Rooted in the Past: Seeds of Discord in the Ancient Middle East

views updated

Rooted in the Past: Seeds of Discord in the Ancient Middle East

The Middle East, a region centered on the Arabian Peninsula, but broadened to include countries such as Egypt, Turkey, Iran, and Sudan that were tied most directly to empires based on the Arabian Peninsula, has been the site of many controversial and sometimes violent battles over some of the most important issues in religious and secular, or nonreligious, societies. These conflicts intensified in the twentieth century, but many of them started hundreds or thousands of years before and have affected people from various countries and religious and cultural backgrounds. Differences in religion, the use of resources, and the ownership of land are just a few of the issues at the root of many of the Middle Eastern conflicts.

Many of the conflicts in the Middle East have been caused by the constant change of power in the region. Over the years, large parts of the Middle East fell under the partial or complete control of the Roman Empire (an empire that ruled between c. 27 bce and 476 ce and controlled territories ranging from Germany to Northern Africa and into the Persian Gulf), the Byzantine Empire (a section of the Roman Empire that ruled from c. 330 ce to 1453 ce in Asia and the Middle East), and the Ottoman Empire (a vast empire of southwest Asia, northeast Africa, and southeast Europe that reigned from the thirteenth century ce to the early twentieth century ce. It was ruled mainly from Turkey and was heavily influenced by the Islamic religion). Throughout this history of foreign invasion and rule, various religions were practiced in the region. A dominant Jewish population that held power between 2000 and 586 bce gave way to the Romans and their many gods when the Roman Empire moved into power in the region. When the emperor of the Roman Empire, Constantine, became a Christian around 312 ce, Christianity became the central religion of the Middle East. In the seventh century ce, Islam, a new religion based on the teachings of the prophet (a person who speaks words inspired by God) Muhammad, became the significant religious, political, and legal force in many Middle Eastern countries. As Islamic believers took positions of power, the region flourished culturally, technologically, and economically. Yet for all the power of Islam and all the advances of early Middle Eastern civilizations, the Middle East began to fall behind European countries such as Britain, France, and Germany and the rest of West (countries including the United States and Canada) in terms of technology and political and economic strength. The leaders in this region also began to dislike the influence Western culture was having on all parts of the Middle East, which often focused on more secular aspects and abandoned many religious matters. Political and religious leaders in the region made it a top priority to keep Middle Eastern culture the dominant force in the region and their actions did much to shape history in the twentieth century and beyond.

Cradle of civilization

The land known today as the Middle East was home to some of the first human civilizations. As early as 7000 bce, humans formed small settlements in the area known as Mesopotamia, a fertile region defined by the river valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Over the next several thousand years, population and settlement expanded, and several important civilizations grew in the area. The first organized civilization in Mesopotamia was that of the Sumerians, who created a society that existed from about 3000 to 2000 bce. By 2350 bce a group known as the Akkadians took control, and they fought with the Sumerians for power for more than a century. The Babylonians built a powerful civilization between 1894 and 1595 bce; their capital city, Babylon, was located south of the present-day city of Baghdad, Iraq. Other important historic civilizations in Mesopotamia were the Assyrians (1380–612 bce) and the Persians (550–330 bce).

The other great early civilization to develop in the Middle East was also based in a fertile river valley. Ancient Egyptian society developed along the banks of the Nile River in northeastern Africa, and began to show signs of social organization as early as 4000 bce. By about 2700 bce Egyptian society had become highly organized. At the top of Egyptian society was a powerful ruler, called a pharaoh, who was revered as a god; at the bottom of society were thousands of slaves, many of them criminals or prisoners taken during various wars.

The great civilizations in the Middle East and Egypt for the most part developed independently of each other. Though they appear to be close to each other on a map, the great Arabian Peninsula, with its vast and hostile deserts, kept the societies from having much contact. Any contact that did occur took place along the coastal areas of the Mediterranean Sea where many people came to trade and sell items, in the lands that today make up Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. In their farthest advances, the Egyptians and the various Mesopotamian societies encountered a group of people called the Canaanites. These people were primarily nomadic, meaning they moved from place to place, and are thought to have herded sheep or other livestock. The Canaanites formed towns and settlements in the third millennium bce, but these settlements never reached the size or level of technology of the Egyptian or Mesopotamian societies.

