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The rapid expansion of islam in the 7th century

Conquest The early rise of Islam 632-700 The Muslim community spread through the Middle East through conquest, and the resulting growth of the Muslim state provided the ground in which the recently revealed faith could take root and flourish.

The military conquest was inspired by religion, but it was also motivated by greed and politics. Men fought for their religion, the prospect of booty and because their friends and fellow tribesmen were also doing it. Hugh Kennedy, The Armies of the Caliphs: Military and Society in the Early Islamic State, 2001 But this mixture of motives combined to form a process that forged Islamic and Arab ideals and communities into a fast-growing religious and political identity.

The history problem There are many accounts from the period about the early Muslim conquests, but much of the material is unreliable and written to present things in a way that glorified the victors and their God.

As explanations for the great events of the seventh century these are at best partial. This is not to say that the Muslims were not brave and that the conviction that they were doing Allah's will was not significant: But their opponents also had firm ideological commitments and there is no reason to assume that individuals were likely to be any less brave.

Despite the great mass of words, the full explanation for Muslim victory still eludes us. The early advance of Islam went hand in hand with military expansion - whether it was the motivation for it is difficult to tell, although one recent book suggests that Islam certainly facilitated the growth of Muslim power. The generous terms that the invading armies usually offered made their faith accessible to the conquered populations.

And if it was a new and upstart faith, its administration by simple and honest men was preferable to the corruption and persecution that were the norm in more civilized empires. Walton, Islam at War: A History, 2003 And Islam benefited greatly from the astonishing military success of the armies of Arabia.

Simply put, Islam may have sped the conquests, but it also showed much greater staying power. It is useful to realize that the power of Islam was separate from much and more permanent than that of the armies with which it rode.

  1. Do not billet your soldiers or officers in the houses of civilians. Jerusalem was a holy city to Muslims.
  2. In 10th century, a new style of high literature appeared written in Persian with Arabic script and enhanced y Arabic words.
  3. Umayyad military campaigns of conquest for the most part were highly successful.
  4. The native cultures, which in some respects already were being displaced by Persian influences before the Arabs arrived, were displaced farther in the ensuing centuries.
  5. The masses of rural peasants, however, remained little touched.

A History, 2003 But the Arab military adventures do not seem to have been intended as a religious war of conversion. In the wake of the Ridda wars, and of the Arabs' sudden conquest of most of the Near East, the new religion became identified more sharply as a monotheism for the Arab people. As is well known, the Arabs made no attempt to impose their faith on their new subjects, and at first in fact discouraged conversions on the part of non-Arabs.

Berkey, The Formation of Islam: Religion and Society in the Near East, 600-1800, 2003 The justification of conquest Whether or not Islam provided the motivation for early Muslim imperialism, it could be used to provide justification for it - in the same way that it had previously been used to support Muhammad 's own actions against his opponents.

The Qur'an has a number of passages that support military action against non-Muslimsfor example: But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war. This is not surprising, as the armies of those days were not like modern armies - but more like a federation of tribal mercenary groups who were not paid and whose only material reward came from the spoils of war.

Was the rapid spread of islam in the 7th and 8th centuries an anomaly?

After Muhammad's death Islam as a political force The political status of Islam, and the role Muhammad had given it as a political as well as a religious force, was reinforced in the military conquests. A caliph such as Umar seems to have regarded himself, first and foremost, as the leader of the Arabs, and their monotheistic creed as the religious component of their new political identity.

Some of the tribes decided that as their loyalty to Islam had been primarily to Muhammad himself, his death allowed them to end their allegiance to Mecca and to Islam. To make things more difficult, the Prophet had not left clear instructions as to who should lead the community after his death.

Early rise of Islam (632-700)

Fortunately the community immediately chose the Prophet's close companion and father-in-Law Abu Bakr, as his successor. Abu Bakr was known as the first caliph from khalifa, the Arabic for successor.

Abu Bakr took swift military action against the communities that wanted to break away. These campaigns, known as the apostasy or ridda wars, effectively consolidated Arabia into a single country under Muslim control within two years. Expansion in the Middle East Abu Bakr died in 634 and was succeeded by Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second caliph, who ruled until 644.

ARAB EXPANSION AND THE EARLY SPREAD OF ISLAM

Umar found himself the ruler of a large unified state, with an organised army, and he used this as a tool to spread Islam further in the Middle East.

Umar's early campaigns were against the Byzantine Empire. Following the decisive Battle of Yarmouk in 636, the former Byzantine states of Syria, Palestine, and Lebanon were conquered by the Muslim armies. Shortly afterwards the Muslim army attacked the Sassanid Empire in Iraq, gaining a massive victory in 637 at the Battle of Qadasiya, and gradually conquering more and more of Iraq over the next dozen years.

This conquest was made much easier by the weakness of the Sassanid Empire, which was wounded by internal conflicts and a lengthy war with the Byzantine Empire. Is proselytism still appropriate? In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions Christians and Muslims discuss the different traditions of mission, conversion and the expansion of religions worldwide.

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