Sunday, 27 August 2017


Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) is designated as terrorist organization by U.N. and many countries in the world and there is no country and organization which is openly assisting this organization. But despite every difficulty and military operations by world powers and regional countries of Middle East, ISIL managed to take control of large area of Iraq and Syria. There are few important reasons behind the rise of ISIL.

·         American policies in Middle East should be regarded as the main reason for birth and rise of ISIL. After US invasion of Iraq in 2003 over false allegations of WMD (weapons of mass destruction), ISIL’s parent organization JTJ (Jamaat al Tawhid wal Jihad), under the leadership of al-Zarqawi, started guerrilla warfare against US and became popular among regional Sunni Muslims due to their stiff resistance against US which helped them to increase their strength as large number of fighters join the group. On the other hand, U.S. remained inactive in Syria over the brutal killing of Syrian people by Syrian Army while America even stopped its invasion of Syria when Syria use chemical weapons against civilian while previously U.S. President had called it a red-line. Due to American policy, the Syrian war prolonged for years which helped ISIL to increase its influence and captured areas in Syria and Iraq.

·         Sectarianism in Middle East is another main reason for rise of ISIL. From the start of guerilla warfare in Iraq, JTJ was conducting sectarian attacks on Iraqi Shias which resulted in the killing of thousands of people in Baghdad and other areas while they also targeted the holy places of Shia Muslims on several occasions. America successfully curb the militant activities of AQI with the formation of Awakening Councils (Sahwa) in Sunni Arab areas of Iraq in 2007 but the situation reversed in 2012 by the sectarian policies of Shia-dominated Iranian backed Iraqi regime of Nouri al-Maliki which forced the Arab Sunnis to remade an alliance with Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and the group was able to re-conquered the Sunni areas that they lost earlier.

·         Policies of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was another important reason for reemergence of ISIS. Al-Baghdadi replaced the deceased religious leadership of ISIS with a more militarily expert leadership. He introduced many officers of former Iraqi Baath party in the military leadership of ISIL. Apart from that, other veterans of war also joined ISIL leadership. A prominent example is Abu Omar al-Shishani, a former member of Georgian Armed forces. These experienced members played a key role in the victories of ISIL in 2013 and beyond.

·         Role of Sunni Arab countries is also regarded as an important factor behind the rise of ISIS. Many fighters in ISIS belong to countries like Saudi Arabia and other gulf countries while several wealthy people in these Arab countries are also helping ISIS financially. Critics of Arab countries say that either these countries are helping ISIS or turning a blind eye over recruitment and financial assistance of ISIS from their countries due to sectarian reason.  


Ottoman Empire was the last greatest Muslim Empire that lasted from the end of 13th Century to the start of 20th Century. Starting from Northwest Anatolia, the Ottoman Empire was in control of large parts of western Asia, central Europe and North Africa at its peak. But during the 17th Century (especially after Battle of Vienna in 1683), the Ottoman Empire started to lose its political influence by losing its European areas one by one. During World War 1, the Empire sided with Germany in order to regain its lost areas. But the war ended with complete destruction of Ottoman Empire and the empire was replaced by Republic of Turkey which holds the area of Anatolia only. Following are the main reasons for the decline and fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Reasons for the Fall of the Ottoman Empire

Incapable Rulers

The first ten Sultans of Ottoman Empire (from Osman I to Suleiman I) are ranked as the best rulers of the empire but the later rulers proved to be incompetent ones who could not retained the supremacy and influence of Ottoman Empire. Though, the political decline started later in the 17th Century during the reign of 19th Sultan Ahmed II but the responsibility for this decline started far earlier when Ottomans started to lose battles against opponents and they were no longer feared due to incompetency and incapability of the later Ottoman rulers while the situation worsened miserably with the passage of time. 

Role of Janissaries (Yeniceri)

Janissary was a special infantry unit formed by third Ottoman ruler Murad I in 1383. These were specially trained unit that played important role in the initial successes of Ottoman Empire. But with passage of time, this unit became indiscipline and the later incapable rulers failed to control them fully. They opposed any effort of modernization in military and even assassinate few Sultans and Viziers for their purpose. Sultan Murad II abolished this elite unit by force in 1826. This indiscipline attitude of janissaries was an important reason for the decline and fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Role of Suleiman the Magnificent

Suleiman the Magnificent is regarded as one of the best and the last great sultans of Ottoman Empire but he committed such mistakes that proved harmful for the empire later. He was under the influence of his favorite wife Hurem Sultan which was pioneer for harmful women’s role in state affairs. Suleiman started personal selection of public servants which was later misused by the new emperors. Suleiman initiated the custom to hear the proceedings of ‘deewan’ from window instead of personal participation and his successors completely ignored the ‘deewan’.

