The Fuel Behind the Rapid Spread of Islam During the Seventh Century| |
WORLD CIVILIZATIONSProfessor ElliottContyna McNealyFebruary 3, 2011| |
The religion of Islam is the second largest belief system in the world with over one billion believers. As of 2009, almost one quarter of the world's population follow after Islam, second only to Christianity. But roughly 15 centuries ago, this was not true at all concerning Islam. The populations that now embrace Islam have roots in a polytheistic society where Islam did not yet exist. Christianity was clearly the dominant religion of that time period and the wide influence of the Byzantine Empire ensured the continued influence of the Church. Some historians have noted that nothing substantial seemed to stand out culturally or militarily concerning the emerging Muslim population when compared with Europe. Simon Barton of the University of Exeter writes in his book review concerning the work, The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In: “Why did Islam prove so conspicuously successful in galvanizing the energies of its adherents? Why was it, given that the Muslims achieved no significant breakthrough in military technology that the well-established great powers with which they came into conflict – notably the Byzantine and Persian empires in the east – or the Visigothic kingdom in the west proved unable to halt their advance?” (Sidelko 2009, 466) The fact that the emerging Muslim society didn't appear to have an overwhelming advantage in the years leading up to the seventh century growth explosion of Islam begs the very question that Simon Barton just asked. In this paper, I will attempt to discuss some of the conditions that help account for the rapid spread of Islam during the 7th century, such as the political conditions surrounding the Byzantine Empire, conditions surrounding Orthodoxy and Catholicism, and conditions surrounding the introduction of Islam as a religion. From the 6th century leading into the 7th century, the Byzantine Empire became locked in a series of wars with the Persian Empire. These conflicts began around 500 A.D., and lasted into the first decades of the 7th century. These disputes brought about a great strain upon resources for both empires. Both lands were diminished and did not have enough time to lick their wounds before raids from Muslim groups started becoming more and more frequent. Although the Byzantine Empire seemed to have some form of victory over the Persian Empire, that notion became meaningless when Persian Empire under the rule of the Sasanian dynasty began to fall to the Arabs raiders who were becoming more organized as time progressed. Eventually, the Persian Empire was completely absorbed-- just as the Oxford Islamic Studies Online article states, “The surprising speed at which the conquests took place can be attributed to the weakness of countries debilitated by long external conflicts (the Sasanian Empire) or by the fragility of internal structure (The Spread of Islam).” The Byzantine Empire lost much of their territory that they had claimed from the Persians. They simply were not ready for a fresh, new challenger after dealing with a century long war. This is one of the conditions that accounts for the rapid growth of Islam. Many Arabs had become fervent followers of Islam at this point and Muslims had gained established, strong leadership which was directing their growing forces despite Mohammad's death. With the gaining of new territory, the message of Islam would no doubt follow along. Without successes from the likes of Charles Martel, the Byzantine Empire could have ended up like the Persians. Again, the Oxford Islamic Studies Online article writes, “The eighth century saw further expansions eastwards as far as the river Indus and the Sind region and westwards through northern Africa to Spain and France where the...