britain’s high commissioner was Sir Henry McMahon and he wrote to the Sharif of Mecca.

“Britain pledged that, if Husayn proclaimed an Arab revolt against Ottoman rule, it would provide military and financial aid during the war and would then help to create independent Arab governments in the Arabian Peninsula and most parts of the Fertile Crescent.” – p. 211

No one knows if McMahon included Lebanon (Palestine) as a part of the promised Arab governments, which was coveted by France.

“The Arabs argue, therefore, that Britain promised Palestine to them.” – p. 212

After 1918, both Jewish Zionists and British government “believed that he never promised Palestine to the Arabs.” – p. 212

Britain cared more for France in 1915 than the Jews (they were an ally).

The governor of Syria (Jemal) and his forces seized some Arabs in 1916 on account of treason. 22 were hung in Beirut. The Arabs in Syria were engaged…thus, now is the time for revolt.

The Arab Revolt

June 5, 1916, Husayn declared the revolt. Arab and Turk fighting began. Not all the Arabs were nationalists.

The Sykes-Picot Agreement

There was a secret government between Britain, France, and Russia. In a meeting in May 1916, they ended up giving French rule in North Syria, including Aleppo and Damascus (Islamic history cities) and Britain rule over lower Iraq.

“The only area left for the Arabs to govern without foreign rulers or advisors was the Arabian desert.” – p. 215

“To Husayn, the advantage of directing an Arab revolt against the Turks, who had interned him for so long, outweighed the perils of Sykes-Picot, which the British claimed would not involve the lands he hoped to rule. To other Arab nationalists, this Anglo-French agreement betrayed their cause; worse, it was kept secret until after the war.” – p. 216

The Balfour Declaration

In 1917, Nov 2, the Brits decided to help establish a Jewish national home in Palestine. The major points of the declaration were: (p.216)

  1. British government would help set up a national home in Palestine for the Jews.
  2. “It would not undermine the rights or status of Jews choosing not to live there.’
  3. “It would not harm the civil or religious rights of Palestine’s “existing Jewish communities.” The Arabs main objection to the Balfour Declaration was that they made up over 9/10 of the population of what would later become Palestine.” – p. 216

Note, it never addressed the rights of non-Jewish Palestinians.

Why did the Brits do this? The Jews had nowhere else to go, especially during the Holocaust. Canada, US, Britain and others refused to let Jews in. Europe likewise, or for overcrowding reasons.

Post-War Peace Settlement

US, Britain, France, won WWI. Germany, Ottomans, and the Austria-Hungary alliance was defeated.

“No one could reconcile the Middle Eastern claims of the Arabs, the Zionists, the British, and the French, but the conferees did try.” – p. 217

The King-Crane Commission realized the Zionist proposal was the most controversial, so they scaled it back a bit. It would “limit Jewish immigration into Palestine, and end any plans to turn the country into a Jewish national home.” – p. 217

Allied Agreements, San Remo and Sevres

“France gave up its claims to Mosul and Palestine in exchange for a free hand in the rest of Syria.” – p. 218

The Treaty of Sevres in 1920

  • “Meeting in San Remo in 1920, British and French representatives agreed to divide the Middle East mandates: Syria (w/Lebanon) to France, and Iraq and Palestine (and Jordan) to Britain.” – p. 218
  • Armenian and Kurdistan was to become independent.
  • Greece was to get permanent territory on Euro side and Smyrna.
  • This all carved up Turkey, so they rebelled under Mustafa Kamel north of Smyrna.
  • The Nationalist Party of Anchora got together in 1920 and declared Turkey an independent, constitutional republic (repudiates Sevres Treaty). Kemal was declared dictator for life.
  • The Treaty of Lausuania (?) in 1923 is when Euro powers recognize Turkish independence.

1921, Soviet Iranian Friendship Pact (Britain and Russia would withdraw from Iran, but would have the right to protect Iran (yes, interesting but true).

The end result was 4 mandates and an Emirate.

“The British were inconsistent backers of Arab nationalism, working with the Hashimite family. Husayn still ruled in the Hijaz, but the prestige he had gained from the Arab Revolt made him a troublesome ally for the British.” – p. 218

Husayn would later claim to be caliph of Islam, which “so offended the British that, as the Saud family rose to power in the eastern Arabia…they did nothing to stop the Saudis from marching into the Hijaz and toppling his regime in 1924.” – p. 219

“Ironically, Iraq, once among the poorest areas of the Ottoman Empire, became in 1932 the first state to graduate from its mandate status.” – p. 220


Arab power was thrusted after WWI. The Brits didn’t hold on to all of its promises. The Zionists and occupation of Palestine really ergs the Muslims on; the Palestinians, were the majority of course. – p. 221

Chapter 14 – Modernizing Rules in the Independent States

“There was no area, except for the inaccessible deserts of Arabia and the highest mountains of Anotolia and Persia, that did not feel the impact of the West by 1914.” – p. 223

Turkey: Phoenix from the Ashes

  • WWI, Turkey suffered 325k deaths, 400k wounded, 250k POW/MIA
  • Armenians became Turkish foes. – p. 225
  • Poor economy
  • Russia was torn apart at this time by Whites (anticommunists) and Reds (Bolsheviks)
  • Greeks threatened to take Turkey but Russia saved Turkey. – p. 228
  • 1923, “Turkey became the first republic in the modern Middle East.” – p. 228
  • “Mustafa Kemal [1881-1938] devoted the last fifteen years of his life to changing Turkey from the bastion of Islam into a secular nation-state.” – p. 229
  • Western culture replaced old norms at this time. Soon, Turkish men and women dressed pretty much like Europeans. Turkey switched from a Ottoman place to Gregorian. – p. 230
  • Kemal live a wild life (partyr)
  • The caliphate was abolished in 1924.

“From 1924 on, the Grant National Assembly passed laws closing the Sufi orders and madras, abolishing the wuqfs and the position of shaykh al-Islam, and replacing the Shari’ia…” – p. 230

Industrialization took off. – p. 232

Legacy of Kemalism

Had a powerful army, 2nd to Israel.

Historical recapitulations

“The 1917 Bolshevik Revolution briefly reduced Russian pressure on Persia, as the new communist regime gave up all the czarist claims. Germany’s defeat in 1918 left Britain as the sole foreign contender for control.” – p. 236

“1919-1920 marked the high tide of British power in the Muslim world.” But the situation changed because of:

  • Kemalist Revolution in Turkey
  • Nationalist uprising in Egypt and Iraq
  • Arab riots in Palestine
  • Britain’s reluctance to defeat the Caucasian republics (Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia)
  • Britain’s half-hearted attempts to oppose Soviet influence in Afghanistan
  • Failure of Allied efforts to crush Bolsheviks elsewhere.

