World History: Rise of the Islamic Empire

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There was a great number of different interesting and bright moments in history of our world. Rise and fall of the Roman Empire, Napoleonic Wars and great tragedy of the WWII. Each event changed greatly development of our word and society. Moreover, these events left a great landmark in culture of peoples which were related to them, which helped to achieve glory or remain steadfast to the last.

Some empires have already collapsed, having left only a great number of different monuments as a reminder of their existence. Some however, still continue their development, trying to survive and guarantee their further prosperity. With this in mind, an attempt to analyze the rise and development of a certain empire seems to be a very interesting research to conduct.

Various countries at different periods had a great number of common traits which were peculiar to a certain form of government. Usually, states of this sort were ruled by an emperor who had absolute power.

However, this power usually was taken as a gift from God, and an Emperor was considered to be his governor in this world. It becomes obvious that the absolute power of a ruler was based on religious beliefs of people which inhabited a state. Religion served as a guaranty of stability of the emperors power.

It is possible to say that the Islamic Empire had maybe the most blistering development in the history of our planet. The unique thing of its development is that is founded in the 7th century AD by Muhammad (“The Rise of Islam” para.1) and having very few adherers, it managed to spread its influence all over the continent and even further, turning into one of the most powerful religions in the world.

In 613, Muhammad started declaring that he could receive messages from God (“The Rise of Islam” para.1). He became known as a prophet of a new religion. Being sure in his right to bring the light of true faith to this world, Muhammad started struggling with pagans, promising them tortures of hell if they did not refuse their religion.

With the flow of time, he managed to create a good base in Medina, from which he continued his business, trying to proselytize as many pagans as it is possible. Usually, caravans which traveled across this land were the best way to do it. Moreover, Mohammads adherers managed to attack and defeat big and rich caravan organized by pagans. It was the turning point in the history of the Middle East as the Battle of Badr was the first battle in Muslim Conquest of the East.

It should be said that it was a very good time for the development of new religion and empire. There were some factors which influenced conditions under which this empire obtained its power. First of all, its growth was connected with the decline of other powerful empires.

The Roman Empire was not able to control these lands anymore, being weekend by its inner problems and nomad raids (Holland 3). The Persian empire was just a shade of its past mightiness. With this in mind, it is possible to say that seeds found rich soil and the appearance of new power on these lands was just about timing.

Mohammad managed to conquer some territories of the East and join pagan and Jewish tribes to his state. He destroyed temples of conquered peoples, trying to create a good basis for his hew empire and religion. Mohammad died at 633 A. D. and his death was a great shock for all Muslims as he considered to be an immortal prophet of God (“The rise of the Arabs & Islamic civilization (632-c.1000)” para. 1). However, the spread of the empire did not stop.

Following Mohammads legacies, Arabs continued to enlarge their empire. Persians and Byzantines were the first to suffer from this process. Syria, Jerusalem, and Palestine became part of the growing empire. However, Arabs were no satisfied with what had already been achieved.

They moved to the west, conquering all states that were on their way. It seems unbelievable, however, Egypt, one of the most ancient states of the world, with its unique culture, traditions, and history, was conquered with a small army. This episode showed the power of young Arab empire and weakness of the old states. Arabs were united around their new religion, and they were sure in their ability to conquer the whole world.

That is why they continued their movement. Arabs moved to the East and managed to conquer some territories in India and Central Asia. Moreover, having defeated the Chinese army, Arabs established their rule there. In the other part of the world, Arabs entered Spain and managed to conquer it, being stopped only by the Franks at the battle of Tours. For a long period of time, northern Spain became the border of the Christian and Islamic world.

Moving very fast, Arabs obtained new and new territories which enlarged their empire and guaranteed richness and prosperity for its citizens and rulers. However, constant wars did not give time for organizational work. Large territories needed a ruler and a system which would be able to provide its stable functioning. With this in mind, Arabs took advantage of a pause in their constant wars and tried to create a clear structure of their state.

The question of a ruler had great importance and influenced the development of the whole Muslim world. The problem was to determine who was worthy of becoming a caliph, a spiritual successor of Mohammad (Fromherz 10). The first rulers were elected by the tribal council and were known as Orthodox caliphs.

However, with the growth of the state, such form of government became ineffective. That is why the Umayyad clan established a new dynasty. Since that time, all caliphs belonged to this clan. This was the turning point in the history of Islam as not everyone recognized the Umayyads as their rulers. Someone thought that only a member of Mohammads family could be a caliph. They became known as Shiites.

The rest of the people in this empire believed that any Arab could become a ruler and they became known as Sunnites. Results of this division can be seen even nowadays. These processes influenced greatly further development of Arab world. Being unsatisfied with the Umayyads as the rulers, Abbasids revolted and founded their own empire (“Islam From The Beginning To 1300” para. 27).

However, some of the Umayyads managed to survive and even create their own state in Spain, where the Umayyad dynasty continued its existence. This was the end of the unity of the Islamic empire.

This split, of course, weakened the state greatly. However, it was still the powerful empire with an army which managed to conquer the whole Arab world, some part of Europe and Central Asia. That is why this empire continued its development. The period of 750 – 1000 C.E is known as a cultural Golden Age for Islam (Falagas, Zarkadoulia, and Samonis para. 2).

During this period desert tribesmen managed to absorb cultures of conquered tribes and peoples and create something new, mixing existing styles and approaches. The main sources for their inspiration were Greek, Indian and Persian cultures. Arabs took mathematics, peculiarities of culture and they even adapted some ways of ruling the empire. The most significant change was that caliph was no more a common person of the people.

He inherited bureaucratic traditions of Persian rulers. It was not so easy to get an audience with him. Moreover, he did not carry out his religious duties. He was no more a symbol of faith for citizens of the Empire. The capital was moved from Mecca to Damascus and then to Baghdad, which became one of the most beautiful cities of the East.

All these actions showed a high stage of development of the Islamic Empire, which turned out to be one of the most powerful empires in the world. Moreover, its cultural development ranked it together with the rest of the developed states of the ancient world.

Having analyzed the data, it is possible to make some certain conclusions. Blistering growth of the Islamic Empire should be admitted. “In just 100 years since Muhammad first claimed prophethood, Islam had by force of arms, conquered all of Arabia and then expanded out and conquered as far west as Spain and as far east as Afghanistan” (“The Rise of Islam” para. 12).

Islamic empire became the biggest state the world had ever seen. With this in mind, it is possible to say, that the Islamic Empire is an ideal example of cooperation between a state and religion.

Works Cited

Falagas, Matthew, Effie Zarkadoulia and George Samonis. “Arab science in the golden age (750–1258 C.E.) and today”. The FASEB Journal. 20.10. (2006): 1581 – 1586. Web. 7 Feb. 2015. <http://www.fasebj.org/content/20/10/1581.full>

Fromherz, Allen. The Almohads: The Rise of an Islamic Empire (Library of Middle East History). 2010. London: I. B. Tauris, 2010. Print.

Islam From The Beginning To 1300. 2002. Web. 7 Feb. 2015. <http://history-world.org/islam11.htm>

Holland, Tom. In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire. New York: Anchor, 2013. Print.

The rise of the Arabs & Islamic civilization (632-c.1000). n.d. Web. 7 Feb. 2015. <http://www.flowofhistory.com/units/asia/6/FC46>

The Rise of Islam. n.d. Web. 7 Feb. 2015. <http://explorethemed.com/RiseIslam.asp>