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The Seventh Century was a distructive, and hectic century. The Persians, led by Khosrau the Second, would start a 26 year war against the Byzantines and their expansive empire, even sacking and attempting to siege the great city that is Constantinople; earlier, even taking away a relic hold sacred by Christianity, a piece of the true cross, after sacking Jerusalem during the horrible war. Ending in 628, the war would end in Pyrrhic victory for the Byzantines. However, during this great commotion, a great man was fighting against Mecca in the south, in the deserts of Arabia. His name was Prophet Muhammad. After both sides were exhausted after the fighting, their economy collapsing, and their manpower dwindling, the Arabs took advantage, and saw it was the perfect time to strike. The Arabs, under the Black Flag of the Rashidun Caliphate, conquered the Levant, Syria, and soon Egypt from the Byzantines, spreading the Word of Islam, the Qu'ran with it. Meanwhile, in the Far East, In 618, Li Yuan declared himself the emperor of a new dynasty, the Tang, a dynasty which would increase China's population to 80 Million from 50 Million in the following centuries. Europe is still wallowing in the Dark Age, not much is recorded, all that is known, is that Christianity is spreading at a rate never seen before.
Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628
After decades of inconclusive fighting, Emperor Maurice ended the Byzantine–Sassanid War of 572–591 by helping the exiled Sassanid prince Khosrau, the future Khosrau II, to regain his throne from the usurper Bahrām Chobin. In return the Sassanids ceded to the Byzantines parts of northeastern Mesopotamia, much of Persian Armenia and Caucasian Iberia, though the exact details are not clear. More importantly for the Byzantine economy, they no longer had to pay tribute to the Sassanids. Emperor Maurice then began new campaigns in the Balkans to stop incursions by the Slavs and Avars. The magnanimity and campaigns of emperor Tiberius II had eliminated the surplus in the treasury left from the time of Justin II. In order to generate a reserve in the treasury, Maurice instituted strict fiscal measures and cut army pay; which led to four mutinies. The final mutiny in 602 resulted from Maurice ordering his troops in the Balkans to live off the land during the winter. The army proclaimed Phocas, a Thracian centurion, as emperor. Maurice attempted to defend Constantinople by arming the Blues and the Greens - supporters of the two major chariot racing teams of the Hippodrome - but they proved ineffective. Maurice fled but was soon intercepted and killed by the soldiers of Phocas.
Start of the War
Upon the murder of Maurice, Narses, governor of the Byzantine province of Mesopotamia, rebelled against Phocas and seized Edessa, a major city of the province. Emperor Phocas instructed general Germanus to besiege Edessa, prompting Narses to request help from the Persian king Khosrau II. Khosrau, who was only too willing to help avenge Maurice, his "friend and father", used Maurice's death as an excuse to attack the Roman Empire, trying to reconquer Armenia and Mesopotamia. General Germanus died in battle against the Persians. An army sent by Phocas against Khosrau was defeated near Dara in Upper Mesopotamia, leading to the capture of that important fortress in 605. Narses escaped from Leontius, the eunuch appointed by Phocas to deal with him, but when Narses attempted to return to Constantinople to discuss peace terms, Phocas ordered him seized and burned alive. The death of Narses along with the failure to stop the Persians damaged the prestige of Phocas' military regime.
In 608 general Heraclius the Elder, Exarch of Africa, revolted, urged on by Priscus, the Count of the Excubitors and son-in-law of Phocas. Heraclius proclaimed himself and his son of the same name as consuls—thereby implicitly claiming the imperial title—and minted coins with the two wearing the consular robes. At about the same time rebellions began in Roman Syria and Palaestina Prima in the wake of Heraclius' revolt. In 609 or 610 the Patriarch of Antioch, Anastasius II, died. Many sources claim that the Jews were involved in the fighting, though it is unclear where they were members of factions and where they were opponents of Christians. Phocas responded by appointing Bonus as comes Orientis (Count of the East) to stop the violence. Bonus punished the Greens, a horse racing party, in Antioch for their role in the violence in 609. Heraclius the Elder sent his nephew Nicetas to attack Egypt. Bonus went to Egypt to try to stop Nicetas, but was defeated by the latter outside Alexandria. In 610, Nicetas succeeded in capturing the province, establishing a power base there with the help of Patriarch John the Almsgiver, who was elected with the help of Nicetas. The main rebel force was employed in a naval invasion of Constantinople, led by the younger Heraclius, who was to be the new emperor. Organized resistance against Heraclius soon collapsed, and Phocas was handed to him by the patrician Probos (Photius). Phocas was executed, though not before a celebrated exchange of comments between him and his successor:
"Is it thus," asked Heraclius, "that you have governed the Empire?"
"Will you," replied Phocas, with unexpected spirit, "govern it any better?"
After marrying his niece Martina and being crowned by the Patriarch, the 35-year-old Heraclius set out to perform his work as emperor. Phocas' brother, Comentiolus, commanded a sizable force in central Anatolia but was assassinated by the Armenian commander Justin, removing a major threat to Heraclius' reign. Still, transfer of the forces commanded by Comentiolus had been delayed, allowing the Persians to advance further in Anatolia.Trying to increase revenues and reduce costs, Heraclius limited the number of state-sponsored personnel of the Church in Constantinople by not paying new staff from the imperial fisc.He used ceremonies to legitimize his dynasty, and he secured a reputation for justice to strengthen his grip on power.
The Persians took advantage of this civil war in the Byzantine empire by conquering frontier towns in Armenia and Upper Mesopotamia.Along the Euphrates, in 609, they conquered Mardin and Amida. Edessa, which some Christians are said to have believed would be defended by Jesus himself on behalf of King Abgar V of Edessa against all enemies, fell in 610. In Armenia, the strategically important city of Theodosiopolis surrendered in 609 or 610 to Ashtat Yeztayar, because of the persuasion of a man who claimed to be Theodosius, the eldest son and co-emperor of Maurice, who had supposedly fled to the protection of Khosrau. In 608, the Persians launched a raid into Anatolia that reached Chalcedon, across the Bosphorus from ConstantinopleThe Persian conquest was a gradual process; by the time of Heraclius' accession the Persians had conquered all Roman cities east of the Euphrates and in Armenia before moving on to Cappadocia, where their general Shahin took Caesarea.There, Phocas' son-in-law Priscus, who had encouraged Heraclius and his father to rebel, started a year-long siege to trap them inside the city. Heraclius' accession as Emperor did little to reduce the Persian threat. Heraclius began his reign by attempting to make peace with the Persians, since Phocas, whose actions were the original casus belli, had been overthrown. The Persians rejected these overtures, however, since their armies were widely victorious. According to historian Walter Kaegi, it is conceivable that the Persians' goal was to restore or even surpass the boundaries of the Achaemenid Empire by destroying the Byzantine empire, though because of the loss of Persian archives, no document survives to conclusively prove this.
By established practice, Byzantine emperors did not personally lead troops into battle.Heraclius ignored this convention and joined with his general Priscus' siege of the Persians at Caesarea. Priscus pretended to be ill, however, and did not meet the emperor. This was a veiled insult to Heraclius, who hid his dislike of Priscus and returned to Constantinople in 612. Meanwhile, Shahin's troops escaped Priscus' blockade and burned Caesarea, much to Heraclius' displeasure.Priscus was soon removed from command, along with others who served under Phocas. Philippicus, an old general of Maurice's, was appointed as commander-in-chief, but he proved himself incompetent against the Persians, avoiding engagements in battle. Heraclius then appointed himself commander along with his brother Theodore to finally solidify command of the army.
