Spread of Islam
Islam is not only one of the three major monotheistic religions in the world today, it is also it is the fastest growing. Additionally, political conflict between Islamic groups and the West play out on the international stage like the latest of the Crusades. The message of the Prophet Mohammad has been distorted and misunderstood by those outside of Islam who see only a religion of hatred. Islam did, however, emerge in battle, conquering by force much of the Middle East and North Africa. The rapid spread of Islam, both politically and as a religion, is remarkable. It is therefore fundamental to understand Islam on its own terms, its creation and spread from the Arabian Peninsula in the Seventh century.
Esposito (1999) notes that although it was “distant” from the centers of power in the Near East, “Arabia was not isolated” (p. 4). The people who lived there were "aware of and affected by political, economic, and cultural developments” that surrounded them, including religion (p. 4). Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism were the main religions, in addition to “local animist cults” (p. 4). Mecca, where Mohammad first experienced Allah, was “unmistakably a pagan milieu” that had only small traces of the “religion of Abraham” (Peters, 1994, p. 1). Arabs at the time were polytheistic had had “developed little in the way of a religious mythology” (Cook, 1996, p. 9).
According to Cook (1996), Mohammad belonged to the Quraysh tribe in Mecca, sometime around 570 CE (p. 12, 14). At the age of 40, on Mount Hira, Islam believes the angel Gabriel visited Mohammad, out of which came the Quran (p. 15). Over the next fifteen years, Mohammad developed the ritual of five times of daily prayer and the basics of Islamic morality (p. 16). While he gained numerous converts in Mecca, it was only after a period of thirteen years that “God ordered it to make it public, and it
References: Cook, Michael (1996). Muhammad. New York: Oxford University Press. Esposito, J.L. (Ed.). (1999). The Oxford history of Islam. New York: Oxford University Press. Kennedy, Hugh N. (2001). The armies of the caliphs: Military and society in the early Islamic state. London: Routledge. Peters, F.E. (1994). Muhammad and the origins of Islam. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Sicker, Martin (2000). The Islamic world in ascendency: From the Arab conquests to the siege of Vienna. Westport, CT: Praeger.