The Life of Muhammad and the Spread of Islam
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In 570 AD a man to be by the Islamic people as the last prophet was born into the world; his name was Muhammad. Muhammad was born into a poor family in Mecca, but spent most of his childhood being raised by Bedouin relatives in a different town after he was orphaned at the age of six. His uncle Abu Talib brought him under his wing and taught him to be a successful merchant. When Muhammad was about twenty years old he moved into Mecca and began trading for widow named Khadijah. Through the next five years Khadijah became aware of how reliable and resourceful Muhammad was and proposed marriage to him when he was twenty-five. Through his travels Muhammad became very aware of the clan rivalries and the undermining forces among the tribes. He soon became distracted and unsatisfied with his life. In 610 he retreated to a cave above Mecca to meditate and fast. While he was there the angel Gabriel appeared to him and gave him a message from God, “There is no god but Allah.”
Muhammad began teaching his revelations form God. His first group of disciples consisted of his wife, his servants, and just a few of his clan’s people. His first followers called themselves Muslims. As he taught his circle grew and he became a threat to other wealthy Meccans, the worshiping of the gods of their fathers, and the sacred Ka’ba. In 622 After severe persecution, Muhammad and his followers fled to Medina. The flight to Medina marks year one of the Islamic Calendar. In Medina he was thought of as a hero. In the mid 620s the Quraysh began launching attacks against Muhammad and his followers in Medina. The small Muslim army held off the imposing Quraysh forces for three years while the Muslims grew over 1,000 strong. They defeated the Meccan army and created the treaty with Quraysh in 628. The treaty gave Muslims permission to visit the shrine at Ka’ba. Through the truce Muhammad gained over 10,000 converts to Islam.
Muhammad’s teachings brought Arab a religion that united all tribes. He also brought a new ethical system and promoted social equality in the eyes of Allah. He excepted the teachings of Judaism and Christianity that preceded him. He also promoted and extensive body of laws that regulated all parts of life. One of which were the Pillars of Islam. They consisted of the first being confession, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger. The second being praying five times daily towards the holy city of Mecca. The third is to fast during the month of Ramadan. The fourth is giving tithe to charity. And the last being the Hajj, or pilgrimage to the Holy city of Mecca. In 632 Muhammad fell Ill and died.
Islam was the fastest spreading religion. Through its’ monotheistic views, high developed legal codes, and a large community sense ti won over most of the Arabs. In 633 with most of Arabia united under Islam their army began attacking neighboring empires. The unity of Islam began to split when clan leaders began disputing over who would become the successor of Muhammad. In 632 Muhammad’s best friend was chosen for the job. Through Islam the warriors had the power to overtake their enemies. Jihads, Holy wars were launched to force the spread of Islam upon other empires. First they went after the very weak Susanian Empire. The ruler was against defended against them but the Muslims had swindled their way into the heart of the city. In 651 the Muslim army claimed victory with the last of the Susanian rulers. Next they attacked the Byzantine Empire which had shown to be more stable than the Susanian. The Copt and Nestorians welcomed the Muslims to the city because they were sick of taxes and persecution.
They lead to the fall of their own empire. By 640 the Arab army had conquered Syria, western Iraq, Palestine, and Egypt. The rise of Muslim naval superiority sealed the fate of the other empires as they took control of the Mediterranean. In 656 violence broke out over the divisions on the Caliph. The Islamic community continued to split until they were almost two completely different peoples. The divisions were not mended until the late 7th century. In the 8th century the Muslims took India and in to he west they took north Africa and Spain. In the 800s under Umayyad rule, increasing amounts of people voluntarily switched to Islam. The Islamic community faced problems with dealing with the “People of the Book” whom did not share their religion. Islam attracted many women along their conquests because of great gender equality. Women were equal with men before god and they also were allowed to fight amongst the men in conquests. Women were treated respectfully and kindly. In the late 800s Arab trading ships set up and expansive trading system from Spain to China. The civilization gained great wealth and power through controlling trade routes and supply other empires with what they needed.