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|Region of the Rashidun, Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates|
|Historical era||Middle Ages|
• Tulunid control
|History of the Levant|
Bilad al-Sham (Arabic : بِـلَاد الـشَّـام, romanized: Bilād al-Shām), often referred to as Islamic Syria or Syria in English-language sources, was a super-province of the Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid, and Fatimid caliphates. It roughly corresponded with the Byzantine Diocese of the East, conquered by the Muslims in 634–647. Under the Umayyads (661–750) Bilad al-Sham was the metropolitan province of the Caliphate and different localities throughout the province served as the seats of the Umayyad caliphs and princes.
Bilad al-Sham was first organized into the four junds (military districts) of Filastin, al-Urdunn, Dimashq, and Hims, between 637 and 640 by Caliph Umar following the Muslim conquest. The jund of Qinnasrin was created out of the northern part of Hims by caliphs Mu'awiya I (r. 661–680) or Yazid I (r. 680–683). The Jazira was made an independent province from the Mesopotamian part of Qinnasrin by Caliph Abd al-Malik in 692. In 786 the jund of al-Awasim and al-Thughur were established from the northern frontier region of Qinnasrin by Caliph Harun al-Rashid.
The name Bilad al-Sham in Arabic translates as "the left-hand region".It was so named from the perspective of the people of the Hejaz (western Arabia), who considered themselves to be facing the rising sun, that the Syrian region was positioned to their left, while to their right was al-Yaman ("the right-hand-region").
Bilad al-Sham comprised the area of Greater Syria, spanning the modern countries of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Palestine, as well as the regions of Hatay, Gaziantep, and Diyarbakir in modern Turkey.It was bound by the Mediterranean Sea in the west and the Syrian Desert in the east toward Iraq. The western, Mediterranean coastal range were characterized by rolling hills in Palestine in the south, rising to their highest points in Mount Lebanon in the center before becoming considerably lower in the Jabal Ansariya range in the north. Eastward from the coastal range, the ridges of inland Syria become gradually lower, with the exception of Mount Hermon north of the Golan, and include the ranges of the Anti-Lebanon, Jabal al-Ruwaq, and Jabal Bishri. With the termination of the inland ridges begins the mostly level Syrian steppe.
Following the consolidation of Islamic hegemony over Arabia and its nomadic Arab tribes in the Ridda wars of 632–633, the caliph (leader of the Muslim community) Abu Bakr (r. 632–634) turned the nascent Muslim state's energies toward the conquest of Syria. The conquest unfolded in three main phases, according to the historian Fred Donner. In the first phase, Abu Bakr dispatched four armies from Medina in late 633 led by the commanders Amr ibn al-As, Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan, Shurahbil ibn Hasana, all veterans of the Ridda wars, and Abu Ubayda ibn al-Jarrah, a leading companion of Muhammad. Abu Ubayda may not have been dispatched until 636. Each commander was assigned to a different zone, with Amr entrusted over Palestine, Yazid to the Balqa (central Transjordan), Shurahbil to southern Transjordan, and Abu Ubayda to the Ghassanid stomping grounds of the Golan Heights. The Muslim commanders mainly engaged in small-scale skirmishes in the southern Syrian countryside with local garrisons. The goal of the Muslims at the start of the conquest was likely bringing the Arabic-speaking nomadic, semi-nomadic, and settled tribesmen of the southern Syrian desert fringes under their control.
The second phase began with the arrival of Khalid ibn al-Walid and his troops to Syria in 634.Under Khalid's supreme command, the Muslim armies besieged and captured the southern Syrian urban centers of Bosra, Damascus, Beisan (Scythopolis), Pella, Gaza, and temporarily, Homs (Emesa) and Baalbek (Hierapolis). Heraclius responded by deploying successive imperial armies against the Muslims. The Byzantines were decisively defeated in the resulting major battles of Ajnadayn in Palestine and Fahl and Yarmouk in Transjordan, all occurring in 634–636. The Muslim battlefield victories effectively ended organized resistance by the Byzantines.