Khosrau took advantage of the incompetence of Heraclius' generals to launch an attack on Byzantine Syria, under the leadership of the Persian general Shahrbaraz. Heraclius attempted to stop the invasion at Antioch, but despite the blessing of Saint Theodore of Sykeon, Byzantine forces under Heraclius and Nicetas suffered a serious defeat at the hands of Shahin. Details of the battle are not known. After this victory the Persians looted the city, slew the Patriarch of Antioch and deported many citizens. Roman forces lost again while attempting to defend the area just to the north of Antioch at the Cilician Gates, despite some initial success. The Persians then captured Tarsus and the Cilician plain. This defeat cut the Byzantine empire in half, severing Constantinople and Anatolia's land link to Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and the Exarchate of Carthage.
Resistance to the Persians in Syria was not strong; although the locals constructed fortifications, they generally tried to negotiate with the Persians.The cities of Damascus, Apamea, and Emesa fell quickly in 613, giving the Sasanian army a chance to strike further south into Palaestina Prima. Nicetas continued to resist the Persians but was defeated at Adhri'at. He managed to win a small victory near Emesa, however, where both sides suffered heavy casualties—the total death count was 20,000. More seriously, the weakness of the resistance enabled the Persians and their Jewish allies to capture Jerusalem following a three weeks siege. Ancient sources claim 57,000 or 66,500 people were slain there; another 35,000 were deported to Persia, including the Patriarch Zacharias.Many churches in the city (including the Church of the Resurrection or Holy Sepulchre) were burned, and numerous relics, including the True Cross, the Holy Lance, and the Holy Sponge, were carried off to the Persian capital Ctesiphon. The loss of these relics was thought by many Christian Byzantines to be a clear mark of divine displeasure. Some blamed the Jews for this misfortune and for the loss of Syria in general.There were reports that Jews helped the Persians capture certain cities and that the Jews tried to slaughter Christians in cities that the Persians had already conquered but were found and foiled from doing so. These reports are likely to be greatly exaggerated and the result of general hysteria. In 618 Shahrbaraz's forces invaded Egypt, a province that had been mostly untouched by war for three centuries.The Monophysites living in Egypt were unhappy with Chalcedonian orthodoxy and were not eager to aid Byzantine imperial forces. Afterward they were supported by Khosrau,but they did not resist imperial forces between 600 and 638, and many saw the Persian occupation in negative terms. Byzantine resistance in Alexandria was led by Nicetas. After a year-long siege, resistance in Alexandria collapsed, supposedly after a traitor told the Persians of an unused canal, allowing them to storm the city. Nicetas fled to Cyprus along with Patriarch John the Almsgiver, who was a major supporter of Nicetas in Egypt. The fate of Nicetas is unclear, since he disappears from records after this, but Heraclius was presumably deprived of a trusted commander. The loss of Egypt was a severe blow to the Byzantine empire, as Constantinople relied on grain shipments from fertile Egypt to feed the multitudes in the capital. The free grain ration in Constantinople, which echoed the earlier grain dole in Rome, was abolished in 618. After conquering Egypt, Khosrau sent Heraclius the following letter:
Khosrau, to Heraclius, his vile and insensate slave. Why do you still refuse to submit to our rule, and call yourself a king? Have I not destroyed the Greeks? You say that you trust in your God. Why has he not delivered out of my hand Caesarea, Jerusalem, and Alexandria? And shall I not also destroy Constantinople? But I will pardon your faults if you submit to me, and come hither with your wife and children; and I will give you lands, vineyards, and olive groves, and look upon you with a kindly aspect. Do not deceive yourself with vain hope in that Christ, who was not able to save himself from the Jews, who killed him by nailing him to a cross. Even if you take refuge in the depths of the sea, I will stretch out my hand and take you, whether you will or no.
— Khosrau II
Things began to look even more grim for the Byzantines when Chalcedon fell in 617 to Shahin, making the Persians visible from Constantinople.Shahin courteously received a peace delegation but claimed that he did not have the authority to engage in peace talks, directing Heraclius to Khosrau, who rejected the peace offer. Still, the Persian forces soon withdrew, probably to focus on their invasion of Egypt. Yet the Persians retained their advantage, capturing Ancyra, an important military base in central Anatolia, in 620 or 622. The naval base at Rhodes may have fallen in 622 or 623, threatening a naval assault on Constantinople, though this event is difficult to confirm. Such was the despair in Constantinople that Heraclius considered moving the government to Carthage in Africa.
Khosrau's letter did not cow Heraclius but prompted him to try a desperate strike against the Persians.He now reorganized the remainder of his empire to allow his forces to fight on. Already, in 615, a new, lighter silver imperial coin appeared with the usual image of Heraclius and his son Heraclius Constantine, but uniquely carried the inscription of Deus adiuta Romanis or "May God help the Romans"; Kaegi believes this shows the desperation of the empire at this time. The copper follis also dropped in weight from 11 grams to somewhere between 8 and 9 grams. Heraclius faced severely decreased revenues due to the loss of provinces; furthermore, a plague broke out in 619, which further damaged the tax base and also increased fears of divine retribution.The debasement of the coinage allowed the Byzantines to maintain expenditure in the face of declining revenues. Heraclius now halved the pay of officials, enforced increased taxation, forced loans, and levied extreme fines on corrupt officials in order to finance his counter-offensive. Despite disagreements over the incestuous marriage of Heraclius to his niece Martina, the clergy of the Byzantine Empire strongly backed his efforts against the Persians by proclaiming the duty of all Christian men to fight and by offering to give him a war loan consisting of all the gold and silver plated objects in Constantinople. Precious metals and bronze were stripped from monuments and even the Hagia Sophia.This military campaign has been seen as the first "crusade", or at least as an antecedent to the Crusades, by many historians, beginning with William of Tyre, but some, like Kaegi, disagree with this moniker because religion was just one component in the war. Thousands of volunteers were gathered and equipped with money from the church.Heraclius himself decided to command the army from the front lines. Thus, the Byzantine troops had been replenished, re-equipped, and were now led by a competent general— while maintaining a full treasury.
By 622, Heraclius was ready to mount a counter-offensive. He left Constantinople the day after celebrating Easter on Sunday, 4 April 622. His young son, Heraclius Constantine, was left behind as regent under the charge of Patriarch Sergius and the patrician Bonus. He spent the summer training to improve the skills of his men and his own generalship. In the autumn, Heraclius threatened Persian communications from the Euphrates valley to Anatolia by marching to Cappadocia. This forced the Persian forces in Anatolia under Shahrbaraz to retreat from the front-lines of Bithynia and Galatia to eastern Anatolia in order to block his access to Persia. What followed next is not entirely clear, but Heraclius certainly won a crushing victory over Shahrbaraz in the fall of 622. The key factor was Heraclius' discovery of Persian forces hidden in ambush and responding by feigning retreat during the battle. The Persians left their cover to chase the Byzantines, whereupon Heraclius' elite Optimatoi assaulted the pursuing Persians, causing them to flee. Thus he saved Anatolia from the Persians. Heraclius had to return to Constantinople, however, to deal with the threat posed to his Balkan domains by the Avars, so he left his army to winter in Pontus.
