My primary source was Bacharach's A Near East Studies Handbook, published by University of Washington Press, Seattle. It was published in 1976. I added the dates after that. His chronology is much more detailed and therefore less useful for general study, but his book is a great reference, with maps from various periods, charts, calendar conversions, genealogies, etc. -B.M.
|Muhammad born in Mecca;
|Abbysinia, a Byzantine ally invades southern Arabia
| Byzantine Empire at war with Sassanian Persian Empire
|Muhammad's revelations begin.
|Migration of Muslims to Medina.
| Muhammad dies; Abu Bakr becomes first Caliph.
|Umar reigns as 2nd Caliph
|Muslim armies defeat Byzantine and Persian armies.
|Uthman is Caliph. Qur'an is compiled and standardized
|Uthman murdered; Ali becomes Caliph
|Ali is assassinated; Mu'awiya rules from Syria and founds Umayyad Dynasty (661-750).
|Muslims invade Spain.
|Charles Martel defeats Muslims in France.
|Abbasid revolt begins.
|Umayyads fall to Abbasid forces, remnant of family flees to Spain.
|Umayyads rule Spain.
|Baghdad founded as Abbasid capital.
|Reign of Harun al-Rashid.
|Shi'i dynasty rules Egypt & North Africa, Cairo founded.
|Buyids (a Shi'i family) control Baghdad & Iraq.
|Death of Firdawsi, Persian Epic poet, reviver of Persian Literature.
|Seljuk Turks control Iraq.
|Ayyubid Dynasty in Egypt.
|Mamluk dynasty in Egypt.
|Marco Polo reaches Persia en route to China.
|Hulagu, Mongols sack Baghdad.
|Ottoman family establishes and expands rule in Anatolia (Asia Minor).
|Timur (Tamerlane) controls Persia and Mesopotamia.
| Ottoman-Venetian War
|Ottomans take Constantinople.
|Bartholomew Diaz rounds Cape of Good Hope.
| Isma'il establishes Safavid Dynasty in Iran; declares Shi'i belief and practice of Islam as official religious form for the Empire.
| Tabriz in Azerbaijan is made capital of Safavid Empire.
|Babur active in India establishing Moghul Dynasty.
|Shah Isma'il defeated by Ottomans; humiliated, he retires from public activity.
|Portugese take Hormuz.
|Ottomans defeat Mamluks, take Egypt and North Africa.
|Reign of Suleyman the Magnificent as Ottoman Sultan.
|Shah Abbas makes Isfahan capital of Saffavid Empire.
|First major Ottoman defeat in Europe.
|First Ottoman-Russian war.
|Afghans destroy Safavid power in Iran.
|Russia annexes Crimea, weakens Ottoman control of Black Sea.
|Napoleon takes Cairo.
|Muhammad Ali establishes rule in Egypt
|Greek war of independence.
|French occupy Algeria
|First Arabic printing press established in Beirut.
|Sayyid Ali Muhammad declares himself to be The Bab.
|Syrian Protestant College established in Beirut, later becomes American University.
|British gain control of Egypt.
|French occupy Tunisia.
|First Zionist mission to Palestine. Theodor Herzl begins revival of Hebrew as spoken language in Palestine.
|British quell Egyptian revolt. Lord Cromer installed as Consul General.
|First World Zionist Congress held in Basil, Switzerland; founds World Zionist Organization.
|Hijaz railway built for Muslim pilgrims.
|Ibn Saud and the Wahhabis take Riyadh.
|Constitutional Revolution in Iran.
|Agudat Yisrael founded as counterweight to World Zionist Organization
|Young Turk revolution takes over Ottoman government.
|Formation of al-Ahd, Arab Nationalist secret society.
|World War I.
|Husayn-MacMahon correspondence begins, soliciting Arab support for Allied effort and promises British support for Arab state in Greater Syria.
|Sykes-Picot agreement between France and Great Britain for division of Ottoman lands.
|Balfour Declaration of British favor for Jewish state in Palestine.