In the third phase, beginning about 637, the Muslim armies quickly occupied the northern Syrian countryside, while steadily conquering individual towns throughout the region whose garrisons held out alone following the breakdown of the imperial defense. Among the towns, a number of which held out until 647 or 648, were Aleppo (Beroea) and Qinnasrin (Chalcis) in the north, Hama, Homs and Baalbek (the latter two possibly for the second time), Damascus possibly for the second time, Jerusalem, and the Mediterranean coastal towns of Beirut, Sidon, Tyre, Caesarea, Antioch, Tripoli and Ascalon.
The population of the region did not become predominantly Muslim and Arab in identity until nearly a millennium after the conquest. Following the Muslim conquest, Mu'awiya ibn Abi Sufyan (602–680 CE) of the Banu Umayya clan governed the Syrian region for twenty years, and developed the province as his family's power base. Relying on Syrian military support, Mu'awiya emerged as the victor in the First Fitna (656–661) and established the Umayyad Caliphate (661).
Under the Umayyads, Damascus was the capital of the Caliphate and Syria formed the Caliphate's metropolitan province; likewise, the elite Syrian army, the Ahl al-Sham (أَهْـل الـشَّـام), formed the main pillar of the Umayyad government.
Al-Sham became much less important under the Abbasid Caliphate, which succeeded the Umayyads in 750. The Abbasids moved the capital first to Kufa, and then to Baghdad and Samarra, all of which were in Iraq, which consequently became their most important province. The mainly Arab Syrians were marginalized by Iranian and Turkish forces who rose to power under the Abbasids, a trend which also expressed itself on a cultural level. From 878 until 905, Syria came under the effective control of the Tulunids of Egypt, but Abbasid control was re-established soon thereafter. It lasted until the 940s, when the province was partitioned between the Hamdanid Emirate of Aleppo in the north and Ikhshidid-controlled Egypt in the south. In the 960s the Byzantine Empire under Nikephoros II Phokas conquered much of northern Syria, and Aleppo became a Byzantine tributary, while the southern provinces passed to the Fatimid Caliphate after its conquest of Egypt in 969. The division of Syria into northern and southern parts would persist, despite political changes, until the Mamluk conquest in the late 13th century.[ citation needed ]
The junds were an adaptation of the preexisting administrative system of the Diocese of the East (Byzantine Syria) to suit the nascent Muslim state's needs.The Byzantine system, in turn, had been based on that instituted by its Roman predecessor in the aftermath of the First Jewish Revolt in 70 CE and the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 135 CE. To establish closer control over the broadly spread population of Syria following the revolts, the region was subdivided into smaller units centered around an urban center which policed and collected taxes from the surrounding hinterland. By 400 the southern half of Syria was divided between the three Palestines (Palaestina Prima, Palaestina Secunda, and Palaestina Tertia), Phoenice and Arabia.
Following the decisive Muslim victory at Yarmouk in 636, and the occupation of most of the Mediterranean coast and northern Syria in the next two years, the Muslims began to militarily and administratively organize the region for their needs.Caliph Umar, who ruled from Medina, visited the Muslim army's principal camp at Jabiya, the former Ghassanid capital, at least once between 637 and 639. From there he personally oversaw the distribution of allowances (ata) and rations (rizq) to the Muslim soldiery, tax collection from the conquered population, and the appointments to military command. There may have been initial Muslim intentions to establish Jabiya as the permanent, central garrison town of Syria along the lines of those later established in the conquered regions of Iraq (Kufa and Basra), Egypt (Fustat), and Ifriqiya (Kairouan). Those garrison cities developed into major urban centers of the Caliphate. During one of his visits, or by 640 at the latest, the central army camp at Jabiya was disbanded by Umar. Instead, as a result of several factors, "a self-supporting, more flexible" military-administrative system was established, according to the historian Alan Walmsley.
