Skip to main content

Sicily Was Part of the Muslim World for Over 200 Years

Maruf speaks from his own experience. He loves to know about anything and express it through writing.



Muslim Sicily

When discussing Islam's expeditions on the European continent, most sources focus on two places. The first is Muslim Spain or Al-Andalus, which existed from 611 to 1492 (although Muslim minorities lived there until 1809), and the second is the Ottoman Empire, which spread from Anatolia to southeastern Europe in the early 1300s.

Such discussions, however, are largely left out of the history of Muslim rule on the southern coastal island of Sicily on the Italian peninsula. Muslim rule was established here for more than 200 years. Let's take a look at that glorious history.

Aghlabid Rule in South Africa

The Muslim conquest of North Africa can be seen as a continuation of the war between the Muslim state and the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire, which began in the time of the Prophet Muhammad.

As a result of the first phase of the campaign during the reign of Caliph Omar (634-644), Muslims spread by conquering Egypt and the eastern part of modern Libya. However, Muslim military activity declined during the reigns of Caliphs Uthman and Ali.

Military activity continued after the establishment of the Umayyad Caliphate by Muawiyah in 661. Towards the end of the seventh century, Muslim armies led by Musa ibn Nusayr reached the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in Morocco.

After the Abbasid Revolution of 650, relative autonomy in North Africa increased, resulting in a new family caliphate and Baghdad as a new capital for the Muslim world.

Due to the distance and difficulty in governing North Africa, the Abbasid government empowered a local governor, Ibrahim Ibn al-Aghlab, to establish a semi-autonomous empire in the Cairo region (present-day Tunisia) in 799 AD.

Sicily Expedition

In the midst of extreme unrest in the early 800s, there were a number of reasons behind the invasion of Sicily. First, Euphmius, a Byzantine naval commander, appeared at the Aghlabid royal court in 628 during a revolt against the Byzantine Empire due to political problems on the island.

The reasons for his rebellion were not clear and the Aghlabid Amir Ziadatullah I was hesitant to help him, especially after the peace treaty signed with the Byzantines in 617 AD came into force. He did not want to violate it.

Another reason for this expedition was a scholar named Asad Ibn al-Furat. Aghlabid Amir did not like this very popular and politically active scholar. At that time, Ibn al-Furat proposed an expedition to Sicily. He also opposed the peace treaty signed with Byzantium, as many Muslim sailors were still held captive by the Byzantines.

The whole situation was then in favor of Amir. As a result, he could easily fight the Byzantines and reduce their commercial prestige in the Mediterranean, while at the same time sending Asad Ibn al-Furat (and all his followers and armies who could help al-Furat to carry out the revolution) to Sicily. He was sure that the Sicilian campaign would fail. Amir made this calculation.

However, this campaign was successful. Within days of their departure from North Africa, the force (about 1,000 men) reached the West Bank of Sicily. There was a fierce battle with the Byzantine army and the Muslims won. Asad ibn al-Furat fell ill and died during the siege of Palermo in Sicily (628 AD) when a new Byzantine army attacked the Muslim army with renewed force.

Conquest of Sicily

After the Sicilian expedition failed due to war and disease, troops from Umayyad al-Andalus arrived in Sicily (630 AD) and were joined by the rest of the army.

The revived Muslim army then marched on Palermo and successfully captured the city.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Owlcation

Although Ziadatullah was not the first to be interested in the Sicilian campaign, he began to show interest and sent one of his relatives to take over as governor of Palermo (known to the Arabs as Balaram).

Thereafter, Sicily began to be regarded as a province with a functioning government and economy. The expedition continued across the rest of the island.

Gradually, the adjoining countryside and towns separately succumbed to the Muslim rule of Palermo. The last Byzantine-occupied parts fell in 975. As a result, the whole island came under South African aggression. Thus, Muslim rule was established over the entire island of Sicily, and for many years this part of Italy remained part of the Muslim world.


Abdullah Al Maruf (author) from Bangladesh on October 20, 2020:

@Muntaha thanks

Sidratul Muntaha on October 20, 2020:

Much informative!!

Abdullah Al Maruf (author) from Bangladesh on October 20, 2020:

@Omnia Thanks

Omnia essam on October 20, 2020:

Keep going

Ashley Silva on October 20, 2020:


Martina Rodriguez on October 20, 2020:

Researching is good

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 18, 2020:

Please erase my comment.

Related Articles