The origins of Judaism

In many ancient societies people passed along their religious traditions orally, and practiced a polytheistic religion, which meant that they worshiped many gods. But slowly there emerged several new monotheistic religions, which focused their worship on one god. One such religion was called Zoroastrianism, which first appeared around 1400 bce in India, spread west to Persia, and influenced the Middle East throughout the Persian Empire (c. 546–334 bce). One of the most influential early monotheistic religion, however, was Judaism, the religion of the Jewish people.

The exact origins of the Jewish faith are hard to pinpoint, and most of what is known comes from the Torah, the five books that make up the Jewish holy text and are also part of the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. According to the first book, the Book of Genesis, the father of Judaism was a man called Abraham, who lived between about 2000 and 1500 bce (Christianity and Islam also claim Abraham as an important religious figure). Born in Mesopotamia and later living in Egypt, Abraham was the first person, according to Jewish religious texts, to promise to worship one god, Yahweh. He soon spread this faith among his followers, and he led them to settle in the land then known as Canaan, the site of the modern nation of Israel. Abraham's grandson, Jacob, was renamed Israel by Yahweh, and he fathered twelve sons, who led what came to be known as the twelve tribes of Israel. According to Judaism's religious teachings, these Israelites, as they were known, were taken as slaves into Egypt, and many years later were led out of slavery by Moses, a Jewish Egyptian who according to Jewish texts spoke directly to Yahweh. The freed Jewish slaves wandered for forty years in the desert of the Arabian Peninsula before settling back in the land of Canaan some time around 1200 bce.

After battling with Canaanites for control of the land, the Israelites took power in about 1030 bce. They called their kingdom Eretz Yisrael, or Land of Israel. One of their kings, Solomon, built a great temple in the capital city of Jerusalem, called the Temple of Solomon, which became the center of the Jewish faith. In about 927 bce, Israel split into two kingdoms, the northern Israel and the southern Judah. The northern kingdom lasted until 722 bce, before being conquered by Assyrians from Mesopotamia; the southern kingdom survived until 586 bce, when it was conquered by the Babylonians, who destroyed Solomon's temple, often known as the First Temple. The Babylonians moved most of the Jewish religious and civil leaders to Babylon, in what is known as the Babylonian exile.

During this period when the Jewish kingdoms fell to foreign powers, Jewish people scattered to many other areas of the Middle East. The movement of Jews from their homes in Eretz Yisrael was known as the Diaspora. Ever since that time, Jews living outside Eretz Yisrael have thought of this region as their ancestral homeland.

Jews in Palestine

One of the groups displaced by the establishment of Jewish kingdoms in the area that Jews called Eretz Yisrael was a group called the Philistines. Little is known about this people, except that they called their lands by the name Palestine, which proved to be an enduring name for the lands once claimed by the Jews. The first official use of the term Palestine came from the Roman Empire, which renamed the area as a punishment for a Jewish revolt against Roman rule around 135 ce. However, the term Palestine had long been favored by those who did not recognize the Jewish claim to the area. Perhaps as early as the fall of Judah in 586 bce, Palestine became a term to deny the political claims Jews made in the region.

From the fall of the early Jewish kingdoms, Jews lived as a minority population in Palestine and the Middle East at large. Depending on who exerted control over the region, and how stern they were about expressing that control, Jews experienced varying levels of freedom and persecution. Under the Persians, Jews were allowed to return to the region and to practice their religion freely, and were accorded a great deal of respect. During this time, Jews built a Second Temple on the site of the First, which had been destroyed by Babylonians. Under the Romans, however, they fared poorly. They were allowed to practice their religion, but were asked to declare their political allegiance to the Roman Empire. When Jews revolted against Roman rule in 66 ce, Roman troops ransacked the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the Jewish Second Temple. (The remains of that temple, called the Western, or Wailing, Wall, remain an important Jewish holy site.) Conditions for Jews became even worse after the Jewish revolt of 135 ce, when Roman troops killed or enslaved thousands of Jews and destroyed numerous Jewish villages. Jews were forbidden to enter the holy city of Jerusalem, and thereafter the Jewish population was centered in the region called Galilee. The conditions experienced by these early Jews had a deep impact on their worldview. From very early on, Jews expressed the feeling that only under Jewish rule would their rights, including access to their religious sites, be protected. It was an idea that would later bring them into much conflict with other people living in the region.

