Volume III - Church History

Seventh Century

The Rise of Islam

The seventh century also witnessed the rise of Islam, founded by an Arabian mystic named Mohammed (c. 570–632), who initiated the Moslem era by his flight, along with his closest followers, from Mecca to Medina in 622. For centuries the various tribes in Arabia had fought against one another, but Mohammed was able to unite them under the dual banner of Arab brotherhood and the religion called Islam, which means “subjugation.”

After Mohammed’s death in 632, the movement was consolidated further by Abu Bakr (r. 632–634). Then the second caliph (meaning “successor”), Omar (r. 634–644), led the Arabs in conquering all of Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia by the time of his death in 644. These conquests reduced the Byzantine Empire to basically only Asia Minor and Greece. Nearly all of the non-Chalcedonian Christians were now living under Islamic rule, and all possibility for further dialogue between them and the Byzantine Chalcedonians was cut off, as mentioned above.

The Muslims continued their conquest across northern Africa through the rest of the 7th century, and in 714 they invaded Spain. They would not be driven entirely out of Spain until 1492.