Assassination of Sultan’s Brothers

The cruel custom of assassination of brothers of the new Sultan was started by Bayazed Yaldrim and it later became part of law in the era of Muhammad II. The purpose of this custom was to eliminate any potential rival of Sultan for political stability. But this cruel law also deprived the empire from many capable rulers and played a part in the downfall of the Ottoman Empire.

The Cage System

The cage system was also initiated by Suleiman the Magnificent. Under this system, princes were kept in cages instead of palace and there was no system of necessary training for these princes. It was an important reason for emergence of incapable rulers after Suleiman which brought the downfall of the Ottoman Empire. 

Incapable Ministers

The initial ministers of Ottoman Empire were very wise and capable who played important role in the expansion of empire. But later ministers were chosen on the basis of political influence instead of their wisdom and ability. This combination of incapable rulers and ministers played vital role in the demise of the Ottoman Empire.

Emergence of the Russian Empire

17th Century was the time of declining of Ottoman Empire and emergence of Russian Empire. Russian Empire became the direct rival of Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire used the slogans and emotions of (Slav) nationalism and (Christian) religion to stage war against Ottomans. After initial losses, Russians almost remained superior against Ottomans and they brought the quick demise of Ottoman Empire.

Opposition to Reforms

During declining of the empire, many Sultans tried to reverse the situation through reforms. But their efforts were failed not only by Janissaries but also by common people who considered these reforms against Islam. As a result, Ottoman Empire could not reach the level of emerging European powers that brought the downfall of the Ottoman Empire. 

Young Turks

Young Turks’ movement was a reformist movement in Turkey but the movement was based on Turkish nationalism. This nationalistic movement also influenced other nationalistic movements in the empire. The most important one was Arab Revolt that emerged due to weakening of Muslim brotherhood that was replaced by Turkish nationalism.

Arab Revolt

The feelings of Arab nationalism were present in Arab areas of Ottoman Empire at the start of 20th Centuries. These sentiments were used by British during World War 1 and they assured their support to Sherifite of Makkah for the establishment of a United Arab State. For this purpose, the Arab Revolt initiated in 1916 against the Ottomans which played important role in the separation of Arab areas of Ottoman Empire and the fall of the Ottoman Empire. This revolt was very important as it deprived the Ottoman Sultans for using the title of Caliphate.

Declining Military Power

During the decline of Ottoman Empire, the military power was also declining as they were far behind the technological advancements of European powers. The reforming movement was too slow and too late and this decline in military power proved to be an important reason for the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Religious Scholars

Ulema (religious scholars) had an important role in the government affairs and their decree is considered important for important issues. But several times these scholars used their influence wrongly that proved harmful for the empire. Ulema’s gave their decree in favor of assassination of Salim IV by Janissaries, assassination of new Sultan’s brothers and alcohol drinking of Salim III. During Turkish War of Independence, ulema were divided among their support for Mustafa Kamal Ataturk.

Economic Condition

During their decline, Ottomans lost vast important areas which put bad effects on economic conditions. The problem was accelerated due to continuous warfare. The declining economic situation also played important role in the decline and fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Role of Minorities

Majority of population of Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and few other Ottoman held areas were Christians. When Russia, Austria and other countries used their Christian religious sentiments, they started rebellions in these areas. Several minorities also took effect from nationalistic ideologies of the era which proved decisive for Ottoman failure to retain control over many areas of their empire.


Umayyad Caliphate was the second Muslim Caliphate that emerged after Rashidun Caliphate but the Caliphate is commonly known as Umayyad Dynasty as it was centered on the Umayyad clan of Quraysh tribe of Makkah. At its peak, the Umayyad Dynasty was ruling Middle East, North African, Iberian Peninsula, Persia and Central Asia due to which the dynasty is known as the largest Muslim dynasty and one of the largest empires of human history. Umayyad Caliphate also kept the unity of Islamic Caliphate as more than one Muslim dynasties appeared soon after the fall of Umayyad Dynasty.

But despite great political and military achievements, Umayyad Dynasty could only lasted for around 90 years and it was replaced by the Abbasid Caliphate in 750 AD (Later, Umayyad ruled Iberian Peninsula from 756 to 1031 AD).

