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The Great Arab Conquests: How The Spread Of Isl...

The spread of Islam in Africa began in the 7th to 9th century, brought to North Africa initially under the Umayyad Dynasty. Extensive trade networks throughout North and West Africa created a medium through which Islam spread peacefully, initially through the merchant class. By sharing a common religion and a common transliteralization (Arabic), traders showed greater willingness to trust, and therefore invest, in one another.[49] Moreover, toward the 19th century, the Nigeria based Sokoto Caliphate led by Usman dan Fodio exerted considerable effort in spreading Islam.[45]

The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Isl...

Muslim missionaries played a key role in the spread of Islam in India with some missionaries even assuming roles as merchants or traders. For example, in the 9th century, the Ismailis sent missionaries across Asia in all directions under various guises, often as traders, Sufis and merchants. Ismailis were instructed to speak potential converts in their own language. Some Ismaili missionaries traveled to India and employed effort to make their religion acceptable to the Hindus. For instance, they represented Ali as the tenth avatar of Vishnu and wrote hymns as well as a mahdi purana in their effort to win converts.[45] At other times, converts were won in conjunction with the propagation efforts of rulers. According to Ibn Batuta, the Khaljis encouraged conversion to Islam by making it a custom to have the convert presented to the Sultan who would place a robe on the convert and award him with bracelets of gold.[63] During Delhi Sultanate's Ikhtiyar Uddin Bakhtiyar Khilji's control of the Bengal, Muslim missionaries in India achieved their greatest success, in terms of number of converts to Islam.[64]

However, from a secular historical perspective, the explanations are more nuanced, as illustrated by historian and travel writer Justin Marozzi's The Arab Conquests: The spread of Islam and the first caliphates. The author seeks to offer answers for the successes of the early conquests and their legacies, which "represented one of the greatest feats of arms in history and utterly changed the world." In fact, so important were these conquests, says Marozzi, that without them, it is "surely doubtful that Islam would have become a global faith then and the world's fastest-growing religion today."

As more people were converted, so more Muslim clerics were attracted from abroad and the religion was spread further across West Africa. Many native converts studied in such places as Fez, Morocco, and became great scholars, missionaries, and even saints, and so Islam came to be seen no longer as a foreign religion but a black African one. Finally, Muslim clerics often made themselves very useful to the community in practical daily life (and so they increased the appeal of Islam) by offering prayers on request, performing administrative tasks, offering medical advice, divining - such as the interpretation of dreams, and making charms and amulets.

The widespread adoption of Islam beyond the Arab peninsula is recorded in some older histories as starting as early as the mid-seventh century, but in fact, this probably did not occur until at least a century later. Richard C. Foltz suggests that the reason for this confusion is due to misinterpretation of the word islam ("submission"), used in Muslim histories to indicate the submission of one clan to the authority of another, and not the spread of the Islamic faith proper.1 In fact, it was the great success of the early Muslim clans in acquiring the submission of other Arab groups that eventually led to the spread of the religion beyond the Arabian peninsula. Foltz argues that the act of submission generated defacto non-aggression pacts between Muslim Arabs and their neighbors. Most of the clans of the Arab peninsula had submitted and professed their loyalty to the Muslim clans by the year 630, forcing them to find more targets for raids beyond the Arabian peninsula in Mesopotamia, Syria and Egypt, lands held by Byzantium and Sassanian Persia. Expanding into these areas, the Muslim clans had little trouble expelling the Sassanian and Byzantine leadership and their armies; some villages, Foltz notes, opened their gates to the Muslim Arabs and welcomed them as liberators.2

By proclaiming his message publicly, Muhammad gained many followers. After his death, the succeeding caliphs continued to spread the faith of Islam far beyond the religion's birthplace in Mecca. Aside from initial conquests in Iraq and Syria, the Arab conquests penetrated regions including Anatolia, Northern Africa, and Iran. Using their Camel Archers to cross difficult desert terrain, the Arabs were able to create an empire stretching from Spain to the borders of India, in barely more than a hundred years. The Arab empire of the medieval period was far more advanced than contemporary Europeans; Harun al-Rashid's Baghdad may have held a million people at the same time that Charlemagne's Aachen was a "capital" of ten thousand. Centers of learning attracted scholars from across the Muslim world to great cities such as Baghdad, Damascus, and Cordoba. The Arabs of this period made many advances in medicine, astronomy, mathematics, and other areas, as well as translating many of the classics of the Ancient Greeks into Arabic, thereby saving them from destruction.

For pre-Islamic Arabia, then, Amin's thesis accurately sums up an important aspect of Arab society. However, the surplus-producing civilisations whose existence nurtured early Bedouin society were neither Europe, Black Africa, or Monsoon Asia. 10 They were in fact primarily the agrarianate, most ancient civilisations of Southwestern Arabia (Yemen), Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Mediterranean coastal regions of Syria.11 The historical sequence seems to have gone something like this. Some time before the second millenium BC, semitic peoples, who might have been traders from the Eastern Mediterranean, filtered down the Red Sea coastline to settle in southwestern Arabia. They eventually established hydraulic agrarianate city-states, based on the ingenious qanat system of water collection and distribution. The most prominent of these was the kingdom of Saba. The establishment of these civilisations in the Yemen is thought to have preceded by several centuries the domestication of the camel and its use in long-distance commerce. Camel pastoralism - i.e. tribes living off the meat, milk and hides of their herds of camels - seems to have arisen at first on the fringes of these agrarianate civilisations and only after camels had been used in long-distance commerce. This was undoubtedly the great invention that made possible the colonisation of the desert interior and the formation of a highly specialised mode of life based on communities of camel users and breeders in the Arabian peninsula. It is quite firmly established today that pre-Islamic cities like Petra, Hira and Mecca were first established by sedentarised Bedouin nomads or people who had been arabised by them. 041b061a72

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