Unlike Iraq and Egypt where settlement was concentrated along the major rivers of those provinces, Syrian settlement was distributed over an extensive area of mountains, valleys, and plains. The complex geography slowed communications and army movements in the region, necessitating multiple regional centers for efficient administration and defense;according to Walmsley, this was "a principle confirmed by over 500 years of Roman and Byzantine administration". The change of Muslim military objectives following Yarmouk, when focus shifted to the northern Syrian and Mediterranean fronts, also necessitated the establishment of additional army headquarters and garrisons, such as Homs, diminishing Jabiya's centrality. Further reducing troop numbers in Jabiya was the Plague of Amwas in 639, which reduced the garrison there from 24,000 to 4,000. The decrease was likely due to factors in addition to the plague. In late 639 or early 640, a significant number of Muslim troops also left Syria for the conquest of Egypt under Amr's command.
Troop numbers in Jabiya could not be restored in the aftermath of the plague and the departure of Muslim troops to other fronts. Unlike in Iraq where there were high levels of Arab tribal immigration, similar immigration into Syria was restricted by the Qurayshite elite in a bid to preserve their pre-established interests in the region.Syria had a substantial, long-standing Arab population, both in the tribes who dominated the steppe and formerly served Byzantium and in the urban Arab communities, particularly those of Damascus and Homs. Not long after Yarmouk, the Arab tribes of Syria were incorporated into the nascent Muslim military structure there. The native tribes had a preference for the established urban centers with which they were long familiarized. Muslim settlement in the urban centers was facilitated by the wide availability of property in the cities in the wake of the conquests, as a result of the exodus of pro-Byzantine, Greek-speaking residents or in property transfers to the Muslims secured in capitulation agreements. Muslim settlement in the hinterland, on the other hand, was limited as the Aramaic-speaking peasantry remained in their villages.
Umar divided Syria into the four junds of Filastin, al-Urdunn, Dimashq, and Hims. The new garrisons were assigned to the urban centers of Lydda, Tiberias, Damascus, and Homs, respectively. In effect Umar's gave his sanction of the existing military situation in Syria, where different army units operated independently on the different fronts. By establishing the junds, Umar transformed the military structures into provincial governments concerned with the taxation of the local populations and the distribution of collected money and supplies for the troops. During the caliphate of Umar's successor Uthman (r. 644–656), supplemental garrisons were established in the respective junds, especially in the coastal cities.
During the reign of Mu'awiya I or Yazid I, Qinnasrin (northern Syria) and the Jazira (Upper Mesopotamia) were separated from Jund Hims and became Jund Qinnasrin.The separation may have been a response to the influx of northern Arab (Qays and Mudar) immigrant tribesmen to Qinnasrin and the Jazira during Mu'awiya's governorship and caliphate. In 692 Caliph Abd al-Malik separated the Jazira from Jund Qinnasrin, and it became the independent province of the Jazira. According to Blankinship, this change of status may have been related to the peace settlement reached with the Qays in 691 after the Qays had rebelled against the Umayyads during the Second Muslim Civil War. According to the historian Hugh N. Kennedy, the separation was done at the request of Muhammad ibn Marwan, Abd al-Malik's brother and his commander responsible for the Jazira.
In 786 Caliph Harun al-Rashid established Jund al-Awasim out of the northern part of Jund Qinnasrin. It spanned frontier zone with the Byzantine Empire, extending from the areas immediately south of Antioch, Aleppo, and Manbij and eastward to the Euphrates. Manbij and later Antioch became the capitals of the new jund.Jund al-Awasim served as the second defensive line behind the actual frontier zone, the Thughur, which encompassed the far northern Syrian towns of Baghras, Bayas, Duluk (modern Gaziantep), Alexandretta, Cyrrhus, Ra'ban and Tizin. The Thughur was subdivided into the Cilician or Syrian al-Thughur al-Sha'miya and the Jaziran or Mesopotamian al-Thughur al-Jaziriya sectors, roughly separated by the Amanus mountains. Tarsus and Malatya were the most important towns in the Syrian and the Mesopotamian sectors respectively, though the two districts did not have administrative capitals sometimes were under the administrative control of Jund al-Awasim. By the 10th century, the terms Thughur and al-Awasim were often used interchangeably in the sources.