Reasons for the Fall of Umayyad Dynasty

It is quite surprising that such a huge and politically powerful umpire could only last for 90 years. There are several reasons behind the fall of Umayyad Dynasty. The most important ones are mentioned below.

Battle of Karbala

First Umayyad caliph Muawiya bin Abi Sufiyan (RA) appointed his son Yazid bin Muawiya as the new ruler of caliphate. This appointment was rejected by prominent sahaba as many people viewed it as against the principles of Islam. Grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Hussain bin Ali (RA), was among those people who opposed this decision. Yazid tried to take oath of allegiance from him which ended in Hussain’s martyrdom in the Battle of Karbala. Due to assassination of Prophet’s grandson at the hands of an Umayyad ruler, majority of Muslims disliked the rule of Umayyads while the Shia and Abbasid used it as propaganda against Umayyads which proved to be an important reason for the fall of Umayyad dynasty.

Shia and Kharijite

Shiites have the view that only Prophet’s family has the right to rule over Muslims while Kharijites had an anarchist ideology who fought against every ruler. Both of these groups had different ideologies but their enmity of Umayyad’s was similar. They both fought against almost every Umayyad ruler whenever they got the chance and they never let the Umayyads to rule peacefully. Shia also supported the Abbasid movement that brought the downfall of Umayyad Caliphate.  

Tribal differences

Different Arab tribes had hostility against each other that was suppressed by Islamic ideology. But the effect of Islamic unity weakened with passage of time and the tribal differences emerged again during Umayyad dynasty. A famous tribal rivalry was between the southern tribes of Yemen and northern tribes of Egypt. Later Umayyad rulers also supported various tribes for their own benefit that escalated these tribal differences that created differences between tribes and bloodshed in the country.

The tribes of Syria and Iraq were under the influence of Byzantines and Persians respectively. Their differences also played important role in the fall of Umayyad Dynasty.  

Form of Government

In Rashidun Caliphate, any capable Muslim can became a ruler through Shura (consensus among Muslims) but it was not the case during Umayyad dynasty that was established on monarchial form of government where only son, brother or close relative of a caliph of Umayyad clan could be the new ruler. Not only that it was against the wishes of most of the Muslims but this system also paved the way for several incompetent rulers in the later part of Umayyad Dynasty that brought the downfall of Umayyad Dynasty.

Bad treatment of faithful Generals

As stated above, large areas of Asia, Europe and Africa were conquered during Umayyad Dynasty and there were several Muslim Generals who played important role in these conquests. But few among them were treated badly by Umayyad rulers due to differences. Umayyad ruler Sulayman bin Abdul Malik punished Musa bin Nusayr (African governor), Muhammid bin Qasim (conqueror of Sindh and Multan) and Qutayba bin Muslim (conqueror of Transoxiana) as they favored the succession of Walid’s son in place of Sulayman.

Another ruler Yazid bin Abdul Malik exterminated the faithful Yemenite tribes who played important role in strengthening the rule of Umayyads. These acts discouraged faithful generals and political figures of Umayyads that paved the way for their destruction.  

Battles against Khazars

Umayyad battles against Khazars in Caucasus also played an important role in the fall of the empire. The Umayyads were later able to conquered most of the area under Khazar rule but only at the cost of heavy casualties. Due to stiff resistance from Khazars, large part of Umayyad army was placed in Caucasus which proved disastrous as the revolt of Abbasids could not be subjugate due to presence of most part of army away from the capital. If Umayyads didn’t have to send large forces to Caucasus then it was quite possible for them to defeat the Abbasids.

Arab-non Arab conflict

Umayyad Dynasty was mainly an Arab dynasty supported by Arab tribes. The Umayyads tried to flourish Arabian culture and language also in non-Arab areas of the caliphate. In order to increase the revenue, even the newly converted Muslims of non-Arab areas (commonly known as mawali) were taxed heavily. Such steps created unlikeness of Umayyad caliphate in the non-Arab parts of Caliphate. These newly converted Muslims also took greater effect of Hussain’s martyrdom at the hands of Umayyad. Shia and Kharijites took advantage and spread their ideologies in Persia and Maghrib (North Africa) respectively. Abbasids were also mainly supported by non-Arabs (especially Persians) during their successful revolt against the Umayyads.

