Ancient empires of the world and its civilisation

From the beginning of time, it has been found that people exert control over the population by making empires. Empires have been found in humanity since antiquity. The true definition of an empire is a sovereign state consisting of several territories and peoples subject to a single ruling authority, often an emperor. States can be empires either by narrow definition through having an emperor and being named as such, or by broad definition as stated above in being an aggregated realm under the rule of supreme authority.

God Almighty states in the Holy Qur’an:

قُلِ اللَّهُمَّ مَالِكَ الْمُلْكِ تُؤْتِي الْمُلْكَ مَنْ تَشَاءُ وَتَنْزِعُ الْمُلْكَ مِمَّنْ تَشَاءُ وَتُعِزُّ مَنْ تَشَاءُ وَتُذِلُّ مَنْ تَشَاءُ بِيَدِكَ الْخَيْرُ إِنَّكَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ

Say, ‘O Allah, Lord of sovereignty, Thou givest sovereignty to whomsoever Thou pleasest; and Thou takest away sovereignty from whomsoever Thou pleasest. Thou exaltest whoever Thou pleasest and Thou abasest whomsoever Thou pleasest. In Thy hand is all good. Thou surely hast power to do all things’

The Holy Quran (3:27)

This verse shows that since the beginning of time all of the empires and civilisations that have come into being are because Allah wanted them to. During different eras, many different empires came into existence, and because of that good and evil both spread around the world. This led to the shape of the world that we see today. Before Islam, whether it was the Persian Empire or the Roman Empire, all were different in their approach to government.

God Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an:

وَإِذَا تَوَلَّى سَعَى فِي الْأَرْضِ لِيُفْسِدَ فِيهَا وَيُهْلِكَ الْحَرْثَ وَالنَّسْلَ وَاللَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْفَسَادَ

And when he is in authority, he runs about in the land to create disorder in it and destroy the crops and the progeny of man; and Allah loves not disorder.

The Holy Quran (2:206)

This verse clearly shows that empires have been made forcefully from the beginning of the world, but Allah does not like this type of authority. This is because Kingship is Allah’s blessing and this is the wrong use of it.

After this brief introduction, we will now state some empires of the past. Indeed, these empires have no real authority as the real authority is and has been Allah. While there have been good kings there also have been tyrants who spread hatred and corruption around the world.

Persian empire

Cyrus the Great established the Achaemenid Empire in Western Asia. It was an ancient Iranian empire. It was the largest empire in history the world has seen, covering 5.5 million square kilometres. Stretching from Indus Valley in the east and the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west. It is notable for its effective model of a centralised government, its multicultural policy, the establishment of public services, a large skilled army, and the construction of infrastructures such as road networks and a postal system throughout its territories. The empire’s success encouraged later empires to adopt similar structures.

By the 7th Century BC, the Persians had established themselves in the Persis area of the Iranian Plateau, which became their heartland. Cyrus the Great conquered the Medes, Lydia, and the Neo-Babylonian Empire from this area, founding the Achaemenid Empire. By 330 BC, Alexander the Great, a great admirer of Cyrus the Great, invaded the majority of the empire. Following Alexander’s death, the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Seleucid Empire took control of much of the empire’s former territory, as well as other small territories that acquired independence at the time. Under the Parthian Empire, the Iranian elites of the central plateau regained influence by the 2nd Century BC.

Metalwork, rock carvings, weaving, and architecture were all types of art produced by the ancient Persians of the Achaemenid Empire. Metalwork was also a speciality of the ancient Persians. The ancient Persian capital city in southern Iran is one of the world’s most important archaeological sites. In 1979, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Many people associate Persia with Islam, but it was only after the Arab conquests of the seventh century that Islam became the dominant religion in the Persian Empire. A new faith, Zoroastrianism, influenced the first Persian Empire. Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions, named after the Persian Prophet Zoroaster (as). It is only practised by a small percentage of the population today.

After Xerxes I’s failed invasion of Greece in 480 BC, the Persian Empire began to decline. The expensive defence of Persia’s lands exhausted the empire’s funds, forcing Persia’s people to pay higher taxes.

In 330 BC, the Achaemenid Empire was overthrown by Alexander the Great’s invading armies. Following Cyrus the Great, subsequent rulers attempted to restore the Persian Empire to its Achaemenian borders, but the empire never quite recovered its colossal scale.