The rise of Christianity

The Jews' worship of a single god made theirs a minority religious viewpoint in the region during much of the rule of the Roman Empire, but the spread of Christianity, the religion created by the followers of Jesus Christ (c. 4 bce–c. 29 ce), soon changed the religious balance. Jesus was a man of the Jewish faith who offered new interpretations of the role of God and the need for individuals to devote themselves to God. His teachings challenged some of the Jewish beliefs and often caused civil unrest that challenged Roman rule. Around 29 ce, Jesus was arrested by Jewish religious leaders who suggested that his teachings were disrespectful to God and were causing civil disobedience among his followers. Jesus was brought before a Roman governor in Palestine named Pontius Pilate who ordered the crucifixion of Jesus, a form of execution in which a person is nailed on a cross and left to die. According to Christian religious teaching, Jesus later rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, taking his place as the son of God. Most of the accounts of Jesus's life and teachings are found in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. Their exact historical accuracy has long been a source of disagreement.

Whether or not the man Jesus actually existed in the way the Bible states, his followers believed that he was the son of God, sent to give a message to all mankind. They created a religion based on his teachings. Though it was based on the Jewish faith and claimed one god, Christianity stressed the role of personal salvation acquired through the acceptance of Jesus Christ as the son of God. It was, like Judaism, a monotheistic religion. Unlike Judaism, however, Christianity was an evangelical faith, which meant that its followers dedicated themselves to converting others to their faith. Over time, Christianity gained many followers who embraced the religion's single god. Sometime around 312 ce the emperor Constantine, who ruled over what was then known as the Eastern Roman Empire (which controlled over half of the Middle East), embraced Christianity. Constantine proclaimed Christianity as the official religion of the empire, which later became known as the Byzantine Empire.

The rise of Christianity dramatically changed the role of Palestine. Like Jews, Christians revered the holy places in Palestine, and especially in the city of Jerusalem. Christians also made holy places out of sites associated with the life and death of Jesus. But sharing holy sites did not necessarily mean that Jews and Christians got along. According to Charles Smith, editor of Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, "Christians considered Jews to be rivals in Palestine, as well as a people who rejected Jesus as the savior sent by God. As a result, the Byzantines applied existing Roman laws limiting Jewish activities more rigorously and created new ordinances aimed at isolating the Jews." Though a monotheistic religion was now the dominant view, religion continued to be a source of conflict in the region.

Arabs and the rise of Islam

Up until the seventh century ce, the Byzantine Empire ruled in the western half of the Middle East. But in the Arabian Peninsula and the remainder of the Middle East, other rulers and a new faith emerged to challenge the supremacy of Byzantine rule and Christianity in the region. Ever since the seventh century bce, Persians had exerted a huge influence in the Middle East. They ruled over much of the region from 550 bce to 330 bce before losing much of their land to the Roman Empire. Still, they ruled over parts of the eastern half of the Middle East until around 650 ce, when Arab peoples inspired by a new religion challenged their rule and eventually took control.

Neither Roman, Byzantine, nor Persian rulers had ventured much beyond the boundaries of the area known as the Fertile Crescent, a semicircle of land defined by the Mediterranean coastal region of Palestine in the west and the Tigris/Euphrates River valleys in the east. Both imperial powers saw no need to venture into the Arabian Peninsula, a desert region populated by a people who, according to a fourth-century Roman historian named Ammianus Marcellinus, quoted by Bernard Lewis in The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years, were "savage and warlike," and who were not "desirable either as friends or as enemies." For many years only the trade routes were of any interest in this very loosely governed and sparsely populated region. This quickly changed with the rise of Islam, which organized the power and resources in the region.

Source of Agreement: One True God

Most often when one religion is compared to another religion, it is the differences that are noted. Historically and in modern times, differences between various religions have sometimes been quite large. In the ancient Middle East, for example, members of the minority religious faith often faced restrictions on where they could live, whether and where they could build religious sites, and how fully they could participate in society. This was true when Jews ruled ancient Israel, when Christians controlled Palestine during the reign of the Byzantine Empire, and when Muslims controlled all or part of the Middle East. Jews restricted the rights of Muslims and Christians; Christians restricted the rights of Jews and Muslims; and Muslims restricted the rights of Christians and Jews. Even in the twenty-first century, for example, in the holy city of Jerusalem, strict limits are placed on who has access to holy sites and on what time schedule.