Abbasid Movement

In the later stage of Umayyad dynasty, Abbasids (a clan of Hashemite Arabs) started their movement secretly against the Umayyads. The movement was well received in the parts of former Persian Empire (especially Khurasan) where many people dislike Umayyad rule. Abbasids took sympathies of these areas by using their close relation to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Initially, the movement was secret but the Abbasids started armed rebellion in 747 when Umayyads were facing internal conflicts. Abbasids started gaining areas from time to time and the whole Umayyad Caliphate came to an end in 750 with the decisive Battle of Zab and Abbasids replaced the Umayyads as the new rulers of Islamic Empire.   


Abbasid Caliphate was the third Muslim caliphate after Rashidun Caliphate and Umayyad Caliphate while it was also the second Muslim dynasty after Umayyad Dynasty as the rulers during this dynasty belonged only to the Abbasid family. The Abbasids took the throne in 750 AD after the fall of the Umayyad Dynasty while they ruled almost the whole Muslim world for more than 500 years till 1258 AD. In 1258, Mongols occupied Baghdad and killed the last Abbasid caliph Mustasim which ended the Abbasid Caliphate.

Though, Abbasids remained caliphs for over 500 years but the gradual decline of their empire started almost from the beginning. Reasons for the fall of Abbasid Caliphate are given below.

Reasons for fall of the Abbasid Caliphate

Differences with Shia

Abbasids and Shia were together during Hashemite movement which brought the end of Umayyad Caliphate. But differences between two parties started few years after the start of Abbasid Caliphate. Shia were expecting to become rulers after fall of the Umayyads but instead Abbasids themselves took the throne. It prompted Shia to organize several rebellions against Abbasids during their caliphate and weakened the caliphate due to their revolts and conspiracies. Fatimid (Ismaili Shia) controlled North Africa and Hejaz and the Buyid Dynasty controlled areas of Persia, Iraq and Oman in the 10th Century while Qaramites and Assassins (lead by Hasan bin Sabah) were also such Shia groups who created problems in various parts of Islamic world. Shia were also behind Hulagu Khan during his successful invasion of Baghdad.

Autonomous Dynasties

The Umayyads strictly kept the central rule in the whole caliphate but different areas of caliphate started to disintegrate during Abbasid Caliphate and several autonomous and near-autonomous dynasties appeared in the areas away from center during Abbasid Caliphate. The first such autonomous state was the Emirate of Cordoba where Umayyads became sovereign rulers in 756 AD. Later, several other rulers in different parts of the caliphate parted their ways from Abbasids and several dynasties formed in the later centuries. Though, most of these dynasties accepted the suzerainty of Abbasids but they remained independent in their affairs. Losing central control over large areas of empire proved to be an important reason for fall and decline of Abbasid Caliphate.

Role of Turkish Generals

People from Persia and Khurasan were the initial backers of Abbasid Dynasty. But soon differences occurred between the ruling dynasty and their supporters due to religious and political reasons. It forced the Abbasids to eliminate the influence of Persians. In contrast to Umayyad dynasty, Abbasids were not welcomed by many Arabs and they trusted the newly-converted Turks as their supporters.

Initially, Turkish forces assisted the Abbasids to regain control of several areas (especially Iraq) from other dynasties but later the Turks became king makers who destabilized the caliphate internally and they established their own autonomous states in several parts of Caliphate where rule of Abbasids was minimal. Rise of Turks on political stage also proved to be an important reason for fall of Abbasid Caliphate.

Mongol Invasion

In the start of 13th Century, Mongol tribes united under the leadership of Genghiz Khan and then started to invade and capture areas around Mongolia. Soon, they occupied China, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Mongols started their invasions against Abbasids in 1236 but most of their invasions failed against the strong military of Abbasids.

The final invasion of Mongols started in 1257 while several Christian kingdoms were also assisting Mongols. After capturing nearby areas from various factions, the Mongols reached near Baghdad in 1258. Last Abbasid caliph was too afraid to fight against the invaders and he surrendered to Mongols after a successful siege. Later, caliph Mustasim was assassinated and the Mongols plundered and destroyed the whole city of Baghdad which marked the end of Abbasid Caliphate. 

Sunday, 20 August 2017


Sunni and Shia are two main sects of Islam and the relations between these two sects almost always remained stressed and full of animosity. The major reasons behind these strained relations are opposing ideologies which comprise the faith (aqidah) and political positions of the two sides. Since early days of Caliphate to modern times, several armed conflicts have been fought between them and all the efforts to create harmony and normal relations between the two sects remained unsuccessful at large. The main reasons behind this serious conflict between Sunni and Shia sects are following.

