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Chapter 21 : AFTER THE 12TH IMAM

During the occultation of the twelfth Imam, the Muslims who believe that the Prophet had elected Ali as the leader of the Muslim community when he announced him as the Mawla or Master at Ghadir Khum, generally called the Shi’is, continued to exist as a substantial part of the larger Muslim population.

By the mid-ninth century CE, Abbasid political unity begun to crumble. The Hamdanids, who believed in the Imamate, came to power in northern Iraq in 944 CE / 333 AH from where they eventually extended their rule to Syria while in 945 CE / 334 AH, the Buyids, also believers in Imamate, seized control over Baghdad where the Abbasid Caliph lived.

The establishment, for the first time in Muslim history of dynasties which held conviction in the Imamate, brought far-reaching consequences to Islam. It saw the spread of the thoughts of this school of jurisprudence to all over the Middle East and the number of Shi’ites Muslims rose dramatically.

Other autonomous dynasties soon established themselves in the western territories. The early tenth century CE saw the Isma’ili Fatimid dynasty coming to power in North Africa which then expanded its authority to Sicily and parts of Egypt. The Fatimid armies completed their conquest of Egypt in 969, and in that year Cairo was founded as the new capital, becoming an important cultural center that was to rival Baghdad. From Egypt the Fatimids spread their domain to

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Syria. Both of these places enjoyed enormous economic prosperity under the Fatimids through their control of the lucrative trade between India and the Mediterranean. This furthermore was a period of remarkable tolerance during which members of the Christian and Jewish communities flourished alongside their Muslim counterparts.

Fatimid power effectively ended in 1169, when, in an attempt to rid themselves of the Crusaders, who were then besieging Cairo, the Fatimid rulers sought the aid of a Syrian dynasty. Not only did the Syrians succeed in driving the Crusaders from Egypt, but one of their officers overthrew the Fatimid caliphate, establishing the Ayyubid dynasty.

In deposing the Isma’ili Fatimid Caliph, the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty, Salah al-Din ( Saladin ), who was of Kurdish descent, established Sunni Islam to Egypt. He expanded his empire to include Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, embarking upon a Holy War against the Crusader states, which he defeated in 1187. Following Salah al-Din's death, the empire was, however, little more than a confederation of semi-autonomous principalities, each ruled by one of the Ayyubid princes. This empire nonetheless enjoyed a period of relative peace and affluence.

Elsewhere in the west, Spain had been independently governed from the mid-8th century by a branch of the Umayyad dynasty. With the fall of this dynasty in 1031 CE, Spain was divided into several minor principalities. Weakened by division, the Muslims were unable to stave off the threat of the Christian conquest. In 1086 CE a confederation of Berber clans known as the

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Almoravids who had risen to power in Morocco under the banner of Islamic revival and renewal, crossed over into Spain, gaining control of the Muslim south while keeping the Christians in the north at bay. About the mid-12th century, the Almoravids were supplanted in Morocco and, shortly thereafter, in Spain by another Berber dynasty, the Almohads, who were soon forced from Spain by the inexorable Christian advance.

On the borders of the eastern Muslim world, the large-scale migration of Turkish nomads from the Central Asian steppe shifted the balance of power and a series of Turkish dynasts soon replaced Persians as rulers of the eastern Iranian world. The first Turkish dynasty, the Ghaznavids, came to power in what is now Afghanistan. The boundaries of the Ghaznavid empire eventually extended from Khurasan in the north to the Indian subcontinent in the south. Despite their Turkish origins, the Ghaznavids spoke Persian, and their patronage helped


further the development of modern Persian as a cultural language. The great Persian national epic, the Shahnama was completed by the poet Firdawsi at their court in Ghazni in 1010 and was dedicated to their ruler. Soon after, the Ghaznavids forfeited their Persian provinces to another Turkish dynasty, the Seljuqs.

In 1055 CE / 447 AH, the Seljuq Turks also overthrew the Buyids who had been controlling Baghdad since 945 CE / 334 AH. Indeed, the 11th century saw the Seljuqs briefly ruling over a vast empire that included all of Persia, the Fertile Crescent, and most of Anatolia or Turkey. By the end of the century however, this empire had disintegrated into smaller kingdoms ruled by different branches of the Seljuq house. The so-called Great Seljuqs, the main branch of the dynasty governed Iran. Like the Ghaznavids, these ethnic Turks embraced Persian culture and adopted the Persian language.

Turkish rule in Asia Minor was initiated under the Seljuqs following their victory over the Byzantine army in eastern Anatolia in 1071 CE. This important event paved the way for the gradual introduction of Islam and Turkish culture into Anatolia. The Seljuq sultanate of Rum ( that is, Byzantium ) endured until the beginning of the fourteenth century, although from the mid-13th century the Seljuqs served merely as governors under the Mongols.


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