While the Byzantines were occupied with the Persians, the Avars and Slavs poured into the Balkans, capturing several Byzantine cities, including Singidunum (Belgrade), Viminacium (Kostolac), Naissus (Niš), and Sardica (Sofia), while destroying Salona in 614. Isidore of Seville even claims that the Slavs took "Greece" from the Byzantines. The Avars also began to raid Thrace, threatening commerce and agriculture, even near the gates of Constantinople. However, numerous attempts by the Avars and Slavs to take Thessalonica, the most important Byzantine city in the Balkans after Constantinople, ended in failure, allowing the Empire to hold onto a vital stronghold in the region.Other minor cities on the Adriatic coast like Jadar (Zadar), Tragurium (Trogir), Butua (Budva), Scodra (Skadar), and Lissus (Ljes) also survived the invasions.
Because of the need to defend against these incursions, the Byzantines could not afford to use all their forces against the Persians. Heraclius sent an envoy to the Avar Khagan, saying that the Byzantines would pay a tribute in return for the Avars to withdraw north of the Danube. The Khagan replied by asking for a meeting on 5 June 623, at Heraclea in Thrace, where the Avar army was located; Heraclius agreed to this meeting, coming with his royal court.The Khagan, however, put horsemen en route to Heraclea to ambush and capture Heraclius, so they could hold him for ransom. Heraclius was fortunately warned in time and managed to escape, chased by the Avars all the way to Constantinople. However, many members of his court, as well as an alleged 70,000 Thracian peasants who came to see their Emperor, were captured and killed by the Khagan's men. Despite this treachery, Heraclius was forced to give the Avars a subsidy of 200,000 solidi along with his illegitimate son John Athalarichos, his nephew Stephen, and the illegitimate son of the patrician Bonus as hostages in return for peace. This left him more able to focus his war effort completely on the Persians.
Heraclius offered peace to Khosrau, presumably in 624, threatening otherwise to invade Persia, but Khosrau rejected the offer.On March 25, 624, Heraclius left Constantinople to attack the Persian heartland. He willingly abandoned any attempt to secure his rear or his communications with the sea, marching through Armenia and Azerbaijan to assault the core Persian lands directly. According to Walter Kaegi, Heraclius led an army of no more than 40,000, and most likely between 20,000–24,000. Before journeying to the Caucasus, he recovered Caesarea, in defiance of the earlier letter that Khosrau had sent him.
Heraclius advanced along the Araxes River, destroying Persian-held Dvin, the capital of Armenia, and Nakhchivan. At Ganzaka, Heraclius met Khosrau's army, some 40,000 strong. Using loyal Arabs, he captured and killed some of Khosrau's guards, leading to the disintegration of the Persian army. Heraclius then destroyed the famous fire temple of Takht-i-Suleiman, an important Zoroastrian shrine. Heraclius' raids went as far as the Gayshawan, a residence of Khosrau in Atrpatakan.
Campaign map of Heraclius in 624, 625, and 627–628 through Armenia, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia
Heraclius wintered in Caucasian Albania, gathering forces for the next year.Khosrau was not content to let Heraclius quietly rest in Albania. He sent three armies, commanded by Shahrbaraz, Shahin, and Shahraplakan, to try to trap and destroy Heraclius' forces. Shahraplakan retook lands up as far as Siwnik, aiming to capture the mountain passes. Shahrbaraz was sent to block Heraclius' retreat through Caucasian Iberia, and Shahin was sent to block the Bitlis Pass. Heraclius, planning to engage the Persian armies separately, spoke to his worried Lazic, Abasgian, and Iberian allies and soldiers, saying: "Do not let the number of our enemies disturb us. For, God willing, one will pursue ten thousand."
Two soldiers who feigned desertion were sent to Shahrbaraz, claiming that the Byzantines were fleeing before Shahin. Due to jealousy between the Persian commanders, Shahrbaraz hurried with his army to take part in the glory of the victory. Heraclius met them at Tigranakert and routed the forces of Shahraplakan and Shahin one after the other. Shahin lost his baggage train, and Shahraplakan (according to one source) was killed, though he re-appears later. After this victory, Heraclius crossed the Araxes and camped in the plains on the other side. Shahin, with the remnants of both his and Shahraplakan's armies joined Shahrbaraz in the pursuit of Heraclius, but marshes slowed them down. At Aliovit, Shahrbaraz split his forces, sending some 6,000 troops to ambush Heraclius while the remainder of the troops stayed at Aliovit. Heraclius instead launched a surprise night attack on the Persian main camp in February 625, destroying it. Shahrbaraz only barely escaped, naked and alone, having lost his harem, baggage, and men.
Heraclius spent the rest of winter to the north of Lake Van. In 625, his forces attempted to push back towards the Euphrates. In a mere seven days, he bypassed Mount Ararat and the 200 miles along the Arsanias River to capture Amida and Martyropolis, important fortresses on the upper Tigris. Heraclius then carried on towards the Euphrates, pursued by Shahrbaraz. According to Arab sources, he was stopped at the Satidama or Batman Su River and defeated; Byzantine sources, however, do not mention this incident. There was then another minor skirmish between Heraclius and Shahrbaraz at the Sarus river near Adana. Shahrbaraz stationed his forces across the river from the Byzantines. A bridge spanned the river, and the Byzantines immediately charged across. Shahrbaraz feigned retreat to lead the Byzantines into an ambush, and the vanguard of Heraclius' army was destroyed within minutes. The Persians, however, had neglected to cover the bridge, and Heraclius charged across with the rearguard, unafraid of the arrows that the Persians fired, turning the tide of battle against the Persians. Shahrbaraz expressed his admiration at Heraclius to a renegade Greek: "See your Emperor! He fears these arrows and spears no more than would an anvil!" The Battle of Sarus was a successful retreat for the Byzantines that panegyrists magnified. In the aftermath of the battle, the Byzantine army wintered at Trebizond.
Siege of Constantinople
Khosrau, seeing that a decisive counterattack was needed to defeat the Byzantines, recruited two new armies from all the able men, including foreigners. Shahin was entrusted with 50,000 men and stayed in Mesopotamia and Armenia to prevent Heraclius from invading Persia; a smaller army under Shahrbaraz slipped through Heraclius' flanks and bee-lined for Chalcedon, the Persian base across the Bosphorus from Constantinople. Khosrau also coordinated with the Khagan of the Avars so as to launch a coordinated attack on Constantinople from both European and Asiatic sides.The Persian army stationed themselves at Chalcedon, while the Avars placed themselves on the European side of Constantinople and destroyed the Aqueduct of Valens. Because of the Byzantine navy's control of the Bosphorus strait, however, the Persians could not send troops to the European side to aid their ally. This reduced the effectiveness of the siege, because the Persians were experts in siege warfare. Furthermore, the Persians and Avars had difficulties communicating across the guarded Bosphorus—though undoubtedly, there was some communication between the two forces.
The defense of Constantinople was under the command of Patriarch Sergius and the patrician Bonus. Upon hearing the news, Heraclius split his army into three parts; although he judged that the capital was relatively safe, he still sent some reinforcements to Constantinople to boost the morale of the defenders. Another part of the army was under the command of his brother Theodore and was sent to deal with Shahin, while the third and smallest part would remain under his own control, intending to raid the Persian heartland.
On 29 June 626, a coordinated assault on the walls began. Inside the walls, some 12,000 well-trained Byzantine cavalry troops (presumably dismounted) defended the city against the forces of some 80,000 Avars and Slavs. Despite continuous bombardment for a month, morale was high inside the walls of Constantinople because of Patriarch Sergius' religious fervor and his processions along the wall with the icon of the Virgin Mary, inspiring the belief that the Byzantines were under divine protection.
