|History of Egypt
The Islamization of Egypt occurred after the 7th century Arab conquest of Egypt, in which the Islamic Rashidun Caliphate seized control of Egypt from the Christian Byzantine Empire. Egypt and other conquered territories in the Middle East underwent a large scale gradual conversion from Christianity to Islam, accompanied by jizya for those who refused to convert. Islam became the dominant faith by the 10th to 12th centuries, and Arabic replaced Coptic as the vernacular language and Greek as the official language.
See also: Arab conquest of Egypt
Islamic links to Coptic Egypt predate Muslim rule. According to Muslim tradition, Muhammad married a concubine Copt, Maria al-Qibtiyya.
In the mid 7th century, the Rashidun Caliphate successfully conquered Egypt from the Byzantine Empire. This ended seven centuries of mostly uninterrupted Roman rule over Egypt.[note 1] However, local resistance by the Egyptians occurred during the Umayyad Caliphate that lasted until at least the ninth century. One contributing factor to this resistance was taxation. Under the Rashidun Caliphate and its successors, non-Muslims were required to pay a special tax called jizya and were given status as dhimmis. The taxation was argued[by whom?] as being justified as local Christians were never drafted to serve in the army. This resistance escalated to armed rebellions against the Umayyads and Abbasids in a number of instances, such as during the Bashmurian revolts in the Nile Delta.
Arab rulers generally preferred not to share the rule with Coptic Christians in their towns and established new colonies, like Fustat. From the Muslim conquest of Egypt onwards, the Coptic Christians were persecuted by different Muslims regimes.
The Arabs in the 7th century seldom used the term Agyptos, and used instead an Arabic language version of the term Al Qibt, which was then adopted into English as Copt, to describe the locals in Egypt. They continued to use the term to refer to all Muslim and Christian Egyptians up until the Mamluk rule that legally banned the term on Muslims and associated the native language with paganism. Thus, only Christian Egyptians became known as Copts or Orthodox Copts, and also the non-Chalcedonian Egyptian Church became known as the Coptic Church. The Chalcedonian Church remained known as the Melkite Church. Coptic Egyptians referred to themselves as ⲛⲓⲣⲉⲙⲛ̀ⲭⲏⲙⲓ (/ni-rem-en-kēmi/).
Religious life remained largely undisturbed following the establishment of Arab rule, as evidence by the rich output of Coptic Orthodox Christian arts in monastic centers in Old Cairo (Fustat) and throughout Egypt. Conditions, however, worsened shortly after that, and in the eighth and ninth centuries when Muslim rulers banned the use of human forms in art (taking advantage of an iconoclastic conflict in the European-ruled Byzantium) and consequently destroyed many Coptic Christian paintings mainly of Jesus and frescoes in churches.
Under the Fatimid Caliphate, Egypt experienced a period of relative tolerance. The Fatimid rulers employed Copts in the government and participated in Coptic and local Egyptian feasts. Major renovation and reconstruction of churches and monasteries were also undertaken. Coptic arts flourished, reaching new heights in Middle and Upper Egypt. Despite this, by this time, Coptic Christians had lost their majority status as a result of the intermittent persecution and the destruction of the Christian churches and forced conversions to Islam. This is attested to by John of Nikiû, a Coptic bishop who wrote about the conquest, and who was a near contemporary of the events he described.
However, the subsequent Mamluk Sultanate returned to previous practices of levying jizya and forcing conversions.
ʿUmar is depicted as having ordered that "the poll-tax should be taken from all men who would not become Muslims"
The Mamluk era, in which many Dhimmīs were forced to convert to Islam, was a time of great turbulence in society.