Examining the main factors in the spread of Islam after Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)’s death

Introduction

It is no coincidence that Islam has become the second largest and the fastest growing religion in the world (Esposito 2002:1). Numerous factors, reasons and circumstances are responsible for the spread and wide acceptance of Islam. Factors such as educational, spiritual, social, cultural, economic, political, psychological, historical, geographical, etc., are from amongst the factors contributing to the widespread and acceptance of Islam by many populations and communities. (Ezzati 1976:13)

 

Simplicity, rationality and practicality

For a religion to spread widely, it arguably needs the following components; simplicity, rationality, practicality and guidance. In essence Islam spread widely and reached the four corners of the globe and acceptance as Muslims did not impose their faith upon newly annexed territories due to it containing all of these elements. Islam is a religion that does not consist of myths. Its teachings are clear, simple and rational. The simplicity of Islam’s dogmas played and continues to play a fundamental role in conquering the hearts and minds of people. Islam is free from all kinds of superstition and irrational beliefs. The basic articles of faith are; unity of God, believing in Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as a Prophet and the concept of life after death. They are established on sound logic and reason. The teachings of Islam branch from these simple, basic and straight forward beliefs. With the absence of a hierarchy of priests, or far-fetched notions and even intricate rituals, adherents of Islam must directly refer to the Book of Allah, the Qur’ân and translate its injunctions into practice. The guidance Islam offered and continues to offer to its devotees in day-to-day life is practical. Islam awakens in one the faculty of reason and encourages him to use his intellect. Islam is a practical religion, which does not indulge in baseless and futile theories. In Islam, faith is not merely professing beliefs; it is the very impetus of life. Coupled with belief in Allah and Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), one must also have righteous conduct. Islam is something to be lived and not an entity of simple lip-praise and lip-service. However, the adversaries of Islam have left no stone unturned in maliciously attributing this surge of Islam in negative ways such as alleging that Islam spread through the frequent use of the sword (Imran n.d:8,16, Bawany 1976:7,8). This is a common misconception and misunderstanding among many. Islam is actually a religion of peace. Yes, battles did take place, but that was not unique to Islam, rather common amongst other religions too. Furthermore, it was the norm of the time. Moreover, the main aim of such battles from early Islamic rulers was to spread and uphold justice. Therefore, history is full of such examples of the early Muslims freeing societies from the oppression of certain leaders and in consequence conquering the lands too. Surprisingly, even such acts of justice were a factor in the spread of Islam and it was such acts that attracted a lot of non-Muslims to Islam.

 

The goal of this essay is to examine the main factors in the spread of Islam after Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)’s death.

 

Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was pivotal in the spread of Islam

It is a true fact that Islam would not have spread without the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). He was a unique individual who won the hearts of many. Initially, he won support due to his character and status within Arabia. However, after having claimed to receive divine revelations, not all of his contemporaries accepted his message; especially the pagan rulers of the Quraysh tribe. Firstly, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) developed a small following. Gradually more and more people started converting to Islam. Due to most of his contemporaries not accepting the genuineness of his message, Muslims were subjected to torture, suffering, adversity and hardship from non-Muslims. This caused the early Muslims to flee to Madinah. Most of the people of Madinah accepted his message; hence he had a larger following in Madinah. A series of conflicts took place between the Quraysh and Muslims. A time came when the Quraysh broke an earlier peace treaty. This saw Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) march upon Makkah with thousands of followers and they conquered the city without any bloodshed. He then freed the Kä’bah by destroying the idols around and within the Kä’bah. When Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) passed away, as Armstrong (2000:23) explains, “almost all the tribes of Arabia had joined the Ummah as Confederates or as converted Muslims…..singlehandedly, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) bought peace to war torn Arabia”. Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) spread Islam throughout the Arabian Peninsula by uniting Bedouin tribes and bringing justice and order to the people of Arabia. The union of Arabia would not stop at the death of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), but would rather gain momentum through his successors, starting from the four rightly guided Caliphs.

