Despite the large indulgence of polygamy, Muhammed left but one daughter behind him, and the union of Ali, the head of the family of Hashem in his own right, with Fatima, seemed to mark him as the heir of the prophet. But the necessity of placating the rival factions of the Koreish gave the supreme power in succession into the hands of Abu Bekr, 632, of Omar, 634, and Othman, 644, and it was not until the death of Othman, in 655, that Ali ascended the throne. He succumbed to the stroke of an assassin in 661, and Moawiyah, the son of Abu-Sophian, the most obstinate of the prophet's enemies, reigned in his stead.
The discords resulting from the successions to the throne of Mecca have led to a bitter sectarian feud, which is still maintained in the immortal hatred of the Persians and Turks. The former, under the appellation of Shiites, maintained that Ali was the vicar of God and also that the first three successors to the prophet were usurpers.
The Sunnites, who belong to the orthodox party, respect alike the memory of the four caliphs, but assign the last and most humble place to the husband of Fatima, in the persuasion that the order of succession is definitely determined by the degrees of sanctity.
Of the sons of Ali, Hassan spent the remainder of his life in a humble cell near the tomb of his grandfather, and Hosein died a martyr at the hands of his enemies. The Shiites proclaim the glory of the twelve imams, or pontiffs, who include Ali, Hassan, Hosein, and the lineal descendants of Hosein to the twelfth generation.
The last of the imams, conspicuous by the title of Mahdi, or the guide, concealed himself in a cavern near Bagdad; the time and place of his death are unknown and his votaries pretend that he still lives, and will appear before the day of judgement to overthrow the tyranny of Dejal, or the anti-Christ.
One hundred years after Muhammed's flight from Mecca, the reign of his successors extended from India to the Atlantic Ocean. Persia was invaded in 632, and by 651 its conquest was completed and the last Magian sovereign, Yezeegerd, after obtaining the assistance of the Emperor of China, who gave him an army of Turks with which to recover the inheritance of his father, was oppressed, defeated and eventually slaughtered by his barbarian allies (651). The Turks were driven back across the Oxus, and it was not until some sixty years later that Transoxiana was added to the Mahomedan world.
The conquest of Syria occupied some twenty-three years, from 632 to 655. The degenerate Romans struggled in vain against the Mahomedans, and a religion of peace was incapable of withstanding the frantic cry of 'Fight! Fight! Paradise! Paradise!' that re-echoed through the ranks of the Saracens. Damascus was besieged in 633. The army of the Emperor Heraclius, proceeding to the succour of the city, was defeated at Aiznadin on July 13, 633, and Damascus capitulated in the following year.
The citizens, who were allowed to depart in peace, were pursued by Calid, and the 'Sword of God' enjoyed the satisfaction of believing that not a Christian of either sex escaped the edge of his scimitars. Emesa was taken in 636. A Roman army was utterly defeated in the same year at Yermak. Aleppo and Antioch fell, and Heraclius, Emperor of the East, after bidding an eternal farewell to Syria, fled secretly to the safety of Constantinople. Jerusalem capitulated to Omar in 637, and by the year 655 Syria acknowledged the Moslem rule, supported the house of Ommiad, and her revenue, her soldiers and her ships were consecrated to enlarge on every side the empire of the caliphs.
Egypt was conquered by Amrou, who in his youth had been one of the most bitter opponents of Muhammed, but had achieved his assurance of Paradise by his sudden and secret acceptance of the true faith. After completing the conquest of Palestine, he had, in June 638, invaded Egypt with 4,000 Saracens, conquered Memphis, near the ruins of which Cairo, the town of victory, now stands, was eagerly welcomed by the Copts, or Jacobites, who secured as the price of their submission the practice of their religion, and a triumph over the Greek Church. In 641 he conquered Alexandria.
Under the brilliant administration of Amrou, peace and order were established in Egypt; a canal, at least eighty miles in length, was opened from the Nile to the Red Sea; and Arabia was supplied with a plenty of corn and provision from the fruitful valley of the Nile.
Africa was first invaded by Abdullah in 647, but its conquest was not completed until the year 709. After the conquest of Tripoli and the neighbouring country, the progress of the Saracens was suspended nearly twenty years. The heavy taxes imposed by the emperor on the patriarch of Carthage urged the oppressed citizens of Africa to seek the assistance of Moawiyah. Akbah advanced through the interior regions of North Africa, and, traversing the wilderness, in which his successors erected the splendid capitals of Fez and Morocco, was checked only by the waves of the Atlantic.
NINE years after the death of Akbah, the towns of the sea-coasts which still remained in the hands of the Greeks were assaulted. Carthage, after two battles with the allied forces of the Greeks and the Goths, fell in 698, and, with the final adoption of the Moslem faith by the Moors, the conquest of Africa was completed.
The treason of Count Julian, the general of the Goths, who had established their kingdom in Spain, introduced the arms of Mahomedans into Europe. Revenge for domestic wrong caused him to offer secretly his assistance to Musa, the Saracen leader. After a preliminary and successful attempt at invasion, the Saracens landed at Gibraltar, April 711, under the leadership of Tarik. The defection of Count Julian gained him a crushing victory at Xeres. A rapid march secured him Toledo, and his merciful justice towards the Christians, and his grateful attitude towards the Jews, who had secretly served his cause, enabled him to win without a blow city after city in the modern realms of Castile and Leon.
With the speed of a traveller he performed his victorious march of 700 miles from the Rock of Gibraltar to the Bay of Biscay. For his presumption in subduing a kingdom in the absence of his general, he was recalled by Musa and ignominiously scourged. Musa himself, after completing the conquest of Spain, and extracting a treaty from Theodemir, king of the Goths, was recalled from the prospective conquest of Gaul by the messenger of the caliph, and at Mecca he was convicted of vanity and falsehood and fined a sum that reduced him to poverty. He expired of the anguish of a broken heart, while Tarik, more favourably treated, was permitted to mingle with the crowd of slaves.
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