Reasons behind Sunni Shia Conflict

·         The most important reason behind Sunni Shia conflict is the Shia belief that only persons of the Prophet’s household (ahl al-bayt) have the right to lead Muslims after the death of Holy Prophet (PBUH). Due to this belief, they regard the first three caliphs (Abu Bakr, Umar and Usman) as usurpers while they also reject the caliphate of all the other Sunni Muslim rulers. In contrary, Sunni Muslims believe that Muslims can elect their political leaders through consensus. 

·         Most of the Shia sects (especially the majority Twelver Shia) believe that their imams are infallible as they are chosen by Allah and Holy Prophet (PBUH). Shia also visit the shrines of their imams and perform several rituals there. All these Shia believes and practices are totally rejected by mainstream Sunni Islam while the hardliners (especially Salafi Jihadists) termed few of Shia believes and acts as polytheism (shirk).

·         There are several other differences in Sunni and Shia belief, doctrine, rituals etc.

Major Events of Sunni Shia Conflict

·         After martyrdom of third rightly guided caliph Usman (RA), Muhammad’s cousin Ali (RA) became the fourth caliph (termed as first Imam by Shia). But Muslims from Hejaz (especially Makkah and Madinah) and Syria demanded revenge of Usman’s death from murderers who had taken oath on Ali’s hand. On this issue, Ali had to fight two battles. The first one was Battle of Camel against the people of Hejaz who were lead by Muhammad’s (PBUH) wife Ayesha (RA). But the most stiff and bloodiest battle was the Battle of Siffin that was fought against Usman’s cousin Muawiya (RA) who was leading forces from Syria (Ali’s supporters were mainly from Iraq). The battle remained inconclusive but it was the first time that the term of Shi’an Ali (supporters of Ali) was used and it later changed in to Shia.

·         After Ali’s martyrdom, his son Hassan (RA) became caliph but he passed the caliphate to Muawiya (RA) in order to end the bloodshed and unite Muslims due to which the whole era of Muawiya’s caliphate (19 years) remained peaceful. But Muawiya’s appointment of his son Yazid as his successor was not welcomed by several prominent Muslims and one among them was Ali’s younger son Hussain (RA). Hussain traveled to Kufa (Iraq) in order to gain support against Yazid but he was betrayed by the Iraqi people which resulted in the one-sided Battle of Karbala that took the lives of Hussain (RA) and 72 of his supporters. This battle is regarded as the biggest example of sacrifice by Shia Muslims while Sunni Muslims consider it as a sad incident of civil war between the Muslims. The day of Hussain’s martyrdom is still commemorated by Shia Muslims (and also by few Sunni Muslims).

·         After death of 3rd Umayyad ruler Muawiya bin Yazid, the emergence of space gave rise to several political parties and one among them was a shiite supporter Mukhtar Thaqfi. He gathered many people around him on the slogan of revenge for Hussain’s death. He captured Iraq from another political figure Abdullah bin Zubair (a prominent Sahabi who was also against Umayyad dynasty) and assassinated many people believe to be behind the martyrdom of Hussain bin Ali (RA). Later, Abdullah’s brother Mus’ab bin Zubair recaptured Iraq from Mukhtar and killed him. Mukhtar is regarded as a hero in Shia sect.

·         In 750 AD, the Umayyad Caliphate was replaced by the Abbasid Caliphate. Shia were fully supporting the Abbasid movement against Umayyads with the hope to achieve their goal of rule of ahl al-bayt. But instead, the Abbasids themselves became rulers on the basis of their close relationship with Prophet (they were from the lineage of Muhammad’s (PBUH) uncle Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib). As a result, Shia started opposing Abbasid Caliphate and the first Shia dynasty of Fatimid (belong to Shia Ismaili sect) appeared in the 8th Century (Cairo became their capital). This dynasty rejected the Abbasid Caliphate and claimed for their own caliphate.

·         Several Shia dynasties also ruled in various parts of Muslim world during Abbasid Caliphate but more dangerous were the Shia terrorist groups which never let the internal peace to prevail. Two of the most notorious Shia organizations were the Hashashins (a Ismaili Shia organization based in Iran and led by Hasan bin al-Saba) and Qaramites (an extinct Shia sect).