Roman Empire

Basilica of San Vitale, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rome was a small city-state on the Italian Peninsula in 500 BC. The Roman Republic had invaded Italy by 200 BC, and it went on to conquer Greece and Spain, the North African coast, much of the Middle East, modern-day France, and even the small island of Britain over the next two centuries. The republic became an empire in 27 BC, and it lasted for another 400 years. Finally, the costs of maintaining such a large area become unsustainable. The Eastern and Western halves of Rome eventually divided, and by 476 AD, the Western half of the empire had been destroyed by Germanic tribes. After that, the Eastern half of the empire, centred in Constantinople, lasted for centuries.

The Romans spoke Latin, which Virgil, a contemporary Roman poet, highlights as a source of Roman unity and culture. Latin was the legal language in the West and the military language in the Empire, but it was not enforced on people brought under Roman rule.

In the context of using capital to convey prices and debts, the early Empire was monetised to a near-universal degree. The sestertius was the standard unit of reckoning value until the 4th Century, though starting with the Severan Dynasty, the silver denarius, worth four sesterces, was also used for accounting.

The arch, vault, and dome were the three most important architectural inventions made by the Romans. Some Roman buildings have survived for over 2,000 years, thanks to advanced cement and concrete manufacturing techniques. Until the early 19th Century, Roman roads were considered the most advanced roads. Military policing, communications, and commerce were all supported by the highway system. Floods and other environmental threats were not a problem for the highways. Some roads remained available for over a thousand years after the central government fell apart.

The worship of a wide group of Greco-Roman gods such as Jupiter, Juno, Minerva, and Mars was the official Roman religion. The proper ceremonial worship of the gods was the responsibility of a Roman priest. The Roman Empire’s very existence demonstrated that the Romans had properly worshipped their gods. The Romans tolerated other people’s gods, allowing natives in their provinces to worship whatever gods they wanted. Personal families and regions had their own traditional gods in addition to the official gods.

In the Holy Qur’an it says:

الم. غُلِبَتِ الرُّومُ

Alif, Lam, Mim. The Romans have been defeated.

The Holy Quran (30: 2-3)

This verse informs us of the downfall of the Roman Empire. In 476 AD, Odoacer, a Germanic barbarian, seized control of Rome. He ascended to the throne of Italy and compelled the last emperor of Rome, Romulus Augustulus, to abdicate. According to many historians, this marks the culmination of the Roman Empire.

Egyptian empire

Ancient Egypt was a North African civilization that flourished along the lower reaches of the Nile River, in what is now the country of Egypt. Ancient Egypt’s history was marked by a sequence of prosperous kingdoms interspersed with periods of relative insecurity known as Intermediate Periods.

Even though the Egyptian Empire was established around 2686 BC, the New Kingdom is the only period known as the Egyptian Empire. The 18th, 19th, and 20th Dynasties of Egypt, which lasted from about 1550 BC to 1077 BC, are included in this era of ancient Egyptian history. Egypt was at its peak of influence and prosperity during the Egyptian Empire.

Ahmose I, Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Amenhotep III, Akhenaten, Tutankhamun, and Ramesses II were some of Egypt’s most famous Pharaohs during this period. Art and architecture flourished under the Egyptian Empire as well. Around this time, Egypt’s largest funerary complex, the Valley of the Kings, was constructed, containing the tombs of several Pharaohs and influential nobles.

Egypt’s influence peaked in the New Kingdom, when it ruled most of Nubia and a large portion of the Near East, before slipping into a long period of decline. Egypt was attacked or defeated by a number of foreign forces throughout the course of its history. Egypt was ruled by the Greek Ptolemaic Kingdom after Alexander’s death until 30 BC when it fell to the Roman Empire and became a Roman province under Cleopatra.

The ability of the ancient Egyptian civilization to adapt to the agricultural conditions of the Nile River valley contributed to its development.

The Ancient Egyptians’ many accomplishments include quarrying, surveying, and construction techniques that enabled the construction of monumental pyramids, temples, and obelisks. Ancient Egypt has left an indelible mark. The art and architecture were widely imitated, and its antiquities were transported to distant lands. For centuries, its monumental ruins have captivated the imaginations of travellers and artists. In the early modern era, Europeans and Egyptians developed a newfound interest in antiquities and excavations, which contributed to the scientific study of Egyptian culture and a greater understanding of its cultural heritage.