|Turkish national congress meets.
|Faisal, son of Sherif Husayn of Mecca tries to establish Arab Rule in Damascus.
|Reza leads successful coup in Iran, establishes Pahlavi dynasty.
|League of Nations ratifies mandate system for European control of former Ottoman territories.
|Turkish republic established.
|Ibn Saud proclaimed King of Hijaz.
|Violent Arab resistance to British rule of Palestine Mandate.
|Arab revolt in Palestine.
|Muslim Brotherhood formed in Egypt.
|Irgun members lead Jewish attacks on British holdings in Palestine.
|World War II.
|Reza Shah of Iran deposed for German collaboration, son Muhammad installed.
|Arab League created.
|U.N. partition plan for Palestine approved.
|Isreal war of Independence.
|Mosaddeq elected Prime Minister of Iran. Nationalizes British Petroleum.
|Nasser leads Arab revolution in Egypt.
|Shah restored to power in Iran, Mosaddeq arrested
|Suez War. Egypt gains full control of canal and its revenues.
|Egypt and Syria form United Arab Republic. Dissolved in 1961.
|Ba'thist coup in Syria. Coup in Iraq.
|Coup in Iraq, consolidation of Ba'thist power.
|Yasser Arafat becomes head of PLO.
|Hafiz al-Asad takes control of Syrian government.
|Qaddafi leads revolt in Libya.
|Anwar Sadat succeedes Nasser as President of Egypt.
|Iran-Iraq treaty to end border dispute.
|Sadat assassinated in Egypt. Hosni Mubarak replaces Sadat and Prime Minister.
|Iran-Iraq war breaks out.
|Israel invades Lebanon.
|U.S. re-flags Kuwaiti oil tankers.
|Palestinian Intifada breaks out in Israeli Occupied Territories.
|(August) Iraq invades Kuwait and drives out ruling Sabah family.
|(January) U.S. led multi-national force attacks Iraqi forces in Kuwait and Iraq. Sabah family is restored to power in Kuwait. Iraq accepts U.N. terms of surrender. Saddam Hussein retains power
|Regional peace talks begin under U.S. and Soviet sponsorship to resolve disputes between Arab states, the Palestinians and Israel.
During the Abbasid period (750-1258), the Muslims came closer to
achieving the Islamic vision of a global community of faith governed by
institutions based on spiritual principles and religious law as expressed
in the Qur'an. One's status in the community was based more on achievement
and less on lineage or family affiliations, though these influences
persisted in their importance. Material wealth gave families power,
influence and status. However they could be easily erased by circumstance
and misfortune. More enduring and more precious was one's reputation.
This was based on character and accomplishment, whether by wealth,
education, governmental & military service, or personal and creative
initiative. By the time of the Crusades, suspicion and distrust of the
ruling elite--regional governors, military tyrants, the Abbasid family
themselves--had become pervasive. More and more Muslims turned to local
spiritual leaders or independent institutions such as Sufi orders,
religious colleges, trade fraternities, clan leaders, and Shi'ite enclaves.
Around the year 1000, Shi'ite affiliations were dominant among the ruling
elite: The Fatimid Dynasty (909-1171) that controlled Egypt, North Africa,
the Holy land, and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, was an Isma'ili, or
Sevener group. Another Isma'ili group controlled parts of Lebanon and
Syria. They operated from their strongholds in the mountain ranges of that
area. They were essentially rebel. They believed that all the ruling
elite were corrupt, had rebelled against God and His religion, and that
under the principles governing the use of Jihad, or holy war, could be
killed with impunity. They were in reality a cult and their warriors used
hashish to achieve the bold abandon necessary to carry out their vicious
duties. The became known in European languages as the Assassins, based on
the Arabic term Hashashin, or hashish users.
