The Importance Of Autonomy In Islamic Empires

2002 words - 9 pages

“In 622, a small community of Muslims gradually migrated from Mecca to Medina” (Cleveland 11) they were in effect kicked out of Mecca because their leader, Muhammad “posed a challenge to the social, economic, and religious structure of the city” (Cleveland 10). By 750, this small group of outcasts had gained power over “an empire that stretched from Morocco to India” (Cleveland 17). The religion of Muhammad, Islam, grew even beyond this first empire and became the driving force behind future expansions for a millennium. There are quite a few factors that played into the initial success of these Islamic empires and by extension, Islam. However, the strength of its empires was not only in their ability to gain power but also in their ability to sustain it. As each Islamic empire grew, the number cultures and religions within it grew as well. The Koran provided some guidance on how to manage these different regions in addition; each empire devised creative methods of dealing with the immense diversity. The strength of these Islamic empires lied in their ability to maintain a strong centralized government firmly based in Islam, while adapting to accept vastly different cultures.
Prior to the introduction of Islam, the Arabian Peninsula was made of Tribes. Fighting between these tribes was common as resources were scarce. This created a culture based around continuous warfare. According to the text, “The widespread experience of Arabs in warfare was to be a significant factor in the early expansion of Islam” (Cleveland 7). Another factor, which helped in the spread of Islam, was simply timing. These empires emerged at a time when the rest of the world was relatively weak. The two prevailing Empires preceding the rise of Islam, the Byzantine Empire and the Sasanian Empire had begun to crumble. “Beginning in 540, the imperial rivalry between the Byzantines and Sasanians broke out into open warfare” which “exhausted the military forces of both empires, depleted their treasuries and inflicted extensive damage to the lands and cities lying between the Nile and the Euphrates” (Cleveland 5). This made it possible for the first Islamic empire, The Rashidun Empire, to sweep through the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Eastern Europe. The same fortuitous circumstances led to the growth of the Ottoman and Safavid Empire 700 years later. A Turkish tribe with culture of warfare was able to conquer a region recently revenged by the Mongols. Just as important as the growth of these empires was the growth of Islam itself.
German Sociologist Max Weber described used ideal types to describe how a religion such as Islam could grow from the idea of a single person to a religion mandated by entire countries. For him, ideal types are “a one sided, exaggerated concept, used in comparing various specific examples of a social phenomenon over time”(Ritzer 40). Weber used ideal types to set a precedent or ‘ideal’ to which historical institutions can be compared to. For him,...

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