Egyptian is a northern Afro-Asian language that is closely related to Berber and the Semitic languages. It has the second-longest documented history of any language, having been written from about 3200 BC to the Middle Ages and spoken for much longer. Before Coptic, Egyptian writings show no dialect variations, but it was most likely spoken in regional dialects around Memphis and later Thebes.

Ancient Egyptian culture was founded on beliefs in the supernatural and the afterlife, and the pharaonic rule was based on the divine right of kings. The Egyptian pantheon was inhabited by gods with supernatural abilities who could be summoned for assistance or defence. However, Egyptians claimed that the gods had to be appeased with sacrifices because they were not always benevolent.

From approximately 1894 BC to 1595 BC, the First Babylonian Dynasty reigned. The Babylonian Empire’s first period began when an Amorite king founded a small kingdom that included Babylon, which was then a little town. Babylon eventually grew in size and strength, reaching its pinnacle during the reign of Hammurabi (approximately 1728—1686 BC).

The exact origins of the First Babylonian Dynasty are difficult to trace with great certainty precisely because Babylon itself yields very few archaeological materials intact due to a high water table. As a result, written documents such as royal and votive inscriptions, literary texts, and lists of year names have survived the centuries. The lack of evidence in economic and legal records makes it difficult to depict the First Babylonian Dynasty’s economic and social history, but historical events depicted in literature and the existence of year-name lists enable a chronology to be established.

Sumuabum, the Dynasty’s first known ruler, is credited with extending Babylonian territories by conquering Dilbat and Kish. Simualailum, his successor, was able to finish the wall around Babylon that Sumuabum had started. Sumualialum was also active in putting down rebellions in Kish and in destroying Kazallu. The reigns of Sabium, Apil-Sin, and Sinmuballit are little known except that they continued to rule the conquered territory. Sinmuballit, on the other hand, is known for his victories over Rim-Sim, which saved Babylon from further invasion. Sinmuballit’s son, Hammurabi, would then succeed him as king.

Hammurabi’s kingdom consisted of just a few towns in the surrounding region when he first came to power: Dilbat, Sippar, Kish, and Borsippa. By 1761, Hammurabi had conquered Eshnunna, inheriting its well-established commercial trading routes as well as the economic stability that came with it. Hammurabi’s army quickly conquered Assyria and parts of the Zagros Mountains. Under the Third Dynasty of Ur, Babylon eventually seized possession of Mari in 1760, encompassing nearly all of Mesopotamia. Hammurabi conquered Larsa from Rim-Sin I in his thirty-first year as king, taking control of the lucrative urban centres of Nippur, Ur, Uruk, and Isin. Because of his success in taking control of Southern Mesopotamia and establishing Babylon as the core of his Empire, Hammurabi was one of the most famous kings during the First Babylonian Dynasty. After that, Babylon would rule Mesopotamia for over a thousand years.

The Babylonian Empire started to rapidly collapse after Hammurabi’s death, eventually reverting to a small kingdom. The capital city of Babylon was sacked by the Hittites under king Mursili I at the end of the First Babylonian Dynasty.

Mughal Empire

The Mughal Empire was a South Asian early modern empire. The empire spanned two centuries, from the western outskirts of the Indus basin, northern Afghanistan in the northwest, and Kashmir in the north, to the highlands of modern-day Assam and Bangladesh in the east, and the Deccan plateau uplands in south India.

Babur, a warrior chieftain from what is now Uzbekistan, is said to have established the Mughal empire in 1526 by defeating the Sultan of Delhi, Ibrahim Lodhi, in the First Battle of Panipat and sweeping down the plains of Upper India with the help of the neighbouring Safavid and Ottoman empires. This imperial system lasted until 1720, shortly after the death of Aurangzeb, the empire’s last major emperor, under whose reign the empire expanded to its greatest geographical extent. The empire was formally dissolved by the British Raj after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, when it was reduced to the area in and around Old Delhi, particularly during the East India Company’s rule in India.

While military warfare was used to build and maintain the Mughal empire, it did not violently suppress the cultures and peoples it came to govern, instead of balancing them by instituting new administrative practices and integrating diverse ruling elites, resulting in the more powerful, centralised, and standardised rule. Agricultural taxes, imposed by Akbar, were the foundation of the empire’s collective wealth. These taxes, which were paid in silver currency and amounted to well over half of a peasant cultivator’s output, caused peasants and artisans to join larger markets.