What is often left out of such discussions is that Jews, Christians, and Muslims share many elements of their religion. Members of all three faiths share the belief in the dominance of their one god, named Yahweh, God, or Allah. Members of all three faiths claim Jerusalem as one of their most holy cities. Members of all three faiths believe that prophets (people who speak words inspired by God) such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad delivered messages from God to his people. However, the different faiths have very different interpretations of how important each of those prophets was. To Muslims, Muhammad is the true prophet, whose role was to perfect the religion; to Christians, Jesus, as the son of God, is the most important prophet; to Jews, all the prophets played their own important role, with none being more important than any other. The religions also differ on other issues, but on key issues there is more on which they agree than disagree. People of all three faiths hope that this core of agreement can help advance the cause of peace in the world.

The people known as Arabs had lived in the Arabian Peninsula for thousands of years before they became a political force in the Middle East. They were referred to as early as the eighth century bce, and were related to the Canaanites and Hebrews, peoples who had settled in Palestine prior to the rise of the Kingdom of Israel. Most Arabs were Bedouins, desert-dwelling nomads, a group with no fixed home, who herded sheep, goats, and camels. They organized themselves into clans led by a sheikh, or Arab leader, and violently resisted the influence of outsiders. They found a leader in Muhammad, the founder of the religion of Islam.

The Prophet Muhammad

The man known as Muhammad was born in the town of Mecca around the year 570 ce. He was a member of the Quraysh tribe, which controlled trade in the coastal region of the Arabian Peninsula known as the Hijaz. According to Islamic religious teachings—including the holy book the Koran and a body of stories and legends about Muhammad called the hadith—around the year 610 ce Muhammad was visited by the angel Gabriel, who told him that God had selected him to be a prophet. After several such visits from the angel, Muhammad became convinced, and he began a life of preaching to people in Mecca. He urged them to give up their false gods and idols, to follow the path taught by the other true prophets of God, including Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, and to dedicate themselves to the one true god, Allah. By 622 ce his teachings had so angered local officials, who felt that the rising influence of Muhammad's teachings was taking away power from the Catholic church, that he was forced to leave Mecca. Based in the town of Medina, he built a huge following among surrounding tribes, who eagerly converted to Muhammad's religion, known as Islam. (Followers of Islam are called Muslims.) By 630 ce Muhammad and his followers had retaken Mecca, and soon extended their control to the rest of the Arabian Peninsula. Muhammad was both a political and a religious leader, bringing political order and a new religious faith to all he encountered. By the time of his death in 632 ce, most Arabs had converted to Islam and knew Muhammad as the Prophet, due to his prophecies being the most important over all other prophets that had come before him in the Islamic religion.

When Muhammad died, his followers were determined to carry his message to the wider world. To do so they created the caliphate, an institution with a supreme leader, or caliph, and a political and military force dedicated to spreading the word of Islam. Under the caliphate, Islam spread rapidly. Muslim armies captured Damascus, Syria, in 635 ce; they took parts of Mesopotamia in 637 ce and Palestine by 638 ce; and by 640 ce they controlled Egypt. From there Muslim armies—and the religion of Islam—spread throughout North Africa, across Persia toward India and China, westward beyond present-day Turkey, toward the northern Mediterranean sea region, including Italy and Greece, and as far west as Spain. According to Lewis, "Within little more than a century after the Prophet's death, the whole area had been transformed, in what was surely one of the swiftest and most dramatic changes in the whole of human history... . In this empire, Islam was the state religion, and the Arabic language was rapidly displacing others to become the principal medium of public life." This great Islamic empire grew stronger under the Umayyad caliphate from 661 ce to 750 ce, and under the Abbasid caliphate from 750 ce to 1258 ce (Umayyad and Abbasid are the names of family clans claiming to descend from Muhammad).

The Middle East under Muslim rule

The rise and spread of Islam brought a unifying religious force to the Middle East, and it drew the widely scattered nomadic tribes of the Arabian Peninsula into closer interaction. It did not, however, bring an end to clashes over political and economic control of this vast and geographically diverse region. Some of those clashes came within Islam itself, as rival clans fought for control of the caliphate, and different Muslim sects, especially Sunnis and Shiites (see sidebar), vied to establish their own interpretation of their shared religion as the most legitimate. Outside forces also brought continued conflict to the region, as neighboring nations and empires sought to extend their control into the Middle East, or at least to those parts of the Fertile Crescent that were considered valuable because their water and land which was good to grow crops on. From the rise of Islam to the conquest of the region by the Ottoman Empire in 1516–17, the Middle East remained a site of intermittent conflict, both political and religious.