 

Prior to the death of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), he affirmed that his mission in spreading the teachings of Islam had been completed and subsequently the religion had been perfected. During the reign of the four rightly guided caliphs, Islam began to spread to lands such as Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Rome. After the death of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), Islam was on a continuous rise and was spreading. This was all down to the motivation of the successors and companions of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). They were well known for their righteous leadership. Their motivation, righteousness and strict adherence to the teachings of Islam led to the spread of Islam to all four corners of the globe. It is clear from this that some of the main factors of the spread of Islam were the motivation, righteousness and strict adherence to the teachings of Islam from the early Muslims.

 

Intellectual and scientific factor

After Islam was established, for a long period of time, Muslims were on the forefront in producing exceptional achievements in numerous fields such as; mathematics, literature, astronomy, architecture, science and philosophy. Subsequently, Muslims were leading the march of civilisation. It was their ample achievements that were almost certainly the major factors that contributed towards the Resurgence of modern civilisation. (Nakhosteen 1984)

 

The international, scientific and intellectual language soon became Arabic. Such was the dominance that within a century of Hijrah, translation centres were established for translating books into Arabic with certain translation centres becoming highly specialized in translating. The learning centres were so organised that they became established throughout the Islamic world. Centres established from Bukhara in the East to centres all the way in Spain, in the West. Western European scholars would flock to Islamic learning centres. (Ezzati 1976:34,35)

 

Non-Muslim intellectuals that were not in Muslim territories would prefer to relocate to Muslim territories so that they could live under Muslim rule. This was because of the greatness of intellectual freedom under Muslim rule. This demonstrates how they felt freer under tolerant Muslims and more specifically under tolerant Muslim rulers (Arnold 158:1968). Furthermore, Several Christians that were residing outside Muslim domains were very much looking forward to succumbing to Muslim rulers and wishing they were under Muslim rule. This was due to the fact that they knew they could relish the atmosphere and that was that the Muslims enjoyed exercising their intellectual freedom. (Ezzati 1976:34,35)

 

Such were the intellectual values of Islam that they did not exclusively appeal to specific people with distinctive backgrounds or just to Christians, rather they appealed to others too such as the intellectuals of India. This was also instrumental in helping the spread of Islam among the intellectuals of India with their various backgrounds. Just as the social quality of Islam was a contributing factor in drawing the attention of low castes in India, likewise Islam’s intellectual quality was attracting the intellectuals and the high castes. The influential Islamic literature and intellectual contact with Muslim intellectuals had a huge impact in appealing others, to such an extent that this attracted various Hindu spiritual leaders, Princes and Princesses of the Rajput family to Islam in the nineteenth century. Furthermore, they would even have Muslim tutors, tutoring their sons. (Arnold 1968: 262,292, Ezzati 1976: 37)

 

Moral and Ethical aspects

Islam had such an extensive and deep moral influence on the Mongols that they were even praised by Christian spiritual leaders. This is clear from a letter that was sent by Pope John XXII in 1318 to Uzbek Khan in which he extends his thanks to the Muslim Prince for justly treating his Christian subjects and being kind. Due to the developed moral level of life in Muslim society and the prevailing unity within, it has been suggested that this was the key reason that many Russians converted to Islam between 1906 and 1910. (Ezzati 1976:43)

 

To find out the moral and the ethical quality of Islam which immensely helped its spread one only has to take a glimpse of the moral code adopted by the one who initiated Islam; Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and then by his immediate successors. They were representations of trustworthiness, sincerity, honesty, decency, noble character, good behaviour and peace. Another example is of Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, a Sufi saint that has been revered by many and founder of the Qâdriyyah order that according to some sources has been the most prevalent of the Sufi orders of Islam. (Ezzati 1976:45)

 

The activities carried out by the Qâdriyyah order were grounded on voluntary conversion and have been completely educational, humanitarian, ethical and peaceful. Toleration, good-intention, generosity, love and respect for other faiths, were from amongst the fundamental guiding principles that governed the life of those that were associated with the Qâdriyyah order. (Arnold 1968:332)

 