India’s economic growth was aided by the empire’s relative stability for most of the 17th Century. The Mughal courts became even wealthier as the European presence in the Indian Ocean grew, as did their demand for Indian raw and finished goods. During the reign of Shah Jahan, the Mughal elite indulged in more ostentatious consumption, resulting in increased patronage of art, literary styles, textiles, and architecture. Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, Lahore Fort, and the Taj Mahal are among the Mughal UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South Asia. The Taj Mahal is listed as the “jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the widely admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.” Despite the fact that Persian was the empire’s dominant and “official” language, the elite spoke Urdu, a Persianised version of Hindustani. Was written in a Perso-Arabic script known as Nastaliq, with literary conventions and specialised vocabulary borrowed from Persian, Arabic, and Turkic languages. The Mughals spoke this language, and by 1700, they had formalised it.

The British East India Company, which was founded in 1600, was initially only involved in trading with the Mughal Empire. However, as the empire collapsed, the British gained more power over Mughal rulers. At the Battle of Plassey in 1757, British forces defeated the Nawab of Bengal and French forces. Following that, the East India Company gained political influence over most of the Indian subcontinent. Mughal emperors kept their thrones, but they had no real influence. The British exiled the last Mughal emperor during the Indian Mutiny of 1857–59.

British Empire

The British Empire consisted of the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories governed or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It all started with England’s overseas colonies and trading posts between the late 16th and early 18th Centuries. It was the largest empire in history at the time, and it ruled the world for over a century. By 1913, the British Empire ruled over 412 million citizens or 23% of the world’s population, and by 1925, it had taken over 24% of the planet’s total land area. It was dubbed ‘the kingdom on which the sun never sets at the height of its dominance because at any given time, at least one of its territories experienced daylight.

Portugal and Spain led European exploration of the globe during the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th Centuries, establishing vast overseas empires in the process. Envious of these empires’ vast riches, England, France, and the Netherlands developed their own colonies and trade networks in the Americas and Asia. Following a series of wars with the Netherlands and France in the 17th and 18th Centuries, England became the dominant colonial force in North America. Following the conquest of Mughal Bengal by the East India Company at the Battle of Plassey in 1757, Britain became the dominant force on the Indian subcontinent.

By 1783, Britain had lost some of its oldest and most populated colonies in North America due to the American War of Independence. After that, Britain’s attention shifted to Asia, Africa, and the Pacific. Following France’s defeat in the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), Britain emerged as the 19th Century’s dominant naval and colonial force, expanding its imperial holdings. The “Pax Britannica” was later coined to describe the time of relative peace (1815–1914), during which the British Empire rose to become the global hegemon. In addition to the formal influence of its colonies, Britain’s domination of much of world trade meant it effectively dominated the economies of several areas, including Asia and Latin America.

Germany and the United States had started to question Britain’s economic dominance by the turn of the century. Tensions between Britain and Germany on military and economic grounds were major causes of the First World War, during which Britain depended heavily on its empire. The conflict put a huge strain on the country’s military, financial, and human resources. Despite the fact that the empire expanded rapidly after World War I, Britain was no longer the world’s pre-eminent industrial or military force. The Imperial Japanese Empire occupied Britain’s colonies in East Asia and Southeast Asia during WWII. Despite Britain and its allies’ final triumph, the empire’s collapse was hastened by the damage to British prestige. India, Britain’s most valuable and populous possession, gained independence as part of a wider decolonisation process in which most of the empire’s territories were given independence. The Suez Crisis deepened Britain’s fall as a global power, and the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China marked the end of the British Empire for many. The United Kingdom retains control of fourteen overseas territories. Many former British colonies joined the Commonwealth of Nations after independence. Sixteen of them, including the United Kingdom, have a traditional ruler, Queen Elizabeth II, who is currently reigning.

Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire was one of the world’s most powerful and long-lasting dynasties. For more than 600 years, this Islamic superpower ruled over vast swaths of the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and North Africa. The Sultan, the chief executive, was granted absolute religious and political power over his subjects. Although many Western Europeans see the Ottoman Empire as a challenge, many historians see it as a source of regional stability and security. Some important achievements of the Ottoman Empire were in arts, science, religion and culture.

