2000-1700 B.C.E.: Abraham, spiritual founder of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, is born in southern Mesopotamia.
According to tradition, Abraham (the Bible refers to him as Abram and later Abraham; the Koran refers to him as Ibrahim) is chosen by God to spread the message of monotheism. Abraham's wife, Sarah, unable to have a child, tells him to conceive a child with their Egyptian servant Hagar, and Ishmael is born. Sarah, however, later has a son, Isaac, with her husband. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all consider themselves Abraham's spiritual descendants. Muslims claim descent from the firstborn son, Ishmael; Jews track their descent through the line of Isaac and his son Jacob.
c. 4 B.C.E.: Jesus of Nazareth is born.
Jesus is the central figure of Christianity and is considered to be the son of God. Muslims also recognize the importance of Jesus, but as a prophet, not the son of God. Jesus was a Jew whose father was a carpenter in the Galilean village of Nazareth. Although the exact date is uncertain, he was probably born about 4 B.C.E. The New Testament gospels and the Koran state that Jesus had a miraculous birth: His mother, Mary, became pregnant by the power of God. In his late 20s Jesus began a career of teaching and healing. Most of his teachings were about the coming of the Kingdom of God and about personal humility before other humans and God. When Jesus was about 32, he was crucified in Jerusalem. According to Christian belief, Jesus rose from the dead after three days, visited his disciples, and then ascended into heaven.
622: The Hijra: The Prophet Muhammad moves from Mecca to Medina.
In the Islamic faith, Muhammad is considered the last in a long line of prophets of Allah (God). The Quran, Islam's holy book, is said to have been revealed to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel. The Hijra marks the beginning of the growth of Islam into a world faith. The Muslim calendar counts dates from the Hijra, which is why Muslim dates have the suffix A.H. (After Hijra).Related Links
1095-1291: As the influence of Islam grows, Christian Crusaders from Europe come to the Middle East to fight its spread.
Muslims have ruled Jerusalem since 638, but Christians are permitted to visit the city on pilgrimage. By the 11th century, however, the Seljuk Turks, now in control of Jerusalem, begin to prevent such pilgrimages. To reclaim Jerusalem from the Muslims, Pope Urban II helps launch the first of what will ultimately be seven military assaults that run through the 13th century. The Crusaders eventually capture Jerusalem in 1099, but overall fail in their quest: The Crusades do not result in any permanent conquests in the Middle East, nor do they slow the spread of Islam. Another part of their legacy: The Crusades bear tremendous responsibility for the intolerance that develops between Christians and Muslims as well as Jews and followers of eastern Christian churches, who also fell victim to the Crusades.
1860-1920: Christian Arabs leave the Middle East in large numbers, many emigrating to the United States.
This first wave of immigration from the Middle East to the U.S. is led by Christian Arabs, mostly from Syrian and Lebanese provinces of the Ottoman Empire. Increasingly frequent skirmishes between Muslims and Christians living there, the worst of which is a massacre of several thousand Christians in Damascus, Syria, prompt this exodus. Between 1860 and 1920, several hundred families a year -- then several thousand a year -- leave the region.
1881: Anti-Jewish riots (pogroms) in southern Russia lead Alexander III to expel Jews from the region.
With the czarist government under threat from rioting revolutionaries, Alexander III issues a new policy against the Jews, whom he insists are responsible for the riots. The May Laws state that Jews are forbidden to settle outside the towns and shtetls (townlets); deeds of sale and lease of real estate in the name of Jews outside the towns and shtetls are canceled; and Jews are prohibited from trading on Sundays and Christian holidays. Where Alexander II's policies towards Jews had been liberal, Alexander III's lead to their systematic expulsion from towns and villages where they had lived for almost a century. Though the pogroms stop, the threat of riots is kept alive by an anti-Semitic press. By 1914 almost two and a half million Jews will flee Russia.