Humanitarian factor

The most effective factor in the conversion of mass Hindus is without doubt the humanitarian factor. The Hindus greatly suffered from the brutal conditions of the Hindu caste system. Islam is void of such caste system. Islam is based on equality; hence it attracts others to its humanitarian quality of union and brotherhood. This led many Hindus, especially those that were from the low and deprived classes, and were looked down upon as lower than animals to Islam. The extent of the adversities suffered by classes such as farm workers who were turned into miserable slaves and were meant only to work and the rest is beyond imagination. They were shockingly made to live and even sleep with animals and were regarded lower than animals. Converting to a religion that provided them with a social status and that was an epitome of equality and justice was the only means of escape for these people from abysmal conditions. (Ezzati 1976:53)

 

Conclusion

The aforementioned detail has highlighted some of the many factors involved in the spread of Islam after Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), which includes religious, motivation, intellectual, scientific, social, moral, ethical and educational reasons leading to the spread of Islam from the suburbs of Makkah and Arabia to all four corners of the globe. It is no hidden fact that the fundamentals were laid down by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) before his death. Then the legacy was carried on by his successors; the four rightly guided caliphs and those after them who succeeded. They were successful in carrying on the legacy of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) subject to their obedience to the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Though, amongst all these factors the most noticeable factor which surpassed the others was the fairness and justice practiced by the Muslim leaders and generally by Muslims too. Their main objective was to be fair and just, and to make sure that both Muslims and non-Muslims alike live in peace and harmony with the duty of protection from those running the country. Consequently, this attracted many to Islam. The motivation, righteousness and strict adherence to the teachings of Islam greatly contributed to the spread of Islam too.

 

The Muslims conquered many places such as Egypt, the Roman Empire and the Persian Empire but they merely conquered the lands. As for the people of these countries, they gradually accepted Islam with progression of time due to them being fascinated by it and the rights and privileges it gave or because by accepting Islam they knew they could easily free themselves from their religious national, social or political system as was the case with many Christians and Persians and Spaniards (Arnold 1968:35,36). In many of these cases the native people actually helped the Muslims and many, if not all accepted Islam of their own free will (Ezzati 1976:21,21). It is clear from this that the fascination of the religion of Islam was also a contributing factor to the spread of Islam. Furthermore, as Ezzati (1976:13) states: “It is true that the zealous Muslims and their missionary activities were always behind the success of Islam and its spread.”

 

Asad (1976:12) quite rightly mentions: “Islam appears to me like a perfect work of architecture. All its parts are harmoniously conceived to compliment and support each other and nothing lacking, with the result of an absolute balance and solid composure”.

 

 

Bibliography

Armstrong, K., (2000). Islam, A short history. New York: The Modern Library.

Arnold, T., (2001). The spread of Islam in the world, a history of peaceful preaching. India: Goodword books.

Arnold, T.W., (1968). The Preaching of Islam. Lahore, Pakistan: Ashraf Press.

Asad, M., (1976). Islam at The Crossroad. Kitab Bhavan.

Bawany, E. A.,(1976). Islam our choice. Pakistan: Aisha Bawany Wakf Trust.

Esposito, J. L.,(2002). What everyone needs to know about Islam. USA:Oxford University Press.

Ezzati, A.,(1976). An Introduction to Islam, History of the spread of Islam. London: Ascot Press.

Imran, M.,(n.d). Spread of Islam: Islam or the sword? Lahore, Pakistan: Islamic Book Centre.

Jenkins, E., (1999).The Muslim Diaspora, A comprehensive reference to the spread of Islam in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. Volume 2. Mcfarland & Company Inc Publishers.

Nakhosteen, M. K.,(1984). History of Islamic origins of western education. IBEX Publishers.

 

Internet sources

http://www.pewforum.org/2012/12/18/global-religious-landscape-exec/ (retrived on 21/05/15 15:06)

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/04/02/living/pew-study-religion/ (retrived on 21/05/15 15:06)

 

 

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Tayyib HMC FInder

Munadil Islaam

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