History of Islam

By John Lerwill. Last Updated 22 Nov 2006

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The history of Islam is replete with activity. The most well-known aspect of that activity is in its expansion from its initial home in the 7th c. AC (AD) at Mecca and Medina to its extension around the Mediterranean to the west, and to Persia and India in the East. Eastwards it ultimately went even further, to the eastern seaboard of Africa and across to China, Indonesia and Malaysia. In Europe, Islam is still evident in the Balkans to-day, and much evidence of its previous existence can still be seen in Spain. At one point in the 8th c., the proponents of Islam even sent a scouting force to mid-France, where they were sent packing by Charles Martel and his army.

"Islam" means "Submission to God (Allah)". A follower of Islam is a Muslim. A related Arabic word is "Salaam", meaning Peace, and it is the stated intent of Islam to promote Peace. It is not, therefore, a warlike religion as some would have it. It is a religion that rests upon its holy book (the Qur'an) and the teachings of its Prophet Muhammed. However, within the peoples of Islam there has always been argument, and there have always been quarrels over matters such as rights to succession of leadership after the death of the Prophet. One notable quarrel nearly resulted in the complete annihilation of the Prophet's progeny at Kerbala (modern Iraq). This brought about the first major division of Islam into two sects - the Sunni (followers of the Book - the Qur'an and the daily practises of the Prophet embibed in Hadith) and the Shia, who followed the word of the Prophet's son-in-law 'Ali, as the Shia allege that 'Ali was given that right by the Prophet himself before he died. Since then there have been further divisions of those two sects into further sects, so to-day there are many different faces of Islam, though the broad Sunni/Shia division is the main one. In the main, however, most Muslims regard Muslims of other sects as brothers and sisters of the same religion.

For an enlarged background to Islam, please click here (a PDF file requiring Adobe Acrobat Reader).
But perhaps a most intriguing aspect of Islam, and little considered to-day, is that from the outset civilization and learning grew as quickly as its territorial acquisition. Much was absorbed from the Greeks, Persians, Jews and Hindus and built on, so the subjects of medicine, science in general, architecture, philosophy and technology were greatly advanced with the Muslims. The Christian world struggled to keep up!

In embibing so much from other cultures, one must here pay reference to the Tolerance of Islam towards other peoples. This toleration was not simply secular - it included religious toleration, also, particularly towards the Jews and Christians, who, like the Muslims, can trace religious descent from the Prophet Abraham. Such toleration is particularly observable during a classic Islamic period during the Muslims' occupation of Iberia (modern Spain and Portugal) that eventually ended in 1492, after several hundreds of years.

To-day, there are many people - particularly intellectual Jews, and a journalist in the UK's Daily Mail - who try by any means to discredit the Muslim law and culture, and claim that their culture has always been hard done by by the Muslims, and try to find holes in al-Qur'an to justify their thinking. Unfortunately their lack of understanding - in particular that al-Qur'an cannot be understood except by those steeped in the ancient Arabic language and in spiritual insight - makes a mockery of their vindictiveness. Islam is a religion of the heart, and thus a Muslim who understands the truth of his religion will look for the heart of his fellow man - even if he be of another religion. Unfortunately, the wars in the Middle East that have been building up over several generations tend to shroud the truth of Islam - there has been too much suffering and anger; but it is only by going back to the true spiritual roots that peace will emerge.

From this, a thought occurs that Islam has always been more than just a religion - it is a total way of living where politics, science, the arts and philosophy are inter-woven. The Muslim's statement that "There is no God but God" is a literal belief. God is present in everything.

Please click on the following link as much of the subject of Islam in its modern setting is further discussed therein.

Link to "Islam Re-thought".