History Paper Freshmen - The Early Islamic Conquests Eddie...

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The Early Islamic Conquests Eddie Mattout Ramaz
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“I was ordered to fight all men until they say ‘ There is no god but Allah’” said the prophet Muhammad in his farewell address (Karsh 1). According to Muslim tradition, it all began one night when Muhammad ibn Abdallah was sleeping in his cave and was awoken by the angel Gabriel, telling him he was the messenger of God. Following this event, Muhammad created the umma or “Islamic community” and began a series of con- quests to expand the umma’s territory. Muhammad’s first converts were mostly from his tribe of the Quarysh and for the most part were people that did not have economic suc- cess (Kennedy 31). Following Muhammad’s death, the Rashidun and Umayyad caliphs or heads of state, continued these conquests and eventually conquered the entire Middle East and parts of Asia, Africa and Europe, making it the largest pre- modern empire until that time (Saunders 5). These conquests were inspired by socio-economic reasons as op- posed to religious ones. This initial spread of Islam was so rapid that as H. U. Rahman explains, “in less than one century after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 AD, Muslim rule covered more of the earth than had the Roman Empire at its peak (Bostom 32).” The Middle East before the rise of Islam was inhabited and dominated by two em- pires, the Byzantine to the west and the Persian or Sassanid Empire to the east. Both of these empires were weakened very much through years of war, leaving them vulnerable to attack (Donner 54). In the year 570 the prophet Muhammad was born into the clan of a very powerful Meccan family known as the Quarysh. When he was forty years old, he re- ceived his first revelation from God. He believed that the God who spoke to him was Al- lah and he was convinced that he was the last prophet (Karsh 13). In the year 613, he be- gan to preach his principle of Islam, which said that Allah was the only God and all other 2
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gods should be abandoned. He began to preach in Mecca, where he had little success and then made a migration to Medina known as the Hijrah. There, he attracted followers and formed the Islamic umma. Once he had sufficient followers, he conquered Mecca and be- gan to conquer the entire Arabian Peninsula. Throughout his lifetime Muhammad unified most of the Arabian Peninsula (Kennedy 15-18). What was revolutionary about Muham- mad’s “kingdom,” was that he brought all people in Arabia, nomadic and sedentary, under one authority, himself (Donner 49). Muhammad died in June of the year 632. Muhammad did not appoint a successor. Abu Bakr, one of Islam’s earliest converts and Muhammad’s close friend, was formally proclaimed caliph. He led the Ridda Wars and the Conquest of Syria (Hitti 142). Follow- ing him the next three Rashidun caliphs, Umar Uthman and Ali, continued the conquests.
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