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Exhausted and demoralized by their long years of war with Byzantium, the Persian soldiers were no match for an Arab force that was fired by religion and intent upon plundering the riches of the Persian Empire. The first military engagement occurred in 637 at Qadisiya, resulting in the death of the Persian commander and a chaotic Persian retreat. One year later, the Sassanian seat of power—the opulent palace at Ctesiphon—fell to the Arabs. The Persian defeat at Nihavand in 642 allowed Arab forces to the ISLAMIC INVASION Muhammad (above) was the founder of Islam and is believed by many to have been a prophet.

602. Within 18 years, the Sassanians had seized control of Antioch, Jerusalem, Sardis, Ephesus, Alexandria, and Egypt. They did not, however, drive the Byzantines from their stronghold of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul). From this headquarters, Byzantine forces were able to regroup. In 626, they marched north, sailed across the Black Sea, establishing themselves in the Caucuses—the border between Europe and Asia—between modern-day Turkey, Iran, Russia, the Black Sea, and the Caspian Sea. From the Caucuses, the Byzantines penetrated deep into Persia, not stopping until they reached the Sassanian seat of power, Ctesiphon, in Mesopotamia, just south of present-day Baghdad.

His death provoked a new succession crisis. 37 38 ali khamenei Ali’s supporters argued that his sons should become caliphs, thereby preserving succession through the Prophet’s bloodline. The ruling Mecca elite, however, preferred Mu’awiya, of the influential Umayyads. Ali’s sons, perhaps sensing that there could be no fighting the power of the Mecca aristocracy, withdrew their claims, and Mu’awiya became caliph. Yet Ali’s followers did not abandon their belief in the hereditary succession of the caliphate, and they formed their own party in opposition to the Umayyads and their Mecca backers.

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