The Umayyads and the Spread of Islam Essay
The Umayyads and the Spread of Islam
The Umayyad dynasty was the first great dynasty of the Muslim Caliphate. Formed by Muawiyah I in 661 AD, this dynasty lasted until 750 before it was overthrown by the Abbasids.
Muawiyah I asserted the right of the Umayyads to rule on a dynastic principle. Another principle that governed the Umayyad dynasty was its asserted right to conquer lands for the cause of Islam. This principle was consolidated by the fact that the Holy Qur’an had mentioned the believers’ superiority over nonbelievers.
Hence, any Muslim dynasty would be founded on the principle that it had the right to virtually rule the world, given the superiority of believers over nonbelievers. Thus, history informs us that the Umayyad caliphate stretched from the western borders of China to southern France. With their Islamic capital as Damascus, the Umayyads continued the Muslim legacy of expansion that was begun after Prophet Muhammad by the four rightly guided caliphs, that is, Abu Bakr, Usman, Umar, and Ali.
The Umayyads expanded the Islamic empire through North Africa to Spain and France in the West and to Sind, Central Asia and Transoxiana in the East. Historians have written that the Umayyads did not force people to convert to Islam in the territories they came to occupy. Rather, the first great dynasty of Islam after Prophet Muhammad respected and tolerated the religions and the rights of the people they came to rule.
Non-Muslims who came to be ruled under the Umayyad dynasty had the right to worship as they pleased. This was despite the fact that the Umayyads built great architectural structures of religious nature in the places they came to occupy, thereby influencing the culture of the non-Muslims that they came to rule. An example of such Islamic structures is the Great Mosque of Damascus, which was believed to be one of the wonders of the world. According to a Muslim tradition, Jesus Christ is meant to descend at the end of time near a white minaret of this mosque.
The Umayyads treated the Jews and Christians with special respect, seeing that the Jews and Christians are recognized by the Holy Qur’an as the “People of the Book.” All the same, the Muslim law that came to occupy the non-Muslim lands under the Umayyads and other Muslim dynasties, required the non-Muslims to pay a tax known as “jizya.”
Many non-Muslims must also have converted to Islam to avoid paying this tax, which was believed to be a form of punishment from God for not practicing the faith of the “Book.” The Jews and Christians had also to pay this tax, seeing that the Holy Qur’an refers to them as traitors in the matter of religion. In other words, the Jews and the Christians were believed to have perverted the actual faith of Abraham. The Holy Qur’an had been revealed as a reminder about the real faith, which was also practiced by all human beings’ father, Adam.
The Umayyad dynasty was prosperous throughout its existence. Power is another attribute attached to its name. A vast number of people that came under the rule of the Umayyads turned to Islam as their faith. It is generally believed that this is not only because the ruled became convinced by the truth of Islam through the knowledge they gained from their Muslim rulers, but also because the powerful and the prosperous do have an influence on others in any case.
Just as we see that the world is becoming westernized nowadays with the United States and the European Union leading as superpowers – at the time of Muslim conquests, it was the Muslims who inspired people to follow the Muslim habits and customs. In other words, the prosperity and power of the Umayyads and other Muslim dynasties that followed, turned the Muslim rulers into role models for the rest.
The Umayyads took the message of Islam far and wide, following the dictate of the Holy Qur’an that made it obligatory for Muhammad and his followers to spread the Word of God. The Word served as good news for the believers of the Word, and a warning for the rest. Apart from the good news and the warning imparted to the world, the Holy Qur’an did not require any other help to spread Islam. God remained as the Sole Judge, and the Muslim’s only duty was to impart His message to the rest. Thus the conquests of the Umayyads served the Holy Qur’an only by taking the Word to other places in Arabia and outside the Arabian peninsula, away from the place where the Word had been first revealed to Muhammad.
Muslim expansion continued after the Umayyads were overthrown by the Abbasid dynasty. According to Muslim historians, this expansion was only a method used by God Almighty to spread His Word among those who had corrupted the religion of Abraham, and also those who lived by principles that were totally opposed to those of Abraham’s faith. Indeed, long before the advent of the Internet and the glories of international publishing, Muslim expansion was a legitimate method to spread the Word of God. Jesus Christ had also sent his messengers far and wide to spread the Gospels. However, the Gospels were not revealed to begin new practices in religion. Rather, Jesus advised his followers to continue practicing the religion of Moses.
In the case of the Holy Qur’an, Muslim expansion became necessary seeing that the religion requires practice. The five daily prayers are the most important of Muslim religious practices. Hence, the Umayyads and the other rulers of Islam actually went to show nonbelievers the practices of Islam. Even so, the Holy Qur’an remained as the main reason behind Muslim conquests.
Also according to this theory of Muslim conquests and expansion – God stopped Muslim expansion at a time when the Word of God had already reached all corners of the world. Besides, the Muslims had reached all corners of the world to continue showing the practices of Islam to nonbelievers.
Given that the Holy Qur’an recognized God as the Sole Ruler of everything, it became unnecessary for Him to use Muslim dynasties over the world. History further informs us that many Muslims rulers had become corrupt over time. Hence, it was illogical for God to continue using them as rulers. Besides, they too had to meet the consequences of straying from the true religion of Abraham.
The Umayyads and other Muslim conquerors have indeed played an important role in world history. They have taken the Holy Qur’an far and wide, and delivered Muslims in all corners of the world. According to the Muslim faith, the rest is for God alone to judge.