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History of Lebanon under Arab rule

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Title: History of Lebanon under Arab rule  
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Subject: Beirut, Maronite Church, Lebanese people, History of ancient Lebanon, National Museum of Beirut, Maronites
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History of Lebanon under Arab rule

The history of Lebanon under Arab rule refers to the history of the region in West Asia that became Lebanon during the periods it was under Arab rule.

The Arabs considered the country an undifferentiated part of Bilad ash-Sham which eventually translated into Greater Syria. Before the Arab conquest, the area had been under successive rule of the Persians, Ancient Romans and Byzantines. A weakened Byzantine Empire allowed the expansion of the Arab Empire into Lebanon. The Arabs controlled the area through several dynasties. Europeans, Mamluks, and other groups fought over the territory, but the Ottoman Empire finally gained control of Lebanon.

Arab conquest, 634–36

The followers of the Isamic prophet Muhammad, embarked on a movement to establish their religious and civil control throughout the eastern Mediterranean from their base in the Arabian Peninsula. Their determination to conquer other lands resulted both from economic necessity and from religious beliefs.[1]

Calling for a jihad (struggle) against non-Muslims, Muhammad's successor, Caliph Abu Bakr (632-34), brought Islam to the area surrounding Lebanon. Dividing his forces into three groups, he ordered one to move in the direction of Palestine, one toward Damascus, and one toward the Jordan River. The army under General Khalid ibn al-Walid defeated this Byzantine forces under Emperor Heraclius in 636 at the Battle of Yarmuk in northwestern Jordan.[1]

Umayyads, 660–750

After the Battle of Yarmuk, Caliph Umar appointed an Arab Muawiyah, future founder of the Umayyad dynasty, as governor of Syria, an area that included present-day Lebanon. Muawiyah garrisoned troops on the Lebanese coast and had the Lebanese shipbuilders help him construct a navy to resist any potential Byzantine attack. He also stopped raids by the Marada, a powerful people who had settled in the Lebanese mountains and were used by the Byzantine rulers to prevent an Arab invasion that would threaten the Byzantine Empire. Concerned with consolidating his authority in Arabia and Iraq, Muawiyah negotiated an agreement in 667 with Constantine IV, the Byzantine emperor, whereby he agreed to pay Constantine an annual tribute in return for the cessation of Marada incursions. During this period some of the Arab tribes settled in the Lebanese and Syrian coastal areas.[1]

Abbasids, 750–1258

The Abbasids replaced the Umayyads in early 750. They treated Lebanon and Syria as conquered countries, and their harshness led to several revolts, including an abortive rebellion of Lebanese mountaineers in 759. After demise of Abbasids, Lebanon was ruled firstly by Tulunids between 878 and 904 and Ikhshidids between 945 and 969, which were Turkic dynasties. By the end of the tenth century, the amir of Tyre proclaimed his independence from the Abbasids and coined money in his own name. However, his rule was terminated by the Fatimids of Egypt, an independent Arab Muslim dynasty.[1] After demise of Fatimids, present Lebanon was conquered by Seljuks in 1071. But, Fatimids recaptured it in 1089 and took control of it until Crusader occupation.

Mamluks, 1282–1516

The Mamluks were Turkoman slaves from the area east of the Caspian Sea and Circassian slaves from the Caucasus Mountains between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. They were brought in by the Muslim Ayyubid sultans of Egypt to serve as their bodyguards. One of these slaves, Muez-Aibak, assassinated the Ayyubid sultan, Al Ashraf Musa, in 1252 and founded the Mamluk Sultanate, which ruled Egypt and Syria for more than two centuries.[1]

From the eleventh to the thirteenth century, the Shia Muslims migrated from Syria, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula and to the northern part of the Biqa Valley and to the Kasrawan Region in the mountains northeast of Beirut. They and the Druzes rebelled in 1291 while the Mamluks were busy fighting European Crusaders and Mongols, but after repelling the invaders, the Mamluks crushed the rebellion in 1308. To escape from repression and massacres by the Mamluks, the Shias abandoned Kasrawan and moved to southern Lebanon.[1]

The Mamluks indirectly fostered relations between Europe and the Middle East even after the fall of the Byzantine Empire. The Europeans, accustomed to luxury items from the Middle East, strongly desired both its raw materials and its manufactured products, and the people of the Middle East wished to exploit the lucrative European market. Beirut, favored by its geographical location, became the center of intense trading activity. Despite religious conflicts among the different communities in Lebanon, intellectual life flourished, and economic prosperity continued until Mamluk rule was ended by the Ottoman Turks.[1]

Impact of Arab rule

It was during this time that Arabic, the current dominant and state language of Lebanon, started to get hold in this territory.

Arab rule under the Umayyads and Abbasids had a profound impact on the eastern Mediterranean area and, to a great degree, was responsible for the composition of modern Lebanese society. It was during this period that Lebanon became a refuge for various ethnic and religious groups. The presence of these diverse, cohesive groups led to the eventual emergence of the Lebanese confessional state, whereby different religious communities were represented in the government according to their numerical strength.[1]

The ancestors of the present-day Maronites were among the Christian communities that settled in Lebanon during this period. To avoid feuds with other Christian sects in the area, these followers of Saint John Maron moved from the upper valley of the Orontes River and settled in the picturesque Qadisha Valley, located in the northern Lebanon Mountains, about twenty-five kilometers southeast of Tripoli.[1]

Lebanon also became the refuge for a small Christian group called Melchites, living in northern and central Lebanon. Influenced by the Greek Christian theology of Constantinople, they accepted the controversial decrees of the Council of Chalcedon, the fourth ecumenical council of the church held in 451. As a result of missionary activity by the Roman Catholic Church, some were later drawn away from this creed and became known as Greek Catholics because Greek is the language of their liturgy. They lived mainly in the central part of the Biqa Valley.[1]

During the Arab era, the Druze found sanctuary in Lebanon. Al-Hakim (996-1021), the Fatimid caliph of Egypt, formulated Druze beliefs and the Druze became a major communities in Lebanon. [1]

Under the Abbasids, philosophy, literature, and the sciences received great attention, especially during the caliphate of Harun al Rashid and that of his son, Al Mamun. Lebanon made a notable contribution to this intellectual renaissance. The physician Rashid ad Din, the jurist Al Awazi, and the philosopher Qusta ibn Luqa were leaders in their respective disciplines. The country also enjoyed an economic boom in which the Lebanese harbors of Tyre and Tripoli were busy with shipping as the textile, ceramic, and glass industries prospered. Lebanese products were sought after not only in Arab countries but also throughout the Mediterranean Basin.[1]

Christians and Jews paid special taxes and were exempted from military service. Under Ottoman rule, non-Muslim groups were administered as separate communities called millets. In the late-1980s, this system continued; each religious community was organized under its own head and observed its own laws pertaining to matters such as divorce and inheritance.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Text used in this cited section originally came from: Lebanon Country Study (1987) from the Library of Congress Country Studies project.
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