The excerpt from, “THE SETTING IN ARABIA” discusses the development and spread of Islam in Arabia from the period before its inception as a minority faith, to its acceptance as a mainstream religion. The author describes the contributing individuals such as Prophet Muhammad and outlines their particular contribution to the introduction, and the spread of Islam in Arabia. The contribution of earlier religions and traditions and cultures is also explored and quantified. The author describes factors such as tribal pride, climate, topography and diversity of cultures among others as reasons for the lack of unity. The might of Islam is displayed when individuals from different backgrounds accept Islam as their faith and consequently change their social, political and religious orientation. The popular belief that Islam has its roots in Christianity and Judaism is disputed. Islam is described as a religion based more on a wide variety of ethnic beliefs, norms and practices.
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Considering the geography, topography, ethnical structure, cultural level of development, and religious, social and political institutions then prevailing, one had no reason to anticipate that out of a land characterized by sharp and conflicting contrasts, there would emerge a powerful force for uniformity and unity generated by the newly ordained system of religious, social, and political concepts.”(Farah 16).
and, “no religion free of misconceptions and previous notions, that has influenced men, has been able to start and express itself as if religion were beginning for the first time” (Farah 26), bringing out the excerpt’s main argument. The author continues to describe the land’s topography, climate and general state. An image of a barren wasteland is created, and the odds that countered the emergence of a unifying religion can be seen.
Topographical features hindered the spread and interaction of people and thus, inhibiting the blending of religious, cultural and economic values until the adoption of Islam. Racial diversity and different dialects assumed by the people of Arabia are featured as contributing factors to religious differences. Inhabitants of Arabia are said to have an aristocratic order that even the influence of Islam did not change. The people of Arabia are described to have different origins and ancestry, and always maintained the belief that each ethnic community was unique even with the adoption of Islam. Different communities of Arabia had a tradition of rivalry amongst them. This enmity was for wealth, prestige and power, and the struggle often culminated with one community being the master over the other. One ruler, Dhu-Nuwas, is said to have forcibly converted his subjects to Judaism, and his method of intimidation ended up being adopted by some of the supporters of Islam.
The excerpt describes the spread of Islam, the manner in which it build a strong foundation in Arabia, and its blending with the existing Christianity, Judaism, and Pagan religion, and other indigenous beliefs. The basic values of mainstream religions are said to have existed before the introduction of Islam and are thus said to be the foundation of Islamic values. However, Islam did not take over the existing governing and social structure. The opinion of a customary political or religious figure was still treated with a significant level of seriousness. According to the excerpt, Islam conquered because it promoted the equality of all people as long as they worshipped the Islamic deity, Allah, while the indigenous religions were biased such that their deities favored the region and tribe where the particular religion had taken root. This way, Islam effectively extinguished the culture of making ethnic affiliation a hiding place from persecution.
Farah, Caesar E. Islam: beliefs and observances. Woodbury, N.Y.: Barron’s Educational Series, 2003. Print.