Reza did a bunch of reforms. He “decreed in 1935 that this country’s name should be changed from Persia to Iran (the land of the Aryans).” – p. 239

His reforms included:

  1. “Liberation from foreign political and economic domination.
  2. Establishment of internal security and centralized government.
  3. Administration reforms and economic progress [building roads, etc.].
  4. Social reforms and cultural progress.” – p. 239

Reza was impatient, however. “When Hitler suddenly invaded the USSR that June, both the British and the Soviets sent troops into Iran. Once again, Iran’s independence was violated.” Reza went into exile and his son Mohammad took over. – p. 241

Then came the “White Revolution” which “promised changes in land ownership, rural development, education, and women’s rights beyond his father’s wildest dreams. It also alienated the ulama.” – p. 241

Reza could do this with insane oil revenues.

“Iran’s vaunted ‘modernization’ was only superficial. Billions of petro dollars could not solve Iran’s problems or sustain a ruler whose people had turned against him.” – p. 242

The Rise of Saudi Arabia

1945 – was in bad shape.

1880 – Ibn Sa’ud was born. “He wanted to retake Riyaah from the Rashid dynasty.” – p. 243

Saudis were with Wahabi tribes. The people loved Sa’ud. He stopped conquering in 1932, gave up Yemen. Everyone respected him. P. 245

1933, “Ibn Sa’ud gave the Americans a 60-yr concession to search for oil in Hasa…” – p. 245 And also a royalty for oil exported.

1938, Americans struck oil, sent it to British refineries in the Persian Gulf. Texas Oil + CA Standard merged to form Aramco.

Post WWII, output of oil jumped from 1.3 billion barrels in 1960 to 3.8 in 1970. By 1981 it was 10 mil b.

“Oil wealth made the Saudi government the most influential in the world.” – p. 246

The oil workers and technicians were living like middle-class Americans in Dhahran (where they struck oil). The change for Saudi Arabia was astounding. “Camels gave away to Cadillacs.” – p.247

Ibn Sa’ud wasn’t prepared for wealth governmentally, politically, or economically. He also felt “betrayed by the countries he had trusted, Britain and the US, with their apparent support for Jewish colonization in Palestine.” – p. 247

“But Ibn Sa’ud found it difficult to attack the Americans for supporting Israel when their company was pumping his oil…” “He loathed Soviet communism more.”

Successors of Sa’ud

Sa’ud died in 1953. His son Sa’ud created a 300 million dollar debt. The Saudi princes decided to give the country over to his younger, smarted brother, Faysal. He became him in 1964. He ended up being anti-communist and anti-Zionist. He also was the 1974 Time man of the year.

Chapter 15 – Egypt’s Struggle for Independence

Now with oil exports, the Suez canal became intensely important.

Egypt, was “a stepping stop to Asia or the Mediterranean Sea – but never as Egypt.” – p. 251

Britain’s Role in Egypt

1841-1914. Egypt was a province of the Ottoman Empire. From 1882, the British occupied Egypt, while decisions were being made in London.

Due to WWI, Britain had to move out; “Egypt became a British protectorate.” – p. 252

Egyptians just kind of held tight, and “hoped that the Turks and Germans would win the war.”

But they didn’t win. Britain tried to control Egypt by “the protectorate gave way in 1922.”

In 1956, the British occupation was terminated. The only reason Britain was there because of Egypt’s strategic location.


Cairo was overpopulated.

1919 Revolution

Sa’d Zaghlul was a critic of British advisors and student of Jamal al-din at Al-Azhar. – p. 255

He studied law in France, came back to marry the Prime minister’s daughter and gain power over Egypt. But he quit the cabinet in 1912.

1918, two days after the European Armistice, Sa’d and some guys tried setting up a meeting in London to argue for Egypt’s independence. This group of six delegates, the Wafd, got supported from the people so when Sa’d was exiled, riots broke out in 1919 and even more went on strike.

1922, Egyptians started setting up their own government.

1923, Wafd turned into a political party and won in elections.

Decade Power triangle

  1. British – wanted occupation but didn’t care about internal reform.
  2. Waft Party – popular Egyptian nationalism.
  3. King Faud – replaced constitution in 1930 to make it authoritarian.

1920s and 1930s were a type of Muslim renaissance.

1924, abolishment of caliphate by Ataturk. – p. 259

King Faruq (1920-1965)

  • Egypt’s last king at age 17, son of Faud.
  • Became overwhelmed by the tensions and just started partying in 1942 until “he was finally overthrown by Egyptian military officers.” – p. 261

The result of his reign was a huge gap between rich and poor; a bad economy. The Society of Muslim brothers came to reform. Democracy wasn’t working much.


Britain and France declared war on Nazi Germany in 1939. When British tanks surrounded Faruq’s palace, that’s when Faruq started going kind of crazy. – p. 263

Cairo became a coordination, economic hub for the war.

Egyptian Revolution

1945-1951, uprisings but no revolution.

1942, Iraqi Nuri al-Sa’id proposed to combine all Anglo speaking countries in the fertile Crescent (Iraq, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine). As a response, Egypt called for the Arab League (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt), which was setup in 1945. But cooperation was hard – though they could all agree that the Jews should not form a state in Palestine.

“Egypt set its policies less to block any Zionist threat to Arab interests than to counter what the other Arab governments might do. If Egypt ignored the Palestine issue, then Transjordan’s Amir Abdallah, a rival of king Faruq, would take the leading role among the Arab rulers. If Abdullah resisted any Jewish to form a state in Palestine, he might seize control of much (or all) of the country…If he chose to make peace with the Zionists, they might divide Palestine between them.” – p. 265

Egypt had no army and yielded to Israel in 1949.

Free elections came back again in 1950. – p. 265

Egyptians wanted the Nile and camels back from the British.

1952 Military Coup

  • Fall came from inside.
  • Secret officers took government without a fight.
  • Faruq stepped down.

To focus on anti-communist alliances, US put pressure on Brits to let go of Suez Canal. In 1954 they did. By 1956 every British soldier was out of Egypt (first time since 1882).

Chapter 16 – The Contest for Palestine

“Jews and Arabs have common traits.” – p. 270

“The duration and intensity of what we now call the Arab-Israeli conflict were due to the rise of nationalism in modern times.”


