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Book Review - The Great Arab Conquests - How the spread of Islam changed the world we live in

By: Hugh Kennedy (451/35707)
Publisher: Orion Books ISBN: 978-0-297-84657-4

The Arab conquests following the death of the Prophet Muhammad in AD 632 0changed the face of the world for ever. In the year 600 there were no Muslims, and Arabic was spoken only in the Arabian Peninsula and the fringes of Iraq and Syria. No Arabs lived in Egypt or North Africa; Syria and Egypt formed part of the Greek-speaking Christian Byzantine Empire; and Iraq and Iran were ruled by a fire-worshipping Zoroastrian, the Sasanian King of Kings.

Yet in just a few decades this old world order came to an end: by 641 Arab Muslim armies had conquered Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Iraq; by 700 all of North Africa; and by 720 Spain, Pakistan and much of Central Asia. The speed of the conquests is astonishing, but even more is the fact that they proved to be permanent: Syria, Iraq, Egypt and North Africa never replaced the ancient Persian language, Islam became the dominant religion.

This book not only chronicles these world-shattering events, but also examines why the conquests endured, and how the coming of Islam affected the everyday lives of these peoples of the area. The book gives a vivid and fast-moving account of the conquests, including many original sources and whilst not ignoring the problems these sources raise, it will show how our picture pf the great events is shaped by later Arab memories and myth-making.

October 2007

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