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Amr ibn al-As

Amr ibn al-As

Military Officer

Amr ibn al-As al-Sahmi (Arabic: عَمْرِو ابْنِ الْعَاصِ, romanized: ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ al-Sahmī; c. 573 – 664) was the Arab commander who led the Muslim conquest of Egypt and served as its governor in 640–646 and 658–664. The son of a wealthy Qurayshite, Amr embraced Islam in c. 629 and was assigned important roles in the nascent Muslim community by the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The first caliph Abu Bakr (r. 632–634) appointed Amr as a commander of the conquest of Syria. He conquered most of Palestine, to which he was appointed governor, and led the Arabs to decisive victories over the Byzantines at the battles of Ajnadayn and Yarmouk in 634 and 636.

Amr launched the conquest of Egypt on his own initiative in late 639, defeating the Byzantines in a string of victories ending with the surrender of Alexandria in 641 or 642. It was the swiftest of the early Muslim conquests. This was followed by westward advances by Amr as far as Tripoli in present-day Libya. In a treaty signed with the Byzantine governor Cyrus, Amr guaranteed the security of Egypt's population and imposed a poll tax on non-Muslim adult males. He maintained the Coptic-dominated bureaucracy and cordial ties with the Coptic patriarch Benjamin. He founded Fustat as the provincial capital with the mosque later called after him at its center. Amr ruled relatively independently, acquired significant wealth, and upheld the interests of the Arab conquerors who formed Fustat's garrison in relation to the central authorities in Medina. After gradually diluting Amr's authority, Caliph Uthman (r. 644–656) dismissed him in 646 after accusations of incompetency from his successor Abdallah ibn Sa'd.

After mutineers from Egypt assassinated Uthman, Amr distanced himself from their cause, despite previously instigating opposition against Uthman. In the ensuing First Muslim Civil War, Amr joined Mu'awiya ibn Abi Sufyan against Caliph Ali (r. 656–661) due to promises of the governorship of Egypt and its tax revenues. Amr served as Mu'awiya's representative in the abortive arbitration talks to end the war. Afterward, he wrested control of Egypt from Ali's loyalists, killing its governor Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, and assumed the governorship instead. Mu'awiya kept him in his post after establishing the Umayyad Caliphate in 661 and Amr ruled the province until his death.

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Live for this life as though you live in it forever and live for the life to come as though you die tomorrow.