“Zionism is the belief that the Jews constitute a nation…and that they deserve the liberties of other such groups, including the right to return to what they considered their ancestral homeland, the land of Israel (or Palestine). Political Zionism is the belief that the Jews should form and maintain a state for themselves there.” – p. 271

Creating a Jewish state was not a new idea (Zionism), but doing it in Palestine (Political Zionism) was. – p. 273

The Beginnings of Political Zionism

It began as a few Jewish rabbis (some secular socialists), some as early as 1883, wanting to rebuild and move to the Holy lands. – p. 274

“Moses Hess, one of the first German socialists, argued in Rome and Jerusalem (1862) that Jews could form a truly socialistic nation-state in the land of Israel.” – p. 274

In Russia, anti-Jewish persecution was at a high (not to mention previous persecution elsewhere like France, Spain, etc.). Leon Pinsker was the first to say the answer having their own state.

Zionist clubs started forming, like the Lovers of Zion (Chovervei Tzion) and BILU, and began sending young Russian Jews to Palestine to scope things out.

Herzl was a journalist who wrote in 1896 and “carried the ideas of Prinsker and other early Zionists to thousands of German-speaking Jews.” – p. 275

“Their conversion to Zionism enabled Herzl to bring together the first International Zionist Congress, in Basel Switzerland, in 1897.” – p. 275

They proposed solutions to reach these goals:

  1. Promote colonization of Jewish agriculture/industry workers in Palestine.
  2. Uniting Jews into institutions compliant with law.
  3. Encourage Jewish settlement and awareness.
  4. Get government to help Zionist goal.

After this was “the large scale emigration of Jews from Russia following its abortive 1905 resolution.” – p. 276

“Soon Jewish children and young adults in Palestine were speaking Hebrew as their first language.”

Jews worked hard at cultivating the soil for farming (Kibbutzes, collective farming). Tel Aviv became the first all Jewish city in modern history.

Soon Arabs protested against these settlements in the Ottoman parliament. – p. 277

Britain and the Palestine Problem

“WWI was the third event that saved political Zionism.” – p. 277

The first two were Herzl’s life and the emigration.

“In 1914 Berlin was the main center of the Zionist movement.”

Both sides of WWI needed backing, but it didn’t work out for the Jews. So Britain stepped in.

Balfour Declaration

  • The Zionist supporters were Chaim Weizmann and Lord Balfour.
  • It declared that it supports Zionist “projects” but it does not state the borders of the Jewish state, and it pledged not to harm the rights of Palestine’s inhabitants (93% who spoke Arabic, both Muslim and Christian).
  • “The Balfour Declaration seemed to ensure…that the British government would control Palestine after the war with a commitment to build the Jewish national home there.” – p. 278

But did that happen? Did the Brits follow through on their promises?

Post-war, Britain occupied Egypt still and Palestine. The Arabs obviously didn’t like it, so Arab resentment was blamed by Zionists against Britain.

1920 – Arabs attacked Jews in a revolt. The Brits were now torn on favoring Israel, who said they would help the League of Nations. But the Arabs wanted to be friends with Britain because they wanted to gain Muslim favor in India and neighboring countries. – p. 279

In 1922, the League of Nations “specifically charged Britain with carrying out the Balfour Declaration.”

Churchill said in 1922 that he wouldn’t give preference to Jews over Arabs. – p. 280

Sir Herbert Samuel was the first civilian governor of Palestine. He “was a prominent Zionist” but “he tried hard to be fair to all sides.” – p. 281

He put in an Arab nationalist, Hajj Amin al-Husayni, as the chief mufti of Jerusalem. He was too intense, so the Brits deported him in 1937. – p. 281

Amin al-Husayni (1893-1874) – p. 282

  • Hero to Palestinians, villain to Zionists.
  • Attended al-Azhar, was in Ottoman army post WWI.
  • 1922, elected mufti of Jerusalem.
  • He used his power for Palestinian independence/
  • 1937, expelled to Lebanon, then in 1941 took part in uprising against British.
  • Went to Nazi Germany.

1928, Jewish worshipers set up a screen to separate men from women at the Wailing Wall. After not being persuaded to move, the police forced them to. The Zionists reacted with protests, eventually a small civil war broke out. – p. 283

Weizmann resigned and became leader of the Jewish Agency. The Brits weren’t strong enough to protect all the innocent lives in these violent breakouts.

In 1930s, Hitler sent waves of Jews flooding into Palestine. Why? Europe was already packed full, and the US had strict immigration laws already, due to the war. Canada also refused to let Jews in.

“al-Husayni took charge of a new Arab Higher committee that represented nearly all Muslim and Christian factions. The committee called a general Arab strike in 1936.” – p. 284

British government, in response to violence and pressure to uphold their promise, set up the Peel Committee, which gave a small chunk of land to the Jews in 1938, but with Palestinian resistance they retracted the proposals. – p. 284-5.

So, the British called both Arabs and Jews together in London in 1939 to settle the problems. But of course, that was a joke. They hated each other. Britain badly needed Arab support for the war anyway. The Brits issued the White Paper, which said in 10 years Palestine would be independent (thus, the abolishment of the Balfour). The Jews were obviously angry, but they didn’t have a choice.

“During WWII most of the Arab countries remained neutral.” – p. 285

The big problem was, the Jews had nowhere to go but Palestine.

“We must assist the British in the war as if there was no White Paper and we must resist the White Paper as if there was no war.” – p. 285, Jewish Agency Chairmen, Ben-Gurion

Hitler’s holocaust created a worldwide-concern and awareness for the Jews.

“In 1942, American Zionists adopted what was called the Biltmore Program, calling on Britain to rescind the White Paper and to make Palestine a Jewish state.” – p. 286

  • Violence in Palestine increased as WWII settled.
  • Zionist terrorism, bombings of British installations in Palestine.
  • S. began to pressure Brits in allowing a Jewish state.
  • 1947, Brits completely give up and give their responsibilities to the UN. – p. 287

The UN Partition Plan of 1947, Nov 29. It passed 33/13 vote. – p. 287

The Zionists said, ok, fine, we’ll do it. The Arabs, however, threatened to go to war.

The UN didn’t prepare enough military to actually carry this out and maintain the borders. The logistics were fuzzy. Violence and terrorism on both sides escalated.

