Sample Religious Studies Essay Paper on The Rise and Spread of Islam

The history of Islam covers the social, economic, political, and developments during the Islamic civilization. The earliest available historical evidence establishes the roots of Islam in Mecca and Medina in the early 7th century. This was approximately 600 years after the development of Christianity. The rise and development of Islam are naturally linked with the life of Prophet Muhammad. According to the Muslims, Prophet Muhammad was the last in the line of prophets that preceded him including Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Muslims consider themselves Jews and descendants of Abraham in the lineage of Ishmael, the eldest son of Abraham sired with an Egyptian bondmaid(Smitha). Muslims believe Muhammad to be the chosen messenger and recipient of God’s word through divine revelations. Therefore, Muslims from all over the world strive to live according to his teachings and try to emulate him in their daily lives.

Muhammad, a poor orphan boy of the Bedouin tribe, grew up in the Byzantine Empire that was primarily dominated by Christianity and Judaism. At the age of 40, in 610, Muhammad began to receive divine revelations. Muhammad started his evangelical ministry, and his message began growing in influence. However, he faced hostilities from people who did not accommodate his message. After the death of his protector uncle, Abu Talib, Muhammad felt necessary to relocate from his home city following the threat he was facing (Smitha). He settled in the town of Yathrib, the modern-day Medina. The city comprised mainly of Arabian clans with few Jewish families. Yathrib would soon witness constant blood feuds along clan lines. In Medina, Muhammad’s teachings began to inspire parts of the population. His teachings and religion began to attract many followers. The citizens, influenced by Muhammad’s religion renamed the city from Yathrib to Medina. 

In 622, Muhammad returned to Mecca and won over seventy-five new followers who he sneaked out of Mecca to join his growing influence in Medina. This journey to Medina, Hijrah, would become symbolic in the foundations of Islam. This journey became the beginning of the Muslim calendar. While in Medina, Muhammad deteriorated the relations with Judaism. He continued to receive divine revelations and established an ever-growing community based on his religious teachings. In Mecca, the conflict with Quraish had intensified (Smitha). After several years of violent crashes, Mecca conceded defeat. Muhammad seized this opportunity to return to Mecca and assert his influence. Together with his followers from Medina, Muhammad destroyed all pagan gods and began to assert his religion.

Pre-Islamic Arabia stood out in particular natural virtues from other contemporary societies. The region was unmatched in the skillful application of language and eloquence and highly valued honor and freedom. They were also great horsemen. However, centuries of isolation in the peninsula and dominance of ancestral religious influences undermined their spiritual and moral development. In the 6th century, the pre-Islamic society was afflicted with evil, dark idolatry, perversion, and characteristically primitive life (Smitha). The Arab’s social life was outrageous and liberalized drinking and gambling. They callously engaged in robbery, prostitution, and adultery. Women were significantly objectified and subject to male dominance. Racial prejudice was also prominent in the community. However, the advent of Prophet Muhammad and the coming of Islam created the channels of change of the Arabs way of life and thinking

Perhaps the most significant moment of Muhammad’s life is the night journey and ascension to heaven. The accounts of the Miraj, the ascent of Muhammad continues to intrigue artists and writers up to the modern world. One night while the prophet was sleeping, Archangel Gabriel led him to a journey from Kaba to the Farthest Mosque riding on the heavenly stead, Baruq. Muslims believe that there at the mosque, Muhammad rayed alongside other prophets including Moses, Jesus, Abraham, and Elijah before later ascending to the skies (Smitha). Together with Angel Gabriel, Muhammad explored heaven and hell and met face to face with God. When he returned to earth, he continued with his ministry of spreading Islam. Islam belief that only Muhammad witnessed heaven and earth while still alive.

After the death of Muhammad in 632, the Muslim community endured conflicts over his succession. Shi’a Muslims from one end held the belief that only people from the direct line of Muhammad would succeed him to guide the Muslim community accordingly. This group endorsed the closest living blood male relative to be their next caliph. The other faction that comprised of Sunnist Muslim held that the successor should be identified through consensus to serve along with three trusted companions, the Rightly Guided Caliphs (Smitha). They consist of Abu Bakr, Uthman, and Umar and they were responsible for guiding the Muslim community. The rift between these two groups led to different political and religious opinions. The Sunnist Muslims form a broad constituency of the Muslim population. The Shi’i Muslims form the other minority and are primarily concentrated in Iran Iraq with significant people in Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Pakistan. 

Towards the 8th century, the Muslim community had spread from Iberia in the west to Indus River. The empires ruled by Umayyad’s, Abbasids, Fatimids, and Mamluks stood as the most influential communities. The developing cities during the Islamic Golden Age became the centers of culture and science. They became the new centers of mathematics, philosophy, medicine, and astronomy developments during the middle Ages. In the 13th century, Delhi sultanates conquered parts of the Indian Subcontinent (Smitha). During the 13th and 14th centuries, the Mongolian invasion, the Tamerlane, and the loss of population following the Black Death further weakened the prominent centers of the Islam world that spread from Persia to Egypt. Christian forces conquered the Islamic Iberia during the Reconquista.

Work Cited

Smitha, Frank E. “Islam, Power and Empire, 600-667 CE”. Fsmitha.Com, 2018, http://www.fsmitha.com/h3/h03is.htm.