The Buyyid (932-1062) family controlled much of Iran and Iraq
(945-1055), including the Abbasid Caliphate itself. The Zaydis (901-19th
C.), or followers of a descendant of the third Imam, Husayn, controlled the
south end of the Arabian peninsula and are still the dominant group in the
Yemen. This period of Shi'i ascendancy faded with the collapse of the
Fatimids in Egypt, the rise of new powers in Iraq and Egypt. The Ayyubid
dynasty (1171-1250) gained control of the lands formerly controlled by the
Fatimids in Egypt and the Holy land. They succeeded in driving out the
Crusaders. By the time the Mongol armies swept down out of central Asia,
the Abbasid Empire had ceased to exist. It was the new power rising in
North Africa and the Levant (the Holy Land or the regions of Israel,
Lebanon, Syria and Jordan). This reflects not only the power and potency
of Shi'i influence but the waning of Abbasid power. Provincial governors
and powerful families developed into regional powers who ruled in the name
of the Abbasid caliph, but more often than not, he ruled by their leave as
well, as in the case of the Buyids and later the Seljuks, a Turkic speaking
people who preceded the Mongols in their migration from central Asia. By
the end of the 12th century, the Fatimids in Egypt fell to another Turkic
group known as the Mamluks. Their name means slaves, and in fact they had
been the slave army used by the Ayyubid and Abbasid rulers. They became
stronger than the ruling family and eventually overthrew them.
Changes brewing in Central Asia were soon to have an impact all
over the world. A Turkic speak nomadic people came under the sway of a
charismatic, bold and ruthless leader who took the title of Chingiz Khan.
He and his armies lead by his sons spread out east to China, South across
the Iranian plateau and west into Europe. Experts in the use horses and
the techniques of terror, they took city after city, slaughtering as much
as 25% of the population. They would pile the severed heads of their
victims outside the city gates, which as they decomposed, would begin to
glow at night. In 1256 they reached Baghdad, sacked the city and put an
end to the Abbasid line. Hulagu, the son of Chingiz ruled the conquered
Islamic lands. The Mongols were interested in conquest, not governance.
They quickly employed native administrators to run their kingdoms.
Fascinated with the culture of the region, the Mongols quickly assimilated
and adopted the religion of Islam. They reinvigorated the central
governing institutions and put an end to many of the petty regional
rivalries. Yet other clans and peoples in Central Asia began to migrate to
the Islamic lands. The Ottomans began to assert control in 1326 over
portions of Asia Minor (Anatolia or today, Turkey today). Muslims
themselves, they turned their interest toward the west and by 1361 took
control of Adrianople. It would take nearly a century to conquer
Constantinople. In the meantime, another Mongol conqueror would gain
control of India, the Iranian plateau, Syria and part of Anatolia. He was
known as Timur, or Tamerlane. The Ottomans finally captured Constantinople
in 1453. By 1500, with the introduction and use of gunpowder technology,
three new empires were established in the Islamic lands: The Ottoman
in the west, ruling from Constantinople controlled Anatolia, the Balkans,
Northern Iraq, Syria, Egypt and North Africa. The Safavids controlled the
Iranian plateau, and the Moghuls controlled the Indian sub-continent. The
next two hundred years witnessed a fresh flowering of Islamic culture and
civilization. The Ottomans advanced nearly to Vienna in Europe. The
Safavids controlled the regions around the Caspian Sea and Afghanistan.
Trade, architecture, literature and mysticism flourished. The Safavids
forced Iran to convert to Shi'ism, because their founder, Shah Isma'il
venerated Ali and thought himself to be his spiritual return. He was
something of a lunatic, but brought the best scholars and clergy he could
persuade to settle in Iran and propagate their teachings. When the power
of the Safavid dynasty began to decline, powerful clergy involved
themselves more and more in matters of state and governance and arrogated
to themselves more and more of the authority and functions rightly
exercised by the Imams alone.