In 1948, a US representative at the UN proposed a 10 year cool-off time before giving the Jews the land. But the Zionists were so close to having what they wanted, they weren’t going to stop their momentum.

The Brits pulled out, and on May 14, 1948, Jewish Agency Executive Committee met in Tel-Aviv and established the state of Israel for those partitioned spots. – p. 289

They also announced the White Paper bunk.

Within days, “five Arab governments sent their armies into Palestine to fight against the new State of Israel.” – p. 290

Chapter 17

Technically, the Arab states out-powered Israel. – p. 292

The IDF came together, planned ahead, and anticipated attacks. The Arabs were more lax, this was going to be an easy battle. They underestimated Israel.

“The opposing Arab armies turned out to be smaller than expected.” – p. 292

“Poor morale was a major reason for the Arab defeat.” – p. 293

Both US and USSR backed Israel. Why did the USSR help?

  • To weaken the Brits.
  • To hopefully convert Israel to communism.
  • They needed to discredit feudal/bourgeois Arab regimes.

The Brits backed out because, “the British government depended too heavily on US military and economic support to openly challenge it [foreign office]’s policies.” – p. 294

“Israelis wanted the Arabs’ homes, lands, and crops for the Jewish immigrants whom they hoped to attract.” – p. 294

They really wanted Judea. – p. 295

While the UN was still trying to negotiate and find a solution, Israel was taking over masses of land.

In the end, “negotiators broke down before the two sides even met. Israel wanted a comprehensive settlement, while the Arabs called on Israel to withdraw from the lands not allotted to the Jewish state by the 1947 partition plan.” – p. 296

The Arabs lost because of their political division as well. – p.  296

Egypt was the leading Arab country at this time, they “did not want a Hashimite king ruling next door Palestine and scheming to annex Syria and Lebanon.” – p. 296

“It was the zeal of the Muslim Brotherhood, the vanity of King Faruq, and the momentum of Egypt’s own threats that sent the army on to fight a war for which it was not prepared.” – p. 297

“As long as the Arabs had a chance of defeating Israel in 1948, their leaders and armies competed to pick up the most land and glory in Palestine. Once Israel began driving the Arabs back, they began bickering over who was to blame.” – p. 297

Israel ended up acquiring chunks of land not allowed by the 1947 partition plan. Palestinian refugees fled to the Gaza Strip and West Bank. 750k of them at the end of the war.

“Both sides committed terrorist acts.” – p. 298

Israel wouldn’t let Palestinians back in their homes after the war. The UN set up relief efforts for them (UNRWA). – p. 298

The Arab Countries


  • 1946 – independent
  • 1955 – UN membership

Syria and Lebanon

  • 1860, massacre of many Christians p. 300
  • French controlled Lebanon until 1943
  • During war, Christian refugees were let in, but Muslims went into camps.
  • 1958, civil war.
  • “Syria fought against Israel in 1948 in alliances with Egypt and no competition with Jordan’s Arab Legion.” – p. 301


  • Most populous.
  • 1932, joined League of Nations – p. 303
  • 1955, Iraq joined Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and Britain to “form anticommunist alliance commonly called Baghdad Pact.” – p. 302
  • 1958, monarchy went under.


  • 1954, they gave up Suez Canal.
  • 1955, Nasir attacked Iraq for joining Baghdad Pact.
  • “Egypt opposed any Arab alliance with the West.” – p. 305
  • Egypt bought $200m in arms from Russia.

Israel’s Early Years

“Few Israelis realized that they had created another oppressed people: the Palestinian Arabs.” – p. 306

Israel absorbed thousands of Jews from Europe. – p. 306

“In an extraordinary act of statesmanship, West Germany Chancellor Konrad Adenaver made an agreement with Israeli Premier David Ben-Gurion to pay huge reparations to Israeli’s for the holocaust.” – p. 307

David Ben Gurion (1886-1973)

  • Born in Poland
  • Family was Zionist, received a very secular, Hebrew education.
  • Immigrated to Palestine at age 20 after spending two years at University of Warsaw. – p. 309
  • His name Gruen was changed to Ben-Gurion.
  • Active Zionist until WWI.
  • 1915, deported to New York City, married a Russian Zionist there.
  • 1918, came back to Palestine, eventually became chairman Zionist Executive (essentially head of whole Zionist movement).
  • “We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation and the cutting of all social serves to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.” – p. 309

Israel began developing and stabilizing fast. How?

“Israel’s system worked because its leaders, haunted by the memory of what Hitler tried to do, felt that no personal or ideological preference was more important than the security of the state, which they equated with the survival of the Jewish people.” – p. 310

“Isolated within the region, many Israeli’s developed symptoms of psychopathic hostility to outsiders. It was said (by Jews and Gentiles alike) that Israel’s were rude and hard to deal with.” – p. 311

1955, Israeli retaliatory raid against Gaza, encouraged Egypt to build up forces.

1956, Israel, France, and Britain prepare to attack Egypt and punish the Arabs.

Middle Eastern Oil

“The leading Middle Eastern producer in the first half of the 20th century was Iran, which is not an Arab country.” – p. 311

Iraq’s oil production: 1948 = 3.4 mil long tons, 1955 = 33.1 mil long tons

Saudi Arabia’s production: 1944 = 1 mil lt, 1954 = 46m lt

1950, Armco agree with Saudi Arabian government to split all profits 50/50. – p. 312

The patriarchal rulers in Iraq went from Camels to Cadillacs, almost overnight.

The real power of oil “was not realized until after the 1960s.” – p. 312

By 1956, Europeans were using more oil than coal, coming from Middle East.

The Great Power and the Arab World

Britain and France got most of their oil from tankers through the Suez Canal.

1956, Oct 29, Israel invades Egypt and takes control of Sinai. – p. 313

US had a “pro-Arab tilt in the Suez Affair.” – p. 314

Eisenhower Doctrine

  • S. support of Arabs to fight communists, 1957. – p. 314
  • No one really approved of it except Lebanon.
  • “The struggle between the neutralist and pro-Western Arabs climaxed in Jordan.” – p. 315
  • Everyone kind of wanted Syria

“Syria’s leaders were Arab nationalists, not communists.” – p. 317

1958, Syria and Egypt formed the United Arab Republic as a response to Husayn and Faysal II, the Hashimite kings.

Lebanon Civil war. P. 318

1958 was Iraqi Revolution. King Faysal II and his uncle were assassinated, “The new regime seemed the embodiment of Arab nationalism and communism combined…Washington now wanted to invade Egypt.” – p. 318

“Nasirism” – “pan Arabism, positive neutralism, and Arab socialism.” – p. 319

1962, Algeria becomes independent from France.