Source of Conflict: Sunnis vs. Shiites

The religion of Islam is split into two major branches: Shiites and Sunnis. The primary difference between Shiites and Sunnis is over who should have been the successor to the Prophet Muhammad and thus who should be the caliph, or leader of Islam. Shiites, or Shia, hold that the caliph should be determined through direct hereditary succession. Sunnis hold that the caliph should be elected from among members of Muhammad's tribe, the Quraysh. The first caliph was not a direct descendent of Muhammad, nor were the vast majority of the successive caliphs, leading the Shiites to deny their legitimacy. According to the Shiites, only the fourth caliph, Ali, was legitimate. Yet Ali, his family, and his followers were massacred in a place called Karbala in 680 ce by fellow Muslims supporting another potential caliph. This event, called the massacre of Karbala, made Ali a martyr, or a person who dies for his religion, to Shiites and he is glorified in religious ceremonies and celebrations.

Today, the vast majority of the world's Muslims, between 65 and 70 percent, are Sunnis. Shiites make up about 30 to 35 percent. The real theological differences between the two sects of Islam are fairly minor; the greatest source of conflict stems from the cultural and political differences between the two sects. Shiites consider themselves an oppressed minority, and in general are less wealthy than Sunnis. Sunnis often consider Shiites as uneducated and anti-modern. Today, the only Shiite majority country is Iran, and that country is ruled by religious leaders. Differences between Sunnis and Shiites have been a persistent source of conflict in countries such as Iraq and Lebanon.

The differences between Sunnis and Shiites played a large role in the Iran-Iraq War (1980–88) and in the Gulf Wars (1990–91, 2003–). Iran is a predominantly Shiite nation, and it encouraged Shiites within Iraq to support Iran during the war between the two countries. Those Shiites who did so were punished, as Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein (1937–) attacked any who challenged his rule. During the first Gulf War, the United States urged Shiites to rise up against Hussein. But when the United States withdrew its forces in 1991, Hussein brutally punished many Shiite communities. When democratic elections were held in Iraq in January of 2005, during the secondGulf War, Shiite politicians gained a majority of the votes, and hoped that they would finally be able to use this majority to create a government that reflected their interests.

The Crusades

Of the many forces that altered the shape of the Middle East, one of the most disruptive was that of Christian soldiers from Europe who invaded late in the eleventh century. European Catholics, a sect of Christianity, were horrified at the rise of Islam, which had established itself in areas once under Catholic rule. Indeed, Spain, which had once been a mainly Christian country, flourished as a Muslim civilization from 711 to 1492, reaching the height of its power in the tenth century. Muslims had also gained control of Jerusalem, the site of important Jewish and Christian holy sites. Jerusalem had become the third holiest city in Islam, thanks to a legend of Muhammad's visit there on his journey to heaven. In 691, Muslim leaders had built a sanctuary on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which included the Dome of the Rock, built on the site of the First and Second Temples, and the nearby Al Aqsa Mosque.

Emperor Alexius I (1048–1118), the Christian ruler of the Byzantine Empire who ruled over large parts of the Middle East from 1081 to 1118, was challenged by the expansion of Muslim rule. He called on Pope Urban II (1042–1099), the leader of the Catholic Church, for help in fighting the Muslims. Beginning in 1095, the pope ordered Christian men to join crusades, or wars, to conquer their Muslim foes. These crusaders, fueled by rumors about Muslim violence and heathen, or non-Christian, religious practices, journeyed to the Middle East in organized armies. In 1099 they succeeded at capturing Jerusalem, killing much of the Muslim population. (They held Jerusalem until 1187, when it was recaptured by a Muslim leader named Saladin.) Seven different Christian Crusades were fought over nearly two hundred years.

