History of Islam

From ArticleWorld

History of Islam involves the history of Islam as a faith and as a social institution. Islam influenced the political, economic, and military history of the Islamic world.



Islam emerged in Arabia in the 7th century. The Islamic state stretched from Central Asia to the Atlantic Ocean. However, it did not stay unified for long, as civil wars soon started after Prophet Muhammad's death. Different dynasties competed for leadership of the Muslims or the "caliphate."

Despite the division in the Islamic political community, the Abbasid caliphs, the Mongols, and the Turk Ottomans empires were amid the most powerful and largest in the world. During the Golden Age of Islam, Arabs produced prominent philosophers, scientists, astronomers, mathematicians, and doctors. In the 18th and 19th centuries Islamic regions became under the European colonization. After World War I, the Ottoman Empire was divided as European protectorates.

Questioning Islamic identity increased during the last century. Globalization and international conflicts influenced the importance of Islam in shaping the world of the 21st century.

Prophet Muhammad

Arabia before Islam was populated by a number of tribes, with Quraish as the strongest tribe. Majority of Arabs then followed polytheistic religions, with the city of Mecca as their center.

Prophet Muhammad (570-632 AD) was born in Quraish, Mecca. Muhammad was forty when he experienced a divine revelation. He preached worshiping one God, the creator of the universe. He started preaching Islam in secret, then in public. Muslims were humiliated, tortured and boycotted by Quraish.

In 622 Prophet Muhammad and his followers fled persecution to the city of Medina "the Hijrah". Muhammad was able to unite the neighboring tribes, with a large army that made Mecca surrender. When the Prophet died, the Arabian Peninsula was united under his leadership.

Spread of Islam

After the Prophet's death, Abu Bakr, one of his close companions, became the caliph of the Muslims. Abu Bakr spent most of his time engaged in the apostasy wars "Ridda Wars." Later, Muslim troops overpowered two gigantic forces at that time: the Persian and Byzantine Empires. Succeeding Au Bakr, Umar Ibn al-Khattab became the new caliph. He extended the Islamic state further, conquering North Africa and the Middle East.

The third caliph after Umar was Uthman ibn Affan. During his reign, the Islamic empire fell into the Fitna war. Uthman was killed by rebellious soldiers, and the caliphate was then offered to Ali ibn Abi Talib, Prophet's Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law. However, some Muslims refused to accept Ali as a leader, and he was assassinated. Uthman's family the Umayyads, claimed the caliphate and retained it for several generations. Following Ali's death, Islam was divided into two main schools of thoughts: Sunni and Shi'a.

End of political unity

By the 11th century, the Islamic world was hit by a series of invasions: Crusades from the west, and the Mongols invasion. The Mongols conquered many Islamic territories and ended the Abbasid caliphate. From Central Asia, the Ottomans extended their Empire over the Islamic world and into Christian Europe.

Modern age

During the second half of the twentieth century Muslim countries gained their independence from the European occupation. Radical changes were brought to Europe, leaving the Islamic countries behind.

Some Muslim countries, such as Egypt and Turkey separated Islam from their secular governments, while other governments in countries such as Saudi Arabia, followed stricter religious rules.

The Muslim world continues to change under the influence of Islamic modern intellectuals. There is still an emphasis on the importance of Islam in all aspects of life. But nowadays, many Muslims accept Islam in a global context, and are more open to critical analysis of the Islamic traditions.