February 1896: Theodor Herzl publishes his vision for a state where Jews could live free from persecution.
After covering the Dreyfus Affair, a trial of a Jewish officer in the French army who was wrongfully accused as a traitor, Theodor Herzl, a Jewish journalist from Vienna, publishes a pamphlet called "The Jewish State." Disturbed by the wave of anti-Semitism set off by the trial, Herzl calls for a state in which Jews can live without fear of persecution. He travels the world over to find monetary and political support for his vision.
1897: The Zionist Organization is founded by Theodor Herzl.
The Zionist Organization is founded at the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, with the goal of working towards the establishment of a secure home for the Jewish people in Palestine. In 1960, the group changes its name to the World Zionist Organization.
1901: The Jewish National Fund is established to purchase land in Palestine.
Under the guidance of Theodor Herzl, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) is established to purchase land in Palestine. The JNF makes its first purchase in 1903, and at the 1948 declaration of the State of Israel, Jews will own nearly 7 percent of the whole country.
1902-1932: Wahhabi leader Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud recaptures a major city in Saudi Arabia, beginning a 30-year campaign to unify the Arabian Peninsula.
Wahhabi leader Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud is the founder of Saudi Arabia and its first king. He spends his youth, along with his family, the Saud family -- leaders of the ultraorthodox Wahhabi movement in Islam -- in exile. In 1902 Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud and a small group of relatives and servants recapture Riyadh (now Saudi Arabia's country's capital and major city) and reclaim power for his family.
Over the next 30 years, ibn Saud will lead a campaign to unify, under his rule, the many warring tribes who live on the Arabian Peninsula. This unification lays the foundations for the modern state of Saudi Arabia, which is officially recognized on September 23, 1932. Many people in the Arabian Peninsula practice a revivalist form of Islam called Wahhabi Islam, after its founder, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. It is sometimes unfairly characterized as "extremist" in today's media and society.
1905: Attendees at the Seventh Zionist Congress decide that Palestine is the only suitable place for a Jewish state.
At the Sixth Zionist Congress two years earlier, delegates had agreed to consider the establishment of a Jewish settlement in East Africa. But after considering a site in Uganda (now Kenya), attendees at the Seventh Congress (held in Basel, Switzerland), conclude that an East African site would be inappropriate for a mass Jewish settlement.
1906: The All-India Muslim League is founded by Aga Khan III.
The Aga Khan, a hereditary spiritual leader, is elected president of the All-India Muslim League. He will hold the position until his resignation in 1912. The League is founded to protect the political rights of Muslims living in India.
1909: Tel Aviv is built by the Jews.
A group of Jews intent on founding an alternative city to the crowded, predominantly Arab port city of Jaffa buy uninhabited sand dunes to the north and create a garden suburb. They name it Tel Aviv, which translates to "Hill of Spring." Tel Aviv becomes the first modern Jewish city, with a population of 35,000 by 1921 and 200,000 by 1948.
1917: In the Balfour Declaration, the British promise to help create a national home for the Jews in Palestine.
Since the late 1800s, Zionists had wanted a Jewish state to be created in Palestine, part of the Jews' holy land. Though the wording of the Balfour Declaration is vague, it implies that Great Britain will support the Zionists in establishing such a state.
"His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."
The Arabs perceive the Balfour Declaration as an act of British dishonesty. They believe the British had promised them to help with the establishment of a united Arab country reaching from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf in return for their support during World War I.
1920s: The first mosque built in America, called the Mother Mosque, is built in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The Mother Mosque, the first built in America, will serve the Muslim population of Cedar Rapids for 40 years before a second is built. The Iowa city is also home to the first burial ground exclusively for Muslims in the U.S.
1921: An ancient part of the city of Carthage is discovered in Tunisia.
A holy place from the ancient Punic period in Carthage is discovered in Tunisia in 1921. Carthage, originally built in 814 B.C.E. as a colony of the Phoenician Empire (1200-330 B.C.E.), was completely destroyed by fire by the Romans.
