This book deals with Muslim victories that altered the course of human history. It begins with the Battle of Badr fought in the year 624 CE by Prophet Muhammad and his Companions against the Makkan tribe of Quraish. That battle was fought by just over one thousand men in total, and yet its impact was revolutionary, for had the Prophet lost the contest, it would have meant the end of Islam in its infancy. The victory, instead, brought forth the new faith.
Other battles examined include al Yarmuk (636) where the Muslims defeated the large Byzantine army, a victory which opened the roads to Palestine and Syria, and subsequently Egypt.
The third battle is that of Qadisiyyah, fought and won by the Muslims against the Persians in early 637, which opened the way to Muslim expansion towards the east.
The final victory is that of Guadalete, fought in Spain in 711, when the Muslim army, largely made of Berber tribesmen, defeated the Visigoths and then gradually brought Iberia under Islamic aegis.
The narrative of these battles relies on both Muslim and non-Muslim sources in nearly equal measures.
There are also maps that help the reader locate the principal sites of battles and also places of importance.
This volume deals with Muslim victories during the Crusade period 1095-1291. It begins with the mainly Turkish victories over the Crusade armies of 1101. Although barely known, this was possibly one of the most decisive victories in Muslim history, for had the crusaders won, it is very likely that the whole Muslim power would have been finished that year, and the Crusades would have been over then, with Christian supremacy in the East.
The second victory is that recorded by Imad Eddin Zangi in his capture of Edessa in 1144. This signalled the Muslim counter-stroke and inspired the future successes of his son, Nur Eddin Zangi, and his son’s protégé Salah Eddin.
The latter remains famed for his victory at Hattin in 1187, which is the third battle dealt with here.
This is followed by two crucial Mamluk victories, the first at al-Mansurah in 1249-1250, which was in fact a series of encounters where the Muslim general Baybars showed military skills and leadership equalling those of other great Muslim generals such as Khalid ibn al-Waleed, Amr ibn al ‘Asi, and Salah Eddin. The second Mamluk victory was at Ain Jalut, in September 1260, where the Mongols were crushed for the first time in their history, a victory which possibly saved the Muslim world from extinction.
The final battle looked at in this volume is the siege followed by the Muslim capture of Acre in 1291, which signalled the end of the Crusader presence on Muslim soil.
This volume deals with three great Ottoman victories. The first came in the wake of the Crusade of Nicopolis in 1396. The Crusader armies advanced to remove the Turks from Europe, aiming to march into Asia Minor, and then, eventually, to ‘Free the Holy Land.’ At Nicopolis, the Ottoman army, led by Bayazid, met and crushed the Christian army made up of the best knights of Europe. This Turkish victory broke the Crusading movement, French in particular, for long to come.
In 1444, under renewed Crusading fervour but for the first time ever without the French, the Christian armies advanced against the Ottomans with the same objectives as those of Nicopolis. Sultan Murad (II) had been duped by his Christian foes to retire to Asia Minor. Against the odds, he managed to escape the watch of the fleet meant to block his return to Europe, and at Varna, on 10 November 1444, he inflicted yet another crushing defeat on the crusading army, a victory which secured the survival of the Ottoman realm.
Nine years later, in May 1453, Mohammed II completed the cycle of the early Great Ottoman Victories by his capture of Constantinople, thus ending the life of the tottering Byzantine Empire. This is the third victory described in this volume.
This fourth and final volume of the series devoted to Muslim Decisive Victories focuses on 16th century North Africa.
Both Spain and Portugal, the two leading Western Christian powers of the era, had begun carving up for themselves large sways of territory in North Africa. The permanent subjugation of the Maghrib seemed to be only a matter of time before the Algerians first, then the Moroccans managed to destroy both powers in two decisive battles.
In 1541, Emperor Charles V, the most powerful ruler in Europe, led a huge armada against Algiers that included the best officers of the time such as Cortes, the conqueror of Mexico. The Spanish-led army, also including the finest soldiers of Christendom, was first beaten outside Algiers before one of the greatest storms in the history of the region hit the invaders on both land and sea and terminated the expedition. The losses in men and ships were so heavy, Spanish power was dented permanently. Charles never led another expedition.
Decades later, in 1578, the Portuguese led by their king, Sebastian, and accompanied again by the military elites of Europe were met by the Moroccans led by Sultan Abd al-Malek, south of Tangiers, at Wadi al-Makhzen. In an epic encounter, the Moroccans crushed the Portuguese-led army, thus terminating both Portuguese threat and power at once.
These are the two mighty encounters narrated in this volume.
About the Author
Dr Salah Eddine Al-Djazairi lectured and researched at the University of Constantine in Algeria for more than ten years. He also tutored at the Department of Geography of the University of Manchester, and worked as a research assistant at UMIST (Manchester) in the field of History of Science. He has published many academic works. Publications in scientific journals include papers on environmental degradation and desertification as well as papers on politics and change in North Africa, and problems of economic and social development. He has also contributed historical entries to various encyclopaedias such as the Columbia Gazetteer, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Francophone Studies, and the Oxford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, Science and Technology in Islam. The largest written contribution by the author has been on the subject of Muslim science and civilisation.