Muslim Conquest of Egypt

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Conquest of Egypt 640-641 A.D/19-20 A.H:

  • Byzantine Province.
  • Under pharaohs, it was a proud and independent country.
  • Fertile Nile Delta.
  • Became granary of Rome, then of Constantinople, and then of Madinah under Pious Caliphs.

Conditions in Egypt on the eve of Arab Invasion:

  • Ruled by Persians from 616-628 A.D.
  • Then went to the hands of byzantine. (629- Onwards till 641A.D).
  • Divided into two Christian churches
  • The motive Coptic church headed by Benjamin Monophysite.
  • Dominant church of Emperor. Orthodox monothelete.
  • Emperor deputed Cyrus to Egypt with instructions to crush the Copticchurch and unite all Christians under monothelete of Orthodox Church.
  • Cyrus persecuted Coptic. Benjamin fled to upper Egypt.
  • Land was owned by Greek landlords, Coptic peasants were cruelly exploited.
  • Poverty, misery, and squalor to motive Coptic’s. These factor made them to welcome Arabs against the Byzantines.

Causes of Arab Invasion:

There are several factors.

  • To suppress the Byzantine supremacy of water in the Mediterranean to protect Syria from attacks.
  • To subdue two naval bases at Alexandria and Suez.
  • Plague had weakened the Muslim military power and prowess. A preventive war which the Arabs launched against a hostile Christian power, before it could discover the temporary weakness of the new Muslim power.
  • The growing population of Arabian Peninsula needed high amounts of food to survive which desert could not afford. Egypt was a fertile land and produce abundant crops. To feed the population, Egypt was raged.
  • To incapacitate Byzantines to raid and invade the Arab possession in the future.

Amr Invades Egypt. Dec 639 January 640:

  • Caliph dispatched 4,000 soldiers under the command of Amr ibn Aas.
  • Treaty of Alexandria signed between Amr and Cyrus in Nov 642, according to which Alexandria was to be handed over to Muslims.

Persecution of Copts By Byzantines:

  • Coptic form of worship was forbidden,
  • Its clergy persecuted, imprisoned or exiled/hiding.
  • Heavy taxes on them.
  • “The poverty and misery of the Coptic population, the luxury and indolence of the Byzantine nobility and clergy, the bitter hatred between the foreign masters and native population engender by religious persecutions of Heraclius and Cyrus…… “All these factors made the native Coptics to support Arab Invaders against their cruel masters.
  • Cyrus suppressed and persecuted Coptic’s for 10 years.
  • Amr took advantage of Coptic bitterness against Greeks.

Foundation of Fustat:

  • Amr wanted to make Alexandria as the seat of Government in Egypt but Caliph refused because he did not want “Nile to be in between him and capital of Egypt and secondly he feared that luxury of Alexandria would affect the Bedouins of the Desert. So camped near Babylon on the Eastern bank of Nile. It came to be known as Fustat.
  • Development like mosque, markets, homes for Arab soldiers as were built in Basra and Kufa.

Administration:

  • The old machinery of administration and finance was preserved.
  • Employment given to Coptic’s and Greeks.
  • Non-Muslims had to pay Jizya of two dinars land tax.
  • Register of tax collection was given in every village.
  • The lands were left to old occupants, on payment of taxes.
  • Freedom of worship to everyone.

Suez Canal:

  • Amr re-dug and repaired the ancient Suez Canal which came to be known as the canal of Ameen al-Momineen.
  • Export of food to Madinah from Egypt.
  • 20 ships reached Arabia every year laden with Egyptian produce.

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