The Arab Conquest

  • Roger Collins
Part of the New Studies in Medieval History book series (NSMH)


The rise of Islam and the creation during the seventh and early eighth centuries of an Arab empire that stretched from the Pyrenees to the Punjab, transformed the political and cultural geography of the Mediterranean and the Near East. Arguably, these events represent the most important developments in Europe and western Asia during the whole of the first millennium AD.1 However, for changes of such magnitude, they have left all too little record of themselves in terms of surviving contemporary evidence. Early society in the Arabian peninsula was pre-literate, though enjoying a well developed tradition of complex and formal oral poetic composition.2 With the exception of the Qu’rān, the record of successive divine revelations to the Prophet Muhammad in the years c.610 to 632, and traditionally held to have been compiled in written form c.650, there is no extant Arabic literature securely dateable to earlier than the late eighth century. Moreover, the accounts of even these, the first available Arabic histories of the origins and spread of Islam have recently been subjected to harsh criticism, which has fractured whatever degree of academic consensus there once existed in the field of modern Islamic studies.3


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© Roger Collins 1995

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