Rise and Spread of Islam Essay
The religion of Islam has risen up and spread throughout the world to become one of the world’s three largest religions. Islam originated in the desert of present day Saudi Arabia amongst the Arabs. The Arabs were a Semitic-speaking people. They were also a polytheistic society that worshipped an enormous number of gods and goddesses. There was almost one for every day of the year. The entire way of life that the Arabs knew was about to change with the birth of the prophet Muhammad. This man was responsible for bringing about the religion of Islam.
The polytheistic religion that all Arabs practiced soon became a monotheistic faith. Islam was able to grow and expand throughout the world because of Muhammad and other Islamic followers. Islam all started with the birth of a man named Muhammad. Muhammad was born in the town of Mecca during the year 570 AD. Mecca was a small town located on the desert plateaus of the Arabian Peninsula. He was born into the clan of Hashim, which was part of the Quraish tribe. His mother and father’s names were Amina and Abdallah. Unfortunately, Muhammad’s parents died when he was just a young boy.
He was eventually raised by his uncle, a merchant in Mecca, named Abu Talib. As Muhammad grew older he assisted his uncle with his business. He would assist by accompanying caravans to different trade centers. When Muhammad got into his early twenties he found a job under a wealthy tradeswoman, Khadijah. He was in charge of escorting her caravans to their destinations. According to Richard Gabriel, author of Muhammad: Islam’s First Great General: “Khadijah’s assignment of her caravan to Muhammad was apparently a testament to his merchant skill and honesty” (Gabriel, 56).
Due to this, upon the return of one of his journeys Khadijah proposed to Muhammad. They got married around the year 595. During their marriage they had four daughters and two sons that died in infancy. After many years of witnessing the religious practices in Mecca Muhammad started becoming annoyed. Muhammad soon started withdrawing from society to reflect on the current situation in Mecca. When Muhammad would step back from society he would find a cave and meditate. He would contemplate the issues that surround the polytheism that was being practiced in Mecca. During the month of Ramadan in 610, while
Muhammad was meditating he had a revelation. This revelation was said to have come from the arch angel Gabriel. Muhammad had several revelations in these caves throughout his life. He especially continued his practice of retreating to the desert after the death of his wife Khadijah in 619. During these disclosures Muhammad wrote down all his thoughts and the instructions he received from Gabriel. Within the years to come, Muhammad’s writings were created into the Qur’an, Islam’s sacred book. These instructions that Allah, the Islamic word for god, gave to Muhammad actually frightened him a bit.
It was not for several more years that he decided to take his message to the streets of Mecca. He only preached to his family in the first couple years. Muhammad’s first convert to Islam was Khadijah. When he finally started preaching to the public he was met with disgust. The people were scared to part with their worship of idols. There were many disputes that arose over Muhammad’s statements. In his book, Richard Gabriel states: The most objectionable issue of all Muhammad’s pronouncements was his claim that all those who had not become Muslims before their deaths were suffering in hell.
To claim that non-Muslims were in hell was a direct attack on the memory and reputation of one’s ancestors who, after all, had no opportunity to save themselves before Muhammad’s ministry. In a society that revered ancestors whose exploits preserved in oral accounts established the ideals of virtuous behavior, Muhammad’s condemnation was a grievous insult to Arab honor, one that could result in blood feud. Muhammad was treading on dangerous ground, and the opposition to him in Mecca grew stronger (Gabriel, 59). Since Muhammad was in such danger he decided to take his followers and travel to oasis of Yathrib, which soon became known as Medina.
This journey became known as Hijra. Throughout his preaching Muhammad continued to receive revelations from Allah. One such revelation was that Muhammad, and his followers, were given permission to fight and shed blood in order to spread Islam. Muhammad became very well recognized in Medina. When the leaders found themselves in the midst of a terrible civil war Muhammad, being so well known for his wisdom, was asked to mediate the situation. Medina was the first Muslim community that Muhammad established. With Muhammad’s power growing in Medina the Meccans felt threatened.
There were many small encounters between the two groups at first, but they slowly escalated into major battles. Three major battles included the Battle of Badr, Battle of Uhud, and The Battle of the Trench and the Siege of Medina. After these battles a treaty was finally signed between the two groups. Muhammad and the Muslims were then recognized as a new force in Arabia. Unfortunately, Mecca broke the treaty soon after it was signed. Power soon transferred from Mecca to the Muslims in Medina. Muhammad led his troops to Mecca where they penetrated the city.
The people of Mecca decided to join Muhammad after seeing that they had no chance of winning (“PBS”). The prophet Muhammad had taken the information that was given it to him by Allah and preached it to his people. Muhammad was able to spread the word of Allah throughout all of Arabia. The Religion of Islam was continuing to increase and showed no signs of slowing down. Islam is said to be more than just a religion, but rather a life style. The Muslim people have religious duties that they all must follow. There are five key duties, known as the pillars of Islam, that are what make up Islam.
