The Islamic Societies History

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Islam plays a significant role in lives of many believers. It has been the unifying factor for many Muslims due to belief in one God and Muhammad as His Prophet. This essay explores the views of Muslims on the role of religion, politics, and military affairs, and how did this play out in the territorial expansion of Islam.

Prophet Muhammad founded Islam in the seventh century AD. The religion spread through trade routes of the time. He claimed that he was getting messages from God. Muhammad claimed to be a prophet just like Moses and Jesus. However, Muhammad fled to Mecca and established a state of Medina where he found Pagan Arabs.

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Muhammad engaged in assault of traders by attacking merchant caravans from his base in Medina. Pagan Arabs reacted by using armed soldiers on their trade routes. However, in the Battle of Badr, Muslims defeated Pagan Arabs, and this marked the spread of Islam. He expanded his territory in the following decades in which he fought both Pagan Arabs and other Arab tribes.

Muhammad guaranteed his soldiers everlasting life if they defended their faith. Muhammad became powerful and expelled the two tribes Medina due poor relationships. He massacred the third tribe of Banu Qurayza in Medina. He proceeded to take control of Mecca and establish control over other Pagan Arabs. He forcefully converted these Pagan Arabs to Islam.

The role of Islam depends on the five Pillars of Quran. Muhammad and Quran traditions have the fundamental rules directing Muslims. Islam controls believers’ right actions and rules. The religion has five pillars. The foremost pillar is the witness or shuhuduh, which highlights the existence of only one God and Muhammad is God’s prophet.

Therefore, any believer who does not recognize God, or has more than one God and rejects Muhammad as the prophet is an apostate. This is punishable by killing. The second pillar is the worship or salat or ritual prayer, which believers must conduct while facing the Kabah in Mecca and recite Quran. Salat is a way of cleansing and worshipping God.

The third pillar is fasting or saturn, which Muslims perform during the month of Ramadan. The fourth pillar is giving or zakat of tithe or alms. Zakat serves the purpose of helping the needy. It encourages Muslims to share whatever they have with the poor in society. The fifth pillar is pilgrimage or Hajj to Mecca. Muslims should visit Mecca at least once in a lifetime.

Apart from the five pillars, there are also other aspects of teaching that guide Muslims. Jihad in reference to war has been one of the most controversial pillars of Islam. According to Muslims, jihad wars are for God. However, others consider jihad as fundamentalism and a reaction to non-Muslims and other religions.

Muslims consider fighting against people who do not believe in God as right. Believers also fight people who have rejected the teachings of Prophet Muhammad until they can recognize both God and messages from Muhammad. Scholars have noted that Muslims attribute various meanings to jihad based on various contexts. Some consider jihad as a fight against Jews, Christians, or Arab pagans. Other Muslims view jihad as a means of protecting Islam against external aggressors.

Most states find it difficult to balance religious and secular aspects of rules. However, religion and politics have fundamental roles in states. A study in teachings of Muhammad reveals that Muhammad and his successors and followers introduced politics into Islam.

When Muhammad went to Medina in 622 CE, he used Islam to conquer and establish political territories. The warring tribes of Khazraj and Aus gave Muhammad an opportunity to rule as a neutral outsider. He wrote the Medina Charter, which gave him the power to rule, and it referred to him as the prophet of God.

Muhammad established the Medina Charter based on Quran and his actions. These are the Islamic laws or Sharia. They have been the cornerstone of Islamic movements and territorial expansions to present day. Muhammad used these Islamic laws to spread his power by capturing Mecca and other Pagan Arabs. He used the army and followers to fight Arab Pagans and Jewish. In some cases, Muhammad used diplomacy to conquer regions.

In the contemporary society, we have several Islamic democratic societies and parties. At the same time, we also have Islamic fundamentalists in various countries across the globe. Islamic fundamentalism is a term many non-Muslims used to refer to radical approaches most Muslims use to support or defend their religion. Such political and religious ideas have also found formidable support from terror groups and militant Islamic movements.

States are political vehicles for the actors or political leaders. However, secularism defines a religious state from other states. In other words, secular states welcome ideologies from religious bodies for creating fundamental laws that govern a country. We can understand the role of Islam and politics from this point.

We can consider “human rights, aspects of civic responsibilities, constitutionalism, and citizenship” (An-Na’im 4) in order to understand the relationship between Islam and politics. It is important to note that Islam and politics have their origin in history. Sharia laws allow people to have debates and reach consensus.

This is why Islam accepts some views, which Muslims formerly regarded as dissent. Islamic teaching of reciprocity or mu’awada also encourages debates, which should accommodate differences and guarantee individuals’ rights. This is the Golden Rule of the religion.

However, in the mainstream Islamic law fails to separate issues of states and the religion. It is Islamic laws that have applied in most cases. Studies have shown that contact with the West brought some secular ideas into Islamic, but reactions were different among various states.

For instance, some Islamic nations like Turkey and others have operated as secular countries. On the other hand, the Iran Revolution of 1979 replaced secularism with Islamic laws. Secularism has been a major uniting factor among different communities of Islam nations. This is because it favors minimal moral obligations on believers.

Muhammad used Islamic laws as a constitution to run Mecca and conquer new states. Today, constitution aims at protecting Muslims by ensuring that rulers follow and engage in acceptable practices. Muslims have a right to create their own constitution to serve their needs. However, the only challenge is that a constitution should serve majorities who do not have control over a nation.

Politically, Muslim culture should advocate for human rights and today, most Muslim nations have started to adhere to human rights practices across the world. This aims at protecting individuals from harsh laws, which Islamic fundamentalists impose on the perceived offenders.

