The Muslim/Arab Empire in the 8th Century
Rare map of the Arabic Empire, published by Haas in Nuremberg in 1746.
The map illustrates the early Muslim conquests, showing the full extent of the Arabic Empire by the 8th Century.
The early Muslim conquests (al-Futūḥāt al-Islāmiyya) began with the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the 7th century. He established a new unified polity in the Arabian Peninsula which under the subsequent Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphates saw a century of rapid expansion.
The resulting empire stretched from the borders of China and the Indian subcontinent, across Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Europe (Sicily and the Iberian Peninsula to the Pyrenees). Edward Gibbon writes in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:
Under the last of the Umayyads, the Arabian empire extended two hundred days journey from east to west, from the confines of Tartary and India to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean ... We should vainly seek the indissoluble union and easy obedience that pervaded the government of Augustus and the Antonines; but the progress of Islam diffused over this ample space a general resemblance of manners and opinions. The language and laws of the Quran were studied with equal devotion at Samarcand and Seville: the Moor and the Indian embraced as countrymen and brothers in the pilgrimage of Mecca; and the Arabian language was adopted as the popular idiom in all the provinces to the westward of the Tigris.
The Muslim conquests brought about the collapse of the Sassanid Empire and a great territorial loss for the Byzantine Empire. The reasons for the Muslim success are hard to reconstruct in hindsight, primarily because only fragmentary sources from the period have survived. Most historians agree that the Sassanid Persian and Byzantine Roman empires were militarily and economically exhausted from decades of fighting one another.
The estimates for the size of the Islamic Caliphate suggest it was more than five million square miles.
Of further note, the scale of miles appears in:
- German Miles
- Arabic Miles
- Italian Miles
- Farsange (Persian unit of distance)