·         In 1501, Ismail I captured Iran and founded the Twelver Shia Safavid dynasty. He converted the mainly Sunni population of Iran to a Twelver Shia Iran (also eradicating other Shia sects) mainly through force. But when he used the same policy in Iraq, he was checked by the then Sunni Muslim and global power of the Ottoman Empire. The Battle of Chaldiran in 1514 proved to be a decisive one as Safavids lost control over Iraq and few other areas. Ottomans and Safavids also fought four major wars in 16th and 17th centuries. Apart from the third one, the Ottomans remained victorious in all the other wars and the Ottoman-Safavid conflict ended in 1639 with Treaty of Zuhab that was signed after the decisive Ottoman victory in the fourth Ottoman-Safavid war (1623-1639).

·         In 1932, the modern state of Saudi Arabia was established that is based on the ultra conservative Sunni Salafi ideology, severely opposed to Shiite doctrine. In 1979, Iran became a Shia theocracy state after replacing the secular Iranian monarchy through Iranian Revolution. Shia dominant Iran tried to export its revolution in other parts of Muslim world which escalated the proxy war between two opposing religious states. Both the countries tried to dominate the Muslim world and their efforts are quite evident from their participation in Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) and the Syrian Civil War (2011-present).  


During the era of Rashidun Caliphate, Muslim armies fought against two superpowers of the time, Byzantine Empire and Persian Empire, simultaneously and defeated both of them to expand their rule from today’s Iran in the east to Libya in the west and Turkey in the north. During these campaigns against the superpowers of the time, Muslims forces remained victorious in almost every major battle. It is much surprising for many people that how a newly-formed state was able to achieve such successes in very little time. Following are few of the important reasons that made the Early Muslim conquests possible.

New Religion

The most important reason that enabled the people of Arabia to transform from Bedouins to a superpower is their new religion - Islam. Before Islam, Arabs always remained disorganized and split in tribes. Islam united the Arab tribes under one leadership for the first time that increased their strength.
Islam also created courage and bravery by inculcating the spirit of martyrdom for religion. Under this spirit, Muslims fought vigorously in order to spread Islam in other parts of the world without even fearing the superpowers of the time.

Leadership Qualities

Leadership qualities of early Muslim rulers are also a reason for these early Muslim conquests. Abu Bakr (RA) became first caliph after death of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). At that time, many Arab tribes revolted against the caliphate. Abu Bakr not only launched expeditions against these rebel Arab tribes but also started the campaigns against Persian and Byzantine empires in order to prevent them from using the inner conflict of Arabia in their own interests. Soon, not only the rebellion was crushed but the initially successes against Persian Empire and Byzantines were also taken.

During the reign of Umar bin Khattab (RA), the whole Persian Empire was conquered while Muslims also took the areas of Levant, Egypt and Armenia from Byzantines. Umar not only played important role in the conquest of Persia and Levant but he also consolidated Muslim rule in the conquered areas by spreading Islam in these areas.

Great Military Generals

Arabs had military capabilities and they were fond of fighting and their capabilities came into light after they united under Islam. The world saw few of the best military generals during Muslim conquest of Persia, Levant and Egypt who totally outclassed the military might of Persia and Rome. The greatest Muslim general of the time was Khalid bin Walid (RA) who was given the title of Saifullah (Sword of Allah) due to her bravery and military genius. Khalid played major role in the conquest of Iraq (Arabian part of Persian Empire) and Levant. Several times, he defeated his opponent even many times larger in number than his own army. Enemy remained clueless over his skill, wisdom and attacks with lightning speed.

Amr bin al-As (RA) was another such great military leader who conquered Egypt with his leadership qualities and by taking advantage of the differences between the local people and Byzantine Empire.

Sa’ad bin Abi Waqas (RA) also proved his military leadership qualities during the conquest of Persia.

Weaknesses of Romans and Persians

Despite the leadership and military qualities of Muslim, there is also no doubt that the Persian Empire and Byzantine Empire had weaknesses due to the long Byzantine-Sassanid War of 602-628. The war ended with neither opponent taking any area of its foe but it weakened both the empires militarily and financially and it assisted the newly-established Caliphate to defeat both the Empires simultaneously.

Apart from that, both the empires didn’t take the emerging Muslim power seriously in the beginning of conflict which later proved to be disastrous for both the empires. 

Tuesday, 31 May 2016


Human history is full of great wars and battles and these military conflicts gave rise to several such great military leaders who proved their bravery, skills and military leadership during these wars and battles. But there are few such military leaders and commanders who are regarded as the greatest military leaders of all time due to the long lasting effects they produce on the geopolitical situation of the world. Following is the list and brief description of such great military leaders who changed the world with their military leadership abilities for a long time and they are remembered till now. The list is presented here in chronological order.

