The size of the Muslim world has always doubled since the era of caliphs in the tenth century to the sixteenth century. This expansion was attributed to the itinerant teachers and the traveling merchants. This spread has gone all the way from Central Asia to the sub-Saharan and the Saharan Africa and even along the Indian Ocean basin. As Muslim merchants and teachers intermingled with the local leaders, the political systems that were based on rulers with naturalistic obligations and powers were transformed.
It is believed that in the West African and Java courts, as well the in the Central Asia, Islam altered both the popular faith and political structures. This was done by combining customs and local beliefs that formed characteristic local Muslim communities within the international community of believers. Towards the end of fifteenth century the Muslim world was different from what it was during the reign of Abbasid. As Tignor and Aldeman (1982) say, “No single state could be identified, even in theory, with the whole community of believers” [WTWA pg 37].
The Islamic world of the fifteenth century used to bring together from varied non-urban societies and civilizations. This was done despite the fact that the caliphates had a strong Middle Eastern culture. As time went by, Islam became more cosmopolitan and universal in its expression in the nature of community believers. This implies that it no longer existed as a faith identified with s specific region of the world. After the death of Mohammed (PBH), Muslims were faced with the challenge of making foundations that would conserve the community.
It is believed that Mohammed is the seal of the prophets and Allah’s revelation to mankind was completed by him. The successors after Mohammed were referred to as caliphs or Khalifahs in Arabic. Initially the first four were the Prophet’s companions. They reigned between 632 and 661, an era which is referred by the Muslims as the age of “Rightly Guided Caliphate. ” The Persian Empire was conquered during this expansion by the Muslim and the Syrian and North African territories were also captured.
Sachedina and Abdulaziz et al (2001) describes this scenario as “The Muslim community was transformed from a small city-state controlling much of the Arabian Peninsula into a major world empire extending from northwest Africa to central Asia”[IRDP, pg 230]. The first civil war that occurred in 656-661 marked the end of this Caliphate regime. Disagreements between different interest groups laid the foundation for theological and political divisions in the Islamic tradition and community. Umar and Abubakr-the first two caliphs, somehow succeeded in bringing a sense of communal unity.
However, tensions still gripped this era especially the emergence of Uthman- the third caliph. Uthman, an Umayyad clan member, was later killed in 656 by troops who rebelled against privileges and pay matters. Incidentally, this was the beginning of a massive civil war. The rebel group and others from Medina dictated that Ali- Mohammed’s cousin should be declared the new caliph. Ali is known to have married Mohamed’s daughter Fatima and therefore the father of Hussein and Hassan- the only Prophet’s grandsons. Mohammed never had a son. The Shi’i Muslim believes that Mohammed designated Ali to be his successor.
This led to the emergence of the Shi’ah party of Ali during this civil war. Ali’s mutiny group faced a lot of opposition from the Prophet’s most prominent wife, Aisha. Aisha was also the daughter of the first caliph Abubakr. Lucky enough, Ali defeated all the opposition groups. This victory led to the emergence of the Sunni Muslims, who are also the majority tradition in Islam. The Sunnis recognized all the first four caliphs and they also acknowledge that they were legitimate and rightly sent. The Umayyad clan posed a major military threat to the Ali following the murder of Uthman, their kinsman.
The Syrian governor, Muawiya became the leader of the Umayyad. A battle ensued in the year 657 between the Ali’s group and the Umayyad army at Siffin in which Ali’s faction agreed to arbitration. Consequently, anti-Umayyad group rebelled from Ali’s side and formed the Kharijites who advocated for holiness for a leader to be recognized as a caliph. Ali was later murdered in 661 by Kharjite. However, most Muslims accepted Mauwiya as the new caliph so that intra-community violence can be ended. Lapidus (1990) argues that many later divisions in the Muslim world were to be expressed in terms first articulated during this civil war [HIS, pg 176].
The Sunni tradition is a moderation of all the indifferent Muslim communities. It emphasizes on pity and consensus of the Prophet’s companions. Shi’i Islam began with Ali’s party and believes that God always provides a special guide-imam for his people. They also believe that this imam has to be a Prophet’s descendant and must have special divine guidance. Moreover, the authority and leadership of the imams is not subject to human consensus. The Kharijites represented an extreme pietism that insists on absolute holiness from its leaders and that the pious believers can declare others to be nonbelievers.
As many centuries went by, the Kharjite movements lost ground in the Muslim world. By the end of the twentieth century these movements were represented by tiny communities in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. After the death of Umayyad leader, Mauwiya in 680, another civil conflict began. As much as the Umayyad won this war in 692, they insisted on the consensus-approach of the Sunni majority. Now because the Umayyad did want instances of anarchy, they compromised most of the Sunni’s view of the society, state and community.
In 680 the Umayyad killed the Hussein at Karbala but they (Umayyad) were later overthrown in the 744-750 civil wars by the Shi’is who were opposed to Umayyad worldly materialism. Led by the Abbasids new Abbasid caliphs, a new Sunni caliphate was born. In conclusion, there were many events which affected the political structure of Islam. Two of them were the spread of Islam and the need to choose a successor to Muhammad. Three of caliphates after Muhammad were assassinated and the Islam had spread very fast, and a lot of people converted to Islam.
At this time Islam was one of the biggest religions in the world. Work cited 1. Tignor R. , Adelman J. , et al, Worlds Together Worlds Apart: A history of the World, 2nd Ed. London: Oxford UP. 1982. 2. Mahmoud Sadri and Ahmad Sadri (eds. ) Reason, Freedom, and Democracy in Islam: Essential Writings of Abdolkarim Soroush, London: Oxford University. Press 2002. 3. Sachedina, Abdulaziz Abdul Hussein, The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0195139917 2001 4. Lapidus, Ira. A History of Islamic Societies. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990
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