Islamic history begins in Arabia in the 7th century with the emergence of the prophet Muhammad. Within a century of his death, an Islamic state stretched from the Atlantic ocean in the west to central Asia in the east, which, however, was soon torn by civil wars (fitnas). After this, there would always be rival dynasties claiming the caliphate, or leadership of the Muslim world, and many Islamic states or empires offering only token obedience
to an increasingly powerless caliph.
Nonetheless, the later empires of the Abbasid caliphs and the Seljuk Turk were among the largest and most powerful in the world. After the disastrous defeat of the Byzantines
at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, Christian Europe launched a series of Crusades and for a time captured Jerusalem. Saladin, however, restored unity and defeated the Shiite Fatimids.
From the 14th to the 17th centuries, one of the most important Muslim territories was the Mali Empire, whose capital was Timbuktu.
In the 18th century, there were three great Muslim empires: the Ottoman in Turkey, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean; the Safavid in Iran; and the Mogul in India. By the 19th century, these realms had fallen under the sway of European political and economic power. Following WWI, the remnants of the Ottoman empire were parceled out as European protectorates or spheres of influence. Islam and Islamic political power have revived in the 20th century. However, the relationship between the West and the Islamic world remains uneasy.