Skip to main content

Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

CHAPTER 14
THE CONTRIBUTION TO ISLAM
ži
WEAKENED by internecine strife, a victim to bankrupt states-
manship, Egypt was powerless to resist the surging tide of Arab
expansion which quickly followed the death of Muhammad and
the establishment of the Caliphate. So rich a country, lying in such
tempting proximity to the head-quarters of the Muslim State,
and constituting a serious threat to its expanding communica-
tions, could not long escape the attentions of an ambitious
general. Late in the year 639, 'Amr ibn al-'As led his columns
through Sinai. A month's siege reduced Pelusium, and the
Arab invaders struck at the Byzantine armies under Cyrus and
Theodorus, shutting Cyrus up in Babylon (near modern Cairo)
until he agreed to humiliating terms and joined his colleague
in Alexandria. The emperor Heraclius repudiated the terms and
banished Cyrus: but after being invested for seven months, the
fortress fell. The Muslim army then marched on Alexandria.
The death of Heraclius in 641 was disastrous to the Byzantine
cause, for his son and successor, Constans II, was immature in
years and judgement, and consented to evacuate his army from
Egypt in September, 642. A fruitless attempt was made in 645
to recapture Alexandria from the sea, but 'Amr, who had been
hastily recalled to take charge of operations, quelled the hopes
of the insurgent population of the city, and by 646 no other
authority but that of the Arabs remained in the land. So Egypt,
which had been for centuries the repository of Greek learning,
and a battleground of Christian sects, passed over irrevocably
into the hands of the Saracens, and has remained ever since a
pre-eminently Muslim country.
For more than two centuries, Egypt was administered by
governors, first for the Umayyad Caliphs, and then for their sue-