It is also necessary for Muslims to accept both teachings from international conventions and teachings from Quran. This approach does not undermine both conventions. As Muslims advocate for citizenship, they must rely on the principle of the Golden Rule. This gives all citizens equal opportunities. Therefore, political leaders must act with responsibility and honesty toward citizens.

In modern states of Islam, secular nations should be neutral with regard to political affairs. However, the state must understand the role of Islamic religion in shaping public affairs. In this context, civic reasons should work alongside religion principles in order to shape public policies. This is because religion alone cannot serve diverse interests of people. According to early historians in the Islamic religion, civic reason is a part of Islamic principles, which evolved with Islam.

Civic reason tends to show the line between the state and religion. This aims at protecting Muslims so that they can express their different views without attacks. In this regard, the state should not control the functions of civic reason. Instead, the state should support fundamental principles to guide civic reason for inclusive purposes.

Islamic scholars have supported the place of Islamic religion in politics. They also noted that Western civilization slowed the spread of Islamic ideologies. Therefore, effects of Western colonialism in Islamic states have shaped political ideologies in such states.

For instance, in current Islamic states, Mostapha Benhenda notes that democracy within “Islam often means democracy within Islamic limits”. This implies that Muslims have shaped their current governments to reflect Islamic ideologies. However, different states have different approaches of defining their Islamic ideologies based on the prevailing circumstances.

Most democratic Islamic groups, such as Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami have noted that democracy can help them achieve their goals through cooperation with other like-minded political movements. On the other hand, fundamentalists like al-Shabbab, al-Qaeda, and Taliban have embraced radical and militant Islamic principles to punish perceived offenders of the religion.

Prophet Muhammad encouraged his followers to fight jihad. This meant that the fight was in the way of God. Therefore, Muslims had to use their power, exert efforts, and endeavor in order to overcome forms of social disapproval. However, the application of jihad differs based on the perceived sin, enemy, or one’s sinful ways.

Based on these various usages of jihad, scholars concur that when the term jihad lacks a qualifier, then it takes its military usage. Others have viewed jihad in terms of a struggle to achieve religious and moral obligations. Still, there are Muslims who prescribe to the ultimate jihad, which only focuses on spiritual well-being of believers. On the other hand, we also have a jihad that drives warfare ideologies.

Most Islamic states consider jihad as a military exertion against enemies, non-believers, and non-Muslims. This is mainly in cases where Muslims need to expand their territory or Ummah or in the defense. Scholars have debated the ultimate aim of jihad. Others consider it as a way of protecting Islamic religion or territory with no offensive motives. Conversely, others view jihad as a way of conquering the entire world.

According to many scholars, “jihad is the only form of warfare permissible in Islamic law and may be declared against terrorists, criminal groups, rebels, apostates, and leaders or states who oppress Muslims or hamper proselytizing efforts”. As a result, many Muslims believe that jihad is the only form of war that is suitable for defense. It also applies in cases where a society must operate under Sharia or Islamic laws.

Among Muslims, jihad is not an individual’s responsibility, but rather a collective one. It is only among people with important positions who must consider jihad as an individual’s duty. Therefore, people who have great duties to declare jihad must mobilize the rest of the population in order to participate in jihad.

It is the responsibility of spiritual leader to declare offensive jihad on others. However, offensive jihad is rare. Some scholars also note that jihad has its limits. For instance, Muhammad did not allow killing of women and children during jihad. Besides, the Quran does not make jihad a compulsory affair.

Muslim armies stayed away from cities in order to avoid corruption of cities. The second Caliph, Umar did not want desert soldiers to adopt corruption in cities. Umar did not want soldiers to learn behaviors of Roman and Persian elites. As a result, soldiers had to stay in isolated camps away from cities. Caliph argued that the attraction of wealth and luxury would corrupt the soldiers. This was also a method of keeping soldiers away from the general population in order to avoid struggle for control with other authorities.

Initially, Islam was mainly in cities and among some nomads. The armies of Muhammad established garrisons, which grew into cities. These conquerors spread the religion forcefully and by diplomatic means. The religion attracted other nomads as it gained economic power too. Later, Muhammad allowed imperial expansion of Islam.

Muhammad died in 632 AD. Caliphs took over the leadership of Islam. Caliphs were close to Muhammad. Rashidun Caliphs adopted the Muhammad’s method of acquiring new territories. Abu Bakr became a Caliph after the death of Muhammad. His major assignment was to eliminate rebellion of Arab tribes, which renounced the religion after the death Muhammad.

This was the beginning of the War of Apostasy, which aimed at suppressing rebels. After the end of the War of Apostasy, Caliph started to attack powerful empires of the Byzantine Empire and Sassanid Empire. These two empires did not provide much resistance to Muslims because they were weak from war between themselves.

The second wave of Islamic territorial expansion used both persuasion and military force. Military expansion became the preferred method of expanding the territory of the religion. According to scholars in Islamic history, the Arab or Turkish conquerors applied force in “North Africa, Anatolia, the Balkans, and India”.

In other areas, such as West Africa and Indian Ocean regions, they used peace to spread the religion. In other cases, rulers or urban dwellers decided to adopt the religion. It is necessary to note that most coverts of Islam also resorted to forceful methods in order to expand their territories.

Muslims expanded their territories through persuasion and wars. However, Muslims relationships depicted of invasions, conquests, and destruction. Muslims’ powerful leaders also rose and fell as some of them committed atrocities against non-Muslims and people who resisted the religion. Islamic religion managed to maintain its stability and spread in most areas of the despite these cases constant wars. Roles of Islam are important for followers. However, the forceful and radical approaches make Islam feared and controversial.

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The Islamic Societies History. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-islamic-societies-history/
“The Islamic Societies History.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/the-islamic-societies-history/
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The Islamic Societies History [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 15 [cited 2024 Jun 23]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-islamic-societies-history/
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