“Israel’s tapping of the Jordan waters galvanized the Arab countries into action.” – p. 322

Israel threatened to air strike the Arabs if it diverted their water project. – p. 322

1964, PLO formed on grounds of retaking lands that were in British mandate. – p. 323

“To replace the state of Israel, the PLO proposed a secular democratic state in which Jews, Christians, and Muslims would coexist in peace.” – p. 323

PLO – started building conventional army, and in turn created the al-Fatah (antiwater project), led by Arafat.

1966, IDF raided Jordanian West Bank. Both the West and the Arabs protested.

“The USSR still backed Nasir but withheld the offensive weapons he needed to attack Israel. Nasir hoped to restrain Syria’s new leaders from drawing Egypt into another war by making a military alliance with them.” – p. 324

“This was a serious miscalculation. In April 1967, Syrian planes got into a dogfight with Israelis and came out a poor second. Eshkol [3rd prime minister of Israel] warned Syria that Israel would retaliate unless it stopped firing on Israeli settlements near its borders. In early May the Soviets told Nasir that Israel was massing troops in its north for a preemptive attack on Syria. Egypt called up its reserves, routed tanks through Egypt’s cities and into the Sinai, and made threats against Israel…On 16 May Nasir asked the UN to withdraw some of its peace-keeping units. Secretary General U. Thant promptly pulled out all UN forces…without even consulting the Security Council. Once UNEF had evacuated all the key points in Gaza and Sinai, Egyptian military units moved in. Among the strategic points they occupied was Sharm al-Shaykk, from which they renewed the Arab blockage against Israeli shipping through the Gulf of Aqaba.” P. 324

This blockade was the core cause of the 1967 war.

In a New York times article, an Israeli admits that they attacked first. – p. 325

1966, Sayyid Qutb was hung by Nasir (Egypt). – p. 326

“Political Zionism had achieved its goal of creating a Jewish state, but was it truly a light unto the Gentiles?” – p. 326

Chapter 18 – War and the Quest for Peace

Review of chapter

  • 6 day war refuted myth that “the Jewish state could not defeat the Arabs without Western allies,” but it also created the myth that Israel was invincible.
  • In 1973, the largest bloodiest war between the Arabs and Jews took place.
  • From 1967-79, the Arab Israeli conflict, most Jews proved to be Zionist.

June 1967 War

Israeli air force first took out main air basis in Egypt, Jordan and Syria. This series of strikes rendered the Arabs virtually useless, and soon defeated.

Israel broke the blockage of al-Shaykh. – p. 331

June 7, they took Jerusalem and the West Bank.

June 8, they attacked US ship Liberty and killed 34 Americans, supposedly by mistake.

  • There has never been a “congressional investigation” and all documents on it are “still classified.”
  • Israel’s motive is still unclear for that attack.
  • Israel later apologized and paid compensation.

Israel was outnumbered, and outpowered much like in 1948 war.

“With half a million troops in Vietnam, the US could not” have intervened. – p. 332

How did Israel win?

  1. Decisive air strike.
  2. Egypts best troops were already fighting in the Yemen Civil war.

Nasir tried to resign at the end of the war.

June 10, war ended.

  • Israel took Gaza, Golan Heights, and West Bank.
  • 1 million Arabs were now under Jewish rule. – p. 333

The UN held meetings to deal with the situation.

  • Nothing worked, meanwhile Israel dozed Palestinian villages/houses.
  • “Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, including the Old City, defied the UN General Assembly and violated International law.”

Tensions obviously increased, but the UN passed Resolution 242. This resolution

  • “joined the Husayn-McMahon correspondence and the Balfour Declaration in that that gallery of ambiguous documents complicating the Arab-Israeli conflict.” – p. 335
  • The Arabs saw the resolution that Israel was supposed to give up the lands gained from the war (retain its “1967 borders”)
  • Israel, however, saw it as a withdrawal from only some of these lands. – p. 335
  • In the end, the resolution ended up ignoring all the rights of the Palestinian people.

The PLO was made before the 1967 war. But now it became militant.

The US hoped the USSR wanted to stop selling weapons to Egypt and the Arabs. – p. 337

“During the war the USSR had ruptured diplomatic relations with Israel and many of the Arab states had broken ties with the US.” – p. 338

“Johnson had arranged to sell Phantom jets to Israel, but Nixon delayed the deal, putting pressure on the Israelis to return land to the Arabs.” – p. 338

1969, Nasir said Egypt would increase pressure on the Suez Canal, starting the “war of attrition.”

Israel “responded by attacking both military and Egyptian civilian targest (using American equipment in violation of US arms export control laws) .” – p. 338

By 1970, IDF Phantoms were facing Russia MiGs. – p. 339

Political Changes: 1967-1970

Gurion’s successor Eshkol died in 1969. He was replaced by Golda Meir, who was a fairly good leader. Through her, “Americans view Middle Eastern events through Israeli glasses.” – p. 341

1969, Rogers Peace Plan was another attempt at peace. The 90-day cease fire did work.

1970, the US had offered $500m to Israel for jets.

The core problem at this time was that “Israeli’s fear of an attack…by the Arabs and the Arabs fear of expansion…by the Israelis.” – p. 334

The War (Yom-Kippur), 1973

Sep, 1973, Middle East was calm, it appeared that “…an Arab-Israeli war was improbable.” – p. 346

Sadat was the leader in Egypt.

  • The Arabs prepared an attack on the Golan Heights and East Bank Suez Canal.
  • They thought US wouldn’t intervene because of the Vietnam war.
  • They attacked in October, with a massive ground invasion. They took IDF planes down with SAM (surface to air missiles).
  • It happened, though not necessarily on purpose, on the Day of Atonement (hence “Yom Kippur).

Israel thought of a preemptive strike, but “ruled it out, lest Washington cut off all aid to Israel.” – p. 349

  • They had US intelligence at their disposal.

Sadat could have kept going in his successful assault, but that wasn’t his goal.

