Religion, the set of attitudes, beliefs and practices pertaining to supernatural powers , is evident in all cultures. Religious beliefs vary from society to society. However, during the early civilization, regional empires resulted in adaptation of religious beliefs. One such empire that was able to influence other society was the Muslim Empire, which accounted for the spread of the religion Islam in Africa, central Asia and India.
Traditional religion had been prevalent in Africa. Prior to the continent’s contact with Arabs which brought with them the religion and culture of Islam, Africa engaged in animism or worship of natural objects (Burns, Ralph, Lerner, and Meachem, 1990, p.564). They believed in stellar bodies and had their own rituals. However, the penetration of Muslim Arab traders paved the way for the entry of Islam. A jihad or holy war even took place in 1054 (p. 567). Mosques were starting to be built and Mali, which was then the new territorial empire, initiated the growth of the religion (pp.567-568). Centers for Islam learning were created and the authorities embraced the religion. A high court was even organized to mete out Muslim law (p. 571). Islam was taken up from North Africa to sub—Saharan Africa (Andrea and Overfield, 1998, p. 224). The deep penetration of Islam was not limited to the acceptance of the religion but to the role of religion in the lives of the people in Africa. It served as a beacon, guiding them in everything they did.
Islam also saw its rise in India. Buddhism which was already flowering in China had reached India and it became the Indians way of life , along with Hinduism (Burns, Ralph, Lerner, and Meachem, 1990, p. 305). But Indians also believed in transcendental religion- they had gods and goddesses and accepted that that world was simply an “illusion” and that there was something “spiritual” hidden somewhere that should be attained (McNeill, 1990, p.129). They had caste system which affected their political and cultural affiliation. India had already a complicated and elaborate society before Islam was introduced, again by Arab traders however, the rise of Islam in India did not put the India into defensive mode. In fact, it just made Hinduism and Buddhism stronger (p. 232). Islam’s penetration into northern India resulted into the area having a different cultural scene. Hindu culture was able to survive and blend with Islamic civilization.
The expansion of the three Muslim Empires- Ottoman, Persian and Mogul resulted in the conquest of central Asia and Asia Minor (Farah and Karls, 1997, p. 456). From the A.D. 400s to the A.D. 1400s, it used to be that Buddhism and Hinduism were the major religions in Southeast Asia (p. 356). The entry of Muslim traders made it possible for Islam to invade Southeast Asian life. Melaka became the first center of Islam in Southeast Asia (p. 356). From then on, Islam was spread into other areas. Powerful Islamic states were created. Muslim policy was enacted.
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