Muhammad and the Islamic Conquests

Total Posts:  54
Joined  22-11-2005
06 December 2005 17:28

[quote author="Anthro"]Lorenzium,
Assuming you know your topic (and I have nothing to go on to doubt that you do), I learned something from your posting. Being truely ignorant (in the true sense of the word) of the details of Islam, I find it facinating that Mohammed actually needed to solve serious morale and social issues for his armies. It appears that he just didn't dictate some "commandment", but saw a problem and adjusted what is accepted behavior within Islam.

This seems to differ from the Old Testament stuff with G_d sending down all these edicts for people to follow. Sorta like the difference between an employee run religion and a CEO run religion (Ken Lay as energy G_d).

The polytheistic religions that were conquered, is there a mention of who they were? Greeks, Romans, Hindus; or were the battles were faught? I am wondering what other historical or archaeological sources might be available to provide more details about the people and locations of these wars/battles.


You got it in one. Islam is different than Christianity and Judaism in that (nearly) all its social, political and religious injunctions were given by Muhammad himself in his life time to deal with the problems of the time. The Qur'an itself is the best witness to this. Reading it from a contemporary perspective, when one reads the Qur'an, he is reading a book written for a people whose backs were up against the wall. Unfortunately, the Qur'an was also meant to be God's final word for all time - so the injunctions of 7th century Arabia, are the same for 21st century world.

But, let's look at the role Muhammad played. Starting out as a sheep-herder, then a successful trader with his first wife Khadija, it wasn't until the age of 40 that he proclaimed he had received revelation. A mere 23 years later, after much persecution and hardship, he had abolished idolatry from the Arabian peninsula (useful!), he had united all the warring Arab tribes under his banner and sent them on a conquest of the world. Within those 23 years the Qur'an was gradually "revealed", many times in direct response to the situations of the moment. Whatever problem there might have been, Muhammad made sure they all came to him for his "divine" assessment. Take this verse for example:

"O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those of you who are in authority. (And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination." (4:59)

And a few verses later:

"But no, by your Lord, they can have no faith until they make you (i.e. Muhammad) judge in all disputes between them, and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions, and accept them with full submission." (4:65)

There are many such verses and ahadeeth. So the whole social order came down to Muhammad's recommendations. Of course, he would often consult his most trusted companions, but the final word was his, or Allah's, depending on what you believe.

Consider the following verses. Great for their historicity, but for an "eternal revelation from an all-wise God"?

"Perish the two hands of Abu Lahab [* He was Muhammad's uncle who was very severe against the early Muslims]; perish he! His wealth and children will not avail him! He will be burnt in a Fire of blazing flames! And his wife too, who carries wood [* scholars give 2 interpretations: i. she used to put wood in Muhammad's way to the mosque and ii. it's allegory for her habit of slandering him]. In her neck is a twisted rope of palm-fibre!" (111:1-5)

Now, why Allah thought it might be necessary for all mankind to hear him thrill about the joys of torturing people (2 of Muhammad's early enemies to be precise) indefinitely, I don't know, but this verse is interesting to illustrate the point of handy revelations coming down in response to his circumstances.

The hadeeth collection of Al-Bukhari (the most famed and deemed most 'authentic') elucidates for us what happened here:

Ibn 'Abbas narrated: "When the verse 'And warn your tribe' [26:214] was revealed, Allah's Messenger went out, and when he had ascended As-Safa mountain, he shouted, 'Ya Sabaha!' (this is a cry used for help or danger). The people said 'What is that?' Then they gathered around him, whereupon he said, 'Do you see? If I inform you that cavalrymen are proceeding up the side of this mountain, will you believe me?' They said, 'We have never heard you telling you a lie.' Then he said, 'I am a plain warner to you of a coming severe punishment!' Abu Lahab then said, 'May you perish! You gathered us only for this reason?' Then Abu Lahab went away. So 'Perish the hands of Abu Lahab!' was revealed." [Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 6, #495.]

This is a simple example of how the Qur'an was "revealed" over the 23 years. Of course, when Muhammad started fighting (10 years after his first 'revelation'), and when he established his state in Medina, the verses got alot more political and militaristic. The ninth chapter is the most belligerent of all the chapters in the Qur'an, and in it, you find many instances of Muhammad urging his men to fight and condemning those who would want to stay behind. For example:

"O you who believe! What is the matter with you that when you are asked to march forth in the cause of Allah (i.e. Jihad), you cling heavily to the earth? Are you pleased with the life of this world rather than the Hereafter?..." (9:38 )

Sorry, going a bit off track… Just wanted to demonstrate a little how the Qur'an came to be.

As for history of the conquests, the Qur'an doesn't mention the details (though chapter 30 is supposed to be a prediction of the impending downfall of the Roman Empire by the Muslims) since Muhammad died not long after he conquered Arabia, but there are many historical accounts within Islamic literature of the wars the Muslims went on to fight and the places they went on to conquer. So far, very little of the Muslim side of events have been translated into English. Last thing I knew, there was a classic ten or twenty volume set on Islamic history that was being translated. But that was a few years ago now since I heard of that. All I can recommend are the following links:

Jihad in the West: Muslim Conquests from the 7th to the 21st Centuries

Wikipedia on the Islamic Conquests

Fred Donner. The Early Islamic Conquests.

Muhammad and Islamic Conquest (from the book Middle East & Africa to 1875)

Islam: A World Civilisation

There's a few I merely googled.

Seems they've translated a few since last I looked:

These UK publishers have some good books on the subject:
- The Islamic Conquest of Syria
- A Chronology of Islamic History: 570 - 1000CE
- The Muslim Conquest of Spain and the Legacy of Al-Andalus
- The History of the Khalifas who took the Right Way

There you go.

Total Posts:  558
Joined  16-05-2005
07 December 2005 02:01

Good post. Its strange how Mohammed and Joseph Smith seem to have much it commom, getting messages from god about events in their current lives

Total Posts:  80
Joined  08-11-2005
07 December 2005 13:21

Thank you for the detailed response and illustrations. I will look for the sources you mention. I find it fasinating that much of the later portion of the Koran’s development centers around social issues that were generted by both secular and heavenly inputs (if this applies correctly).

Unlike most religions that are fully revealed (and think Mormanism is included) Islam evolves over the course of the Prophet’s life. From a religious studies perspective, I wonder what cultural and social conditions caused an evolving “revelation” versus a fully formed revelation? (I recognize the compiling of the Bible did occur over time, but the way the stories are structured and interpreted, it has the appearance of being revealing in one shot). I will have to spend some time researching this area.

I also note the lack a a wide range of translated source material into English. Are texts more readily available in French, or Spanish, or German?



Total Posts:  54
Joined  22-11-2005
08 December 2005 10:57

No problems Anthro. The widest range of Islamic literature translated into a foreign language is undoubtedly in English, due to the English language’s supremacy in the world which the Islamic propogandists knew too well. Of course, books have been translated into other languages, but for Western languages, English would have the most.