AD 632: Beginning of the Caliphate
The term caliphate refers to the religious and political Islamic state established by the followers of Muhammad, who died in AD 632. The word caliph comes from the Arabic word khal fah, meaning "successor." Thus, the caliphs, as successors of Muhammad, claimed to rule in his name according to an inherited authority. The caliphs were chosen from members of Muhammad's Quraysh tribe until the 16th century, when Muslim rule was transferred to a Turkish caliph in the Ottoman Empire.

The size of the Muslim world increased rapidly following Muhammad's death. The armies of Islam set out from the Arabian Peninsula to make conquests in nearly every direction. At its height the Muslim empire stretched across North Africa and up into Spain, while eastward it incorporated the entire Near East and extended into India. Later, after the Quraysh caliphate line had ended, the Muslim world came to include the European Balkans as well.

The Quraysh caliphate can be divided into three general periods. The first era began with Muhammad's father-in-law, Abu Bakr, in AD 632 and ended with the third of his successors, 'Ali, in AD 661. The next era, called the Umayyad caliphate, lasted until AD 750. This was followed by the 'Abbasid caliphate, which lasted from AD 750 until AD 1258, though from AD 945 onwards the 'Abbasids were caliphs in name only. There were, in addition, many other local caliphates, as expected in such a large empire with the era's poor communication.

Most of these caliphates were extinguished by Turks, who gradually began encroaching from the east in the 11th century. By AD 1453, when the Ottoman Turks conquered the last remnants of the Byzantine Empire, they had become the supreme political power in the Muslim world.

AD 632 - AD 1453: Era of the Caliphate
The political structure of the Islamic states in the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain was called the caliphate; the term is from the Arabic word for "successor." The caliphs were successors of Muhammad, the founder of Islam, who died in AD 632. Arab conquests that began soon after Muhammad's death incorporated vast territories into the realm of Islam within a few decades. The political intent was to govern them all from one center, which eventually became Baghdad, in what is today Iraq. In the long run this intent proved impossible to realize, and many smaller caliphates developed. The first four caliphs were based in Mecca, on the Arabian Peninsula. The last of these, 'Ali, lost the leadership to Mu'awiyah, a fellow member of his Umayyad clan, in AD 661, the year he was murdered by a member of Mu'awiyah's sect. This change of power began the Umayyad Caliphate, which eventually made its capital at Damascus, capital of modern Syria. This caliphate lasted until AD 750. The last of the Umayyads was defeated in battle by a member of the rival Abbasid family, and the Abbasid Caliphate was established. It lasted until AD 1258, with its capital at Baghdad. In AD 1258 the Mongol hordes arrived from the east and destroyed the city and its caliphate.

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hapax says, "This is a Sunni history, and you should probably say so. Shi'i Muslims would take MAJOR issue with what you wrote here!" Done. If anyone is offended, I am sorry. Consider this a mea culpa.