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Five Great Islamic Empires

The author is a fervent observer of Islamic religious practices, wherein he finds resolute contentment for his soul.


Five Great Islamic Empires

  1. The Ottoman Empire.
  2. The Abbasid Caliphate.
  3. The Umayyad Caliphate.
  4. The Mughal Empire.
  5. The Safavid Empire.

5. The Safavid Empire (1501 to 1736)

  • Capitol: Isfahan.
  • Area: 2,850,000 km2

The Safavid dynasty was one of the most significant ruling dynasties of Iran. They ruled one of the greatest Persian empires since the Muslim conquest of Persia.

The Safavid dynasty was founded in 1501 by Shāh Ismāil. Shia Islam was their official state religion.


4. The Mughal Empire (1526 to 1857)

  • Capitol: Dehli
  • Population: 110-150 Million
  • Area: 3.2 Million square kilometers

Mughals were the descendants of the house of Timur. In 1526 Babur from central Asia invaded India he defeated the last sultan of Sultanate of Delhi Ibrahim Lodhi in the Battle of Panipat and Established the Mughal Empire.

The empire was extremely prosperous and rich. Under the rule of Mughals, India enjoyed much cultural and economic progress as well as religious harmony.

The Mughals reached their height of power under the reign of Shah Jahan. He was keenly interested in buildings and architecture, he also built the Taj Mahal for his beloved wife.

A lasting legacy of Mughals. The Taj Mahal.

A lasting legacy of Mughals. The Taj Mahal.

Mughal Empire was at its largest extent during the reign of Aurangzeb Alamgir. He was a deeply religious person and it is said that he wrote the whole Quran twice in his own handwriting. He waged wars against the Maratha and conquered Deccan region. After his death the empire declined gradually.

Mughal Empror Aurangzeb.

Mughal Empror Aurangzeb.

Causes Of Decline of Mughal Empire:

  1. The later Mughal rulers after Aurangzeb were increasingly inept, they were more interested in drinking, music and poetry rather then administration.
  2. Invasions of Nadir Shah of Persia and Ahmed Shah Abdali exposed the weakness of Mughal army. Both looted and sacked Delhi.
  3. Mughal army was unable to compete with the highly organized and trained army of British.
  4. It is often said that the long wars in Deccan during Aurangzeb's era had drained the treasury.
  5. Mughals did not have any Navy so they could not exercise their influence in the Indian Ocean against the East India Company.

Muslims in the Subcontinent

Muslims had ruled the subcontinent for almost 800 years continuously, beginning from the rule of Muhammad of Ghaur in 1203 up till the collapse of Mughal Empire in 1857.

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3. Umayyad Caliphate (661-750)

  • Capitol: Damascus.
  • Population: 62,000,000 est.
  • Area: 15,000,000 km2

After the demise of Hazrat Ali (R.A) Muslim empire of the Khilafat-e-Rashida (first Caliphate) drifted into a power struggle between Hazrat Hassan(R.A) and Ameer Muawiya (R.A) but eventually to save the empire from civil war Hazrat Hassan (R.A) relinquished the caliphate in favor of Hazrat Ameer Muawiya (R.A) thereby marking the beginning of Umayyad Caliphate.

They established the largest Arab Muslim State in History. In 712 a Berber General Tariq ibn Ziyad Captured Spain for the Caliphate. They continued to rule Spain for the next 300 years. Their Caliphate was overthrown by the Abbasid after their defeat at the Battle of Zab.

The Great Mosque of Damascus was first built on this site by Umayyad Caliph al-Walīd I.

The Great Mosque of Damascus was first built on this site by Umayyad Caliph al-Walīd I.


2. Abbasid Caliphate (750 to 1258)

  • Capitol: Baghdad.
  • Population: 50,000,000 est
  • Area: 10,000,000 km2

The Abbasid were the third of four Islamic Caliphates. Sometimes the Abbasid and Ummayyad caliphate are collectively referred to as the Arab Muslim empire but they were two different dynasties.

The Period of Abbasid's is termed as the Golden Age of Islam due to advances in Sciences, Literature, Medicine and Philosophy. The Caliphate was finally abolished when Mongols under Halagu Khan captured and sacked Baghdad in 1258.

It is said that the waters of Tigris and Euphrates ran black for days with the ink of countless precious books from Baghdad's vast libraries that were flung into the rivers and red from the blood of scholars that were slaughtered at the time of Mongol Invasion.

