Sicily (Italy) under Muslim Rule
Compiled by: Syed Ali Shahbaz
On May 21 in 878 AD, the ancient city of Syracuse, on the island of Sicily, off the southern coast of Italy, was captured by the Muslim sultan of Sicily. The first Muslims to land in Sicily were forces of the Aghlabid dynasty of Ifriqiyya or what is now western Libya, Tunis and Algeria, in 827 AD, when the island was part of Byzantine or the Eastern Roman Empire.
During the two centuries of Muslim rule, the capital of the Emirate of Sicily was moved from Syracuse to Palermo. Islamic architecture dominated the cities, and the Muslims, including the Ismaili Shi’ite Fatemid dynasty, developed agriculture and built extensive irrigation channels. Islamic Sicily had a flourishing cultural and artistic life: several Arab poets, including Ibn Hamdis, the most important Sicilian poet of the 12th century, lived in Syracuse.
The Fatemid general, Jowhar as-Saqali, who conquered Egypt, was originally a Christian from Sicily. Among the governors appointed by the Fatemids to rule the island and propagate the school of the Ahl al-Bayt, was Hassan al-Kalbi whose army landed in southern Italy and defeated the Holy Roman Emperor near Crotone in Calabria.