Establishment of the first Arab-Islamic war fleet

The Arabs achieved a distinguished position in the marine skills acquired by nature, in addition to the natural talents they possessed, and the inherited knowledge they preserved, they excelled in the arts and building sailing ships, they were the first to learn to ride the sea, and they waded the depths of the distant seas with their primitive boats made of painted papyrus, with bitumen, they were the first to use the stars and planets to plot their paths on bodies of water.

Arab achievements in marine science

The heavenly dome still shines with its immortal Arabic names,They were also the pioneers in refining and developing the astrolabe, they invented the sextant, invented the magnetic compass, were the first to divide it into 32 parts, and were the first to use the water clock in navigation, they are credited with drawing navigational maps, and establishing coastal navigation, and distributing lines of longitude and latitude.

 The Arabs were also the first to use navigation, the word “navigators” appeared in Akkadian, as well as in Sumerian, there is historical evidence that the Arabs were the first to invent the sea anchor (the ship’s hook).

For a long time in the first century AD, the Yemeni coast in the south of the Arabian Peninsula was crowded with Arab ships and navigators,this shore was inhabited by the Himyar tribe, whose members were known in this century for their maritime activity, as they were in constant contact with the cities of Somalia, Eritrea, India, and Persia. 

It is worth noting that Abyssinia was founded by the Arabs of the south who ruled Somalia and its environs, and that Zanzibar was ruled by an Arab sultan, all of these people came to this country and settled in it with huge communities of Arabs by sea, because of their navigational activity, which was the reason for their spread in most of the countries and coastal cities that, it is located on the coast of the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Persian Gulf.

Islamic conquests at their beginning

The Islamic conquests at their beginning, especially in the era of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, were dominated by land wars, this is because the geographical nature of the Arabs and their surrounding neighbors was dominated by the large area of land.

Heading to Yemen, the Levant, Egypt, the northern African coast, and even the Persian Empire does not require traveling by sea or traveling by ship due to the lack of a maritime obstacle separating those countries, but rather land borders that require means of transportation walking on land.

The emergence of the Arab armies at that time mainly used horses and camels as means of transportation and tools of war at the time.

 Reasons for the emergence of the Islamic fleet

  • After the Arab and Islamic armies took control of the states of the Levant and Egypt after a series of land wars, which were under the control of the Byzantine Roman Empire, it was necessary to protect the coasts of that country from the naval raids of the Byzantines, who had complete control over the Mediterranean, until it was called at the time the Sea of Rum as evidence of their great influence in it and their complete control over it.
  • Invading the sea islands opposite the Levant and its coasts, due to the abundance of experienced hands and raw materials for building fleets and naval ships.
    • Continuing trade relations with the countries of the Mediterranean, especially between Egypt and the Levant, as this sea was in the control of the Byzantines.
    •  The religious motive for conquering the sea, as this idea haunted the Levantines, as it has been proven from hadiths that urge this.

        Create a fleet

        The first Islamic fleet


        The idea of establishing a naval war fleet had been on the radar of Muawiyah Ibn Abi Sufyan, the governor of the Levant, since the era of Caliph Omar bin Al-Khattab, when Muawiyah realized that the power of the Byzantines lay in the sea, and that this was the reason for their strength and survival, so he raised the matter to Caliph Omar bin Al-Khattab, and explained to him the importance of that, the reason for his great suffering in conquering the coastal cities of the Levant was because of the presence of the Byzantine fleet, but Omar rejected his request, out of fear for Muslims, and due to their lack of experience at sea.

        During the reign of Uthman, Muawiyah repeatedly insisted on his request to ride the sea until his request was granted, as the Caliph directed the order to him and Abdullah bin Abi al-Sarh to cooperate to provide all the necessary capabilities to build an Islamic naval fleet to repel Roman attacks on the coasts of Egypt and the Levant and to secure the borders of the Islamic State by land and sea.

        The Islamic naval fleet was built during the caliphate of Uthman ibn Affan, between the year twenty-four of the Hijra and the thirty-fifth year, when Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan submitted to him his request to establish a naval fleet, and he agreed to the idea, as we previously mentioned, provided that the maritime jihad (Recruitment) would be optional.

        The first thing Muawiyah did was establish the naval fleet he built the city of Taetus, then restored the cities of Akko and Tyre, and renewed the role of industry in them, the reason for choosing them was To be a center for his departure towards the conquest of Cyprus, and to benefit from the experiences of its non-Muslim residents in building ships, Muawiyah wrote to them to restore the ships that were on the shores. Muawiyah also appointed a special command to supervise the naval fleets, equip them, and follow up on their affairs. In return, he was busy in manufacturing Ships in Egypt as well.

        It was stated in the book: (A History of Syria and Lebanon), by the well-known writer Philip Hitha: “Muawiyah bin Abi Sufyan had gained possession of well-equipped Byzantine shipyards in Acre, so he set about operating them so that they became the first of their kind after the House of Industry in Alexandria, the embarrassment at that time was bitter, so it was This industry supplies the necessary wood, and the Umayyads moved these basins to the city of Tyre.

        When Caliph Othman Ibn Affan referred to Muawiyah bin Abi Sufyan, the governor of the Levant, to continue working on establishing the Islamic naval fleet, within the framework of developing and working to increase and raise the efficiency of the Islamic armies, as he personally supervised the project to establish this large naval fleet.

        When a naval fleet of ships was established in the era of the Islamic Caliphate, the Muslims collected the ships of this fleet from the ports of the Levant and Egypt, and then they set out to build ships in the Houses of Industry, and introduced weapons to this fleet, so that this fleet became the first military naval fleet adopted by the Muslims in a military strategy, they went down in history with it.


        Thus, the naval weapon entered Islamic military strategy for the first time in Muslim history, and this emerging weapon began to practice naval operations with amazing speed.

        This fleet repelled successive Roman attacks, the most important of these battles that took place during the reign of Uthman was the Battle of “Dhat Al-Sawari” in the year 34 AH, where the Romans gathered an army consisting of five hundred or six hundred ships - according to Al-Tabari - to fight the Muslims, so Muawiyah ordered his commander Abdullah bin Abi Al-Sarh to go to them, and he met them at sea with a fleet consisting of two hundred ships and a great battle took place between them in which the Romans were defeated and their fleet was destroyed, and thousands of them were killed and wounded. Byzantine Emperor Constantine II was wounded and fled the scene of the battle.

        The borders of the Islamic State were secured with this victory, and the prestige of sea riding among Muslims was lost.

        The idea of building a large fleet that would have sovereignty over the Mediterranean was crystallized, and Alexandria was transformed into a great shipbuilding house, employing Egyptian workers who had mastered the craft at the hands of the Romans.









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