Under the leadership of Osman I, Orhan, Murad I, and Bayezid I, the Ottoman Turks formed a formal government and extended their territory.

Mehmed II led the Ottoman Turks to conquer Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, in 1453. The Byzantine Empire’s 1,000-year rule came to an end with this. Sultan Mehmed renamed the city Istanbul and made it the Ottoman Empire’s new capital. Istanbul grew into a major international trade and cultural hub.

During the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire reached its pinnacle between 1520 and 1566. During this time, there was a lot of influence, prosperity, and wealth. Suleiman developed a standardised legal structure and embraced various types of art and literature. Suleiman was regarded as a religious leader as well as a political ruler by many Muslims. The empire grew during Sultan Suleiman’s reign.

The Ottomans were renowned for their artistic, scientific, and medical achievements. During the reign of Suleiman, the Magnificent, Istanbul and other major cities throughout the empire were known as artistic hotspots. Calligraphy, drawing, poetry, textiles and carpet weaving, ceramics and music were among the most common types of art. Ottoman architecture also contributed to the development of the society of the time. During this period, magnificent mosques and public buildings were built.

There was religious freedom in the Ottoman Empire. Subjects that were non-Muslims were given some money so that they could manage their own affairs. This was possible via the millet system.

The Ottoman Empire was already in decline at the outbreak of World War I. The Ottoman army joined the Central Powers in the war in 1914 and was defeated in October 1918. Most Ottoman territories were split between Britain, France, Greece, and Russia after the Mudros Armistice. When the title of Ottoman Sultan was abolished in 1922, the Ottoman Empire came to an end. When Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938), an army officer, established the independent Republic of Turkey on October 29, 1923, it was proclaimed a republic. From 1923 until his death in 1938, he served as Turkey’s first president, enacting reforms that quickly secularised and westernised the country. and carpet weaving, ceramics and music were among the most common types of art. Ottoman architecture also contributed to the development of the society of the time. During this period, magnificent mosques There was religious freedom in the Ottoman Empire. Subjects that were non-Muslims were given some money so that they could manage their own affairs. This was possible via the millet system. The Ottoman Empire was already in decline at the outbreak of World War I. The Ottoman army joined the Central Powers in the war in 1914 and was defeated in October 1918. Most Ottoman territories were split between Britain, France, Greece, and Russia after the Mudros Armistice. When the title of Ottoman Sultan was abolished in 1922, the Ottoman Empire came to an end. When Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938), an army officer, established the independent Republic of Turkey on October 29, 1923, it was proclaimed a republic. From 1923 until his death in 1938, he served as Turkey’s first president, enacting reforms that quickly secularised and westernised the country.

Conclusion

As can be seen, all of the empires that formerly governed the majority of the world have suffered some form of downfall. There isn’t a single Dynasty that still reigns supreme over the majority of the globe. With the exception of Allah’s Supreme Dynasty, they have all vanished. This has existed since the dawn of time and will continue to exist until the end of time. Aside from that, Allah has guaranteed that only one more sovereignty, Khilafat, will reign until the Day of Judgment.

The Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him" said:

‘There will be Prophethood for as long as Allah wills it to be, then He will remove it when He wills, then there will be Khilafat on the Prophetic method and it will be for as long as Allah wills, then He will remove it when He wills, then there will be biting kingship for as long as Allah wills, then He will remove it when He wills, then there will be oppressive kingship for as long as Allah wills, then He will remove it when He wills, and then there will be Khilafat upon the Prophetic method’ and then he remained silent”

(Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 5378)

This Hadith clearly demonstrates that after empires fall apart, there will be Khalifat who will endure until the end of time. We Ahmadis are privileged to be able to accept the system of Khilafat, but the rest of the world is still waiting for the Messiah to arrive.

Despite the fact that the Ahmadiyya Khilafat has not conquered any area or possessed any earthly dominion like the worldly empires, it continues to exert influence over millions of people. This is something that no worldly dynasty can accomplish. No one will be able to halt the system of Khilafat from flourishing till the end of time, as Allah has decreed.

References

Disclaimer

This article was originally published in the Annual Printed Edition of Majallatul Jamia

Picture of Mirza Anas

Mirza Anas

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