Homework: The Spread of Islam

As to tonight’s homework– you should have received a copy of The Spread of Islam in class today.  Please read the article carefully, and then respond in comments to the following discussion points.  Remember, the usual commenting policy applies– one good comment which addresses the prompts fully can receive a maximum grade of 95%, while one good comment PLUS a response to a classmate’s comment is eligible for a full 100% of credit on the assignment.  Please provide specific examples from the text when possible to support your position.

You may additionally find the following video a helpful visual:

Your discussion prompts are as follow:

Based on your readings and our discussions in class today, what factors led to the rapid expansion of Islam between the 7th and 15th centuries?  What made Islam attractive to people in sub-Saharan Africa? In India?  Central Asia? Southeast Asia?

How did Islam change as it moved into new regions?  Do you think these transformations– think about those which took place during the diffusion of Buddhism and Christianity– are beneficial to religions, or harmful?  Justify your answer with evidence from your readings.

Additionally– and I know that I don’t need to remind you wonderful people– as we arediscussing religion, please remember to keep your conversation academic and respectful, and remember that I am moderating all comments.  And comments I find inappropriate will be prevented from posting.

Have a good evening, and I’ll see you tomorrow!


92 thoughts on “Homework: The Spread of Islam

  1. Based on the reading, some of the factors that led to the rapid expansion of Islam between the 7th and 15th centuries were military conquests and trade. The Islamic Caliphate took control of many regions, spreading their teachings to other people. Although they didn’t force people to convert to their religion, they put taxes on minority communities which led people to convert. Islam also attracted traders because it legitimated merchant activity more so than other belief systems.

    People in sub-Saharan Africa were attracted to Islam due to the high social status and because it was useful for trade. Swahili merchants set up a lively commerce between the Indian ocean ports and interior villages which brought Muslim religion and political ideas into Africa. It took longer for Islam to spread throughout India because Hinduism was very strong there. However, warriors and people of lower castes were attracted to Islam because it offered spiritual equality. Islam spread through central Asia by force and persuasion. The conquest of the Mongols brought new contacts between central Asia and the Middle East which converted the territories to Islam. In southeast Asia, the Sufis traveled inland, setting up schools and preaching in the villages in order to attract people towards Islam. Inland people were attracted to Islam because it was a way of integrating with coastal populations.

    As Islam moved into new regions, it became more powerful and appealing to other people. I think these transformations were harmful to other religions because Islam dominated other belief systems and caused many people to convert. This would have caused conflict among people of different religions because Islamic beliefs differed from many of the other religion’s beliefs. For example, as stated in the reading, Islam and Hinduism differed greatly and their ritual and social beliefs conflicted with one another. The conflict between different religions could have possibly led to war.


    • I like your point about Islamic domination because I think you are right that this could have created war because it took over religions sometimes with force and they did not have a choice to still have their own beliefs so there may have been some tensions.


  2. The major factors leading to Islam’s rapid expansion between the 7th and 15th centuries are military conquests and activity, and far-reaching trade. The religion attracted people because of its tolerance, power, and triumph. It allowed people to reach salvation by following specific rules, and appealed to lower class peoples (because of the amount of charity given to the poor), and merchants, so there was no question as to why Islam gained so many followers so quickly.

    In Sub-Saharan Africa, people were attracted to Islam because of the placement of women. Most religions at the time did not give women a prominent place in society, but Islam did, and many Africans enjoyed this upside. In India, people like warriors and lower caste system subjects were drawn to Islam for the idea of spiritual equality, and a quick way to salvation (rather than the Hindu reincarnation system). In Southeast Asia, Islam appealed to inland peoples as “a way of integrating with the coastal populations in a period of expanding trade” (“The Spread of Islam” 54). In fact, Indonesia is the largest Muslim nation in the world today. Within Central Asia, Islam spread through more force and persuasion. This shows how Islam changed among region to region, because this religion was not known for it’s forced conversions, but for its influence, and yet force was used in Central Asia.

    Some ways Islam changed as it moved into new regions is: Muslims learned about Indian mathematics and science (including the numbering system), and Islam merged with Southeast Asian culture (such as incorporating costumes, dances, and festivals) resulting in a more diverse and open form of Islam.

    Within the regions that readily accepted Islam, I believe that this religion was beneficial. Islam helped to evolve the regions, and allowed them to become more open, expressive, and extensive. Trade was enhanced, and people all over the eastern hemisphere became more open to conversions and monotheism. For example, though not every part of Islam was incorporated into Sub-Saharan Africa (like the cruel punishments such as cutting off hands of thieves), Islam was still greatly incorporated into the region and welcomed by rulers to show goodwill towards North African trading partners. However, for Europe and Christianity, Islam hurt the region and religion. The rise of Islam “created fear and hatred in Christian Europe, which quickly identified a powerful…superior rival” (“The Spread of Islam” 49). Europeans were constantly going head-to-head with Muslims, and though not always successful in pushing Islam away, Christians did devastate the religion during this time period.