The governor of the provinces were called wali or amir.
Palestine typically refers to:
The Umayyad Caliphate was the second of the four major caliphates established after the death of Muhammad. The caliphate was ruled by the Umayyad dynasty. The third caliph of Rashidun Caliphate, Uthman ibn Affan, was also a member of the Umayyad clan. The family established dynastic, hereditary rule with Muawiya ibn Abi Sufyan, long-time governor of al-Sham, who became the sixth caliph after the end of the First Muslim Civil War in 661. After Mu'awiyah's death in 680, conflicts over the succession resulted in a Second Civil War and power eventually fell into the hands of Marwan I from another branch of the clan. The region of Syria remained the Umayyads' main power base thereafter, and Damascus was their capital.
Jund Filasṭīn was one of the military districts of the Umayyad and Abbasid province of Bilad al-Sham (Syria), organized soon after the Muslim conquest of the Levant in the 630s. Jund Filastin, which encompassed most of Palaestina Prima and Palaestina Tertia, included the newly established city of Ramla as its capital and eleven administrative districts (kura), each ruled from a central town.
The Muslim conquest of the Levant, also known as the Arab conquest of the Levant, occurred in the first half of the 7th century. This was the conquest of the region known as the Levant or Shaam, later to become the Islamic Province of Bilad al-Sham, as part of the Islamic conquests. Arab Muslim forces had appeared on the southern borders even before the death of prophet Muhammad in 632, resulting in the Battle of Mu'tah in 629, but the real conquest began in 634 under his successors, the Rashidun Caliphs Abu Bakr and Umar ibn Khattab, with Khalid ibn al-Walid as their most important military leader.
The Judham was an Arab tribe that inhabited the southern Levant and northwestern Arabia during the Byzantine and early Islamic eras. Under the Byzantines, the tribe was nominally Christian and fought against the Muslim army between 629 and 636, until the Byzantines and their Arab allies were defeated at the Battle of Yarmouk. Afterward, the Judham converted to Islam and became the largest tribal faction of Jund Filastin.
Jund al-Urdunn was one of the five districts of Bilad al-Sham during the early Islamic period. It was established under the Rashidun and its capital was Tiberias throughout its rule by the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates. It encompassed southern Mount Lebanon, the Galilee, the southern Hauran, the Golan Heights, and most of the eastern Jordan Valley.
Jund Qinnasrīn was one of five sub-provinces of Syria under the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, organized soon after the Muslim conquest of Syria in the 7th century CE. Initially, its capital was Qinnasrin, but as the city declined in population and wealth, the capital was moved to Aleppo. By 985, the district's principal towns were Manbij, Iskandarun, Hamah, Shaizar, Ma'arrat al-Numan, Sumaisat, Jusiya, Wadi Butnan, Rafaniyya, Lajjun, Mar'ash, Qinnasrin, al-Tinat, Balis, and Suwaydiyyah.
Jund Ḥimṣ was one of the military districts of the caliphal province of Syria.
Between 792–793 and 796 a Qays-Yaman war took place in Palestine and Transjordan between the northern Arab tribal federation of Mudhar, also called Nizar or Qays, and the southern tribal confederation of Yaman and their Abbasid allies. The conflict may have begun as early as 787/88, though specific outbreaks of the war are largely dated to 793 and 796. Some violence by Bedouin raiders in the Judean Desert also erupted in 797, though it is not clear if this was directly related to the Qaysi-Yamani conflict.
