Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Spread of Islam and the Rashedoun Khalifas

The following are two essays I wrote for my midterm exam for the History of the Middle East and Islam course I am taking at college this semester. As you can see by my lack of detail I was given a space restriction, I had to fit both essays onto two pages. Both of these topics contain so much information that I could write far more than 2 pages on each topic but you know how it goes, if you have a tough professor you have to obey their space and word limits or get a bad grade. I was also only allowed to use information from my textbook and my own brain, which will explain why some of you may see that I have left out huge chunks of information. Since there may be some of you that read this blog that are still learning about Islamic history I decided to share this in hopes it will give some benefit.

'1. Explain what dynamics in the Persian Empire ,the  Byzantine Empire, and in Arabia itself( in late 6th century- early 7th century) , functioned as causes which helped the rise of Islam in Arabia and beyound?(30 points)'


To facilitate the rise and spread of Islam within Arabia and beyond many factors came into play. As empires arose and fell they built affiliations along the way that would later help the Muslims to gain foothold in other lands. During the power shifts between the Persian Empire, Byzantine Empire and the people of the Arabian Peninsula many ideas were organized and challenged including ethnic affiliation, as well as political and religious loyalty (Pg.15).

 The Persian Empire acquired the Middle Eastern area and achieved to unite areas that had been broken away by wars and uprisings as well as adding new areas in Africa and Greece to their realm which they ruled through their government which was seated in Persia and Mesopotamia. The Persians were highly organized and put great thought into the foundation of their government body which was highly acclaimed and was used by other rulers up to 2 thousand years after its formation (Pg.14). The Persians also organized vast systems of trade around Arabia and the Mediterranean as well as establishing relationships of mutual interest throughout and extending beyond their empire that continued to thrive even after their empire fell. Later, many Muslims would still use the trade routes and use them to establish new Muslim colonies around the coast of Arabia and Persia. As the Persian Empire fell and the Roman Empire emerged the ruling seat was in Rome but then transferred to Constantinople by the Emperor Constantine (Pg. 15). During this time much strife arose between the Zoroastrians and the Christians which weakened the empires and the power of the religious groups in the area enabling new ideas to emerge and facilitate a change.

 Within the initial start of Islam family lineages and tribal affiliations played a huge part in spreading Islam throughout Arabia as did battles between the early Muslims and those who opposed Islam. Arabia’s religious demography was a mixture of Pagans, Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians at the time which greatly opposed the idea of Muhammad being a messenger from God. This opposition led Muhammad and his followers to go on migrations to seek a safe haven, along the way more people would listen to his sermons and convert to Islam. Over time as families migrated and battles were fought Islam spread with the families and the Muslim armies who not only inhabited all of the areas that Persia had united long before but also into the areas that were once controlled by the Romans and other ancient armies as far reaching as Sicily and Spain.  Contrary to popular belief Islam was never spread by force or by sword, in fact there are even Islamic rulings outlawing the forced conversion of anyone whether they be friend or foe. Many peacefully converted to Islam after listening to the sermons preached by Muhammad (Pg.29). During battle the Muslims soldier would treat their captives from the opposing side so humanely and with kindness which further prompted the captives to convert to Islam and spread it within their communities once they were freed.

'2. Explain the concept of Khalifah(Cailefah) first then discuss in detail The Rashedoun Khalifas (who were they, what were the main events that took place on their watch...etc.). (70 points)

 During the early years of Islam Muslims gained their knowledge of the Quran directly from the Prophet Muhammad or from his close companions that he taught to convey his message and mannerisms. Aside from being the teacher for all Muslims Muhammad was also the leader of the Islamic State, ruling judge and the commander of the Muslim military. When the prophet died in order to stay united the Muslim population had to either become highly organized and find a leader or fall apart due to inner conflict. After Muhammad’s death his closest companions discussed the matter at hand and elected Abu Bakr to be Muhammad’s successor for leading the Muslim population. Abu Bakr become the first in line after Muhammad to be the Caliphate, meaning he was the leader to all the Muslim citizens. It was not an easy transition to accept Abu Bakr as the leader for some of the Medinans though as they had conversed among themselves to elect one of their own as Muhammad’s successor based on tribal affiliations of family and wealth. Luckily the issue was pressed that choosing someone based on such material and tribal nuances was against the morals of Islam and Abu Bakr was accepted as the Caliphate by all the tribes of Arabia and proceeded to handle the judicial and military demands faced by the Muslims as well as leading prayers (Pg.38.)