July 24, 1922: The League of Nations issues a mandate to Britain to establish a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.
Following the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the territories formerly under the empire's control are divided between France and Britain. In 1920, the principal Allied powers award Britain the mandate for Palestine. Two years later, the League of Nations confirms the mandate, which lays out the terms under which Britain is given responsibility for the temporary administration of Palestine on behalf of both the Jews and Arabs living there. According to the mandate, Britain "shall be responsible for placing the country [Palestine] under such political, administrative, and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home ... and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race or religion." (from the Balfour Declaration)
October 29, 1923: The Republic of Turkey is established.
Mustafa Kemal wins unanimous election as the first president of Turkey. Though nearly all of the population practices Islam, Kemal's government assumes control of religious functions so that religion will not interfere in the affairs of state. Under his leadership, the country undergoes Western-style economic, social, and political modernization.
In the first wave of reforms, Turkey abolishes the offices of its religious head of state (the caliphate) and the courts (the sharia). Separate educational and judicial systems are introduced. The country adopts Sunday as the official weekend holiday (the traditional Muslim day of rest is Friday), as well as the Western calendar.
1927-1929: The Wahhabi Ikhwan turn against central Arabian ruler ibn Saud.
The Ikhwan (translated as "brethren") is a group of Muslims who practice Wahhabism, a puritan form of Islam. Ibn Saud had recruited the Ikhwan to help massacre his non-Wahhabi rivals and add Mecca and the Hejaz region of central Arabia to his domain. He loses his authority over the Ikhwan, however, when he chooses not to battle rivals who hold protective treaties with Britain. In 1929, ibn Saud confronts the Ikhwan militarily, and they are forced to surrender to the British in Kuwait in January 1930.
Not all of the Ikhwan revolt, however, and those who remain loyal to ibn Saud continue to receive government support and remain an influential religious force. They are eventually absorbed into the Saudi Arabian National Guard.
1928: The Muslim Brotherhood is founded as an Islamic revivalist movement in Egypt.
Elementary school teacher Hasan al-Banna founds the Muslim Brotherhood based on his ideas that Islam should not only be a religious observance, but a comprehensive way of life. He supplements the traditional Islamic education with Tarbeyah training for the Society's male students that includes education, scouting, and militia-type activities to resist the British occupation.
Over the next several decades, the Brotherhood becomes increasingly involved in politics and is banned, reinstated, and then banned again in 1954 by the Egyptian government for its alleged involvement in the attempted assassination of Egyptian president Nasser. Nasser's successor, Anwar al-Sadat, once in office promises the group that sharia (Islamic law) will be implemented as the Egyptian law and releases all imprisoned Brothers, or members of the group. But in September 1981, he himself is assassinated by four men in a group known as Jama'at Al Jihad, after signing a peace treaty with Israel.
Hamas, in Palestine, claims to be the military wing of the Palestinian Brotherhood.
August 1929: Palestinian Arabs attack Jews following disputes over prayer rights to the Wailing Wall.
In 1928, Arab Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem begin to clash over their respective communal religious rights at the Wailing Wall (known to Muslims as al-Buraq). Controversies about the site were inflamed by nationalists on both sides and resulted in full-scale riots. British troops were called in to restore order. The week-long riots leave 133 Jews dead and 339 wounded, almost all by Arabs. Arab casualties include 116 dead and 232 wounded, most by British troops. Another result of the riots was the termination of the ancient Jewish community Hebron and the Jewish community of Beer-Sheva.
1932: The first Maccabiah Games are held in Israel.
Jewish athletes from all over the world go to Tel Aviv, Israel, to compete in an Olympic-style event also known as the "Jewish Olympics." First held in 1932 and 1935, the Maccabiah Games are suspended from 1938-50. The Games resume in 1950, and have been held in Israel every four years since.