On August 7, a fleet of Persian rafts ferrying troops across the Bosphorus were surrounded and destroyed by Byzantine ships. The Slavs under the Avars attempted to attack the sea walls from across the Golden Horn, while the main Avar host attacked the land walls. Patrician Bonus' galleys rammed and destroyed the Slavic boats; the Avar land assault from August 6 to the 7th also failed.With the news that Theodore had decisively triumphed over Shahin (supposedly leading Shahin to die from depression), the Avars retreated to the Balkan hinterland within two days, never to seriously threaten Constantinople again. Even though the army of Shahrbaraz was still encamped at Chalcedon, the threat to Constantinople was over. In thanks for the lifting of the siege and the supposed divine protection of the Virgin Mary, the celebrated Akathist Hymn was written by an unknown author, possibly Patriarch Sergius or George of Pisidia. Furthermore, after the emperor showed Shahrbaraz intercepted letters from Khosrau ordering the Persian general's death, the latter switched to Heraclius' side. Shahrbaraz then moved his army to northern Syria, where he could easily decide to support either Khosrau or Heraclius at a moment's notice. Still, with the neutralization of Khosrau's most skilled general, Heraclius deprived his enemy of some of his best and most experienced troops, while securing his flanks prior to his invasion of Persia.
During the siege of Constantinople, Heraclius formed an alliance with people Byzantine sources called the "Khazars," under Ziebel, now generally identified as the Western Turkic Khaganate of the Göktürks, led by Tong Yabghu, plying him with wondrous gifts and the promise of marriage to the porphyrogenita Eudoxia Epiphania. Earlier, in 568, the Turks under Ishtemi had turned to Byzantium when their relations with Persia soured over commerce issues. The Turks, based in the Caucasus, responded by sending 40,000 of their men to ravage the Persian empire in 626, marking the start of the Third Perso-Turkic War. Joint Byzantine and Göktürk operations were then focused on besieging Tiflis, where the Byzantines used traction trebuchets to breach the walls, one of the first known uses by the Byzantines. Khosrau sent 1,000 cavalry under Shahraplakan to reinforce the city, but it nevertheless fell, probably in late 628. Ziebel died by the end of that year, however, saving Epiphania from marriage to a barbarian. Whilst the siege proceeded, Heraclius worked to secure his base in the upper Tigris.
Battle of Nineveh
Both Heraclius and the Persians approached from the east of Nineveh. Persian reinforcements were near Mosul. After the battle, Heraclius went back east while the Persians looped back to Nineveh itself before following Heraclius again.
In mid-September 627, Heraclius invaded the Persian heartland in a surprising winter campaign, leaving Ziebel to continue the siege of Tiflis. Edward Luttwak describes the seasonal retreat of Heraclius for the winters of 624–626 followed by a change in 627 to threaten Ctesiphon as a "high-risk, relational maneuver on a theater-wide scale" because it habituated the Persians to strategically ineffective raids that caused them to decide not to recall border troops to defend the heartland.His army numbered between 25,000 and 50,000 Byzantine troops and 40,000 Göktürks that quickly deserted him because of the unfamiliar winter conditions and harassment from the Persians. He advanced quickly but was tailed by a Persian army under the Armenian Rhahzadh, who faced difficulties in provisioning his army due to the Byzantines taking most of the provisions as they moved south toward Assyria.
Towards the end of the year, near the ruins of Nineveh, Heraclius engaged Rhahzadh before reinforcements could reach the Persian commander. The Battle of Nineveh took place in the fog, reducing the Persian advantage in missile troops. Heraclius feigned retreat, leading the Persians to the plains, before reversing his troops to the surprise of the Persians.After eight hours of fighting, the Persians suddenly retreated to nearby foothills, but the battle did not become a rout. During the battle, approximately 6,000 Persians were killed. Patriarch Nikephoros' Brief History suggests that Rhahzadh challenged Heraclius to personal combat, and that Heraclius accepted and killed Rhahzadh in a single thrust; two other challengers fought against him and also lost. However, he received an injury to his lip.
With no Persian army left to oppose him, Heraclius' victorious army plundered Dastagird, which was a palace of Khosrau's, and gained tremendous riches while recovering 300 captured Byzantine flags.Khosrau had already fled to the mountains of Susiana to try to rally support for the defense of Ctesiphon. Heraclius then issued an ultimatum to Khosrau:
I pursue and run after peace. I do not willingly burn Persia, but compelled by you. Let us now throw down our arms and embrace peace. Let us quench the fire before it burns up everything.
— Heraclius' ultimatum to Khosrau II, 6 January 628
However, Heraclius could not attack Ctesiphon itself, as the Nahrawan Canal was blocked due to the collapse of a bridge leading over it, and he did not attempt to bypass the canal. Regardless, the Persian army rebelled and overthrew Khosrau II, raising his son Kavadh II, also known as Siroes, in his stead. Khosrau was shut in a dungeon, where he suffered for five days on bare sustenance—he was shot to death slowly with arrows on the fifth day. Kavadh immediately sent peace offers to Heraclius. Heraclius did not impose harsh terms, knowing that his own empire was also near exhaustion. Under the terms of the peace treaty, the Byzantines regained all their lost territories, their captured soldiers, a war indemnity, and most importantly for them, the True Cross and other relics that were lost in Jerusalem in 614.
Conversion of Prophet Muhammad and Unification of Arabia
Muhammad was born about the year 570 and his birthday is believed to be in the month of Rabi' al-awwal. He belonged to the Banu Hashim clan, one of Mecca's prominent families, although it appears less prosperous during Muhammad's early lifetime. The Banu Hashim clan was part of the Quraysh tribe. Tradition places the year of Muhammad's birth as corresponding with the Year of the Elephant, which is named after the failed destruction of Mecca that year by the Aksumite king Abraha who supplemented his army with elephants. An outbreak of smallpox among the Aksumites may explain the failure of the invading army. 20th century scholarship has suggested alternative dates for this event, such as 568 or 569.
His father, Abdullah, died almost six months before Muhammad was born. According to Islamic tradition, soon after Muhammad's birth he was sent to live with a Bedouin family in the desert, as desert life was considered healthier for infants. Muhammad stayed with his foster-mother, Halimah bint Abi Dhuayb, and her husband until he was two years old.Some western scholars of Islam have rejected the historicity of this tradition. At the age of six, Muhammad lost his biological mother Amina to illness and he became orphaned. For the next two years, he was under the guardianship of his paternal grandfather Abd al-Muttalib, of the Banu Hashim clan, but when Muhammad was eight, his grandfather also died. He then came under the care of his uncle Abu Talib, the new leader of Banu Hashim. According to Islamic historian William Montgomery Watt there was a general disregard by guardians in taking care of weaker members of the tribes in Mecca during the 6th century, "Muhammad's guardians saw that he did not starve to death, but it was hard for them to do more for him, especially as the fortunes of the clan of Hashim seem to have been declining at that time."
While still in his teens, Muhammad accompanied his uncle on trading journeys to Syria gaining experience in commercial trade, the only career open to Muhammad as an orphan. Islamic tradition states that when Muhammad was either nine or twelve while accompanying the Meccans' caravan to Syria, he met a Christian monk or hermit named Bahira who is said to have foreseen Muhammad's career as a prophet of God.
