The University of Southampton

HIST3196 Islam, Conquests and Caliphates, Part 2

Module Overview

Who was Muhammad and how did a new world religion spread from the Arabian Peninsula to Spain within 150 years? The seventh century CE is a crucial period of both religious and world history due to the rise of Islam. The Arabian Peninsula witnessed the leadership of Muhammad, the writing of the Qur’an, and the beginning of the Muslim Arab conquests westwards into the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa, and eastwards into the Sassanid Persian Empire. The module will invite you to assess and debate the historical development of one the key religions that has shaped the modern world.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• Investigate the historical origins of one the key religions that has shaped the modern world • Examine the historical and cultural world of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh-eighth centuries CE • Explore the relationship between the earliest Muslims and contemporary Jewish and Christian communities • Investigate the development of diverse writings within early Islam • Examine the formation of early Muslim identities and the leadership of different Muslim groups up to the Umayyad Caliphate • Consider and prompt debates surrounding the historical development of early Islam

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The historical and social context of the Eastern Mediterranean and Arabian Peninsula in the seventh-eighth centuries CE
  • Debates on the factors that affected the historical and ideological development of early Islam
  • The nature of the Muslim Arab conquests and the reasons for their success
  • The political leadership of early Islamic rule and the civil wars to secure that leadership
  • The relationships between Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities in the Near East in the seventh-eighth centuries
  • Key primary sources that provide evidence on the historical development of Islam and contemporary responses to its rise
  • The latest research on the subjects of the life of Muhammad, early Islamic history, the Muslim Arab conquests and the Qur’an
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Explain and discuss the factors that impacted on the historical and ideological development of early Islam
  • Evaluate reactions and responses to the early Muslim communities amongst Jewish and Christian groups
  • Analyse fundamental concepts in early Muslim religious ideology, and their possible relationship to Jewish and Christian traditions
  • Evaluate critically the theoretical and methodological approaches used by scholars working on the rise of Islam
  • Express familiarity with and interpret critically a variety of primary sources from Late Antiquity
  • Explain your own views on debates within the fields of the rise of Islam and its historical development


Part two of ‘The Rise of Islam’ will examine the ideology and development of early Islam itself. We will explore the development of this new world religion from the time of Muhammad (570-632), the ‘Rashidun’ Caliphate (632-661) and the rule of the Umayyads (661-750), focusing on Arabia and surrounding regions, namely Syria and Palestine. Through evaluation of early Muslim histories, legal documents and biographies of Muhammad, we will address political developments within early Islam, including the leadership of Muhammad, his successors and the Muslim Arab conquests. We will also investigate religious developments as highlighted in the Qur’an and subsequent writings such as the hadith (traditions about Muhammad) and tafsir (interpretation of the Qur’an), and consider the importance of Jewish and Christian traditions for early Islam. We will give particular attention to questions of the changing relationships between Jews, Christians and Muslims in the new world of Muslim Arab rule, giving you an opportunity to understand a formative period for relations between these different groups that has a significant legacy for today. Part 2: The rise of Islam from Muhammad to the Umayyad Caliphate An indicative list of topics will include: The life of Muhammad Qur’an Hadith (traditions about Muhammad) and tafsir (interpretation of the Qur’an) Early Islamic Rule: ‘Rashidun’ Caliphate, 632-661 Early Islamic Rule: Umayyad Caliphate, 661-750 Civil Wars (the first, second and third fitna) and succession of leadership Conquest: from the Arabian peninsula to North Africa, Asia Minor and Persia Development of religious ideologies The Pact of Umar and Dhimmi (‘protected’) status for ‘the people of the book’ Apocalyptic responses to the rise of Islam

Special Features

You will have access to the unique and world famous Parkes Library.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods focus on weekly seminars analysing key events, chronology and concepts, including examination and discussion of primary and secondary source material and the key issues of debate they raise. Learning activities include: • Preparatory reading before each seminar • Participation in group and seminar discussion • Independent reading of the sources provided and of related secondary works • Preparing and delivering short oral presentations on primary sources • Independent research of additional information and source materials Seminars will provide you with general knowledge and understanding about chronology, sources and key concepts. This will be consolidated through readings and seminar discussions of primary and secondary source material. Discussion in seminars will help you to develop your own ideas about a topic, to analyse a range of source material and to articulate a critical argument.

Preparation for scheduled sessions100
Follow-up work100
Completion of assessment task36
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Hodgson, M (1974). The Venture of Islam, 3 vols. 

Haldon, J.F (1990). Byzantium in the Seventh Century. 

Hawting, G.R (2000). The first dynasty of Islam: the Umayyad caliphate AD 661-750. 

Wilken, R. L (1992). The Land Called Holy: Palestine in Christian History and Thought. 

Hoyland, R.G (1997). Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey and Evaluation of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian Writings on Early Islam. 

Lapidus, I.M (2002). A History of Islamic Societies. 

Crone, P (2004). Medieval Islamic political thought. 

Crone, P. and M.A. Cook (1977). Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World. 

Gil, M (1992). A History of Palestine 634-1099. 

McAuliffe, J.D., ed (2006). The Cambridge Companion to the Qur’an. 

Berkey, J (2003). The formation of Islam. Religion and society in the Near East, 600-1800. 

Kennedy, H (2007). The Great Arab conquests: how the spread of Islam changed the world we live in. 

Cameron, A., and I. Conrad (1992-95). The Byzantine and Early Islamic Near East vols 1-3. 

Cook, M (1983). Muhammad. 

Rippin, A (2005). Muslims: their religious beliefs and practices. 

Mango, C.A (1994). Byzantium: the empire of the new Rome. 

Donner, F.M (2010). Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam. 

Kaegi, W.E (2007). Heraclius Emperor of Byzantium. 

Hourani, A (2005). A History of the Arab Peoples. 

Reynolds, G.S., ed (2008). The Qur’an in Its Historical Context. 

Kaegi, W.E (1995). Byzantium and the Early Islamic Conquests. 

Katz, S.T. (ed.) (2006). The Cambridge history of Judaism: Vol.4 Late Roman - Rabbinic period. 

Levine, L. I. (ed.) (1999). Jerusalem: Its Sanctity and Centrality to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. 

Prawer, J. and H. Ben-Shammai (eds) (1996). The History of Jerusalem: The Early Muslim Period 638-1099. 


Assessment Strategy

Feedback Method • Guidance and advice on preparation, completion and presentation of assignments will be available to you in special seminar discussions • You will be encouraged to discuss preparation for your formal assessments with your tutor • You will have the opportunity to seek individual advice on your module progress from your tutor • You will have the opportunity to discuss written feedback on assignments with your tutor




MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 50%
Open Book Exam  (3 hours) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite: HIST3195 Islam, Conquests And Caliphates, Part 1 2017-18

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