Al-ʿAwāṣim was the Arabic term used to refer to the Muslim side of the frontier zone between the Byzantine Empire and the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates in Cilicia, northern Syria and Upper Mesopotamia. It was established in the early 8th century, once the first wave of the Muslim conquests ebbed, and lasted until the mid-10th century, when it was overrun by the Byzantine advance. It comprised the forward marches, comprising a chain of fortified strongholds, known as al-thughūr, and the rear or inner regions of the frontier zone, which was known as al-ʿawāṣim proper. On the Byzantine side, the Muslim marches were mirrored by the institution of the kleisourai districts and the akritai border guards.
The region of Syria, known in modern literature as Greater Syria, "Syria-Palestine", or the Levant, is an area east of the Mediterranean Sea. The region has been controlled by numerous different peoples, including ancient Egyptians, Canaanites, Israelites, Assyria, Babylonia, the Achaemenid Empire, the ancient Macedonians, the Armenians, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Rashidun Caliphate, the Umayyad Caliphate, the Abbasid Caliphate, the Fatimid Caliphate, the Crusaders, the Ayyubid dynasty, the Mamluk Sultanate, the Ottoman Empire, the United Kingdom and the French Third Republic.
Under the early Caliphates, jund was a term for a military division, which became applied to Arab military colonies in the conquered lands and, most notably, to the provinces into which Greater Syria was divided. The term later acquired various meanings throughout the Muslim world.
Majzaʾa ibn al-Kawthar ibn Zufar ibn al-Ḥārith al-Kilābī, commonly known as Abū al-Ward, was a mid-8th century Umayyad governor of Jund Qinnasrin in Syria. He was a cavalry commander of Umayyad Caliph Marwan II and later the leader of a rebellion against the Abbasid Caliphate in Syria which aimed to reestablish the Umayyad Caliphate in 750.
Abu al-A'war Amr ibn Sufyan ibn Abd Shams al-Sulami, identified with the Abulathar or Aboubacharos of the Byzantine sources, was an Arab admiral and general, serving in the armies of the Rashidun caliphs Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman rejecting the fourth Rashidun caliph Ali, instead serving Umayyad caliph Mu'awiyah.
Jabiyah was a town of political and military significance in the 6th–8th centuries. It was located between the Hawran plain and the Golan Heights. It initially served as the capital of the Ghassanids, an Arab vassal kingdom of the Byzantine Empire. Following the Muslim conquest of Syria, it early on became the Muslims' main military camp in the region and, for a time, the capital of Jund Dimashq. Caliph Umar convened a meeting of senior Muslim figures at the city where the organization of Syria and military pay was decided. Later, in 684, Jabiyah was the site of a summit of Arab tribes that chose Marwan I to succeed Caliph Mu'awiya II. Jabiyah was often used by the Umayyad caliphs as a retreat. Its significance declined when Caliph Sulayman made Dabiq the Muslims' main military camp in Syria.
Abū al-Hudhayl Zufar ibn al-Ḥārith al-Kilābī ; fl. 656–692) was a Muslim commander, a chieftain of the Arab tribe of Banu Amir, and the preeminent leader of the Qays tribo-political faction in the late 7th century. He commanded his tribesmen in A'isha's army against Caliph Ali's forces at the Battle of the Camel near Basra in 656 during the First Muslim Civil War. In the following year, he relocated from Iraq to the Jazira and fought under Mu'awiya ibn Abi Sufyan, future founder of the Umayyad Caliphate, against Ali at the Battle of Siffin. During the Second Muslim Civil War he served Mu'awiya's son Caliph Yazid I, leading the troops of Jund Qinnasrin against anti-Umayyad rebels in the Battle of al-Harra (683).