These five pillars of Islam are: The Shahada, salat, The Zakat, Ramadan, and Pilgrimage to Mecca. The first of the five pillars, Shahada, is the profession of faith. It expresses the fundamental belief, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet. ” This phrase places Islam into the category of monotheism with other religions like Christianity and Judaism. The phrase is considerably similar to the first phrase of Christianity’s Ten Commandments. The first commandment is “You shall have no other gods besides me. ” It also stands apart from the other religions though because it announces the prophetic mission of Muhammad.
After completing a religious obligation, all Muslims must recite the statement. After the Shahada, comes Salat, which means prayer. According to Lammens in her book Islam: Beliefs and Institutions, Salat is a ritual prayer that must be said in Arabic. It takes place five times a day. These prayers must be recited at dawn, noon, midway between noon and sunset, sunset, and nightfall. When practicing this ritual Muslims must face in the direction of Mecca, the holy city of Islam. The third pillar is Zakat. Zakat is basically considered charity. The only thing that separates it from charity is the fact that it is mandatory.
It is considered an alms tax on a Muslim’s income. There are certain formulas used to calculate how much tax is taken. “According to the Qur’an, it may only be spent for humanitarian purposes- redemption of slaves, aid to members of the community, travellers debtors, volunteers of the Holy War, and also those whom, in conformity with the wish of the Qur’an, it is important to win over the cause of Islam” (Lammens, 60). Fasting during the month of Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam. Ramadan is the month when the Qur’an was said to have been given to the Muslims by Allah.
During this month Muslims spend more time concentrating on their faith rather than everyday life. From dawn until sunset Muslims are not allowed to eat, drink, smoke, or participate in sexual activities. These activities are allowed once the sun sets and must cease the next time the sun rises. One is only allowed to break these rules if they are sick or traveling. Even then, the days of fasting that were missed must be made up. If a Muslim fails to take part in Ramadan then charitable actions must be done in order to seek forgiveness (Lammens, 60-61).
The fifth and final pillar of Islam is pilgrimage to Mecca. Once during a Muslim’s life they are supposed to travel to the holy city of Mecca. There are a number of rules that accompany this ritual as well. For example a person is supposed to wear a seamless garment while in Mecca. Some people, however, may be exempt from taking this long journey. This includes minors, slaves, and poor people (Lammens, 61). These five rituals are fundamental rules that surround Islam, hence why they are called the ‘five pillars of Islam’. After Muhammad’s death, the Muslim community found themselves without a leader.
In order to fill this void caliph was selected. According to Jackson Speilvogel, a caliph is a temporal leader. Under the leadership of the caliph the Islamic Empire continued to spread outside the Arabian Peninsula. In the next couple decades after Muhammad’s death, Islam spread through almost all of the Middle East. They took control of Syria in 640 and defeated the Persian Empire by the year 650. The Muslims also moved east into Africa. Much of northern Africa came under Muslim control, including Egypt. Much of East Africa was influenced by Muslim settlers.
The natives that surrounded the settlements adopted Islam (Trimingham, 1-2). The expansion did not stop with northern Africa or the Middle East. Eastern Asia was also penetrated by Islam. The Muslim Empire made an attempt to enter the Mediterranean and Europe. Attacks were made on both the eastern and western sides of the Mediterranean. The Muslims were able to push into Spain but were halted by the Franks in France. On the other side they tried to destroy the Byzantine Empire at its source, Constantinople. Their attempt failed though.
Christianity in Europe was saved from the Muslims (Speilvogel, 208-209). Islam is considered one of the greatest religions in the world. It has over 1. 5 billion followers worldwide, making it the third largest religion in the world. As the prophet and founder of Islam, Muhammad was able to spread the message of Allah to his people and spread it through all of Arabia. His followers then continued to spread Islam after his death. Islam is such a key part of Muslim peoples’ lives that it is considered a lifestyle, not just a religion. The key beliefs of Islam are contained within the five pillars of Islam. Even to this day, Islam continues to spread throughout the world.
Gabriel, Richard. Muhammad: Islam’s First Great General. Vol 11. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007. 53-60. Print. Lammens, H. Islam: Beliefs and Institutions. 1st ed. London: frank Cass & Co. Ltd. , 1968. 56-65. Print. “Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet. ” PBS. Public Broadcasting Service, 2002. Web. 6 Apr 2011. . Spielvogel, Jackson. Western Civilization. 7ed. Vol 1. Boston: Wadsworth, 2009. 208-210. Print. Trimingham, Spencer. Islam in East Africa. London: Oxford University Press, 1964. 1-2. Print.