It is so fascinating taking into account how Islam spread so quickly through the Middle East and northern Africa during the 7th and 8th centuries. An important element that led to the rapid spread of Islam was what was referred to as ‘sword’, though not the only factor. The success of Islam in these regions can as well be attributed to a variety of economic and social factors. While Islamists thought that their quick spread was the will of Allah, the historians try to draw more insight into this issue.
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Although the Arabs were small in number compared other empires which they attacked, the weakness of Byzantine Christianity contributed largely to their success. The Christian sects were engaged in endless feuds which weakened them, leaving an opportunity for the Muslims to execute their well planned conquests. Following the death of Mohammed, the Muslim conducted a historical campaign which led to confrontation of the Arab warriors by two powerful empires, that is, the Byzantine and Sasanian Persian.
The Arab administration which participated in this conquest played a key role in the conversion process. The local population was used as administration class by the Arab conquerors that spread the Islam. Conversion of non-believers as well as the conquest of those who were against the Islamic community was successfully conducted by Mohammed and his successors. For example, Abu Bakr (who was Mohamed successor and the first caliph) was alert on ending paganism among the Arabs. Consequently, Mohamed together with his successors undertook military conquest against those who resisted them very successfully.
Abu Bakr who succeeded Mohammed, for example became the first Caliph, who particularly focused on converting pagan Arabs into Muslims. Indeed, it was under Abu that Arabia became A Muslim religion that was to be controlled by a central authority (the Islamic community at Medina). Stern commitment towards the new faith was fired by an enthusiastic merchant community. “Abu together with his supporters extended their control over the Arabian Peninsula and launched exploratory raids north into Byzantine Syria” (Muhammad 12).
Concept of jihad and a religious commitment played a very key role among the Arab warriors who supported Muslim conversion. “Muslims are obliged by the Koran to extend the faith to non-believers as well as to defend Islam from attack (Hugh 401). Although the concept of Jihad did not entail warfare against non-Muslims according to the Koran, the Arab warriors were very meticulous in waging “holy war” “interpreted the Koran as providing them a justification as well as the material wealth to be gained by conquest” (Hugh 401).
The Unity of the Arab tribes contributed towards the superiority of the military who engaged in the operations. Furthermore, the military capability that was gained by uniting the Arab tribes gave the Islamic fighters an edge in leading the conversion operation in the Middle East and North Africa. The Muslim way in North Africa was earlier opened by conquest of Egypt- “blocked by the Sahara to the south, Arab armies spearheaded the spread of Islam by moving east along the Mediterranean coast” (Hugh 402). Essentially, resistance in the North Africa weakened substantially after Egypt was under enemy control. Following the brutality of the slave trade, the Arab conquers prevailed over the Berbers who had become vulnerable. As a result, the great Berber rebellion (741) emerged, but it was totally converted into Muslim.
Muhammad, Asad. Islam at the Crossroads. Dubai: New Era Publications, 1982. 12- 104. Print.
Hugh, Kennedy. The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In. Cairo: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2007. 421. Print.