Building an Empire

For our first three weeks in class, we will talk about how early Muslims formed a community (the umma) and an empire (the Caliphate). After the death of the Prophet Muḥammad in 632, the Caliphate reduced the Byzantine Empire around the Mediterranean and replaced the Sasanian Empire in Iran and Central Asia. In the process, the Caliphate controlled territories where there were people from many different ethnic, religious, and linguistic backgrounds. The Caliphate was an Islamic Empire, but it drew on non-Islamic precedents and the majority of people who lived under caliphal rule were not Muslims or Arabs. In these three weeks, we cover up to the end of the second civil war (fitna) in 692, which ushered in a series of reforms that changed the way that the Caliphate administered its far-flung provinces.

Week 1: Before Islam

Week 2: the Umma

Week 3: Early Umayyads