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The Origin of Islam
The origin of Islam can be traced back to the 7th century in the Middle East. Islam, which means ‘surrender’ or ‘submission’ began with the teachings of Prophet Muhammad as a means of surrender to the will of Allah. Before Islam arose, people living in the Middle East worshipped idols. Arabs made pilgrimages to Mecca, at Mecca, they wrapped the Ka’bah with a cloth and had a holy month during which there were no wars. Pre-Muslim Arabs also fasted, gave alms to the poor, and prayed while facing Mecca.
Prophet Muhammad, who was was born and raised in Mecca, started spreading the teachings of Islam in Saudi Arabia and this marked the origin of Islam. He started giving sermons and won himself many followers, however, others were against him and he escaped to Medina. During his lifetime, Prophet Muhammad converted many Arabs to Islam.
Soon after Muhammad’s death, Islam split into two factions: the Shia and Sunni Muslims. Shia Muslims wanted a person from Muhammad’s family line to succeed him while Sunni Muslims wanted the first Caliph to their leader as he was elected by the people.
Teachings and Worldview of Islam
There are six basic teachings and beliefs under Muslim teachings as mentioned below:
- There is only one God and His name is Allah;
- Belief in the angels of God;
- Belief in the Quran and the holy books;
- Belief in Allah’s special messengers (prophets) such as Musa, Isa, and Muhammad (the last prophet);
- Belief in the day of judgment when every person will be judged according to earthly acts;
- Belief that God’s will binds us all, and He has already decided what will happen to all.
Muslim also teaches followers to handle aspects of this world according the Muslim worldview. Sufism teaches that Muslims should seek a personal conversation with God to find divine love and gain knowledge.
History of the Caliphate
Traditionally, the Caliph is a title given to the person who succeeded Prophet Muhammad as the leader of Islam. The decision on who should succeed Muhammad split Muslims up to this day, but in the end, it was agreed that Abu Bakr, Prophet Muhammad’s ally and father-in-law be made the first caliph. He served from 632 until his death in 634. Among his major achievements were to expand Islam beyond Saudi Arabia.
Umar became the second caliph and was also Muhammad’s father-in-law. Abu Bakr had named him as his successor. He ruled from 634 to 644 and one of his major achievements was winning many jihad and hence expanding Islam rapidly.
Umar was replaced by Uthman, who was from the powerful Umayyad family. This move did not go down well with Ali’s supporters. He ruled from 644 to 656, likewise his predecessors, he considerably expanded the Muslim. His assassination brought civil war among Muslims over who would succeed him.
After numerous civil wars between Ali and Mu’awiya’s supporters, Mu’awiya declared himself caliph in Jerusalem in 660, and his position was finally cemented when Ali was killed by the Kharijites. The war ended, and the Umayyad Dynasty was established. The caliphate became hereditary and was passed on within Mu’awiya’s family, the Umayyad Dynasty ruled from 661 to 750 AD. From 750 AD, resistance and revolt in Persia led to the Abbasid caliphate, and the first caliph was Abul Abbas.
The position of caliphate became less and less influential from 9th century AD. The best known Abbasid caliph was Harun al-Rashid. In the 16th century, the Abbasid dynasty came to an end, and the caliphate rule was abolished.
The spread of Islam
Muslim spread rapidly when Muhammad died. A few decades after his death, the Muslim Empire had extended to Asia, Africa and Europe. Among the reasons that caused this rapid widespread was the simplicity of its doctrine: faith in one God.
The first phase of this expansion was undertaken between 610 to 750 AD by the early caliphs and the Ummayad Dynasty. During this time, Islam was established in the Arab Peninsula, and later reached all areas conquered by Arabs. Conversion to Islam was voluntary and the creation of madrasas and the development of the religious doctrine of Islam greatly aided its expansion.
At the end of the Umayyad rule, Muslim has spread to sections of Africa, Middle East areas outside Saudi Arabia, and in Europe. Islam also arrived in the Indian sub-continent as Arab traders passed through the region on their way to Southeast Asia (Ikram, 1964).
The second wave of expansion was imitated by the Abbasids (750-1258). Considerable conversions occurred in the areas south of the Sahara, Turkey and Central Asia. Mass conversion occurred because Islam was now clearly defined and the distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims was plain. And Islam was more superior in most cases.
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A final wave of conversion occurred during the Ottoman Empire (13 the century to 1918). This occurred through Sufi missionaries, trade and migrations. During this era, Islam spread to Southeast Asia through trade and spread further by Sufi missionaries. The spread was finally cemented by the expansion of the territories of converted rulers and their subjects.
The Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman Empire began as one of the states in present day Turkey and expanded by acquiring other staes.. The first wave of expansion of the empire occurred during the reigns of Osman I, Orkhan, Murad I, and Beyazid I as the empire absorbed sections of the Byzantine Empire (Kinross, 2002). Ottoman victories in various wars expanded their control over sections of the Balkan Peninsula.
Expansion of the empire continued under Muhammad’s heirs, Mura II and Muhammad II. The empire captured Constantinople in 1453. They won several battles partly due to the weakness and disunity among their enemies. They continued to expand their territory and by the 17th century, The Ottoman Empire included Persia and Crete.
The decline of the Ottoman Empire began in the 18th century during the Russo-Turkish Wars when the empire lost Egypt and Greece to Napoleon’s army. Russia also took control of Moldavia and Walachia. Although the rulers tried to restore order in the kingdom, they were too late and the empire was on its deathbed (Kinross, 2002).
In 1908, the Young Turk Movement, whose members wee mainly drawn from the army, overthrew the sultan and replaced him with Muhammad V. In the successive wars, Turkey lost nearly its controls in Europe to Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, and newly sovereign Albania (Shaw, 1997).
The Young Turks took over power through a coup in 1913 (Kinross, 2002). When the WWI broke out, Arabia defeated the Turkish forces while the British occupied Baghdad and Jerusalem, by 1918, Turkish resistance was defeated in Asia and Europe, and the Ottoman Empire collapsed, an was dissolved a few months later.
The Safavid Empire
The Safavid Dynasty was one of the most important dynasties in Iran. They ruled one of the largest Persian empires after Muslims had conquered it, and ruled from 1501 until 1722.
The rulers of the Safavid Dynasty opened Muslim schools and adopted Shi’a faction of Islam. At its height, the Safavid empire covered all of the modern Iran, Republic of Azerbaijan and Republic of Armenia, most of Iraq, Georgia, Afghanistan, and regions of Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Turkey.
Together with the Ottoman and Mughal empires, the Safavid empire was one of the most powerful empires of its time. Despite its collapse in 1736, the empire led to the restoration of Persia as an economic giant, led to the establishment of an efficiently run state, and advanced architecture and other forms of art.
Ikram, S. M. (1964). Muslim Civilization in India. New York: Columbia University Press
Kinross, L. (2002). The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire. NY: Morrow
Shaw, S. J. (1997). History of the Ottoman Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.