Cyrus the Great

Cyrus the Great was the founder of first Persian empire, the Achaemenid Empire. He became King of Persia in 559 BC and established the Achaemenid Empire in 550 BC after capturing Media from his maternal grandfather Astyages. In 547 BC, Cyrus captured Lydia (now Anatolia) while Babylonia came under the Persian rule in 539 BC. At the time of death of Cyrus the Great, Achaemenid Empire span from Indus River in the east to Mediterranean in the west. The empire, founded by Cyrus the Great with his leadership qualities, lasted till 330 BC and only Alexander the Great was able to end the Achaemenid Empire of Cyrus the Great.

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great is perhaps the most famous military leader and conqueror. Alexander became King of Macedonia in 336 BC at the age of 20 years after death of his father Phillip II of Macedon. Alexander initially suppressed the rebellions and united all the Greeks to fight against their common enemy Persia. Then he started campaign against the Persian Empire in 334 BC. In just four years, the Achemanid Empire came to an end at the hands of Alexander the Great. But Alexander didn’t stop here and captured areas of central Asia and western India before his death in 323 BC. At the age of 32 years, Alexander conquered areas in North Africa (Egypt), Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Persia etc. Alexander fought several battles during his military career and always remained undefeated which makes him one of the greatest military leaders of all time. His conquered areas came under the powerful effect of Hellenistic civilization after his death.

Hannibal Barca

Hannibal Barca was a great Carthaginian military commander who is known for his military tactics and skills that he applied during the Second Punic War against the Roman Republic. Hannibal achieved so much fame for this war that it is also known as the Hannibalic War. His biggest achievement was crossing the Alps with thousands of soldiers and several elephants to invade the Roman Empire in Italy. It was considered impossible at that time. The Romans stunned at this successful journey and Hannibal inflicted crushing defeats to Roman Republic in the initial battles of Second Punic War. He is also known as the master of pincer movement and used this maneuver too perfectly to defeat the huge Roman army (more than 10 times his own army) in the famous Battle of Cannae in 216 BC. Though, Romans recovered from their early losses and the war ended with Roman victory but the bravery, adventure and military marvel of Hannibal is celebrated to this day which earned him a place in the list of greatest military commanders of all time.

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar was a Roman political and military leader. He is known for playing a major political role in changing Roman Republic to Roman Empire but his military achievements are also great. His main military achievement was the conquest of Gaul (now France and Belgium) which eliminated the danger of Gallic tribes as Gaul became a province of Roman Empire while he was also the first Roman leader to invade Britannia. Soon after Gallic Wars, he had to fight the Great Roman Civil War (also known as Caesar’s Civil War) from 49 to 45 BC. After defeating his opponents, he became a dictator of Roman Republic and remained at this place till his assassination in 44 BC.

Attila the Hun

Attila the Hun was a great military leader and king of Hunnic Empire from 434 to 453 AD (till his death). During his rule, he united all the tribes of Hun Empire and ruled most of the eastern and central Europe. He was the most feared warrior by Eastern and Western Roman Empire who called him Scourge of God. Attila initially invaded unsuccessfully against Persia and then attacked the Eastern Roman Empire in 440 AD despite a treaty. He defeated the Byzantine army several times but could not invade Constantinople due to its better defensive measures. Later, he turned his attention towards Balkan and forced the Western Roman Emperor to pay him tribute. In 451, he invaded Roman Gaul (modern-day France) where his advances were halted by the alliance of Romans and Visigoths. His last invasion was on Italy in 452. He occupied and plundered several areas of Italy but left Rome without invasion after negotiations. In 453, Attila died. He proved to be not only the greatest but also the last king of Hunnic Empire as it collapsed soon after his death.

Khalid ibn al-Walid

Khalid ibn al-Walid was the greatest Muslim military commander who was responsible for most of the earlier Muslim conquests of Iraq and Levant. Khalid proved his military skills even before his conversion to Islam as he played the most important role in the defeat of Muslims during Battle of Uhud while fighting for Quraysh. After his conversion to Islam, his initial biggest success was the Battle of Mu’tah during which he managed to save his small army from 33 times larger army of a rival Arab tribe and their Roman supporters. This battle earned him the title of Saifullah (Sword of Allah) from Muhammad (PBUH). Later during the caliphates of Abu Bakr and Umar, Khalid defeated several times the numerically and technically superior armies of the then two superpowers, Byzantine Empire and Persian Empire. Muslim conquest of Iraq and Syria is credited to his military marvel and leadership qualities. He never lost a battle against any opponent. During every battle, he used the strength of his military very effectively. He was not only the greatest warrior of his time but also one of the greatest of all time.

