7th Century, 601 to 700 AD
Constantinople's army mutinies against the Emperor Maurice and the
masses join in against anyone who is wealthy - Christians against
Christians. Maurice and his family are butchered as Maurice prays.
Their heads are put on display and their bodies cast into the sea. A
non-commissioned army officer, Phocas, becomes emperor. Pope
Gregory joyfully applauds Maurice's demise, and he describes
the coming to power of Phocas as the work of Providence. He asks
Catholics to pray that Phocas might be strengthened against all his
Khosrau II of Persia, who had had a good relationship with Maurice and
his family, is disturbed by their deaths and declares war against
Phocas and Constantinople. The Zoroastrian priesthood in Persia is
pleased. As they see it, their king is responsible for conquering the
world in order to spread peace, the Zoroastrian faith, individual
salvation and to prepare all humankind for the great, worldwide battle
against Satan at Armageddon.
The army of Phocas has been occupied by war with Persia, and Avars and
Slavs have been advancing through Constantinople's empire in Europe.
Constantinople's governor in Egypt, Heraclius, sails with a small army
to Constantinople, and with Phocas having lost much of his support,
Heraclius easily defeats him. Phocas is executed and Heraclius became
Muhammad has begun preaching publicly in his hometown, Mecca, and he is
being ignored or is thought to be crazy.
In China, the Sui Dynasty has worked people too hard on public works
projects and has lost economic prosperity in its wars against Korea.
With flooding and famine has come rebellion and civil war. The victor,
the Duke of Tang, becomes Emperor Gao-zu. The Sui Dynasty has ended and
the Tang Dynasty has begun.
Pilgrims from Yathrib visiting Mecca (a holy city before the existence
of Islam) are favorably impressed by Muhammad and invite him to return
with them to their town. The town has no unifying governmental
authority. Muhammad is fifty-two and becomes recognized in Yathrib as a
religious leader and someone to go to for settling disputes.
Yathrib has a large Jewish community, and its leaders reject Muhammad's
claim to be a leader of Judaism. Muhammad and his followers stop bowing
toward Jerusalem and begin bowing toward Mecca, and Muhammad abandons
Saturday as the Sabbath and makes Friday his special day of the week.
Mohammad has responded to economic hardship in Yathrib by organizing
raids on merchant's caravans. He has his greatest success so far, at
Bedr, where the raiders kill an estimated fifty to seventy persons from
Mecca. Muhammad and Mecca are hostile, Muhammad claiming God to be on
his side and blaming Mecca for having rejected him.
Avars, helped by Slavs, attack the walls of Constantinople. The
Persians also assault the city. The Patriarch of Constantinople,
Sergius, leads a defense of Constantinople and defeats the Avars.
Muhammad's military has grown stronger, and in his war with Mecca he
emerges victorious. Mecca's wealthy are obliged to donate to the well
being of its poor. People in Mecca see Muhammad's strength as the power
of his god, and they see the other gods as having become powerless.
There is a mass conversion to Islam, and Muhammad adds Mecca's army to
his own. Muhammad conquers the rest of Arabia, puts down
others claiming to be prophets.
Constantinople's army pushed through Mesopotamia, destroying as they
went. The great canal works in Mesopotamia have been destroyed. The
Persian army has overthrown Khosrau II. His son is crowned Khavad II
and signs a peace treaty with Constantinople and returns Egypt,
Palestine, Asia Minor and western Mesopotamia to Constantinople's
Muhammad the Prophet dies.
The momentum generated by victories against dissidents and breakaway
regions left Islamic warriors restless and feeling aggressive, and
Arabia has been in an economic recession, trade having come to a
standstill after ten years of war. War for booty is a tradition, and as
an alternative to making raids against "the faithful" in Arabia, Muslim
warriors are making raids into Mesopotamia. They meet little resistance
and are encouraged to make more war. Islam's first caliph to succeed
Muhammad, Abu Bakr, declares a holy war in support of the raiders, and
one of the greatest imperialisms of all time begins.
Buddhist doctrine and Shinto have been influencing each other. The
Buddha, represented by the statue at Nara, has become identified with
the Sun Goddess of Shinto worship, and Buddhist ceremonies have been
weaved into traditional court ritual.