Little is known of Muhammad during his later youth, it is difficult to separate history from legend. It is known that he became a merchant and "was involved in trade between the Indian ocean and the Mediterranean Sea." Due to his upright character he acquired the nickname "al-Amin" (Arabic: الامين), meaning "faithful, trustworthy" and "al-Sadiq" meaning "truthful" and was sought out as an impartial arbitrator. His reputation attracted a proposal in 595 from Khadijah, a 40-year-old widow. Muhammad consented to the marriage, which by all accounts was a happy one. Several years later, according to a narration collected by historian Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad was involved with a well-known story about setting the Black Stone in place in the wall of the Kaaba in 605 CE. The Black Stone, a sacred object, had been removed to facilitate renovations to the Kaaba. The leaders of Mecca could not agree on which clan should have the honour of setting the Black Stone back in its place. They agreed to wait for the next man to come through the gate and ask him to choose. That man was the 35-year-old Muhammad, five years before his first revelation. He asked for a cloth and put the Black Stone in its centre. The clan leaders held the corners of the cloth and together carried the Black Stone to the right spot, then Muhammad set the stone in place, satisfying the honour of all.
Muhammad adopted the practice of praying alone for several weeks every year in a cave on Mount Hira near Mecca.Islamic tradition holds that during one of his visits to Mount Hira, the angel Gabriel appeared to him in the year 610 and commanded Muhammad to recite verses which would later be included in the Quran. There is a consensus that the first words of the Quran to be revealed were the beginning of Surah 96:1. Upon receiving his first revelations, he was deeply distressed. After returning home, Muhammad was consoled and reassured by Khadijah and her Christian cousin, Waraqah ibn Nawfal. He also feared that others would dismiss his claims as being possessed. The initial revelation was followed by a pause of three years (a period known as fatra) during which Muhammad felt depressed and further gave himself to prayers and spiritual practices. When the revelations resumed he was reassured and commanded to begin preaching: "Thy Guardian-Lord hath not forsaken thee, nor is He displeased."
Sahih Bukhari narrates Muhammad describing his revelations as "sometimes it is (revealed) like the ringing of a bell". Aisha reported, "I saw the Prophet being inspired Divinely on a very cold day and noticed the sweat dropping from his forehead (as the Inspiration was over)". According to Welch these descriptions may be considered genuine, since they are unlikely to have been forged by later Muslims.Muhammad was confident that he could distinguish his own thoughts from these messages.According to the Quran, one of the main roles of Muhammad is to warn the unbelievers of their eschatological punishment (Quran 38:70, Quran 6:19). Occasionally the Quran did not explicitly refer to Judgment day but provided examples from the history of extinct communities and warns Muhammad's contemporaries of similar calamities (Quran 41:13–16). Muhammad did not only warn those who rejected God's revelation, but also dispensed good news for those who abandoned evil, listening to the divine words and serving God. Muhammad's mission also involves preaching monotheism: The Quran commands Muhammad to proclaim and praise the name of his Lord and instructs him not to worship idols or associate other deities with God.
The key themes of the early Quranic verses included the responsibility of man towards his creator; the resurrection of the dead, God's final judgment followed by vivid descriptions of the tortures in Hell and pleasures in Paradise; and the signs of God in all aspects of life. Religious duties required of the believers at this time were few: belief in God, asking for forgiveness of sins, offering frequent prayers, assisting others particularly those in need, rejecting cheating and the love of wealth (considered to be significant in the commercial life of Mecca), being chaste and not to kill newborn girls. According to Muslim tradition, Muhammad's wife Khadija was the first to believe he was a prophet. She was followed by Muhammad's ten-year-old cousin Ali ibn Abi Talib, close friend Abu Bakr, and adopted son Zaid. Around 613, Muhammad began to preach to the public (Quran 26:214). Most Meccans ignored him and mocked him,though a few became his followers. There were three main groups of early converts to Islam: younger brothers and sons of great merchants; people who had fallen out of the first rank in their tribe or failed to attain it; and the weak, mostly unprotected foreigners. The last ayah from the sura An-Najm in the Quran: "So prostrate to Allah and worship [Him]." Muhammad's message of monotheism (one God) challenged the traditional order.
According to Ibn Sad, the opposition in Mecca started when Muhammad delivered verses that condemned idol worship and the Meccan forefathers who engaged in polytheism. However, the Quranic exegesis maintains that it began as Muhammad started public preaching. As the number of followers increased, he became a threat to the local tribes and rulers of the city, whose wealth rested upon the Ka'aba, the focal point of Meccan religious life that Muhammad threatened to overthrow. Muhammad's denunciation of the Meccan traditional religion was especially offensive to his own tribe, the Quraysh, as they were the guardians of the Ka'aba.The powerful merchants attempted to convince Muhammad to abandon his preaching by offering him admission into the inner circle of merchants, and establishing his position therein by an advantageous marriage. However, he refused both.
Tradition records at great length the persecution and ill-treatment towards Muhammad and his followers. Sumayyah bint Khabbab, a slave of a prominent Meccan leader Abu Jahl, is famous as the first martyr of Islam; killed with a spear by her master when she refused to give up her faith. Bilal, another Muslim slave, was tortured by Umayyah ibn Khalaf who used to place a heavy rock on his chest to force his conversion. Apart from insults, Muhammad was protected from physical harm as he belonged to the Banu Hashim clan.
In 615, some of Muhammad's followers emigrated to the Ethiopian Aksumite Empire and founded a small colony under the protection of the Christian Ethiopian emperor Aṣḥama ibn Abjar. Ibn Sa'ad mentions two separate migrations. According to him, most of the Muslims returned to Mecca prior to Hijra, while there was a second group that rejoined them in Medina. Ibn Hisham and Tabari, however, only talk about one migration to Ethiopia. These accounts agree that persecution in Mecca played a major role in Muḥammad's decision to suggest that a number of his followers seek refuge among the Christians in Abyssinia. According to the famous letter of ʿUrwa preserved in al-Tabari, the majority of Muslims returned to their native town after Islam had become strengthened when high rank people in Mecca, such as Umar and Hamzah converted. However, there is a complete different story on the reason why the Muslims returned from Ethiopia to Mecca. According to this account -that has been mentioned by Tabari, Ibn Sa'ad and Al-Waqidi, but not by Ibn Hisham and perhaps not by Ibn Ishaq- Muhammad, desperately hoping for an accommodation with his tribe, pronounced a verse acknowledging the existence of three Meccan goddesses considered to be the daughters of Allah. Muhammad retracted the verses the next day at the behest of Gabriel, claiming that the verses were whispered by the devil himself. Instead, a ridicule of these gods was offered. This episode known as "The Story of the Cranes" (translation: قصة الغرانيق, transliteration: Qissat al Gharaneeq) is also known as "Satanic Verses". According to the story this led to a general reconciliation between Muḥammad and the Meccans, and the Muslims who had migrated to Abyssinia began to return home. By the time they arrived, however, the archangel Gabriel had informed Muḥammad that the two g̲h̲arānīḳ verses were not part of the revelation, but had been inserted by Satan. Some scholars argued against the historic authenticity of these verses on various grounds. Later the incident received widespread acceptance, however strong objections to it were raised starting from the 10th century, on theological grounds. The objections continued on this point until rejection of these verses eventually became the only acceptable orthodox Muslim position. In 617, the leaders of Makhzum and Banu Abd-Shams, two important Quraysh clans, declared a public boycott against Banu Hashim, their commercial rival, to pressure it into withdrawing its protection of Muhammad. The boycott lasted three years but eventually collapsed as it failed in its objective. During this, Muhammad was only able to preach during the holy pilgrimage months in which all hostilities between Arabs was suspended.
