THE CONTRIBUTION OF ISLAM
On 8 June AD 632 Mohammed, the Prophet of Allah, died at Medina in present-day Saudi Arabia. The last of the prophets had gone to his reward. Addressing Mohammed's followers, Abu Bakr, his father-in-law, said: 'People, let him amongst you who served Mohammed know that Mohammed is dead, but let him who served God continue in his service, for Mohammed's God lives and never dies.' The succession was decided between Abu Bakr, Umar and Mohammed's cousin Ali, the choice finally falling on Abu Bakr, who became the first Khalifa (deputy). We know him as the first Caliph.
After the Prophet's death, the unity he had imposed on the desert Bedouin, and the town-dwellers of Arabia, began to disintegrate. Rival prophets arose, claiming that they too received revelations from Allah. To deal with these heretics, Abu Bakr dispatched Khalid (ibn al-Walid), the Sword of God. They were defeated and slaughtered.
The Prophet had enjoined his followers to wage war, until all people were of their religion, saying: 'In the shades of scimitars is paradise prefigured.' The Arab people carried out Mohammed's instructions to the letter. In 633, al-Muthanna (ibn Haritha) chief of the Bani Shaiban struck at the weak Sassanid Empire of Persia. Invading central Mesopotamia, he took Hira. The main bulk of the camel-mounted Arab army swung west, driving for the most important prize in Asia Minor, Damascus. An army of 70 000 sent by the Roman Emperor Heraclius at Constantinople (Byzantium) was slaughtered, and Damascus fell to Khalid on 23 August 635, the day Abu Bakr died.
Umar (ibn al-Khattab), the second Caliph, opened his reign with the following promise: 'Muslims, as Allah is my witness, none of you shall be too strong for me to sacrifice the rights of the weak, nor too weak for me to neglect the rights of the strong.' In 636 Khalid destroyed the Byzantines at Yarmuk in Jordan, and a Sassanid army of 120 000 was routed by 12 000 Arabs at Qadisiyya in Iraq. In 638 the Muslims took Jerusalem after a two-year siege, and in 640 Amr (ibn al-As) crossed into Egypt. Defeating