Islam: Rise Of Islam In The Maghreb
In the 7th century A.D, a new religion called Islam began to develop in the Arabian Peninsula. Egypt and the Maghreb were under the Byzantine empire until the arrival of Islam. The rise of Moslem power was proceeded by the prolonged state of political unrest in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Egypt and Syria were quarreling with Constantinople over religion. Iraq was opposed to its domination by Persia. But the most serious factor of the political instability was the protracted and expensive war between Persia and the Byzantine Empire, which was concluded after 25 years warfare around 630 A.D. It was under this trouble and unstable political climate that Mohammed emerged in Mecca with the message of Islam. But Islam was not readily accepted by the town authority in Mecca and in 622 A.D, Mohammed fled from Mecca to Medina. This flight or Hegira marked the beginning of Moslem era and calendar.
In Medina, Mohammed succeeded in forcing a military force out of his numerous followers and by 630 A.D, Mecca has accepted Islam and Mohammed’s authority. Before his death in 632 A.D, the whole of Arabia was brought under his control. His death triggered off internal succession rivalry and religious schism with Islam which witnessed the emergence of Abu Bakr as hid immediate successor. But it was not until the accession of Umar the second Caliph that the Islamic conquest started. Syria was captured in 636 A.D, and by 651 A.D, the whole of Middle East including Persia and Egypt had been conquered.
However, the conquests laid the foundation of the Umayyad Empire which lasted from 661 A.D till 750 A.D. Islam soon drew a great many followers, who quickly spread the new religion throughout the Near East. The Moslems began to conquer neighboring countries and by the middle of the 8th century, almost half of the civilized world was under their control. There empire stretched eastwards to the borders of India, northwards through Persia (Modern Iran), Syria, Palestine, and westwards to Egypt, North Africa and even through Spain to the Pyrences Mountains. For a time, the Moslems threatened to push even further into Europe. However, the problems of ruling their great empire and quarrels that caused them to split into different factions help stop their conquest for a time.
There was conflict between those who settled and mingled with the conquered people and those who returned with their war booties to their nomadic ways of life and strict adherence to their earlier training. The later accused the former of religious laxity and this conflict led to an open revolt among the nomads of the Iraq in the 650 A.D. These people were known as the Kharijites which translated in to English, meant succeders and the movement was known as the Kharijism.
The Moslem were also divided over whether the Caliph should be only a religious leader or whether he should combine the role of a religious leader with that of political and military leader. The group which claimed that the true word of Allah was not there for all to see in the Koran believed that only the descendants of Mohammed through his daughter Fatima and her husband Ali (Ali Ibu Abi Talib) had this knowledge to be passed from generation to generation and as such were entitled alone to the position of Caliph. Ali was also a cousin of Mohammed. This Moslem views came to be known as Shiism. Shiism is a collective term for several distinct Muslim sects that make up some 10 percent of the Muslim world. The term Shiism is derived from the Arabic phrase Shait Ali, which means ‘The partisans of Ali Ibn Abi Talib. While all sorts of religious notions were advanced by Shiites. Four key believes found general acceptance:
1. That Ali had been choosen by God as Imam and rightful leader of the world- of Muslim alike
2. That the universe’s existence depends on the presence of a living Imam
3. That all Imams have to be descendant of Ali
4. That Ali and his Imam descendant possessed super human qualities which other Muslims recognize solely in prophets – such as infallibility, miraculous powers and divinely granted knowledge.
These beliefs form part the mainstream Shiites doctrine of the Imamate. This doctrine remains at the core of most Shiite groups up to today and contrast sharply with Sunni Faith. The Sunni were opposed to the view that only the Mohammed lineage had any special powers and argued that the interpretation of the Koran should be by consensus. This view came to be known as Sunni Muslims. The Sunni Muslims sees the Islamic communities leader as an ordinary man who is exceptionally pious and learned in the religious sciences, and he should be elected by other ordinary men.
Another problem in the another dimension and importance was the relationship between the Arabs and the new conversts. The new converts resented their status as second class citizens and the fact that only the Arabs enjoyed position of power in the Muslim world. This resentment led to the revolution that dethroned the Umayyad Caliph in 750 A.D and brought the Abbasid dynasty to power.
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