Isra and Mi'raj
The Al-Aqsa Mosque, part of the al-Haram ash-Sharif complex in Jerusalem, is believed to be the "farthest mosque" to which Muhammad travelled in his night journey. The al-Haram ash-Sharif is the third holiest place on earth for Muslims.
Islamic tradition states that in 620, Muhammad experienced the Isra and Mi'raj, a miraculous journey said to have occurred with the angel Gabriel in one night. In the beginning of the journey, the Isra, he is said to have travelled from Mecca on a winged steed (Buraq) to "the farthest mosque" (in Arabic: masjid al-aqsa), which Muslims usually identify with the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Later, during the Mi'raj, Muhammad is said to have toured heaven and hell, and spoke with earlier prophets, such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Ibn Ishaq, author of the first biography of Muhammad, presents the event as a spiritual experience; later historians, like Al-Tabari and Ibn Kathir, present it as a physical journey.
Last years in Mecca
Muhammad's wife Khadijah and uncle Abu Talib both died in 619, the year thus being known as the "year of sorrow". With the death of Abu Talib, leadership of the Banu Hashim clan passed to Abu Lahab, a tenacious enemy of Muhammad. Soon afterwards, Abu Lahab withdrew the clan's protection over Muhammad. This placed Muhammad in danger; the withdrawal of clan protection implied that blood revenge for his killing would not be exacted. Muhammad then visited Ta'if, another important city in Arabia, and tried to find a protector, but his effort failed and further brought him into physical danger. Muhammad was forced to return to Mecca. A Meccan man named Mut'im ibn Adi (and the protection of the tribe of Banu Nawfal) made it possible for him to safely re-enter his native city. Many people were visiting Mecca on business or as pilgrims to the Kaaba. Muhammad took this opportunity to look for a new home for himself and his followers. After several unsuccessful negotiations, he found hope with some men from Yathrib (later called Medina). The Arab population of Yathrib were familiar with monotheism and were prepared for the appearance of a prophet because a Jewish community existed there. They also hoped, by the means of Muhammad and the new faith, to gain supremacy over Mecca; the Yathrib were jealous of its importance as the place of pilgrimage. Converts to Islam came from nearly all Arab tribes in Medina; by June of the subsequent year, seventy-five Muslims came to Mecca for pilgrimage and to meet Muhammad. Meeting him secretly by night, the group made what is known as the "Second Pledge of al-`Aqaba",or, in Orientalists' view, the "Pledge of War". Following the pledges at Aqabah, Muhammad encouraged his followers to emigrate to Yathrib. As with the migration to Abyssinia, the Quraysh attempted to stop the emigration. However, almost all Muslims managed to leave.
The Hijra is the migration of Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE. In June 622, warned of a plot to assassinate him, Muhammad secretly slipped out of Mecca and moved his followers to Medina, 320 km (200 mi) north of Mecca.
A delegation, consisting of the representatives of the twelve important clans of Medina, invited Muhammad to serve as chief arbitrator for the entire community; due to his status as a neutral outsider. There was fighting in Yathrib: primarily the dispute involved its Arab and Jewish inhabitants, and was estimated to have lasted for around a hundred years before 620. The recurring slaughters and disagreements over the resulting claims, especially after the Battle of Bu'ath in which all clans were involved, made it obvious to them that the tribal concept of blood-feud and an eye for an eye were no longer workable unless there was one man with authority to adjudicate in disputed cases. The delegation from Medina pledged themselves and their fellow-citizens to accept Muhammad into their community and physically protect him as one of themselves. Muhammad instructed his followers to emigrate to Medina, until nearly all his followers left Mecca. Being alarmed at the departure, according to tradition, the Meccans plotted to assassinate Muhammad. With the help of Ali, Muhammad fooled the Meccans watching him, and secretly slipped away from the town with Abu Bakr. By 622, Muhammad emigrated to Medina, a large agricultural oasis. Those who migrated from Mecca along with Muhammad became known as muhajirun (emigrant).
Establishment of a New Polity
Among the first things Muhammad did to ease the longstanding grievances among the tribes of Medina was to draft a document known as the Constitution of Medina, "establishing a kind of alliance or federation" among the eight Medinan tribes and Muslim emigrants from Mecca; this specified rights and duties of all citizens, and the relationship of the different communities in Medina (including the Muslim community to other communities, specifically the Jews and other "Peoples of the Book"). The community defined in the Constitution of Medina, Ummah, had a religious outlook, also shaped by practical considerations and substantially preserved the legal forms of the old Arab tribes. Several ordinances were proclaimed to win over the numerous and wealthy Jewish population. These were soon rescinded as the Jews insisted on preserving the entire Mosaic law, and did not recognize him as a prophet because he was not of the race of David.
The first group of converts to Islam in Medina were the clans without great leaders; these clans had been subjugated by hostile leaders from outside. This was followed by the general acceptance of Islam by the pagan population of Medina, with some exceptions. According to Ibn Ishaq, this was influenced by the conversion of Sa'd ibn Mu'adh (a prominent Medinan leader) to Islam.Medinans who converted to Islam and helped the Muslim emigrants find shelter became known as the ansar (supporters). Then Muhammad instituted brotherhood between the emigrants and the supporters and he chose Ali as his own brother.
Following the emigration, the people of Mecca seized property of Muslim emigrants to Mecca. Economically uprooted with no available profession, the Muslim migrants turned to raiding Meccan caravans, initiating armed conflict with Mecca. Muhammad delivered Quranic verses permitting Muslims to fight the Meccans (see sura Al-Hajj, Quran 22:39–40). These attacks allowed the migrants to acquire wealth, power and prestige while working towards the ultimate goal of conquering Mecca.
According to the traditional account, on 11 February 624, while praying in the Masjid al-Qiblatain in Medina, Muhammad received revelations from God that he should be facing Mecca rather than Jerusalem during prayer. Muhammad adjusted to the new direction, and his companions praying with him followed his lead, beginning the tradition of facing Mecca during prayer.] According to Watt, the change may have been less sudden and definite than the story suggests – the related Quranic verses (2:136–2:147) appear to have been revealed at different times – and correlates with changes in Muhammad's political support base, symbolizing his turning away from Jews and adopting a more Arabian outlook.
In March 624, Muhammad led some three hundred warriors in a raid on a Meccan merchant caravan. The Muslims set an ambush for the caravan at Badr.Aware of the plan, the Meccan caravan eluded the Muslims. A force from Mecca was sent to protect the caravan, and continued en route to confront the Muslims upon receiving word that the caravan was safe. The Battle of Badr commenced. Though outnumbered more than three to one, the Muslims won the battle, killing at least forty-five Meccans with fourteen Muslims dead. They also succeeded in killing many Meccan leaders, including Abu Jahl. Seventy prisoners had been acquired, many of whom were ransomed in return for wealth or freed. Muhammad and his followers saw the victory as confirmation of their faith and Muhammad ascribed the victory as assisted from an invisible host of angels. The Quranic verses of this period, unlike the Meccan verses, dealt with practical problems of government and issues like the distribution of spoils.
The victory strengthened Muhammad's position in Medina and dispelled earlier doubts among his followers. As a result the opposition to him became less vocal. Pagans who had not yet converted were very bitter about the advance of Islam. Two pagans, Asma bint Marwan of the Aws Manat tribe and Abu 'Afak of the 'Amr b. 'Awf tribe, had composed verses taunting and insulting the Muslims. They were killed by people belonging to their own or related clans, and Muhammad did not disapprove the killings. Most members of those tribes converted to Islam and there was hardly any opposition from the pagans left.