  3. Between the 7th and 15th centuries, the rapid spread of Islam was a result of extensive conquest of land and trade that dispersed Islamic ideals from the Middle East, into India, Sub-Saharan Africa, and parts of Asia and Europe. Both aided in extending the reach of Muslim culture.
    Islam appealed to the people of Sub-Saharan Africa because it represented a high social status and gave a prominent place to women, which shocked outsiders. In India, Islam appealed to people in low social castes, because it promised social equality to all believers. Islam was the first outside religion to penetrate Central Asia, which stirred the interest of the Turks, Huns, and Indo-Europeans. Lastly, Islam appealed to Southeast Asia because it allowed inland peoples to integrate with coastal populations in an expansion of trade.
    Islam blended with each region’s culture that it spread to. For example, when Islam spread into India, Muslims adopted Indian science and mathematics, specifically the numbering system that eventually spread to Europe. Muslim culture simultaneously merged into Hindu culture. These changes are beneficial to the religion, because they encourage more conversion. When a religion has familiar qualities to one’s culture, it makes it easier to assimilate with the religion. In the case of India and Islam, one reason people of India were likely to convert to Islam was because of the adoption of familiar math and science, which made it less of a culture-shock to join the faith.


  4. The factors that lead to the rapid expansion of Islam between the 7th and 15th centuries were military conquest of the region, trade, and spiritual persuasion. Even though Muslims rarely forced the conversion of the conquered into Islam, they did place a high taxation among the ones who chose not to convert initially which usually led to the taxed people converting. The religion of Islam also spread due to merchants and missionaries which spread the religion through spiritual persuasion. Islam was attractive to the people in places like sub-Saharan Africa, India, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia because it appeared to the lower class groups due to the religions commitment to charity and spiritual equality but it also spread through all classes due to spiritual equality (including women) and its explicit belief on how to attain salvation. It was also appealing to merchants because it legitimized their trade more than other cultures had done before.

    As stated in the text, “Islam appealed to people in a variety of societies and cultures, bringing important changes as a result of contact while often in some respects merging with the established local belief systems.” Islam was diffused and therefore spread in different amounts and intensities. Islam was transformed by Greek scientific heritage and various other literary movements that a movement called Sufism began due to the “luxury and secular interests of the later caliphs, and also the diverse intellectual life that had developed”. But when Islam spread into different cultures changes occurred, some cultures received the full culture while others lacked the associated artistic styles, such as architecture. Other places chose to except the religion but not all the specifics of art and family life. Therefore as the text stated, “A variety of patterns of syncretism, or cultural blending, occurred.

    Alyssa Bedenbaugh
    Third Period


  5. (Sorry to add on)
    I believe that the transformations Islam underwent were beneficial to the religion because even though only a portion of the religion might have spread, it was still an incorporation into the peoples daily lives of the Muslim culture; no matter what transformations had occurred.


  6. I believe that Islam spread through the use of military conquest, trade, and its missionary work that was viewed to be attractive for its explicit set of beliefs about heaven and its commitment to equality of all citizens. Sub-Saharan Africa was attracted to this through missionary work and religious wars that were meant to spread the religion to ordinary people, not just the minority of Africans. In India it was attractive because for its warriors and people of lower castes, it promised them spiritual equality without the laborious work of reincarnation.It may have also been attractive due to its use of merit and personal examples, such as telling Hindu stories with Muslim characters which made the religion relatable and attractive. It may have also been appealing to central Asia due to brutal battles with the Mongols who did not practice the religion, but made new contacts with central Asia and the Middle East bringing about the religion. In Southeast Asia, Islam appeal to people of the inland because it was a way of integrating with people of the coast in means of trade. As Islam moved to new places it continued to change every time because the religion had to merge with pre-existing faiths or practices. In sub-Saharan Africa they change the religion because they thought, “Islamic punishments, such as cutting off the hands of thieves, were also rejected as too brutal.” In central Asia, it was said that, “…Islam did not totally alter the established cultures, which continued distinctive forms of art and music, a devotion to imaginative horsemanship, and a relatively high status for women.” I think that those kinds of changes to a religion could be beneficial to the region that they are in and for the people so that they do not have to completely drop their current faith and forget all of their previous beliefs, however the creator of a religion does things the way they think should be done and changing the origin of something can break apart the creator’s intentions.


  7. 1) Based on our discussions and the reading, trade and military conquest led to Islam’s rapid expansion. The people they conquered usually converted because it was more convenient for them.
    2)People in the sub-Saharan region liked Islam because it brought them high social status in the eyes of the Islamic empire. Indians were attracted to spiritual equality. However, Islam spread through China through force.
    3) Islam led to the spread of Arabic as an official language. This was beneficial to Islam because it unified the religion through language.


  8. According to the information that i found in the reading and he hings we discussed in class yesterday, i believe that the spread of Islams was mostly due to the fact that the Umayyad Caliphate lead many military conquests of a very large area of the world from Spain to China. They also had a large tax on people in the caliphate that were taxed heavily if they were anything but a Muslim. These two reasons are not the only reasons that Islam spread though. Some people like sub-Saharan Africans were attracted to this religion as it gave women a place in society and because it gave sub-Saharan African people a system of writing which is very important. The people of central Asia were attracted to Islam mostly because of the high status of women. In India people converted to Islam because the ruling class was mostly Muslim and also warriors and people of lower castes were particularly attracted to Islam as it promised spiritual equality. For Southeastern Asia mostly converted as they wanted to integrate with coastal people which were mostly Muslims, so that they could trae with them. Islam often fused with the local religions that were there before Islam was their. An example is the religion Sikhism in India. i believe that this is neither harmful nor helpful for a religon as it just changes not nessarily turns worst


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