HomeHistory of PalestineThe Rise of Islam – continued


Genghis Khan Declared Ruler of Mongolia

The Mongol Empire had emerged under Genghis Khan, who had been declared ruler in 1206. He created an empire that stretched from the Sea of Japan to Central Europe.

Mongke Khan Extends the Empire

In 1251, his grandson Mongke Khan planned to extend his grandfather’s lands and gave the task to his brother, Hulagu. Starting from Persia he moved south, destroying Baghdad and defeating the Ayyubids (from Damascus). Mongke Khan then died and that forced Hulagi to retreat back towards Mongolia, leaving only a small force to face the Mamluk Empire (from Egypt). This force confronted the Mamluks in the Battle of Ain Jalut and was halted.

1250 – 1517
The Mamluk Sultanate

The Mamluk Sultanate continued the Islamic control of Palestine until they were overthrown by the Ottomans in 1516.

The Mamluk Sultanate (1250 – 1517) was created following France’s attempt to conquer Egypt in the Seventh Crusade. At its zenith, it spanned Egypt, the Levant and Hejaz. It overthrew the Ayyubid Dynasty and lasted until 1517 when the Ottomans conquered Egypt.

The Ottoman Empire, also known as the Turkish Empire, was founded 1299 by Osman 1st of the Oghuz Turks in Anatolia. The Ottomans conquered Constantinople and ended the Byzantine Empire in 1453. They went on to control much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia, the Caucasus, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa. There was a majority of Muslims in the Ottoman Empire, but non-Muslim communities were protected under the law. They were defeated after six centuries at the end of the First World War.

In 1600 the population of Palestine consisted (approximately) of 219,000 Muslims, 11,000 Christians, and 2,000 Jews.

The Ottoman Empire Conquers Palestine

The Ottoman Empire conquered Palestine in 1516. During the 16th and 17th centuries Palestine was governed by an alliance of local dynasties on behalf of the Ottomans. In the 18th century the Zaydani clan started to rule autonomously from Algeria. In 1775 the Ottomans defeated the Zaydani and ruled until Muhammed Ali invaded from Egypt in 1830.

In 1798-1801 the French campaigned in Egypt and Syria. Napoleon captured Egypt from the Ottomans but the latter brought another army against him. They met and Napoleon defeated them at Acre, Nazareth, Cana and Mount Tabor. Napoleon left Egypt in 1799 for political reasons and power was transferred to Muhammad Ali, whose dynasty in Egypt lasted until 1952.

Muhammed Ali (1769-1849) came from Albania, started as a commander in the Ottoman army, and rose to lead Egypt to independence. The French had left and the Ottomans and the Mamluks were at odds. Muhammed Ali and his Albanian troops managed to work with both sides whilst also gaining considerable public support. Finally the Egyptians persuaded the Ottomans to replace their viceroy with Muhammed Ali. The Mamluks had been a power in Egypt for 600 years. Ali invited the Mamluk leaders to a celebration in Cairo and killed them! He turned Egypt into a major regional power.

The Peasant’s Revolt

In 1834 there was a countrywide revolt (the Peasant’s Revolt) against Egyptian conscription and taxation. The suppression of the revolt devastated many local towns and villages and probably fuelled the separation of Palestine from Syria. It may also have brought together the various peoples in the region and fostered the first ideas of Palestinian nationhood.

Nationalism is a fairly modern idea. Loyalty before the 1700s was often to a city or, maybe, to a leader. Al-Quds University (a Palestinian institution with campuses in Jerusalem, Abu Dis and al-Bireh) suggests that despite Palestine being occupied by so many peoples, the population has remained constant and Palestinian. Whilst under the Ottomans, the local people probably saw themselves as Ottoman subjects, though still Arabs living in Palestine. Whilst under the unpopular rule of Muhammed Ali from Egypt they started to see themselves as a nation of Palestinians.

The Convention of London

In 1840 Austria, UK, Prussia, and Russia signed the Convention of London with the Ottoman Empire offering Muhammad Ali and his heirs permanent control over Egypt and what is now Israel/Palestine provided they were nominally under the Ottomans. Ali hesitated for too long so Britain and Austria blockaded the Nile delta and Acre. Ali accepted defeat, and Britain turned control of the Levant back to the Ottomans. A period of rapid socio-economic growth followed for Palestine benefitting Arab-speaking Muslims and Christians.