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The Arab conquests 660-751

This map is part of a series of 7 animated maps showing the history of Origins of Islam and the Arabo-Muslim Empire.


In the second half of the 7th century, the Muslim community faced two civil wars which curbed the momentum of its conquering campaign.

Nevertheless, at the beginning of the 8th century, Tripolitania and a large coastal area in the Maghreb came under Muslim control. Carthage was captured in 698 and Tangiers in 708. In 711, a Berber general crossed over the Strait of Gibraltar. Taking advantage of the deep divisions plaguing the Kingdom of the Visigoths, his Arab-Berber troops rapidly conquered a large part of the Iberian Peninsula.

Beyond the Pyrenees, these conquering armies extended their territory as far as the area around Narbonne and remained there for a few decades. However, the siege of Toulouse in 721 ended with the defeat of the Muslim armies.

The victory of Charles Martel and his Frankish army in a battle between Tours and Poitiers in 732 marked the end of Muslim advances in the West. 

A few years earlier, the Muslim armies had been defeated at Constantinople (717-718). The land siege lasted 13 months but the Byzantines were able to avoid being blocked from the sea by twice destroying the Arab navy through the use of Greek fire. Far from their base and having difficulty obtaining provisions, the Muslim forces were almost completely wiped out.

Towards the east, in 711-712 the Arab armies invaded Sindh, a province in today’s Pakistan.

Further north, Samarkand was captured in 712. Then the Arab conquerors had to combat a rebellion in Transoxiana and further incursions by the Turks and the Chinese.

Their victory over Chinese troops at the Battle of Talas in 751 has sometimes been seen as the event which marked the end of the Chinese advances towards the West while confirming Muslim domination over Central Asia.

The creation of this immense unified territory stretching from Spain to India brought together the most prosperous regions of the Persian and Byzantine Empires. It allowed the conquerors to accumulate considerable wealth and enabled the multiplication of trading and cultural exchanges which led to the development of a brilliant civilization.

While government of the empire was in the hands of Muslims, local populations were able to maintain their own religions. Nevertheless, some inhabitants preferred to convert to Islam in order to obtain administrative positions or to avoid paying the jizyah, a tax on non-Muslims.