The Crusades had a dramatic impact on relations between the Muslim and Christian worlds. The Crusades united various European kingdoms against a common Muslim enemy, and they helped build trade networks in Europe. But they also stirred a deep hatred and misunderstanding among Christians toward Muslims, fueled by the belief that Muslims occupied their holy city, Jerusalem. A similar distrust and dislike developed in the Muslim world. Muslims viewed the crusaders as brutal outside invaders. Many of the crusaders were rough, uncivilized warriors, and Muslims thus came to view Europeans as a less-civilized culture. Muslims also believed that their religion, Islam, was an advance over the Christian faith since it incorporated the teachings of the Jewish and Christian faiths, but also focused on the messages God sent through the prophet Muhammad. The distrust created by the Crusades continues to this day to affect relations between Middle Eastern nations and the West.

From Mamluks to Ottomans

The Crusades put an end to the broadest reaches of the caliphate's political power. The Middle East would never again be ruled as such a large, united region. Instead, the political entities taking control in the region focused their efforts on the Fertile Crescent. The Arabian Peninsula, with its vast deserts, returned to the control of minor sheikhs who claimed power over trade routes and desert villages. From 1250 to 1517, the dominant rulers of the region were known as the Islamic Mamluks, and were of Turkish origins. The Mamluks drove the Crusaders from the region and based their empire in Egypt and Syria. They brought little real organization to the region, however, and smaller regional political leaders were able to enjoy a great deal of freedom to rule as they wanted. It was this lack of organization that caused the Mamluk dynasty to fall to the Ottoman Turks in the early sixteenth century.

The Ottoman state was founded in 1299 by the Muslim leader Osman I in the area of present-day Turkey. Over time the Ottomans grew in power, and in 1453 they captured the city of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. From that point on, the state was called the Ottoman Empire, and it was ruled by a sultan, or emperor. In 1516 and 1517, Ottoman soldiers defeated the Mamluks and took control of Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and the Hijaz, the part of the Arabian Peninsula that lay on the coast of the Red Sea. At this time, the sultan restored the caliphate, and declared himself the caliph, the political and religious leader of the Muslim world. In the sixteenth century the Ottoman Empire became the largest and most powerful empire in the world, for a time even challenging for control of Europe.

Ottoman rule brought stability to the Middle East. The Ottomans divided the region into districts, called sanjaks, and granted power to local rulers. The Ottomans collected taxes and sought to preserve the safety of trading routes, but otherwise they did not interfere much in local affairs. This loose control allowed certain well-placed families to gain power, and these families played a large role in Middle Eastern politics into the twentieth century. Under Ottoman rule, and under Muslim rule in general, the Christian and Jewish communities that existed in the region were allowed to exist, but were not actively encouraged to flourish. According to Smith, "Muslims discriminated against non-Muslims but did not persecute them, although persecution was not unknown. ... Similar legal protection for religious minorities in Europe did not appear for another millennium." Though the Middle East was by no means a tolerant, multicultural society, it was, under Ottoman rule, stable and relatively peaceful. This lasted until the collapse of the empire in the twentieth century when international powers worked to take over the empire's land.

The seeds of future conflict

This brief review of early Middle Eastern history only touches on the wide range of historical precedents for conflicts in the Middle East. Religious groups fought for power and supremacy, sometimes ignoring the rights and destroying the lives and property of others. Members of religions who sought historical reasons to hate others could find them in the Crusades and in the treatment that religious minorities faced throughout history. Islam emerged as the dominant religion in the region in the seventh century, but it endured its share of internal conflicts, both over religious matters and over political control. The attempt to establish unified Islamic rule under the caliphate often resulted in intense fighting, and those modern Arabs who look to the caliphate to inspire their hopes of a united region are still dealing with past failures. Finally, the intrusion of outside political power in the region has been a nearly constant factor in the region.

For More Information


Drummond, Dorothy. Holy Land Whose Land: Modern Dilemma Ancient Roots. Seattle, WA: Educare Press, 2002.

Hunter, Erica C. D. First Civilizations. New York: Facts on File, 1994.

Kort, Michael. The Handbook of the Middle East. Brookfield, CT: Twenty-First Century Books, 2002.

Lewis, Bernard. The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years. New York: Scribner, 1995.

Malam, John. Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent, 10,000 to 539 B.C. Austin, TX: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1999.

Smith, Charles D., ed. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents. 4th ed. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2001.

Web Sites

Internet Islamic History Sourcebook. (accessed on July 8, 2005).

The Islamic World to 1600. (accessed on July 8, 2005).