May 18, 1953: The Israeli Knesset establishes Yad Vashem, a memorial to victims of the Holocaust.
The Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, serves as a repository for archives and books on the Holocaust and for biographical information about those who died in it. The compound houses two museums, exhibit halls, and monuments.Related Links
July 15, 1958: Lebanon's Christian and Muslim factions engage in civil war.
With Egypt and Syria's pan-Arab movement stirring up sentiments among Lebanon's religious groups, Lebanon's fragile coalition government weakens. The Lebanese army's loyalty to President Kamil Shamun wavers. With the outbreak of civil war between Christians and Muslims, Shamun calls on the U.S. to send troops to secure peace. The U.S., wanting to avoid another coup (as had just occurred in Iraq), sends 5,000 Marines to Lebanon.Related Links
February 6, 1962: Marc Chagall presents windows for the new synagogue of the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Israel.
Chagall's windows, which depict scenes of the 12 sons of Jacob, are presented at the synagogue's dedication ceremony. Four of the windows suffer damaged in the Six-Day War in 1967, and Chagall installs replacements in 1969. Three windows are still marked by bullet holes.Related Links
November 4, 1964: Critical of the Shah's new Western-influenced policies, Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini is exiled to Turkey.
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and other religious conservatives are angered by policies that they believe contradict Islamic customs. Outspoken on a number of issues, Khomeini's denunciations of the Shah's Status of Forces bill (which allows U.S. military personnel diplomatic immunity for crimes committed in Iran) results in his exile to Turkey. In 1965, Khomeini moves to Iraq, where he remains until 1978.
1965: Zaynab al-Ghazali, Islamic activist and founder of the Muslim Women's Association, is imprisoned in Egypt.
At the same time that President Gamal Abd al-Nasser's government cracks down on the Muslim Brotherhood, other groups suspected of agitating the public against the government are also shut down. One such group is Zaynab al-Ghazali's Muslim Women's Association. Al-Ghazali founded the Muslim Women's Association in 1936, at age 18, to instill the doctrines of Islam in women's minds, teach them about their rights and duties, and call for the establishment of an Islamic state guided by the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad. (The Sunnah is the example of practical leadership and the ideological guidance provided by Muhammad, which transforms belief in God into a culture and a civilization, and enables men and women to evolve a way of life.) Brought to trial in 1966 and sentenced to a life term, al-Ghazali is released in 1971 by Nasser's successor, Anwar al-Sadat. She continues to be a proponent of the establishment of a united Islamic state.Related Links
January 16, 1979: Iranian Revolution: The Shah is overthrown.
During the late 1970s, dissent and demonstrations protesting the dictatorship of the Shah increase in Iran. The writings of the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini, Shii Muslim Supreme Leader, begin to circulate widely. Throughout the final months of the 1978, demonstrators seize government buildings, shut down businesses with massive strikes, and assassinate government officials. On January 16, 1979, the Shah flees Iran; Khomeini returns on February 1. Less than a month later, on February 12, the prime minister flees as well.
February 1, 1979: Ayatollah Khomeini returns to Iran from exile.
After the Shah is driven from Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini returns from exile to a welcoming crowd of several million. The Islamic Revolutionary Council is formed, and the country is declared the Islamic Republic of Iran on April 1. Khomeini and his supporters blame the Shah and Western influences for oppressing Iran and corrupting Iranian Islamic traditions.
1979-2002: Islamic fundamentalism takes hold in Iran.
Under the Ayatollah Khomeini, law codes based on Islam are introduced in Iran, ending the Shah's radical modernization policies. Khomeini's strict version of Islamic religious standards become the law of everyday life. Some Iranians are upset by the strict religious system. Many people who accepted Western cultural influences leave Iran, including most Jews and Christians. The "Islamicization" of the government continues into the 21st century.Related Links
November 1979: Militant Islamic extremists seize the Holy Mosque of Mecca to protest increasing Western influence, but are defeated by Saudi forces.
