When Muhammad underwent his unique spiritual experience, he left a deep mark on the world. Through its trade and communication networks, the dar-al-Islam became one of the most cosmopolitan and influential realms of the Post-Classical Era.
Muhammad had visions of one true God, Allah. He spread his visions and was soon followed by a group of believers. However, this new monotheistic religion posed a threat and was offensive to polytheistic pagans. As a result, Muhammad and his followers were exiled, and moved to Medina. This journey, known as the hijira, is a very important part of Muslim culture. Eventually, Muhammad came back and took over. He transformed pagan shrines into Muslim mosques and expanded his beliefs. Islamic forces pushed their way into societies that were struggling from internal conflict. They fought exceptionally well because of their devotion of Allah. Using this method, Muslims conquered the Byzantine Empire, the Sasanid Empire, the Hindu Dynasty of Sind, and most of the Iberian Peninsula. They were a force to be reckoned with.
After the death of Muhammad, the Islamic community needed a new ruler. These leaders, caliphs, soon began to struggle for power and leadership. The formation of the Umayyad Dynasty temporarily solved problems of succession. The Umayyads established their capital in Damascus, Syria. This was a great location for trade and made communication easier in the growing empire. This dynasty was very religiously diverse. They allowed non-Muslims to live there but imposed a special tax, the jizya. This dynasty was constantly warring with other civilizations. Leaders distributed wealth with the upper class, causing discontent among the lower social classes. Eventually, the Umayyad Dynasty fell into decline because of corrupt caliphs and peasant warfare,. When this dynasty fell into decline, Abu-al-Abbas noticed. He took over the Umayyads and began the Abbasid Dynasty after a huge battle. This dynasty was far more cosmopolitan and interested in the welfare of its people. Non-Muslims were allowed to rise to lofty positions. This dynasty was much more peaceful, as they were satisfied with the land they inherited. Aside from occasional clashes with Byzantines and Asian nomads, one fight even stopped the Kang expansion into Central Asia, the Abbasid Dynasty was much more peaceful.
Muslims were influenced by three very unique cultures: Persia, India, and Greece. Persian systems of leadership were evident in both the Umayaad and Abbasid Dynasties. Persian literary techniques were also seen in political documents and education. Indians introduced Hindi numerals, algebra and astronomy to Muslims. Astronomy was an extremely important part of the Islamic faith. Greek philosophy was also visible in the dar-al-Islam. In fact, the teachings of Plato was mixed with the teachings of Islam. Ibn Rushd’s philosophy found its way into Muslim schools.
The dar-al-Islam benefited from trade and cultural diffusion. Muslim trade helped revive Silk Road trade, where ideas and goods flowed from China to the Western Mediterranean for centuries. Merchants encountered new crops on their journeys and brought them home. This resulted in a more varied diet and healthier lifestyles for Muslims. Muslims adopted the compass from China and created new sail technology. This resulted in increased accuracy and maneuverability in maritime trade.
Popular in some cultures, but rejected in others, Islam played a vital role in change and continuity in Southwest Asia. From its origin on the Arabian Peninsula, Islam radiated to all over Eurasia, influencing cultures all around it and accepting new ideas into its own unique lifestyle. Because of the constantly changing cultures surrounding it, the Islamic empire gradually took root in its neighboring societies and was extremely influential in the Post-Classical Era.
Image via Wikipedia