“Egypt had long urged the Persian Gulf states to deny oil to the US as a means of making Israel give up the occupied territories.” – p. 350

“The day after the US started flying arms to Israel, the Arab oil-producing states, meeting in Kuwait,” said they would cutback their oil production until Israel withdrew occupied territories. – p. 350

Anwar al-Sadat (1918-1981), p. 358

  • 1938, was 20 years old and became 2nd of Egyptian Army.
  • Posted in Sudan, and meets al-Nasir.
  • They form an organization called “Free-officers” for ousting British.
  • 1940s, he tried to work with Germany to get rid of Britain.
  • 1942, Sadat gets caught and imprisoned.
  • He escapes, and in 1950 rejoins army as Captain.
  • 1952, helped overthrow King Faruq in Iraqi Revolution.
  • 1970, Nsair died, Sadat becomes interim president of Egypt.
  • Meets with Carter and Israel to talk peace. Egypt Regains Sinai, but everything else goes towards Israel.
  • 1978, receives Nobel Prize.
  • He failed to produced peace in his career. The Arabs resented him for that.
  • 1981, some associates of Egyptian army assassinate him during parade for Egypt’s success of Yom Kippur.


Israel agreed (not from oil embargo, however), to “give back to Syria what they had taken in the October war” plus the main city of the Golan Heights.

“AIPAC, the pro-Zionist lobby, prevented the US government from pressing Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza Strip and make a compromise peace with the Arabs, in particular with Egypt and Jordan.” – p. 354

1974, conflict in Israel began arising over who was a “Jew”? It occurred between Orthodox Jews and other Jews.

The oil embargo caused prices to skyrocket all over the world (perhaps Russia benefited from this, as Russia got rich in the 1970s from oil prices, and of course dumped their cash into the arms race).

“The US arm sales to Middle Eastern rulers, to help pay for oil purchases, reached $9b in 1977. Egyptians, Yemenis, Palestinians and Lebanese flocked to newly rich oil countries to find jobs and sent much of their earnings to their families, changing their lifestyle.” – p. 355

The PLO gained more power in the 1970s. It became a representative of the entire Palestinian body in the Middle East. – p. 355

1975, the UN (ESCO) condemned, by a large majority “Zionism as a form of racism. It later repealed this resolution.” – p. 356

The US aid to Israel totaled $2b just between 1974-1975. – p. 356

Lebanese Civil War

  • Religious angle – Muslim vs. Christians, factions in both.
  • Nationalist angle – Lebanese loyalists vs. Arab nationalist, PLO eventually sided with Arabs. – p. 359
  • Economic angle – massive gap between poor and upper class.
  • Political angle – left vs. right.

1975-1976, $1b in war damage., 70,000 Lebanese died, mostly civilians.

Syria attacked “Lebanese Muslims and the PLO, and battered them into submission by fall of 1976.” – p. 360

To the US, Arafat’s PLO was an umbrella to terrorist organizations. Both Ford and Carter ignored Palestinians and favored Israel. – p. 361

1971, Sadat flew to Israel to work out peace. – p. 363

“He offered the Israel’s peace with Egypt if they withdrew from all the lands they had occupied in the 1967 war and recognized a Palestinian state.” – p. 363

But the Arabs didn’t back Sadat. Israel wanted peace, “but Sadat wanted a comprehensive settlement including Syria’s Jordan, and the Palestinians.” – p. 363

Resolution didn’t work, even though everyone wanted peace badly.

1978, Carter (US), Sadat (Egypt), and Begin (Israel) went to Camp David. – p. 364

3 months of talking went by, and still no peace.

Menachem Begin (1913-1992)

  • Israeli Prime Minister, founder of the underground Irgun Zionist Group.
    • Irgun was a radical Zionist faction that believed the Jews should claim absolutely all of the Holy Lands (all of biblical Israel). So they created terrorist acts to do this between 1920s and 1930s.
    • Ariel Sharon, 1970s IDF commander, was a part of Irgun.
  • Learned under Jewish Rabbis and went to U. of Warsaw for Law.
  • Got sent 8 years to Soviet gulag in Siberia.
  • Ordered the bombing of Iraq’s Tammuz nuclear reactor in 1981.

OPEC threatens to raise oil by 14.5%.

But in 1979, March 26, Egypt and Israel signed an agreement that ended the state of war. – p. 365

But Israel “quickly reneged on promises not to add Jewish settlements on the West Bank, leaving Sadat looking as if he had betrayed the Palestinians.” – p. 365 (Hence his assignation)

Chapter 19 – The Reassertion of Islamic Power

Peace efforts were like a rollercoaster.

Goldschmidt comes out and says “Our working assumption in writing this book was that people are motivated more by the need to prove their self-worth than by their material drives and desires. For many oppressed peoples…asserting religious beliefs and symbols were a step toward attaining their freedom and dignity.” – p. 369

Neither Fascism or Communism fit Islam. – p. 370

Iranian Revolution

  • Shii is dominant in Iran.
  • Iran is 12th Imam Shii (they await the 12th imam).
  • Law makers for Shii Islam are mujtahids.
  • 1925-1979, Pahlavi dynasty, 2 shahs.


America was interested in Iran because of its location to communist Russia. They urged Iran to modernize.

Iran started reforms to do this in the 1963 White Revolution. Iran grew and modernized. While there was great prosperity, the farmers didn’t benefit much from this. P. 372-373.

The SAVAK is shah’s secret police.

Problems came from the White Rev.

  • Too much oil revenues for the economy to absorb.
  • Iran’s beaucratic eleite didn’t have experience like Turkey and Egypt.
  • “Materialist values challenged religious beliefs among all social classes.” – p. 373

1978, seemed stable at first, but “trouble started a week later [Carter’s speech] when the shah’s minister of info planted an article in Tehran’s leading newspaper attacking Khomeini.” – p. 374

Riots soon broke out.

Sayyid R. M. Khomeini (1902-1989) – p. 375

  • Leader of the Iranian Revolution of 1970s.
  • He received a Shii education.
  • 1930s, became a mujtahid (interpreter of Shariah)
  • Wanted pure umma
  • So when Shad made secular reforms, he was offended and became an outspoken person against the Shariah-breaking government. Thus, sort of gave roots to Islamic Republic of Iran.
  • So he got exiled in 1964 for that, settled in Paris.
  • He came back with determination and power in 1979, when the revolution took place.
  • He sought the well being of the poor in Iran, and economic conditions did improve under his rule.
  • He hated the secular US, though the US “heavily armed the Pahlavi regime.” – p. 375

The Revolution

Sayyid called for a workers strike which “almost shut down Iran’s oil industry. Foreign companies and customers, remembering the Arab oil embargo of 1973, feared new shortages. Oil prices shot up. As the gravity of the Iranian crisis became clear in Washington, Carter’s advisors debated whether to offer the shah more military support to ease him out.” – p. 376

People started rioting, and Western symbols and objects in Iran – which were signs of secularism and the offenses of the Shariah – were torn down. Khomeini called for the overthrow of the Bakhtiar government, doing all of this from his remote location in Paris. Iran’s own soldiers/army turned on them to join the demonstrators. On Feb 11, 1979, it fell in.