A group of Sunni Muslim fundamentalists calling for the overthrow of the pro-Western Saudi government barricades themselves inside the Holy Mosque of Mecca. After two weeks of fighting, the siege ends, leaving 27 Saudi soldiers and more than 100 rebels dead. Sixty-three more rebels are later publicly beheaded. Related Links
February 1982: Syrian forces suppress a Muslim Brotherhood uprising in Hama, killing 10,000 to 30,000 people.
In 1976, the arch-conservative Muslim Brotherhood leads an armed insurgency against the al-Asad regime, which is criticized for being secular and representing only minority interests. This particular public demonstration is met with heavy artillery fire and ends in massive casualties.
September 16, 1982: Christian militiamen massacre hundreds at the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.
Lebanese Christian Maronite president-elect Bashir Gemayel is assassinated. Two days later, Christian militias allied with Israel against the PLO enter the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut and massacre some 800 unarmed Palestinians. The Kahan Commission (an Israeli commission of inquiry) finds that Defense Minister Ariel Sharon bears personal responsibility because he did not order 'appropriate measures for preventing or reducing the chances of a massacre.' As a result, Sharon gave up his defense portfolio but remained in the cabinet.
1983: A Banquet of Seaweed by the Syrian novelist Haidar Haidar is banned in Egypt.
Islamists in Egypt accuse the book A Banquet of Seaweed (which isn't published in Egypt until 2000) of blasphemy. The plot focuses on two leftist Iraqi intellectuals who flee the injustice of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in the late 1970s. The Egyptian authorities have banned many books and films in recent years because of Islamist complaints that they contain anti-Islamic material.
December 9, 1987: The Palestinian intifada, a spontaneous popular uprising against Israeli occupation, starts in the West Bank and Gaza.
Young Palestinian demonstrators hurl stones and incendiary devices at Israeli troops in the Occupied Territories. The Israeli military responds with rubber bullets and live ammunition, consistent with its "iron-fist policy." Curfews are imposed on Palestinians, and arrests and deportations follow. More than 20,000 people, both Israelis and Palestinians, are killed or injured between 1987 and 1993.Related Links
1989: Osama bin Laden founds the al-Qaeda network.
In 1989 Osama bin Laden forms al-Qaeda. Meaning "the base," al-Qaeda grows out of the network of Arab volunteers who had gone to Afghanistan in the 1980s to fight the Soviets under the banner of Islam. Its creation coincides with the Soviets' withdrawal from Afghanistan. The charismatic bin Laden uses the contacts he had made there to organize this international group of motivated Islamic radicals.
Since 1996, al-Qaeda has been headquartered in Afghanistan, where bin Laden was able to forge a close relationship with the ruling Taliban. Al-Qaeda, however, is thought to operate in 40 to 50 countries, not only in the Middle East and Asia but also in North America and Europe. A loosely knit group, it operates across continents as a chain of interlocking networks comprising different groups, or "cells."
While bin Laden is the founder and leader of al-Qaeda, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri is regarded as the mastermind of many of its most infamous operations, including the attacks on two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 and the September 11 attacks against New York and Washington.
February 14, 1989: Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran calls on Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses.
Many Muslims believe that The Satanic Verses,
a novel about a young Indian's life in Britain and the roots of his Muslim faith, irreverently fictionalizes the early Islamic community and Muslim life. Khomeini issues a fatwa, or religious opinion, on the matter. A $2.5 million price is also put on Rushdie's head. Rushdie spends nine years in hiding until Iran's government announces it no longer supports attempts to kill him.
June 30, 1989: A military coup backed by the National Islamic Front brings Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan al-Bashir to power in the Sudan.
Stricter interpretations of Islamic law are imposed under Lt. Gen. al-Bashir's regime.
1991: As emigration restrictions are loosened in Russia and former Eastern bloc countries, about a million Jews arrive in Israel.