Muhammad expelled from Medina the Banu Qaynuqa, one of three main Jewish tribes, but some historians contend that the expulsion happened after Muhammad's death. According to al-Waqidi, after Abd-Allah ibn Ubaiy spoke for them, Muhammad refrained from executing them and commanded that they be exiled from Medina. Following the Battle of Badr, Muhammad also made mutual-aid alliances with a number of Bedouin tribes to protect his community from attacks from the northern part of Hejaz.
Conflict with Mecca
The Kaaba in Mecca long held a major economic and religious role for the area. Seventeen months after Muhammad's arrival in Medina, it became the Muslim Qibla, or direction for prayer (salat). The Meccans were eager to avenge their defeat. To maintain economic prosperity, the Meccans needed to restore their prestige, which had been reduced at Badr. In the ensuing months, the Meccans sent ambush parties to Medina while Muhammad led expeditions against tribes allied with Mecca and sent raiders onto a Meccan caravan. Abu Sufyan gathered an army of three thousand men and set out for an attack on Medina.
A scout alerted Muhammad of the Meccan army's presence and numbers a day later. The next morning, at the Muslim conference of war, dispute arose over how best to repel the Meccans. Muhammad and many senior figures suggested it would be safer to fight within Medina and take advantage of the heavily fortified strongholds. Younger Muslims argued that the Meccans were destroying crops, and huddling in the strongholds would destroy Muslim prestige. Muhammad eventually conceded to the younger Muslims and readied the Muslim force for battle. Muhammad led his force outside to the mountain of Uhud (the location of the Meccans camp) and fought the Battle of Uhud on 23 March. Although the Muslim army had the advantage in early encounters, lack of discipline on the part of strategically placed archers led to a Muslim defeat; 75 Muslims were killed including Hamza, Muhammad's uncle who became one of the best known martyrs in the Muslim tradition. The Meccans did not pursue the Muslims, instead they marched back to Mecca declaring victory. The announcement is probably because Muhammad was wounded and thought dead. When they discovered that Muhammad lived, the Meccans did not return due to false information about new forces coming to his aid.The attack had failed to achieve their aim of completely destroying the Muslims. The Muslims buried the dead, and returned to Medina that evening. Questions accumulated about the reasons for the loss; Muhammad delivered Quranic verses 3:152 indicating that the defeat was twofold: partly a punishment for disobedience, partly a test for steadfastness.
Abu Sufyan directed his effort towards another attack on Medina. He gained support from the nomadic tribes to the north and east of Medina; using propaganda about Muhammad's weakness, promises of booty, memories of Quraysh prestige and through bribery.Muhammad's new policy was to prevent alliances against him. Whenever alliances against Medina were formed, he sent out expeditions to break them up. Muhammad heard of men massing with hostile intentions against Medina, and reacted in a severe manner. One example is the assassination of Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf, a chieftain of the Jewish tribe of Banu Nadir. al-Ashraf went to Mecca and wrote poems that roused the Meccans' grief, anger and desire for revenge after the Battle of Badr. Around a year later, Muhammad expelled the Banu Nadir from Medina forcing their emigration to Syria; he allowed them to take some possessions, as he was unable to subdue the Banu Nadir in their strongholds. The rest of their property was claimed by Muhammad in the name of God as it was not gained with bloodshed. Muhammad surprised various Arab tribes, individually, with overwhelming force, causing his enemies to unite to annihilate him. Muhammad's attempts to prevent a confederation against him were unsuccessful, though he was able to increase his own forces and stopped many potential tribes from joining his enemies.
Siege of Medina
With the help of the exiled Banu Nadir, the Quraysh military leader Abu Sufyan mustered a force of 10,000 men. Muhammad prepared a force of about 3,000 men and adopted a form of defense unknown in Arabia at that time; the Muslims dug a trench wherever Medina lay open to cavalry attack. The idea is credited to a Persian convert to Islam, Salman the Persian. The siege of Medina began on 31 March 627 and lasted two weeks. Abu Sufyan's troops were unprepared for the fortifications, and after an ineffectual siege, the coalition decided to return home. The Quran discusses this battle in sura Al-Ahzab, in verses 33:9–27. During the battle, the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza, located the south of Medina, entered into negotiations with Meccan forces to revolt against Muhammad. Although the Meccan forces were swayed by suggestions that Muhammad was sure to be overwhelmed, they desired reassurance in case the confederacy was unable to destroy him. No agreement was reached after prolonged negotiations, partly due to sabotage attempts by Muhammad's scouts. After the coalition's retreat, the Muslims accused the Banu Qurayza of treachery and besieged them in their forts for 25 days. The Banu Qurayza eventually surrendered; all the men were beheaded, while the women raped, and the children were enslaved.
In the siege of Medina, the Meccans exerted the available strength to destroy the Muslim community. The failure resulted in a significant loss of prestige; their trade with Syria vanished. Following the Battle of the Trench, Muhammad made two expeditions to the north, both ended without any fighting.While returning from one of these journeys (or some years earlier according to other early accounts), an accusation of adultery was made against Aisha, Muhammad's wife. Aisha was exonerated from accusations when Muhammad announced he had received a revelation confirming Aisha's innocence and directing that charges of adultery be supported by four eyewitnesses (sura 24, An-Nur).
Truce of Hudaybiyyah
This is the treaty of peace between Muhammad Ibn Abdullah and Suhayl Ibn Amr. They have agreed to allow their arms to rest for ten years. During this time each party shall be secure, and neither shall injure the other; no secret damage shall be inflicted, but honesty and honour shall prevail between them. Whoever in Arabia wishes to enter into a treaty or covenant with Muhammad can do so, and whoever wishes to enter into a treaty or covenant with the Quraysh can do so. And if a Qurayshite comes without the permission of his guardian to Muhammad, he shall be delivered up to the Quraysh; but if, on the other hand, one of Muhammad's people comes to the Quraysh, he shall not be delivered up to Muhammad. This year, Muhammad, with his companions, must withdraw from Mecca, but next year, he may come to Mecca and remain for three days, yet without their weapons except those of a traveller; the swords remaining in their sheaths."
—The statement of the treaty of Hudaybiyyah
Although Muhammad had delivered Quranic verses commanding the Hajj, the Muslims had not performed it due to Quraysh enmity. In the month of Shawwal 628, Muhammad ordered his followers to obtain sacrificial animals and to prepare for a pilgrimage (umrah) to Mecca, saying that God had promised him the fulfillment of this goal in a vision when he was shaving his head after completion of the Hajj. Upon hearing of the approaching 1,400 Muslims, the Quraysh dispatched 200 cavalry to halt them. Muhammad evaded them by taking a more difficult route, enabling his followers to reach al-Hudaybiyya just outside of Mecca. According to Watt, although Muhammad's decision to make the pilgrimage was based on his dream, he was also demonstrating to the pagan Meccans that Islam did not threaten the sanctuaries prestige, that Islam was an Arabian religion.
Negotiations commenced with emissaries travelling to and from Mecca. While these continued, rumors spread that one of the Muslim negotiators, Uthman bin al-Affan, had been killed by the Quraysh. Muhammad called upon the pilgrims to make a pledge not to flee (or to stick with Muhammad, whatever decision he made) if the situation descended into war with Mecca. This pledge became known as the "Pledge of Acceptance" (Arabic: بيعة الرضوان , bay'at al-ridhwān) or the "Pledge under the Tree". News of Uthman's safety allowed for negotiations to continue, and a treaty scheduled to last ten years was eventually signed between the Muslims and Quraysh.The main points of the treaty included: cessation of hostilities, the deferral of Muhammad's pilgrimage to the following year, and agreement to send back any Meccan who emigrated to Medina without permission from their protector.