New revolutionary cabinet formed under Bazargan, an engineer who managed Iran’s nationalist oil industry. They established the Islamic republic. Khokemini became the leading fiqih.

US-Iran policies/diplomacy disappeared. The Shah moved to the US. The U.S. embassy in Iran was broke into and protests demanded that the Shah come back to Iran for a fair trial. The US embassy people were then held hostage.

This put the US in a tough spot. Would it attack or what? No, the US stopped buying oil from them, and froze all financial activity. – p. 378

This didn’t work, and the hostage situation lasted 444 days. During this 444 day period:

  • The Soviet’s occupied Afghanistan.
  • S. Forces moved into the Indian Ocean.
  • Iraq invaded Iran in 1980.
  • Regan takes the U.S. presidency.

The US tried to rescue the hostages in 1980, but it failed. Fortunately, the protesters released the hostages.

From that point, Iran sort of went out of the Western spotlight…and now back in it because of nuclear reasons.

Struggle for Persian Gulf Supremacy

1970s, oil from Middle east gets tanked to Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean through Hormuz straights and Gulf of Oman.

Arabs feared Israel expansion more than Russia’s, but the US saw it vice versa.

By the 1980s, 1/5 of Russia was Muslim. – p. 381

“Broadly speaking, the Gulf states realized that their own security depended on never letting one country become strong enough to control all the others.” – p. 382

This is apparently what kept peace in 19th Century Europe. – p. 382

After Iran’s dominance faded out, Iraq came into view, now developing fast under Saddam Hussein’s regime, and past conflict of Kurdish revolt and 1958-70 political turbulence.

Iraq’s Muslims are: 60% Shii, 30% Sunni/other

1980, Iraq did a stupid attack of Iran. Both bombed each other’s oil refineries.

The USSR sold arms to both Iran and Iraq, the US did nothing regarding this under Carter.

There was a 1 year stalemate between the two countries.

1982, Iran came back, a reclaimed lost land from previous conflict.

1981, Israel Bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor.

Reagan leaned towards Iraq (Hussein) but secretly fueled Iran, in hopes of releasing American hostages held by Shiis in Lebanon.

The US gave intelligence to Baghdad about Iran.

The war between Iran and Iraq damaged other oil refineries/systems of other countires.

By 1988, Saddam was gassing his own citizens (Kurds), with US weapons technology.

Exhausted, Iran gave up and did a cease-fire agreement in 1987, by 1988 the fighting stopped. Total war as 8 years long.

1980s, “As the US government was spending $2b a year on economic, technical, and military assistance to Egypt, mainly as a result of the treaty with Israel, many Americans failed to see that Sadat had lost touch with his own people.” – p. 386

Israel’s hostility to Palestinians increased under Begin.

1982, Israel bombed a Palestinian base near Beirut, Lebanon. – p. 390

The Palestinians obviously fought back.

Israel blew off all UN policies and did a massive attack on June 6th. “Israel admitted using US-made cluster bombs against ‘terrorists’ (most were civilians) .” – p. 390

Fueled by US arms, Israel surrounded Beirut.

The US Secretary of State left Reagan’s administration, “Probably because he would have backed Israel in destroying the PLO in Lebanon.” The new Secretary of State drafted the Reagan Peace Plan in 1982, which was simply another attempt at getting Israel out of the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Though Egypt accepted it, both the PLO and Israel rejected it.

Ariel Sharon was IDF commander at this time (1970s-80s)

1983, Peace Treaty did nothing. – p. 392

Fighting continued in Lebanon. Beirut fell to Shii and Druze militia. – p. 392

“Israel’s bombardment of Palestinians in 1991 was a form of state-sponsored terrorism, as were Asad’s massacre of his foes in Hama in 1982 and Saddam’s attacks on Iraqi Kurds in 1988.” – p. 393

  • Notice, this was the emergence of State-sponsored terrorism.

In short, the US lacked any good Middle Eastern policy for two reasons: Zionism and oil. – p. 394

Reagan simply wanted to get Middle Eastern countries to combine to combat the USSR but they could care less, they were too busy struggling with Israel. – p . 395

Chapter 20 – The Gulf War and Peace Process

Iraq had earlier complained that Kuwait belonged to them since the fall of the Ottoman empire. Kuwait, Iraq insisted, had no right to be independent.

The 8 year Iran/Iraq war put $15b in debt to Kuwait. Kuwait was doing well, that is, from oil while Tehran and Baghdad were just trying to survive. Iraq looks over at Kuwait’s prosperity, fast development and modernization (p. 400) and wonders why they’re complaining about the multi-billion dollar debt. – p. 399-400

Regardless of how well they were doing, Kuwait refused to cancel Iraqi debts. They also didn’t raise oil prices. (note: Kuwait had ties with Russia, sort of irrelevant at this point).

Thus, Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug 2nd, 1990.

In response, Operation Desert Shield was formed, with the coalition: p. 401

  • US, British, Syria, Egypt, South Korea, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Australia, Pakistan, U.A. Emirates Iraq, Libya and allegedly North Korea

The UN came out and plainly said, Iraq, “withdraw.” Saddam blew them off. Kuwaitis were kicked of their country due to the invasion, and of course oil goes up again.

“Saddam cleverly offered to evacuate Kuwait, only if all other foreign armies would withdraw from Middle Eastern lands they were occupying, a direct dig at Israel and Syria.” – p. 402

Of course, Saddam was using weapons given to him by the US, France, Germany and USSR during the Iran war and even this war (Gulf War), though more so in Iran war. – p. 403

By Jan 1991, .5m foreign troops were on Saudi Arabian soil.

Operation Desert Storm

Jan 17, 1991, official break out of war. Iraq launched SCUDs on Israel (p. 403 I think). Why? To try and get Israel to strike back, which would bring together all the other Arab countries to join Saddam in taking out Israel once and for all.

But the US pressured Israel to do nothing, and it did nothing. As a result, Saddam’s plan didn’t work.

SCUDS didn’t do much, air strikes from Iraq were much more damaging.

Saddam dumped millions of gallons of Kuwaiti oil in the Gulf, contaminating it.