Tariq bin Ziyad

Tariq bin Ziyad was a Muslim Berber warrior and general who commanded the Muslim armies to conquer Iberian Peninsula. Tariq bin Ziyad invaded Hispania in 711. After initial successes by Tariq, he defeated the numerical superior army of Visigothcs in 712 in the decisive Battle of Guadalete during which King Roderic of Hispania was also killed. This victory paved the way for the Muslim capture of Visigothis capital Toledo and other important areas of Hispania. Tariq bin Ziyad is known as the founder of Muslim rule in European Hispania. Hispania (al-Andalus) remained under Muslim control and influence for around next 800 years which shows his campaign to be a long lasting one. Tariq bin Ziyad is famously known for burning his boats after reaching Gibraltar in order to create the feelings of victory or death in his soldiers after ending every way of retreat. This resulted in their victory against far superior army.  


Charlemagne was the king of Franks and Lombardy and the first Holy Roman Emperor. Charlemagne became king of Franks in 768 and later captured Lombardy in 774. He was appointed the first ever Holy Roman Emperor by pope in 800 Ad due to his services for Christianity. Charlemagne also protected the southern borders of his empire by creating a buffer zone at Pyrenees between Franks and Muslim Hispania. Later, this buffer zone proved important to halt the further advances of Muslims in Europe.


Salah-ud-Din Ayyubi (commonly known as Saladin in West) was a Muslim Kurdish leader and military commander who achieved fame during the Third Crusade (1189-1192). In 1187, Saladin captured Jerusalem from Christians after which the combined Christian forces started the Third Crusade in 1189. Despite severe efforts from the Crusaders, Saladin managed to save Jerusalem from going in the hands of Crusaders. His encounters with Richard the Lionheart and his treatment of the Christian prisoners are still remembered.

Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan was the founder of Mongol Empire who expanded the rule of the Mongols from a small area of Today’s Mongolia to northern China in the east and Central Asia and Eastern Europe in the west. After subjugating all the rival tribes in Mongolia, Genghis Khan entered China and then took control of central Asia after defeating the Khwarizm Empire in just 20 years (1207-1227). Southern Russia, Georgia and Armenia also came under wrath of the Mongols. The reasons behind such a large scale conquests by Genghis Khan were the unification of his men under the laws of “Yassa”, using the technology and war tactics of his opponents and assassinating anyone coming in his way. On several occasions, he killed even the whole population of area. Genghis Khan is known as one of the greatest and merciless leaders in the history.


Timur the Lame or Tamerlane is known as the greatest warrior king of the second half of 14th Century. After became sole ruler of Transoxiana, Timur remained at war against various opponents for the next 35 years (1370-1405) and expanded his empire to modern day Afghanistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and parts of India, Russia etc. During his rule, he defeated every great opponent of that time and one of them was the Ottoman sultan Bayazid Yeldrim. Timur prepared to conquer China but died before the start of this campaign in 1405. His military successes make him one of the greatest military commanders of all time.

Peter the Great

Peter the Great was the founder of Russian Empire. He became Tsar of Russia in 1682 and transformed Russia in to an Empire after several successful wars. The most famous war was the Great Northern War that he fought against Swedish Empire. The war lasted from 1700 to 1721. Despite initial losses, Peter continued his efforts and the war ended with a victory for Peter. The Northern war resulted in the emergence of Russian Empire as a new world power and it reduced the influence of Swedish Empire. Apart from reforms, Peter the Great is also known for his military leadership qualities which transformed Tsardom of Russia to Russian Empire.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte is known as the greatest French military leader and emperor who rose to fame after French Revolution. During French Revolution, Napoleon showed his military leadership abilities by crushing several rebellions and foreign interventions. Napoleon became French Emperor in 1804. During his reign, Napoleon defeated different coalitions three consecutive times (wars of third, fourth and fifth coalition) between 1803 and 1809. Napoleon was later defeated during the War of the Sixth Coalition due to defection of Napoleon’s allies and his rule completely ended after defeat in the War of the Seventh Coalition. But despite these defeats, Napoleon is regarded as one of the greatest military leaders by his supporters and opponents alike due to the role he played during Napoleonic Wars.