Islam: Rise and Fall

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Explain the reasons for the rapid rise and spread of Islam and its status as a near-global religion by 850?

Read pgs 138-142 for a description of pre-Muslim Arabian peninsula society. What were the problems and conflicts. What people would have welcomed a religion that unified the clans and allowed trade and travel possible? What was the status of women? Think of the cities and how their vitality was threatened by the traditions of the Bedouins.

Read starting pg 142 for a description of Muhammad’s early life. What elements in his message answered the needs of Arabic society threatened by Persian and Byzantine empires.

Look at the earliest converts: women, servants, and slaves, and Muhammad’s clan people (pg 143), read the discussion of what the universality of one religion meant to the clans pg 144, and the importance of the ethical system of support for the poor.

Rise: the message of Islam to a harsh land torn by economic and kinship rivalries, and threatened by the power of Persia and the Byzantines. Equality to a society filled with servants and slaves, and women with diminished (although superior to the status of women in the Persian and Byzantine empires) rights. Think of the compassion to the poor with the zakat, and the appeal this would have to any who had experienced misfortune. Pg 144 bottom to 145 discusses the universal appeal of Islam.

Spread: a newly unified Arabian society of warriors, filled with purpose and ready to turn outward to the region’s powers that had recently threatened their way of life, were driven by desire for glory and booty. Pg 146 give some of the motives for conquest, and the timing of a weakening of the Persian and Byzantine empires. Their early successful raids for booty, emboldened more organized assaults later. In Egypt, non-Orthodox Christians welcomed their status as dhimmi under the Muslims. North African Bedouins crossed into Spain in 711 CE, and established an Islamic kingdom. The policies of the...
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