Maximum extent of Abbasid caliphate c.850  territories in dark green were lost early

Maximum extent of Abbasid caliphate c.850 territories in dark green were lost early

1. Ottoman Empire (1299 to 1922)

  • Capitol: Istanbul.
  • Population: 35,350,000 (1856)
  • Area: 5,200,000 km2

The Ottoman Empire can undoubtedly be called the greatest Muslim empire of all time because it stayed on the face of the globe for nearly 700 years. The empire was one of the largest and the longest ruling empire in history.

Most Powerful State

During the 16th and 17th century the Ottoman Empire became the most powerful state of the world.

The first Ottomans were Turkish soldiers known as ghaziz. They had come to Anatolia with other Turks to escape the Mongols. In late 1200 a ghazi leader named Osman had great success in fighting the Byzantines. His tribe members became known as the Ottoman.

During the 1300 the Ottomans took over large parts of Anatolia and went into Europe. They defeated the crusades at the battle of Nicopolis. The Ottoman empire faced a temporary crises when Timur invaded it in 1402 and defeated Ottomans in Battle of Ankara. The empire recovered and Murad II took power and with this a period of expansion started. In 1444 Murad's army defeated the last crusades at the Battle of Varna. In 1453 Sultan Mehmed, Murad's successor captured Constantinople in 1453 renamed it Istanbul and made it the capitol. Sultan Selim I(1512–1520) dramatically expanded the Empire's eastern and southern frontiers by defeating Shah Ismail of Safavid Persia, in the Battle of Caldiran. Selim I established Ottoman rule in Egypt.

Suleymaniye Mosque, the icon of Ottoman architecture.

Suleymaniye Mosque, the icon of Ottoman architecture.

The greatest Ottoman Sultan was Suleyman who ruled from 1520 to 1566. His rule was the apex of Ottoman power and he brought the empire to its height of dominance and prosperity. He conquered Hungary in 1526 and three years later laid siege to the city of Vienna. He Conquered the mighty strongholds of Rhodes and Belgrade with the help of big cannons and gunpowder. He annexed most of the Middle East in his conflict with the Safavids and large swathes of North Africa as far west as Algeria. Under his rule, the Ottoman fleet dominated the seas from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.

After his death a period of slow decline begin. The Battle of Vienna in 1683 marked the end of Ottoman expansion in Europe. During 1683 to 1827 threats to the Ottoman Empire were presented by the traditional enemy, the Austrian Empire as well as by a new adversary, the rising Russian Empire. It was a period of stagnation.

During 1828 to 1908 the Empire faced challenges in defending itself against foreign invasion and occupation. The Empire ceased to enter conflicts on its own and began to forge alliances with European countries. It Ended In 1923 after the Republic of Turkey ceded it.

The skyline of Istanbul. Imagine seeing this sunset 200 years ago.

The skyline of Istanbul. Imagine seeing this sunset 200 years ago.

Causes Of Decline of Ottoman Empire:

  1. Europeans advanced greatly in Sciences and technology during the renaissance and Industrial revolution while the Ottomans remained in a state of stagnation.
  2. Europeans had discovered a sea route for trading with India, while previously they had to pass from the empire and pay ransom.
  3. The later Ottoman sultans were weak and incompetent. Corruption was common.
  4. The Arab revolt led by T.E Lawrence and King Faisal with full support of British played a crucial role in weakening Ottoman positions in Arabia and Hejaz during final phase of World War I.
  5. Even after the Treaty of Severs it was the treachery of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk which finally brought an end to caliphate.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Do you think the Muslim Empire will rise again?

Answer: No, not in the near feature at least.

© 2012 StormsHalted


Disappointed student on October 23, 2019:

We have recently learned about this in our class and I am disappointed because although you are providing information for students and many other people to do research, I'm concerned because some of your information is incorrect. You see the Ottoman empire only lasted for 600 years and not 700 and if the Ottoman empire started in 1520 then how could they have conquered Constantinople. If you look on another website it will tell you that the Ottoman empire started in 1520 and that the empire lasted for only 600 years. I'm not trying to burst your bubble everyone, but this information for the Ottoman empire is incorrect.

Curious student on April 26, 2018:

where is the causes of decline for the safavid empire

Alip on January 29, 2018:

Oh so amazing!!! on November 20, 2017:

can u explain this topic

dynasties in subcontinent which is remarkable to Islamic history

Sarah the Superhero on November 05, 2017:

Summary of the Five Great Islamic Empires:

-The Safavid dynasty. They ruled one of the greatest Persian empires in Muslim history.

-The Mughal Empire. They were a prosperous and powerful empire located in India.