The Rashedoun Khalifas are the first four Caliphates that succeeded after the death of Muhammad. Following Muhammad’s death Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s dear friend, became the first of the Rashedoun Khalifas. He was from a family belonging to the powerful Arabian tribe called Quaraish and made his living as a merchant.  He was known to be a kind and generous person but to also uphold the morals and regulations of Islam to their fullest extent. After Abu Bakr was elected as Khalifa there were still those who opposed following his guidance and felt that since Muhammad had died there was no longer a need to follow his teachings and rules so they denounced their affiliations with Islam.  Abu Bakr did not take this lightly and it spurred the Apostasy Wars in which the Muslim armies fought against those who denounced Islam and ultimately defeated them. More battles were fought throughout northeast Arab lands which helped Muslims to gain foothold and establish colonies in those areas. During 634 the acclaimed military leader Khalid won an important battle against the Byzantine army but unfortunately Abu Bakr passed away before the news of the victory could reach him. (Pg.39)

After the death of Abu Bakr another of Muhammad’s close friends by the name of Umar became Khalifa. Similar to Abu Bakr, Umar had been an early adherent to Islam and had stood by Muhammad’s and Abu Bakr’s sides during many battles. During Umar’s time as Khalifa many important military battles took place. He gathered his army which was still led by Khalid and defeated the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius. Syria, Palestine, and Jerusalem were conquered and subsequently Muslims migrated to the areas through the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers and formed leadership. Umar then led the Muslim armies that would acquire them more land, supplies, and converts. After this a huge battle converged in Qadisiyyah that lasted four days in which once again the Muslim armies were victorious and Muslim rule reached the far edges of Mesopotamia. Due to the great wealth that was acquired during Umar’s era as Khalifa the economic structures of Mecca and Medina began to prosper (Pgs.40- 43).

The third in line of the Rashedoun Khalifas was Uthman who was also a companion of Muhammad and a member of the powerful Quaraish tribe. His tribal affiliations helped him to convey the rulings and teachings of Islam. During his time as Khalifa he too fought and defeated the Byzantine army and lead Muslim troops into Iran, Armenia, and as far as Asia. This era marked a change in how the Muslims of Mecca and Medina lived and behaved The riches that they had been acquiring from battles that they had won had changed many Muslims and they started to abandon the virtues of modestly and living within their means that Muhammad had instilled in his Sunnah and live in extravagance and wealth as well as a growing political unrest. It was because of this political unrest and a rise of rebellion within the Muslim ranks that Uthman ultimately lost his life (Pg. 45-46).

The fourth and final Rashedoun Khalifas after the death of Uthman was Muhammad’s nephew and son in law Ali. Many believed that because of his family ties to Muhammad he should have been elected as his first successor instead of Abu Bakr. Due to the murder of Uthman many felt that Ali was responsible for his death, this cause them to not fully accept Ali as being a Khalifa which further fueled divisions within the Muslim community which caused Muslims to break into fractions which was against Muhammad’s teachings of the whole of the Muslim population being one community with one ruler and one belief system. Aishah, one of the wives of Muhammad, was also a bitter rival against Ali and initiated the whole Muslim community to oppose him as a result of Uthman’s murder. The Muslims did not accept leaders that were appointed by Ali which led to more turmoil until war erupted and Ali left Medina with his army and ended the reign of Medina based Khalifas. Ali then participated in the Battle of the Camel and settled in Kufah where Ali once again came under fire and was ultimately killed.

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