Saddam offered really dumb deals, but then the smack down came Feb. 1991, and within 100 hours, Iraq as out of Kuwait. – p. 405

Iraq rebuilt their Army and attacked again in 1993-94.

“After years of resistance, Saddam consented to a UN deal that allowed him to sell $2b worth…of Iraqi oil every 6 months in exchange for imported food, medicine, and other necessities, starting in 1997.” – p. 405

1998-2002, US inspectors never entered the country. – p. 406

Kuwait gets rebuilt.

Palestinians and Peace Process

1990s, “Arab-Israeli” conflict morphed into the “Palestinian-Israeli” conflict. – p. 406

First Intifada

1987, small uprising of children in Gaza against Israel’s army, violence breaks out, Hamas forms as a resistance movement.

Lebanese war ends with Israel pulling out completely in 2000. – p. 409

USSR, after Gulf War, stopped funding Arab states to fight Israel.

1993, “Israel continued to bomb Lebanese villages (leaving .5m homeless), to expand its West Bank settlements (illegal under the Geneva Convention, which Israel had signed)…” – p. 410

1993, Oslo Accord, PLO and Israel signed the agreement. Israel agreed to withdraw troops from Jericho and Gaza Strip where Jews were not settled within 3 months. – p. 411

They did, and Arafat moved in to rebuild. Hamas defied Arafat though, and violence even intensified.

1994, Israeli-Jordanian Peace Treaty – p. 413

1995, Oslo 2 – Israel’s withdraw from West Bank.

Yasir Arafat

  • In his younger years, he lived in Jerusalem and moved to Cairo at age 8. – p. 412
  • 1946, smuggled weapons from Egypt to Palestine.
  • 156, graduated with civil engineering degree.
  • Served Egyptian Army during 1956 Suez War
  • 1959, Founded Fatah in Kuwait.
  • 1956, tries to make a place for Palestinians in Israel.
  • Founded PLO
  • “Because the Zionists have controlled how the story of this struggle was told, Arafat and the Palestinians have been consistently misrepresented and their actions rendered without any meaningful context.” – p. 412

By 2000, 200,000 Jews were in West Bank and Gaza. – p. 415

Second Intifada

2000, Sharon and masses of soldiers march up to the mosque, Temple Mount. The Palestinians were enraged, and mild violence broke out. The IDF, however, responded with full force. – p. 415-17

“Water, scarce everywhere, may cause the wars of the coming century.” – p. 417

Chapter 21 – The War on Terrorism

“Americans traditionally know little about foreign policy.” – p. 419

Three issues dominate the Middle East Today:

  • “War on terror”
  • “US war in Iraq”
  • Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

Survey of Terrorism

“We believe that a form of state terrorism is now being practiced by the US in Iraq and by Israel and its occupied territories.” – p. 421

“Terrorism” is truly a loose term. – p. 423


Turkey is the bridge between Europe and Asia. In 2003, two synagogue bombings took place. – p. 423


  • 70 mil citizens
  • Iranian Revolution “ousted the shah and occupied the US embassy in 1979.” – p. 423
  • Economy would be doing better if it had private instead of state owned enterprises.
  • Terrorism is generally not a problem there.
  • Distanced themselves from Al-Qaeda, but still support Hezbollah.
  • Insist that their nuclear program is peaceful.

Arab States, Fertile Crescent

Syria – most dissatisfied

Lebanon – 16k Syrian troops there. Shii Hezbollah is dominant there. – p. 425

Jordan – also developed and doing well. Their trying to balance relations with US, since it is in Iraq but it favors Israel.

Iraq – “Ironically, before its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the US, USSR and some European countries had sold arms to Saddam’s Iraq. The seed stock for Saddam’s biological weapons program came from the US under government license.” – p. 426

Those weapons helped Iraq in the Iran war.

Saudi Arabia and others – good US relations, 40% crude exports go to China, S. Korea and Japan, but in 2004 most went to US. Saudi A. holds 25% of worlds’ known oil reserves. Saudi A. is a Sunni monarchy, hanbali hadith. – p. 427

U.S. culture has slipped in, sort of caused some cultural conflict.

Yemen – poorest state in Arab world. Shii, has oil stability, but over population. – p. 428

Kuwait – oil damage from 1990-1 conflicts cost $5.5b to repair. 25% Shii, not much “terrorism.’ – p. 429

Egypt Society of Muslim Brothers “has renounced terrorism.” – p. 429

Osama Bin-Laden (1957-) – p. 431

  • Born in wealthy Saudi Clan
  • Helped resistance to USSR in Afghan invasion.
  • 1986, built his own fighting camp in Afghanistan called Al-Qu’ida (“firm base”), he was with US at this time, using their guns/support.
  • 1989 – went back to Saudi Arabia.
  • 1991 – made first public announcement against US – wanted them to remove “its troops from Arabia, otherwise the same fighters who had defeated the Soviet Union would wage war against America. This threat was realized in the attacks on US embassies in East Africa in 1998 and on the naval vessel USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.” – p. 431
  • 2002, he said “If killing those who kill our sons is terrorism, then let history be witness that we are terrorists.”

The Iraq War

Bush Admin has Neoconservatives

  • Wolfowitz – deputy Secretary of Defense
  • Perle
  • Feith

All of these weren’t very much in favor of diplomacy, they admire assertiveness without UN help.

They – in association with pro Jewish/Israel organizations – wrote Bill Clinton in 1998 to remove Saddam from power. – p. 433

In Bush admin, Wolfowitz called to invade Iraq, Rumsfeld and Cheney agreed, finally then Bush.

“Instead of co-opting Iraqi forces to side with the invaders, the Americans rendered then unemployed, destitute, and eager to join a militant resistance movement.” – p. 437

Contest for Palestine

Oslo I and II “were doomed from the start because the US refused to pressure Israel when, just after the accords were signed, that country proceeded to expand its established settlements in the occupied territories.” – p. 439

No suicide attacks happened prior to 1994 to the Goldstein incident. – p. 441 (Goldstein was the Israeli who went into a mosque in Hebron and opened up with a machine gun, killing 29 Muslims and injuring 140 more.

Reiteration of terms:

  • Hamas – “the Palestinians’ leading Muslim resistance group”
  • Hezbollah – “backed by Syria and Iran” – p. 443

“Zionists cooperate with neoconservatives to reinforce American popular support for Israel.” – p. 444

“Arabs generally believe that Israel is training Americans to interrogate, torture, and torment Iraqi prisoners.” – p. 445