Hassan ibn Malik ibn Bahdal al-Kalbi (Arabic: حسان بن مالك بن بحدل الكلبي, romanized: Ḥassān ibn Mālik ibn Baḥdal al-Kalbī, commonly known as Ibn Bahdal, was the Umayyad governor of Palestine and Jordan during the reigns of Mu'awiya I and Yazid I, a senior figure in the caliph's court, and a chieftain of the Banu Kalb tribe. He owed his position both to his leadership of the powerful Kalb, a major source of troops, and his kinship with the Umayyads through his aunt Maysun bint Bahdal, the wife of Mu'awiya and mother of Yazid. Following Yazid's death, Ibn Bahdal served as the guardian of his son and successor, Mu'awiya II, until the latter's premature death in 684. Amid the political instability and rebellions that ensued in the caliphate, Ibn Bahdal attempted to secure the succession Mu'awiya II's brother Khalid, but ultimately threw his support behind Marwan I, who hailed from a different branch of the Umayyads. Ibn Bahdal and his tribal allies defeated Marwan's opponents at the Battle of Marj Rahit and secured for themselves the most prominent roles in the Umayyad administration and military.
Abū Zurʿa Rawḥ ibn Zinbāʿ al-Judhāmī was the Umayyad governor of Palestine, one of the main advisers of Caliph Abd al-Malik and the chieftain of the Judham tribe.
Al-Jazira, also known as Jazirat Aqur or Iqlim Aqur, was a province of the Rashidun, Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates, spanning at minimum most of Upper Mesopotamia, divided between the districts of Diyar Bakr, Diyar Rabi'a and Diyar Mudar, and at times including Mosul, Arminiya and Adharbayjan as sub-provinces. Following its conquest by the Muslim Arabs in 639/40, it became an administrative unit attached to the larger district of Jund Hims. It was separated from Hims during the reigns of caliphs Mu'awiya I or Yazid I and came under the jurisdiction of Jund Qinnasrin. It was made its own province in 692 by Caliph Abd al-Malik. After 702, it frequently came to span the key districts of Arminiya and Adharbayjan along the Caliphate's northern frontier, making it a super-province. The predominance of Arabs from the Qays/Mudar and Rabi'a groups made it a major recruitment pool of tribesmen for the Umayyad armies and the troops of the Jazira played a key military role under the Umayyad caliphs in the 8th century, peaking under the last Umayyad caliph, Marwan II, until the toppling of the Umayyads by the Abbasids in 750.
Yaman was an Arab tribal confederation known for their centuries-long rivalry with the Qays, another Arab tribal confederation. As late as the nineteenth century battles were fought in Palestine between Qays and Yaman groups.
To the Arabs, this same territory, which the Romans considered Arabian, formed part of what they called Bilad al-Sham, which was their own name for Syria. From the classical perspective however Syria, including Palestine, formed no more than the western fringes of what was reckoned to be Arabia between the first line of cities and the coast. Since there is no clear dividing line between what are called today the Syrian and Arabian deserts, which actually form one stretch of arid tableland, the classical concept of what actually constituted Syria had more to its credit geographically than the vaguer Arab concept of Syria as Bilad al-Sham. Under the Romans, there was a province of Syria, with its capital at Antioch, which carried the name of the territory. Otherwise, down the centuries, Syria like Arabia and Mesopotamia was no more than a geographic expression. In Islamic times, the Arab geographers used the name arabicized as Suriyah, to denote one special region of Bilad al-Sham, which was the middle section of the valley of the Orontes river, in the vicinity of the towns of Homs and Hama. They also noted that it was an old name for the whole of Bilad al-Sham which had gone out of use. As a geographic expression, however, the name Syria survived in its original classical sense in Byzantine and Western European usage, and also in the Syriac literature of some of the Eastern Christian churches, from which it occasionally found its way into Christian Arabic usage. It was only in the nineteenth century that the use of the name was revived in its modern Arabic form, frequently as Suriyya rather than the older Suriyah, to denote the whole of Bilad al-Sham: first of all in the Christian Arabic literature of the period, and under the influence of Western Europe. By the end of that century it had already replaced the name of Bilad al-Sham even in Muslim Arabic usage.