From the 17th century on, the Islamic regions began a slow economic
decline, as European traders circumvented the trade routes and greedy
tarifs of the Muslim rulers, though utilizing their navigational
technology. By the 19th century, European diplomacy regarded the Ottoman
empire as the "sick man of Europe. To avoid disastrous wars for hegemony,
they propped up the Ottoman state and used their growing influence to
manipulate the Ottoman rulers to suit European interest. Into this
turbulent and decadent environment, the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh were born and
began to spread their radical vision for a fundamentally different world
During the period some historians have called the "Gunpowder Empires," the Ottomans
controlling what is today Turkey, The eastern Mediterranean, Egypt, Iraq
and parts of Eastern Europe. The Safavids controlled the Iranian plateau
and the Mogul controlled the Indian subcontinent. Islam itself as a
religion and the spiritual foundation of a nearly global civilization, had
spread much wider into sub-Saharan Africa, along the silk routes of trade
through central Asia into China, and far into the Pacific. At one point
China was 25% Muslim! Today, the largest Muslim country by population is
Indonesia. Islam is growing in numbers and strength in the United States
today, but it came to this country with the slaves in the 17th and 18th
Military and political control, however is an ever changing
phenomena. The power of the Safavid and Ottoman states began to decline in
the late 17th and 18th Centuries. The Ottomans frequently engage in war
with the Austrians and the Russians during the 17th and 18th Centuries. In
1717 the Ottomans lose Belgrade after controlling it for almost 200 years.
Yet the Ottomans remain a formidable power in Europe and Asian. The
Safavid Empire declined more rapidly. As they did, the Shi'ite 'ulama'
grow stronger in social and political power. They arrogate to themselves
more and more of the functions in the religion that more properly belonged
to the Imams, the last of whom disappeared 7 centuries before. In 1722 the
Safavids are defeated by Afghani forces, who control Iran briefly. They
are driven out by Nadir Shah in 1730. Nadir Shah also manages to drive
back Russian forces in the North. He is assassinated in 1747 Another
powerful military ruler, Karim Khan Zand gains power in Iran over the next
ten years and rules until 1779. A measure of stability returns to Iran by
the end of the century when a new dynasty is established, the Qajars,
beginning with Agha Muhammad in 1796. They, like their predecessors depend
on the support of the Shi'i ulama to rule effectively. The Shi'i leaders
believe they have a rightful role in affairs of state because they are the
experts in Islamic law and because the Imams, they believe should have been
the rightful rulers of the Islamic world. This spawns the notion that
ideally, religious and political authority should be linked as it was during
the lifetime of the Prophet and during the brief rule of Ali, the first
Imam. The 'ulama', or scholars and religious functionaries, exercise
their authority in memory of the Imams and with the hope of Their blessings
and inspired guidance, and through their understanding of the fundamentals
of the teachings of Islam.
Economically, the Middle East was beginning to decline as well.
European traders and European powers were able to establish trade routes
that by-passed Muslim controlled lands as the Portuguese and British did, or
by gaining concessions from the Ottoman through various treaties following
Ottoman defeats. The British were able to obtain treaties in the Persian
Gulf with the small, independent Sheikhs that controlled. In India and
East Asia the British and the Portuguese conquered a number of important
ports and competed for power and trade in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.
In 1798, an astonishing event occurs. Napoleon Bonaparte took
Cairo and conquered Egypt. This was the first time a European power had
entered what was considered the heartland of the Islamic world since the
Crusades. And even then, the Crusaders were only able to control small
areas of Palestine for brief periods. The fall of Egypt to the French sent
shock-waves through the Islamic world that would reverberate throughout the
19th Century. The French were driven out of Egypt very shortly and a new
independent ruler by the name of Muhammad Ali took control of Egypt and
began to extend his control into Syria, threatening Ottoman control of the
Eastern Mediterranean. The Ottomans enlisted the aid of Britain and France
to limit the power and influence of Muhammad Ali and the advance of his
forces. The first Arabic printing press is established in Beirut in
1834. The first Arabs begin to travel to France and Britain to study in
hopes that they might learn some of the secrets of their technology and
rising power. Ideas of French nationalism begin to be introduced.