HISTORY OF IRAQ ( 1000BC-7th century)


Alexander the GreatVarious invaders conquered the land after Nebuchadnezzar's death, including Cyrus the Great in 539BC and Alexander the Great (picture left) in 331BC, who died there in 323 BC, Babylon declined after the founding of Seleucia, the New Greek capital. In the second century BC, it became part of the Persian Empire, remaining thus until the 7th century AD, when Arab Muslims captured it. In 634AD, an army of 18,000 Arab Muslims, under the leadership of Khalid ibn al Walied, reached the perimeter of the Euphrates delta. Although the occupying Persian force was vastly superior in techniques and numbers, its soldiers were exhausted from their unremitting campaigns against the Byzantines. The Sassanid troops fought ineffectually, lacking sufficient reinforcement to do more.

The first battle of the Muslims campaign became known as Dhat Al-Salasil (the battle of the Chains) because Persian soldiers were reputedly chained together so that they could not flee. Muslims offered the inhabitants of Iraq an ultimatum: "Accept the faith and you are safe, otherwise pay tribute. If you refuse to do either, you have only yourself to blame. A people is already upon you, loving death as you love life". Most of the Iraqi tribes were Christian at the time of the Islamic conquest. They decided to pay the "jizya", the tax required of non-Muslims living in Muslim-ruled areas, and not further disturbed. The Persian rallied briefly under their hero, Rustum, and attacked the Muslims at Al-Hirah, west of the Euphrates. There, the Muslims soundly defeated them. The following year, in 635AD, the Muslims defeated the Persians at the Battle of Buwayb. Finally, in May 636AD at Al-Qadisiyah, a village south of Baghdad on the Euphrates, Rustum was killed. The Persians, who outnumbered the Muslims six to one, were decisively beaten. From Al Qadisiyah the Muslims pushed on to the Sassanid capital at Ctesiphon (Madain). Because the Muslim warriors were fighting a Jihad (Jihad fi Sabeel lillah), they were regulated by religious law that strictly prohibited rape and the killing of women, children, religious leaders, or anyone who had not actually engaged in warfare. Further, the Muslim warriors had come to conquer and settle a land under Islamic law. It was not in their economic interest to destroy or pillage unnecessarily and indiscriminately. The second caliph Omar Ben Al-Khattab (634-44 AD) ordered the founding of two garrisoned cities to protect the newly conquered territory: Kufah, named as the capital of Iraq, and later the capital of Imam Ali, and the founding of Basrah, which was also to be a port.

The Muslims continued the Sassanid office of the divan (Arabic form diwan). Essentially an institution to control income and expenditure through record keeping and the centralization of administration, the divan would be used henceforth throughout the lands of the Islamic conquest. Arabic replaced Persian as the official language and it slowly filtered into common language usage. Iraqis intermarried with Arabs and converted to Islam.

(Source: History of Iraq, Saleh home achilles)