How was Islam spread? - II

How was Islam spread? - II
  • Publish date:24/12/2014
  • Section:Islam
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The exemplary life-style of Muslim individuals

Besides many other reasons which are responsible for the spread of Islam, it is the exemplary life-style and unceasing efforts of individual Muslims to transmit the message of Islam throughout the world which lie at the root of the conquest of the hearts by Islam. Islamic universalism is closely associated with the principle of Amr Bil-Ma'roof (enjoining the good) for Islam is to be spread by Muslims by means of Amr Bil-Ma'roof. This principle seeks to convey the message of Islam to all human beings in the world and to establish a model Islamic community on a world-wide basis. The Islamic community is introduced by the Quran as a model community: "Thus, We have made of you a nation justly balanced, that you might be witnesses (models) for the peoples, and the Messenger has been a witness for you." [Quran, 2:143]

A Muslim or the Muslim community as a whole thus has a goal to achieve: This is the spread of Islam, conveying the truth to the remotest corners of the world, the eradication of oppression and tyranny and the establishment of justice all over the world. This requires the Muslim to lead an exemplary life, and thus the moral and ethical values of Islam have usually played an important part in the spread of Islam. Here follow the impressions of the influence of Islamic ethics on black Africans had by a Western writer of the nineteenth century:

How does Islam change the nations that have accepted it?

As to the effects of Islam when first embraced by a Negro tribe, can there, when viewed as a whole, be any reasonable doubt? Polytheism disappears almost instantaneously; sorcery, with its attendant evils, gradually dies away; human sacrifice becomes a thing of the past. The general moral elevation is most marked; the natives begin for the first time in their history to dress, and that neatly. Squalid filth is replaced by some approach to personal cleanliness; hospitality becomes a religious duty; drunkenness, instead of the rule, becomes a comparatively rare exception...chastity is looked upon as one of the highest, and becomes, in fact, one of the commoner virtues. It is idleness that henceforward degrades, and industry that elevates, instead of the reverse. Offences are henceforward measured by a written code instead of the arbitrary caprice of a chieftain - a step, as everyone will admit, of vast importance in the progress of a tribe. The Mosque gives an idea of architecture at all events higher than any the Negro has yet had. A thirst for literature is created and that for works of science and philosophy as well as for commentaries on the Quran. (Quoted from Waitz by B. Smith, Muhammad and Muhammadanism, pp.42-43)

The tolerance of Islam

The tolerance of Islam is another factor in the spread of Islam. The British historian Toynbee praises this tolerance towards the People of the Book after comparing it with the attitude of the Christians towards Muslims and Jews in their lands. (A Historian's Approach to Religion, p.246) T. Link attributes the spread of Islam to the credibility of its principles together with its tolerance, persuasion and other kinds of attractions. (A History of Religion) Makarios, Orthodox Patriorch of Antioch in the seventeenth century, compared the harsh treatment received by the Russians of the Orthodox Church at the hands of the Roman Catholic Poles with the tolerant attitude towards Orthodox Christians shown by the Ottoman Government and prayed for the Sultans. (T. Link, A History of Religion)

This is not the only example of preference by the followers of the religions for Muslim rule over that of their own co-religionists. The Orthodox Christians of Byzantium openly expressed their preference for the Ottoman turban in Istanbul to the hats of the Catholic cardinals. Elisee Reclus, the French traveler of the nineteenth century, wrote that the Muslim Turks allowed all the followers of different religions to perform their religious duties and rituals, and that the Christian subjects of the Ottoman Sultan were more free to live their own lives than the Christians who lived in the lands under the rule of any rival Christian sect. (Nouvelle Geographie Universelle, Vol. IX) Popescu Ciocanel pays tribute to the Muslim Turks by stating that it was luck for the Romanian people that they lived under the government of the Turks rather than the domination of the Russians and Austrians. Otherwise, he points out, "no trace of the Romanian nation would have remained." (La Crise de L'Orient)

How did Muslims behave towards the people of the conquered lands?

The Muslim's attitude towards the people of the conquered lands is quite clear in the instructions given by the rightly-guided Caliphs, may Allah be pleased with them:

Always keep fear of God in your mind; remember that you cannot afford to do anything without His grace. Do not forget that Islam is a mission of peace and love. Keep the Noble Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) before you as a model of bravery and piety. Do not destroy fruit-trees nor fertile fields in your paths. Be just, and spare the feelings of the vanquished. Respect all religious persons who live in hermitages or convents and spare their edifices. Do not kill civilians. Do not outrage the chastity of women and the honor of the conquered. Do not harm old people and children. Do not accept any gifts from the civil population of any place. Do not billet your soldiers or officers in the houses of civilians. Do not forget to perform your daily prayers. Fear God. Remember that death will inevitably come to everyone of you some time or other, even if you are thousands of miles away from a battle field; therefore be always ready to face death. (Andrew Miller, Church History)

A historical episode which Balazuri, a famous Muslim historian, tells about how pleased the native people were with their Muslim conquerors is of great significance:

When Heraclius massed his troops against the Muslims, and the Muslims heard that they were coming to meet them, they refunded the inhabitants of Hims the tribute they had taken from them, saying: "We are too busy to support and protect you. Take care of yourselves." But the people of Hims replied: "We like your rule and justice far better than the state of oppression and tyranny in which we were. The army of Heraclius we shall indeed, with your help, repulse from the city." The Jews rose and said: "We swear by the Torah, no governor of Heraclius shall enter the city of Hims unless we are first vanquished and exhausted." Saying this, they closed the gates of the city and guarded them. The inhabitants of other cities - Christians and Jews- that had been capitulated did the same. When, by God's help, the unbelievers were defeated and Muslims won, they opened the gates of their cities, went out with the singers and players of music, and paid the tribute. (Futuh al-Buldan)

How was Islam spread? - I

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