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Why did the Muslim empire spread so quickly?

In the VII century BC, a large part of Arabia was a desert, inhabited by nomadic Bedouin tribes. However, in the fertile lands along the shores of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, there were scattered permanent settlements where the caravan routes across the sands of Syria and Mesopotamia started. Mecca and Medina were the rare oases along the trade routes, and those small towns played a key role in the history of Islam. The Islam religion originated from the harsh desert of Arabia based on the teaching of Muhammad, who is believed to have who got prophet hood from God through Archangel Gabriel. Islam spread at a rate that has never been seen before by any religion. Certainly, this spread was a product of several factors that enabled its spread.The focus of this essay is on these various factors including the contribution of empires such as the Byzantine Empire and the Sassanid Empire.

The origin of this spread started with Muhammad who began to preach, saying that there was only one all-powerful and all-knowing God, Allah, and the path to salvation is through complete submission to His will. "Islam" in Arabic is "submission", and it became the name of the new religion, which followers were called Muslims. In Mecca, Muhammad gathered a small group of supporters, which included his family, but his teaching was not supported in his native Mecca. The situation has become so dangerous that in 622 Muhammad and his followers left Mecca. Mohammed found refuge in neighboring Medina, where he quickly gained credibility as a mediator in disputes and began to attract new adherents.1 Eventually, the residents of Medina found him the “prophet of God” and committed several military campaigns in Mecca under his command. After the fall of Mecca in 630, Muhammad returned to his homeland as a ruler, destroyed the 360 idols in the Kaaba and dedicated the temple to Allah.2

The various Muslim dynasties were immediately set up and subsequent empires such as Fatimids, Abbasids, Ajuuran, Almoravids, Mughals in India, Warsangali and Adal in Somalia,and Safavids in Persia formed the largest and most powerful globally. The people from the Islamic world established multiple sophisticated centers of science and culture, which had wider mercantile networks, scientists, hunters, travelers, mathematicians, philosophers and doctors. All these people greatly contributed to the Golden Age of Islam. In the more revolutionary lands, the classic "convert or die" principle was extensively applied. Majority of those who objected, though they were not actually killed, had a rough time to move with their lives. This formed the basis of exception, not the rule, thus in the areas where it occurred, it happened to be an excellent way of gaining converts.

By the time of the prophet's death in 632, almost the entire Arabian Peninsula was converted to Islam. However, Muhammad did not take care about the successor, and it led to strife, riots, bloodshed and civil war. At first, the closest companions of the Prophet managed to agree on the candidacy of the Caliph, and from that time began the era of the victorious Arab conquests. Warring tribes united under the banner of Islam and proved a worthy contender of the two great powers of the Middle East, which were Christian Byzantium and Iran, where the Sassanid dynasty ruled, and the religion of Zoroastrianism dominated.3


The first trips outside Arabia began under Caliph Abu Bakr (632-34), but the decisive progress in the conquest was achieved by the Caliph Omar (634-44). In 635, Damascus fell, and a year later, the great Arab general Khalid ibn al-Walid defeated the Byzantine army at the Battle of Yarmouk and drove it out of Syria. The Arabs invaded Mesopotamia occupied by the Persians, and in 642 captured Iran. The fall of Alexandria in the same year ended the conquest of Egypt, which has become a springboard for further campaign across North Africa. In the new Muslim empire, the internal strife began. The third Caliph Uthman was killed and was succeeded by Ali, the cousin and son in law of Mohammed. Nevertheless, Ali's caliphate was marred by tribal and religious strife that led to the Civil War and the assassination of the Caliph. Supporters of the murdered Caliph refused to recognize the next Caliph Muawiya and declared themselves “Shia”. Subsequently, the conflict escalated into a final split between the Sunni majority and a few Shia sects. With the death of Ali, the orthodox caliphate period ended. During the rule of Muawiya, caliph became rather secular monarch or an emperor with a residence in Damascus, who passed his title to his son and ruled through a centralized bureaucratic system, where officials of non-Arab origin were recruited experienced.4

Muawiya was the founder of Umayyad, the first dynasty of caliphs although it was able to finally establish only after a 30-year civil war with the Caliph Abd al-Malik (685-705). With the reestablishment of internal order resumed the external expansion of Islam. In the east, the Muslim army captured Central Asia to modern Tashkent, conquered Sindh and southern Punjab (now Pakistan). In the west, capturing the entire coast of North Africa, the Arabs crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and invaded Spain. In 718, a Muslim army crossed the Pyrenees and reached the center of France, where it was finally stopped in a battle with the army of Franks at Tours.

This battle marked the end of the Arab advance into Europe. The Islamic world as a single state with no barriers to trade from Spain to India, under the Umayyads reached the highest peak. Unlike other conquerors, the Arabs willingly took over the useful experience of the conquered peoples, adapting the system of government, the experience of the battles on land and sea, as well as art and science in Byzantium and Persia to their needs.5

Arabs were fairly tolerant of other religions, especially to the Jews and the Christians that shared the overall biblical tradition with Muslims. According to Islam, Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses) and Isa (Jesus) were true prophets, whose works Mohammed has completed. However, the non-Muslim peoples of the new Empire State paid tribute, from which Muslims were exempt, and it ultimately contributed to the treatment of a large part of people in Islam. Since all sorts of translations of the Quran from Arabic were banned, converted Muslims quickly learned the language, and as a result the Arabs and the peoples they conquered gradually merged into a single entity. Hence the "Arab" became known anyone who spoke Arabic, and almost the entire Islamic world shared a common faith, language and culture.6

However, the same religious tolerance served as one of the causes of the Umayyad dynasty fall. The religious unrest along with the dissatisfaction of the Iran and Mesopotamian Arabs with authorities of Damascus became a background for rebellion raised in 747 by a descendant of the Prophet’s uncle Abu al-Abbas. In three years, he overthrew the Umayyads, who were mercilessly slaughtered. The only surviving member of this family was Abd al-Rahman, who fled to Spain and founded an independent dynasty that flourished for nearly 300 years. Abbasid dynasty left Damascus, and built a new capital in Baghdad, Mesopotamia, which soon turned into a huge city inhabited by a million of people. The center of the Abbasid Caliphate moved to wealthier eastern regions with the Persian influence. In this period, the treatment of infidels in Islam was encouraged.

The development of Islamic civilization continued, despite the fact that after almost the century rule, Abbasid caliphate began to disintegrate. By doing East basis of his power, they soon lost control in North Africa, where the Fatimid dynasty established.
It can be concluded that Islam main objective is to reign over the world. This spiritual part can play a role by enticing people to convert to Muslim. Among the poor, Islam was like their liberator since its principle of equality and human self-worth greatly attracted them. For the power elites, Islam formed a source of power and riches where the rich overcame moral conduct and every precept of moral conduct in the Islam religion that Islam enemies ascribed to it. The core doctrine of Islam is peace-promotion though the power elite, due to their lustful gains, ultimately projected Islam as a religion believed to be embedded in violence and its spread is through violence. It was the spiritual aspect of Sufi that saved Islam and bonded it together up to this fateful day.

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