In 637 A.D., only five years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, ArabMuslims shattered the might of the Iranian Sassanians at the battle of Qadisiya,and the invaders began to reach into the lands east of Iran. By the middle ofthe eighth century, the rising Abbasid Dynasty was able to subdue the Arabinvasion, putting an end to the prolonged struggle. Peace prevailed under therule of the caliph Harun al Rashid (785-809) and his son, and learningflourished in such Central Asian cities as Samarkand. From the seventh throughthe ninth centuries, most inhabitants of what is present-day Afghanistan,Pakistan, southern parts of the former Soviet Union, and areas of northern Indiawere converted to Sunni Islam.
In the eighth and ninth centuries ancestors of many of today'sTurkic-speaking Afghans settled in the Hindu Kush area (partly to obtain bettergrazing land) and began to assimilate much of the culture and language of thePashtun tribes already present there (see Ethnic Groups, ch. 2).
By the middle of the ninth century, Abbasid rule had faltered, andsemi-independent states began to emerge throughout the empire. In the Hindu Kusharea, three short-lived, local dynasties ascended to power. The best known ofthe three, the Samanid, extended its rule from Bukhara as far south as India andwest as Iran. Although Arab Muslim intellectual life still was centered inBaghdad, Iranian Muslim scholarship, that is, Shia Islam, predominated in theSamanid areas at this time. By the mid-tenth century, the Samanid Dynasty hadcrumbled in the face of attacks from Turkish tribes to the north and from theGhaznavids, a rising dynasty to the south.
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