The spread of Islam began when Prophet Muhammad received the revelation for the Almighty Allah in heaven. This is estimated to be between the years 570 AD to 630 AD. He was by then a mature man of about 40 years. His teaching began in Arabia. It is also within this time that Islam as a religion began to take shape. The first section of Muslims was the Muslim ummah who mainly inhabited Arabia. During this initial stages of Islam, its spread was mainly facilitated by kingdom conquests facilitated Umayyad Caliphas and Rashidun. This paper will discuss the expansion of early Islam. The paper shall seek to demonstrate that conquests, culture and trade were extremely instrumental in ensuring the success of Islam to attaining its global status. The spread of Islam was characterized with the establishment and development of unique societies with different cultures and scientific innovation. The Golden Age of Islam produced an incredible number of travellers, mathematicians, doctors, hunters, and philosophers who contributed immensely to placing Islam at the global position it enjoys today. Today Islam is not only the religion that enjoys a large following in the world, but also extremely influential as there are several countries that have adopted it as a state religion.
Islam began spreading fast after the death of its founder and leader Muhammad. The Arab Empires rose within this period conquering all kingdoms from West to North of Africa and the horn of Africa. It also spread extremely fast in the Middle East because of the commonality of cultural practices. This was advanced by the Arab peninsula. It is vital to note that during this time, water and the fertile land of the Arab peninsula were scarce resources that were a cause of conflict. Kingdoms first sought to control these resources so as to control other kingdoms. Therefore, the main cause of the conquests was not the spread of Islam, but the desire to take control of fertile land and water sources. However, when the conquerors of the land settled, they began spreading Islam to the conquered.
Islam was also introduced to the horn of Africa as early as the 7th century. This was done by political refugees who sought asylum in a foreign land following political persecution in the Middle East. Most of those who fled to Somali belonged to the Quraysh tribe which was being targeted by the ruling kingdoms. A war soon broke out between the pagan natives of Somalia and the immigrant Muslims. The Muslims had superior weapons and better fighting skills as compared to the African natives. Therefore, they managed to defeat and subdue them. While some of them elected to stay in Somalia, others felt the need to go back to Arabia. Those who remained behind embarked on a mission to spread Islam along the coastal line of Somalia. They were successful since they managed to defeat the natives militarily. Moreover, Islamic doctrines appealed to the natives. This explains the reason Islam took a firm root in Somali as early as the 7th century. In addition, Islam brought with it a unique idea not witnessed before of madrasas. The natives were taught Islamic studies, the Arabic language and hoe to read the Quran. Whenever Arab Muslims went they ensured the natives that they would build madrasas so as to educate the local people on the doctrines of their religion. They also ensure that they constructed monument mosque throughout their kingdoms. This served to stamp the authority of Islam in the kingdom thus promoting its spread.
Between the years 750 AD and 1258 AD, the Abbasid dynasty came into power. This period was characterized with a lot of philosophical and theological developments with regard to the spread of Islam. The elite began interrogating the doctrines of religion and their viability and utility in the society. It is also during this period that the spread of Islam took shape. Before, only about 10% of the Middle East population was Muslims. However, things began to change as philosophers, religious scholars and lawyers began to take part in religion. The pillars of religion were set with Islamic law, theology and mysticism receiving recognition across the kingdoms. Trade became vital in the spread of Islam during this period. Arab, Persian and Asian were among the long distance traders of that time. They used to travel from West Africa, Saharan Africa, South Africa, India, North Africa, and parts of Eastern Europe. Most of these traders converted to Islam during this period. Because they believed in what Islam advocated for, they became Sufi missionaries. They got into contact with the local people in the areas they visited to spread Islam.
The Abbasid Dynasty was also extremely instrumental in ensuring the spread of Islam. They used coercive forces and discriminatory policies against non-Muslims such as pagans, Christian and Jews. In the Kingdoms that were conquered by dynasty. Muslims developed a culture that was totally different from other people. Muslims were given specific privileges. Other religions were required to dress in a particular way and were not allowed to interact, let alone marry Muslim women. They were also subjected to various tax regimes.
Conversion of Islam also gained momentum during this period as the Christian ‘church’ began to weaken. At this period in time, Christians began to split in to various denominations and thus creating mistrust from the people. The number of Christian missionaries also reduced significantly and, therefore, left the way for Islam to cover more ground. Islam was also more preferred than Christianity as the new coverts would still retain their cultural practices and tradition. In contrast, the Christian missionaries informed their new recruits to abandon their cultural practices as they were satanic and that they should adopt Christian values and traditions. This made many people especially from Asian and Africa reluctant to choose Christianity but found it easy to cope up with Islamic religion.
The first recorded arrival of Islam in Eastern Europe was as early as the eleventh century. A prisoner of war had been arrested during the war against Muslims by the Byzantines. The prisoner, a staunch Muslims, taught other people the Islamic religion in prisoner. A few of them converted to Islam. However, within time, other influential Islamic agent arrived and soon a significant number of Muslims now termed Eastern Europe home. Islam also spread systematically through cultural integration in Asia. Cultural integration led to some Mongolian tribes converting to Islam as early as 1258. This was after the Mongol invasion of Asia. However, their numbers were significantly reduced following a brutal killing by Mongols. Emigration led to the spread of Islam in India and the Far East. It was a significant step for proponents of Islamic faith when the Chagatai Khanate ruler of the 1330s decided to convert to Islam. He was the Mongol ruler of the Eastern part of this expansive kingdom.
In the North Africa, Egypt became dominantly Muslim during the Umayyad dynasty. This follows the conquest of the rulers of Egypt after installing new leaders. However, unlike in the Middle East, the rulers in Egypt allowed dissenting voices. Non-Muslims were accepted provided that they do not seek political power. The rulers had to be Muslims. This went on for a long time despite the changes of guard from the Byzantium to the Arabs. The Arabs extended the rule to cover Libya and Tunisia. This is as early as 648 AD. The Arabs set base in Morocco. They were mainly driven by thirst for power and influence. The local natives soon began converting to Islam as it facilitated them to the center of power. Great Mosque was built in Tunisia by Uqba Ibn Nafi. It is regarded as the forebear of all the mosques that have been constructed since then in the western world. Its influence has been trans-continental. The spread of Islam to East Africa was mainly as a result trade. Arabs traded in slaves in the coastal line. During this interaction, especially in the island of Zanzibar and the coast town of Mombasa, some of the Arabs set base there. They became influential figures as they figured out trade routes to the interior of Africa with an aim of raiding more slaves. The natives began converting to Islam as it was illegal to sell a Muslim as a slave.
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