Over the past decade, many Eastern European countries have begun to mitigate their foreign policies on Israel, opening diplomatic relations and lifting emigration bans. The migration of Jews from Russia and former Soviet states gives Israel the largest Russian-speaking population outside the former Soviet Union.
June 1993: Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is elected president of Iran.
Iran's president, prime minister, and Cabinet ministers do not have independent decision-making power. They answer to the spiritual leader and to a group of religious scholars appointed by the spiritual leader. A legislature, appointed by the people every four years, makes laws in keeping with Islam. A council made up of six lawyers and six clergy oversee this legislature.
July 1996: Necmettin Erbakan's coalition government signals Turkey's first turn toward Islamic politics since Atat¸rk's era.
Turkey's first Islamist prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, leader of Turkey's Welfare Party (Refah), is forced to step down in 1997, and the party itself outlawed, after being judged a threat to Turkey's secular constitution. In 2002 he is sentenced to more than two years in prison for embezzling party political funds.
1996-2002: The Taliban severely restricts women's role in society.
Under the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan, women are banished from the workforce, forbidden an education, and prohibited to leave their homes unless a close male relative escorts them. In public, they must wear special dress (burqa) that completely covers the body and leaves only a small mesh-covered opening through which they can see. Windows of women's houses visible to the public must be painted black. Religious minorities and secular individuals also suffer intolerance under the Taliban regime.Related Links
November 1996: The ruler of Oman, Sultan Qaboos, outlines a bill of rights based on Islamic law.
Oman's constitution, called the Basic Law, ensures press freedoms, tolerance for all religious faiths, and equality for everyone, regardless of race, creed, or sex. It also calls for a court system that would interpret the law.
Oman and Qatar are the only Gulf states in which women can vote.
December 1999: A Lebanese court acquits Marcel Khalife, one of the Arab world's most popular musicians, of insulting Islam.
Marcel Khalife is a Christian Lebanese composer, most famous in the Arab world for the nationalist songs he composed during the 15-year Lebanese civil war. Religious authorities accused Khalife of including Koranic verses in a song -- based on a poem by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish -- about the plight of the Palestinians. His trial is seen as a test case for freedom of expression in a country perceived as one of the most liberal in the Arab world. Similar trials in Egypt convict numerous authors and publishers.Related Links
July 28, 2000: The leader of Afghanistan's Taliban regime bans the growing of opium poppy.
Before the beginning of the November planting season, Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban's supreme leader, bans poppy growing in Afghanistan. He augments the ban with a religious edict declaring the crop to be contrary to the tenets of Islam. According to the United Nations, in 2000 Afghanistan produced nearly 4,000 tons of opium, about 75 percent of the world's supply. Related Links
September 28, 2000: Ariel Sharon's visit to the al-Aqsa mosque marks the beginning of a second Arab intifada.
Ariel Sharon, leader of Israel's right-wing opposition party, Likud, visits the area around the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem accompanied by 1,000 armed policemen and riot forces. A large police presence at a site sacred to Muslims, together with the timing of the visit -- on the heels of failed talks to end Israeli occupation peacefully -- strike a nerve with many Palestinians. Clashes ensue between Palestinian rioters and Israeli soldiers.
The Islamic resistance movement Hamas calls on Palestinians to storm Israeli army outposts in the Occupied Territories. This marks the beginning of the second intifada, or "shaking off," known as the al-Aqsa intifada. Violence spreads from Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem to northern Israeli towns such as Nazareth and Umm al-Fahem. By mid-December, more than 300 are dead, including 13 Israeli Arabs.Related Links
February 26, 2001: Taliban leader Mullah Omar issues an edict to destroy all pre-Islamic statues and shrines in Afghanistan.
Led by Mullah Omar, the Taliban evokes international outrage when it smashes ancient cultural icons, including two giant fifth-century Buddha statues in Bamiyan; one was the tallest standing Buddha in the world.Related Links