The Soga clan has been oppressive and arrogant and its leaders are
overthrown and put to the sword by the Nakatomi clan - whose leader had
been serving as Japan's Shinto high priest. The Nakatomi would now
select who among the Yamato family would be emperor and continue to run
daily court ceremonies.
Muslim warriors have attacked wealthy but not common people, and they
have not raped as some Christian armies have. In some areas they are
seen as at least as no worse than the rule they are replacing. The
empires of Constantinople and Persia have been weakened by war and lack
of support, and Muslim warriors have conquered as far north as Syria,
much of Mesopotamia and all of Egypt.
A mid-eastern people of mixed race, the Khazars, expand westward along
the north shore of the Black Sea and push Bulgars from east of the
Dniester River. The Bulgars migrate south, across the Danube River, and
found the kingdom that in modern times is called Bulgaria. The Khazars
sell captured people, mainly Slavs - the origin of the modern English
Almost thirty years have passed since Muhammad's death. The third
caliph since Muhammad tries to put an end to quarreling over Muhammad's
legacy and orders a committee to collect Muhammad's messages into a
standard word, to be called the Koran, drawing from the memories and
the tradition of passing history on orally. The result produces the
wrath of various people and communities across Arabia who had become
wedded to these rival interpretations.
The Muslims have conquered Persia, where people and the Zoroastrian
religion were a greater barrier to conquest than were the people of
previous territories. Muslims see Zoroastrianism as evil, and in
Persia, its homeland, Zoroastrianism is doomed.
Christian missionaries from Ireland are beginning to evangelize across
England. The king of Essex, Sigebert, has been influenced by
Northumbria and has just converted to Christianity. Northumbria defeats
the pagan king of Mercia, gains possession of Mercia and its king
becomes overlord of England's southern kingdoms. With pagans,
Catholicism has won prestige with the military victory - a look of the
Christian god's superior power. Mercia converts to Christianity.
In Medina (Yathrib) Uthman is assassinated. The leaders of the sect
that assassinated Uthman proclaims Ali, Muhammad's son-in-law, caliph.
Civil war erupts.
The Koran, as an arranged book and considered complete, is published
for the first time. Muhammad's main concern after his conquest of Mecca
was resistance by recalcitrant tribes in Arabia and claims by rival
prophets among the resisters. Reflecting this struggle, the Koran
describes non-believers as evil and people who can expect war from God
(3.151). But the Koran also advocates peace with enemies who are
inclined toward it (8.61). Muhammad wanted people within his realm,
including Christians and Jews, to get along. He wanted to tax
Christians and Jews, and in the Koran are verses about Christians and
Jews not fearing or grieving (2.62). Drawing as Muhammad did from the
biblical tradition that had entered Arabia, the Koran mentions biblical
figures and repeats the biblical message of God's love and grace.
An assassination attempt has been made on Ali, the son-in-law of
Muhammad, and he dies of his wounds, aggravating a split between his
supporters, called Shia Muslims. Their rivals, Sunni Muslims, are
establishing a new caliphate at Damascus, in Syria.
The civil war among the Muslims ends. Led by caliph Mu'awiyah in
Damascus, Islam renews military expansion.
According to Byzantine chroniclers, Bulgars cross the Danube into the
Balkans. Previously they had made raids into the area. This time they
come to stay, in territory that Constantinople (Byzantium) considers
its own. Constantinople is annoyed but busy warring against
A rebellion against another Umayyad caliph supports the son of Ali,
Hussein. He is hopelessly outnumbered at the battle of Karbala, but he
wants to die fighting, and does. He becomes the martyr for whom Shi’a
Muslims will annually thrash themselves.
In China, Wu Zetian has worked her way from the emperor's favorite
concubine to replacing his wife and dominating the court, and now she
officially becomes Empress Wu - the only Chinese woman emperor in
history. Murder and terror have been her methods. Challenging Confucian
opposition to rule by a woman, she has championed feminism, and she
The twelve-year civil war ends when the Syrian army overruns Mecca. The
new Umayyad caliph since 685 has been Abd al-Malik.
Non-Arab Muslims outnumber Arab Muslims. Despite resistance from Arab
leaders, integration between Arabs and non-Arab Muslims is rising. An
Islamic empire by Arabs is on its way toward being swallowed by its
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