- The Umayyad Caliphate. They were in a power struggle, but found a way to avoid civil war, and began an umayyad dynasty of ruler.

- The Abbasid Caliphate. They were the dynasty on the throne during the Golden Age of Islam.

- The Ottoman Empire. They were a greatly successful empire who were the only dynasty to be in the common era.

Anti-dandruff on September 05, 2017:

Mamluke, Abbasid, Selyuk, Rashudin, Khawarism, Ghaznavids, Delhi Sultanate, Fatamid etc etc etc. Plenty of Muslim empires have existed and each played an important role

In the regions it controlled. Make sure you read about all of them, wonderful history.

Adam on July 14, 2017:

Mughal empire was one of the largest empire in Indian history. It reached its peak under Aurangzeb and after his death most of his governors became independent states. Those smaller states were easily defeated by the British. British absolutely wiped out the maharatas who were previously defeated by the afghans during the 3rd battle of panipat. The sickh empire which was mainly concentrated in northern India(was actually very tiny in comparison to other states in India at that time) only lasted for less then 45 years and was defeated by the British too. British empires main concern was Tipu Sultan and his father Haider Ali. After the British defeated Tipu, India practically had no one to defend it or to put up any meaningful resistance. Most of the princely states accepted British rule and paid tribute to them. Mughal India was one of the richest empires in the world and after its defeat and under British rule India became one of the poorest. Many man made famines occurred and a lot of its resources got into the hands of foreign based company's. Today India is one of the poorest countries in the world and despite having a space program has more people living in poverty then the entire continent of Africa. Approximately 60% live in poverty in India. Most Indians have immigrated to the Middle East in order to find a better life which should indicate how poor Indian people are.

Guest on July 12, 2017:

Mughal empire went into decline for many reasons. At one point Mughal empire was considered the richest empire in the world so you can imagine many other nations and people interested in its wealth. After Aurangzheb death his sons fought over control of his vast empire and each son was being helped by different parties. Many generals and governors become independent states. You then had Afghans and Persians from the north constantly invading, maharatas in central and southern India taken over territory aswell as the British. The British used divide and conquer tactics defeating each state or making alliance with them. British defeated the maharatas, sikhs and Tipu Sultan empire of Mysore just to name a few. Non of those state had unity. In fact during the first war of independence Hindus and Muslims fought together against the British but were let down because the pushtuns and sikhs sided with the British and eventually defeated the nationalist Indians. It's why British Indian army mainly consisted of "loyal" subjects and chose mainly people from north India and where the whole martial race theory came from.

Abhishek Kumar Srivastava on June 10, 2017:

the main reason for declination of mogul was Marathas, Sikhs and Rajputana invasions so it was the rising of Hindu powers after 3 centuries.

Orhan Timur on February 09, 2017:

Actually the Abbasids had the greatest empire. The cultural advancements under their rule was unparalleled in any other Islamic dynasty. The Ottomans didn't really add much to the culture and by the standards of the 16 and 17th centuries they were fairly inferior.

StormsHalted (author) from Pullman, Washington, United States on January 20, 2017:

The sentence originally intended the same, it has been further clarified now.

Thomas Hennigan on January 19, 2017:

The Ottomans DID NOT conquer Vienna in 1529, although they laid siege to it, as they did again in 1683 and also failed and were routed.

Adil on December 30, 2016:

Umar bin al khattab (r.a). was the fastest conqueror of the world he conquered 22,00,000 sq miles in 10 years and he was also bravest or we can say No.1 warrior in the world. And there is missing something Ghaznavid empire and Timurid empire.

minsa on October 17, 2014:


StormsHalted (author) from Pullman, Washington, United States on December 25, 2013:

Okay fine ....... let me clarify that whilst Indians fought against the ottomans in british armies .......( They were paid soldiers ) ........ their was also a massive movement to support the Khalifa in India ....... known as the Khilafat movement ( 1919-24) and delegations of Indian Muslims actually visited England and requested the President not to give harsh treatment to Turkey.........

StormsHalted (author) from Pullman, Washington, United States on February 25, 2013:

They both Mughal and ottomans declined gradually due to incompetent rulers and lagging behind the Europeans technology ........

pramodgokhale from Pune( India) on February 24, 2013:

Dear Alikhan3

It is interesting to know the history of Islamic empires.No doubt Turkey was the greatest of all with science and technologies.I India mogul empire also was great.

If you can explain why they collapsed? I think they cut off from science and technologies and feudal and dark age. Do you agree?

When we go for Introspection we should forget differences, self audit always benefit how not to go for wrong.

Thank you for the article.

pramod gokhale

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