Many Muslims were not satisfied with the treaty. However, the Quranic sura "Al-Fath" (The Victory) (Quran 48:1–29) assured them that the expedition must be considered a victorious one. It was later that Muhammad's followers realized the benefit behind the treaty. These benefits included the requirement of the Meccans to identify Muhammad as an equal,cessation of military activity allowing Medina to gain strength, and the admiration of Meccans who were impressed by the pilgrimage rituals.
After signing the truce, Muhammad assembled an expedition against the Jewish oasis of Khaybar, known as the Battle of Khaybar. This was possibly due to housing the Banu Nadir who were inciting hostilities against Muhammad, or to regain prestige from what appeared as the inconclusive result of the truce of Hudaybiyya. According to Muslim tradition, Muhammad also sent letters to many rulers, asking them to convert to Islam (the exact date is given variously in the sources). He sent messengers (with letters) to Heraclius of the Byzantine Empire (the eastern Roman Empire), Khosrau of Persia, the chief of Yemen and to some others. In the years following the truce of Hudaybiyya, Muhammad directed his forces against the Arabs on Transjordanian Byzantine soil in the Battle of Mu'tah, in which the Muslims were defeated.
The truce of Hudaybiyyah had been enforced for two years. The tribe of Banu Khuza'a had good relations with Muhammad, whereas their enemies, the Banu Bakr, had allied with the Meccans. A clan of the Bakr made a night raid against the Khuza'a, killing a few of them.The Meccans helped the Banu Bakr with weapons and, according to some sources, a few Meccans also took part in the fighting. After this event, Muhammad sent a message to Mecca with three conditions, asking them to accept one of them. These were: either the Meccans would pay blood money for the slain among the Khuza'ah tribe, they disavow themselves of the Banu Bakr, or they should declare the truce of Hudaybiyyah null.
The Meccans replied that they accepted the last condition. Soon they realized their mistake and sent Abu Sufyan to renew the Hudaybiyyah treaty, a request that was declined by Muhammad. Muhammad began to prepare for a campaign. In 630, Muhammad marched on Mecca with 10,000 Muslim converts. With minimal casualties, Muhammad seized control of Mecca. He declared an amnesty for past offences, except for ten men and women who were "guilty of murder or other offences or had sparked off the war and disrupted the peace". Some of these were later pardoned. Most Meccans converted to Islam and Muhammad proceeded to destroy all the statues of Arabian gods in and around the Kaaba. According to reports collected by Ibn Ishaq and al-Azraqi, Muhammad personally spared paintings or frescos of Mary and Jesus, but other traditions suggest that all pictures were erased.The Quran discusses the conquest of Mecca.
Conquest of Arabia
Following the conquest of Mecca, Muhammad was alarmed by a military threat from the confederate tribes of Hawazin who were raising an army twice Muhammad's size. The Banu Hawazin were old enemies of the Meccans. They were joined by the Banu Thaqif (inhabiting the city of Ta'if) who adopted an anti-Meccan policy due to the decline of the prestige of Meccans. Muhammad defeated the Hawazin and Thaqif tribes in the Battle of Hunayn. In the same year, Muhammad organized an attack against northern Arabia because of their previous defeat at the Battle of Mu'tah and reports of hostility adopted against Muslims. With great difficulty he assembled thirty thousand men; half of whom on the second day returned with Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy, untroubled by the damning verses which Muhammad hurled at them.Although Muhammad did not engage with hostile forces at Tabuk, he received the submission of some local chiefs of the region. He also ordered destruction of any remaining pagan idols in Eastern Arabia. The last city to hold out against the Muslims in Western Arabia was Taif. Muhammad refused to accept the city's surrender until they agreed to convert to Islam and allowed men to destroy the statue of their goddess Allat. A year after the Battle of Tabuk, the Banu Thaqif sent emissaries to surrender to Muhammad and adopt Islam. Many bedouins submitted to Muhammad to safeguard against his attacks and to benefit from the spoils of war. However, the bedouins were alien to the system of Islam and wanted to maintain independence: namely their code of virtue and ancestral traditions. Muhammad required a military and political agreement according to which they "acknowledge the suzerainty of Medina, to refrain from attack on the Muslims and their allies, and to pay the Zakat, the Muslim religious levy."
In 632, at the end of the tenth year after migration to Medina, Muhammad completed his first truly Islamic pilgrimage, thereby teaching his followers the rites of the annual Great Pilgrimage, known as Hajj. After completing the pilgrimage, Muhammad delivered a famous speech, known as the Farewell Sermon, at Mount Arafat east of Mecca. In this sermon, Muhammad advised his followers not to follow certain pre-Islamic customs. Also a white has no superiority over black, nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. He abolished old blood feuds and disputes based on the former tribal system and asked for old pledges to be returned as implications of the creation of the new Islamic community. Commenting on the vulnerability of women in his society, Muhammad asked his male followers to "be good to women, for they are powerless captives (awan) in your households. You took them in God's trust, and legitimated your sexual relations with the Word of God, so come to your senses people, and hear my words ..." He told them that they were entitled to discipline their wives but should do so with kindness. He addressed the issue of inheritance by forbidding false claims of paternity or of a client relationship to the deceased, and forbade his followers to leave their wealth to a testamentary heir. He also upheld the sacredness of four lunar months in each year. The following Quranic verse was delivered during this event: "Today I have perfected your religion, and completed my favours for you and chosen Islam as a religion for you" (Quran 5:3). According to Shia tafsir, it refers to the appointment of Ali ibn Abi Talib at the pond of Khumm as Muhammad's successor, this occurring a few days later when Muslims were returning from Mecca to Medina.
Death and Tomb
A few months after the farewell pilgrimage, Muhammad fell ill and suffered for several days with fever, head pain, and weakness. He died on Monday, 8 June 632, in Medina, at the age of 62 or 63, in the house of his wife Aisha. With his head resting on Aisha's lap, he asked her to dispose of his last worldly goods (seven coins), then murmured his final words:
Rather, God on High and paradise.
Muhammad united the tribes of Arabia into a single Arab Muslim religious polity in the last years of his life. With Muhammad's death, disagreement broke out over who his successor would be. Umar ibn al-Khattab, a prominent companion of Muhammad, nominated Abu Bakr, Muhammad's friend and collaborator. With additional support Abu Bakr was confirmed as the first caliph. This choice was disputed by some of Muhammad's companions, who held that Ali ibn Abi Talib, his cousin and son-in-law, had been designated the successor by Muhammad at Ghadir Khumm. Abu Bakr's immediately moved to strike against the Byzantine forces because of the previous defeat, although he first had to put down a rebellion by Arab tribes. The pre-Islamic Middle East was dominated by the Byzantine and Sassanian empires. The Roman-Persian Wars between the two had devastated the region, making the empires unpopular amongst local tribes. Furthermore, in the lands that would be conquered by Muslims many Christians (Nestorians, Monophysites, Jacobites and Copts) were disaffected from the Christian Orthodoxy which deemed them heretics. Within a decade Muslims conquered Mesopotamia, Byzantine Syria, Byzantine Egypt, large parts of Persia, and established the Rashidun Caliphate.